J. M. Stark

Genesis

1/24/2016

And so, I have finally given birth to a portfolio website. I had thought about doing it for years, but the process was always so confusing to me. However, after finishing a degree in computer science there is really no excuse. To start, I bought some books on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I had messed around with all three before, but I wanted a more fundamental understanding of how they work and some good examples and guidance as to how they should be used. With a little research of how most portfolio sites are structured, I mapped out the complete structure of my own site on paper. And from there, I spent a few months convincing myself to sit down and code the thing. Often there is hesitation to jump into a creative process that is foreign.

Inspect the elements of the website's pages if you want; I will guarantee none of it is impressive, and I have probably committed some web development sins unbeknownst to me (in particular, the structure of my CSS code is probably poorly thought out). I am fine with this. At the very least, the design on the surface level is simple and nice. And even better, it works on both desktop and mobile. In the end, I did not even use JavaScript, with HTML and CSS being enough to accomplish what I wanted. Hopefully the lack of JavaScript usage improves compatibility.

This is a static website, as opposed to a dynamic website. I have worked on dynamic sites in the past for school projects (using ASP.NET), but I wanted to do something simple and pure. I wanted to experience classical web development, and of course, for a portfolio site, classical web development was all I needed. Even better, hosting a static website turned out to be cheaper in the long run.

Perhaps the largest factor preventing me from starting a website is the nightmare known as web hosting. There exists what seems like a million companies providing this service and everyone reviewing these companies seems convinced that every single one is scam. A bit of hyperbole, but those are the emotions one feels as they search for a hosting service; there is a lot of distrust. I am sure that, like with much of the information on the internet, these reviews are in some sense creating a false reality. Only those who experience the worst will have the energy to review a product. Regardless, choosing a web host seems like an almost arbitrary choice at times, and when money is involved, arbitrary choices can be intimidating.

In my case, it was even more complicated. Most web hosting services today target those interested in hosting dynamic sites made with WordPress and other such tools. This means they provide and charge for a lot of features someone making a static website doesn't need. After some searching for a static website host, I came across discussion of Amazon's S3 web service. S3 is used for storing data on Amazon's servers and is used by many major companies (Dropbox is basically an interface for S3). But an additional feature of S3 is that it can serve static website data it hosts. And with a pay-per-usage model, a low traffic site like my portfolio would end up costing in the cents per month (as opposed to $5 to $15 a month for the typical web hosting plan). So I took the leap and put my site on Amazon S3. And now it is alive.

For a while in late high school/early college I used Blogger to host a pseudo-portfolio website. However, it is nice to now have the real deal written from scratch and totally under my control. This is an official place to show my work. As my portfolio shows, my main interest is in the creation of video games and interactive systems. I am currently working on two projects (the game Vacuous and a new version of the experiential climate simulation). I will hopefully continue to blog here about these projects and other ideas. The hope is that this website can serve as a testament to future employers of the work I have done. Essentially, the message is that I have brought many projects to completion with a focus on both the big picture and the details. I have dealt with the reality of creation, from beginning to end, and know how to push through that final 10% of work and polish to achieve completion. And furthermore, I can do this both on individual and team projects. This website, for people who want to play my games, also serves as a place to discover all of my publicly released titles. Everything I have put on the internet is cataloged here (I think), so it should be a complete resource for both me and players.

- J. M. Stark