This July will mark my tenth anniversary of blogging. For ten years, I've written at least one blog post every single weekday. That's a long time. I've written nearly 5,000 blog posts. I did it during leisurely mornings like this one, but also during times when I had two hours of sleep because of work and family obligations.
I'm not entirely sure why I blog. It really doesn't bring in much money. Sometimes I get aggravated. I suppose that I had proper reasons for blogging when I started, but those reasons are long forgotten. Now it's just a habit.
Blogging is a community effort when it's done best. It's a conversation between other bloggers and the peanut gallery. Between all of us, we've logged nearly 44,000 comments. 1.6 million unique pageviews and 2.9 million total hits. It's strange and nice to see so many people who started blogging ten years ago are still at it. Some do it only when inspiration strikes; others went pro. Some migrated to Twitter. And it's strange and nice to see that so many blog commenters have stuck around here for so many years.
What has all this blog writing and commenting done to us? It's an intense activity after all. It must have some impact.
Does blogging make us better writers? In some ways, yes. I can shoot out 500 words in less than fifteen minutes. My sentences are definitely better than they were even two years ago. I am better at picking topics that interest people. If you know that readers are showing up and looking for new content, you get stuff done. You finish things off and accept that imperfection is better than nothing.
On the other hand, blogging makes it difficult to write other things. A person only has so many words in them in one day. If you use up that quota on a blog, it is difficult to do other writing projects.
Also, blogging is a highly ADD activity. We careen from topic to topic. To write something that's worthy of publication, you need to plug away at the same topic for days at a time. You have to edit and re-edit and edit again. I may not be able to do that anymore.
And what about the conversations? If you are a regular reader on this blog, I assume that you are also participating in conversations on other blogs as well. You're also probably participating in similar chatter on Twitter and Facebook. What has this conversation done to us?
You all know that you're not regular people, right? People who participate in online political conversations are more educated and more political active than the regular population. I think we're in our own little bubbles, not necessarily organized by ideology, but bubbles of intellectual privilege. Sometimes after there's a big hoopla going on the Internet about the topic of the day, I'll call a real life friend and ask her what she thinks about the hoopla topic. It's a nice little reality check for me, because I'll realize that most people don't know about the hoopla topic and really don't care.
There are also many little surprising gifts that have come from blogging. Virtual friends have become real friends. People gave me support when things were rough or helped out professionally. Now, I'm going to become all weepy and sentimental, so I'm going to walk away from this post. Because in the blogging world, a rough, sloppy, sentimental conclusion is okay.
My twitterfeed was a buzz yesterday with news about the pope and the demise of Google reader. I'll deal with the pope in a moment. Google's decision to ax Google Reader is much more pressing to us lowly bloggers. A great deal of the readers of Apt. 11D come here because of Google Reader. That's how I read other bloggers, who don't have the time or the inclination to publicize their work on Twitter. What's an independent, unaffiliated blogger to do?
Well, there are some RSS alternatives and some promise for tech starts ups who want to fill the gap. But probably the best move for all bloggers is to use Twitter more effectively. It is now the best way to reach your readers now that Google Reader is gone, and it helps increase your SEO.
I don't use Twitter enough to publicize this blog, because many of my blog posts are just quickie items that are meant for the regular readers. I'm also a slacker blogger who fits this activity into the gaps in the schedule. But I suppose it is time to change.
Follow me on Twitter at @laura11d. If you're a blogger, please put your twitter name in the comment section, so I can follow you.
My brother is an old-style print journalist. He works for a regional print newspaper that serves the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. His job hasn't changed much in the past twenty years. In fact, his job isn't very different from the way that journalism has worked for sixty years.
Chris and his editor decide on the article topics for the week. He goes to meetings. He talks to local officials. People call him to tell him local gossip. He goes to crash sites. He visits the growing conservative Jewish community to hear about their conflict with the old-time locals. He writes things up at the end of the day using the traditional journalism format of ledes and clean, sparse prose. Any opinions that he might have about a topic are hidden away.
I called him during the week to vent about the state of digital journalism. He didn't know anything about the discussion on the Internet about journalism, because he NEVER reads Twitter or blogs. He doesn't even have a Facebook account.
Digital journalism is another beast from the journalism that Chris does. Most of the job happens in front of a computer screen -- monitoring hit counts, reading the gossip on the Internet, figuring out the next hot topic, turning a new study into a short, graphic article, writing as much as possible in the hopes that one of the articles/posts will go viral, and nurturing the article on social media to nudge those hit counts upwards.
Ezra Klein thinks that expert bloggers have undermined traditional journalism, because the sources now have their own medium. They don't have to wait for that phone call from the journalist. They can go to their own blogs to get their research and opinions heard. Or they can get a free gig at a digital journal that still has the reputation from its print days.
I think that Klein has part of the story. I made that same point in a comment section on another blog last week. There's more going on than that.
In the meantime, it's good news that old-style journalism still exists. It's still happening at the local, regional newspapers, which are surprisingly thriving. There is a demand for this kind of news, at least on the local level. Why are national papers and journals not able to replicate this success?
I've been writing freelance articles for the Atlantic for the past year and would like to continue to do so. Therefore, I have to be very measured in this post. Actually, I probably shouldn't say anything and just link to others.
Freelance writing does not lead to great riches. Freelance anything doesn't lead to great riches right now. My best friend is a freelance book editor, and she's had to scramble quite a bit in the past couple of years.
My advice? It's worth writing for little money, if you get something else out of the deal. For me, I've learned a ton about writing for a mainstream audience and gotten some street cred, so it's been worthwhile. If you already have street cred and really need cash, then you have to get a staff position at one of the many online news sources. They are hiring and expanding.
Education is changing in a million different ways right now. When big change happens, there are winners and losers. The trouble is that I can't easily identify who's who. I'm not sure where it's all going.
This year, however, the babes were out in force. At the Chinese phonemaker ZTE, they wore white fur and flesh-colored heels over silver sheath dresses; one stood by the door of a tiny room, luring showgoers in to dance around in front of a green screen that demonstrated a new video technology. At xi3's booth, women in black catsuits and heavy eye makeup explained the virtues of their employer's compact servers over pounding hip-hop. Some of the babes aren’t even stationed at booths, instead roaming around in guerrilla bands promoting products.
From time to time, I check out the google search terms and phrases that lead people to my blog. It's a glimpse into the soul. What questions do people plug into the modern oracle of Dephi? Some of their questions are repulsive. Others are painful.
I feel most for those who plug in questions about autism. "Why Won't My Kid Talk" "What Should I Do When My Kid Screams?" Seven years ago, I was one of those people. I didn't know what was going on with Ian and neither did the doctors or his teachers. So, I turned to the Internet for help. But even the Internet wasn't that helpful. The current medicial defintions of autism were useless. The chatrooms were full of hysteria and misinformation.
My next post is going to be for the random google searchers. I usually ignore them. I don't SEO my webpages. I would rather have a small community of regular, informed readers, than a larger audience of One Time Charlies. But I have a soft spot for confused parents. I'll SEO the crap out of the page and hopefully, it will help someone.