Internet Throwbacks – Commenting systems and blogging platforms
21st Jun 2017
When I first started writing a blog, I didn’t actually realise I was writing a blog. I was an avid user of Piczo at the time, and I mainly used my site to showcase my “graphic design” skills.
But then one day I added a text box to the home page of my Piczo site, typed out the date, and then proceeded to write about what I had got up to that particular day. In fact I probably wrote about going to see The Dark Knight at the cinema because, let’s face it, that’s all I did in the summer of 2008. This was my very first blog post, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
This is how I became a blogger. I don’t know what was running through my head when I decided to added that text box to my site and proceed to write about my life, but I did it, and the rest is history.
I continued to add “blog posts” to my “blog” (i.e. editing my text box, adding a new entry above the previous one) for the next few months, and soon after I discovered something called Haloscan; a nifty little feature that would allow people to comment on my “blog posts”.
Haloscan was one of the few commenting systems at the time that would work on Piczo websites. It was simple, but it did the job and it made me feel like I was taking my “blog” to the next level. Users would click on a link within your post, and this would open a pop up window with a comments form in. If I remember correctly, you could customise it with a header, so mine probably featured a picture of Heath Ledger!
I was genuinely surprised when people actually used this commenting feature to leave me messages about my writing, but I loved it. I got such a buzz from reading the comments, and it motivated me to write even more.
When Piczo started going down the drain, and my coding skills began to improve (or at least I thought they were), I moved to a sub-domain called Summer Dream. I should probably point out that having a sub-domain was common at this time, especially for teenagers who couldn’t buy their own domain (I didn’t have a bank card…or money for that matter!).
I continued using Haloscan for a while, but then Haloscan became Echo and it just wasn’t the same. If my memory serves me right, Echo was more like Disqus is today. I think you had to login to comment, and it wasn’t very customisable in terms of appearance.
I decided to install a different commenting system called CuteNews, which seemed to be more advanced than Haloscan. But it was a massive learning curve for me.
Unlike Haloscan where you just added the comment link code to the end of your text, with CuteNews you actually wrote your blog posts through an interface, which was like a very basic version of WordPress or Blogger. This was all very new to me, but this is when I started to feel like I was actually “blogging”.
I don’t remember staying with CuteNews for too long. Everyone else in the community seemed to be using FanUpdate, so I decided to ditch CuteNews and “upgrade”. I have fond memories of using FanUpdate, and I always remember preferring it to CuteNews. But there was always one commenting system that I wanted to master – WordPress. That is, WordPress.org not WordPress.com
I have vague memories of trying to install WordPress on my sub-domain and it going completely wrong. I thought CuteNews and FanUpdate were difficult to use, but WordPress was something else. I’d managed to build website through piecing together bits of code, but WordPress was so much more complicated, and I needed an understanding of PHP to get WordPress to work for me.
That’s where Georgie came in. I started following Georgie’s blog back when I had my sub-domain, and I always remember her making the swap from FanUpdate to WordPress. I guess this was the main reason that I wanted to switch too. Fortunately, Georgie, as well as a few other bloggers I knew at the time, wrote and share a load of tutorials on WordPress on their sites. It was these tutorials that gave me the confidence to try out WordPress again after my initial failure.
So when I was accepted to adopt a domain, Imperfect Angel, I decided to install WordPress from the get go. After all, it was a blank canvas; if I screwed up then I had nothing to lose.
And to my completely surprise, I got it working. And then, I managed to build my very WordPress theme.
Looking back, I did incredibly well to build a WordPress theme with such a lack of coding knowledge. Sure, it wasn’t responsive or mobile friendly, and I never checked cross browser compatibility or checked it on computers other than my own, but it looked alright and it worked. That was the main thing.
Well, most of the time it worked. I mean, I had to update it manually because the automatic updates kept breaking my website, which was incredibly stressful each time, but it worked!
Since making the move to WordPress, I’ve never looked back. I was never tempted to go back to FanUpdate or CuteNews. I have to admit, I did try out Blogger (or BlogSpot as it was known back in the day) but it was just to basic for me. I wanted to code, and I felt limited to what I could do with Blogger.
Nowadays, WordPress is my main interest as a web developer, even though I don’t get to work with it as a part of my job. I’ve come to understand that it’s so much more than just somewhere to write and publish blog posts. It’s such an incredibly powerful platform with a fantastic community associated with it.
I’ve mastered the art of building WordPress themes, and now I’m learning about developing with the Theme Customization API, as well as writing plugins and widgets. I absolutely love it!
I think it’s fascinating to look back to see where it all started for me in terms of both blogging and web development, and just how far I’ve come since then.
I know that so many of you, my readers, will remember Haloscan, CuteNews and FanUpdate, and will all have your own stories of how you got to where you are today. So feel free to leave your stories in the comments because I’d be fascinated to know which commenting systems and blogging platforms you used!
Internet Throwbacks is a mini series in which I reminisce about stupid and embarrassing things I did online throughout my teenage years.