Updating the ol’ website

Since I can’t bring myself to close down Fagan Finder, and I don’t like having such a broken website around, I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep it useful and up-to-date.

In 2017 I completely rewrote both the back-end and front-end, and applied this to two pages that I updated. It doesn’t look all that much different than it did in 2001, which is on purpose, but it is mobile-responsive, accessible, etc. In terms of helping me to keep the site current, the main addition was the ability for me to automatically check for broken links. Of course, I still have to look into each one to decide what to do about it.

The intention was to update the many other pages as well, but then I remember that this is an insane amount of work. Each page is essentially a list of links. To create it, I have to scour the entire web for every possible relevant site, and then carefully review each one myself as well as see what others have said about it. Some I can reject quickly, but others I spend hours on. For every site I include, there are many, many that I do not. There’s also the time it takes to name and describe them, extract the URLs for searching, group them into categories and order them within categories, but it is finding and reviewing all the sites that really takes forever.

To add to that, for some reason I’ve decided that every time I update a page, I need to make it better and more comprehensive than before. In particular, I’ve started including non-free sites and sites in other languages, both of which take more time to find, review, and include.

I launched a smaller new page in 2019 and half-updated another in 2019, and last week launched a major update to the main that has taken me much of the last 5 months. Just to give an idea, the Google Docs document of my notes for the main page is now 141 pages. I can’t sustain that much effort, so how else can I keep it manageable?

To this end, I’ve shut down a few old pages, including the once very-popular “Google Ultimate Interface”, and some others that were never popular (e.g. Software and Weather, and Log-in). I merged several pages into the main page. Of course, by making the pages more comprehensive, I am partially negating the amount effort being saved be removing pages.

I have notes for lots of other pages I’d like to update or correct, but I’m increasingly skeptical of my ability to ever do so. Maybe one day it will be down to just a single, very very comprehensive page.

Even as far back as 2002 or 2003 I was thinking about adding other contributors, and later “crowdsourcing,” but with my name on the site, my desire to micromanage everything, and my inability to compensate contributors, I never quiet figured out how that would work. I always welcome suggestions, but I can’t imagine letting anyone else make the final decisions.

While I haven’t completely finished this planned update (and is that ever really possible?), I need to get the word out, as there’s no sense in putting in this effort if it’s not accomplishing the goal of helping people find things. Not surprisingly, most of the people who used the site over the years stopped using it when many of the tools were no longer working, so I need to let people know they can come back, and to bring in new users as well.

Publicizing the site really takes me back to it’s early days, but a lot is different. Most sites now are run by organizations rather than individuals, so finding who to contact or even finding contact information at all can be difficult. I’ve started using Fagan Finder’s Twitter account more, a medium I’ve never been very interested in. I’ve definitely found myself getting into conversations with coworkers lately about how we miss the “old” web and how it’s changed.

I hope many people continue to find Fagan Finder useful.

As a final note, it was only after composing the title of this blog post that I realized I used almost the identical title for a post a few years ago. At least I got the apostrophe correct this time.

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