I know this is kind of meta (a website presenting itself), and a number of people would probably scoff at attempting to pass your own 'website' off as an undertaking. However, most of these people probably do not invest the same stake, in a website, as I do. This does require a little clarification, as I'm not talking about the kind of stake that you eat, or even dispatch vampires with. Nor am I talking about a metaphorical stake the size of which encompasses daily updates, weekly vlogs or - god forbid - food tweets. No. My stake is the kind that tries to at least be above the average internet website (making it an, admittedly, small stake), but also to re-build and re-invent itself as technology progresses. Read on to find what I found at the turn of the year 2014 to be the hottest stuff to build this thing - you are reading - with.
Pardon me while I get a little nostalgic and transport us back to 1996. Back when bullitin board systems were still fairly popular and the closest thing to Wikipedia was an encyclopedia. Things have changed quite a bit since then. The internet was a wholly different place and finding information was... Interesting. But let's not digress too much. This is about my own website building history, and I'll keep it short and sweet. When I first got on the internet in Germany, the local ISP (Vossnet, I believe) provided the paltry sum of 10 MB online, which I remember doing a little bit of work with. Nothing especially fancy, but enough to give me a taste of what HTML was all about. Fast forward a few years, and I had gotten deep enough into the thriving emulation community as a young 17 year old to even venture launching a 'proper' site.
Still hosted with Vossnet, I created the Neogeo Review Center (NRC) and launched in 2000. Being chummy with all the big emulation sites back then meant my opening week netted 6000 visitors which I was quite proud of. Small fries compared to today's standards, but hey... I was a young naive kid. Nothing like the old naive man I am now. Anyway - my puny website caught the attention of a well wishing benefactor, and I soon moved to retrogames.com under a new and improved site name - namely: The Review Center (TRC). Going from NRC to TRC taught me a lot, as NRC was a completely static website and TRC on the other hand used both PHP and MySQL to enable anyone to write and post reviews. The fact that the site simply didn't have the needed moderators or fan-base to really get going is a less interesting story. I had fun, and that's all that mattered.
I've always had a passion for understanding things at their fundamental level which is probably why I've secretly always abhorred products like DreamWeaver or other auto-website creating software. They tend to lurch back and forth, throwing their weight every which way, often leaving behind a much bigger footprint than ever needed and on top of that, generate the most ugly code the internet has often seen. At the same time, I sympathize with the task of trying to make website building an approachable and easy task. Today there are so many products and online hosts available that I'm sure there are passable products for nearly anyone. I - however - still prefer doing this all by myself if it's within my abilities.
I am acutely aware that this notion of handling things on your own and following through can be come a debilitating illness. If you want to get ahead, you simply have to build on pre-existing work rather than constantly re-invent the wheel. So where do you compromise? Well, that's up to each of us, but for me it is making use of some wonderfully built, best-practice following libraries. They give me a solid framework - even a kind of cage perhaps - to work within and know that stepping outside of it, is something I should consider thoroughly, before actually doing. It is also worth noting that the most vital difference between drawing the line at using libraries vs. using hosted solutions is that, theoretically, the latter is less 'guaranteed' than the former. Meaning that I can always take my site, the code, and its associated libraries to whatever provider I please. However, hosted solutions and pre-built templates stick to their birthplace. Hitching your website boat to a big ship does come at a cost.