(Logo taken from BAL Adhesives and Grouts — http://www.bal-adhesives.co.uk/ )
I used to maintain a website at http://bal.mit.edu (don’t bother going there, it was closed down in 2005). I ran apache server on my machine, which was on the MIT network.
I started writing on the website in 2001, after my roommate Waseem taught me how to download apache server. I was a techno-dumb at that time (still is), so he did all the setting up, and then he showed me how to publish text online using Notepad. Until I closed the site in 2005, I wrote all the contents on Notepad. There were no graphics, the whole site was just text file with occasional links and jpeg files. Simply black text on white background.
Initially I planned to maintain the site as a diary, where I collect my random thoughts so I can later read them to my family after I finish my study. I lived alone most of my college years, so I guessed it would be interesting later to rediscover what was on my mind during the time. But I decided to publish my site online so my close friends could read what I wrote.
I did not link to any site from my site, nor did I solicit links from others. However, I was surprised to learn that in the first year, I got about 500 unique visitors daily (not that much, I know, but it was surprising nonetheless). I did not put any personal information on the site, even my name and email, because I did not feel comfortable when strangers emailed me or requested me to add my contact to their IM. However, I slipped one day and posted a link to my Amazon Wishlist page (which has my email on it) a few days before my birthday.
It ended well, though. I received many items from the wishlist — I remember Awin bought me a math history book by Dirk Struik, and JaeBot purchased a graduate math text (thanks!). I received a few more anonymous gifts, including a novel (The Godfather), a book about Rube Goldberg apparatus, and the most expensive of all, a Sherlock Holmes full-series DVD (the one with Jeremy Brett). Until today I do not know who bought the stuff, but I thank them sincerely.
(I would be glad to learn of your identities, dear anonymous Santa Clauses, so I can thank each of you personally.)
The thought that there were strangers out there who bought me expensive birthday gifts was creepy at first, but later on I justified it by telling myself that I probably wrote something they enjoyed, so these are their tokens of gratitude.
And then I realized that I had really overreached. My “personal thoughts” had became anything but. From that day on, I decided to use my website as my bully pulpit. Some people liked my writing, but many people were disgusted by it (for those of you who had never been to that site, it was nothing like this one). It was great — I had the audience and the freedom to say whatever I like, in any way I like. I brushed off suggestions to “tone down a bit” and to be “bersopan” and to “make your undoubtedly good points in a less obnoxious manner”. I could write the most disgusting thought I had and my loyal readers were ever ready to lap it up. It felt good.
Before I graduated, rather than migrating all the content to another site like blogspot, I decided to destroy everything. I deleted all entries from my hard drive. I felt so unreal to delete everything you worked on for the last four years, but I’d rather it vanish sooner than to prolong an inevitable death (lol hyperbole). So in the summer of 2005, bal.mit.edu was given a proper burial before it was sent to the Internet graveyard — also known as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.