Blogging: Then And Now

Subtitled: In Which I Explain How I Came To Be A Blogger

Sub-Subtitled: Blame It On The Dirt

###

I read my first blog in the summer of 1997.  I was searching online {pre-Google} for info on gardening in clay dirt when I stumbled across this unique website by a regional gardener/college prof.  The website was called a weblog and I was amazed to discover that this weblog was updated on a weekly basis.  I could return to the site every week and learn something new!

I was smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

###

But then my life got very busy and I forgot about weblogs.  In the fall of 2002 I read an article in a newspaper that linked to these new things called blogs— which I instantly realized were more advanced versions of the gardening weblog that I’d loved years before.  According to the newspaper article people were writing personal blogs that they filled like a diary or a scrapbook.  Then they shared their blogs with the world– and encouraged their readers to leave comments.  

Comments, I wondered?  What might this be?  So I followed the links in the newspaper and discovered that people were indeed now keeping daily blogs– and that readers were leaving their 2¢ on the blogs in a place called comments.

I was re-smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality combined with the ability to talk with people all over the world.  What was not to love?

###

Soon thereafter I jumped into blogging.  First, I commented and emailed with bloggers I found {mostly by spending hours surfing the pre-Blogher net}.  Then, on the advice of a blogger friend, I started my own blog– which turned out to be a huge challenge to create and a great deal of fun to keep.  However, after about four years of being a daily blogger, I was tired of keeping a blog so I let it go and walked away from the blogosphere.

###

Fast forward to the winter of 2011 when I decided that it was time for me to get back into blogging.   Much had changed in my life– and in the blogosphere– so I decided to start this blog with the understanding that I’d not post on a daily basis and that I’d write about whatever interests me in the moment.  Just because I could.

###

IMHO, the coolest thing about blogging is– and always has been– that with a bit of desire and gumption anyone can have a blog.  That’s what hooked me on blogging in the first place.  Personal expression + instant connection.   

###

Blogging has changed along the way into something more polished and more organized than the early versions that I fell in love with.  Having recently re-entered the blogosphere, I see four things about blogging that surprise me.  Whether they are idiosyncratic to my experiences or the norm, I could not say;   I’ll leave that for others to figure out.  All I know is that things are not as they once were– and I’m cool with that.

  1. Blogs all look very pretty now.  In fact, in the process of setting up this blog I have not once used a piece of code.  Amazing.  I spent hours & hours & hours working on the code to get my first blog to look passible.  Now, pretty is a given.
  2. Blogs are all classified into niches.  I’ve found very few generalists like myself.  Instead, everyone who keeps a blog is [or wants to be] an authority on one specific subject.  I see nothing wrong with this, but realize that connecting with other bloggers is more difficult because of it.  Blogging is not as open and free-form as it once was.
  3. Most blogs are monetized now.  That was a new concept when I left the blogosphere, but today it is ubiquitous.  I understand the reason why people are trying to make money off of their blogs.  However, adverts and product placements put a different vibe into the blogging mix;  one that wasn’t there years ago when people blogged just for the fun of it.
  4. Many blogs do not seem to want commenters– as much as followers.  I see a shift away from the comment section as a cocktail party {with everyone chatting it up & discussing all sides of an issue} to the comment section as standing in line at the coffee shop {with casual, polite encounters & indifferent shrugs}.  It’s a different take on what it means to connect and communicate with others.  I get it, but it has taken me awhile to adapt to this more reserved approach to commenting.

###

I feel fortunate that I discovered blogging early on and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to give it a try.  It has evolved so far from my first encounter with it in 1997– and I couldn’t be happier.  Yet different as it is now, the basic concept remains the same: info, updates & a bit of personality.

Yep, I’m still-smitten… after all these years.    

And Then He Said…

“I’ve found that with email it takes people longer to get back to you, or ignore you, than you think it will.”

~ Zen-Den

Well.  Okay.  You’re right.  But I don’t have to like it– now do I?

And how am I supposed to know if they’re just pokey little puppies about returning my emails?  Or if they’re really ignoring me?  Hmmm?  Answer me that one, He-who-talks-in-koans.

<sound of me muttering while stomping out of the room>

*humph*

[The WP spell checker just told me that “humph” isn’t a word, but “Humph” is a word.  And I just reset the spell checker to always accept a lower case “humph” as a word.  Doesn’t WP know that not all situations call for a capital letter “Humph”?  Honestly, who creates these spell check thingies?]

Zen And The Art Of Blog Maintenance

~ Like a busy little bee I’ve been tweaking the spectacled bean these last few weeks. After three months of blogging I’ve made some decisions about what I’m going to write about and how I’m going to do it.  And why, of course.

~ I’ve deleted some posts and categories.  I decided that I will write what I want to write about, when I want to write about it– and not at the command of others. Seems obvious, I know, but perhaps I’m just a slow learner when it comes to putting a blog together.

~ I’ve added some tags and reworded some of my category names.  Now they more accurately reflect what I want to share with the world.  Not really very important to you, gentle readers, but this makes a big difference to me.  Keeps me focused.

~ I created a FB fan page for this blog.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Maybe nothing.  But I figured that since one of my rules in life is to “maximize my options,” I’d better do that by creating a free, easy-to-set-up FB page.  [Link in the sidebar to the right.  No obligation to be a fan, btw.]  [Please note: FB fan page deleted 08.11.  No point to it.]

~ When I started this blog I thought that I’d try to have some sort of posting schedule.  I know that it’s easier for my readers when I’m consistent.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t always have something to say on the days of the week that I scheduled myself to post on.  So I’m going to allow myself to be random.  I figure that having something to say every once in a while is more important than saying nothing on a timely schedule.

~ I want to have more photos in this blog.  I’m in the process of organizing our digital photos;  eventually I hope to use many of them in this blog. Plus, I need to start taking more photos.  But right now I feel so overwhelmed by the afore-mentioned mess of photos, that I’m reluctant to take more photos– which will just add to the mess.

~ I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog.  And if I’m honest, I have to say: nothing.  It seems like I should have loftier, more commercial goals for this sweet little bloggy.  Maybe someday I will.  But at the moment the spectacled bean is a hobby that keeps my brain alive, my heart engaged, and allows me to stay in touch with those who care about me and Zen-Den.  And that’s enough for me.

Twitter Me This

First I wrote this.

For smirks and giggles I started a Twitter account last week.  And to date, I am underwhelmed.

I can see that if you have family and friends who are on Twitter, you could have a fun time staying in touch and sharing info that is of interest to your group.  I don’t have any family and friends on Twitter that I know of.

I can see that if you were a fan of some celebrity, then it might be fun to see what this person had to say.  I am not a big enough fan of any celebrity to care about their day-to-day thoughts and actions.

I can see that if you had a smart phone and were in a boring real-life situation– at the doc’s office– on the bus riding home from work– waiting at the airport– visiting a crazy old relative whose politics were the opposite of yours– it could be a blessing to have to check your Twitter account.  But my phone isn’t smart, so I don’t have that option.

I can see that if you had no access to the internet via a desk or laptop computer, then a Twitter account could give you a fast RSS-style service that would keep you up-to-date on your favorite topics, websites, mags, and newspapers.  But I am very fortunate and have both a desk and a laptop computer with internet connection that are available to me at any time.

So, what am I missing about Twitter?  Is there something there to hook my interest so that I might begin to smirk and giggle as I had hoped that I would?  Or is it as pointless as it seems to me?

Then I did some research and found this information.

Twitter Looks Chaotic: Don’t Be Afraid“But behind the churn of news and trivia there’s a remarkable depth of knowledge and opinion.”

Twitter Tweets Some Big Q1 Stats“Twitter is now seeing 155 million tweets a day.”

Twitter in Plain EnglishReal life happens between blog posts and emails.”

Now I am left really wondering.

So I’ll ask you, gentle readers? Do you twitter and tweet?  And if so, what do you get from the experience?  Explain Twitter to me.  Please.

My Kindle Review

Because many people in real life have asked me about it, I decided to post my review of the Kindle here in the blogosphere.  I have received no money or other compensation for this review, so fear not FTC.  Everything is cool here.

On the plus side:

– it is very easy to use.  The buttons make sense and are easy to manipulate.

– it is incredibly easy to read in all light.  The clarity is amazing and puts my iMac laptop to shame.

– it is nice to be able to change the font size.

– it is fun to play games on.  The games are free or about $3, so the price is right.

– the leather case [without the light] that I bought extra is ingenious and makes holding the Kindle very easy.

– it is portable.

– many Shakespeare plays and classic books are free.

On the negative side:

– I don’t envision me ever thinking that this little gadget is a book.  It is lovely for reading in short bursts, but to sit down with this and dawdle over a book– not so much.

– the battery doesn’t last as long as advertised.  I’m recharging once a week, not every 3 weeks.

– all books aren’t available on it.  For instance, the Harry Potter series is not part of the collection.  Nor are all the books in a series of mysteries that I like.  My idea was to have complete collections of certain authors so that I would always be able to read them whenever/wherever I wanted.  This is not going to happen.

– subscriptions to newspapers are expensive and the choice of what is available is very limited.

– subscriptions to magazines are available, but I like to read mags with lots of photos in them so for me the Kindle is useless in this area.

Conclusion:

I like it, but it is different from a book.  I liken the Kindle to instant coffee and a book to brewed coffee.  Each has their place, but they aren’t interchangeable.

Hello World!

Okay then. It would seem that I am ready to start blogging. Right here. Right now.

At least, that’s what WP would have me believe.

I am, of course, a bit less convinced that I am ready to start posting on this blog.

I’m a planner. I must think things through. And then I must dawdle– and worry– and reevaluate– and worry some more. And then, if everything seems like it is in the right place in my mind and on my desk and within my blog template, I might begin to keep a blog again.

It’s a process, really. One that gets me to the proper place where I can start. I do this because in my experience, good things don’t happen without the correct amount of angst.

You’d think that WP would have figured that out along the way. I know that I have.