acycle.org

So say you’re at your first “real job” out of college. Say the work is insanely tedious. Say you learn that you can reduce that tedium by learning how to program. Say you discover an insanely helpful book that teaches you some fundamentals of how to think about writing programs and also how to program in Perl. And say you then write a bunch of little scripts both to automate your job and to make it more interesting. And say you then learn about a language called PHP that will allow you to take your newly-acquired script-writing skills to the internet. What do you do?

Well, you start an online literary and arts journal. You design the interface and build the database and write a bunch of little scripts that all work together to allow you to log in to a little admin panel, copy and paste the HTML you wrote by hand into a little text box that saves that HTML to the database you built, and bam: your first dynamic website.

Then you start writing stories and poems and essays and you start posting something new every day. Then you get an idea on how to build a simple wiki—a section of your journal that could allow readers to anonymously collaborate on posts. Then you recruit some friends to contribute to the journal, to help carry the daily torch while you build that wiki. Then you design a little markup syntax and write a little script much like Markdown that saves you the hassle of wrapping your friends’ text in HTML by hand. Then you get an idea to add contributor columns—blogs for your friends that contribute the most. Then you recruit more friends, and they have ideas for posting things other than stories and poems, so you add features that allow them to post those things. Then you get the idea to make a book. Then you design the book and print it and when you hold that first box of books in your hands you feel insanely proud.

The book's front cover. Page from the book.

Then you travel a little and you get that book on shelves in stores in Long Beach and Austin and New York.

And you make some stickers, too.

There's no shame in being shameless.

And then your site disappears. And you learn a big hard lesson about the importance of making backups because you had none.