I’ve had some kind of public presence on the Internet since the mid 1990s, but the first website of mine that I ever intentionally directed people to was on a service called GeoCities. GeoCities was like the MySpace of its day – it seemed like all the ugliest personal webpages were on GeoCities, but was somehow one of the top 5 most popular sites on the net. Then it was taken over by a mainstream site, Yahoo!, and languished until this year when (ten years after they bought it) Yahoo! announced they were shutting GeoCities down.
Some would say good riddance. However, in about two months, this link to my very own ugly personal webpage will stop working. It’s a little sad. And the news that it will be gone from the interwebs is a little sad, too. But, to be honest, I moved on from GeoCities long ago, and a website or two later, have been running a blog on my own domain since 2006.
Anyway, with this nostalgic thought in my mind, I started to reflect on why exactly was I running a blog. I don’t really consider myself a “blogger”. I’m not doing this to develop material for a book, generate advertising income, build a global readership, or promote my company / my product / myself. As this is a personal site, my reasons are personal.
Firstly, my immediate family is spread over four cities (the others are more than 2,000kms away from here), and my friends are dispersed even wider. I write a blog (and use services like Flickr and Facebook) as a way to reach out to them. If they were here with me in person, I would happily chat to them about any of the things that I’ve written on my blog. I hope they are reading, although in reality most probably aren’t. They are the main audience.
Secondly, I enjoy indulging in a regular creative process. I’m not coding much these days, or doing any singing, so it’s nice to be able to sit down, about once a week, and simply write. Some of my blog posts, I’ve recycled into speeches or used the blog as a sounding board for ideas that I’ve had. The act of writing something down helps crystalise it. Also, having created something is its own joy – the world now has something in it that it didn’t have before. Some of my obscure posts (such as my IKEA hinge one) have been read by people I’ve never heard of, and I like to think that maybe they have been helped by the existence of those posts.
Lastly, the whole blog itself is an experiment and a way for me to learn about the technologies behind blogging. As someone working in technology, I want to stay current with important web technologies. Hence, I’ve developed a blog plugin for writing reviews using a technology called microformats, and added plugins to the blog for OpenID, advertising, analytics, and Twitter. As new technologies emerge, I will probably try them out on here somewhere.
Given the above, I don’t expect that I’ll be doing anything like giving up the blog for Facebook. I enjoy blogging, and I know there are others who do also.
However, it’s not something I do freely, with wild abandon. The fact that my ugly site of ten year’s ago can still be retrieved from the Internet Archive serves to illustrate that words on the web can be considered permanent. I am forced to recognise that future friends, employers, colleagues and even my own child can one day retrieve anything I’ll write, if they so wish.
Hopefully in ten year’s time, I won’t be so embarrassed by the content on my website. But if history’s anything to go by, it’s rather likely.