Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

10 Years of an Online Presence

Holy crap. I’ve been screwing around, trying to generate an online presence for 10 years now. 10 freakin’ years. It was on a cold November night in 1997 that I was lamenting to my best friend as to how I wanted a website, and before I could say, “What are you doing?” he went and signed me up for an Angelfire page. And that’s my glorious website began.

It was all so simple in those days. Everything was getting a website, so I thought my silly little radio show, Chaos in a Box, should get one as well. And once my best friend showed me how to go about it, I did. It’s amazing how much of my online presence is tied to my best friend…pretty much every big advancement or paradigm shift that I go through has been at his urging.

In fact, I was talking to him the other day, as this 10th anniversary approached. I asked him, “If we had Facebook and MySpace and all that 10 years ago, you think we actually would have gone through with teaching ourselves HTML and all that, or would we have just signed up to one of these free services like everyone else?” He begrudgingly agreed that we probably would have just gone with the free services.

But now, as I realized my oh-so-precious online presence is 10 years old, I thought I would take a moment to acknowledge all the major steps I’ve taken to get here, to this blog, podcast, and Facebook page.

November 1997: Chaos on the Net Goes Live
So, there I was, attending school at Augustana University. My best friend happened to be the editor of the school paper, so, like most nights at university, we were hanging out in the newspaper office, talking about life, the universe, and everything. Talk eventually turned to my radio show, and my desire to have a website to promote it. He pointed me to this free service he’d just discovered called Angelfire, and before I knew it, he had signed me up.

With his help over the new few weeks, I learned the rudiments of HTML, and made for a very basic website. Since my radio show was Chaos in a Box, and my opinion column in the newspaper was Chaos in Print, I christened this new endeavour Chaos on the Net. I plugged the show, I had little top 10 lists and everything, and I also had the bright idea to use it as an archive for past editions of Chaos in Print. I was quite proud.

Summer 1998: I Start Doing Movie Reviews
Summer of 1998 was a bad summer. I couldn’t find a summer job, it made me all depressed, and I started pissing my money away by going to see such classics as Armageddon, Godzilla, and The X-Files Movie. In order to give some sense of purpose to my summer existence, I started reviewing these movies, and posting reviews to my website…something I’ve continued to this very day.

July 1999: Chaos in Print: Online Edition Begins
So, there I was, all graduated from university. With no radio show and no opinion column in the school paper, I began growing desperate for some form of creative outlet. That’s when I remembered that I had this website I wasn’t using anymore. In a flash of brilliance, I decide to use the website as my creative outlet. And I would do this by resurrecting my opinion column. I called it Chaos in Print: Online Edition. My first one went online on July 5, 1999.

For the next seven years, once I week, I sat down and wrote a 2-page essay detailing the state of my life. I grew rather upset when people started referring to Chaos in Print: Online Edition as a blog. I mean, blogs are spur of the moment comments, jotted down in five minutes. But Chaos in Print…that was writing! I would spend hours writing the perfect two pages! How dare you dismiss it as a blog! But looking back at it…yeah, it was blog. In fact, it was the worst kind of blog, nothing by whining and complaining about the deepest, most intimate parts of my life.

My best friend, who was a devoted reader and kind of chronicled my growth as a writer, last sat down and talked about it around two years ago. I asked him what he thought of it, and he said, “I kept waiting for it to become something, but it never really did. Probably the closest it came were the ones from Japan.” And as I’ve told people, when I was in Japan, writing them was the easiest. When you’re immersed in another culture, suddenly going down to the corner store to get a jug of milk is an adventure.

Chaos in Print came to an unceremonious end in April of 2006, when I got my job in Athabasca. I put it on temporary hiatus until I settled into my new place, but here we are now, a year and a half later, and the hiatus seems to have become permanent. Besides, most of my free time is spent on the podcast now, and as my best friend said, if that’s where my true creative passion lies, then that’s where I should spend my time.

Spring 2000: Chaos on the Net becomes Chaos in a Box
As my best friend said one day, “Chaos in a Box is a cool name. That’s what you should start calling your website.” And so it was.

September 2002: Chaos in a Box finally becomes Chaos in a Box.com
I had been toying with registering my URL, chaosinabox.com, for quite some time. Finally sick of me going, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” my best friend goes ahead and registers it for me. Since I’m not used to people being nice to me and buying me presents, I thank him by getting all pissed off and refusing to speak to him for two weeks. I’ve apologized by now, and I really, really like having my URL. As another friend pointed out, “Chaos in a Box.com is a much better idea than Pets.com

April 2003: I Begin the Blog, Midnight Ramblings
So while I was immersed in another culture, I experienced one of the worst possible horrors. My laptop broke down. It went into low power mode one day…and just wouldn’t turn back on. I tried valiantly to get it fixed, but no one in Japan would attempt to fix it. And besides, since I was heading back home to Canada in June, I decided to tough it out and just wait until I got home.

But in the meantime, I wanted some way to maintain my online presence. I wanted to do something that would be quick and easy to maintain…something where I could just jot something down in 5 minutes at the Internet café…like a blog.

Most of my friends had embraced Blogger by now and started up their own blogs, so I started doing the same. I went to the Internet café, went to Blogger, and signed up for an account. And thus, I had a blog. I called this blog Midnight Ramblings, after a series of Chaos in Print articles that always struck me as being very blog-like.

And here we are now, almost five years later,and Midnight Ramblings is as strong as ever. In some ways, it’s replaced Chaos in Print. Although it’s become much more tame.

March 2006: Bye, bye, Angelfire
Finally sick of all the pop-ups and banner ads that Angelfire was forcing on my site, I take my Ralphbucks and finally get some proper server space. Of course, I had an ulterior motive. I needed more server space than what Angelfire could give me for free because I wanted to….

April 2006: I Start U62: The Targ
My instructors at NAIT are a really cool bunch. There I was, out of school for almost a year, still scrimping and begging for my first job in radio. And they would frequently let me sneak into NAIT after hours to use a production studio to beef up my demo tape and/or just goof around with the equipment. Finally, one evening, my old production teacher looked at me and said, “Hey, Mark, you’re really good with computers and you’ve got that website and all. Why don’t you start a podcast?” I liked it.

I started doing some research as to what I would need to start my podcast. I got my decent server space, I went down to Edmonton’s very famous Axe Music and got a nifty little microphone for my PC. My production teacher recommended a program called Audacity for recording stuff on my home computer. And, my parents had just started getting high speed Internet at home. Everything was set!

I used NAIT’s production studios one last time to produce my intro and my extro. I looked around at how radio stations are named. The formula for naming a radio station is (frequency number) (one word that sums up your attitude). For a frequency, I chose U62, which was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s TV station in UHF, and for a single word that sums up my attitude, I chose The Targ, which is a Klingon warthog. On April of 2006, I uploaded the first episode of U62: The Targ, which I called Episode 0: My New Mop.

As I write this, I just hit episode number 70, and I’m still having a blast.

May 2007: I Join Facebook
The first I heard of Facebook was on CTV NewsNet in March. There was a big kafuffle in Ottawa because the federal government had just banned federal employees from using it. Immediately, I dismissed it as a fad…the new MySpace. But then, I experienced the persistence of my co-workers. “Aww, man, Facebook is so cool! You’ve got to try it, Mark! Everyone’s on Facebok!”

So, on one warm May evening, I was at home, half-watching TV and half-screwing around online. For the heck of it, I finally went to this Facebook, and signed on.

And that’s where I tend to spend most of my online screwing around now. I finally got a digital camera in August, and Facebook is where I stick all of my photos. I started a Facebook group for U62: The Targ, which currently boasts 25 devoted listeners. I set it up so I could import my blog, meaning whatever I write in Midnight Ramblings, my Facebook friends immediately get a copy of.

However, I am one of the multitudes that thinks Facebook has gotten out of hand…deviated from its original purpose. I’m not too crazy about getting half-a-dozen invitations to silly applications that serve no purpose. Even my co-workers who convinced me to get on it lament that it’s deviated from its original purpose.

I’ve been told that Facebook defines what Marshal McLuhan originally meant when he coined the term “Global Village.” Just like a real village, everyone is all up in your business and gossips about what you’re doing.

November 2007: Who Knows What the Future May Bring?
And now, here we are in the present day. All this onlining is still nothing more than goofing around…a fun hobby. But as others have been lamenting, look at all the flotsam that’s online. These tubes are getting clogged with all kinds of abandoned MySpace pages and defunct Geocities sites. If there’s one thing I’ve struggled to do over the past 10 years, that’s keep it all organized and updated.

And like a lot of things I do online, I just don't know how to end this.

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