I hit publish on my first blog post in 2005. It was late at night, I had just signed up for a blogspot account, and even though it was only a few sentences with no picture, it took a really long time to publish - probably because I was using dial up internet.
Some of those early blog posts were short enough to almost be tweets today. Like this one, entitled Crime Stoppers, from May 2005, where I wrote:
I was wandering around yesterday, and found this Self Arrest Form on the East Point, GA's police department's website. It was nice to see that they have a sense of humor.Yes, that was the entire post. I think I was excited that I had learned how to hyperlink words.
I clearly had no idea about SEO or what google is looking for in a website. I'm a little surprised I got any search engine traffic at all in those early days, but I actually did.
There might have been people doing professional blog design, but I don't think it was nearly as common as it is now. Most of us just used the free templates that came with our blogging platforms, or taught ourselves how to make any changes we wanted. I remember feeling really smart when I figured out how to code my blogroll so it was separated into four different pull-down lists that were color coordinated with my header, after weeks of pouring over every free online html class I could find.
I tried other blogging platforms, but returned to my original blog, eventually giving it a new name - From Tracie. It seemed appropriate.
|In my early years of blogging, I marked the passage of time with pictures of my family's shoes.|
Looking back at my early blog posts, the majority of them are about surviving childhood sexual abuse. That was the main focus of my blog in the beginning. I was gathering up the courage to tell all of the very real people in my life about my childhood, and it was a great blessing to be able to first tell all the invisible people on the internet where I was safely hidden behind anonymity.
I also slipped in stories about my family and the good things that were happening. Those stories balanced out some of the darkness, and reminded me that there was light in my life. A lot of healing happened on those blog pages. Although the daily focus of my blog has changed a lot since then, I still write about being a survivor and survivor issues. That will always be a big part of my life and my work.
We didn't have social media in the early days to help spread the word about our blogs. I had my fancy blogroll set up in my sidebar, and every day I would click through to each blog to see if my friends had updated with new posts. I would also click through the blogrolls on other people's blogs to find new people to read. There were a few link-ups back then. I remember Thursday Thirteen was really popular, and I participated in it a lot.
Other than following the trail of blogrolls, and leaving comments, there weren't a lot of ways to drive traffic to a blog. I was active in a few message boards at the time, and I do remember being excited when my analytics told me I had received several hundred visits from placing my blog url in my signature.
In 2006 there was a blogger named Michelle who had a game at her blog every weekend where you would leave a comment, and then go visit the person who commented before you to leave a comment on their blog (and say "Michelle sent me" in some creative way in your comment). We would do that all weekend long. It was fun. Michelle was a rather anonymous blogger, so I don't know what happened to her when she disappeared, taking her blog with her, but I still think of her sometimes when I pull up an old post and see some of those comments at the bottom.
I do keep in touch with, and read the blogs of, some of the people I discovered at Michelle's place, like Carmi at Written Inc., Naomi at Here In The Hills, and Colleen at Loose Leaf Notes. That was my first blogging community, and I have all the warm, fuzzy feelings towards the people who tirelessly left comments on my blog posts.
Besides the people at Michelle's blog and those I met following trails of blogrolls, I was connected with the community of abuse survivors who participated each month in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. I've seen a change in the participants over the last eight years since Marj founded it, and even since 2010 when I took over management, as people have shut down their blogs or changed the focus of their writing.
The blogging community was different when I started blogging nine years ago. There were a lot of times when blogging felt like an ongoing conversation between the writers and readers. Not just because of all the talking that was happening in the comment section, but because we were all writing responses to things in our own blog posts as well. I think that was a big facet of the community feel we had back then.
There weren't nearly the number of group blogs that we have now, but there was still a lot of collaboration happening in a really organic way.
Not to say there isn't collaboration or a community of bloggers in 2014, because there definitely is. I think we come about that community differently now, and it is both harder and easier to make those connections. There are a lot of articles written about blogging - saying it is dead, or that at least the comment section is dead - but I think it is just changing. As all things do.
It seems that blogging goes in cycles. Every few years, people fade away, and you find yourself building a new readership and making new friends. There aren't that many of us who have stayed active in the blogosphere for more than three, five, or ten years.
I've watched a lot of people move from telling personal stories, to focusing on the mechanics of writing, to earning money through reviews and sponsored posts, and then going back to the beginning and sharing personal stories again. Maybe I notice it, because my own blog has taken a similar journey.
There is a push to be on every social media platform, and to have a pinterest-worthy picture in every post, to use those keywords, build that pagerank, get a new, better theme or platform, and connect with the right people. It isn't that those things are necessarily bad, some of them are very good, but sometimes it feels like they are distracting from the heart of what blogging is all about - writing and sharing our words. Although I know that many of those things will enlarge your audience, I think they also enlarge the busyness and commitment of blogging.
My blog and my writing have evolved over the years, and I've tried a lot of different things. I participated in writing groups and challenges for a while, even writing short pieces of fiction (which was something I never expected to do, but really enjoyed). I know the critiques and comments I got during that time helped to make me a much better writer.
But the heart of what I do here on this blog is still me. All the way back to those early years when I was pouring out stories and feelings I couldn't say out loud, to now when I'm sharing what it is like to be the mother of a tween girl and writing much more confidently about my feelings (even when they are just as hard and mixed up as they were in 2005), I am sharing me. My heart. My truth.
I won't always have a picture to pin, or the perfect keywords. Sometimes I will. But I'm okay with the times I don't. The soul of blogging will always be, for me, the words.
The best part about blogging for nine years, through all the changes and twists in the blogging world, is being able to look back and see how I have changed. And how I have stayed the same. And maybe a few changes I still need to make.
What has changed since you entered into the blogging world?