Happy fifth birthday, Dispatches!
A lot has happened in my life in the five years since that first post just before our trip to India. I thought you were a goner during my last year of grad school, when I didn’t post anything for more than a month, but National Blog Post Month last November seems to have restarted a more regular rhythm.
I never really knew what you were going to be about. That’s fine with me. I’m a multifaceted individual, who is easily distracted. So, instead of mining the same vein of subjects to gather a steady stream of loyal readers, I’ve written about anything and not quite everything. For a little while I thought about getting you, my weblog, a little brother or sister, turning one of you into a single-subject weblog, and keeping the other one for random stuff. But I never did, because I know you like being an only child, and I don’t have enough time to devote to two.
As a result, you, my little weblog, are always meeting lots of new readers who are drawn in by the Google, stay but a brief while, and then move on. In fact, well over half of your visitors come from Google searches. You’re most popular when you’re unique and nerdy. Here are the top 10 most popular pages over the last five years:
- The JPEG Family Circus (2008)
- Fifteen is an Eternity in Photography Years (2007)
- Ask Dr. Color’s Assistant: Tone-mapping in MATLAB (2007)
- The Cognitive Style of Microsoft Project (2007)
- Book Notes: The Looming Tower (2006)
- Four Days in London (2007)
- Deconstructing an Image (2007)
- How a Digital Camera Works (2006)
- Grandes Expectations, a.k.a. Four Days in Paris (2009)
- Tractors (2008)
Okay, I don’t get that last one either. I guess there are a lot of people who, like me, enjoy 1/64-scale tractors. And almost 80% of the views of the JPEG article happened in the first week it was published, when Steve posted a link to it, which got a couple hundred views and was then Stumbled, garnering 30 times more readers. You, my little weblog, were almost famous.
But those things aren’t really what you’re about. Over the last five years, we’ve traveled a lot, started to talk a bit about diabetes, visited many cemeteries, thought about software engineering during and after grad school, played with a large format camera, worried about health care, learned many lessons, taken and posted tons of photographs, and tried to deconstruct the American experience. (Lisa, who is perpetually awesome, helped with some of the posts and many of the photos.)
So what next? What will happen in the next five years?
Given the randomness of posts over the last five years, it’s dangerous to guess, but I bet it looks like the last five years. Without a doubt there will be more travel: In two weeks we’re going a Australia for a month; next year, my mom and I plan to go cycling in Provence; and in 2012, we’re going to England and France with my in-laws. Unless amazing things happen, I’ll still have diabetes and will continue to write about that. No doubt, I’ll also visit some additional technical subjects, which will appeal mostly to the long tail.
You, my little weblog, were born near the beginning of an online historical moment when it seemed everyone was getting a “blog.”* A lot of people moved on — to MySpace and Facebook and Twitter — and let their online journaling end. Meanwhile the idea of the weblog became the basis for a lot of mainstream media and corporate sites. The weblog became the scaffolding for interactive, moderated, medium-to-long-form medium.
I’m excited to see the re-emergence of “microblogging” sites like Tumblr, where people post short things: videos, links to other pages, excerpts from articles with reactions, etc. It’s bringing the social back into “social media.” Now, instead of thinking about getting you a weblog sibling, I’m trying to figure out the right way to integrate shorter snippits with my regular fare.
Because what I really want is to have something like a magazine, with its mixture of time-relevant mini-articles and long-form features: something that combines what has traditionally appeared here with some of the stuff that I’ve offloaded to Delicious or Facebook or Twitter. But that’s all in the future.
Once again, happy fifth birthday, weblog!
p.s. — I haven’t gotten you a present yet, but I know you want a new theme so that you can look a little more hip. And I think I heard you say that you want better comment management, too. I’ll see what I can do.
* — Five years later, I still can’t stand that word “blog.” It’s just too ugly sounding. Like “atheist,” there’s just no happy-sounding, value-neutral way to say it. Of course, you who don’t have my hangups can call this site whatever you’d like. :^)