What to do with aging Web content that is still important?

I’ve had a Web site since about 1995, when the Web was young. The Internet crackled with excitement and openness and promise. Nobody could imagine that it would turn into an advertising and surveillance engine, as it has.

I coded my original site by hand in Notepad, created a simple logo in Microsoft Paint, and uploaded it all via FTP to the free space my ISP gave me. My original address was http://members.iquest.net/~jimgrey. I submitted the URL to Yahoo! in hopes they would include it in their original human-indexed search engine, and to my delight, they did!

The Jim Grey Page, jimgrey.net, last updated in 2014

At first it was a site about me and my family, like we all used to do then. But shortly my wife objected to me sharing family info online, so I turned the site into an info resource about central-Indiana radio stations. I’ve always had a deep interest in radio and it was fun to catalog local stations while teaching myself advanced (for the time) Web development techniques.

In about 2000 I got Microsoft FrontPage and Corel PaintShop Pro and redesigned the site to the design it still wears. I switched my ISP to Comcast and therefore my site’s address to http://home.comcast.net/~jimgrey. In 2006 I got proper hosting, registered the jimgrey.net domain, and moved my site there. I wanted jimgrey.com but someone was, and still is, parking on it and I didn’t and don’t want to pay them to get it.

I’d started my road-trip hobby and began to write long-form reports of those trips on my site. They’re still available; see them all here. When I started this blog, my original vision was that my main site would stay about road trips and the blog would be about everything else that interests me. By 2010 the blog got way more traffic than the main site, so I started writing road-trip posts here too. They’re all under the Road Trips category; see them all here.

In 2012 I stopped adding content to jimgrey.net to focus on the blog. In 2014 I made a few code changes to make it more compatible with mobile phone browsers. Since then, I’ve ignored jimgrey.net.

Three things prevent me from killing it. First, I’ve had it in one form or another for 25 years, which makes me a genuine Web old-timer. I like having the evidence to prove it. Second, since 2011 my blog address (blog.jimgrey.net) has been a subdomain of jimgrey.net; for that to keep working, I need to keep owning the jimgrey.net domain. It seems silly to keep it and not put anything on it. Third, those road-trip reports are now historic records, as much has changed along those roads over the years. I don’t mean to be grandiose; the Library of Congress hasn’t come inquiring or anything.

Here’s just one example. Here’s the Michigan Road, the Dixie Highway, and US 31 southbound, 6 miles north of Plymouth, Indiana, as it looked in September, 2007. US 31 curves off to the left under that overpass, and the Michigan Road follows that one-lane ramp toward Plymouth. That overpass is northbound Michigan Road, which merges with northbound US 31 to the left just outside of the photo.


Since I made that photo, US 31 was rebuilt on new terrain from South Bend to a point a few miles southeast of here. From Google Street View, this is what the road looks like from about this same spot today.

© 2019 Google

Former US 31 was removed from here to where it meets up with the new-terrain US 31. The overpass that carried the Michigan Road was removed and the road rebuilt in the same place at grade. The four-lane former US 31 still exists from South Bend to here as a county road.

Off the top of my head I can think of six other major changes to roads, or to things along the roadside, from what I documented long ago! I’ll bet if I repeated all of my old road trips I’d find scores more major changes.

It’s a head scratcher, what to do with all this interesting content I created so long ago. It deserves to live on as a sort of historic record, for the small audience who finds it interesting or useful. It’s heavily deranked on Google now, I assume because of its age and because it’s on straight HTML pages. I’d like to make it easier for that audience to find it.

I could recreate it all here on the blog. It would be a massive project, and I’d be sharing now information I gathered as long as 14 years ago. I suppose I could title posts to reveal the year I made the trip. It would enhance the ability for interested people to find this information when they search for it. But I’m not sure it would interest most of my regular blog audience.

Another option I’ve considered is blowing away my old HTML jimgrey.net site, setting up a self-hosted WordPress instance there, and moving all of my old road-trip pages to it. It would still be a massive project, and it would still make that info more searchable, but it would remain a separate site to maintain.

I’m not sure what’s best! But I do know that it’s time to stop putting this off.


26 responses to “What to do with aging Web content that is still important?”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Jim, you cover that weird ground of vintage film camera reviews, and historical trips! I think all the content needs to stay! As both a photographer, and a guy that used to spend an inordinate amount of time driving around in the county and looking at stuff, I enjoy reading both!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the vote of confidence Andy!

  2. Dan James Avatar

    Is there a way you could import it into a new WordPress blog? I did this with my previous blog, just because I had about 450 posts there I didn’t want to just write off, but then that was already in blog format, not HTML pages. I don’t know if that’s possible, or would you have to start a new blog post for each of the old HTML pages and copy and paste the content in page by page?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s no way I know of to import the old pages, as they’re custom HTML, but I could conceivably copy/paste each one into individual blog posts on a separate blog. I’d still have to go find the original photos and reupload them, as most of the ones on the old Roads pages are of poor resolution.

      Here’s a good example page: http://jimgrey.net/Roads/US31NorthernIndiana/02_South_Bend_1.htm

      Ideally I’d sort of rather write my traditional road-trip-style blog posts about those trips rather than the nearly turn-by-turn style of reporting I used to do. I think the shorter, more focused posts are more interesting. But that’s a lot more work.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I think these kind of projects are always going to be a labour of love and greatly appreciate by a hardcore few with the same passions, rather than the masses. Like Mike Butkus with his camera manuals!

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Ah the early days of Internet and the joys of writing your own HTML. Been there, done that, watched it vanish into oblivion as things changed. Just another chapter in life with much the same result: you can’t preserve everything, try as you might. There’s a bit of a paradox to this as we are told things we put up on the web remain forever, despite our best efforts to delete them. It seems sometimes the worst is saved against our will and the best removed against our wishes.
    Life is a journey, not a destination.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m having trouble letting go of that old content. It’s not even that well written.

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        Perhaps you’re starting a new journey – over the same territory, but the roads have changed. Just like the one you wrote about before.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I would love to reexplore these old roads. Some of them have changed so much. I’m just not in a phase of life where that’s possible. And then there are so many roads I’ve never explored that I’d like to!

  4. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    Likewise, I still have my original website too (from the late 90s). It serves two purposes 1) To host a bunch of videogame maps I created back in the 90s, 2) to host the actual videogame I programmed from scratch. The game still worked last time I tried it but (as I type this) Windows 10 is trying to locate and install Directplay in order for me to have another go. And, 3) to document (and publish the review of) a full conversion I made of the 1983 Sinclair Spectrum game, Manic Miner.

    Similarly, this was hand coded HTML with graphics created in PaintShop Pro.

    I pay to host this stuff and it’s probably cost me a few hundred pounds in hosting fees / domain registration costs over the years, but I’m kinda attached to it just being out there, even if I (and probably noone else) rarely look at it anymore.

    It’s here, should you be interested:


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sinclair FTW! My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81. I taught myself BASIC on it in 1982. Your sites are the epitome of the early Web! It’s great that they’re still up.

      1. fishyfisharcade Avatar

        Mine was a Spectrum 48k (with the rubber keys) that I got for Christmas in 1983. I’d love to say I taught myself BASIC on it, but I really just spent all my times playing games. :-D

  5. DougD Avatar

    I visited your old site just now. That’s fun, now that I think back yes most of the internet used to look like that!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m old school!

  6. J P Avatar

    I never used to think about this. Now I do. I hate to think that if I get hit by a truck this afternoon years of hard work will vanish like something on a borrowed Etch-a-Sketch.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Since you’re on WP.com your site will last until the end of the Internet. So no worries there! My jimgrey.net site would disappear shortly after I stop paying the annual hosting bill.

  7. Ian Avatar

    I think that some of the current blog audience may be interested in the comparison of old vs new road trips. Humans are a funny bunch … we hate change … call it progress … then look back with interest. My thoughts are to incorporate the old in the new. It may even increase blog traffic!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d love to revisit the old road trips and get a bunch of then-and-now photos! So much has changed. But my time doesn’t really allow it. I wonder if I should hold off until it does.

      1. Ian Avatar

        As I believe Ford Prefect said: “time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so”. Try starting with the pictures, possibly appealing to more followers in the different spheres of interest your blog provides.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          That is a brilliant suggestion.

  8. Maureen Sudlow Avatar

    I’ve been blogging for a while now and would not like to lose that early content

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish I had done those road trips on a blog in the first place, rather than doing them in straight HTML.

  9. Mike Connealy Avatar

    I have imported quite a lot of my camera reviews and associated photos to my blog from my old website. That has not been a very difficult process, but what I see in looking back is that my photoshop skills were pretty poor in my early efforts. Given that, it seems like my time is better spent on producing new work rather than trying to rescue old stuff of dubious quality.

    I do think that people who were early adopters of web tech generally do a better job with web design on their blogs because of the efforts they put into hands-on html coding. A lot of blogs I look at today show little awareness of good design principles because the authors are using dumbed-down blog creation interfaces which are designed to maximize advertising content. Bloggers who put ads between paragraphs get deleted from my reading list.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I would want to re-process most if not all of my photographs from my old road trips. That makes this kind of a big job! I would also want to rewrite a lot of the content, but that is far less work.I’m actually not sure I would bring everything over, just the most interesting stuff. My old side was paean to thoroughness. I have learned in writing about my road trips how to focus in on the most interesting parts.

      I don’t enjoy ads stuck between paragraphs either.

  10. SilverFox Avatar

    I’m not familiar with HTML coding but is there a way to ‘flatten’ the content into say a PDF? That would preserve the content as is and you could then just post them to your blog as an archive adding additional details/comments as appropriate.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That could work. I just converted my shortest road-trip post into a blog post and it wan’t terrible. We shall see.

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