Saturday
Aug132011

« TAPKAE.com at Ten »

I registered the domain name TAPKAE.com on this day ten years ago. 

Maybe I need to give credit to where credit is due. Actually, Mike Thaxton signed me up for TAPKAE.com this day ten years ago, having the kind of enthusiasm and knowledge that finally got me into the digital realm. He started the project of digitizing my life in early 2000 actually. Early on he got me a Hotmail address: tapkae@hotmail.com. (It has lapsed for a few years but I was able to get it back recently just in case anyone sent anything to it.) Not long after that we got into mp3.com the first go around and got really ridiculous with that. I was exposed to Photoshop with Mike's help. He's credited on Receiving as doing some digital audio editing. He got me into Keneally's news group just about this time ten years ago right after I got the G4. Thax definitely paved the way for me to get into all things digital. Brandon helped too in how he shared his machine, letting me use it for hours after he went to bed as long as I promised to lock up on the way out at 5 am! But Thax made it compelling enough to finally want to use a computer.

Around the time of the late summer of 2001, I was wrapping up the CD, and even though the cover has always stuck in my craw as rather lame and removed from my original idea, I just wanted to get it done, since the music was basically in the can for one full year before I sent the materials off to Canada for pressing, and received them back in late October. Mike and I were hatching ways to promote it, and a website was already an unavoidable necessity.

Mike had come out of a hand coding background since editors like Dreamweaver were not yet proven and were rather much the joke to guys like him. So he had me submit text content and ideas for page flow. We never really got a functional site up and running, but he knew he had to get me online. I still have the files of the early sites, but they are rather lame looking by comparison to this brilliant incarnation you see here at the time of this posting (the desert road motif over dark wood, hosted on Squarespace). Mike was what we'd call now a developer, not a designer. I was neither, really. For some time, he scoffed at Dreamweaver, but maybe around 2004, he was using it more. He also was writing Flash scripts and got real work doing such things. I never learned hard core HTML work, but I can edit it. I positively hate Flash and have never done anything using that program that I remained proud of.

Mike got me my first hosting company then too. I think it was called MavWeb. It had a whopping 100mb of space to work with, so I put samples of my tunes up, and during the winter-spring of 2002 while I was Art Institute of CA, I made the first live draft of my site, all HTML and a borrowed javascript menu that was really picky to get right, but that contained my stuff nicely. It was the first of many boxy looking sites that I have to confess I rarely got away from. It was the basic site that served me for about two years until I made the first big jump out of the Thax setup into something new—hosted with Startlogic (lasted until early this year), including, B2 blogging, and started a rather restless attempt at designs variously using frames, iframes, minimal design, and a radically cut back amount of content as my life was in a period of reinvention. Then in 2006, I embraced Wordpress for a little more than four years, basing the entire site on WP's blog and fixed pages. The Wordpress years though were rather light on design adventure since I never really had an easy time understanding PHP and Dreamweaver had not yet embraced Wordpress theme editing like it does now in CS5.

I really have no idea on exactly how many versions of the site have been posted, but let's make a list for fun.

  • Thax attempt with the spin-the-arrow menu with goofy icons that roughly indicated where you'd go. I later learned that was called "mystery meat."
  • Another Thax idea with a blue field and white icons that amounted to more mystery meat. All the more so because one icon was a piggy.
  • Brief, late 2001/early 2002 shift to a promo site done in Dreamweaver. Deep red and black primarily with a blurb for Receiving.
  • A light blue site done for school that was about Erik Satie, showing a bit more graphic adventure, and the first of the basic, five page HTML sites I'd do more of.
  • TAPKAE.com's first "real" site, the parchment colored one with the purple ribbed tile pattern and always a shifting header image of me and some instrument, or my face or something abstract. Constantly evolving within that theme for about two years. Was quite large and unwieldy with lots of popup windows for song lyrics and individual pictures. Included a shopping cart for Receiving that I think cost me more to start up and maintain than I got in sales. Poo! My blog, such as it was, was a monthly entry on the front page that I manually copied and pasted to another page when the time came to update. Was intrigued by this thing called a blog that did that work automatically. Hmm?
  • The big jump to Startlogic and B2 Blogger in 2004 brought a dual identity for a while. A blog was distinctly different than an HTML site for me, so they were linked and attempts made at color coordinating but otherwise not related. I don't seem to have a record of what the 2004 site looked like early on.
  • Ditched the 2002-4 version and tried a far simpler olive colored, four page site based on frames, mainly for experimentation's sake but also because I was finding it time to reinvent myself, and the big self indulgent site was a dinosaur to me.
  • Late 2004 had an iframe site that was mainly black and white with a gray-blue content window and minimal content on about six pages. Was a nice idea but would have been nicer if all the content fit in the window and didn't scroll out of view.
  • Early 2005 I went to all black and gold text. It looked rather royal. Styled the blog and main site in similar fashion. Content slowly reappearing in a more concise form. Blogging outrageously much. You can still see that 2004-2005 are the biggest tags in my tag cloud even now!
  • Then I swung from black to white and stripped it bare again, this time to a quite narrow text area and just a few pages of pix and tunes and not much else. Most of my attention was on the blog and during the body of 2005, launching EONSNOW.org which itself was a rather charming piece of visual material, at least for me.
  • The narrow, white site lingered into 2006 and eventually provided the basis of the Wordpress site. I came at whatever version they had in summer 2006, and it was still in the dark ages, really. But it gave me fixed pages, so I got with it and put all my site into the Wordpress basket and therein ditched the parallel blog/HTML approach that had defined the last two years' presentation.
  • The Wordpress era lasted until early 2011, and didn't vary much from their default template which I did slowly adapt in what seemed to be an agonizingly painful way because I didn't know how to see the entire site at once in an editor. But I did figure out how to edit the masthead and text styling, and that was adequate since I was losing my patience for digital life and was just interested in writing. The site was essentially a white site with a very minimal blue and gray and black features with occasional exceptions of colorful material. I found that updating Wordpress and maintaining the database was an exercise in self torture and digital slaughter (or so it seemed). My host, Startlogic, was not accountable for Wordpress, and Wordpress community did not answer to me for the matters concerning Startlogic. So sometimes I felt really sick to my stomach. I don't know why WP can't just do one button backups instead of making people go to their MySql backend. I dreaded update time. I lost categories along the way, and did not get them back until I manually created them on Squarespace and visually inspected EVERY post—all 550 of them, tagging and categorizing them all one by one.
  • Then in January 2011, I got on Squarespace after a few months of managing JEM's site there. It's a paid service and one that lets me worry only about adding and editing content and less so about managing the database. I pay for that to be taken care of now! I have finally found a great platform that can take all the content I can throw at it and arrange it sensibly in galleries with a lightbox view, blog, social media and RSS feed widgets, HTML pages, and more. And the ability to spontaneously style it has freed me to experiment and backtrack, and to revamp the entire site a couple times as I sought a style that actually echoed my sensibility and experience in life. Also, since Squarespace could handle anything I can throw at it, I decided to plunge ahead with filling it up with previously unreleased writings that I mainly inserted into the appropriate space in the blog chronology. Pictures from childhood and from trips with Kelli, scans of documents, and whole CD projects that were otherwise languishing in my closet and archive bins have had their chance to be seen and heard. The ability to caption all those documents is rather like my earliest experiments with photo albums where I did essentially the same thing on paper which was inserted into plastic sleeves. This desert motif is made of original images from my desert travels to New Mexico and Death Valley. This theme is easily the most visually exciting of all that I have done, and the best one to get me out of the box that always seemed to define my layouts.

Over a decade I have loved and hated this site. When faced with frightening brushes with MySql database issues, I was ready to just delete it all and go off and cry a while before doing I don't know what with my fist or a blunt object. But somehow nearly ten years of writing has survived and this year I did a job of proofreading it at least to fix the woefully bad stuff and some punctuation that I never seemed to get right in the early days. I straightened out some lumpy knots in sentences and did the work of tagging and categorizing and adding pictures to add some extra depth to posts. The whole thing is meant to convey a story now, as I have also been honing my human side in parallel to the digital work, and since I am paying a pretty penny for hosting that lets me make a cool site, it makes sense to get something out of it, particularly since 2011 has been a very unemployed year. I really see TAPKAE.com now as a complete thing that puts in digital form a sampling of what my life has looked like across a wider swath of time and space. There are things up here that I have in some ways been of mixed mind about, but decided, rather like the Jews who compiled their bible, what we call the Old Testament, to leave in the thorny and complicated parts in the interest of completeness. I have made some changes, but not to redact the embarassing parts out of existence. A few dumb posts got dropped, but the ones that chart my thoughts and feelings, charitable and otherwise, are left standing.

In a lot of ways this site became something so vastly unlike anything I ever imagined. Nothing like Thax and I were dreaming up a decade ago. But the same is true of my own self.

 

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