Confessions of a Webmaster

A personal website can be a living growing cyber-entity which requires daily attention to work properly and maintain some semblance of credibility.

Or.  A personal website can be a very basic and relatively static URL which really doesn't require much time or attention to get its point across.  It all depends on what the webmaster decides to do.  Easy.  Simple.

This website was conceived and initially constructed in early 2000 and has been growing in size  and readership ever since.   Maintaining the links alone is enough to be a full-time endeavour... especially where URL addresses change and disappear as fast as dot.com mergers.   Although ever attempt is made to keep up with the changes, it's a challenge to validate each external hyperlink... even with the great features of FrontPage 2000.


So why do it?  Why add to the frustration and headache of owning a PC which already requires constant patches, upgrades and downloads in order to work safely and properly?

I think there must be some control freak thing going on.  Like some despotic editor-publisher-owner, webmasters not only get to run the 'show', but decide who-what-where and if the 'participants' will appear.

Editorial content is total, an open soapbox is always available and there can be as much (or as little) reader feedback allowed as the webmaster desires.  With website editing software available to anybody, the website can be part visual feast, part TV station, part movie theatre, part radio station or part photo sharing clearinghouse.  The possibilities are only limited by one's own imagination and to a significant factor, by the amount of cash one is willing to lay out.

But sometimes despotic dictators aren't as focused on the health and welfare of their subjects as they ought to be.  Some websites are little more than some 15-minute effort with little to no thought or preparation going into the site.  It shows.  Other sites are personally contracted out to a professional service who (for a VERY pretty penny) are only too happy to set up a stunning and meticulously designed site loaded with the latest web design goodies.

To me, those websites are 'commissioned personal sites' much as one would commission an artist to realize a desired concept.  While the site may indeed be a 'personal' website I find them about as 'homemade' as a cup of instant soup.


Personal websites are simply a reflection of the internet readers who feel they have something to say (or sell) and are willing to invest some time to put together either graphics and/or words for the world to see.  Some web server businesses offer cut-rate prices in exchange for popups or embedded advertising.

This site is intentionally designed to avoid any commercial overtones and seeks to deprive the corporate culture from yet another unwelcome intrusion into people's lives.   No popups, no spam, no vying for readers' cash.

This website is SO firmly opposed to commercialism... in any form... it will be allowed to disappear before advertising or popups are permitted.  No money-grubbing going on here which means no push to cash in on the ratings game.   No pay-per-click-through, no ads for SpyCameras, no cookie-trail, no Meet-Your-Dream-Date.

People who want that tripe just need to do a search on any search engine or try stopping over at an AngelFire site for the ultimate in reader frustration.  This is supposed to be fun and interesting - not an ordeal to see how fast the reader can slam down popup windows.

The views presented here aren't supposed to appeal to any group in particular although it's proudly declared a left-leaning liberal view may be encountered 'here and there'.   That's not intended to insult sensibilities, but to inspire contemplation.  Getting people to THINK has never been so difficult.

It's also my contention there's an element of responsibility which goes along with publishing anything on a medium such as the internet.  That's not to say I support censorship; completely the opposite holds true as I loathe censorship in any form for any reason.  Provided the viewer is aware of the nature of material they're about to see and read, anything goes.  Seems a bit alarmist to have to have disclaimers and warnings all over the place but given the sordid corners of the internet, it's a small price to pay for not being visually assaulted while surfing the net.

No disclaimers here.  The Gentle Reader's sensibilities might be tweaked but never overwhelmed.


At a time when whorish behaviour is becoming increasingly acceptable (considering the latest Reality TV craze, what WON'T people do for fame and a fast buck?) no amount of cash would convince me to relent and open up this site to commercial influences.  Some web developers and operators may start out with altruistic intentions but once they see they can earn money from click-throughs and pop-ups, they'll cave into the temptation to go for at least a financially self-sustaining website.

Thousands of dollars for electronic games and gizmos, yet less than TWO BUCKS A WEEK is too much to pay to tell the Corporate Boys to shove their advertising up their USB ports.  Cheap wimpy sell-outs.

Any products or services shown on this website are strictly along the lines of "you MIGHT be interested in..." instead of "you NEED to have because...".   Informational, not demanding.  Check it out instead of send a check.  That sort of thing.


This site caters to those who enjoy reading and exploring other perspectives.  Yeah sure, there are graphics to keep the interest levels up but for the most part, if you're reading this you've already seen where this is basically a writer's website.

(Well YES... anybody who can fill gigabytes with thousands of lines with  text about next-to nothing must have a smidgen of literary inclination.   Jerry Seinfeld became a wealthy man because of a 'show about nothing' and the pop culture-crazed public ate it up.   There's a lot of 'nothing' here... but as for becoming wealthy off it...).

Musicians are compelled to make music, artists need to express themselves through their artwork and writers need to see their words in the written form.  It just works out that way.  Some of the writing here is... well... pretty darn good if I do say so.  There are some unique views presented here and I'll be the first to admit there is some rather convoluted and fragmented writing here as well.  Some days the words flow like poetry in a cadence which rises and falls in a natural conversational mode.

Other days, even I have to stop and wonder if there's a point buried in the prose.  Grandmother Moon affects some more than others.   Cryptic changes like that can make the reader pause and think.  

And if there's any one single goal of the native canadian, it's to get people to think.


Technically speaking now.  

For those who wring their hands in despair over doing something as innocuous as sending an email, you might not want to dive into the world of web design and development.  Coding these Bad Boys can get frustrating, uploading to a web server, keeping broken hyperlinks down to a minimum, coming up with original material, proofreading, learning new software, troubleshooting old software which just mysteriously quits working, checking statistics, offering broad-based appeal while maintaining consistency... it's definitely a labour of love.

Non-techies might see it as merely an exercise in angst.  Detail-oriented and -driven, good websites are concerned with minutia as small as a pixel and as precise as 'Hex=(00,FF,CC)' over 'Hex=(62,FF,DF)' (see the difference?  No?   Your monitor can.  Push back and look carefully.)

Good websites, that is.  Through the statistical report of this website, I discovered a website based in Winnipeg which had linked graphics directly to this website (that's a cardinal sin in the web developer world and without permission, not cool at all).   The offending linked graphics of the Winnipeg site were duly switched so that a 'gentle message' took its place.  Normally I might not have made any revisions but her site is so patently bad in design, content and taste that something had to be done.  Cheesy site... just awful.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well and clearly this site wasn't worth doing at all.  "Young Single Women Who Seek To Sponge Off A Meal Ticket While Bring Treated Like A Goddess" might be the category this site fits into.

Only she might be described as a Canadian Rosanne Barr without the good taste and etiquette.


There are also websites which go for techno-overkill.... Flash MX, Java, DHTML, the hideous Comet Cursor (notorious spyware), gaudy animated GIFs and the ultra-hip tiny little text that looks cool but is barely discernable.  Used with discretion, the aforementioned techniques can bring a page alive... too much of a good thing can be bad, however.

Just as in life.

This site is a classic bandwidth hog.  If you don't have broadband accessibility, you either (1) aren't reading this anyway having given up on the page download time or (2) are EXCEPTIONALLY patient and REALLY want to see what's going on.  No plans to pare the page load times although some of the animated gif images could be thinned out which would help enormously.

This website makes no bones about being an amateur effort... yeah, there are mistakes and broken links and some sections look like Ms.Winnipeg's hackneyed attempt at internet fame.

You can easily tell the earliest pages from the days over at Webjump (yup, some of those original pages are still here) and the new stuff which pays more attention to detail and design.  Learning curve and all that.   It's far more fun to create a new webpage than it is to rework an existing one, but that too is part and parcel of web maintenance.

In a self-serving way, it's kind of fun to see the bumbling earlier attempts at page design... so the old pages are left in place.  Wasn't because I didn't take the time and pay attention to the details - (the old pages took x-times as long to put together) - just didn't have any previous practice or experience.

I like to work with graphics and seriously need to learn graphic editing programs as carefully designed graphics make the first and most lasting impression.  Completely to my embarrassment, I have a great deal of difficulty in adding so much as a drop shadow... that's pretty bad.

Macromedia Web Design Studio with Flash is installed... the possibilities are mind-boggling... but so is the work involved to (1) learn the beast and (2) put together something moderately presentable.  

Here at the native canadian, procrastination has been elevated to a religion.


Tunes.  Gotta have tunes to work, surf, write, gawk or get inspired to shove together a pile of HTML.  

The music influences the writing... symbiotic that way, I guess... and there's something about French music which evokes images of -30ºC on a dark, snowy January night in a resto in someplace like Matagami Québec.  The imagination takes off from there and I'm off and writing.  Patrick Fiori, Garou, La Bottine Souriante, Isabelle Boulay, Daniel Lavoie, Gabrielle Destroismaisons, Michel Rivard... all good stuff for setting the scene.  Vraiment, je me souviens.

Other times... well... most actually... it's trance churning out from the little old Win95 NEC with amplified five-speaker system.  Got two sets of those, but the Win98SE Compaq (this computer) response time turns into a dog when RealOne is busy chewing up resources.  BT, Oakenfold, Tall Paul, Syntax, Underworld, Röyksopp, Godskitchen, Ministry of Sound, Gouryella... heady stuff to power the night hours.

While it may not be readily apparent, easily 80-90% of the material for this site gets created between the hours of 1am and 6am.  Night time is the right time.  The depths of darkness combined with some epic trance can inspire some unconventional  mental wandering.  It's a good thing really... I've always found the journey to be just as exciting as the destination.

Just as in life.


In the Beginning.  

Before slamming a cyber claim on 'nativecanadian.ca'.

You see... you have to pay for the privilege to 'rent' a unique URL.  If I forget or neglect to pay the domain registers, 'www.nativecanadian.ca' is up for grabs to the first customer with a credit card.

Fear not, my Much Appreciated Reader ... old Kanowakeron has exclusive rights to this domain name until August of 2012.  Money in the bank, so to speak.

All the years of a reserved domain name are for naught unless there's a web server where the files and code reside... the web host.   That's a bit more of an outlay of cash to rent somebody else's disk space and although it's theoretically and technically possible to be immortalized in the cyber world (a few grand would keep things going for a few decades or more), the reality is: web hosters can - and do - go belly up.  Sometimes with little to no notice.

Repeat after me: "Backups will save my behind".  Holds true for everything from email to websites.

Anyway, back in 1999 the URL of this website was originally http://nativecanadian.firstnations.webjump.com (ungainly, no?) but Webjump.com was one of the dot.com casualties.  They thought they could raise enough advertising income by offering free hosting space for personal websites; they thought wrong.   

Web servers are personal computers on mega-steroids and the arrays of disk space makes your PC look like some Casio pocket calculator as far as storage is concerned.  Not cheap, and you need a 24/7 support staff to keep the thing available to attract customers.

  Great Web Host; Great People   I've been pretty happy with my webhost, WebStrike Solutions of Mitcham, Victoria Australia.  They've got great customer service and  a bunch of young tech-heads who really know their stuff.  Yeah, yeah... there have been outages but not enough to cause undue alarm.

Gotta very soft spot for techs... those 3am on-calls can make an otherwise very pleasant life a living hell with a demanding and indifferent spouse called 'A Job'.

The CEO's of the world would be looking for work involving a paper hat if it weren't for the technical support staffs.   The internet would cease to operate, nobody would get paid, the NYSE would freeze and life in general would grind to a halt.  Can't happen?  <chuckle>

Hug a Tech Today.


I simply lucked out on the domain name of 'nativecanadian.ca'; definitely wanted a Canadian domain (.ca) and hoped 'nativecanadian.ca' wasn't already taken.  It wasn't... so I scrambled to send in the registration and fees, staked my claim and started looking for a real web host which was (1) dependable and (2) cheap.

In retrospect, it would have been somewhat patriotic to have the files reside on a server in Canada; in the cyberworld, they could sit in a server in Kazakhstan and all things equal, nobody would know the difference.  I forget how I discovered WebStrike Solutions, but I'm certain the fact that they didn't charge for the first year's hosting had much to do with the final decision.

So, on 13 August 2001, the nativecanadian.ca was born from the tatters of the old Webjump site.  This site is ably created using Microsoft's FrontPage 2000 and without getting too involved, the web host servers need to have FrontPage Extensions enabled in order to effortlessly upload the files and code that you're viewing now.

It's possible to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to upload the stuff to the server... somewhat of a pain in the butt as each and every file has to be uploaded manually.  With over 4,000 individual files to this site, you might be able to see where that could REALLY take the grin out of website development.  The old Webjump site DIDN'T have FrontPage Extensions and I believe the reams of paper with each and every file listed and checked off as they were uploaded are around here somewhere.  Excellent learning experience; exceedingly tedious.

Imagine my delight when all I had to do was click Save and everything was automatically uploaded.   That's when things began to take off.


Fighting change is like swimming against the current of a river when you want to be downstream anyway; might as well go with the flow and let things evolve as they may.

Initially, I had no idea where this website was going or where it was going to end up.  Had a feeling it might get pretty big (but not this big) and had NO idea there was going to be anywhere NEAR the amount of writing which shows up.   The Native Reflections section just grew faster than any other part and to be perfectly blunt, I STILL don't have any idea where this site is going.

I also had no idea this site would have the international appear that it apparently enjoys.  Canada is the primary country of the readership (ahh, validation is the kindest of rewards) but my friends in the UK, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Denmark are repeat monthly viewers.  You people from New Zealand and Australia must have found something that piques your interest as well and one and all,  your patronage is sincerely appreciated.

And from the statistics, it would appear a bunch of you are killing time at work right now by surfing the native canadian pages.  Excellent.  Glad to be a diversion from things you HAVE to do to things you WANT to do.  My motto?

" Work Is The Curse Of The Leisure Class. "

I've toyed with the idea of splitting it into two sites, hacking out complete sections, consolidating sections, making a Super Site, going minimalist or becoming a media-soaked interactive experience with live cams broadcasting the inner sanctum where this all takes place.   So far,  the guiding principle has been 'Let It Be - Watch It Grow - Take It From There'.


A description of the bit of a room which serves as Command Central... words simply are inadequate... but imagine the small cramped office of a tech head/writer amid piles of books, reference material, CD's, printers, TV's, stereo gear, cassettes, monitors, speakers, fax machine, scanners, dozens of software boxes and enough cabling behind a desk to wire a small village.  With an 8-Point Hudson's Bay Blanket suspended overhead and a scattering of Maple Leafs to act as a reminder.

It's a pretty funky place.  And maybe there IS some relevance to the question, "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what's the sign of an empty desk?"  I believe there's a desk under there somewhere - but I couldn't say with any degree of certainty as it's been so long since a surface has been visible. 

It may not be elegant... and Martha Stewart would recoil in disgusted horror... but it's serviceable and I've always preferred function over form in these matters.

Just as in life.


 - Flying Colors Design  -  Extraordinary design.

There've been a few requests for permission to republish some of the writing found here... not waves of editors flooding the Inbox, mind you, but enough to let me know there might be a pearl or two that catches the eye of the literary set.  Yah, yah... go ahead... give credits... (any cash involved here?) ... let me know if the readers want more... thanks for asking... stay in touch... and all that.

There are some outrageously talented First Nations people out there who've come up with not only slick online presentations, but humbling original material.  This site's more of a Huck Finn production... slowly ambling along with rambling thoughts quasi-organized into loosely defined sections.  Not exactly one thing or another, not exactly the definitive word on much of anything and absolutely not without a healthy dose of humanity.


 

My World And Welcome To It.   

From a corner of Turtle Island called Southern Ontario and Upstate New York.  Musings of a liberal Baby Boomer idealist with a foot in two countries, head in the clouds, living in cyberspace, burning sweetgrass and outfitted with great set of Michelins to wander around with.

Doesn't get any better than this.

 


" We are persons with a desire for variety.  Rigid routine can make our spirits sag.  Following the same path at the same time every day, repeating and repeating without the slightest change, dulls the spirit.  Life gets to be routine because we let our minds fall into a rut that has no future.  Nagging fear enters when living falls into inertia, and we are troubled not so much by what is going on around us as what is going on inside.  There are many words for spirit, but the Cherokees call it a da nv to, or life, v le ni to nv.  It means to show some initiative, some serious intention.  It is not something we only hope to have one day.  It is a necessity - moisture that feeds the roots and sunlight that draws new life. 

 

But it must be stirred up. "

A Cherokee Feast of Days

Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Council Oaks Books

USBN 0-933031-68-8