A dark, red-tinted, onimous landscape on the left and a bright, blue-tinted, sun-lit icescape on the right are separated by a sea.
Artwork I made sometime in the early 2000's titled "Cirrus's Realm"

As of today, I've renamed this site (back) to Cirrus's Realm. When I originally created my little slice of cyberspace in 2002, it was titled "Cirrus's Realm" because "cirrus" was - and still is - my go-to username online, and I liked the idea that visiting my site would be like entering some kind of fantastical realm. As you can see below, it fell a bit short of that vision. Nevertheless, it was my site. Back then, it even ran on my own web-server, which I had built myself.

Screenshot of a webpage titled 'Cirrus's Realm'. Below the title graphic it says: Hi there! My name is James Nash and this is my personal website! It's very very primitive at the moment. That's because I'm quite busy and don't have time to make anything better. Eventually I promise I will make a dead cool kick-ass, super-slick-XHTML-compliant website! you just have to be (very) patient!
This website, as it originally looked ca. 2002

Somewhere along the line though, I decided I wanted to rank better in search engine results. My assumption was that people looking for my site would be more likely to search for my real name, James Nash, rather than my online pseudonym. So, I began working my name into all the page titles. I began rewriting text into an unnatural, 3rd person format ("James Nash did bla..." rather than "I did bla..."). Yes, I'm fessing up: I was keyword stuffing! For a while it seemed to work too - searching "James Nash" frequently included my site in the top 10 results.

Recently I was reading Elizabeth Thai's "Is the Internet really broken?" article and her point about the extent to which pleasing search engine algrorithms has affected her writing reasonated with me:

[...] the Internet has sucked for me in the last 10 years. Not only because I was forced to create content in a way that pleases their many rules, but because I have to compete with SEO-optimized garbage fuelled by people with deep pockets and desires for deep pockets.

However, this year, I regained more joy as a writer when I gave upon SEO and decided to become an imperfect gardener of my digital garden. So there’s hope for us yet.

It got me thinking about why I made this site in the first place and who it's for. It certainly wasn't search engine spiders!

To be honest, I mostly made it for fun. This is my personal website where I can do whatever I want. It can be as scruffy or as sophisticated as I like. It's a safe place for me to tinker with whatever web tech or design trends tickle my fancy. At times it can be a worry stone as Ethan Marcotte so eloquently put it, or an outlet as Jeremy Keith wrote:

[...] your website is not just a place you can go to, it’s a place you can control, a place you can maintain, a place you can tidy up, a place you can expand. Most of all, it’s a place you can lose yourself in, even if it’s just for a little while.

For that it doesn't matter whether I have 10 visitors or 10,000. So why did I care how high up I appear in search engine rankings? I realised I didn't need to. The decision was clear: Write (and design, and build) however I see fit and let the search result ranking chips fall where they may.

To kick things off, I've therefore restored the site's old name as the homepage and in the <title> elements. It'll take a while to replace all that 3rd-person prose, but as I'll endeavour to do so whenever I work on parts of the site where it's still present.

Welcome to Cirrus's Realm!

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