My new project: reinventing this thing you’re reading

by Jun 30, 2020

I’m probably crazy (like that’s a new concept), but I’ve started a big web project — I’ve begun completely reinventing my online web sites. This is a project I mentioned as something I was considering doing back around Christmas, and then put aside as more work than it was worth. About a month ago, I had an idea of what I wanted to do and liked it, so I started planning, and about two weeks ago I started digging in.

The first two pieces of this are now alive:

  • Silicon Valley Birding: I’ve revamped the look and updated the content a bit to my birding site for Santa Clara County. I’ve also moved it from WordPress to Squarespace — we’ll talk about why shortly.
  • Historic Hockey Archives: This is a new site. I was involved with online fan communities for a long time as an organizer and as a writer, and I did a lot of writing about hockey, but decided to retire and just watch it without stressing out about the need to talk about it in 2018. Fifteen years of blogging about hockey is a lot of content and I didn’t want it to go away in this project, but I also didn’t want to have to manage moving it into the new site. I decided what made sense was to create a site for the content in WordPress and host it there as a read-only Archive of those many days of watching and writing about hockey.

So, why am I doing this?

Many reasons (of course):

I’ve come to realize that what I want out of my online presence has changed a lot in the last few years, as I’ve found myself transitioning into a different mindset of who I am and what I want to accomplish. Part of that is the realization that since I’m about to turn 62, I should put some thought and work into setting things up for — well, later. And before you ask, no, there’s nothing going on in that front, other than a world pandemic where I find myself listed in multiple categories of higher risk, and a bunch of idiots running around thinking they can bully the virus into submission or ignore it because trying to stay healthy is too damned inconvenient. I’m continuing to do what I can to protect myself and Laurie, but there are enough things out of my control it’s had me thinking a bit about all the legacy and estate things I’ve been putting off doing since mom died.

In terms of my web site(s) online, I came to realize I needed to reinvent them, not just skin a new look and feel on top. So rather than just changing the color schemes and margins, this project is about creating a new online presence out of the old one, migrating pieces over and rethinking what and how I do all of this.

On a technical basis, a reason I’m doing this is that my current WordPress setup is not sustainable for me. I’ve long used Elegant Themes as my WordPress Theme vendor, and the quality of their code and design is quite good, but as I’ve dug more and more into using their Divi editor, I’ve found I want to work on my content in different ways, and so once I started thinking about this rework, I realized I needed to tear out the theme completely, which meant starting from scratch and a lot of rework of any article I wrote that used the Divi editor instead of the standard WordPress system, which means everything I’ve posted since May, 2019. There is no easy/automated migration path to a non-Divi based theme (that I would trust).

Once I realized this was a major “lots of hand work, piece by piece” project, moving it to Squarespace made a lot of sense. I love WordPress, but Squarespace will be lower maintenance since they’ll take care or more of the back end bits that I currently have to worry about, and it adds some nice features (like e-commerce) that I may or may not use, without my having to build them out and keep them running. In working out the budgets of this move, it also should save me a bit of money over my current hosting, once I finish a bunch of other behind the scenes cleanup that goes along with this.

So, the update to Silicon Valley Birding was my test case to see if I like Squarespace (I do), and the Hockey archive was a nice and simple way to take about 1/4 of the blog postings and set them up in a way that means I don’t have to move them in this project.

Really observant people might notice that the hockey site is a subdomain of chuq.me, which you haven’t seen me use before. It’s brand new, and I intend to build out the new site as chuq.me (not linked, but I will let folks know once I have the first bits up and running), and then once the work is done, close down the current site and redirect the chuqui.com to it, so both will work, but chuq.me will be the primary domain for my site moving forward once this project is complete. I figure if I I’m going to reinvent all of this, I might as well celebrate it with a new domain as well. And doing it that way makes this project massively easier.

I’ve also decided this is a good time for my to retire my long-time Smugmug site in favor of moving my portfolio galleries onto the Squarespace site. I have zero complaints about Smugmug, I like their system and how they run it, but this will save me some money and simplify my life and reduce somewhat the time I need to spend managing all of this, hopefully giving me a bit more time to create content ON the sites that now goes to keeping the sites running well.

I’m estimating this project will take 2-3 months. Along the way, bits and pieces on this site will disappear and re-appear on the new site. Most of the links are going to break; I realize that annoys some folks, but in practice it won’t matter except for the most popular pages on the old site, and those I will identify and add redirects for. I’ll also note that not all of the content will migrate, I’m already editing the existing site (moving backwards from the oldest bits I’ve already cleaned up into 2015). I’ve moved a quarter of the postings to the hockey site, and I’m estimating another quarter of the postings will simply go away — and many of them already have. Does anyone really care what I thought about the Fuji X-T2 four years ago? Looking at my Google Analytics, the answer is a clear “no”…

Digging into the Past

This project caused me to do a bit of digging into my past. The oldest references to me online that I’ve found go back to 1984 in the SF-Lovers archives but I believe my earliest online activities date back to around 1982 or so. In terms of this web site, it’s origin was on our domain plaidworks.com (which we gave up years ago and is now hosting some generic parked content). The earliest version of it on in the Archive.org archives is from December of 1996, because prior to that, Archive.org didn’t exist… I did blogging on the plaidworks site starting around 2001, maybe before, but split out the blog itself in 2005 onto — I had literally forgotten I had done this — December of 1998, but it was parked on an under construction page for a long time (for instance: October 1999). It finally launched in January of 2001.

So chuqui.com has been around almost 20 years and has served me well. I’m hoping that chuq.me will serve me well for the next 20, and that I’m around to keep posting to it and updating it every few years to a modern look.

I am going to ask that just note up front that if you go looking at some of these older site designs, please don’t point and laugh too loudly. They are ludicrously bad by today’s standards, but, well, that’s just how much the online universe has changed over the years. Don’t hold them against me too much…

So, that’s what’s happening. it’s a big, complicated, grinding project. It’s going to take a while, but I think it’ll be fun to figure it out and make it happen. I’m happy I set this up so I could move it in pieces and have both active during it, because that takes a lot of the time pressure off, removing most of the stress a project like this can have.

I do believe the work will be worth it for me. I hope you find the end result worth it as well.

Chuq