During the 2004 Presidential campaign the "blogosphere" became an important force in the political discourse, as reflected in this Times magazine article from that September that I read avidly. Throughout that fall I toyed with the idea of starting a blog but didn't do it.
In early 2005 some small controversy erupted on the MEDLIB-L mailing list; I have no idea what it was, and have long since removed myself from that list. But whatever it was caused me to correspond with T. Scott Plutchak, who responded to one of my emails with a link to his (then barely known) blog. Scott used Typepad, which seemed aesthetically superior to Blogger even though there is a small yearly subscription fee and Blogger is free. This exchange was the final impetus I needed to start my own blog, which I did on Jan. 26, 2005. Then as now, the URL is mbanks.typepad.com. But now the posts feed to Facebook, and there's also a tweet to alert my handful of followers to a new post. Back then the blog was it; these days most readers are on Facebook.
These days I don't write as much, because a lot of the shorter posts I used to write are now Facebook status updates. It feels more like work these days, but I've maintained my goal of posting at least once a week (today's triple post bonanza hasn't happened in at least two years.)
Several themes stand out. When I started I was deeply angry with President Bush, and a lot of the early posts were jabs at that very bad President. By the end of his term I hardly ever wrote about Bush, and was just happy that he was leaving. Every now and again I veered into library territory, usually about some aspect of the Google book digitization controversy. But for the most part this is a personal blog more than a professional one. I feared that an exclusive focus on library issues--which many of my colleagues do very well--would heighten expectations about the frequency of posting, and limit what I could talk about.
I'm continually interested in the evolution of the media, and in 2005 and 2006 I was particularly keen about the connection between blogs and newspapers. That doesn't seem so compelling now, because the urgency of maintaining a professional press in the wake of dire economic times is more important. I'm hoping that a non-profit or other type of public trust emerges to save the press, so that the fate of democratic discourse no longer hinges on how many Rolex ads the Times sells.
Helen is all over the blog. She's by far the most frequent commenter, and was also the first. She's also the only person who ever wrote a "guest post" here, and for a while I linked to her very light-hearted "Blog of Questions" (in which she would ask a question a week and wait for the answers.) Our travels are well documented, as well as our wanderings through New York (there was much less of this about our time in Berkeley, which now feels like a premonition.) Of course, the focus last year was on our divorce--this is when I decided to firmly embrace the public nature of the blog as a means of healing.
That's the most important development for me: I'm firmly committed to the potential of "Web 2.0" tools to increase connections and understanding between people, and tire quickly of arguments that they always lead to over-sharing and narcissism. Sure, that can happen and often does. But many private diaries all around the world are narcissistic too.
We do need better ways to separate the wheat from the chaff in the blogosphere, and I am honored that some people find my posts t0 be among the "wheat." I'm not sure that I'll keep doing this forever, but I just might. Eventually I could become a die-hard hanger-on to the tired and antiquated blog format, long after whatever trailblazing potential it had is exhausted. That would be a fitting outcome, since I embraced the blog with a young person's fervor at the outset. Whatever happens from here, it's been a great ride.