A History of CognitameMay 21, 2020 21:25
Cognitame doesn't mean anything in particular. The only thing it represents is the title of my personal website. It's been through a lot of changes and a lot of spaces. The original was a Blogspot blog that even the Wayback Machine doesn't seem to remember. The only snapshots available are after I got rid of the original domain and spammers took over to take advantage of any preexisting traffic.
When I've moved this site from platform to platform, I've always trashed previous work. I've sometimes recovered some particular posts that I find myself missing. But in general, each new iteration of Cognitame is a blank slate.
I thought I might spend this first post not talking about how I built this new version, but looking back on previous versions. As I mentioned before, the original Blogspot version is lost forever. Including the stories, "The Incredibly Close to Being Absolutely True Adventures of Captain Pringle and His Crew." Which, as you might guess, I wrote when I was young.
The next iteration is available to view via Wayback but I'm not going to share it here. It was a custom deployment of Wordpress. The most featured, and the most heavily visited. Each article was headed by an estimated reading time, a short URL that used a custom short domain, and a link to a bullet point summary. I believe that bullet point summary was a link to a Reddit post where I summarized each article.
The estimated reading time and bullet point summary were born from the realization that due to the content, people wanted to respond, but they didn't care to read. (Those features didn't help.)
I put a lot of time and money into making Version 2 a profitable blog. It was heavily optimized for SEO and social sharing. The top and bottom of every article had social share buttons, as well as a floating bar on the left that follows you as you scroll. Every post was designed to generate backlinks. I paid for the site to be professionally designed and made changes daily to small things like sidebar design, font type, weight, size and color. The color scheme of the site was a dark mode with carefully chosen fonts with a darker white color (#f1f1f1). It was designed to be very comfortable to read.
At the end of every article I asked for comments to drive engagements and designed a lot of the content to be controversial and to get people arguing. Maybe now it's obvious why I don't want to share the actual content of that site.
Keep in mind, this was in 2014. People were aware of these strategies as a way to drive traffic, but they weren't household ideas. Today I follow organizations like the Center for Humane Technology and I hope that any contributions I make to technology only help and better people.
Next was my very first full stack project. This was a LAMP stack using PHP deployed to Google Cloud. The design was meant to be as simple as possible. I've never liked modern design. Multiple full page images that you have to go through with small scrolls, carousels *shivers*, and confusing homepages with a million places to go. Even this original homepage was changed in Version 4 because I thought it was way too busy.
I later even got rid of the "More.." buttons and decided that archive links are entirely unnecessary. There's no reason to include them other than for the sake of SEO. If you want to link to old posts, there's only one reason to do so. Referencing them in new posts.
So while my opinions of site design have changed considerably, this is my first site that I built from scratch. I didn't even use an IDE. I literally started with an empty Notepad++ file, typed every single character, and fixed every bug without IDE aid.
Undoubtedly something I would never do again (except in Version 4) but I'm quite impressed with myself on this one.
I have to say, I'm least proud of Version 4. It was a total rewrite of 3, which was entirely unnecessary because it was still PHP on GCP. The only changes I really made was simplifying the homepage and removing archive links. And honestly, these changes had technically been made before the rewrite. The code came out cleaner, and it didn't take long to write. Not a major loss. But it wasn't long ago that I built this and now it's been trashed for this current Gatsby version.
Both versions 3 and 4 were built with AMP-HTML first. Meeting the standards of AMP can be difficult, and for a modern stack it's not even necessary. That's why I've strayed away from it. But I try to keep the high standards of AMP-HTML in mind when writing any code. Too many devs shrug their shoulders at HTML and WAI standards without recognizing the benefits they provide.
One thing that I did do with Version 4 that I haven't done with any other, including this one, is recording it's development from start to finish. It was neat to be able to see the time-lapse of this one after, but not much else came of it.
That brings us to the current version. This is a simple Gatsby stack using Contentful as a backend. Very simple, more simple than the full stack app I built before this. Contentful doesn't give me near the control that writing my own CMS in versions 3 and 4 did. I was able to write HTML directly and control everything about the site through PHP.
Whereas Contentful has an oversimplified editor that is as restricting as markdown. I may change this in the future. In fact, I most certainly will. For now, all I need is a simple blog and home for Cognitame.
Dependencies of this site:
So as you can see, there's nothing impressive here. The full project is viewable on GitHub and the site is updated from the master branch there. For reference, you can compare the complexity of this site, to my last full stack app: