Saturday, October 15, 2005

Now We Are Three

It's three years today since I started this blog.

It feels like much longer.

Some numbers, just for fun: in three years I've had, according to my stats counter, just about 9,600 hits, the overwhelming majority of them one-offs, people arriving here by googling peculiar combinations of words. In three years it seems I've managed 558 posts (not counting this one), which averages about one every other day--I had no idea I'd been so prolific (but there've been whole months when I haven't posted at all). There was a time, soon after I started, when I was the first-ranked Google hit for "trinidad blog". Now I'm not even in the top 200.

In April 2003, I did an "interview" via email with Mark Lyndersay, who was thinking then of writing about blogging in Trinidad for his Bit Depth column in the Guardian. It never ran, but I've kept that Q&A. For want of anything better to post on my anniversary:

Subject: answers about blogging
From: Nicholas Laughlin
Date: 4/10/03 8:03 PM
To: Mark Lyndersay

What drew you to blogging and finally drew you away? [I was posting very irregularly at the time]

I started blogging by accident--that's what I tell people. Like everyone else, I suppose, I'd been reading about blogs & bloggers for months; finally last Oct. or thereabouts I read an article specifically about Blogger software & the free hosting offered at Blogspot. I was curious. I checked out the site. They said it was so easy, anyone could have a blog going in three minutes. So without thinking about it very much I clicked the link, filled out a short form, & before I knew what was happening I had a blog. I typed in a sentence to test it. To my horror, this was suddenly visible to the entire world. A sense of obligation came over me: I felt almost duty-bound to provide content. Then also I was intrigued by the phenomenon, & thought that the best way to explore & understand it was from the inside. And then I thought it might be a good way to learn some basic HTML, of which I was then entirely ignorant. And of course there was an element of vanity to it: here are my thoughts, here is my name, acknowledge me, O world.

I kept it up for about three months, though with a significant gap of a few weeks somewhere in between. I was intrigued by the idea of creating a distinctly Caribbean blog--following regional affairs, expressing strong opinions, debating, demonstrating. To this end I started dutifully reading the regional newspapers online--the Observer, the Gleaner, the Advocate, the Nation, the Stabroek News, the Chronicle, & of course the Express & the Guardian daily, & smaller papers like the Antigua Sun & the St. Lucia Voice a couple times a week. But naturally this required a big chunk of time every day--some days I spent five or six hours (not consecutive) on blog-related surfing, which was ridiculous. I might have kept it up if I had a real audience--not thousands like Glen Reynolds, or even hundreds, but at least dozens. But on my very best day ever I had 27 visitors [four days later, when the Guardian feature appeared, I racked up 72 hits in a day--still my record], & I could tell from my stats software that most of these were in fact people who'd stumbled upon the blog accidentally via search engines--& thus not constituting a real "audience". I had relatively few Caribbean or Trinidadian readers.

So I didn't stop because I lost interest. I stopped because I simply didn't have enough time to spare to blog "properly". Real-world deadlines pressed in, I wasn't getting enough sleep, my Internet bill soared. I'm not a fast enough typist. (Glen Reynolds once admitted that the secret of his success was speedy typing.) And I couldn't argue to myself that I owed it to my readers. I pretty much had no readers--a half-dozen friends & that was it.

How did blogging fit into your hierarchy of writing? Was it a diary? A space for gracenotes? Public musings?

"Public musings", I suppose--I linked to & blogged about things I found interesting for one reason or another--often to things I disagreed with. I made a conscious effort to follow stories that intrigued me, or that I thought not enough people were paying attention to. I tried to cover WI literature as widely as possible--linking to book reviews, interviews etc. Sometimes, I must admit, I posted things just to keep the content fresh--to get the date stamp, as it were.

How frequently did you blog?

I tried to post daily at least. Some days--like Sundays, when the newspapers are thicker & there's more to disagree with--I might have posted five or six entries. But for a period in November when I was simply too busy to think about blogging, I left off altogether; a friend helpfully suggested I put up an "on vacation" notice. I was busiest in January, then suddenly realised I couldn't keep it up & halted in February. I still do post entries whenever something particularly catches my eye--once a week maybe, so the blog isn't dead. It's hibernating, let's say, half-opening an eye every now & then to see what's going on in the waking world.

Is blogging a Trini thing? Would you rather lime and chat than write?

There's no mass audience here for Caribbean-interest blogs, I think, & the big "international" blogs are so deeply concerned with US politics that they aren't of much interest to most of us Trini web-surfers. The global-Internet-geek culture which seems to fuel the blogosphere hasn't achieved critical mass here yet. (And few of us have broadband.) But I wonder if it isn't just that the right kind of Trini blog hasn't been started yet--a blog with lots of gossip & politics & bacchanal, updated tirelessly! Perhaps an energetic enough Trini blogger could make it happen--& one popular blog might create enough of an audience to feed many smaller, more specialised ones.

Personally, I'd rather lie in bed reading than blog or chat or lime. I've become seriously reclusive in my early-onset middle-age [ahem! I was 27 when I wrote this], & very dependent on the consolations of fiction. --But I don't know if you can usefully compare blogging to verbal conversation. Blogging's premise is a mass audience, I think--whether the blogger means to show off to that audience or convert it. The medium has its own very heady pleasure. I can't say I prefer it to the pleasure of conversation (or that of emailing, or keeping a journal). It's a less essential pleasure, certainly. (Though I imagine in a few years personal weblogs of some sort will be as universal as personal email addresses.)

And there is, of course, the thrill of feeling that you're in on something--the early stages of what could be a revolutionary new medium--or could be merely a dead end.

I hope some of this is useful to you. I'm not very coherent on the subject--my thoughts on blogging are many, scattered & inconsistent. Let me know if there are any gaps you want filled.




"Here are my thoughts, here is my name, acknowledge me, O world." The world has never paid very much attention, despite my occasional contrivances to increase visitor traffic. I suppose I must once have found this discouraging, but I've gradually come to think of this blog not as a form of mass communication but as a sort of wastebook (in the Lichtenbergian sense) that happens to be online & is hence potentially accessible to millions of readers, almost none of whom, however, is interested. (You're practically my only regular reader these days, Georgia.) Knowing I have no particular audience relieves me of the obligation to be "relevant" somehow, by blogging about politics or current affairs, etc.--& leaves me free to post whatever catches my fancy, from odd snatches of poetry to squibs plucked from old notebooks. (Lately, it's been heavy on Guyana-related material, my so-called Guyana project, which began as an intense but confused interest in the place & has evolved fairly rapidly into a book-in-progress with the working title "Imaginary Roads".)

It's also reassuring to know that if anyone googles my name, at the top of the list will be something I've created & can control: this eccentric, discontinuous, sometime-ish stream of observations, discoveries, complaints, questions & textes trouvés revealing my interests, my obsessions, & perhaps more of me than I really intended when I started out.


Anonymous said...

I goolged trini blogs and your site was second on the list. Impressive to say the least.

Karel Mc Intosh said...

Great post, and imagine it's an old one!