Why I Started a Tumblr

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m pretty conservative and behind-the-times when it comes to trying out new technology and online services. I created my first blog in 2003 on LiveJournal, only to discover that everyone I knew had been using it for a few years. I moved to WordPress in 2006 and have been using it ever since for my blog. I tested Facebook out when it launched (back before it was publicly available) and didn’t think it was all that exciting or would go anywhere. I never got into MySpace. Admittedly, I’ve had my Twitter account for quite some time, but I only signed up for Instagram a short while ago.

I think about these things, and try to find a use-case for my life before signing up. I might test something out, but it really needs to fit a niche that isn’t being met by another service. And much to my surprise, Tumblr is fitting into my set of online tools really nicely.

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My Feedly Doth Overflow

In an interesting turn of events, though it may not be interesting to anyone but me, Christian Blogging has become commonplace. Krista linked to this page, on which she is featured, and I realized that blogs are very much a Thing now.

I know what you’re thinking. “Matthew, blogs are old. This isn’t news. Where the hell have you been?”

Let me take you back in time, dear reader, back when blogs were new. Back before WordPress existed. Back when the Internet began to show signs of what it would become when the Eternal September began, and when AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy became our means of seeing honest to god graphics and pictures and blink tags. I was online around 1998, and have been active in only the way someone from my generation can be, by which I mean we think of being on the Internet as something distinct from, say, breathing, or eating, or going to work. Mine is the last generation to grow up in the United States without the ubiquity of the Internet, when every office wasn’t necessarily connected, and you had to go out of your way to interact with others via the tubes that connect us.

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National November Blogging Month

This blog has been pretty vacant for a while, so you may not have browsed it much. You may not have visited the About page to learn that I don’t really write much anymore. You may not have read some of the older entries from a year or two ago in which I struggled with college, work, and writing.

Let me sum it up: I used to fancy myself a writer, and starting in high school I took writing kind of seriously. Not serious enough to practice at it, but I certainly wrote a lot even if I didn’t craft it to the extent I should have. I had a few things published in very low-end anthologies, I blogged a lot, and I finally began learning to not make basic, amateurish mistakes once my college professors started tearing apart the things I called sentences.

Writing was something I had to do. I wasn’t happy, and writing didn’t make me happy, but it made me happier than I would have otherwise been. It was a creative outlet in an uncreative life. It was something I could control and own.

And then I became truly happy. I met April and stopped writing poetry. I got a good job and stopped writing altogether, at least during my personal time. I lack the interest and passion to craft fiction. I just don’t care enough to write poetry. I think that I have some thoughts and feelings I could share, but I prefer just talking with friends and with April about those rather than blogging about them.

Thus ends the summary. This blog post is to communicate that I think this may be changing. I have to include words like “think” because I’m not entirely positive, but I’ve had this simmering feeling inside for a little over a year now that started around the time the current election cycle began. I can’t call that feeling “discontent,” because it’s less passive and more angry. I can’t call it fury or rage because… well, let me unpack this a bit.

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Can you deliver?

An interesting discussion has taken place over at scraplab about “delivering.” Whether it’s a program or a book, we deliver when we put something out for public consumption. We’ve taken our baby and sent it out into the big, scary world, and now it has to stand on its own. Or, as might very well be the case, fall on its own.

  1. you’ve either shipped or you haven’t
  2. Shipping news
  3. greys

The second entry is a response on another person’s blog to the first one in the list. In this exchange, they talk about deliverables, and then about journalism/news. What about blogging?

Blogging seems insignificant next to a newspaper, though there are certainly blogs with larger readerships than many newspapers. Either way, both have to keep feeding the press, coming up with new words and putting them together for hungry readers. We still deliver, but I like how number 2 up there puts it:

It’s not that the media critics have never shipped, it’s that they do so much shipping they’ve stopped caring about product like anyone else would.

I still get a bit of nervousness when I publish something I’ve written, even though I publish something most every day. There’s a vulnerability inherent in putting words into the database, formatting that for public consumption, and sending it out into the world. Will anyone notice? Will anyone care? How many will hate or like this thing in which I have invested myself?

Some people point at the current state of writing as “the death of literature.” When everyone writes, can anyone be called a Writer? And if everyone is a Writer, is there anything special in it? If everyone is published, is it worth “being published?”

The shift is this: if anything, there is greater emphasis on writing for the self than for others, because in the great noise that is the Internet, it is becoming increasingly rare for others to notice that we deliver.

If no one notices, does it still matter? I dare say it does.

First encounter with the Springfield Blogger’s Association

Though I had visited the Springfield Blogger’s Association a couple of years ago with Ryan (it’s crazy to think that much time has passed!), I’ve never made it to another meeting. It seems like I’ve always got something going on Monday nights, or at least I’m exhausted from a hard Monday at work, but I went tonight. Since I no longer have class on Tuesday/Wednesday nights, I didn’t feel as pressured to have Monday night off, and with the topic of discussion this month being statistics and analytics, I thought I might have something to add to the conversation.

It was a great two and a half hours of talk about stats and the means to gather them, how traffic will affect site performance, different content management systems one might use, genealogy, and  food. Talking about it, not eating–we were at Patton Alley Pub, and while they have some great stuff, I settled for just a Bass and the good company.

I enjoyed finally meeting Sarah Jo and Teresa, who I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere in the last two years but never met in person, as well as some new people I hope to speak more with in the future such as Nigel. Looking forward to next month’s meeting and some new additions to my RSS feed!

Trying to blog during PAX

So far my days and nights have been packed, so it’s been hard to keep up with writing about PAX. At this time, I’ve got all my photos thus far uploaded, titled/tagged/described, and blogged about, and I’m hoping to get one more post written either tonight or tomorrow morning about PAX Day 2. The photo side is far more time consuming than the writing side, which I guess is to be expected, but I want to do this right so I’ve been giving it a decent amount of attention and effort.

Right now I’m about to run out the door to hit the Ultimate Dungeon Delve, which is a Wizards of the Coast event in which we participate in a series of Dungeons & Dragons encounters. An encounter is essentially a combat event, and in this case it is timed at 45 minutes. If we can finish and survive it in that amount of time, we go on to the next encounter. And then the next. There are five or six in all, and if we make it to the end we get a book and our names in the hall of fame.

PAX has been freaking fantastic so far and it just keeps getting better. Stay tuned for more details, both photographic and descriptive, about the awesomeness that is this weekend!

What are you saying?

I’m a big proponent of writing what you want to write. As a blogger who is somewhat obsessed with optimization and statistics, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to write for the audience, putting out what I think people want to read, but I do what I can to quell this internal pressure and Ryan occasionally hits me with a reality check that sets me straight. Instead, I try to worry less about you all (sorry, but it’s true) and focus more on what interests me. If I’m not enjoying myself, what I write will be crap, so no one would want to read it anyways.

That being said, I can sometimes be a bit paradoxical when examining other people’s blogs. Though I whole-heartedly believe that people should write what they want, do what they enjoy, and generally not bother listening to blowhards like me, I look at some blogs and think, “Why?”

My confusion arises primarily out of cognitive dissonance, where I expect one thing but am seeing another, like if you found a parrot that wears an eye-patch yet speaks fluent and beautiful Italian. As a more on-topic example, I usually experience this confusion when I find a professional (in any field) who has started a blog. They generally dip their toes into social networking sites, getting a Facebook account and probably posting updates to Twitter. Since they’re a bona fide professional in their field, I expect them to love what they do and to express that, subsequently seeking out others who share their love. Instead, all of these messages they’re posting are usually just self-promotion as the professional monologues about whatever it is they’re doing and then says, “Look! Look at how awesome I am!”

The problem is that a lot of professionals in a wide variety of fields have approached social media and networking tools as just another type of hammer they can slip into their rusty tool belt, not realizing that this is something else entirely. Rather than joining a conversation about a subject they enjoy, these bloggers are usually just trying to get their numbers higher, secure more readers, and do whatever they can to claw their way to a bit of legitimacy. I feel like they view the web as just a digital newspaper: We post it, and people will read it because we posted it.

What I’m getting at is that while you should do what you want, maybe you should take a long, hard look at what you want and make sure what you’re doing meets those goals. If you’re a professional, someone who loves what they do, but all you do on your blog is talk about what you did… you’re not communicating that love to me. I’d think that you’d instead be more interested in connecting with other people who love what you do and having new conversations on the subject, collaborating on new discussions rather than continually referencing old work. When I see a professional who just points at their own site and isn’t carrying on a conversation, I tune them out. They aren’t communicating that love to me, and if they don’t love what they do (enough to invest in actually networking and conversing with others), then whatever they’re doing is probably crap and not worth my attention.

What are you saying with your Twitter messages, your Facebook status, your blog entries and YouTube videos? Are you creating new things to share, joining new conversations, and investing in what you love and other people? Or are you just saying, “Look! Look at me!”?

Signs that you’re doing it wrong:

  • You don’t reply to comments on your blog, Twitter, et. al.
  • You only update your blog every few months (which, while not necessarily bad, makes me wonder why you bother to have a blog… maybe a newsletter would work better?)
  • Conversely, you update multiple times a day/week with links to articles you’ve read (skimmed… or read the title of), but no analysis or original thought
  • You follow a billion people on Twitter and don’t read any of them
  • You spend a lot of time thinking, “What would people like to read?”
  • You don’t strive for original thought, instead electing to copy/paste or just repeat what others have already written (For instance, I might recommend that instead of, “New version of Ubuntu is out with these features: [copy/paste],” you shoot for, “I installed the new version of Ubuntu and liked X and Y but am not sure about Z because of [original thought].”)
  • You don’t read any other blogs

Please understand that this isn’t all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be. And there are always exceptions to these rules (such as popular and incredibly busy authors who don’t have time to reply to the thousands of messages they receive each day). But I think we can all remember a time when we looked at someone’s blog and just thought, “Why? What is the point of this?”

If the blogger is enjoying themselves, fine. I’d call that good. But if this is just a job for them and they’re just out to get their readership higher, chances are it’s not going to work. You’ve got to get the love first, and then the money will follow. If all you’re trying to do is get money though, you’ll never get any love, and your selfish motivation is going to come through in your interactions (or lack thereof) with people to the extent that they’ll just ignore you.