Can I still call this a "blog" in 2024?

About

John Vantine

Hi! I’m John, and I have an aggressive hunger and thirst for all that life has to offer. Sometimes I document my experiences here on my blog.

I’ve had a presence on the web since the late 90s. I built my first website in 1998 on AOL’s website hosting service. The content was a strange mix of inside jokes with my friends, South Park .gifs, and links to other websites that I enjoyed. I’m sure I had an “under construction” .gif on there, too. If you were a teenager in the 90s, you remember sites like mine.

Whenever I found a website with a “cool” design, I’d read the source code until I understood how they built it. I was obsessed with the world wide web, but also limited in that I was sharing a Gateway desktop PC with 5 family members on a dial up connection… and we only had one phone line. The struggle was real. When I could get away with it, I’d print out website source code and read through it when I wasn’t able to use the computer.

Once I learned some proper HTML and CSS, I moved my operation over to Angelfire. As my skillz advanced and I grew tired of storage limits (and ads!), I moved my site onto a friend’s dedicated server.

At this point I was posting “updates” to my site multiple times a day. The term “blogging” wasn’t really in the lexicon at that point, but that’s what I was doing. Fancy content management platforms like WordPress didn’t exist at the time; I updated my site by hand whenever I wanted to create a new post. Eventually I graduated to Greymatter’s “Newspro”, which oddly enough seems to have all but disappeared from the web. This felt like a massive upgrade, because it allowed my visitors to comment on my posts. Prior to these comments, audience interaction was limited to emails… and my “guestbook”, remember those?

This experience gave me a unique background in content creation and management, and I appreciate the simplicity of WordPress that much more as a result.

I would write about my personal life quite a bit. I wrote about my exploits at school and all the dumb trouble I got myself into. I’d post all sorts of strange/funny things that I found on the web and that folks would send to me. I wrote about movies that I saw, concerts that I attended, the things I did on the weekends with my friends, metal albums that I was obsessing over, and life in general.

This “everything and nothing” approach really seemed to resonate with people. I was getting lots of positive feedback and making connections with folks all over the world, and before I knew it my site had a legitimate following with thousands of unique visitors every day.

I knew nothing of SEO back then, but I found myself dealing with increasingly large amounts of traffic, and I had to change my hosting several times due to bandwidth issues. This all came to a head when my site was mentioned on a popular radio show (yes, it was the 90s) and subsequently pulled down by my host for crashing the server on which it resided. As a result of this situation, I started learning more about server logs and analytics. Google Analytics was not around back then, and “extreme-dm.com” was the best free tool available to me.

As I empowered myself with data, I began to learn more about my audience: where they were coming from and what they were looking at. Google hadn’t started referring search queries yet, so I could see the terms that folks were using to find my site.

I became obsessed with this data. I’d come home from school and find out that my site was ranking for a new keyword, or that a new website had linked to mine and was sending a ton of new visitors my way. Fark.com in particular was notorious for this back in those days, sending hundreds of thousands of new users my way.

[Paused here]

I majored in art (with a concentration in graphic design) at Shippensburg University and entered the workforce as a web designer. Through an interesting chain of events I found myself working in the SEO industry. I still have a strong background in graphic design, and find myself utilizing those skills somewhat regularly, but my true “honed” skills are in the search realm.

I take pride in my work and my ability to achieve results.

John Vantine running Muir Woods

Running in Muir Woods, May 2021

These days, I’m all about running, and I spend as much time on my local Bay Area trails as possible. I like to write about these adventures from time to time.

I’m always looking for a challenge, both in the workplace and the outdoors. If you have a project that you think I might be interested in, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!