Back in the day I used to have a fan site devoted to a pretty Australian actress Gigi Edgley. This is ancient history, and it predates this blog and therefore most of you guys. The website was primitive, clobbered together using Microsoft Front Page and hosted on Crosswinds.net. I wish I could show it to you but it no longer exists. It vanished into the depths of cyberspaces and not even the Wayback Machine was able to recover it. My local copy of the website, along with any screen shots of how it looked vanished in one of the many spectacular hard drive crashes and computer breakdowns I suffered before I learned about backups and recovering data from bricked computers by the way of Knoppix or slaving a drive. So the only copy of that website currently resides in my memory.
In the middle of the dot-com bubble Crosswinds used to offer unlimited free hosting service. This allowed me to go out of my way and uploads hudreds of kilobytes of pictures, videos (remember, back then we didn’t have Youtube) and all kinds of other crap. At one point my website was closing in on 200MB in size. It was mostly data too – screenshots and pictures I made, stolen or begged for permission to display.
When the bubble burst, like many hosting companies Crosswinds discontinued their free services leaving me stranded. We entered what I can only describe a free hosting crunch. Getting web space for free was nearly impossible – and if you did find a free host it was either incredibly show, or infested with nasty popup ads and capped your drive space at 15-20MB. They were forcing me to move but there was no where for me to go. No free hosting service offered as much space and I needed. My only choice was to walk away or to scale the website down and relocate it to inferior host with severe storage and bandwidth caps. I chose the second option and decided to make a project out of it.
I scrapped the old design, and re-built it from scratch using a “borrowed” copy of Dreamweaver proper cascading style sheets and my pitiful photoshop skills. The result still looked like crap, but at the time I was proud of myself:
This iteration of the page still exists out on the web but as you can see for yourself it does not have much content. I was very constrained by my new host – not only did I have a 20MB hard drive quota. I also had a monthly and daily upload caps, bandwidth caps and whole host of other annoying “features”. For example – do you see the adds in that screenshot? They are not mine – my host “injected” them into my page. After working with crosswinds and their unlimited everything, no adds, no charge plan this was hell.
Around the same time Farscape got canceled and for some reason Gigi was not lucky enough to get transferred to SG1 like some of her co-stars did. She wasn’t really getting any work in US for a while and my new host was driving me bonkers. So I did what any reasonable man would do – I walked away from the whole project.
Since then I have learned a lot about making and running websites and Gigi seems to have learned how to get more work stateside. For example she starred in that horrid movie Showdown at Area 51. She’s also been busy making music, comic books and all sorts of other crazy things. While she is not as notable now as she was at the height of Farscape popularity, she is also not completely MIA from the public scene like she was cica 2004-2005. So I figured, why not resurrect the fan site.
I looked around, and realized that there is not much competition outh. There is Gigi Enthusiasts which has a forum that is somewhat active now and again. The forum itself a good resource, but the website itself still looks the way it looked when it first started in late 90′s or early 00′s. Which is fine – but it doesn’t have a modern look and feel to it.
Beyond that there is nothing significant. So there is definitely a space there for a third website – one solidly grounded in modern principles of web design and utilizing modern technology. I want it to look professional, have RSS feeds, comment threads in the articles and etc. In other words I want my website to stand out and look like it belongs to the web 2.0 universe rather than being a relic of the ages past. And I also want to accomplish all of this with minimum work possible.
In other words, I need a CMS that has all that stuff built in or available via plugins. I could have set up WordPress but I don’t really want another blog – I have enough trouble keeping up with this one. I wanted an easy to maintain news/resource site. Something I could log into once a week (or less often), post some 3 line news blurb along with a handful of links and a Youtube video of some sort and then leave it be. So a traditional CMS was more appropriate here – at least in my opinion. I opted to go with Joomla because I’m already somewhat familiar with it. Or rather I know how to beat it into submission and make it do what I need it to do most of the time. It is not a perfect system, but it is fully configurable and maintainable from the web infterface, has a huge community, bazillion plugins and countless custom templates to pick from
You can see the effects of my work at gigiedgleyfansite.com. Click on the link and check it out and compare it to the competition. I hope that it looks at least a bit more modern, and with the times than these other sites:
“Oh hey, look – it is using a slightly tweaked default Joomla template. It seems that you really like them default templates. It sort of reminds me of another site of yours… What was it called again? Thermally Incorpulent or something?”
Yeah, shut your face. The theme still needs some work. I’ve been looking at various Joomla template sites but I have yet to find a customized template that would look nice and maintain this sort of layout. I tried couple different ones and they all need lot’s of work. My goal is to have something that looks nice, but that does not require hours and hours of design work – which is not my forte. So I’m keeping the default 1.5 theme for now and I’ll either tweak it into submission or change it later. My goal is to try to stop myself from adding functional hacks into the theme itself – something that I did on this blog. My version of Kubrick has so many little custom tweaks that I don’t even remember all of them – and changing the theme to a default one would break about 50 things. So I learned my lesson and I’m going to keep my hands out of the template layer as much as I can.
This project will also allow me to observe SEO effects or lack of thereof. Common sense tells me that once I link to it, the site with such a narrow focus and with little viable competition should bubble up to the first page of Google results relatively quickly. The fact that it should, doesn’t mean it will. So it is a little experiment to see what it takes to get a virtually unknown site onto front page type position. Will a link from Terminally Incoherent boost it through to front page? Or is my own page rank to crappy from that. And if it is, what will I need to do to get it where it needs to be. We shall see. I get bonus points if I can actually get placed higher than Enthusiasts or the official page.
What does this site mean for Terminally Incoherent schedule? Absolutely nothing. I’m keeping it the same. The Gigi site does require a good deal more work, but this is all the upfront effort of launching a resource driven site. I just need to add content and I found out that I can do this kind of shit quite reliably when I’m to tired or to shit-faced to coherently write blog posts. Once I populate the damn thing with more data, it will be just tweaking, upkeep and occasional news post. Thankfully for me, Gigi is not that busy these days so it won’t require my full time attention.
And now for something completely different – and yet related. It seems that Crosswinds is back in the free hosting business. Once again they are offering free and unlimited everything, add free. It seems that doing this sort of thing is once again feasible and affordable. Say thanks to Google kids. They started this revival of free online services with Gmail. I remember that back in the day all the experts who heard how much storage Google was offering would promptly pick up their jaw from the floor and say something among the lines of “well, its’ their funeral”. And here we are again where even an obscure company like Crosswinds can afford to give out space for free again.