Ten years of blogging: looking back

It’s been ten years since I decided to add a blog to my website, and I don’t think then that I expected to still be blogging ten years later. Yet here I still am still plugging away and still with a loyal band of readers who hang on my every word can’t be bothered to go through with the faff of deleting me from their feeds.

However, while I’m still blogging, the look back I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks has shown me that what we mean by ‘blogging’ has changed a lot over that time. For those of you who don’t know, ‘blog’ originates from ‘web log’, and the original blogs were essentially lists of links the blogger had found, occasionally with some added commentary. By the time I started blogging that had already begun to shift in favour of blogs being much more about the content than the links, but you can still see in my early archives that longer posts were interspersed with lots of ‘here’s an interesting link’ posts.

It’s important to remember how different things were back then – there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube and even MySpace didn’t start until a few months after I started blogging. Most people were going online via dial-up and most phones didn’t have cameras on them, let alone the ability to connect to the internet. And, of course, all this were fields, we had to get up two hours before we go to sleep and everyone respected each other in the morning.

The point I’m trying to make is that while I’ve had a blog throughout that time, the way I’ve used that blog has changed considerably. After all, if I just want to show people an interesting link or make a quick snarky comment about something, then I’ve got Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus to do that. A blog post now is something longer and (supposedly) more thought through. Indeed, I think the blog itself is much more fragmented than it was ten years ago. Back then, you tended to visit someone’s blog by going to the main page and looking through all their latest posts, now visits and links are much more to individual posts rather than the site as a whole.

The changing nature of the web has also broken down the sense of a community of blogs. Or ‘blogosphere’, which is a term that’s fallen out of favour. There’s a lot of my early posts which are on the lines of ‘in response to what X said, commenting on Y’s post about Z’s article in the Observer’ (and X and Y’s blogs have since disappeared from the web, of course) and in that sense, blogs were an early form of the public conversation that’s now moved to Twitter. In that period before the 2005 election, there was also a sense of blogs not being as partisan as they became afterwards. Sure, there were some people who seemed to be only interested in scoring party-political points, but they were in a minority with the more important division being whether you were for or against invading Iraq. I think some of that was down to the rarity of British political bloggers, though – because there were so few of us around, it was in most people’s interests to maintain good relations. As blogging grew, and little like-minded bubbles could support themselves, things became much more fragmented.

For those first couple of years, blogging was still very much a niche activity, and like a lot of internet niches then, it didn’t really interact with the wider world around it. Despite the initial idea of blogging being about finding interesting stuff and sharing it with people (the Netscape What’s New and What’s Cool lists were amongst the first blogs in form, if not in name) it became quite self-referential, with people sticking in their little bubbles and occasionally letting new people into them, but never taking more than a glance at the other bubbles they were floating alongside.

In some senses, of course, the blog won the internet. Twitter, Facebook and all the rest are, at their heart, ways of sharing content and making a log of things you’ve found on the web. However, the name of blogging remains attached to just one element of that, which has now almost entirely shed its original reason for existence. Who reads a blog for the links instead of the content nowadays?

On a personal level, it’s been very interesting to go back through these posts catching the little references to things I was doing, and remember where I was at certain points in time. It’s odd to think that I’ve had this blog in its various forms for about a quarter of my life, and it doesn’t show any signs of disappearing just yet.

So, to all those of you who’ve visited here over the last ten years, whether you’ve been coming here regularly since I started or you’re just here because Google sent you and this post has none of the information you wanted, thank you for reading, commenting, linking and sharing the things I’ve done over the last ten years. It’s been fun, it’s been interesting, it’s put me in touch with people I never would have met otherwise and information I’d never have known about, and has also justified a number of visits to various pubs, which have definitely been worthwhile.

And I promise to try and wait ten more years before doing another series of long retro posts.

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