Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Content and Page Design

Content. I had it all planned. My content was to be my artwork. I wanted rows of paintings with descriptions under them. Naturally they were to be presented in nice, tight layouts. (Layouts, I knew, having worked in advertising ~ and having had an interest in page design since I was a kid). I would finally get to use those elegant fonts I loved so much (!) I could show off my graphic design skills. Like everyone else, I still thought of web pages as ~ well, pages. Book pages, magazine pages, that could be designed into layouts that would stay put.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Logo

Naturally, a new web site needed a logo. I was ready for it this time. I'd navigated the learning curve of image technology by cutting my teeth on Bugbones, the little cartoon guy. Southern Muse needed a more serious logo. But I'd been reading up. Banners were the thing. The Web gods had decreed that 468 x 60 pixels was the ideal size for banners (perfect, back then, for the 8" screen). Might as well go that route, they said, 'cause sooner or later you'll want to swap banners with somebody. So I did. And Webmonkey had taught me to do the Gif thing. In playing around with one of my art programs, I'd developed a little flower that turned out surprisingly nice and compact. With a little tweaking and a periwinkle-blue border, that made a nice logo. Also it would be quick, and I was already tiring of making logos for pages that had no content. Might wanna get some content. Just a thought...

The Annals of Southern Muse

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Non-Techie: x + y = (Get Me the Hell Outta Here!)

Starting on the subject of SEO is getting ahead of myself. Back then, I'd never heard of SEO. My biggest worry had been choosing a name, parking a domain, getting a host, and researching InterNIC fees. Seems as if the dreaded InterNIC fees turned out to be about $70, a one-time fee. Not too horrifying, I suppose. The decision to park my domain at Network Solutions, on the other hand, would come back to "bite me in the butt" many times over. Network Solutions' web page may have been a techie haven, but it was a horrible, unnavigable mess to the unitiated (me). Their site wasn't for newbies. It was a geek site through and through. I was used to Yahoo and Angelfire and CuteFTP (which really was cute, after you got over the hump of configuring it to work with your host). These sites were user friendly, despite the learning curve. Apparently I'm the sort of person that "icon-based Internet" was meant for. Network Solutions didn't go in for little blue icons that look like mailboxes. They didn't have names like "angel" and "cute." Network Solutions used terminology from the cold, hard book of IT science. Navigating the N.S. menu was like working my way through a horror-house maze, like solving an algebraic equation without any givens. I hadn't had algebra since ninth grade. My most vivid memory was of Mr. Leonard chewing on his eraser and chuckling as he devised yet another hellacious problem. (Mr. Leonard wrote his own tests. He just made up problems in his head as he went along.) Science wasn't my strong suit, either. In physical-science lab, my job was the hander over, like the head nurse to a surgeon. Someone says, "Hand me a beaker." I say, "Here."

The Annals of Southern Muse

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chicken, Egg, or Southern Muse?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's a little fuzzy to me as to whether I bought the Southern Muse domain before I found out about the name thing, or after. Miningco had changed to About, Inc. in May of 1999, according to Wikipedia.* I purchased my domain on February 1, 2000. Clearly, was first, but that doesn't mean that I had heard of it back then. Even if Philip had talked to me before I picked out SouthernMuse, I probably wouldn’t have let go of the name. I was already emotionally attached to it by then. At some point, I know that I did begin to think of domain names beginning with “A.” Was I really thinking of buying more domains? If so, avarice was at the heart of it. Tech forums were buzzing with talk about the importance of top placement in search engines, and any time the term SEO popped up, it was accompanied by excited gossip about the possibility of making gazillions of dollars. Big money aside, I would be happy to have my domain pay for itself. When I tested my own placement by performing searches I found that Southern Muse was not exactly at the top of the heap. In searches for "art," or "genealogy," Southern Muse came up about 5,999,999 in the results. I wasn't on page one ~ I wasn't even on 101. How would anybody ever find me?

*"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Dec 2008, 05:07 UTC. 24 Dec 2008  

What, alphabetical?!

Sigh. It seems that, before I had even bought my domain name, the rest of the world was already clued in on a fact that I hadn’t dreamed of: that there’s more to picking a great domain name than just having a name that sounds nice. It's got to be alphabetical.  Apparently, alphabetical placement plays a part in the proper selection of a name.  Somewhere between the time that I bought and the time that I had to migrate to a new host,* Philip, formerly of MiningCo and now of, told me about the importance of having a domain name that began with "A," or another letter close to the top of the alphabet. Some search engines listed results alphabetically, he said. What a let-down!

*Host migration: yeah, I suffered that indignity, to be discussed later…

The Annals of Southern Muse

Monday, August 15, 2011

HTML Worries

I must've been feeling pretty cocky when I bought Southern Muse. Just what, in my Angelfire and FTP experience, had led me to believe that I could actually build a site from scratch, without any web-shell tools? Why, little Webmonkey, of course. Angelfire's web shell and directory structure had been difficult to learn and a nightmare to keep up with, but building the pages had been a piece of cake (at least compared to having your feet dipped in hot oil, which was what most of my technology experience had seemed like). Angelfire had provided some simple readymade page layouts (just fill in the links), with blanks for HTML, if you felt so brave and foolhardy ~ and, they gave you the sweet little Webmonkey to tutor you on simple HTML code. I was mighty grateful to that little monkey. He made it seem easy. So easy, in fact, that I now felt like a HTML-writing diva. Thanks to my Angelfire experience, I had learned to upload an image (assuming that I had one) into a directory, and write a bit of HTML code telling the browser to locate and display it. Yeah, by then I knew what a browser was ~ some kind techies among the smartasses on various forums had filled me in.

Now, for all I can recall at this late date, Icom may have had web-shell tools, they may have had some readymade pages. But by then, I was in control-freak mode. Yessir, I wanted a layout with my own personal style. No ads, no banners, no geeky-looking airbrushed jet streams in the background. That's why I'd bought Southern Muse. I wanted it to be me.

The annals of Southern Muse

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Attaching a Domain Name to a Site

Why did I buy a domain name, when I didn't even have a site plan? I think I know. Leading up the the year 2000, the 'Net world and those who marketed it convinced us that domain names were just plain gonna run out. Here I had the perfect (I thought) domain name, and if I didn't act fast, somebody was gonna grab it right out from under me! So I bought my domain, and what did I get for my money? A blinding white page with a complimentary, ready-made banner, courtesy of Icom, that said, "Under Construction." If configuring an FTP was scary stuff, looking at a $144 "Under Construction" banner and wondering how to point a domain at it was, frankly, terrifying. Now I had to read up on how to make IP no. 999.999.999.999 (or whatever) say "" Yes, you had to make that happen, it didn't do it automatically. Talk about building from the ground up! Who knew? You see, my IP number was assigned by Icom, my page host. My domain name was parked over on another block, at Network Solutions. I was standing in line behind a lot of other HTML dummies, hoping my domain wouldn't be towed. I have no idea whether it would've been as difficult if I'd used the same entity as host and registrar. Too late to look back, and there was no way I would've paid Network Solution's outlandish hosting fees (being now, as I was, expert enough to be bossy). Anyhow...  somehow, I managed to point to my blank page. After the usual depressing delay that comes with all server-fed things (two, three days?), my address finally read, "" I had an URL! And a blank-white page. I was very proud.

The Annals of Southern Muse

Southern Muse registered on Feb. 21, 2000

Now I had my host, but I still needed to register my domain name. I'm a firm believer in getting a thing straight from the horse's mouth, going back to the source. This convoluted reasoning led me to buy my domain name from Network Solutions, "the dot-com people." If nothing else, I figured if N.S. was InterNIC, they must be the authoritative source on InterNIC fees. Nowhere did their terms and conditions mention InterNIC fees (though they were the people who collected them.) Finally there was nothing left to do but take a chance ~ InterNIC fees be damned. Having already chosen my host, Icom, I registered my domain name,, at Network Solutions on February 21, 2000. I had my dot-com!

The annals of Southern Muse