While introducing ourselves at the Tech Dinner Salon on blogging last week (which I really enjoyed), one of the points of information everybody included was how long they had been blogging. The newest blogger had just started two weeks earlier. And then there was me, who realized I’d been doing this for five years. My first blog post was on March 3, 2003, five years ago today.
You can look back at that first month and see how things started – every post is a one paragraph summary of a book I had read. It wasn’t until September of that year that I started writing about other things, and in November, I merged the “ramblings” blog with the book review blog.
I had actually been writing online for many years before starting a blog. I put up my first web page in 1994, and wrote several rambling posts over the next few years. I also regularly wrote up brief book summaries on that web page. But blogging software obviously made it much easier.
I first started blogging with Blosxom, where I just had to create a text file and then run a script to push it to my blog’s website. After a couple years, I started running into limitations like the lack of comments, the inability to keep drafts easily, and the fact that I could only blog from my home computer. I eventually switched to WordPress, which has been a joy to use for the last three years. I highly recommend it.
It’s interesting to look back and see how this blog has evolved for me. It started off as a place to do quick book reviews so that I could record key ideas from books as I finished them. I then started using it as a place to rant about politics, which culminated in my trip to Ohio for the 2004 election. And now I mostly use it as a place to publish essays on a variety of topics that interest me.
It’s also interesting to think about what my blog is not.
- It’s not a place for me to talk about my personal life, or what I ate (unless it’s fantastic).
- It’s not something I’m using to try to make money in any way.
- I’m not trying to use my blog to advance my career.
- I’m not particularly trying to increase my readership. While I love looking at the stats, I have done nothing specifically to promote my blog, other than occasionally hand out cards.
- It’s not even a place where I follow my own rules about blogging.
So why do I blog? (another good question from the Tech Dinner Salon)
- To make sense of the world. Writing a blog post forces me to try to explain my ideas coherently so that they can escape the jumble in my head. Blog posts also invite comments from my readers so they can build on the ideas I write about and give me new perspectives.
- To record interesting thoughts or observations. When I observe something in the world or think of something neat, I can record my impressions here so that I can remember and reflect upon it later.
- To improve my writing. Many of my early posts are painful for me to read now. I think the practice of writing a couple times a week for several years has made me more aware of how to communicate more clearly and effectively, especially when readers call me out in the comments for being unclear (yes, that’s an invitation).
- To improve the conversations I have. This is probably the most unanticipated benefit. I’ve been thrilled by the number of times when somebody says when they see me in person “Hey, your blog post on X got me thinking and I wanted to bounce some ideas off of you”. My blog lets my readers know what I’m thinking, and when it overlaps with what they’re thinking, they’re more likely to bring up those topics in conversation.
So where do I want to take this blog over the next five years? I’m not really sure yet. I’d love to find a way to make the sort of writing and thinking I do here more of my life, possibly even as a career path. I’ve been tossing around the idea of turning this blog into a community site for generalists, because there are too many specialists in the world. I even grabbed UnrepentantGeneralist.com recently in case I decide to move in that direction (it just points here for now).
In the meantime, I plan to continue writing here, thinking about different things, and hopefully providing a perspective on the world that you hadn’t considered.
While I’d get some benefits from writing into the void, it makes a huge difference knowing that there are people out there reading what I have to say. I think making connections with other people is one of the most important goals in life, and so I want you to know that I really appreciate each and every reader out there. Thanks for reading.