Five Years on the Web
By Jamahl Epsicokhan
March 7, 2000
It's hard to believe, but it's been five years since this site was put on the World Wide Web. As I look back, I find myself wondering just how it all started. Creating this Web site was such a gradual process that I can't even say for certain when people started reading it, or when I made it a given part of my weekly routine. I can make reasonable guesses, but that's about it.
Don't worry — I'm not going to get all sentimental here, but I do want to tell the story of this site's evolution, for my own amusement and hopefully yours too.
The changes of this site through the past five years have been interesting and fun (and at times also a chore). It's come a long way. I've been writing reviews since 1994, but they didn't exist anywhere in cyberspace at that point — just scattered across my computer's 240 MB hard drive. Only a few friends saw them. Then in March 1995 I decided to take advantage of my free computer resources at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I had 1 MB of usable Web file space on my UNIX account, which was more than plenty for the text I was putting up. That first site started out as your typical 1995 intermediate Internet user's Web project. There were few if any graphics. My knowledge of HTML was limited. The color scheme was your standard 1995 bland grey background with black text. The main-page layout was basically ripped off from another site. And the title of my site was "Hypertext Episode Guides to Current Star Trek Series." If you remember that cumbersome title, you get a shout-out for being a loyal reader from the beginning. (I only wonder how you found that site in the first place.) Sometime in late 1995 (I honestly don't recall when), I renamed the site to the more succinct "Star Trek: Hypertext." I came to realize that's not the best name in the world, and I'd thought on a few occasions about changing it. But I decided against it; the name worked okay and it was too ingrained in the site (and elsewhere) to be worth the effort.
From conception, the site was a work-in-progress for almost a year. I had no self-imposed deadlines, there were tons of missing reviews, and the design was about as bare-boned as it could be. In February 1996 I decided it was time to make it "the real deal" ... or at least a more real deal than the little it was. I did a complete revamp of the site — I gave it a little more character and a "space" color motif (i.e., black), added some graphical elements, and made a general decision to take my site more "seriously." I promoted it through Usenet, where I started actually posting reviews as well, and I registered through the major search directories (Yahoo in particular) and the major Trek links source of the time, Star Trek: WWW (which in not being updated for the past two years is now basically useless in my opinion). I honestly can't remember exactly how those individual decisions came about; I guess they just seemed like the logical steps at the time. The Web was an interesting place, and my hope was that I wouldn't be completely lost within it.
After that, it was a matter of word of mouth that helped carry this site along. That's how these things work, I guess. The extent of my advertising was putting my URL at the bottom of my Usenet posts and registering with free search directories. The beauty of the Web, of course, is that it's a medium where more individual writers can be seen, publishing their own stuff with no editors or advertisers to answer to, and no publishing costs. That's probably what makes it less like the real world and more "virtual." And in many ways more fun. And in some ways why we aren't necessarily taken as seriously out here.
Gradually, I threw away basically anything that wasn't related to the articles I'd written. At one point there was actually a limited "image gallery" page on this site. It was something a lot of Trek sites had, and I was exercising emulation. In retrospect it was rather pointless. For all you Webmasters out there making sites, my best advice as a Webmaster is to choose what you do well and devote your energy in those places. Don't bother with anything you don't believe in. Emphasize what you believe to be your "specialty" — what you can offer that's unique or better — and trash the rest.
The "Review Mailer" started sometime in 1996 ... I think. It was based on a few reader requests, and I thought it was a good idea. Managing the e-mail address list also became one of the bigger chores of managing the site. It's a task that in February 1999 was put in the hands of an automated list site that I moderate with a significantly more hands-off approach. I'm glad. It didn't happen soon enough.
Through the process of expanding this site there were plenty of other evolutions. There were lots of minor tweaks. And also some major ones, like the addition of the TOS reviews and the first two seasons of DS9 (which were not originally present), and perhaps the most noteworthy facelift known as the January 1999 redesign. And, of course, I've moved domains on four separate occasions, and not always because I wanted to. So goes the Web.
And here we are: a Web presence that has been updated very regularly for the past five years. Thanks for visiting, coming back, offering feedback and criticisms, and recommending us to your friends. It's that sort of cooperation that makes it possible for a non-profit Web presence to keep going.
That and because we're a bunch of damn Trek fans.