Some stuff that I wrote about recently on tilde.town – about being inspired by seeing some modern day tumblelogs – that has lead me down a rabbit hole.
I rediscovered some 2005-era blogs from around the time of the dawn of Ruby on Rails and have read some and followed links and it has made me feel like 15 years is a very short and very long time.
We still had Ubuntu back then! I remember Ubuntu being new! But also we didn’t have Twitter or smartphones, two things that I intellectually know weren’t invented or popular yet, but are such a part of 00’s culture that it doesn’t feel like they were introduced in the last couple of years of the decade.
Anyway, I’ve become slightly jealous of those people who either never left blogging or who have tended their old blogs well. I have not done this, and numerous times I have just blanked my blog or moved to another domain or something.
That said, I am enough of a digital pack-rat that I kept the original files in most cases – I may not have a functioning blog archive back to 2004, but I do have the files. Before 2004, I suppose I could try for the wayback machine?
-rwxr-x--- 1 aaron www-data 31K Jul 25 2004 ConjuringFireball.jpg* -rwxr-x--- 1 aaron www-data 4.4K Jul 25 2004 PythonFame.png* -rwxr-x--- 1 aaron www-data 7.8K Jul 25 2004 SolarisExpress.png*
Pictured: Some files I have dutifully rsynced from machine to machine, preserving the timestamps, from before my teenage son was born.
Fun fact: one of the first entries in my 2004 blog is an announcement that I have moved off Bloxsom and onto my own blogging software (I later went through MovableType, Jekyll, WordPress, then my own thing again, then Hugo when I archived the site in 2015). I said I would be backfilling my new blog with the old entries from my Bloxsom blog. Spoiler: I did not do that.
I’ve copied a couple in from web.archive.org and the Artima site which appears to have been dutifully archiving my RSS feed for nearly 15 years. Thanks, Artima!
The funny thing is that you don’t know what’s historically interesting or personally important until a bunch of time has passed. This is mostly why I almost never delete photos (or throw the physical ones away).
It makes me smile that I’ve got a (mildly cringey) post talking about how Ruby on Rails will be the next big thing (2005) and 11 years later I started work at (arguably) the world’s largest Rails-powered company.
Looking back at my link-blog posts from years ago lets me see the well-worn grooves in my thinking, topics I come back to again and again like minimalism and social media addiction.
Like a lot of bloggers, the first fatal blow to regular posting was Twitter. So convenient, compared to writing a whole blog post! I was an early adopter in 2007, keen advocate and heavy user but dropped off in 2015 when the level of discourse around Britain’s proposed referrendum on leaving the EU depressed me.
I downloaded and kept my archive and I still sometimes refer back it (most recently: to figure out when I broke my collar bone, which obviously I tweeted about from A&E). I’m back on there now, but with retweets turned off for almost everyone, a bunch of accounts blocked, and a heavily curated list of people I follow. I delete my tweets after a couple of weeks. Having to “twitter defensively” is probably a bad sign.
It’s not all Twitter’s fault though; I also started to subconsciously raise the bar for what was a good blog post. I would write a post, read it back and think “Is this adding to the public discourse? Does this need to be written?” and then just never publish it. It seemed like there was enough information in the world and adding more low quality posts was lowering the SNR.
Finally, as most of what I was posting was related to my own electronics/radio/manufacturing projects, I realised that I liked making things, but then I resented writing about those things. The two were totally linked in my mind, to the point that I would avoid doing projects that wouldn’t make an interesting write-up or that were “done before”. I still think the right call was to just ditch the blogging part and carry on making things, but now I’m looking back at the last ~3 years and I feel a little sad because I made a few cool things and there’s no real record of them on my blog.
(Conclusion): Blogging about blogging sucks but whatever, it’s my website. I’m not going to make some pronouncement that I’m back or anything, but now that I have the whole site back in Jekyll and it’s reasonably low friction for me to post, I hope I will post here more, and might even back-fill some of the stuff I’ve learned or done during my fallow years.