In the spirit of re-visiting adventures past for the amusement of the masses, I thought it might be interesting to recount a few of the twists and turns of my blogging journey.
For me it all began in the late 1980s, with the explosion of Compuserve and AOL, and the lowering of the bar to a point where everybody could understand how to get “online”, and begin communicating with each other. Almost overnight the somewhat secret world of the “Bulletin Boards” became extinct. If I could reclaim the hours I spent doing writing exercises in the Compuserve Literary Forum, I might have discovered girls far earlier.
Over time, Compuserve and AOL began fighting each other to the deathand were so consumed with their battle that they completely missed the world around them changing in response to an academic network appearing called the “World Wide Web”, and a program to access it called “Mosaic”.
For a couple of years I couldn’t figure out why anybody would want a “web site"what they would use it for, or what purpose it would serve. I remember being offered webspace while opening my first account with an “Internet Service Provider”, and asking them why I would ever need it. “People like to write stuff, and share it with the world”
I still didn’t get it.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the World Wide Web had become ubiquitous. I had built the company website, and was spending increasing amounts of time online away from work. I’m not entirely sure how, when or why it happened, but I became interested in building a website. I do recall a clear decision that the easiest thing to build would be something to do with writing, because all you had to deal with was text. I didn’t know anything about webservers, or the programming languages they used. I did know about databases, and I knew HTMLso I set about building a righteous hack.
I would ask people to email me short stories, I would add them to the database, and then run a macro to turn it all into HTML filesessentially a huge ass cardboard cutout website. I think the first week we had five storiesthree of which were probably my own. I called it “Thought Cafe”, and quite unexpectedlyin much the same manner as the famous Field of Dreams quote, people began to arrivein their thousands.
The wheels began to fall off when the community reached the peculiar tipping point that allowed the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” to kick in; the theory (invented by Penny Arcade) states that any normal person, when handed anonymity, a platform, and an audience, will essentially become a complete asshole. That’s exactly what happened to a number of the “authors” (I could use far more derogatory terms for them, but will refrain).
ThoughtCafe closed it’s doors one Sunday afternoon. It was no longer fun. I had set out to experiment with the web, and ended up babysitting a community of thousands.
For months I hardly used the internet. Hardly touched the computer away from work. But then a curious thing happened
One Friday morning, a colleague pointed me towards an article in a magazine about people sharing their lives online; writing a public diary on a website called “LiveJournal”. He made a throwaway comment that would be far reaching;
“You could build that”.
By the end of lunchtime I had a personal version of LiveJournal writtenhacked together with the software equivalent of bubblegum and sticky tape. It was online, and it worked. I showed it to the same colleague.
“oh coolthat’s a Blogsome perspective kicked in. What on earth was I doing? I had hacked together an online journal so I could have something of my own on the web. I had ended up building a software platform, and supporting hundreds of people using it. History was repeating itself.
In order to prevent the temptation of tinkering with my creation any further, I asked a friend on the other side of the world what she was using to run her blog.
“Oh, it’s this new thing called WordPressit’s still very new, and a bit unstable, but it’s really cool”.
And so it was the journey begantaking in WordPress, Blogger, Vox, LiveJournal, TypePad, Yahoo 360, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Idenitica, FriendFeed, Posterous, and more along the way.
Over the years I’ve been in trouble for the things I’ve written, shouted at, ignored, accused, followed, and embraced.
It’s been fun, and I’m not stopping any time soon.