Reviving my old blog, and importing the old posts gave me a chance to look back at some of the old posts I made and the context in which they were written. My first recorded blog post was made on the 8th of March, 2004. Putting it into context Facebook was founded in February, 2004 (but remained student only until 2006), Twitter was founded in March, 2006, and GitHub in February, 2008 assuming my quick Google searches were right.
It would seem that Facebook has forgotten when I joined, but I remember being a PhD student and friends talking me into it but still only being allowed to sign up with a University email address. I think it was roughly 2005, and I remember how different it felt once it was opened up to the world. Twitter informs me I joined in June 2008 (I knew about it for far longer but was not convinced I would use it), and GitHub says I joined in December of 2008 (I use that a lot more but for coding mainly).
I joined Google+ when it was invitation only, and found that I liked it more than most of the others but it has always had trouble showing the numbers it needs. Between that, and writing in several other places I let my blog fall into a state of disrepair. More recently I have been thinking about why I started a blog, and whether I could make time for it again. It is great having so many places where I can write, but it is good having one that I can call my own. Somewhere where I can explore my own inner geek, and post stuff that doesn’t seem appropriate in some of those other places.
I have let a mixture of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn fill in that void for a while but I want more control. It is sad to see the web moving towards walled gardens, and away from open protocols. These services could disappear tomorrow, or lock me out, and even if they do let me download the data it won’t do me that much good. A blog is also a good place to hang your digital hat (I have been getting into hats recently) in more neutral territory that can outlive any individual platform.
RSS isn’t as widely used as it once was, but it enables open distribution, and there are new standards being developed that make content easier to share. I don’t think I am about to entirely withdraw from any of the social media platforms as they are a great way to stay in touch, and make new friends. I think I am going to spend less time on them, and invest more in my own blog, and more importantly those real-world interactions.
I remember when I first started blogging, and my PhD supervisor was worried because it could be dangerous for my career. I actually thought it over for a few years, and wasn’t convinced there would be many people interested in what I had to say. I head read that it was a good way to improve your writing skills, and communicate my work with a wider audience. Even back then, at the start of my PhD, I felt that we should be communicating our work more rapidly, more openly, and more widely. Back then the best way to get read was to be aggregated on a planet, or linked from various places, or from your RSS feed directly (I miss Google Reader that used to mix RSS with a little social).
I was lucky to grow up as blogs were new, Wikipedia informs me the late nineties was the dawn of blogging. I was a heavy user of Usenet before then, along with mailing lists, IRC, and all sorts of now ancient (in Internet years) technology. Joining the Gentoo, and later KDE community helped me learn a lot more about these online worlds, and how people collaborate in them at distance.