About MSEnet Version3

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(A note on the naming convention here... The first site was simply MSEnet. No numbers, no nothing, just plain and simple MSEnet. It wasn't as if I was planning on ever needing to create a new version of my site -- I mean, it was perfect already, right? So with the release of my second site, close on the heels of the second release of Netscape's browser, "v2.0" seemed appropriate. But I never really liked it, and to me calling the third version "v3.0," as originally planned, would make it seem too much like a continuation of the second site -- quite unlike the complete departure that it was to become...)

The third major iteration of my personal website has also been my most successful. (Well, so far anyway...) The success of Version3 is measured not only from the overwhelming feedback I have received from both friends and strangers, but also that it won a site design award! Nothing major -- no "Cool Site of the Day" or anything -- but just the knowledge that people are looking at and appreciating your site is a good feeling. And the USC Interactive Media Club apparently thought my site was pretty darn good, so they gave me their weekly award.

Shameless pride aside, MSEnet Version3 is an amazing site. Disappointed in my inability to create content in v2.0, I not only dedicated myself to producing it for Version3, but also decided to stick to a relatively narrow theme: Architecture.

It makes sense in retrospect, what with me being an architecture student and all, but I'll tell you this: when I came up with the idea in the middle of the summer of 1997, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. (Well, actually something else, but I feel I have to censor this...)

The idea actually formed more through an afternoon of messing around in Photoshop. My girlfriend of not-quite-three-years had decided about a week earlier that our relationship was not destined to be; I was devastated, depressed, and despondent about life in general. I had a clip art library from the now-defunct Site Builders Network and was just going through and trying to composite some images together to make something pleasing. Then it hit me: a beautiful angel "standing" on a Corinthian capital, with a spoked gear and a chambered nautilus to either side of her. A compass superimposed on the capital completed the image.The composition was stunning and I knew that I was on to something great.

Over the next few days, I kept trying to add things to the arrangement. Nothing else seemed to fit, so right then and there I decided that I would stringently limit the scope of MSEnet Version3. It both the long and short runs, it was a great decision because it simultaneously kept me focused on the content and limited the amount of content I had to deal with.

The arrangement was simple. "Gear" dealt with the technical aspects of architecture and included a beam stress calculator, a seismic calculator (never finished), and the beginnings of a materials database (again, never finished, but never really started either). "Shell" featured writings on architecture and the built environment. For the longest time it was merely a teaser -- due to concerns about plagiarism, the essays were not posted. Then, in February 1998, USC's Information Services Division decided to allow students to create password-protected directories. After I had done so in Shell, I was finally able to post the essays.

"Angel" contained mostly personal information. It was never really as complete as I would have liked it, but at least it had up-to-date information. The last section was "Compass," where the technical information about MSEnet Version3 itself could be found: things like a site map, user feedback form, and hit counters.

One of the best decisions, IMHO, was to artificially limit the technology used on the site to that supported by 3.x-generation web browsers, despite the overwhelming popularity and availability of 4.x-generation browsers. The idea was to make my site as acceccible as possible and, AFAICT, it seemed to have worked.

MSEnet Version3 was so successful that I didn't think I would need to change it before I graduated. Alas, I knew even then that I was only fooling myself: I can't stand leaving something alone when I can tinker with it instead. But a lot of other things got me going on a new version of MSEnet, not the least of which was Cascading Style Sheets.

During the winter of 1998/1999, I tried to produce the next iteration, MSEnet Vier. (Vier is German for "four.") Going for shock value (for real), I made it with a bright yellow stripe down the left over a bright red background, with green, yellow, and white highlights. For some strange reason, no one I showed it to liked it.

So, MSEnet Version3 sat for another eight months with no updates whatsoever. Then I "rediscovered" Cascading Style Sheets in early June 1999 while working on the website for my employer, Kirkpatrick Associates Architects. Needless to say, I fell in love with the possibilities. I also became bitterly resentful of Netscape's negligent implementation of CSS. For the first time in my life, I was forced to admit that Microsoft had actually produced a superior product. (Pardon me a moment while I go rinse the taste out of my mouth...)

And so, while playing with the possibilities of CSS, msenet**** was born.