I've been thinking this week about why I blog. I didn't start this blog for the same reasons some others start blogs. It doesn't have a specific purpose such as like discussing cloth diapering or reviewing the latest episode of Lost. When I began this, I'd been using LiveJournal for about three years as part of a fairly closed community of "friends." I use the scare quotes because this group is an online community that grew out of participation in a usenet group. They are my online friends, although I am closer to some than others and there are several in the community who I consider real-life friends--our families get together, we've held each other's children, we manage to carve out a weekend together here and there even though we're scattered up and down the East Coast.
But anyway -- I had been LiveJournaling, but all my posts were locked and viewable only by this group because that's what felt safe. Eventually I noticed a few things. First, I wasn't really satisfied with the amount of control I had over what I did in LiveJournal. I wanted my postings to look a certain way, but I didn't want to have to be a programmer to do that. (Clue: I am not one with HTML, XML or any other ML.) I wanted something that felt more my own, rather than my own little chapter in the enormous LiveJournal book. I was also feeling a bit of, for lack of a better term, interest drift in the community. I do believe you can make meaningful connections with others online, and I realized that if I wanted to continue to do that, I needed to look beyond this closed community. Finally, I began to wonder what I might do differently if my audience was both limitless and unknown to me. What issues of privacy did that raise? What would I actually feel safer talking about in a different forum because of the norms that had developed in the closed community? (Some good, some not good in my opinion.) How does being public shift the conversation?
I began poking around and settled here at Typepad with this blog. I started it, played around with its appearance, and then stalled for a while, unsure about what I wanted to do or say. After a period of inactivity, I finally got my backside in gear and began an effort to update it with some semblance of regularity.
So that's what's been going on for a few years now. I'd stop and look up when I began this blog, but it's Saturday and I have laundry going and I'm just too lazy to open a new tab in Firefox. Let's just say it's been about three years. This has been a bit of a digital catch-all where I toss in things I want to remember, stories about daily life, bits of things that amuse or delight me, the occasional photo or two, and sometimes a complaint or opinion about current events. And while no one keeps a publicly accessible blog only for themselves, it is still more for my own benefit than anyone else's. I like having this different kind of record of my life. It's never going to be comprehensive (I shouldn't say "never," I know), but I like that it's this different representation of me that, added up with many other things, forms a sense of me. Not me exactly, but close enough, and everyone looking in is going to take away their own image of the sum of those parts, just like if someone met me in person they would carry me in their minds differently than I carry myself.
So what does all this mean? Why am I thinking about it? One reason is that I've been considering giving up LiveJournal (not reading, but posting there) entirely. Life moves and I have to make choices about where to invest my time, and it might eventually come down to a choice between this and that. Not sure how I feel about that. But the other reason is that we've been building on our blog at the firm where I work, and so I've been paying a lot more attention to things like how to generate traffic and how to foster an environment where a community can form. This is one clear area where I easily integrate work and life, because I can't have those discussions at work and not think about how they apply to the other parts of my life. What do I really want out of this blog? Do I want to try to generate more traffic? Do I have the time to invest in that? Do I want the headaches, like trolls and comment spam, that can go along with that? I look at what happened with Kathy Sierra and think that it's a scary world out here in the open, and maybe I'll just keep my head down. (Not that I have any interest in generating traffic that big or any belief that I could.) But there seems to be a lot more upside than down, and I think about all that I have to learn and gain (intellectual, not monetary gain) by doing my part to build community on the web. How would being a part of something bigger change me? How much more would I learn?
Notice I'm putting aside the nuts-and-bolts questions like "Just how do I do it?" and "What will I say?" I think that once I decide what I want, I'll figure out the rest and it'll either work or it won't. But it's the initial decision that is the important one.
As I turn this over in my mind, here are some things I know I am NOT going to do:
1. Stop talking about things like handbags or makeup or fun new music. I like these things - they can delight me. No apologies.
2. Start talking about things I don't care about. I'm not going to blog about whatever is hot just for the sake of getting others to read.
3. Avoid taking a stand on the issues I care about. Sometimes I shy away from issues because of their controversy and I end up only posting something about politics or current events when I'm really good and mad. Gotta stop doing that.
4. Write haiku. I still don't like it, remember?
So, where does this leave me? With a lot of questions -- 15 in this post alone. I guess I have some thinking to do. But the washing machine calls, so I need to stop thinking at the keyboard and start thinking while I put some laundry in the dryer and think about what to pack for tomorrow's trip.