I’ve been happily living on the Internet since 1996.
Back then it was barely five years after the invention of the World Wide Web, Gopher was still in style, dial-up was a major technology, BBSes were in their twilight age, and the school I attended had labs full of 80386 and 80486 clones. Little did anyone realize just how huge a role the Internet would ultimately come to play in our lives.
As time went on, the Web’s graphically-driven interface came to dominate how information was shared. Likewise, its ‘open sharing’ ethos really caught my attention at the time this technology took off. From the mid-1990s through to the present day, this really hasn’t changed: people of all walks of life come together to share their sense of identity, their knowledge, their pastimes, and their aspirations. This pervasive sense of easily travelled connection was what, in time, came to spark my own interests in running a website.
I assembled my first site in 1997 on a school intranet, where I got that memorable first taste of HTML. It was simple, gaudy, and quickly followed up later that year with a more ambitious revision (and way too many animated GIFs) on a GeoCities account. The leap into a public arena not only came with its own learning curve, it opened up many windows to other people, most notably the cybergoths of that era. Coming from the small city I lived in and its limited resources, it was a relief to encounter people that had similar interests and backgrounds, and it felt great to embrace the wider, more mature world view and sense of perspective it afforded.
I also made connections with various craft and DIY communities of the time, the most notable one being the SpudGunner’s Domain, a forum where average users got a chance to rub shoulders with civilian and military engineers at various aviation contractors, all in the pursuit of constantly pushing science to the limit and find ever more imaginative ways of propelling a potato through the air. Besides this, there was the Halloween-L community and its outlying contacts, which provided amazing resources and research information that tied into some of the annual haunted house events I was working on by 1999.
Later revisions of my site in 1998 and 1999 saw the buyout of Geocities and the move to the Tripod hosting service, and it was around this time I picked my chosen screen name of Crimson Halo. The following year, I started putting serious effort into a dedicated long-term personal site in addition to a sister site that served as my art portfolio. A third site was created when I put my Halloween project online, and they were all combined under the same banner when I made the jump to paid hosting and launched my own domain in early 2004.
And it’s been around ever since.
Current and Future Plans
The single most important benefit of owning a domain is freedom. Because much of the public still relies exclusively on third party social network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to maintain an online presence, they not only relinquish artistic control of the way their content is presented, but they give up a lot of unnecessary personal information as well as any fundamental control of the network itself.
Besides limiting creativity, this dependence sits at odds with the privacy of users to the dismay of many legal professionals and safety advocates worldwide. It’s also incentivized the further monetization of data shared between parent companies and their affiliates. In its wake, the media has reported security vulnerability after privacy disaster after compromised account, but the punchline of this joke is that the average user doesn’t really seem all that worried. Along with periodic databse failure and annoying system errors during the scaling-up of operations, it’s obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention that populating your data on someone else’s site is not a simple task, especially when it comes to managing identities and reputations.
But as the saying goes, “Only you know your own needs best.”
This is where I found that having a private domain fills gaps social media cannot possibly hope to touch. When you’re designing for yourself and the audience of your choosing, there’s infinitely more customization, more artistic freedom, and far more opportunities to achieve the goals you’ve set.
By its nature, social media is ephemeral in much the same way as the holiday letters you send your family at Christmas time. Very little of the stuff you see on Twitter or Facebook will ever make it to anyone’s archives — the data simply offers too little cultural value for anyone to come up with a compelling reason to curate it.
Likewise, this poses a problem for those wishing to manage a more permanent online presence.
Still, as it was in the 1990s, and the 2000s, it all comes down to recognizing the merits and weaknesses of the technology you’re using. Social media has its set of unique strengths, and I feel those are best utilized as an adjunct to a master online presence elsewhere.
That’s exactly where crimsonhalo.com is going.
In 2012, I moved the site to a hybrid design where static pages and portfolios exist alongside dynamically generated weblog posts. This not only fits my needs better in terms of data structure and presentation, it should be more accessible to my readers as well as ensure a more regular stream of up-to-date content. Frankly, the old design was tedious to update and that’s why it didn’t tend to see much use. The current iteration offers a richer, more streamlined experience, and ultimately I’m hoping its use will supersede that of Facebook and Twitter.
Last but not least, staying true to design also means I’ve kept the site ad-free over time. This will continue. As far as other features, one day I may add a webcam stream or get into broadcasting a regular show (maybe sooner rather than later). For now, though, there’s a lot that needs to come first.
What is it? The flame sigil you see displayed in my branding and page headers is my own personal crest, which has seen a couple of alterations over the last decade with the current incarnation dating from 2001.
Composition: In jet black, an ankh comprising the central element of the device, with its loop and horizontal strokes of roughly similar length, and with its downward stroke longer than the loop and horizontal strokes. In jet black, an awen symbol at bottom formed from the three vertical lines spaced with tops convergent but not fully touching (it is formed by the downward stroke of the ankh as the awen’s middle line, and the two unattached strokes in jet black, each on either side of the middle line with tops canted inwards toward the ankh, to complete the figure). In crimson, a stylized flame atop the ankh with base fitted parallel and slightly apart from the outer surface of the loop, in crescent form, reaching two-thirds around the circumference; each of the flame’s top points are situated on either side of a semicircular dip near close to the top of the vertical axis, with the left point slightly lower in height than the right, with each tip pointed up and slightly outward from center at an acute angle.
Meaning: the ankh symbolizes the stream of life and existence; the awen represents inspiration in the artistic, written and poetic sense; the flame represents optimistic passion and desire manifested in the determination of the human spirit to ascend, burn bright, and seek out all that stands above.