Monday, January 18, 2016

Evolution is making a full circle

Back in the early 2000's I started a blog. I don't remember where I heard about blogging but it immediately struck a chord with me. I was never great at journaling or diarying or whatever but I liked the idea of keeping some sort of electronic journal and by the early days of the new millennium I was enamored with a handful of the new-fangled public journals that people were posting. Maybe because no one was watching (or maybe they were? At the time, it wasn't easy to tell), people opened up a bit. They wrote about their lives, their passions, or simply what they had for lunch. There were no rules or expectations so people just wrote what they wanted and it was super appealing to me.

I started off by following a number of craft blogs. The writers would talk about what they were making and often share techniques and along the way would sprinkle in bits of their personal life. Since they were publishing into the void, there were no guideposts and so you'd see posts on a single site that ranged from issues with health, money, family, and then an excellently detailed post about how to knit in-the-round. Also, this was before putting pictures on the internet was easy or fast; most of us were on dial-up modems at home and even so, photo sharing sites weren't born yet. So posting a blog entry was a laborious process. You had to build a page template and then, essentially, upload a new one every time you made an update. Images were separate and HTML was still pretty rudimentary so photo tutorials (nevermind video tutorials) were still a long way off. It was challenging, it was slow, it was the perfect way to waste an hour at work (you're still staring at your computer, typing and clicking - it looks like real work when, in fact, you're just taking advantage of internet access that didn't require an AOL account).

I didn't really get into the swing of things before some free blogging platforms became available. Even with "major" services like Blogger the interface was archaic and if you didn't know HTML coding you weren't going to get far. RSS was also in a very early phase and only served to send out "pings" when content was updated -- it was a long time before an RSS feed was developed and then an RSS feed reader where you could follow websites by viewing the content in a single location*. Instead, we had blog rolls.

Ah, the blog roll. Now this was my favorite part. Some smartypants programmer had created a way to keep a list on the side column of your web page where you'd enter the URLs of sites that you liked. People visiting your site could then see who you liked and it was an excellent referral source. If I liked one person's writing style then they'd likely be in a circle with other writers of a similar vein. I'd add them all to my blog roll and you'd add some to yours. On a daily basis, I'd go down the checklist of sites and read any updates and then maybe click through to their recommended pages and add that person to my list, too. I remember what an exciting day it was when the blog roll was updated with RSS capability! Now it would show an icon next to any sites that had been updated - so you could easily identify where to find new content! What a brilliant discovery!

My regular routine, which I think was shared by a lot of people, was that I'd read the updates and then if I had something to say, I'd email the author. Yes, there was a time before comments were invented! So then I'd usually have an exchange of some sort with the author - and ditto to the people commenting about my site. And then I started finding overlaps. I'd get an email from a few different people who had a shared opinion or complimentary senses of humor and so I'd reply to them all at once. In this way, you were introducing your friends and inviting them to interact. Which is how you used to "meet" people online. At least, it was how I met people.

Comments eventually came to blogs, and although they weren't as advanced as they'd get someday, it brought more of the conversation out in the open. You'd be able to respond to someone else's feedback and they to yours; it was great. And the sites that I followed were all friendly banter, so the comments were a rich source for hilarious jokes - I honestly can't recall a single "you suck" comment on any of the hundreds of sites that I followed. It wasn't a negative space. Instead, by the shared comments and interactions and the individual blog posts, I began to find my people.

Eventually, I started meeting My People in the real world and it was wonderful. Instead of having a friend based on proximity (which most of our friends are; you live near people growing up or sit by them at school) I found real, actual, adult friends based on my interests. We shared a love of crafts and humor and comedy and so many other things. When we met in person it was a party. There was no awkwardness, nobody was shy. You already knew these people - you already liked these people and they liked you. It was amazing. Over the years I have met up with a LOT of people that I've met online. On more than one occasion I have traveled great distances specifically to meet "online friends". This dynamic absolutely has changed my life in the best way possible.**

Over the years as most of us have retired from blogging - people started families, changed careers, lost interest, or just simply relocated to social media - I kind of lost the fire for writing here. Not that I ever cared how many people read it (even though it's all integrated and easy now, I still never look at web stats) or commented, I just have a hard time finding the energy to blog much anymore - and knowing that nobody is watching makes it easier to abandon the project. But I have been thinking about it lately, about making a comeback. After years of writing regularly, I still get little snippets of ideas that pop up in my head and I start mentally crafting a blog entry of it. I've been wanting to start actually typing them up and then Jules suggested that we "get the band back together again" and has invited several of us olde timey bloggers to come back, to create a blog roll, to catch up (beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter). So here I am. The evolution of blog technology led to the demise of this particular blog, but I'm back again. Let's see where it goes.

*Google Reader was my favorite RSS feed. It was the first RSS reader that allowed for social interaction. Rather than sending you to a 3rd party site (i.e., "tweet this!") you could leave comments directly within the Reader page. You could share those comments with your friends who could then comment back. It was easy to share articles and have conversations all on one page. When Google sunset Reader to push everyone to Google+ it was a sad day. Luckily, a new RSS feed has entered the arena whose only goal is to bring back the Reader experience. If your friends sign up (free) for it, you can share content, comments, etc. plus it's got an easy sharing interface for social networks outside of the blog feed. I personally love it - and you can connect with me there, too, if you care to:
**So much so that I feel guilty when I hear people talk about how hard it is to meet people. They just want a handful of friends, someone that they can go to a movie with or whatever, but where do you meet people when you're almost 40? Work? Church? Bars? It's very hard to do and I feel weird that my "secret" is that I meet people online because there's still an outdated notion that the internet is ONLY for weirdos and creeps. It's not strictly their domain, but sometimes I like those guys too. ;)

1 comment:

jessica fantastica said...

I read this from my oldreader feed and thought you should know!


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