About Dean Paxton
I have been involved with some form of technology since 1980. This is my “home page” and has been since about 1994.
About this site
This site redirects from “paxtonland.com, now defunct, which redirects from “Dean’s Homepage,” also defunct. paxtonland was an early, active, and then neglected weblog. It also was a catch-all sandbox for whatever web application development experiment I was working on at the time.
paxtonland started on the web in 1994 as a links page. That year I moved it from a gopher site to a web server and into HTML as soon as we setup the web server at the University of Michigan Computing Club (Arbor Information Society). Really, I started it just to learn HTML. It stayed there until 1998 when it got its own domain name (paxtonland.com). I hosted several very early internet projects there such as: programming experiments, an extensive list of bookmarks, a DIY computer system builders guide, a voting guide for local and national elections, a couple of “zines,” software reviews, and more.
In 1998, it still functioned as a landing page for my browser and had several visitors as well. Starting in 1996, I wrote monthly “posts” in chronological order, with the latest “update” pushing down the older entries. The systems guide and software sections had really taken off by then. However, the more I learned about the web, the more I struggled with the transition from a being systems engineer to being a web designer.
By 1998-99, I was a daily project cool reader, which was a site-of-the-day list done by Glenn Davis. I couldn’t wait to see what was new for that day. From there, I’d learned about a concept called a “weblog” and I realized that I was already doing that in my own way. Though, really it was more of a once monthly (zine style) link list, then it was as a traditional (at that time) blog. I certainly didn’t call it a blog, nor did I know what one was really, but I quickly adapted. Project Cool closed and metafilter became my window to any daily “cool sites.” It still is when i find time to go there.
So, after look around at other people’s work, I decided why not? I read Jeffrey Zeldman, The Misanthropic Bitch, Kottke.org, Metafilter, Tnkgrl The Scripting News, and many more. Through Metafilter, I learned that Pyra Labs started up in San Francisco to develop web-based project management software. Out of that, blogger was born and I used it from it’s beginnings. At that time, blogger provided an editing interface and published individual posts via FTP to a remote server. It was the first form of “push-button” blog post publishing. From that platform, I was able to exponentially expand monthly posts into multiple posts per day. By December 1999, I had 300+ hand coded entries.
By 2001, there was well over 3500 entries but, very few comments, blogger did not support comments until 2004 under Google’s eventual ownership. Because of that, I moved from blogger to movable type and paxtonland continued but, it was now more functional and standards and database driven, I had the files and database back on my servers again. More importantly, it had the same functionality as so many of the better weblogs out there that were hand coded by the authors and publishers. It looked real and professional. Movable Type also achieved the goal of separating content from design. They brought commenting, trackbacks, and much more. However, I was waiting patiently for MySQL support. Back then, they only supported BerkeleyDB and there were so many posts and comments it made the site was terribly slow.
WordPress launched and supported MySQL as default, so off I went. Presently, WordPress still powers this site and I change the design of this site a lot. This is usually where I experiment with themes.
The Death of the Weblogs
From my vantage point, the weblog died from three separate directions, all having the same ultimate end goal, the devaluation and eventual demonetization of original content. Not that much content was monetized to speak of beyond some advertisement experiments at the time.
- Google purchased Blogger
- Myspace, twitter, and Facebook siphoned original content and weblogs began to atrophy.
- Finally, Google ended Google Reader, essentially killing off an elegant and effective network of RSS feeds.
We were surprised, back then, to know that Google wanted Blogger. It was exciting news, at that time. I would have wished that the original development team was compensated for their time, risk taking, and effort. Here we are (at the time of this writing) in 2021 and Blogger carries on. Though, I’ve only rarely encountered a blogspot site and nearly never in a search result, if at all. So, why did they even want it? If the effective outcome was to literally bury those sites into obscurity? I don’t really think that was their plan, but I believe it was the outcome. I think they were literally buying high-visibility projects and Blogger was one. I don’t really think they had a concept of what they would actually do with it, beyond ads.
Myspace, then twitter, then Facebook all happened and in fairly rapid succession. We took our opinions to their platforms, to further their agendas, and developed content for their benefit. The weblog, once a real and important alternative source of news and information, became essentially extinct. I’m not sure, in retrospect, why we didn’t see this coming. Google indexed weblogs with a higher priority, ranked them higher than normal static sites, and subsequently drove more traffic as to them as well. As so many people started publishing content covering just about every current event, subject matter, or object on earth, they became the top results and stayed there for a long time. See above… Lastly, in 2013 Google killed Google Reader, a very important RSS aggregate for blog content. It not only killed reader, it effectively killed RSS. While RSS lives on, Google grows and continues to be the primary catalyst for news and most all subjects, for that matter. Regardless, weblogs lost an important source of traffic, RSS lost a major implementation, and Google still controls the narrative. For what it’s worth, Google, Facebook, and twitter make up almost all of my referrers to date.
I suspect that, given time, they will own much of the publicly published content from individuals and small groups.
The Dawn of the Era of Fake News
In 2016, all news become embattled. No longer trusted, no longer trustworthy, and no longer endowed with the sentiment of integrity, the news became fake. Not only because one political party declared it, but because a great lot of it is actually fake. But, this is an era where if advertisers pay Facebook, they publish the ads. If the ads are monetized with the ad networks, Facebook, among others, is more than happy to cash in as well. What we have now is many people’s primary news source is either Facebook, or twitter… both primary aggregates of monetized news.
Only now, particularly Facebook, has built a reality distortion field of users who are grouped together in like-minded fashion, share articles and sources that confirm their beliefs, and Facebook stacks the decks to keep those users happy, reward them for validating Facebook’s assumptions, and feed them advertisement that benefits Facebook the most. Worse, we aren’t even reading the articles… just headlines. I’ll try to expand this later. It’s still developing.
Now, after being hauled before a shockingly ignorant U.S. Senate, Facebook after helping to mislead the world, now thinks that users should be able to fend for themselves. Rather, they should not be so gullible as to believe what they see and hear, should not be held responsible for misleading advertisement, thus relieving them of guilt and permitting them to continue to cash checks at our expense.
Yet, and still. Here we are, you and I, alone reading and writing.
This is a logo that I used from someone’s template. I can’t remember where from. I would credit them if I could.
I can’t remember who this web badge was for
This was for Jeffrey Zeldman’s independent web developer’s network
So, I was supposed to organize Fray Day 6 in Ann Arbor, MI. I dropped the ball and waited too long to find a venue
This was among the first devices to indicate the newly created Creative Commons licensing scheme.
We loved to signal our support for causes. This was one of the first organized AIDS days.
I can’t remember what this button was for.
I think I was a cool stop…. I can’t remember that either
RSS had many versions
Very early XML to make blogs discoverable by aggregators.
Early paxtonland was hosted on early movable type.
Blog share stock market where paxtonland had a (very) small valuation