Five Years of Blogging

This blog’s fifth anniversary recently passed. I posted my first entry here on May 28th, 2003, and it’s been an interesting ride ever since. (When I started this blog, I had no intention of ever becoming a web developer. Then I fell in love with web standards and web authoring, and now it’s my profession.)

People routinely ask me, “Why do you blog?” Sometimes they get really honest and come right out and say, “Aren’t you worried about privacy?” Privacy is definitely something I think about and feel strongly about. I’ve been reading (and listening) to Cory Doctorow’s new book Little Brother lately, and it has certainly brought privacy issues to the forefront of my mind. But at least with this blog, I get to choose what’s private and what’s not. That’s not a lack of privacy, that’s perfect privacy: controlled by the individual about whom the information is kept.

There are several reasons I blog. Lemme ‘splain it.

  • Recording personal history. This is probably the biggest reason of them all. This blog is a digital heirloom that I will pass on to my children and my children’s children, on and on forever. It won’t take much room to store: the contents of the entire database with all my entries and all the comments from you folks is currently only 3.1 MB in size. If you add all the photos, movies, and other random bits of junk, it inflates to 350 MB. However, in the year 2070, that’ll be nothing. (You can already fit 4 GB of data under your tongue.) Yes, I really do expect these writings to last that long and far longer. I wish I had journals and writings (or English translations of them since I don’t speak German or Swedish) from my ancestors in 1900 or even 1800. I might not read every word they said, but I would be fascinated to hear the kinds of things they cared about. I want to know what they believed, what motivated them, and what they learned. If those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, why would I want to allow my ancestors to be in that pointlessly-repeating crowd? The fact that I’m recording this also inspires me to not live a forgettable life. We’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, many of whom we’ll never meet.
  • Communicating with the world. The “personal history” reason above could be served just as well with me typing into text files on my hard drive and saving them online somewhere. So why make it an easily-accessible blog with a comments system and a Google sitemap? I do this because I love conversing with you all. I’ve been criticized in the past for being “in the comments” too much. At the time of this writing, this blog has had 2,646 comments from readers, and judging by a quick-and-dirty MySQL query, about 22% of them are written by me. I’m not just here taking your comments in silently. I’m responding and conversing. You’ve all taught me a lot through our conversations, and now, you’re all a part of my digital heirloom too. Thank you.
  • I ♥ the Intertubes. It’s true. I absolutely love authoring on an instantaneous worldwide platform. I love it so much I left my previous line of work (project management with a little web authoring when time allowed) and decided to make websites full-time. I don’t write these entries in WordPress’s “Visual Editor” thingy. I open up an XHTML document in TextMate. I like it that way. I don’t know why. Don’t try to sell me on MarsEdit. It’s cool, but I don’t want it. I’m not trying to be efficient, I’m trying to enjoy myself, and XHTML is fun, even if it’s simple. Aside from loving the code, I love having a distribution platform on which I can write creatively, release whatever kind of art or thoughts I want, and know that my good friends will see it. It encourages me to create.

Thanks for taking this ride with me. Here’s to five more years.

Upgrading to WordPress: the Good, the Blog, and the Ugly

WordPress 2.5 was released about a week ago, and it looked absolutely delicious to me. Seriously, I salivated. I was using Movable Type at the time, but it was extremely old (Perhaps four or five years old! Software! Web software!) because I had neglected to upgrade it. I should also point out that, having worked for years in a group whose sole purpose was to facilitate the updating of software, this is the height of irony. And yet I trudged along with MT 2.64 (or whatever) for years.

May I tell you what I’m getting out of this upgrade? Please? That would make me happy. Note that these aren’t necessarily new things in WordPress 2.5, they’re just new to me in terms of blogging software. These are mostly older ideas.

  • Blogging via email. I did this post almost entirely from an email message! It’s like the blog software just disappears and I’m just writing email. That means I’ll probably post more frequently, and it’s more likely I’ll do so while I’m on the road or away from a regular computer. I can do email on the iPhone just fine, but I don’t want to write 500 words in a textarea in Safari Touch.
  • Akismet spam blocking. Anyone who followed my old comments feed knows that while I often crowed about blocking so many thousand comment spams, quite a few still got through every day. For every fifty I would block, five or ten would sneak through and hang out for half an hour before I noticed and removed them. Still, I’m not one of those people who wants to moderate every comment and only show comments I approve. This is the Internet. It’s supposed to be a little Wild West. That’s a strength, not a weakness. I want you all to be able to have a little comment party with each other when I’m not around. I can’t do that if I’m playing monitor. I’m hoping the algorithmic brain in Akismet will work its magic so I won’t have to, and we can all feel satisfied knowing our comments are published immediately.
  • Friendlier archive URLs. When my tracking software tells me someone went to /archives/001545.php, what does that tell me? Nothing. That’s what. And that URL doesn’t tell you anything either. But if I see someone visited /2008/03/26/bus-etiquette/, I know exactly what that is. And so do you. It’s nice.
  • The rotating tag line is back. See, up there at the top? Yeah. Don’t get too attached: it could disappear just as easily. Just enjoy it for a little while. Also, it doesn’t change every time you reload the page. It’s something like every 5 minutes. So don’t drive yourself nuts. Just read early and read often.
  • No more “rebuilding.” Movable Type 2.whatever always made me rebuild my blog. Perhaps because it was created before the widespread dissemination of PHP and MySQL on small-time hosts? I don’t know. Either way, rebuilding is a dead concept. Yay!
  • A huge plugin repository. If I want to augment the functionality of my blog in any way, it’s likely someone else has already written it, and it’s up there now. Sometimes the quality isn’t what you’d want, but it’s all open source, so I can geek out on the code and fix it if that’s needed.

The design you’re seeing on this blog (shown here for posterity) is temporary. It’s really just a half-hearted attempt to get things looking somewhat normal (without looking identical to the default, that is) before I have time to redesign the thing. Hang in there. I don’t like the way it looks now, but I’ll be making tweaks over the coming weeks, and steering it towards where I want it to be. I’ll keep the archives and search functionality this time.

Enjoy! And thanks for reading.