It's hard to believe, but hunterirving.com turns 15 this year. I've had the keys to this digital playground for more than half my life, and in that time it's changed a lot. What started as a place to share weird things I made on my computer has finally evolved into... a place where I share slightly more complicated things I made on my computer.
Maybe it's not that different after all.
Either way, I'm excited to kick off the next chapter of hunterirving.com with a total site redesign! Code has been rewritten, load times optimized for, and conventions rethunk. Though no oil was involved, you'd be forgiven if you mistook the new site for a well-oiled machine.
However, I'm met with a dilemma (that I really should have seen coming since it's actually happened quite a few times before). The invigorating, intoxicating, and, at times, overwhelming freshness of The New Site (as it has come to be known) has nearly neutralized any newness The Site Formerly Known as New was still clinging onto. I'm not one to talk, but I can't help but hear what people are saying in hushed tones (but not hushed enough to not be heard). Dated, jaded, and faded. A dried up, washed out has-been. The Old Site! That's what they're calling it!!
What they don't know is that me and "the old site" go way back! Sure we've drifted apart over the years, but even now it feels like family.
So let's revitalize those wilting hyperlinks and paint those fading style sheets in a new light!
Like so many rare and valuable artæfacts, I've excavated The Old Pages from the ruins of cyberspace and dusted them off with one of those funny little paintbrushes. And now, presented here for your viewing satisfaction, are the four major incarnations of hunterirving.com. Ripened to perfection. Plucked out of time. Unfiltered, uncensored, and unredacted.
For me, seeing these pages arranged like this is a bit like looking into a mirror. Each version of the site is a reflection of myself - what I liked, what I loved, who I was, and who I was trying to be.
For you, it might be more like finding a discarded photo album at a thrift store. Except you'll be able to click on things.
If version 1.0 of hunterirving.com looks like it was built by a middle schooler, that's because it was. The domain was a gift from my older cousin Jim, who, at countless points in my adolescence, endeavored to teach me about computers and programming.
It's just some simple HTML and a little inline CSS, but this early version of the site was my first time writing any kind of code, making hunterirving.com both my first and longest-running software project.
To me, this version of the site is very wholesome and pure. I mostly wrote about the video games I was playing and shared art I had made in my free time.
Since I lived in a pretty rural area growing up, we had painfully slow dial-up internet until about 2009. When I wanted to update my website, I'd usually save all of my files to a flash drive then bike over to my grandparents' house to upload them (somehow, they had highspeed internet years before we did).
The original landing page featured a functional hit counter (represented here by an animated gif), which my friends and I would obsessively inflate by refreshing the page over and over during visits to our school's computer lab.
As the years went by, I identified less and less with the cute, crudely-written site I'd hacked together in middle school. I was in high school now! And my web presence needed to match the mature, elegant, and sophisticated adult I (believed I) had become.
So, seeking sleekness, I tore down my homemade homepage and served up a soulless slab. The WordPress Era was upon us.
WARNING: Cringe Ahead.
This second iteration of hunterirving.com was by far the lightest on content, and I think there are a few reasons for that. What had captured my attention in the first place was the fun of building something myself. And while WordPress did make it easier to publish content, it didn't really let me hack on the site like I was used to. Their clunky backend didn't help much either, but it did get me thinking about what a better site building tool might look like.
After a year or two of stagnation, and, with a subscription renewal date looming, my cousin, who was still paying for hosting at the time (thanks Jim), reached out to see if I wanted to keep the site online. I agreed that there wasn't much reason to keep paying for it, so, sometime between 2011 and 2012, we forfeited our claim to the domain.
For a while there, I didn't think much about my old website. I figured I'd pick it up again someday, but it wasn't a high priority. That is, until my brother Josh and I discovered joshirving.com - a site previously available for purchase, but now spoken for by an up-and-coming jazz musician of the same name.
My heart sank. A cold sweat washed over me. What if Hunter Irving, the youth pastor and self-proclaimed Husband, Father, and Coffee Lover had taken hunterirving.com for himself? Or Hunter Irving, midfielder for the Molloy Lions lacrosse team? Or, I don't know, this guy?
Well, luckily, it was still just sitting there, up for grabs.
As if all the world's Hunter Irvings were racing against me, I punched in my payment details, mistyped because I was going too fast, typed them in a second time but slightly more carefully, and like that, hunterirving.com was mine again.
This version of the site marked a return to the handwritten HTML days of yore, but, while I was too proud to admit it, freedom from WordPress did come with some tradeoffs. Now that I was back to building each page by hand, my posts became less frequent and were, at times, severely lacking. While my attempts to design 3D printed fishing lures with my dad and my series of custom waveform cards for the Nintendo Labo Toy-Con piano received their own, in-depth writeups, many other projects, including a collection of guest-created artworks from an installation I designed for Seattle's Living Computer Museum, were posted up with little or no description.
What the heck is "YOUR SANCTUARY", anyway? I never wrote anything about it, so I'm still the only one who knows!
There had to be a better way.
The blogging workflow has been streamlined as well, adopting a simple Markdown-like format that gets converted into HTML using Python. The upshot of this is, I won't have to build the site by hand anymore - I'll just let a computer do it for me. Hopefully, this leads me to create tons of new content, but I guess time will tell.
If there's one thing this experience has taught me, it's how rewarding it can be to carve out your own space on the web. I made this site with my own two hands, and as of today, I've finally managed to build something that feels like home.
Today also marks the launch of Gobbler - my lightweight, open-source Twitter alternative. While I've long been dissatisfied with the mores of social media, I still found myself wanting to document thoughts and tidbits from my life online. Gobbler was born from these circumstances, but it's already begun to take on a life of its own.
What's next for hunterirving.com? Even I don't know yet, but I hope you'll stick around to find out.