Niall’s virtual diary was one of the very first of what is now called a “blog” on the internet (at the time it was created, there was no such word “blog”, hence me choosing the unoriginal “virtual diary”). Back in 1998, believe it or not, it was considered eccentric to write personal details and thoughts on the internet. I was actually for a while in the top few hundred most popular websites in the world, with a large regular readership who read only because I was one of a few thousand people doing this at all – or perhaps because I used to be interesting once upon a time. Who knows!
Because it’s a virtual diary – and not a blog – it was always something I would write anyway, and it just happens to be made public. As the years have gone by – it is now 2019 and I have been writing this for more than twenty years – new entries have lost most of their substance, becoming much more anecdotal rather than essay-length like they once were. In the end, small children + job = lack of spare time to do much better.
Back in 1998, I edited the HTML which made up this website using Microsoft FrontPage. FrontPage was terrible, but Microsoft kept improving it, and the versions from 2000 onwards produced not completely awful HTML and CSS. Mid-2007 I upgraded to Microsoft Expression Web, which gained me Unicode for the first time. Mid-2009 I scripted a RSS feed by parsing the pages as XHTML (upgrading some of the newer content to XHTML) into an Atom XML feed. Mid-2011 I added in my Google Plus posts, and that became my main method of posting virtual diary updates. In mid-2012 I had the Atom feed of all content be used as an XML database, generating automatically an index like the below, and the entries themselves, from that feed, thus folding in the Google Plus content to appear here as well.
Finally in early 2019, partially due to Google shutting down Google Plus, I invested in the biggest upgrade yet for this website – porting most of its content to Hugo, a static website generator, which has done an amazing job of replicating the original website fairly intact. Python’s amazing package ecosystem also gets much credit for inspecting the really old content and performing an appropriate UTF-8 conversion for it, in some places the tooling actually repaired corrupted character sequences, though it did not catch it all. This is especially amazing considering that converting all the old content had always defeated me until now, yet now it appears just like all the other content.
The early content had a HTML page per month, hence the dates being the 28th of each month. Later content gets a page per entry, with better than daily resolution appearing from 2010 onwards. Enjoy!