Welcome to Shaun Chng.com, my little space here on the internet. The site serves to document my opinions and adventures around the world. I write topics of interest under the sun nicely categorized into different sections of interests to your liking. You can access them from the site menu with main focus topics being sports, food, travel and technology. I can recommend the food section if you are hungry or check out a museum to learn about something new or the travel section if you are in an adventurous mood. Stay comfy and enjoy your stay here!
This site had humble beginnings as a homepage since 1997, created out of a hobby as a kid. Here is a brief history of the site the timeline before and beyond. Join me as I share about how the site came about, paving the way to how it is today.
Early days and homepage version Uno
1994 was when the internet in Singapore was accessible only through line-hogging dial-up 14kbps modems. The internet was simpler then, TV stations closed at midnight and Google didn’t existed back then. I was about 10 years old then where my family dial-up access was upgraded from Singapore Telecom Teleview. That’s where I went: “hey I could have my own place on the internet!”
As a kid in Primary school, I started my foray as a young webmaster in late December 1997. My very first attempt at a website was a simple 5 page static HTML website (Don’t laugh!) with only simple elements such as text and images covering areas of about myself and my hobbies. I started with literally nothing- no programs, editors and no HTML knowledge. Sticking to basics and experimenting with rather restrictive online site EZ online webbuilder which I used as a “What you see is what you get editor” to display my hand-typed HTML code.
Animated Gifs from Microsoft clipart galleries literally ran the internet then, which was cutting edge for its time. No crazy animal (or laser cats) gifs on the internet yet.
The site was hosted by my Singapore internet service provider Singnet for free as part of my ISP plan. Animated Gifs from Microsoft clipart galleries literally ran the internet then, which was cutting edge for its time. No crazy animal (or laser cats) gifs on the internet yet. There were also no conventional web standards in place yet. Though dull and unprofessional, the site still brings back a sense of achievement personally, and the one which started it all.
The Web 1.0 Era
Within a year, I outgrew my restrictive ISP web hosting. Disk space was a limitation too with Singnet only offering 2MB of web hosting space. Back in 1998, Geocities was the talk of internet homepages, so I got this small free neat space and took the step into moving my site there. Geocities provided 5MB of space (which they subsequently upgraded me to 9MB for free). Back then 5MB of disk space was plenty for a site. Moreover, Geocities online builder was far superior than Singnet, also featuring huge clipart Gallery which I simply adored- marquees and bling welcome clipart anyone?
Lycos was the other big webhost in the pond then, but I choose Geocities as Lycos had too many auto-inserted ads which cluttered the page destroying your layouts and user experience, so was not preferred. Geocities has their really quirky URL naming convention, mine had TimesSquare/Zone/2393 appended from my geocities.com URL (now defunct) which made sharing or typing quite a pain. It was with Geocities and the explosion of personal websites then where I understood the importance of website branding and differentiation, user experience and catchy shorter URLs.
Learning from scratch
I was naturally inquisitive to learn more about web-technologies, leveling up myself the techniques of building with HTML through online resources, communities and books from my local library to supplement my needs. The site won’t be what it is today if it won’t for my inquisitiveness as a kid. Looking back, teaching myself coding in primary school in the 90s was not what you call “mainstream” back then, of course there were distractions such as Tamagotchis, Digimons and the frequent Gameboy sessions with friends then which made learning more distracting. Coding was largely done through raw code, experimentation and trial and error.
I was fortunate to be able to loan software from my classmates and began experimenting and using productivity tools such as FrontPage 98, allowing me to create my pages offline and saving on internet bills. I further taught myself Photoshop (5.0) and Marcomedia (Adobe) Flash 3, 4 in Secondary school, convincing my school ahead of the time to purchase such software useful for the web revolution. I started experimenting different styles and formats to create decent professional site.
The site won’t be what it is today if it won’t for my inquisitiveness as a kid. Looking back, teaching myself coding in primary school in the 90s was not what you call “mainstream” back then.
Homepage no more with Gaming Revolutions
I was an avid PC gamer as a kid in secondary school, computer games was the coolest talk of the town. Moving with the times, my site took a new direction as an independent gaming website featuring reviews, in-depth hints, walkthroughs for the games I so adore. I started a gaming review website I initially called Shaun’s World of Gaming (SWG). As cheesy as the name sounded the site grew and went on and saw 2 design iteration and eventually evolving to a rebranded Games Arena (which also went through 7 design iterations), transitioning into a full Gaming news site. I was with Games Arena where I started experimenting with more elaborate interactive left menus using frames, from static HTML ones to animated flash menus inspired games user interfaces. 1999 was also a year of site achievements and awards, being awarded numerous site awards by various gaming sites recognizing my contributions to the gaming community both offline and online.
Lessons on web host reliability
Constant migrations does take it’s toll on site visitors, losing significant traffic through the transitions. That’s where I learnt the importance of maintaining a steady website presence for site visitor loyalty, and ensuring web host reliability. That is where I taught myself web optimization methodologies for bandwidth and space to keep growth from ballooning. Games Arena also saw near-daily news updates, adapting my site design to my readers and trends. The site grew at an astonishing rate, nearly exponentially and exhausting all Virtual Avenue resources.
Through my networks with the Gaming Industry, in 2001, I was offered hosting by HTGK (Singnet) and PAGN (Pacific.net) which saw the site through the late 90s and early 2000s. I choose HTGK given several merits, firstly being my first local Singapore webhost. The closer proximity meant that latency and loading speeds really good, with free disk space on demand. My stay with HTGK held up fine for a long period for 3 years, service was prompt and the community’s great. HTGK is part of singnet.com- my first webhost, but this was their news and gaming division which was a very good choice.
Constant migrations does take it’s toll on site visitors, losing significant traffic through the transitions. That’s where I learnt the importance of maintaining a steady website presence for site visitor loyalty, and ensuring web host reliability.
My stay at HTGK saw new groundbreaking website designs for Games Arena, which went onto the seventh design iteration, featuring a fully skinned site design, combining animation with both raster and vector materials with flash animations the defacto multimedia standard then. I brought my understanding of Photoshop and Flash further, producing one of my more elaborate fully vector site designs focused on a modern metallic feel. A port of my design won 2nd place in the UK-sterling Nationals web design competition.
Birth of Web 2.0 and the Blog
2001 saw the growth of internet interactivity and communities. I saw an interest into shifting my website focus from a gaming news site to a more personalized website, which is also more sustainable given shifts in viewership. I pushed my site towards a more personal direction, focusing on what I call “News and Log” which became an online diary. It was not until a year later around 2001 where Blogspot and Livejournal popularized and invented the word “Blog”, where it truly stuck.
But it was not long after where they both HTGK and PAGN both got disbanded. HTGK was a good host for almost 3 full years, until January of 2004, HTGK went down following an unrecoverable disk failure gone bad despite desperate attempts to restore the site. Then, there were companies such as Xoom and Cybercities offering free webhosting, but at the expense of Ads. That is when I finally had enough of free the restrictions and downtime and free hosts and the idea of self-hosting seemed more feasible.
I pushed my site towards a more personal direction, focusing on what I call “News and Log” which became an online diary. It was not until a year later around 2001 where Blogspot and Livejournal popularized and invented the word “Blog”, where it truly stuck.
Site Birth in the new millennium
In early February 2004, shaun chng.com moved to its own domain under a shared hosting environment, a place to call my own but required a significant budget to maintain its online presence. I taught myself to code and manage databases, leveraging and implementing an integrated blogging system eliminating the need to manually upload files via FTP for updates, greatly increasing writing efficiency. It was also this period where I started writing and contributing code to various open source projects, such as WordPress and Joomla.
This greatly automated the news publishing process as well as encouraging community interaction through feedback and comments. My new site earned quite a respectable amount of site traffic for a personal site and I was genuinely surprised people on the net are interested to read about unstructured content, such as a trekking trip you did or how horrible yesterday’s buffet dinner was. Strange, but I think that was the birth of internet exhibitionism. That kept the site and visitorship going.
I was genuinely surprised people on the net are interested to read about unstructured content, such as a trekking trip you did or how horrible yesterday’s buffet dinner was. Strange, but I think that was the birth of internet exhibitionism.
Lessons on Internet security
The departure from static Web 1.0 webpages to dynamic elements in the early Web 2.0 era, such as the use of blog form posting, commenting, databases and authentication systems opened more vulnerabilities on servers. I had a good lesson of internet vulnerabilities where the site was attacked by hackers less within a month running, rendering the site down for 1-2 days. The site recovered fully and was up running immediately thereafter, with valuable lessons were learnt, forming the basis for future cyber-security measures. Increased system complexity and functionality always comes at a price of increased vulnerability to hackers. A system is never 100% secure and is only as secure as you think it is, this means striking a balance between risk and usability.
A system is never 100% secure and is only as secure as you think it is, this means striking a balance between risk and usability.
The Dedicated movement
With a larger headroom on shared web hosting, I started experimenting with more cheery and brighter professional site design, “letting loose” and moving away from the traditional dark gaming background with a focus on more friendly hand-drawn cartoon elements with flash for a more personal touch. I wanted the site to be a reflection of my time in post-secondary and tertiary education days, a reflection of youth. This involved constantly evolving my design methodologies and facing out obsolete design such as frames, iframes for more intuitive 3 column layout typical of Web 2.0 websites in the new millennium. The revisions went to introduce further elements of bright youthful colours before settling on a general orange colour scheme.
I started writing on topics out of a broader interest to me, not fixated on a particular topic, such technology, computer hardware, food places and running events. There is where I found my blog catering to a variety of niche groups (e.g. for a growing group of foodies or runners interested in sport events in Singapore, going in-hand with my time in Track and field in polytechnic). Finding a niche group is essential for a website and their contributors as it gives the site meaning.
The site eventually outgrew its shared hosting environment and presently, Shaun chng.com resides on its own dedicated server built and maintained by yours truly. This allowed me to not only manage the front but back end aspects of my site. The move to a dedicated debuted too with the 12th design iteration of the website titled “Contenty Tasty”, an Orange design written from the ground up with coding modularity in mind. This orange design was my longest running (about 10 years) and most successful design in the history of the site, even lasting throughout my entire time as a University student. This design is unique and instantly distinguishable from many of the Web 2.0 websites during its time. The site won several prices in the Singapore Blog Awards and was even featured on the national papers. A gem indeed.
On Jul 2017, on the website 20th anniversary year, I launched the next design and current iteration of the site. The previous site design is starting to show its age and does not view well on mobile devices, considering that almost 70% of web traffic is now consumed by mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This new design spots a completely new codebase, featuring a responsive layout with more emphasis on content and simplicity, yet still retaining design elements based off the previous successful design for user familiarity.
Looking back, the site 20 year anniversary is a milestone by itself. An eternity in Silicon Valley terms, but still a bundle of joy for me to Document the world, one post a time.
Achievement and Recognition
Here are some national awards the site has bagged, listed here as a memorabilia section:
- Straits Times Blog Awards2008
- Singapore press holdings, OMY.sg – Best design blog
- Singapore press holdings, OMY.sg – Popular choice award