Blogs will save us.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Ten Years Blogging

I was chatting with Sally over the weekend about Reddit and the future of media when it occurred to me that I started my first blog over ten years ago, on January 10, 2003.  In a catastrophic oversight, I missed an opportunity for an timely bout of navel-gazing.  Instead, I'll indulge in a tardy bout instead.

It's a little hard to date the birth of blogs.  The form itself is hard to define.  People have been keeping journals since scratches-on-the-cave-wall days, and the internet has been around since the 1980s.  The blog as a medium of communication, where a writer used it to talk to people she didn't know, goes back to the late 1990s and really got going in the early aughts.  The first time I encountered the word "blog" was in Doonesbury in 2002.  But what really got me interested was a Paul Krugman column from December 2002 when he cited a blog in writing about the Trent Lott incident. It was absolutely amazing--a columnist for the New York Times quoting a random dude who'd been harping on the Senate Majority Leader.  Random dude!

In the history of print, the guy who controlled the press (or radio towers) controlled the dialogue.  The internet, just about a decade old at that point, made it possible for individuals to begin publishing for free.  Starting a blog didn't mean you immediately had the world hanging on your every word--but they could hang, if you were interesting enough.  In 2002, the media landscape was little changed from the 1950s.  You had newspapers, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather on the nightly news (Fox existed, but it wasn't yet Fox), radio, and weekly magazines like Time.  We had no YouTube, Twitter, or Reddit, RSS existed, but nobody knew how to use it.  Google was just a search engine.  Blogs were the Neanderthals of communications media--they were the first expression of the "democratization" of the internet people had been touting for years.

My first three blogs were political (Notes on the Atrocities and the cleverly-named Oregon Blog in 2003 and BlueOregon in 2004).  I started this blog in January 2006.  Over the years, blogs have changed--the subject of a future post in my indulgent week of metablogging--and they have diminished greatly in importance.  Co-opted by the media giants they once threatened, blogs run by random dudes are now in quick decline.  Politics and beer are actually decent places to keep a blog going--constant fodder--but we've long passed the golden era.

I, however, am far from bitter.  When I started blogging, I was doing research at PSU in a field I wasn't trained in.  It was a great job, but not a great fit--writing has always been more in my wheelhouse.  For years and years, friends mocked my bizarre hobby (rightfully) and wondered why I could possibly be wasting my time doing it.  The real answer is that the blog format abets obsessives like Alan and I, whom (speaking for myself), would either be blogging or sending out massive, unsolicited emails to friends.  It gave us something to do.  In my case, it also helped when I was pitching my book--when the editor at Workman saw Beervana, she thought I might be a good fit for their idea to do a Beer Bible.  A win for obsession!

But really, ten years on, I blog because I can.  I hope to be around another ten, riding the blog train into complete obsolescence.  I hope you keep reading.

8 comments:

Alan said...

OK, I sent out massive unsolicited emails to my friends. I will admit it.

I am a few weeks away from my decade anniversary, too. Except that blog is called "Gen X at 40" and I turn 50 mid-April. Not sure where that decade went.

Jack R. said...

re: your self-awareness
'Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.'
[lyrics: Robert Hunter; music: Jerry Garcia/Bob Weir/Phil Lesh]

re: 'hope to be around another ten'
Keeping on truckin'.

I have so much to learn.

Patrick Emerson said...

You mean 2003, no doubt.

Jeff Alworth said...

I do, and thank you. I've corrected it.

Jeff Alworth said...

Alan, is that because it never occurred to you that you'd still be blogging ten years later? It certainly never occurred to me.

Alan said...

I probably was sure I would be full time paid blogging for years by now! I had reason as I was a nationally known political blogger with a zillion readers. I had two TV networks seeking my time. I picked the wrong one as it turned out as all the other station's bloggers moved on but in any event 2006 likely looked crazy from the 2003 perspective as the 2013 one. Now it's just a nice little hobby.

http://www.cbc.ca/canadavotes2006/forums/electionroundtable/

Jeff Alworth said...

Your Icarus moment took you much closer to the sun than mine. I got to appear on local radio and was invited to blog from the DNC convention in Denver in 2008. But never the national news--you rock.

(My now lapsed Honest Pint Project got me face time on NPR and in the Wall Street Journal, though, so I got that goin' for me.)

Kris said...

I have to say that I'm surprised to see that this May will be the 6th year I've been blogging. We started it to amuse ourselves and a few of our friends. We've gained a few more friends reading it since then but it's still primarily a spewing of whatever comes to mind (regarding beer that is).

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