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20 Years of Blogging

On June 4, 2002 I started a blog with a post that simply said:

Oy… I started this just for fun.. I prolly wont continue to use it, and there is no way for me to delete my account, hmm… %)

In retrospect, this is pretty hilarious. I’ve now had a blog for over 20 years. Above, I linked to a post that’s currently self-hosted on a WordPress instance, but at the time the “account” I mentioned was on an old blogging site called Xanga. It was popular at the time and a couple people I knew had started doing this “blogging” thing over there so I decided to check it out.

I eventually moved to LiveJournal as community momentum shifted, and I brought all my Xanga posts over. A couple years later I started self-hosting with a WordPress instance and I once again moved everything over. When I did that migration, I considered doing some editing of posts, since looking back at those old posts is pretty embarrassing. I was young (20), very bored, and my writing was very bad. The early posts had the rawness of a stream-of-consciousness rather than anything carefully written. I never expected it to last, and I certainly never expected to eventually become a published author!

I am also dyslexic, and had a lot of support when I was really young to learn to read. Writing was a tremendous challenge throughout middle school, and only slightly improved in high school. When I was starting my blog, I still had a long way to go, but I just sat down and wrote every day. It was silly, self-involved, and random, but I got it down, and ultimately I kept it up. My blog posts today are much more polished and thoughtful. Seeing this all laid bare it’s a reminder to me that we aren’t born knowing how to write, it takes practice, which is what I happened to spend years doing aimlessly.

People often ask me how I got into writing. I wouldn’t recommend the aimless route I took. If your goal is actually becoming a writer, it probably makes sense to go down one of the paths of using writing prompts and doing more than just pouring “what I did today” notes into a public blog. Still, it did work for me, even if it took a long time.

As to why I did it, I think it was the same reason we use short-form social media today. It was a way to keep in touch with people, save moments of my daily life, and be part of a community beyond my desk. As the LiveJournal grew in popularity there was a community like you see on social media today, you became friends of friends after seeing their comments or link to each other’s posts, and other friends from other spaces of the web would make their own blogs that would show up on your Friends list.

By the time most people had moved on from blogging and over to mediums like Facebook and Twitter, I had started to see the value in blogging for myself as a reference and sort of autobiography. What year did we take that trip? When did I last visit that festival? Who was the intro act to that show we went to? All these questions are quickly answered by my blog! I’m reminded of this every time I fall behind on posting or am building up the momentum (and often skipping sleep) to write about something. I also know the value in owning your own words and thoughts, if I was serving up that stream of thoughts and moments to a company hosting it at no cost, with no guarantee of preservation, I’d be deeply concerned about control and posterity. I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed with what they’ve lost as the cracks start to form in our digital footprints.

A great story shouldn’t end here, but I don’t have anything revolutionary to say about this milestone of 20 years. I don’t think I’ll be making any real changes to what I do today. I don’t publish as much as I used to, but that’s really just an artifact of how much my life has changed, I simply don’t have as much time as I used to. I also found that my blog has trended to be much more positive and less raw and critical. As I’ve matured I’ve realized that I’m no longer just throwing my words into a black hole. Every time I throw a thought out that’s critical of something someone else has made, that has the potential to land with a real person, and I don’t want my thoughtless, throw-away comments to hurt someone. The positive nature of my blog today is related to this, but also a result of my struggle to write at all when I’m not in a very good mood, so I don’t. I do sometimes worry that both these things make my blog less genuine than it used to be, and that may be true, but I think I’m OK with that. I still think I’m more honest here than most people are in public, and this blog was never meant to be a private journal that I kept locked in my bedside table.