Two years of Weblogging

This week I’ve had a weblog for two years. Two years – not necessarily one of the old timers, but not one of the new babes, either. I’m a middle aged blogger. That’s a lowering thought.

I started with a Manila site that I had the hardest time trying to figure out because this weblogging format was so weird for a person who had been doing regular web sites for so long. Following Manila was Blogger, finally moving over to Movable Type. I’ve also played around with Graymatter, and Bloghorn, as well as Bloxsom.

Two years. My first year was relatively quiet except for a few technology squabbles with Dave Winer and John Robb. Most of my writing then was about technology. Rarely had any comments, but comments weren’t the norm for weblogs before 2002. Anonymous comments were never allowed; you had to register at Manila.

Weblogging was different that year – no one had heard of weblogs, and we were definitely under the radar of most of the world. I didn’t weblog consistently during the first year because I was working at a Dot Com for part of the year and had no life. When I wasn’t at the Dot Com, most of my energy was spent on my books and on my main web sites. Boy, those were the days.

I met Chris Locke relatively early in that first year, but managed to survive the experience. HaHa, just joking Chris. Life was a lot different for Chris then. He’s had some rough times between then and now. It’s good to see that he’s seeing the light now. Let’s hope it’s a real light and not a flashback.

Chris Locke introduced me to Sharon during that time, and it was Sharon and Chris Locke who talked me out of quitting when I shut the weblog down in November, 2001, I think it was. I have officially quit twice, and come back. Does this make me a weblogging junkie? A born again weblogger? A ghost?

I met other people in the first year including that sexy, noisy, passionate, angry, lovable, big bear of a person who I am proud to call ‘friend’: Stavros the Wonder Chicken. Stavros got his start in MeFi, but we still love him in spite of this. He used to write under Waeguk is Not Soup – isn’t that the name, Chris? He shared a difficult and profound experience with us last year: the loss of a close friend to terrorism. His writing was and is eloquent and sensitive, and so very real.

I also met Jonathon Delacour in my first year, meeting him over a phrase, no less – Doing a Dave. What a way to meet another person – over doing a Dave. I met Jonathon the first week he started his weblog, back when it was using the Radio stylesheet before he went black with tiny font. Always elegant, Jonathon’s an amazing writer, especially his Japanese posts, which are my favorite. He’s another good friend (well, when I don’t dump on him when I’m in a pissy mood).

Other people I met in that first year have quit weblogging. I still check their old sites from time to time.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet new friends in the second year, talking on the phone and via emails, not just in comments. People like AKMA and Margaret, Dorothea, Allan, and Loren. And then there’s the folks I met through Chris Locke like Gary and Jeneane and Halley and Doc and Steve and Denise and the Toms and Fishie Boy and Happy Tutor and Frank and Mike. Ruzz and Bumr and Rev and Monica, Kaf, Larry and Ryan, Dan, Karl and Doug, Shannon and Phil and Bill and Liz and … You, have all enriched my life. You’ve also been a pain in the butt sometimes. But then, so am I on rare occasions.

And weblogging – this second year, everything’s changed. Remember Dvorak and his comment on cats, about one year ago? He wrote:

Generally speaking, these postings are fascinating, since they often have serious elements of Hyde Park corner blather, besides blatant exhibitionism and obvious self-indulgence.

Whatever the reason for the Blog phenomenon, it’s not going to go away anytime soon. The main positive change: far fewer cat pictures.

Remember Tubby the Cat? The quizzes? Googlewhacking? Those were the days, weren’t they? All of a sudden now, weblogging is News. Capital ‘N’ news. Serious stuff.

For instance, NBC news just had a story tonight on warblogs. They did a Google search on the term ‘warblog’ and mentioned that over 300,000 entries show up. They showed the Google results, and PapaScott, you showed up in the results! Did you know you were on national US TV tonight?

Before it was cats. Now it’s war. I’m not sure this is an improvement. The intimate little party, the golden age when we could write unemcumbered by the real world is over. Knock, knock. The world wants in.

Anyway, two years doing this stuff. Rah.


Comment-free weblogging

I don’t think there’s a person that hasn’t pushed weblog commenting more than myself. The conversations, the discussions, the fun we’ve had has been a treat and a joy and a revelation. Lately though, I’m finding that comments are a mixed blessing. I’ve had a lot of problems with anonymous posters, particularly nasty anonymous posters. (Don’t bother looking for them – I’ve deleted most of them, and blocked their IPs.) In addition, the comment spammers have been stopping by daily now, not to mention the folks getting here on Google and saying the most bizarre stuff.

(Is it just my imagination, or are there a lot of school kids using weblogs for their homework, now?)

I’ve been thinking about taking comments down for a time now, but I hesitated because I don’t want to shut down conversations. Through these conversations I have met people, friends, who I have come to cherish, and that’s been a gift, a true gift. But then I look at Dorothea and she has conversations and connects with people all without comments, and I think maybe for now, this isn’t such a bad thing.

My altered attitude about comments has a great deal to do with the war and the stress it generates; this in addition to some personal worries and the stress they’re causing. Mostly, though, this has to do with me wanting to do something different with my writing. I have found the number of comments I get is inversely proportional to the type of writing I would like to do. No matter how confident you are – and I’m not – this is a bit discouraging.

So, temporarily, I’m turning weblog comments off. This is not a reflection on current discussions – just me wanting to take a breather is all.


Weblogging as surrogate for action?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In my last posting, I was told by a couple of people that my writing the letter to the radio station was basically a useless exercise. Instead, I was given a couple of different options, both of them related to Doc Searls – Doc, are your ears burning?

The first option, from Tom Matrullo is a change in marketing strategy. Let’s boycott the advertisers who advertise on the networks that show biased news. Well, that’s cool, but that pretty much means we don’t buy anything. Doesn’t it? Still, I’m willing – where do I sign up?

The second was from Rahul, and his solution was to create a blogging network of news, giving people at the locations a satellite phone and a weblog and have them provide news. Okay, then, Rahul, what do I need to do?

Marketing and media. And I’ve been told I don’t really understand either of these – or, more accurately, that my understanding “differs”. Well, that’s true. I haven’t read any media or marketing books, such as Cluetrain (a natural one to bring up since Doc’s name is being tossed about).

I’m not against these solutions, but it seems to me that they’re ‘talk’, with no associated action. When these same people tell me I’m powerless to make a difference with my small action, but give me alternatives that are nothing more than talk on a weblog, well, then I get unhappy. Being told we’re powerless only leads to apathy. Chit chat among our little weblogging circles isn’t going to make war go away. Tell me, what can I do?

We who fight this war go about our business. We talk about academics and art and technology and relationships, and these are good things to talk about, and I love to read them. I love to read what you write. I write about these things, myself. But I still want to make a difference. I want to make my voice heard outside of this weblog. This weblog isn’t enough. So I wrote the letter to the radio station. It wasn’t a big act, it was a tiny, tiny act, but at least, it was an act. How is this useless?

Have we become so sophisticated that we no longer even try to make a personal difference? Have our weblogs become nothing more than surrogates for action?

I have one question – if you’re against the war in Iraq, what have you done today to express this disagreement outside of your weblog? What have you done today to be heard?