I Miss Blogging

I got myself caught this evening in a thing that happens to me here every so often: I’ll spot an intriguing post title in my “Five Years Ago” block and click and read that post, and get all nostalgic about five years ago, and sometime later realize that I’ve just been paging forward through old posts on my blog for an hour and a half. Five years ago, I was really deep into the blogging: I’d been at it for four years, and I had a solid community with which I was in dialogue, and I felt utter license (thanks to having gotten tenure and having gotten the first book out) to write about whatever the heck I felt like writing about, for no other reason than that I felt like writing it.

Things went through my head. I thought “hey, that’s kinda weird.” A couple of hours later I’d slap a post together pondering that oddity. And then I’d do it again the next day, or a few days later, or whatever.

The blog was an amazing invention to me back when I first launched it in 2002: after having spent so long struggling with articles, or gods forbid, the book, and after having gathered exactly no audience through those publications, the blog was an exercise in immediate gratification, in ongoing writing practice, and in community. And by 2006, it was a core part of my thinking life.

But in the last couple of years, immediate gratification has come to me in 140-character bursts, instead of in the slightly longer (if not necessarily more thought-through) form of the blog. And I’ve said this several times recently, but I really miss this place.

Part of what I miss is just that ability to read back through the blog and discover that, astonishingly enough, some things I’m working through right now have been on my radar for five years, and that other things that I was convinced I was going to do five years ago are long since forgotten. The immediacy of my interaction on Twitter is amazing, as is the breadth of that community, but I miss the sense of building a publication that belongs to me, that in some sense is me, something that I can page back through and think, wow, I remember that, or that was five years ago?, or dude, have a glass of wine and chill.

I’m not going to turn this into some vow to do more blogging, because I know that’s not going to happen: a lot of what was most interesting to me five years ago was the kind of quotidien post that is only 140 characters worth of interesting to me now. And I’m also (not to put too fine a point on it) a whole lot older, and whole lot more senior, and so much more settled into a public persona that’s much more professionally-oriented than it was.

But I’m feeling profoundly nostalgic for blogging right now, and for this blog in particular, and it somehow seems important to mark that.

10 thoughts on “I Miss Blogging

  1. I will enjoy thinking about this post over the next couple of days. I like that you skip the vow and stay inside the nostalgia. The juxtaposition against Twitter makes sense, of course; I’d like to hear more about a notion you imply but don’t state outright, that Tweets are a less complete record of sustained thought. It seems true on the surface of it, but I wonder if that’s actually the case, or whether the ellipses between Tweets are narratively productive and generative, like gutters between panels of a comic–and if they are productive, whether the story they tell in aggregate would be as visible 5 yrs on as the narrative arc of a sustained blog post. [xposted comment on FB.]

  2. [You have no idea how happy I am that you crossposted this comment. Because as soon as I responded to it on FB, I started thinking about the other part of the issue — that in the thick of blogging, the blog was all there really was. Now, a blog post is accompanied by a tweet and perhaps a post on FB, and each of them generate comments in their own space, rather than here, where the archive can be gathered in something like completeness.

    Anyhow, my response, xposted from FB:]

    You know, I almost wrote a paragraph about this. Part of it is the *sustained thought* part of Twitter’s obvious difference: there isn’t room to really ponder in quite the same way. But the thing that paging through the old blog entries made me focus on is the *less complete record* part: it’s not really possible to flip back through your Twitter stream in quite the same way. Even though I do capture and archive mine, it’s not stored in a terribly readable form, and so much of the context is lost that most of my tweets make little sense on their own. The ellipses are so large until the tweets are little but elliptical on their own, while blog posts really lent themselves to creating context through links.

    But yes, I’m way up inside the nostalgia, knowing that period is almost certainly not one that can be reproduced.

  3. yes, yes, yes. on all counts. I experience such nostalgia too sometimes. The writing voice that accrues over time — for writer and regular reader — is something different from what typically occurs on Twitter — which to me feels like speaking voices — not the same thing.

  4. I’m having an interesting set of conversations on Twitter right now that I want to register here: what are the possibilities for creating a WordPress/Twitter plugin that selectively sends tweets (with a particular hashtag, perhaps) to one’s main blog timeline, as can currently be done with Facebook? What are the possibilities for expanding a plugin like BackType Connect such that it captures as comments not just tweets that link to a post, but also replies to those tweets?

  5. I don’t know if I have anything all that substantive to say in response. I think the difficulty (as you’ve just been commenting on Twitter, where I get to watch the fragmented and frayed conversation unravel) with the archived Twitter stream is the difficulty of archiving others’ replies to you. And even if you can do it–and you can, if you grab the RSS of @ replies–the distributed nature of reading means that the conversation is hard to piece back together.

    And perhaps even more is the fact that conversations take place (as is this one) much more in real time rather than in the post-read-comment-read-reply-read-comment fashion that blogging used to encourage. Even if you could put the whole thread back together again, you wouldn’t capture the same experience. Revisiting a blog doesn’t do the original moments justice either (Herodotus and all that), but it’s much closer to the original than the tweet form.

    It does seem within the scope of someone with WordPress skills (i.e., not me) to develop a plugin that would pull tweets into your blog stream that you marked in particular ways. Kind of like the Facebook app, where you see people using the #fb hashtag.

    It will be interesting in 5 years when we’re waxing nostalgic for the community and closeness that many of us feel currently on Twitter, Facebook, and other places. Nostalgia is one of our best guarantees.

  6. Ooh. Just responded to your comment on FB (things really have gotten distributed here) about the possibility for letting archived Twitter conversations play out over time by asking whether such an app would be like a synchronous form of Storify. Which then made me think about ways that Storify might form the basis for that WP plugin/app, gathering discussion stemming from a blog post across various platforms and representing its various branches…

    But yes, nostalgia. There’s no small irony for me in catching myself thinking things like “blogs were capable of creating serious, sustained discussions in ways that [insert newer platform here] just can’t!” Replace “blogs” with “peer-reviewed journals,” and here I am telling those kids to get off of my lawn.

  7. I will cop to responding differently in multiple places to underscore (AKA perform) the necessity of what you’re talking about. And to send you chasing around the web.

    I think that what’s interesting about the nostalgia is that it’s centered around two axes: our memories of our past self and our memories of a past community. Perhaps those are what always fuel nostalgia, but it’s never been so clear to me before. Now I better get to work before I jump head first into Freud again.

  8. Hi Kathleen: Love this blog post. I have a current feeling of nostalgia around my podcasting project, which I’ve let go dormant almost two years now. When I was doing it as a regular activity (one every two weeks), it was an incredible time commitment, but the pay-off was the building of a community and lots of comments and feedback.

    Blogging, tweeting, podcasting (i.e. our digitally mediated discourses) all have that ability to bring a community of people together a topic, and that is what I most miss.

    And while I don’t have much to add on the Twitter issue because it engages many of these same logics, esp. around the sense of community. But there is something about someone listening to a 30 minute podcast, or reading a long blog post, and then commenting, that for me, has always been immensely gratifying.

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