Online journal history (part 3) -- 12/18/09

If you have just wandered in from Holidailies and wonder who's who, there's a brief introduction to various characters at the end of this entry...

In my past two entries I posted my answers to some questions about online journals and blogs asked me by a Northwestern University doctoral student. Here are the remaining five questions from his original dozen along with my answers to them.

8. Did you know who read your website at the time? What was your relationship with your readers?

When I started it was like sticking a note in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. I would just post an entry and that was it. Then a day or two… or a week… or a month later I would post another one. (I've never been able to maintain a daily schedule for more than two or three weeks and I probably average something closer to twice a week.) Eventually I began to build a small collection of regular readers.

These days some of my readers are people I know in everyday life – friends and relatives. Sometimes I am surprised to find that someone I know, for example, through a group of supporters of the local library, is someone who often reads my web page. Other readers are scattered around the world. I have a reader in Australia who had been a friend of mine in high school. I have heard from people from my old neighborhood. And there are people I got know online whom I have since met in person, from England to Pittsburgh.

There is a group of people – picture sort of an amorphous cloud of data points – that I know online who read my site and I read theirs and many of them are also readers of others in this same group. There is no formal procedure involved, it's more like I'll read the comments on the site of someone whose page I like to read. I might be struck by a particular comment and follow a link to the blog of that person and, if I find that I am interested in what they say on their own page, I may begin reading them. I've found a number of interesting sites that way, sites that I now read regularly… and this mechanism has worked over the years so that there is an overlap in readership among us (out of the many millions upon millions of people who have web sites). Many of these people have also been writing online for years and, although they are of all ages, I find that I do have a fairly high number of middle-aged and senior readers.

9. When did you first encounter or learn about the term "weblog" or "blog"? What was your relationship with bloggers? Was there a distinction between types of websites (blogs as opposed to journals)?

The first that I recall hearing the term "weblog" was about two years after I had started my web page. Someone whose online journal I had been reading switched to calling it a weblog, explaining it was going to be a log of her web activity with links to interesting sites and to the online journals and diaries of others. When I had started my journal there seemed to be a choice between calling such sites either journals or diaries; I always called mine a journal. I still do not think of it as a blog, but I accept that other people will say "are you going to write about this on your blog" and I do not correct their terminology.

10. Did you ever start using the concept "blog" as a definition for your website? Why?

No. I continue to think of it as my journal and I can see no reason to change. I accept that other people call it my blog.

11. In 1999 automated software (both for blogging and for journal keeping were designed. Did you try using these platforms? Did you have a preference for any software in particular? If you used it, did software change the development of you website in any way?

I have never used that kind of software for my site, although I did experiment with using LiveJournal for a while as a separate site in order to see if that would make it easier to do more frequent entries, but I found it to be boring. I mostly used it to post messages saying that I had written a new entry on my journal and eventually I stopped using it.

12. Is there anything else you want to discuss about these issues?

I don't slavishly watch my numbers, but once or twice a month I will look at my statistics. What fascinates me is not so much how many people might read a current entry within a week or two of my posting it; it is how many people are reading old entries, ones from years ago, month after month, year after year, so that individual entries, over a period of time, will end up having been read by hundreds and hundreds of people. There are some entries that seem to be evergreen, attracting a dozen, fifteen, twenty readers each and every month. That never fails to amaze me. Also, I have so many entries out there, hundreds of of them, and many of these are hit by one or two or three people in the course of a month.

A few days later he came back with three follow-up questions. I'll post those sometime next week.

A brief introduction for those of you wandering in here from Holidailies for the first time: I'm just a middle-aged guy (but somehow I hit 66 on my last birthday) who lives in Rhode Island with my wife Nancy (a middle-school math teacher), daughter Gillian ("Jill" -- 27 yr old college student and baker), son Jeremy (24 yr old restaurant cook and part-time college student), and Tiger (senior citizen cat). Eldest child Adam lives in New York City with his wife Leah and our grandsons Sam and Milo. I'm a former programmer/systems analyst who got involved with software training and instructional design. For the past several years I have been working from home (you can't beat the short commute!) doing quality assurance and editing on course material for both classroom courses and Web-based training courses for a very big computer company. I've been writing this online journal since 1996.

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