Ten years of weblogging.
In which I celebrate over 3,650 days of posting links, along with the handful of surviving EditThisPage alumni who haven’t either: a. found better things to do, or b. been devoured by Twitter.
Lots of decade retrospectives are starting to show up on the web; likely more will show up the week before New Year’s. I’ll stick my neck out, and propose that when you look at the past decade, the Naughts should be called ‘the decade of the weblogger.’ Every event of the past ten years has been thoroughly recorded, editorialized and posted by someone with a weblog. We helped shift newsgathering from paper, radio and television to much faster, more flexible online sources.
Who remembers all the events of the last ten years? Our weblogs do. We had better archives than the news media, for a while … and ours were free. The fear and panic over Y2K was a notable first online ‘crisis’ I recall. The tragic Concorde crash. The Cerro Grande Fire in New Mexico. The stultifying Gore/Bush election. The Bush inauguration. Launch of Wikipedia. 9/11. The war on Afghanistan. Harry Potter’s debut in film. Multiple Wall Street dips and crashes. Passage of the Homeland Security Bill. Loss of the Shuttle Columbia (right over New Mexico). The War on Iraq. Death of Reagan. Abu Ghraib. Tsunami in Indonesia. Death of John Paul II. Hurricane Katrina. Dan Rather. Abramoff. North Korea’s sabre rattling. Cheney. Scooter Libby. The endless 2008 election season. Obama/McCain/Palin/Biden. Iran’s nuclear intentions. Michael Jackson. Tiger Woods. Just to name a few events that come to mind.
God, the crap we’ve been through. No wonder I’m happy to see the end of the Naughts. Our archives of the last ten years will be valuable to future historians, if noone else.
Why did I do it? Why weblog for ten years? There’s no easy answer for that one. The reasons constantly shifted. I started out playing with weblogs because I didn’t want to dissolve into depression remembering my father’s demise two years before on Christmas Day. I also wanted to try the technology, to see whether it would suit my clients. That’s the way it started, but very swiftly the social aspects became addictive. Perhaps too much so. Pursuing popularity can bring out the worst parts of our personalities. I avoided the more ugly permutations of popularity seeking, merely overextending myself. I became a human news aggregator, posting upwards of 50 links a day. The wider acceptance of RSS eventually pulled that rug out from under me (thank GOD), and I switched to one of the PHP/MySQL weblog environments, and it slowed down my posting frequency. Yes, hand-coding for me was faster. Switching to an established weblog CMS allowed me to linger over the links I was choosing, and I expressed more of my personal viewpoints, which a subset of my audience had been clamoring to hear. The breathless pursuit of any and all traffic ended for me at that time, and I found more enjoyment in crafting clever posts or finding articles that deeply interested me. My traffic had been trending slowly down since news aggregators became available, and then Twitter’s debut torched quite a bit of the rest. My weblog style has long been more Twitteresque than traditional weblog style, so I suppose it’s perfectly logical that I’d lose most of my traffic to the little blue bird. Yet I can’t get into Twitter, because 140 characters just isn’t enough for when I need to express something important. If Twitter had shown up just a couple of years earlier, I would have been ecstatic. Now that I write longer posts, I can’t limit my verbosity without terrible time-wasting edits and mangled contractions.
Today, I’m at about 10% from the high traffic marks of 2003. The last year or two have been a struggle to keep the posts flowing regularly, because of my work schedule (thank you, Mr Bush, for our wonderful economic situation - not). Add the time-suck that social media requires, and you get my situation today. Parceling out my time and talents to different services, based on responses … with a bias towards the weblog because I love the form, and always will.
I am concerned about where weblogging is going. Today, the individual who decides to weblog approaches it in a sort of crystalline manner: one must weblog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google - on and on ad nauseam. Each facet exists unto itself, only mildly sharing content with other facets; more a reflection than a direct copy. And some of us have to split personal from business, something that’s largely been ignored. Personal branding in this environment is schizophrenic at best. We don’t get the same percentage of really high quality posts anymore because of this scattershot philosophy. Interop’s the problem. Information’s getting shoved around, split countless ways, both in front of and behind firewalls, in open-source and proprietary formats. Worse, use of all these services is becoming ‘expected’! A nightmare to manage.
I’d like to point out this ‘new paradigm’ (hah) runs against the philosophy we started out with, the one that got us into weblogging in the first place (at least, it’s the one that caught my imagination) … one master version of information in a single directly-controlled database, many copies pulled from that master. Never having to enter information more than once. Today, we’ve got profiles all over hell and high water, duplicates out the wazoo, personal valuable content behind membership firewalls - often that we can’t easily extract - and it’s called ‘progress.’ We’re supposed to get excited at each new service or app rollout. Just enter your profile (for the umpteenth time) in a rounded-corner gradient Ajax Web 2.0 interface, start entering your valuable information (so the service can monetize your content) and you can taste the future!
This isn’t progress. It’s a fat pig in a fluffy French maid outfit. I’ve got more secret passwords than a politician in a brothel.
I want the social media to pull content from my own single weblog/database, not feed my weblog from their services. I want to control my content directly, archive it myself, choose what services get which information, how and when. And I want it all to be smooth and easy.
So let’s start a company and make it, craft the standard required. Stop the madness before another hundred thousand web apps show up.
A pipe dream, I know, but one my conceit lets me smile over. I remain a Utopian, in spite of my all-too-frequent displays of cynicism and pessimism. I believe the next ten years will make us better. And I’ll be around to record it all … no matter the form.