A decade ago, almost exactly, I pressed publish on my very first ever blog post, entitled “Falling Towards 30“, and sat in quiet amazement in my study in Lewisham. I’d pressed “publish”, and the post was live. Just like that. No HTML editing. No teams of editors to approve it. No waiting for the twice-a-day “publish”. My words were there, on the web, as easily as that.
It wasn’t the first time I’d published to the web; indeed, I’d had websites of various forms for probably 5 years at that point. But this was something different. The sheer ease of the Livejournal interface, the comments that opened up at the bottom of the page, the speed of publication. These were all new to me. All of a sudden, web publishing had moved from a techie pursuit to anyone with access to a service like Livejournal, or Blogger, or the brand new Movable Type. I pressed publish. I looked at the post. And then I got up and spent the afternoon tidying up the flat, ready for the arrival of my girlfriend. We were off to see the fireworks on Blackheath, which you can see above. And I had no clue that my life had just changed forever.
10 years under the blog
Within five years of that day, I’d be working full-time in blogging. I’d have attended one of the earliest political blogging events in the UK, and chronicled the day terrorists hit London. I’ve got engaged and married. I nursed my mother through cancer and death. And a hundred other ideas and discussions and conferences and events, and vast blog controversies. It has been one hell of a decade.
And yet, it’s easy to forget in these days of Twitter and Facebook and all the other services that make some form of personal online publishing so trivial to do just how revolutionary this all felt back at the beginning of the century. While certain forms of social software had been around for a while even in the late 90s – Usenet, bulletin boards, forums – blogging opened up a new form of “owned” site and the combination of the permalink and the comments beneath brought a new form of distributed conversation to the web. This sang to me back then. I was chafing under the bondage of traditional forms of journalism, the impersonal language, the inherent distance from the audience, the lack of control a minor section editor had over what appeared in print each day.
On the blog, my work lived and died purely on my own choices, my own merits and that of the work I created. And that was addictive. Was? Is. The launch of this blog was still a good 18 months away, but I stand by the name of it. There’s something pure and visceral about one man writing one blog, determining the content through his own preferences and choices, and expressing it in his own voice. All the most successful blogs I’ve been involved with in the latter half of the decade have followed that model – one person expressing their passion through their personal means of expression – even if they’ve evolved into more of a group format later.
Moving beyond blogging
Many people will never need a blog now. The idea of one man, one blog has been superseded by Twitter (I’ll hit five years on that next month…) and Facebook and other forms of more accessible social media. Compared to them, blogging is hard work. But for those of us who like to express ourselves in long form content and annotated quotes and links, there’s nothing quite like a blog. One man, one blog, my blog.
And now I’m sat writing this, nearly a decade later (I’m cheating by writing this the night before…) in my front room in Shoreham. The computer and the software I’m typing into would be a revelation to my younger self. But I’m still here, still blogging, even as I fall towards my 40th birthday. I’m better at it (I hope…), and certainly less tentative. But I’m still as enthusiastic about it as ever. There’s still a buzz, a certain magic, in pressing that publish button and in letting your thoughts and ideas join in that vast global conversation. It might be a bigger conversation now, and noisier, and harder to make yourself heard in. But it’s there, and it’s happening and it sure ain’t going away.
I may be falling towards 40, but I sincerely hope – and believe – that I’ll still be blogging in some form or another as I’m falling towards 50.
Thank you – and please keep reading
Thanks for reading, especially that tiny handful of you out there from the Livejournal days who read that very first post of my when it hit the web.