5 History of this Website

Friday 20 July 2007
by  Administrator
popularity : 22%

I had been thinking about convivial tools and related themes for years. However, the creation of a website on the theme turned out to be more difficult than expected.

Initial creation of the Convivial Tools website

I first decided to create a website about Convivial Tools in early 2005. At that time I rented the necessary data space on the server of a French cooperative web hosting service called Ouvaton .

However, I encountered technical difficulties which discouraged these first attempts. I made little progress until April 2007 when I decided to make the creation of this site a high personal priority.

I floundered for weeks trying to figure out how to install and use SPIP, a French open-source Content Management System (CMS) that had been suggested by friends. However, I advanced more rapidly after I discovered EasyPHP, a free software package permitting the simulation of the web environment on a personal computer, without being connected to internet. The use of EasyPHP permits rapid testing and configuration of web applications on one’s local hard disk, without having to go through the time-consuming procedure of transferring modified files each time to the distant server by FTP.

I thus installed and configured a first version of this website on my hard disk, using the simulated web environment of EasyPHP, before transferring it to the distant servers of Ouvaton.

The site was first installed on-line on Ouvaton on June 18th 2007.

(A more detailed account of the hell I went through to create this site is given - in French - on this page of another abandonned website. Just scroll down the page to get a feeling of how complicated the process was.)

Attempt to register this website with DMOZ

Immediately after installation of the site on-line, I sent the address (URL) to a few friends. Each of them looked at the site once, or at the most twice. However, the statistics showed that I was the only regular visitor during the first months of existence of the site.

In order to draw more visitors, on June 23d 2007 I made an attempt to register the site with DMOZ, the on-line registry service of the Open Directory Project. The site was proposed for the category "Science/Technology/Industrial Engineering." However, as of July 20th 2007 the site had not appeared on DMOZ under this category, and no email was ever received from DMOZ.

The attempt to register the site address with DMOZ may however have been the cause of a first visit of the Google robot (named "Googlebot") on June 25th 2007. But the robot apparently indexed only the short first page of the site, whereas the site already contained about 20 pages at that time.

Creation of a first companion wiki

In late June of 2007 I created a separate wiki website on the subject of Convivial Tools, using a software program called WikkaWiki.

My idea was that the wiki would become a collaborative forum for the practical promotion of convivial tools, as a complement to the present site which presents what could be called "theoretical" information.

However, that first wiki never showed up on Google at all.

Addition of Meta-Tags to this site

The initial indexing by Google did nothing to increase the number of visitors. On July 5th 2007 I therefore added a few meta-tags to the unviewed "head" section of the standard html template (which is used to format all of the articles seen on this site). This addition of meta-tags did nothing to increase the number of visitors.

After sending the address to DMOZ and adding a few meta-tags, I decided to take no further steps to increase the number of viewers, until the site has been further developed.

Decision to transform this site into a Convivial Tools Encyclopedia

On July 21st 2007 I realised that this website was in fact evolving into a small Encyclopedia of Convivial Tools. I therefore posted an article describing the longer-term project of developing this website into an online Convivial Tools Encyclopedia.

Registration of the site with Wikidweb

On July 23d 2007 the site was registered and posted on the wiki directory site Wikidweb.

However, this posting brought no additional visitors.

Creation of a second companion wiki

During the month of July 2007 I worked on developing the companion wiki running under WikkaWiki software. However, WikkaWiki uses "Camel Case" page names, as did all of the early wikis. Camel Case means that the separate parts of each page name must be joined together, as in "ConvivialTools", instead of "Convivial Tools."

I therefore decided to create a second wiki website, using MediaWiki software (the program used by Wikipedia), which abandonned the "Camel Case" convention.

I installed the second wiki on July 26th 2007. However, it rapidly developed a life of its own, as I began using it for all sorts of things other than what it was originally intended for.

Creation of a temporary section called "Original Research"

During the late summer of 2007 I began to participate in the creation of a few Wikipedia articles. I thus realised that many of the articles on the present site would have to be reworked to present proper encyclopedic format, by adding proper references and footnotes.

My participation in Wikipedia also taught me the distinction between an encyclopedia article, which should present only established and commonly-accepted knowledge, and an article presenting "original research." I realised that many of the articles I was writing contained hypothetical propositions constituting "original research." I decided to move such articles from the Convivial Tools Encyclopedia to a separate website that would host my articles presenting "original research."

As a half-way measure, on 7 September 2007 I created a new section in this website, called "Original Research", to which I move all of the controversial articles. This section, numbered 7, appears in the site map, but does appear in the navigation menu at the top of each page. It is intended for temporary storage of the "Original Research" articles until a new website is created to host them.

This website disappears from Google

On 5 October 2007 I discovered that this Convivial Tools Encyclopedia website had completely disappeared from the Google ratings. Not even the first page remained listed on Google. I concluded that the format of the site must be wrong, and turned my attention to other internet activities, such as my pseudo-wikis and my participation in Wikipedia.

Creation of a still another companion website

As mentioned above, I had begun to use the second wiki, which was intended to be a companion to the present website, for all sorts of other purposes. It never worked as a wiki, but in late September 2007 it became a target for wiki-spam: the spammers (mostly Chinese in this case) profit from the wiki format to create pages that they use for link-farming. I therefore reconfigured the second wiki so that only I could edit pages, which meant that it ceased being a wiki.

Since the second wiki was used for other things, I decided to create yet another website as a companion to the present one. This time the purpose was to create a repository for briefer, non-encyclopedic articles, since the encyclopedic format seemed totally unpopular.

I installed the third companion website on November 1st 2007. I again installed MediaWiki software, because I like using it. However, from the start I blocked all editing by anyone but myself, to avoid the hassles of wiki-spam.

Time out to explore the Social Web

During most of 2008 I abandoned all of my various "Convivial Tools" websites, which seemed failures, and instead threw my energy into the "Social Web."

I thus became initiated into Second Life, Facebook, Twitter and a number of other virtual worlds and social plateforms. I thought I might have more success promoting Convivial Tools through these media than through traditional websites.

The Convivial Tools Encyclopedia rises in the Google ratings - and attracts comment spam

In late 2008 I made a routine Google search for a subject related to Convivial Tools, and was amazed to find a page from the present site near the top of the list. I made a few similar searches as a test, and confirmed that after slumbering unnoticed for more than a year, this site had finally gained a following.

I also discovered to my horror that the result of its success was that it was filling up with comment spam, mostly promoting links to pornographic sites. I first deleted all of those comments, and then as they continued to pour in, I simply removed the possibility to comment on articles.

Once I removed the possibility of commenting, the blog fell back down in the Google ratings. I’ve seen this phenomenon before: the spammers post links to your site on special pages that they use to help each other to identify victims, and these links boost your Google rating.

Return to Conviviality?

I’ve been busy elsewhere on the Internet, surfing the social web, and creating new websites on other themes. But I feel the need to go back and clean up the messy trail of unfinished websites I’ve left scattered behind me. The magnitude of the job is overwhelming... Sigh.