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New Year 2011 - Website review

Happy New Year

This year I thought I'd look back at some of my involvement in the Internet / websites and how these may change in the forthcoming year.

My first website was back in 1994 when I created websites for Hull University LINKs and Hull University Canoe Club. This was very early in the history of the Web before most outside of universities had even heard of the Internet. The main browsers at the time were Mosaic (now discontinued) and Netscape (which has now evolved into the popular Mozilla Firefox browser). There was no Microsoft Internet Explorer at the time.

I then created my first personal website about 1997 using ISP / Free webspace. This lasted until 2003 when I first registered my own domain www.watkissonline.co.ukwhich was initially set to my own Linux server on a broadband connection at home. I also created the www.FirstAidQuiz.com domain which I also hosted on my home webserver. I decided to create this as much of the site content at the time was the First Aid Quiz, which was originally created in Javascript, but was later written in Perl with a database back-end.

I added a blog to the Watkissonline website in 2005. Blogs were a big thing at the time with the in buzzword being web 2. I added the blog because I wanted to be able to include additional information that did not fit into the existing site structure, but it's evolved since then so that the entire website is now created within the Wordpress blog publishing software.

During 2006 I was working towards Linux certification. Disappointed by the lack of free online practice exams I created the PenguinTutor website which was the first website that I paid to have hosted by a professional hosting company.

After some problems with my computer at home (which was becoming increasingly unreliable due to its age), a few power cuts resulting in outages and a need to ensure sufficient bandwidth was available I decided to move my other websites to paid for hosting for my other sites.

I introduced adverts to my sites some time ago. These are there to help offset some of the costs that I incur in hosting the sites and creating the content. I would not be able to afford to keep all the sites going on hosted servers if I had to fund all the hosting costs from my own pocket.

Blogs

Whilst I started blogging when it was the in-thing. Many that original joined at the time have stopped, but there are those that have lasted the test of time.

A blog is a web log. Sometimes used as a journal or a web diary it provides a way of publishing information on the Internet on a regular basis. Visitors can often comment on the blog to provide interactivity with the visitors.

In terms of style and content you think of a traditional web site as a book and a blog as a periodical (magazine). A book is written so that it is valid throughout it's print span so it's content is predominately non time dependant, whereas a periodical is usually read within a month of publication so can provide up-to-date information on what is happening in the near future. Of course the print limitation does not exist in the same way in web sites, but the blog tools are specifically geared towards regular posts.

Another difference between a traditional web site and a blog is that when content is out-of-date and is replaced it is normally deleted on a traditional site, whereas on a blog it still remains accessible in the archives for future reference.

I've now created nearly 800 posts over the last 5 years hopefully providing information that is useful to readers.

Social Networking

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised the way that people use the Internet. I've taken advantage of these for my websites. As well as creating the normal Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each site I've also integrated the Facebook comments feature which provides social networking features directly on the site.

Future plans

I've been working on a few updates to the websites planned for 2011.

For the First Aid Quiz website I've been working on a new game created using the processing programming language. It's still got a way to go until it's complete, but I've already created the basic GUI and some of the user interaction.

For PenguinTutor I'm hoping to add more to the electronics section. I added this last year, but have only had time for some basic things so far.

For watkissonline I plan to replicate the reviews of days out with children to a dedicated website. These account for a significant number of the blog posts and will mean that visitors interested in the days out can view them all on a single site. This is going to be through an automated interface so that once implemented it will need minimal maintenance.


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