bookmark_borderWhy I blog

I’ve always enjoyed words, reading and writing.

At school English was my favourite subject, with Physics a close second (if there had been a computing O Grade I would probably have taken that instead). My parents are both teachers and much of my inquisitive nature was fuelled by books; I still have, and treasure, a set of Readers Digest encyclopedias gifted to me by my late grandparents.

My Dad was always interested in computers, so from the days of having a BBC Micro, and then an Apple Macintosh Plus in the house it’s no surprise that I got interested in those too.

Put computers and words together and writing seems to be the obvious next step. From the initial wonder at watch words form on a screen, to a job as a technical writer, it’s far to say that technology and writing have always been a big part of my life.

My first blog post was hand crafted and uploaded to my own website, which had been in existence for a couple of years, on the 2nd of June, 1999. It was an odd moment, realising that something I’d created could be seen on the internet.

Fast forward a year or so to July 2000 and a new service called Blogger was launched and made that process all the simpler! From there it’s safe to say that blogging, as the first stage of social media, become very popular. Since then it’s been through a few dips but it’s definitely back on the map now.

Being a blogger in Scotland was a little bit odd back then, there were so few of us but that did mean that, over time as we all found one another online, it did setup some friendships that became much more than just ‘people I know who blog’.

For my part, I guess I should own up to having run a website called Scottish Blogs.

The year was 2002, and webrings were ‘the thing’. If you weren’t part of a webring, or five, you weren’t one of the cool kids.

Blogging Brits was one of the first I joined and soon I realised that Scotland needed one too and so in late November 2002 the Scottish Blogs webring was born.

By December 2003 there were 100 other members and a year later I created a directory website and moved away from the (by then quickly losing popularity) webrings. It was running that website, and organising the first few blogmeets that allowed me to meet some wonderful people, going on to attending (and doing a reading at) one of their weddings and visiting them in Hungary.

Since then I’ve had three separate blogs, now merged into this single website, written more words than I care to remember, been mentioned in newspapers, been on the radio, and through it all been lucky enough to get to know and meet some amazingly generous, lovely, smart and funny people from all over the UK, many of whom I’ve known for years and, over time, have managed to meet.

I still blog today for the same reasons that I started writing:

  1. I blog for me, I know others may read what I publish and I welcome the conversations it can spark, but this is my space.
  2. I write to process the thoughts in my head, that is a constant theme throughout the last 14 years.
  3. Because I enjoy it.

I write all this as, it seems, blogging is back on the rise. What goes around comes around I guess?

bookmark_borderSudden need for habit

Everything happens at once. It’s always the way of these things, the calendar remains empty until, all of a sudden you realise you have a concert and a leaving do to attend one evening, and a day/evening session in the pub the next day.

Such is the case this coming Friday, Radiohead gig at Glasgow Green on Friday evening the same night my boss is having his leaving do (he’s sharing it with another member of staff who is leaving, double trouble!). I’m really looking forward to both, and only hope that I’m not so completely soaked that they don’t let me into the pub later on…

It’s also approaching the end of our release cycle at work, so things are starting to ramp up there. I’m launching a new website as well as writing up some of the new featuress in the product.

And as usual – why does my brain do this? why does it wait until I’m stupidly busy – I’ve also started looking at resurrecting Scottish Blogs. Hopefully I can build it using something that requires a lot less effort and administration that the previous, hand-coded, version required as I just don’t have the bandwidth at the moment.

One thing I’ve been struggling to do is get into a writing habit. I’ve never really had one for this website, but as I now have two blogs, and I contribute to the ISTC newsletter every month (and occasionally to the quarterly magazine), it’s something I really should try and foster. Perhaps moving the Playstation upstairs to where the computer is (running it through the monitor) was a bad idea after all..

Still, it’s not all bad. I’ve started doing a little exercise fairly regularly (physio stuff as well as a some work on flexibility and core strength) and I’ve managed to rediscover my reading mojo a little, so if nothing else I’m starting to find a balance. Of course all of the above is currently impacted by a certain football tournament but that’ll be over soon.

bookmark_borderBack to reality

As Budapest fades into rose-tinted memory the mundane returns.

Well it’s not mundane really, it’s quite exciting you know, getting up at 1am to save a little mouse from the clutches of our cat and then again at 4.30am to remove a dead mouse from the kitchen floor (different mouse, he’s getting good at this!).

Elsewhere, there are still a few small jobs to do in the kitchen to finish it off, including a rather bizarre problem with the new light I fitted. We are using LED bulbs (like a halogen bulb but with 8 LEDs crammed into the same space), and when you turn them off they … well they aren’t on full but they are still on. It’s only really noticeable at night. I’m wondering if there is a short somewhere but… wouldn’t that have blown the light? Back to O Grade Physics for me, for despite getting an “A” I can’t remember a damn thing…

And, of course, as we currently have the bright shiny thing in the sky the next two weeks are officially Summer. So, out to the garden we go to do some weeding and general tidying up, ignoring the fact that my office still needs some order restored as it is holding the remnants of the kitchen upheaval.

Ohh and on that, still no response to our complaint letter. If there isn’t a letter waiting at home this evening then tomorrow morning they’ll be getting a stern phone call.

So, aside from mucking about with Joomla with half a mind on resurrecting Scottish Blogs, popping pills and generally trying to be healthy so my next check up at the doctor will reveal a lowered blood pressure, and considering buying Wii Fit, it’s pretty much life as usual.

Which is, you know, quite a good thing.

bookmark_borderWhat of Scottish Blogs?

But first, a cat update: Ollie is fine, no cone as, apparently, they don’t use stitches any more? He was a little groggy last night but was up and hungry as usual this morning. And I said this wouldn’t become a ‘cat’ blog. Hmmmm.

And so, onto Scottish Blogs. The website lost hosting late last year, and whilst I have a backup of the database that was only a week old, most of the site details in the directory are safe. However I’m now faced with starting over from scratch which, from a coding point of view, is a good thing. When I built Scottish Blogs it was largely done piecemeal as I was learning PHP as I went, leading to problems later on that, with my lack of knowledge, I couldn’t have foreseen. So, a clean slate is a good thing and would allow me to ‘get it (more) right’ from the start.

However, to be frank, I’m not sure I have the energy, inclination nor desire to rebuild and relaunch the site and, judging from the paucity of emails bemoaning the death of the Scottish Blogs website, I can only presume that no-one else is missing it either. So why am I bothering?

At present I’m not sure what, if anything, will replace the Scottish Blogs directory. Whilst I harbour grand plans of growing an online community, I’m not entirely sure I have the bandwidth to do so at present. With that in mind I’ve quite deliberately not done anything with the website since it died late last year and the overwhelming silence confirms that it was probably about time I killed it anyway.

Yet somewhere, in the depths of my brain, I am sure the site was useful to some, so I remain unsure as to the final fate of the website. Perhaps I need to co-opt some volunteers to help get it back off the ground, perhaps I need to hand over the entire thing to someone else (unlikely, but possible), or perhaps I need to make more of an effort to illicit some feedback from others.

Regardless, this isn’t something I’ll be looking at anytime in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure.

bookmark_borderSaying goodbye

No, I’M not saying goodbye, but it’s been on my mind recently.

At some point this blog will end, it may be a gradual decline during which the format and content will slowly morph into something else, or it may just stop and be replaced by something else. I’m comfortable with the fact that I will always have an online presence, my own microbrand if you will, and I’m quite happy for that to evolve naturally. After all, what you see here today is far removed from what I started with.

However in the process of cleaning up the Scottish Blogs directory there is one glaring piece of advice I’d give to all new bloggers. As well as suggesting they concentrate on their readers, tell a story or two and so on, I’d also suggest they say goodbye.

In other words, don’t just vanish. I understand the initial enthusiasm wanes quickly and that the flourish of posts and surge of excitement can disappear as quickly as they arrive, but if you have any readers, hell even if you don’t, then a brief note to say goodbye would be nice.

Admittedly sometimes we don’t always get the choice, but if you do make the decision then, please, share it with the rest of us.

The next question is, how?

For me, a large part of blogging is about connections, and hopefully those would kick in if someone suddenly disappeared. They have in the past, with chains of emails surrounding the “death of a blog” quickly gathering facts and, typically, finding someone with a real world connection to the blogger in question. As we invest more of ourselves online, these connections become vital, linking online with off, and proving the blogging really is about people.

bookmark_borderTech Writer Blog Directory

Ahh the joy of site stats and referrers. With them I may not have spotted that some kind soul had added this humble blog to the Tech Writer Blog Directory.

Whoever it was, thanks! (yes, I’m guessing it was Tom). I’ve updated my details, stopping short of listing all of my websites..

To everyone else, if you are a technical writer, or just work in the field of technical communications, and if you have a blog that should be added head on over there and add it. It’s a Wiki page and is open to all to be edited.

I’m a big fan of directories (I run the Scottish Blogs directory, as finding other blogs in a ‘niche’ is always somewhat tricky. If nothing else the directory provides a starting point from where you can explore.

It’ll be interesting to watch this list grow as well, as I’m sure it will, and there may come a “tipping point” when the Wiki approach is no longer viable, but that’s some time off I think.

In other news, I have a few posts almost ready to be posted here, but I’m a tad busy at until later in the week. I really want to “up” the postings and see what I can do with this blog, and I guess the first thing will be to post regularly and build an audience.