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Geek in the Making

Online History

By comparison to many others, I think I was sort of late arriving onto the whole “online” scene. When I was in school, email and the Internet were unheard of and yes, that meant that I had to use – SHOCK! – BOOKS! to revise for my studies and handwrite letters to my overseas friends!

It was early 2000 when I first “discovered” what life online could be like. My new job came with email and internet facilities and I spent some time familiarising myself with the then only online home of my favourite band, Squeeze. I checked the site daily – occasionally contributing to the archives or reviews – and pretty soon found myself a wealth of online acquaintances through the Squeeze mailing list.

I want to gloss over that initial and stalled induction to the web because 1) I was a complete loser and 2) because the majority (but not all!) of the people I met through the list were kind of, um, scary. But if nothing else, I began to fully comprehend the wealth of information available at my fingertips. :)

My second online phase – which I consider to be my real initiation – kicked off in January 2002. I can pinpoint the time that precisely because it came about pretty much simultaneously with losing our first child. I spent a lot of time online reading about miscarriage and finding comfort and strength in the words of other women who had experienced the same thing. And in a bid to keep me busy whilst going through the aftermath, my parents – God bless ’em :) – bought me my first PS2. I picked up some second-hand games through eBay – including Silent Hill 2, which I had played with my brother a few months beforehand – and that, my friends, was that. The obsession began.

I found the Silent Hill Forum before I really found anything else. In its original guise of a cheap ‘n’ cheerful eZBoard, it was full of the most wonderful people – I honestly couldn’t believe that a video game that contained such gore and macabre revelations could possibly bring together such a warm, friendly and thoroughly entertaining group of people. From my very first visit there, I was hooked – and have been ever since.

My online life from that time was pretty boring and everything revolved around Silent Hill one way or another. 1Step asked me to help with moderating the board, and then in May 2002 I joined both he and YatesFox as an Administrator. When Yates asked if I fancied putting together a small site to showcase the latest information for the then up-and-coming instalment Silent Hill 3, I was only too pleased to agree. When it became surprisingly more popular than we’d anticipated, we developed it further to cover the previous two titles, too. The site is still (sort of!) going strong – although you may know it as silenthillheaven.com.

It was only after getting my hands on Photoshop and experimenting with signatures (and, later on, Adobe Premiere for avatars) that I really began to enjoy working with graphics. I seemed to have a natural eye for colour and composition and remembered why it was I enjoyed the Graphic Design segment of my degree so much. As my studies had been on ancient Apple Macs long since trashed (they probably weren’t even Y2K compliant :P) I had been scared of using these new and incredibly sophisticated graphic packages, but playing with them for my own signatures and amusement helped me build my confidence.

Even at this time, though, my web design skills were beyond non-existent. We worked on SHH.com in partnership where I wrote the majority of the content for the site while YatesFox designed the layout, so even at this late stage I knew nothing of HTML. Ironically, I even had my very first personal domain at this time – vixxb.com – but utilised only as a store room for the bigger files on SHH.com, I didn’t even consider using it for my own amusement. A shame really, as I never again had the chance as featureprice.com ripped us off – taking our domains, site and money with them. Although I still smart at the depth of the illegality of featureprice.com, looking back, it’s just as well – that domain name sucked donkey balls.

On a few occasions I did brave looking at the code of SHH but, to be frank, it scared me to death. I was also completely terrified of irreversibly fucking something up. It wasn’t until late 2003 that I set up a very small and private subdomain on the SHH server and used it to experiment. People like the guys at Bitter Season made me feel ridiculously inferior and I practically chomped at the bit to know how they managed to design such incredibly engaging layouts (and still do :P). Almost paralysed by my frustration at not knowing how HTML worked, I started to look at the coding of sites that interested me. 99% of time I understood NOTHING but at least I had started.

My very first personal site was set up at SHH.com. “White Noiz” – a small (and mostly empty :P) Silent Hill shrine site – was based (with consent :P – I emailed to ask because I was terrified of being “caught” or “punished”) on another site but thanks to my fairly advanced Photoshop capabilities, I was able to conceal most of the nOOBie knowledge with fairly impressive graphics. ‘Course, I had no concept of loading times etc, but at that time, all that mattered to me was that it looked alright. :P

From that point, I was bitten. I bought my first personal domain – excessmoderation.com, named after an album by the band Squeeze – in late 2003 with an aim of turning it into a coherent and up-to-date archive for the band. For a while it went quite well, but my lack of knowledge and general apathy of the band hindered my progress. I’d set up a small personal subdomain (exposed.excessmoderation.com) in order to house my latest addiction of fanlistings and cliques, but I was already feeling uncomfortable at having to squeeze all of my personal information into a crappy subdomain. Rather impulsively, I purchased so-complicated.net in December 2003 and from from that point onwards, I became a sponge. I began soaking up sites and ideas and graphics, doing my best to grapple with PHP scripts, CSS and blogging scripts and even took a couple of online courses in HTML and Dreamweaver.

Around the same time that I bought so-complicated.net, I inevitably stumbled upon CodeGrrl and the wealth of resources and incredibly talented people from whom I could do nothing but admire and learn from. For the first time, I frequented a forum that had nothing to do with Silent Hill. :P Kasumi – instrumental in encouraging and inspiring me – introduced me to the fantastic crowd at Bitter Season which, in turn, led me to Luminescence. A fledging web designer needed no other place to find inspiration and support and today, SHHF, Lumi and CodeGrrl remain my favourite online homes. :)

I think that this, my friends, is pretty much it. My domain addiction has subsided somewhat, but I’m still the proud owner of several domains and projects that I love. Although the pressures of motherhood and working life mean that I get to dedicate less time than I’d like to my online hobby, I think it keeps me fresh and interested – I’m not online anywhere near enough to get bored, so I’m hoping that I’ll still be here for a good while yet.

Wow. Are you still here?

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