The scene: A recently retired journalist sits at the breakfast table near a tall window providing a view of snow-white tree blossoms and traffic of all types — pedestrian, bicyclists and motorists — on the residential street below. One sip of lukewarm coffee remains in the writer’s mug, a souvenir from a 2010 road trip. The writer is wearing freshly laundered pajama bottoms.
The occasion: Seven years ago this month, the writer launched a blog called Rough and Rede. He had been hired to teach a weekend college course titled “Opinion and the Blogosphere” and it seemed only logical that he should have a blog of his own — a place where he could tackle topics of his own choosing and point to it during class as an example of the power of web publishing, where anyone with a computer keyboard, an internet connection and blogging software could post text, photos and videos at will.
The upshot: That initial endeavor, powered by Blogger, was laid to rest at the end of 2013. In its place arose Rough and Rede II, enabled by WordPress, a publishing tool offering an updated design with a new font and larger photographs. Since January 2014, Rough and Rede II has published 385 posts, which as of this moment have garnered 37,614 views and 21,812 visitors — from 92 countries — plus 884 comments.
Technical issues with blogspot.com prevent a recap of similar statistics for the original R&R, but it’s safe to say it notched more than 800 posts and likely more than 1,000 comments from March 2009 to December 2013.
Why put time and effort into a single-author blog that hops, skips and jumps across various subjects rather than provide a deep dive into a single-interest topic?
Why bother if it’s not meant to produce income?
Hell, does anyone even anyone blog anymore?
Seven years of doing any one activity provides perspective. Seven years of maintaining a personal blog — a web log of things I’ve seen, felt, heard, thought about and tried to figure out — provides a digital archive of things I’ve experienced and shared, not knowing who would come across them or what, if anything, would spark a connection or interest.
Before blogging became a thing, I filled several journals with musings long ago forgotten. Even if I were to go back and visit them, the scrawl would probably be unreadable, owing to my steadily deteriorating handwriting. But I suppose the takeaway there is that I’ve always enjoyed writing. For years, I put my thoughts down on paper. Now it’s easier with a keyboard and a computer screen.
But where my old journals were a solitary thing — who else but me would read them? — blogging has become a way to engage with family and friends, regular followers, occasional readers and one-off visitors. I enjoy that connection. I’ve exchanged comments and emails not just with people I know, but with fellow bloggers in different parts of the country.
I’ve also enjoyed stepping aside to invite other people to share their experiences and perspectives as guest bloggers. Some of these contributors are professional writers but most are everyday folks taking the opportunity to share an interest or an insight.
Five years running, these guest blog posts have been aggregated into the annual Voices of August, where they’ve been widely read and shared. Lately, they’ve been replayed too, thanks to the introduction of a Friday Flashback feature that allows me to dip into the VOA archive.
As I look back on my own posts, I am delighted by the range of topics and the permanence of the blog — and the realization that it captures the people, places and things that matter most to me.
I’ve written about my career — the challenges, rewards and many transitions that marked my final years at The Oregonian/OregonLive — and initial adjustment to early retirement.
I’ve written about travel — Italy and Slovenia, Santa Barbara, Silver City, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Oaxaca and, most of all, Orcas Island.
I’ve written about entertainment in all its forms — books, movies, sporting events and concerts– as well as favorite authors, actors, athletes and musicians.
I’ve written about culture and politics — most memorably with the pride I felt the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the land.
I’ve written about our pets — Otto, Charlotte and Mabel, as well our beloved Max and Rudy, no longer with us.
I’ve written about death — about the important work of The Dougy Center, and the passing of my mother and the complicated relationship I had with her.
And I’ve written about family milestones — not just college graduations, marriages. anniversaries and the anticipation of our first grandchild, but also those four years that our youngest son served in the U.S. Army. We saw him graduate from basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia; worried about him as he moved from base to base; held our breath as he deployed to Afghanistan; and then celebrated as he returned safely to the Northwest.
Going back and re-reading any of these posts gives me great satisfaction in reliving those thoughts, feelings and images. Revisiting the content reminds me of moments I’ve treasured, friends I’ve made, insights I’ve gained, perspectives I’ve appreciated.
Before social media changed everything, Rough and Rede no doubt had a smaller audience.
These days, anyone who uses Facebook essentially is a blogger. The world’s most popular social media platform makes it easy, giving anyone the ability to hop on and post text and visuals. The result: a non-stop fire hose of information, where short posts and links to other content are the norm. A post of this length would never see the light of day on Facebook and that’s fine.
But linking to my blog’s URL from Facebook undoubtedly has made it easier to broaden its reach. Just as news organizations rely on Google and various social media sites, Facebook has become essential for sharing content. It’s gratifying to see people react on Facebook but the tradeoff has been a drop in comments left on individual blog posts. Can’t do much about that.
As I lurch forward with another year of blogging, I take comfort in knowing I’ve persisted when so many others have not.
It’s hard to get a handle on the number of blogs worldwide. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 173 million in 2011 down to 152 million in 2013. Many of them are dormant, quickly abandoned after a few weeks or months. According to worldometers.com, roughly 2 million blog posts are written each day.
And who is it that blogs?
According to Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report:
- Two-thirds of bloggers are male.
- 65% are age 18-44.
- Bloggers are more affluent and educated than the general population:
- 79% have college degrees / 43% have graduate degrees
- 1/3 have a household income of $75K+
- 1/4 have a household income of $100K+
- 81% have been blogging more than 2 years.
Other fun facts: The highest concentration of U.S. bloggers are found in California (15%), New York (8%) and Texas (6%).
And, finally, a stereotype-busting factoid from The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who painstakingly calculated that only 3.7 percent of bloggers might be living in their parents’ basements.
Let the record show that I might wear PJs when I blog, but at least I’ve above ground and most often composing my posts in natural light.
Word cloud: domain.me
VW photo: Krystina Wentz-Graff