Monday, October 14, 2013

10 Years of Blogging

            I started this blog 10 years ago today on October 14th 2003.  So, as today is my 10 year blogiversary [feel free to borrow that term], I thought I’d write a few thoughts up.

            I’m not sure if the prodigious output on this blog over the last 10 years represents an achievement to be proud of, or something to be ashamed of.  
            At times I think that a lot of the time and energy I’ve put into this blog over the past 10 years would have been better directed at other areas of my life.
            Other times, I still can’t believe how awesome it is that I can write something and publish it to the whole world.
            Seriously, 20 years ago, who would have predicted that we would all have easy access to platforms in which we could all share our opinions and reviews with the whole world. 
            Even though social media has been common place for the last 10 years now, I’m still in the honeymoon phase.  I still can barely believe I’m literally able to publish something to the whole world.  Who would have thought?
            Of course for the next generation coming up, this is going to be taken for granted as simply the way the world works. 
            Sidenote: I recently came across an old book which was a collection of essays, one of which was an essay on how much television had changed the culture.  It struck me that this type of essay would be impossible to write nowadays, because no one can remember what the culture was even like before television. In the same way, we are the last generation that’s going to be able to comment on how the Internet has changed the culture.  Today’s incoming college freshman can’t remember a world without the Internet, and can barely remember life before social media.
            For example, we are the last generation that will embarrass ourselves on the Internet and have this be a new phenomenon.

            I’m looking back at some of the posts I’ve written over the past 10 years, and experiencing some of that embarrassment now.  Good Gravy! The idiot drivel I’ve written on this blog in the past!
            My sister-in-law once summed up nicely the perils of blogging: “I look at my journal from 2 years ago,” she said, “And I think: What an idiot I am!  I couldn’t imagine having that stuff all up on the Internet.”

            I understand this sentiment completely.  I share the affliction, common to all writers, where I believe that everything I write is brilliant as it comes off my fingers.  It’s not until after a couple months go by, and I re-read my old posts, and then I think to myself: “I’m such an idiot!”
            No doubt this is a problem shared by more people than just me.  Probably that’s the reason why most of my friends have not only abandoned their old blogs, but deleted them entirely.
            (Back in 2004-2005, when blogging was at the height of its popularity, most people I knew had some sort of blog.  These days, not only do very few people I know blog, but most of those old blogs have been deleted.)
            Phil, whose created and then deleted several blogs over the past 10 years, once said that he considers deleting your blog every few years to be what he terms “humiliation management.”  (He’s probably not going to appreciate me bringing this up.)

            I, by contrast, have chosen to leave my archives largely in tact (with a couple notorious exceptions.)  It’s not that I don’t feel embarrassed about most of the stuff I wrote 10 years ago, it’s just that my fascination with the idea of interacting with the larger world, and with preserving a record of that interaction at a point in time in the past, outweighs my sense of embarrassment.  For better or for worse.

            But I would hate for anyone to think I was unaware of my faults, so let me publicly acknowledge I’m well aware of how awful most of my writing is.

            Originally, I had in mind to make a long apology for all of the faults of this blog (the narcissism, the bragging, the self-promotion, the ranting and raving about political issues instead of providing dispassionate rational arguments, the typos and spelling mistakes, the clunky sentences, the rambling incoherence, the long-winded digressions, the stereotyping of Japanese people, et cetera)
….but I decided against it.  Excessive self-criticism is probably just another form of narcissism, because both operate off the assumption that other people care about you as much as you care about yourself.  Most people, if they read this blog at all, just give it a quick glance and then move on with their lives.  No one aside from myself is losing sleep over how terrible most of the posts from 2005 were.  Besides, blogging, by its very nature, is going to attract terribly amateurish writing—(if bloggers were actually any good at this, we would be writing as a profession.)

Other Notes:

* Actually, maybe I should retract slightly what I said about blogging attracting terrible writers.  My two favorite bloggers are Phil and Whisky Prajer (whose blog I found out about through Phil’s blog).  Neither post as much as I would like them to, but both have a very engaging writing style that utterly sucks me in to whatever they are writing about.
            It is my ambition to someday hone my style and be able to suck readers into my subject material as well as these gentlemen do.

* Even in the past 10 years, the Internet has changed a lot.  Back in 2003, there was no youtube, and Wikipedia was still in its infancy.  (Here’s the post where I finally discover this wonderful new thing called youtube)

            Blogspot has changed a lot over the past 10 years as well.  When I first started back in 2003, it wasn’t yet owned by Google.  You couldn’t label your posts.  In fact, you didn’t even have separate posts—all the posts published as one page, and so you couldn’t link back to an individual previous post.  (All the self-referential linking that I do nowadays wasn’t even an option.)
            Originally Blogspot didn’t have a comments option, so you had to import comments from another provider.  I used Haloscan comments, but when I updated my blog in 2005, Blogspot erased all the Haloscan comments. 
            I really regret losing all those old comments, especially since a number of you had taken the time to engage what I had written, and left really witty or insightful comments.
            I also now have this 2004 post, the sole purpose of which is to respond to some comments, and now those comments aren’t even there anymore.

            Such is the ethereal  nature of the Internet.  As someone who takes an interest in history, I sometimes wonder how much of the modern Internet is going to pass down to future historians.  On one hand, given how huge the Internet is, future historians might be overwhelmed by the amount of information.  On the other hand, given how fragile digital records are, and how little information is being stored on paper these days, we might well lose most of our cultural records from the 21st century.
            Who knows what the future of this blog might be?  It could disappear from existence overnight if Google shut down its servers, or it, along with the rest of the blogosphere, could go on to become a small piece of the cultural records of the 21st century.

* For my last reflections about the nature of blogging, see here

Link of the Day


Whisky Prajer said...

Happy anniversary, and well done, sir. Nice to see an early adapter still striking the keys and hitting "post" 10 years later. Yours is a daily visit for me, as well. It is a remarkable platform, isn't it? For me it's taken the heat off so many frustrated ambitions (get published, get read, etc.). In another life I would have had to settle for pen pals (who may or may not write back) and the occasional breakthrough in periodicals that nobody reads. I've got nothing but love for blogger, and the many fine people I've "met" through it -- including yourself, of course. Courage, and excelsior Joel!

Joel said...

Thank you sir.
I as well feel like blogger has been a great release for me. I'll never be published in the real world, but I enjoy being able to write. In another life, I would probably also feel a certain amount of frustration.

Dean said...

Happy Anniversary, Joel. Do you remember how cumbersome our email was as freshman at Calvin? It was like working in DOS. The tech change has been quick and amazing.

Joel said...

Yeah, it is impressive how quickly things change in this day and age. If blogging still exists 10 years later, it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Phil said...

Well, thanks. I've only deleted two blogs, but I've also deleted a lot of posts, so I guess cumulatively it comes to the same thing. I probably spend too much time on humiliation management.

I may start blogging a lot more around the first of the year. My whole "write more complete essays and submit them more places" plan isn't working. If I tell myself, "Nah, son, turn that random thought into a long essay! Don't just put it up on your rinky-dink blog!", it never happens, because this in turn invites the thought "Don't write that essay! Nobody reads essays! Where would you even submit it to? Work on your novel! In fact, don't do that either, because nobody reads novels! Clean the damn house again, YOU WORTHLESS ENGLISH MAJOR!" And then I watch TV.

Joel said...

I look forward to that if that happens. Otherwise, if you concentrate on publishing essays instead, be sure to try and link to published essays from your blog, so I can keep up that way.

Phil said...

You know, if you're ever stuck for post ideas, you've read more than enough history and nonfiction to start doing top-ten lists. "My Ten Favorites on the French Revolution"--that type of thing. I'd read the hell out of that (and in fact it would be pretty useful, as I find myself looking for those kinds of things every time I start to try to read more history. "Should I bother with Hobsbawm? If only a smart person would just tell me the best books on the age of revolutions!"--that type of thing.)

Joel said...

Actually I was thinking if I ever made it to 10 years of book reviewing, I might start doing some top ten lists to mark that. (The first 3 years or so of this blog was largely just fluff. I didn't start systematically reviewing books until 2006
As for Hobsbawm, I found him a challenging read actually. I'm glad I read him, but I really had to work hard to get through his first book.

At some point before I die, I want to go back and finish the whole Hobsbawm series, but at this point I just have the first book done.
Anyway, thanks for the advice. I'll start thinking about whatever top 10 lists I could put together.

Joel said...

Actually on second thought, I might put together a few readings lists in the next few weeks after all.