December 2017

How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?

As a person of certain age, I’ve had the privilege and misfortune to watch several ‘booms’ and ‘busts’. One significant one was, of course, was the dot-com boom, which I watched unfold much like watching a car fire on the highway – you could not look away. I was fortunate that at that time I had a full-time job, and the crash that followed did not affect me as much as others in my field.

Shortly after the dust settled, I went freelance full-time. The story of how I got there would make a great post on its own, but let’s just say one day I was employed, the next day I was working the phones and email in my basement office drumming up freelance clients. I suffered a few blows those early years. 9/11, for example, really took the wind out of my sails. I went from making a decent monthly salary with a stable of awesome clients…to making only $50 in the entire month of January. I survived, and like everyone else rebounded. But after that, there was always this underlying feeling of “What will I do if this happens again?” I learned the hard way that in times of crisis, the marketing gets cut first. The so-called experts tell you that’s not the smartest move, but try explaining that to a guy whose business is on fire. Is he going to keep the guy that makes the widgets or keep the guy that makes the ads? It’s an easy decision, especially when you’re trying to make payroll. It was those feelings that got me started on the exploration of multiple streams of income. How can I insulate myself and my family if the shit hits the fan once more?

Hey, Lets Start a Blog!
In the early 2000’s you could actually make money from banner ads. All you had to do was ‘monetize the eyeballs’, and you’d be carrying wheelbarrows full of cash to the bank! This was the era of the ‘celebrity blogger’: Jason Kottke, Heather Armstrong, Andrew Sullivan, Derek Powazek, among many others.

The money was there: Jason Calacanis started Weblogs, Inc. and sold to AOL for $25 million. Tech Crunch reportedly was at one point raking in 3.5 mil a year.
I thought, why can’t I be a part of this? I’m smart, I can handle this, I know things! I knew enough about WordPress to hurt myself and I most certainly knew how to string a few sentences together. How hard could it be? I even approached a few friends about starting a blog network: “We’ll have dozens of sites! We’ll make a fortune!” I started a web development blog, a food blog, a humor blog – even a blog with daily inspirational quotes. And there are others that I’m sure I’ve blocked from my memory. The point is, it’s much harder and takes way more time than you can even imagine just to make one successful blog, let alone a dozen. You need to dedicate time to research, write, design, craft SEO, and code the post. And even after that, it’s not very likely anyone would even want to read the drivel you posted. You could theoretically spend half a week of billable hours ‘working on your blog’ and not see any return on your time investment. That’s where I got it wrong. I thought you could just post and post and post and the audience would come. The problem was, back in the early days, everyone else was doing this too. The gold rush was on and to compete you had to have good, consistent content to attract any kind of meaningful audience. And even then, you might not see a return.

At that time, I had a young son and a mortgage and a car payment, so I had little breathing room to work on my ‘blog empire’. I decided that my best ROI for my time was to sell my design and consulting services. It was more consistent, and I knew that whatever I was working on, I’d get paid. The blogging empire died on the vine, and so did the blogs.

The gold rush came and went. Socal media took over, microblogging via Twitter and Facebook became the norm. Blogs still exist for news and business, but now we consume information with a firehose, that’s why Facebook and Twitter succeed. Video is easier to consume, that’s why YouTube wins. Why read a blog when I can scan through hundreds of cat photos on Tumblr? The days of reading some blowhards 800-word thesis on why he hates Kale is over. There are some exceptions, of course. John Gruber is still churning out his very thoughtful Apple rants on Daring Fireball. I enjoy Austin Kleons blog. These are guys that put out consistent, focused content.

But those examples are now few and far between. The era of the personal blog has faded away.

Which brings us here. I committed in Q4 207 to write more. I’d gone through periods where I’d write every day, only then to see weeks of blank journal pages after. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy it, it’s because I didn’t make it a habit. So, since November I’ve committed to writing at least 750 words every morning. And there’s a side benefit. Journaling each day is good for you! There’s something therapeutic about dumping your brain onto a page each morning. “Write for the trash can” is the famous quote, Just get the words out and worry about editing later. The only way to get better at something is to do it every day. I can already see an improvement in my writing, so there’s that.

The final part was to put some of my writing back out there. Writing for yourself is one thing, writing for public consumption is a whole other thing. I’m doing this as a creative exercise. It’s refreshing to write simply for pleasure and not for a Google Page Rank or an ad click.

What’s old is new again. Let’s bring back the personal blog in 2018!

PS – This blog hadn’t been updated since October 25, 2005. That’s 4447 days between posts. I need to get cracking.