This blog began ten years ago today, with a short post about how living in New York City had spurred too many visits to the movies. Ten years later, less frequently but still at least once a week, I'm still at it.
Here are some reflections on ten years of blogging.
1. The Original Motivation
In 2004 blogs became central to political discourse, during the Bush vs. Kerry election. This was before the birth of Twitter and when Facebook was in its infancy. "Social media" had not begun its ascendancy, and the smart phones that enabled rapid posting to social media sites did not yet exist. But blogs did exist, and they were hot. This anointing occured in the New York Times Magazine in Sep. 2004, with a feature story about the rise of political blogs. I read that piece intensively. Since I enjoyed writing, blogs (I was always fine with calling them "blogs," preferring that to the fussiness of "web logs") seemed like a natural outlet.
As the second Bush administration was taking shape I decided the least I could do was blog to express my dismay. I landed on Typepad because this is what Scott was already using. And so the blog began.
2. The Early Years
Given the political origin of my blog, at first I aimed to frequently inject my views onto the political scene. This led to some cringeworthy posts, such as my take on the efforts to resuscitate Terri Schiavo (remember her?) from a vegetative state. Today I avoid writing about the meshugas of the moment, but back then I loved to dive in.
This is because the blog, in my eyes, was a new type of newspaper column. At this time there was much fervor about how blogs would end the tyranny of the "mainstream media" (or MSM). With the power of the Web at anyone's fingertips, the news would be democratized. Today I am less current on the state of traditional journalism vis-a-vis newer platforms than I used to be. For a long time I followed this closely, and offered posts about blogs and the future of news (from Oct 2005) and the state of journalism (from Sep 2008).
Slices of life pieces--about New York at first, then the Bay Area, and now Chicagoland--were interspersed with the political screeds and journalistic think pieces. These could be movie or book reviews, or perhaps an account of an interesting day on the town. The other major category was posts about librarianship, which I'll cover in a later section. By now, ten years on, the slices of life are the bread and butter of this blog.
2. Audience Engagement and Comments
The early years--again, before Facebook and Twitter--featured several posts that generated extensive comment and debate. Here is one example. Once Facebook became a distribution platform, the blog posts would feed into Facebook as notes and sometimes generated comments there. Once Facebook added the like feature, and Twitter introduced the concept of tweeting or microblogging, the comments basically dried up. I used to feature the most recent comments in the right panel of the blog, but at this point there are less than 10 comments per year. The blog has become a labor of love more than a spark of conversation.
One thread that has remained constant is a concern with the future of librarianship. This has risen and fallen over the years, but has always been present. I was determined not to make this a library-focused blog. But I've periodically contributed to the conversation, and these posts are collected in the "Librarianship" category. Most recently I've expressed my strong support for the Association of College and Research Libraries's new Information Literacy Framework, in a rare contemporary instance of taking sides.
For a while I was very interested in whether blogs could supplant professional journals as the library literature. To wit, I wrote "Why Professional Librarian Journals Should Evolve into Blogs" in Feb 2008. I still agree with these arguments-that blogs would allow faster dissemination of ideas and immediate engagement. But unless there are strong vetting mechanisms within a blog it might become hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. This does not mean that our current peer review practices are perfect. Far from it--they can be bureaucratic and overly conservative. But these implementation defects do not sully peer review as a concept, which is to offer a signal of "what's worth reading" for busy readers. I now think that librarianship-oriented blogs will be continue to supplement the formal literature, but will not replace that literature. After all, something similar has happened with news. Far from watching the MSM tumble, these days very established brands like the Times offer some of the best blogs going.
4. The Sarah Lacy Controversy
In spring 2008, a few months after arguing that librarian journals should evolve into blogs, the one and only controversy to ever erupt on this blog occurred. I published a review of Sarah Lacy's "Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good" in the San Francisco Chronicle. Lacy deemed the review snarky and sexist, leading to these responses: mine, Lacy's.
It was the kind of thing that felt momentous at the time, and for a while afterwards. Now it feels like ancient history, but if nothing else the blog did get its moment in the spotlight.
5. 2009: Divorce Year
In 2009 Helen and I filed for divorce, something I chronicled extensively here. The blog was my lifeline that year, the venue for personal essays about the most tumultuous time in my life. A central part of my healing process was writing it all out.
6. 2010-Present: Looking Outward
Pi Wen and I met in early 2010, when the divorce was still new but the most intense feelings had passed. We met on Valentine's weekend and immediately learned of how much we had in common. One thing in common was that we had both lived in Evanston, the town we now call home once again. We've made, and are making, a new life together.
The blog no longer serves as a record for all of that. Today you'll see a more mellow person's periodic musings. It's still important to contribute to professional debates, but I'll do that in professional association work or (indeed) in journal articles. As to the political discourse which this blog once aspired to join, I am glad not to take any part in it.
7. The Purpose of the Blog Today
So what's the point now? Perhaps my blog would get more comments if I jazzed it up with videos or used the recommended links that Typepad provides. One of my former colleagues at Samuel Merritt landed a new job by skillfully using his blog in just this way. Meanwhile I march along as though nothing has changed in online norms, relying on my words and very few images.
Clearly, then, my blog is mostly for me--an ongoing diary which I hope others find interesting. This would not have been such a bad motivation from the start.