My web history (1995-2008)
A memoir of internet experiences by Bill Keaggy
Version 2.2 | Updated: 19 Mar 2009

Much like my list of bands I've seen, I decided that I should write down some web-related memories and milestones before they fade away. Let's consider this Version 1.0 because I'll be updating it as relevant memories surface, old links are found and as time goes on. I am not the guy who started using the internet on a 1,400 baud modem in the late 80s. And I didn't use Gopher back in early 90s. And I never programmed my own games or software on a Commodore. I just fell in love with the web in 1995, and that was that.

The idea is to put into words (and links, when possible) how my use of the internet and my work on the web has played a very central role in my life since then. Along with bikes, design, photography, music (and, of course, my family), the web is a very integral part of my life. This is the mini-dairy of someone who fell for the whole thing somewhat early on. While I'm no Auriea Harvey or Matt Haughey, I've put a lot of things on the web in the last 10 or so years — although some of it has disappeared — and I've greatly enjoyed the web work of others.


Early 1995
I am 24, finishing my BFA at Ohio University. All students have free email accounts but I never use mine. I do, however, write and record a song called "TV Boner" — a really stupid ditty about a watching TV with a transvestite — that includes a reference to email. I wonder how many songs mentioned email in 1995? To be honest, I don't even remember the very first time heard of email — or the Web. (Also, I don't think I have ever watched TV with a transvestite. I'm not sure why I'm even admitting I wrote that song.) Spend a lot of time at the Union Bar & Grill. (Mood: Drunkish)

Middle 1995
I am still obsessed with print design, as I have been since 1988, and still want desperately to be a magazine designer. But I am working the door at an Irish pub in the hills of Athens, Ohio, and I still haven't used the internet. I'm not avoiding it, I just don't know anything about it. Maybe I should move to Chicago, or somewhere warm, I think. I'm done with school, but not graduated because I never did a payed internship. (Mood: Lazy)

Late 1995
In September, I am hired by Pulitzer Inc. to be the designer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine. This fulfills my graduation requirements in lieu of a payed internship. I move from Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri and am able to afford to buy my first computer, a Macintosh 7200. I also get a ridiculously heavy AppleVision 1710AV monitor so I can start doing multimedia. While I now have internet access and email at work, I use my shiny new AOL account at home to discover the wondrousness of the internet. Holy shit — I love this! I stay up way too late way too much, but I am young and I have boundless energy. (Mood: Bewildered)


Early 1996
So amazed by this odd, interesting, useful thing called the Web, and by what I see as the unlimited publishing potential of it, I purchase too many HTML books. All of them are ridiculously thick, and I barely skim them. So I use the web to learn about the web and start hand-coding HTML (still my preferred method). The first site I build is called EXITEXIT, a never-finished e-zine about design, music, art, etc. (I had published real 'zines in the late 80s/early 90s and loved the idea of self-publishing again.) I also get a webcam. Neat! (Mood: Energized)

Middle 1996
I start to use the web to get sound snippets for my home recording projects. The sound archives on AOL feature thousands of free uploaded files with quotes from movies, song loops, sound effects and more that I use to make my weird songs even weirder. Was this also the heyday of The Crashsite? I loved that place. Crashsite rocks my world. I pick up my first found grocery list, with no inkling of what a popular web phenomenon it would become, even leading to a book deal with the publisher of one of my favorite design magazines. (Mood: #CCCC99)

Late 1996
Holy crap look at all that pr0n on this here intarweb! Onions!!!!!!?!!!?!! My eyes!!!!!! :-P Also, I join ICQ and get have a super-low user #, which turns out to have some cache among internet nerds. I never actually use ICQ, but it is amusing to be able to see fake nudes of Wynona Ryder whenever you want. (Mood: Grossed out)

GOING 'PRO' | 1997

Early 1997
My new friend Dave Gray encourages me to apply for the Web Designer job at the newspaper's site, (soon to be, then I have been designing different sections of the newspaper since the Sunday Magazine was shut down, and I really like web work, but am worried that I won't do a very good job. I continue to do contract print design for Dave and XPLANE, and he lists me and Brian Kaas as staff on XPLANE's first web site. (Mood: Unsure)

Middle 1997
I get the Web Designer job. It is thrilling and scary. I make way too many animated GIFs and *really* start to learn, on the fly, about web graphics, HTML and usability. Some of our team flies to Dallas, Texas for a Jakob Neilsen usability seminar. I feel like I don't learn much from Jakob's sessions, perhaps because it seems geared toward managers. Or maybe I am just an internet wizard! Also, Dallas is fucking hot in July. (Mood: Jazzed)

Late 1997
Work on a redesign of the newspaper web site begins (it will go on for a long time). The paper also runs an ISP and I switch my internet service from AOL to POSTnet, and get a small amount of free web space where I put up a couple of lost, forgettable web pages at one of those tilde addresses. All my creative energies are devoted to my work. For the first time in almost a decade, I do very few personal design or photography projects (I do, however, participate in a two-person photography show at Casa Nueva in Athens, Ohio). I become fascinated with zooming in on Mac OS8 interface elements and enlarging them in Photoshop. Someday I will actually use these captures in a project. (Mood: Focused)


Early 1998
The Pope visits St. Louis and I learn how to do streaming video and stuff like that while covering the event for the paper's web site. It's fun to learn all this technology stuff as a regular part of my job. Of course, video on the web circa 1998 sure was crappy. Throughout the year, POSTnet does a series called Portraits of St. Louis and I design a custom web feature for each one, a la {fray} back in the day. (Mood: Full-on digital)

Middle 1998
Lots more Post-Dispatch web projects get built. It's computers by day, bar stools by night. Having fun. (Mood: Pickled)

Late 1998, one of many web sites that should've made me lots of money, is born, but I let it die. Insult e-cards, c'mon, that's a sure winner! Ideas are cheap, execution is costly. Same thing could be said for the ongoing newspaper web site redesign I am working on. (Mood: Disrespectful)


Early 1999
The newspaper web site redesign launches. As expected, users react strongly to change. We implemented a lot of good features but I really wish we had done more true usability testing. I start doing contract web design work with Dave at XPLANE, essentially working two jobs: Eight hours a day at the paper then another 4-6 freelancing. It is too thrilling to realize how crazy this is. We work on some great web projects, but it seems like clients can't/don't pay up half the time. Case in point: I agonized and antagonized myself to get some wildly tricky HTML to work for a site called MaxPlanet but we never get paid. I teach web design courses at a local college and I start a non-public version of what will become xBlog. A vacation in Mexico calms the nerves. (Mood: Insane)

Middle 1999
I continue freelancing with XPLANE and finally, really, truly see the potential of the company. Dave Gray is creative, tireless and passionate about good visual communication. Working with him is invigorating and we do even more novel web work together. He and I design the Help section for Travelscape's online ticketing system, an e-commerce store for 1-800-MALL.COM, interface for and truly unique web sites for VentureWorx, Anheuser-Busch, eTrivia and ourselves. 2.0, a joint Dave Gray/Bill Keaggy effort, launches. Things are rolling. Diane and I get engaged. (Mood: On a roll)

Late 1999
In September I resign from the newspaper and go to work full time at XPLANE as Creative Director for Interactive. I am ecstatic, thrilled, nervous, sure, excited! I start xBlog, a weblog focused on design and visual communication, which quickly becomes very popular. I join MetaFilter as user #98, but lose my account info and have to rejoin as user #728. I start hey! url!, a weblog dedicated to strange, rude and questionable internet content. I use the money earned teaching web design to take Diane to Mexico for Halloween. Yay web design! I make my first trip out to San Francisco to sniff out west coast office space for XPLANE. The hiring spree begins. (Mood: Jumping for joy)


Early 2000
I go to SXSW and meet Peter Merholz, Judith Zissman, the Blogger folks and a few other wonderful web geeks. I also get very, very sick and end up missing most of the festival, watching movies in my hotel room and coughing. When I return to St. Louis, I am taken to the hospital to be treated for pneumonia. I smoked my last cigarette in Austin, Texas. A month later Will Horton and I travel to Singapore to work with a client. While there, the bubble bursts. I watch the news one April morning in my Singapore hotel room, and know things will be changing. The feeling in my gut is pretty yucky — a huge number of our clients are web-based start-ups — and I love them. I finally purchase and put up my first content under my own domain. I start the RobotPirateMonkey weblog at XPLANE. Diane and I get married on an island in Greece and I make sure to check my email from a cafe. I always seem to be worrying about work. I learn that Jeffery Zeldman and I share a birthday. (Mood: Non-smoking)

Middle 2000
XPLANE's hiring spree ends. I put Version 1.0 of The Grocery List Collection online. The interactive team at XPLANE starts working on a wildly ambitious Flash project based on some of our work for Business 2.0. The E-Commerce Engine never really gets finished, but is impressive, especially for circa 2000, nonetheless. John Marstall, Reggie Tidwell and Ben Kaplan did some really, really good work on that and many other interactive projects. One of them, for BuyPlastics, even featured an original score by Ben. I start creating custom faces for Audion MP3 player, because interface design is fun. I travel to NYC with Ted Elsas, XPLANE's new CEO, to meet with some folks we've been working with about... merging... or something like that. They do nice web development and design, and we do nice UI, IA and design... but it doesn't work out. Negotiating is not fun. Not. At. All. I was very excited to meet them in their office in the World Trade Center. Turns out it was a glorified closet, but we did hit some great restaurants and bars in SOHO when evening came. (Mood: Zooming)

Late 2000
I start bBlog for XPLANE, a weblog focused on business, marketing, sales, etc. blah blah blah. I also start working with Jeff Lash on a major redesign of the XPLANE site. I redesign my Grocery List Collection site and add a weblog to it, too. The collection features just 74 found lists. I am interviewed for a book called "Self Promotion Online," which features my weblog and online marketing work at XPLANE. xBlog is ranked #32 by's MetaLog ranking system — meaning that out of all the weblogs in the world, my baby xBlog is the 32nd most-linked, even ahead of Jeffery Zeldman's site. Of course, weblogs really take off over the next few years and I get passed by like an old lady on Codeine. Still, xBlog was one of the early success stories when it comes to business-based weblogs. It's still going — November 2006 was seven years non-stop. (Mood: Bloggy)


Early 2001
This year I go on a domain name purchasing frenzy and buy about 20 domains for potential projects, most of which eventually expire. The Grocery List Collection gets some real traction and a lot of people start linking to it just because it's so stupid. I start posting photos to the fullFrame section of my site, which features only uncropped pictures. I turn 30 and decide I will take a photo of myself every day for the entire year (and Diane surprises me with a trip to the Grand Canyon). I do a decent job, only missing a few days out of 366 and continuing to add pix for random days of following years. The XPLANE redesign continues and I learn more and more and more about good web design and usability. I am putting in 12+ hour days at XPLANE all the time, but it feels great. I am interviewed by The Washington Post for an article about weblogs. (Mood: Fucking awesome)

Middle 2001
After collecting Mac browsers/installers since 1996 or so, I decide to stop. Several other sites have done a much better job than I have, especially Evolt. Now what am I going to do with Netscape 1.1? One of our biggest web projects, comprehensive design and IA for a large sports news site, gets finished — but the company folds. Fuck! The good news is that sometime this year I discovered Fipilele, and get blessed as user #63. Fipilele introduces me to Pinback, immediately a new favorite band that's still a favorite to this day. (Mood: Pissed)

Late 2001
XPLANEr Jeff Lash helps found the St. Louis Group for Information Architecture and we hold the first meeting at XPLANE, or was it the bar across the street? The group goes fine for about a year then just sort of fizzles, but jazzy Jeff goes on to help found the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture, now the Information Architecture Institute. I am invited to participate in Coudal Partner's popular Photoshop Tennis tournament, the 4th one ever. I compete against two guys from Quorporation, an agency with offices in New York City and the Netherlands. It is fun, and strangely nerve-wracking. I win, maybe because the Q guys throw in a bit of self-promotion for their final volley. I thought it was a nice ending, but understand why the voters reacted negatively to it. As Diane and I are driving home from our Wisconsin vacation, the 9/11 attacks kill a lot of people, including everyone at the WTC offices of Cantor Fitzgerald. They were an XPLANE client. We are relieved to hear that our friends in that closet office had moved out by this time. (Mood: Fiesty)


Early 2002
I start working on the Unspectacular Doors of St. Louis project. I also photoblog my 200+ mile bike ride on the Katy Trail. I start adding projects to my web site in earnest, returning to my self-publishing roots. I think this is about the time that I was interviewed on CBC Radio about the GLC. Somehow, I become the I.T. guy at work. Maintaining a Microsoft Exchange email server was the most frustrating thing I've ever done Or maybe it was maintaining an NT file server. A few of us fly to the D.C. area for client work. XPLANE starts to wind down its molre hardcore web work and I slide into Creative Director/Project Manager mode for our high-end print projects. So many companies have saturated the web design market, and so many of them actually are talented, that we think XPLANE should focus on its core capabilities: Really good information design and graphics. (Mood: Enervated)

Middle 2002
xBlog is mentioned a good resource in the 2nd edition of Lou Rosenfield's and Peter Morville's seminal IA book, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web." Rebecca Blood notes xBlog as a good example of a reputation-building blog in her seminal book on blogs, "The Weblog Handbook." I feel like a seminal sidebar in the blog world. We start working on another XPLANE site redesign, this time with an outside agency. Fully XHTML- and CSS-complaint, baby! It turns out good and lasts until the end of 2006. Mark Lewman, of Freestylin' and Dirt magazine fame, drops me an email to say he likes my Rocks Shaped Like Shoes collection. I had sort of known Lew in the late 80/early 90s — he gave me a great interview for my 'zine, ACC. He always seemed like a genuine person, a truly great guy. He actually sent me the envelope that Andy Jenkins had sent him with the letter asking him if he would move to California to work at Freestylin' (Lew later asked for it back, but that was OK with me). Knowing him makes me gives me just two degrees of separation from Spike Jonze and countless other heroes of mine, though Lew always gave me the most inspiration. (Mood: Bookish)

Late 2002
I fly to Boston for the Auto-ID Center's annual conference. We have been doing great work with them explaining RFID, and the visual XPLANATiONS we created for them are a popular download on their web site. They are an extremely friendly, intelligent crew. But I'm beginning to realize that I don't like the grinding world of business so much. Maybe I don't find business problems compelling anymore, or maybe I do but am burnt out. Still not sure. And even though I dislike design contests, I create a few entries for XPLANE for the SXSW 2003 bag competition. I don't win. I write a column for Network World arguing for weblogs as legitimate business tools. Mark Hurst, of Creative Good, writes the counterpoint column. Peter Merholz, the man who coined the term "blog," and his father B.J. are doing Route 66 on their way west and they crash at our house for a night. They request St. Louis BBQ, but the place I decided to take them to has closed since I was last there. Crap. Then the other BBQ place I wanted to take them to cannot be found (because I suck). So I take them to a vegetarian restaurant/martini bar that I like a lot, but is probably just like 400 other restaurants in S.F., and has absolutely no BBQ. I feel like an ass, but they are gracious. I still owe them BBQ. (Mood: OK)

LIAM @ KEAGGY dot COM | 2003

Early 2003
Liam is born and within hours he has his own email address. XPLANE's generous paternity leave gives me a month and a half off with Diane and Liam. Awesome. Returning to work is tough. I am interviewed by the St. Louis Business Journal about the marketing effect of XPLANE's weblogs, which I still really love doing. I am getting a lot of "fan mail" from intarweb strangers who like my site(s). I love that, even the terse, "hey man, cool site" ones. (Mood: Wowed)

Middle 2003
I become sure that I want to do something else — either that, or I want XPLANE magically to be just like it was at the end of 1999, when it was so, so, so much fun to come to work. Of course, that's a silly longing, to think that that year or so was somehow special. I just know that XPLANE started out small, with a handful of frighteningly talented people, almost all of them personally hand-picked and mentored by Dave. When the company grew quickly, a lot of the things that made it awesome started to fall apart for me. And the whole .bomb made all of us worry constantly about everything imploding again. I like things to grow organically, or at least unexpectedly. Planning and pushing so hard for success and profit makes me all the more worried things will fail. And it just isn't my style. So I keep adding projects to (Mood: Sad)

Late 2003
Yahoo! chooses my Grocery List Collection site as a Top Pick of the Year in their 2003 Site of the Day roundup. USA Today and hundreds of other sites also give GLC a nod or a link. I buy Liam a $20 digital camera called the JamCam and he starts taking pictures. I, of course, post them to the web. Someday they will be available at (Mood: Webriffic)


Early 2004 rocks my world. I fly to northern California to meet with PeopleSoft. We have been doing some really great work with them for the last year or so. In unrelated news, I submit my resignation to XPLANE with much quiet sadness, but also a guilty sense of relief. I am burned out on consulting, conference calls and changing business goals. XPLANE was something I was sure I'd do for the rest of my life, something I was sure would make me financially secure, but... anyway... (Mood: Sad, yet relieved)

Middle 2004
I start working at the newspaper again, this time as Features Photo Editor. Goodbye, technology sector. Hello, dinosaur industry. I finally buy a domain for the grocery lists collection. I really realize how I've let my web skillz go south. There are so many wildly talented designers and coders out there. At one time (around the turn of the century) I felt like one of them. (Mood: Newish)

Late 2004
Amanda Hesser, the food writer for The New York Times Magazine, writes a story about me and my Grocery List Collection. Her great article is published in October and lots more people discover the weird wonders of grocerylists,org. I do an email interview with Francis Raven, which, much to my surprise, ends up on The Morning News in early 2005. I love The Morning News and would have tried to be funnier if I had known that's where it would be published. Just goes to show you that you should give everything your best at all times. (Mood: Swanky)


Early 2005
Sorena is born a month early and spends some time in the NICU. This time, I don't immediately set up an email account for her, like I did for Liam, because that's just silly, isn't it? While sick in bed with the flu, I integrate Google AdSense into a redesign of grocerylists,org (version 3.0), which helps me pay the hosting fees and buy donuts. I vow to add a new feature to every month in 2005. I slack off in May and June, but still manage to add almost 20 new projects over the course of the year. Flickr rocks. Because of my web sites, I am invited to speak at SLCC about art on the web, and at IABC about weblogs in business. (Mood: Nonstop)

Middle 2005
I am approached by St. Louis' Center of Creative Arts about doing an exhibit based on the many projects on my web site. I say, "Yes!" without even thinking about how much work it will take. The newspaper is sold to a company from out of town. The Post-Dispatch is bought by Lee Enterprises which means no more Pulitzer Publishing. I always loved the fact that I worked for Pulitzer. I get an email from a BMX kid I used to know back in Ohio. He was younger than us, kind of dorky then (weren't we all?) and it turns out he was still riding. He decided to Google me and wrote up a great little post on his site about how I had inspired him back in the day, and how I introduced him to the internet before there was an internet by publishing 'zines and creating a feeling of connection and community. It was one of those true feel-good emails. Thanks, Zach. (Mood: Up and down)

Late 2005
I finally switch to Firefox after Safari, which I had loved, seems to constantly bog down with the spinning beach ball of death. My browser timeline from 1995-2005: AOL > Netscape > Internet Explorer > iCab > Camino > Safari > Firefox. (Mood: Ho-hum)


Early 2006
My exhibit, "Junk Science," opens at COCA. It is a fairly straightforward, real-world interpretation of several projects from my main web site, Derek and Heather publish one of my photos in issue four of JPG Magazine. I am asked if I want to do a book based on The Grocery List Collection. Sorena turns one year old. (Mood: Frazzled)

Middle 2006
My "Junk Science" show sells just a few items, but I didn't expect to sell any. Who wants photos of trash in their house? I work and work and work on the grocery lists book for HOW Books, part of F+W Publications, the publishers of Print, HOW and I.D. magazines. I think it turned out great (it'll be out May 2007). I am selected as the All-Star on my kickball team. I only mention that because it is one of the few non web- or photo-related things I do. My web site gets me a gig speaking about the web and found art at Washington University. I try to grow a beard and fail. (Mood: Frizzled)

Late 2006
I decide to pump up The Grocery List Collection and add a variety of content, both useful and useless. For some reason, I start a new site called di4ent. It's basically a linkblog that features four different links every weekday on four different topics. The topics will change monthly. What was I thinking? I get pneumonia. Again. I try to grow a beard and fail. Again. (Mood: Decompressing)


Early 2007
Dave Gray asks me if I'd be interested in coming back to XPLANE. After an initial "I don't know..." we talk/email/Skype and I decide to get to know the company better. It's been almost three years since I left, rather burnt out, and it seems to be doing good. I'm intrigued. Now based in Portland, Oregon, the original St. Louis office is a satellite and there's one in Madrid, Spain, as well. I put di4ent on hold. Took on too much and had to shut something down. I am selected as the All-Star of the kickball team again. I get my first copy of my first book, "Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found." How cool. It is released in May. Still seems amazing that I turned a web site into a book (which I then had to make a web site for: Thanks, HOW! I start to explore the possibility of a RobotPirateMonkey book but that fizzles. I will do it someday, I swear. (Mood: Where to go?)

Middle 2007
On 2 May 2007, "Milk Eggs Vodka" is released. I do dozens and dozens of radio interviews (from Australia to West Virgina) and the book gets a good amount of good press (everything from Advertising Age to the Tampa Tribune). I am a Fresh Signals Guest Editor at Coudal Partners. St. Louis Magazine puts me on its list of "13 coolest St. Louisans." And... the lure of XPLANE is just too strong. I fly to Portland to meet the folks there. Everything works out and I leave journalism (again) to start my second go-around at XPLANE on 30 July. Awesome. (Mood: Here we go!)

Late 2007
At the beginning of August the weird and wonderful folks at BlueQ ask me if I want to turn the Sad Chairs web project into a book. I say yes, of course. One month later it's done and I find myself neck-deep in work at XPLANE. This is kind of the start (as you'll see) of a drought in projects on and elsewhere. Family and the paying job take priority, though one new thing, Alley Hoops, appears before the end of what turns out to be a very big year. (Mood: Where'd I go?)


Early 2008
Well, as mentioned before, family and lots of XPLANE work is the priority so nothing much happening as far as personal work. Oh wait! I started one new thing: A collection of old family photos found in antique shops and thrift stores called 20th Century Anonymous. The plan is to collect one photo from each year of the 20th century. And, actually, the 50 Sad Chairs book was released in April. BlueQ, you rule! (Mood: Stressed)

Middle 2008
Ain't no lyin' here. 2008 is turning into the year of doin' nothin' — project-wise. I didn't add anything new to after April. So... nothin' to see here. Move along. (Mood: Less stressed)

Late 2008
Hmmmm. A bit of activity, finally, but nothing new. Did an underground art event in Chicago. Got picked as best local web site by the alt-weekly here in St. Louis. Ended up in the Freestylin' Magazine retrospective book for my 'zine work in the late '80s/early '90s. Also ended up in two other books: Weird Missouri and Eating St. Louis. And... designed the new XPLANE web site — its 6th incarnation since 1997 and the 4th one designed by me. Hey wait, most of that isn't web-related! Uh, oops. (Mood: Somewhat stressed)

WE'LL SEE... | 2009

Early 2009
Currently happening... (Mood: This economy sucks.) Update: Project on hiatus.

Other personal histories and perspectives

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