I still remember when Dave Winer of Userland Software started talking in the late 90s about this groundbreaking new thing called a “weblog”.
I’ll be honest. At the time I didn’t entirely get the point. there were already personal websites, online zines, and online journals. At the time I had all three of those. But “weblogs”, Dave and others insisted, were different.
Fast forward a few years. Personal websites and online zines had largely disappeared. Online journals had largely merged with weblogs and were mainly a way for people to share their lives and passions with friends. There were blogs about movies, blogs about food, tons of blogs about technology and web development, and blogs just about day-to-day life.
Bloggers at this point tended to be more technically literate, having at least the basic skills to write HTML and operate an FTP program. Bloggers also tended to either be aspiring writers or folks with an overriding passion for a specific subject – especially if that subject was not represented in the mainstream media. Bloggers formed small communities of sorts, using blogs to connect with each other and perpetuate a discussion, much as print zines had a decade earlier.
Between those salad days of blogging and today, a few things have changed:
- The growth of blogging tools like WordPress, Blogger, etc made it easier for anyone to blog, lowered the barrier of entry.
- The emergence of advertising networks like Google Adwords made it possible to monetize blogging in a way that wasn’t doable ten years ago.
- The discovery of “blogging” by the media and communications industry around the 2004 election, largely with credit given to the liberal blogosphere for Howard Dean’s rise in the Democratic primaries
- The displacement of earlier online communities by newer social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
As a result, the amateur writers looking to share their passion and connect with people have largely moved on to Facebook and Twitter. Blogging became a platform for those looking to make money or promote a brand.
Now, I have no doubt that this is a generalization and that there are still some folks blogging just for the love of writing. But I also know that for the past half-dozen years or so whenever someone’s asked me to help them set up a blog – whether it’s been a client or a friend-of-a-friend who “heard I build websites” – it’s never been because they just had stuff they wanted to say. It’s always been either because they heard you could make money at it, or as a marketing exercise for their organization (with a good chunk of that coming from communications people who heard “blogs are good for SEO”).
I won’t pretend this doesn’t make me a little sad. Certainly, we need commerce to pay our bills, but surely there must be room for people to write what they care about, not just to write linkbait and promotional copy.
Therefore, this long-winded meandering marks the beginning of my return to the world of blogging. I intend to mostly blog about technology and culture, with a little about business and communications strategy. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade and a half building websites in one form or another – as a hobbyist, as a developer, as a project manager, and as a business owner. This is a constantly evolving industry, and there are important conversations going on around every aspect of it.
This blog will be my attempt to participate in those conversations.
It will be a little different than the blogging I did a decade ago, which itself was different than the zine I published a decade before that. I’m a 40 year old project manager now, not a 30 year old political activist or a 20 year old punk rocker. But as much as I have changed, two things have remained constant in my life – my love of building things on the web, and my need to express my thoughts in writing.
It’s a strange world out there in the blogosphere these days. But I gotta say, it’s good to be back.