10 Years of Weblogging
The traditional gift for a 10th wedding anniversary is aluminum. This little weblog is now 10 years old. That explains the aluminum can wall picture above.
I’m not sure how to begin this post, so I asked for help on Twitter. I wasn’t let down:
@haystack: “Still crazy after all these years” ???
@Xavier: “it was a dark and stormy night?”
@PhilGerb: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…Now is the summer of our discontent…if a blog falls in the woods…”
@stackiii: “Here we are…10 years later…and I still refer to this forum as a ‘weblog’…”
Yes, I still stick to the word “weblog” over “blog.” “Blog” is an ugly-sounding word. When I think of “blog” I think of barbarians coming home after raping and pillaging and settling down by the fire to tell stories over a big mug of “blog.” Many years ago, I talked with Eugene Volokh about the aesthetics of the word “blog.” He told me he liked the word because it sounded messy.
Well, he’s right about that. Weblogs are a wonderfully messy communication medium that has given many a way to express themselves, rant, rave, and inform. Weblogs have helped crank up the news cycle and made our personal info gluts worse. At the same time, they feed our insatiable need to know something–anything! The power of personal publishing unleashed vast amounts of creativity and knowledge. The last 10 years have been a wild, crazy ride. I can safely say my weblog changed my life.
In 1999, there wasn’t much of a “blogosphere.” In fact, neither that term nor “blog” had been invented yet. As early as then there were hundreds of weblogs collecting links to interesting websites and offering short bits of commentary. Did you ever hear of Robot Wisdom or Dave Winer’s Scripting News? With some exceptions these first generation weblogs were all about technology. (The more introspective and longer essays were more likely to be found on Live Journal which started in early-1999.)
I was reading these weblogs to satisfy my tech geek knowledge addiction. At some point in late-1999 I figured I could take the same format that these link curators were using to cover technology and the internet but do it for subjects I liked: politics; books; sports; and music. The initial theory for my weblog was I would use it to keep up on events, write a bit about them, then turn those embryonic ideas into longer op-eds I might be able to sell as a freelance writer. I got a few pieces into other online magazines, but that’s about it. What I failed to realize was the weblog itself soaked up so much of my creative energy.
When I wasn’t searching the web for stories to write about, I was working on maintaining the weblog itself. The first version of The American Mind (TAM) lived on Angelfire.com and wasn’t powered by any weblogging software. My publishing process was hand coding HTML into a text file and uploading it to Angelfire’s servers. There weren’t any comments and no permalinks. When a new month started I renamed the old month’s HTML file, put it into an archives folder, and created a link to it on TAM’s front page. Needless to say, I was very happy when I finally bought a domain name, some space on a web server, and started using Blogger–before it was eaten up by Google.
TAM eventually became powered by Movable Type and had its best-looking design in all its iterations. Now, TAM has WordPress under the hood while it’s visuals have seen better days.
Throughout the day I hope to post a few “best of” moments from TAM’s 10 years. If you want, dig through the archives in the sidebar and let the rest of us know what you find.
[image via The U.S. National Archives]