Is my blog dead? I don’t know. My blogging activities ground to a halt about a month ago because of two events that diverted my attention for a while, but neither of them is a valid excuse any longer.
The first event was opening night for Carousel on June 3. That play ran throughout the month of June and occupied most of my evenings and weekends. The second event was the unexpected loss of my job. I was informed on June 7 that June 10 would be my last day of work.
Losing my job actually freed up a lot of my time, of course, but this didn’t help as much as you might think. First of all, I had to spend some of that time trying to find a new job. Second, not having to go to work made it possible for me to sleep late, and since I was getting home from the theatre at midnight or later, that was quite easy to do. My sleep cycle still hasn’t stabilized.
But the play ended its run over a week ago, on June 26. And I’ve had time to get a grip on my job search. So why am I still not blogging? The truth is that I just haven’t felt like it. I don’t seem to have anything worthwhile to say. That may be a result of my altered circumstances, or it may mean something else. I haven’t yet figured it out.
When I do, I’ll let you know.
This blog now has its own domain name: logopolis.info. It’s also now maintained using Movable Type, which will enable me to add some features to the site that Blogger did not support. You may notice a few minor glitches at first — embedded images in the archives don’t work yet, and I haven’t figured out how to transfer comments from the old site. I’ll fix these things as soon as I can.
Historical note: The logopolis.info domain only lasted one year, for reasons that I explained elsewhere.
A lack of new content isn’t the only thing wrong with this blog. In recent weeks, it has also been brought to my attention that the template I’m using is flawed. It looks fine in Internet Explorer (IE), but lousy in any other browser. Users of both Mozilla Firefox and the Mac-based Safari have reported seeing exactly the same formatting glitches. The problem seems to be with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) used by the template; IE interprets the CSS code incorrectly, but the person who created the template evidently was using IE to view the result, and concluded that it worked properly.
I’m not proficient with CSS, but my son Ben is, thanks to the HTML classes he took at school. He did some tinkering with the CSS code, but was unable to find a way to make it look right in both IE and non-IE browsers. My friend Virgil came up with a compromise that he says looks OK in both sorts of browsers, and I may end up using it. But there’s one other thing I want to try first. In the course of researching the problem, I stumbled across this trick for putting two versions of the CSS code in external files — one of which is used only by IE, and the other only by other browsers. If it works, this solution will be the best of both worlds. I hope to have it implemented in the next day or two.
I’m back. It was never my intention to abandon blogging for such a prolonged period, but other things got in the way. During May, my spare time pretty much vanished for reasons related to my sprained ankle (a story I started to tell here, but never finished). In June, my involvement in the play Smokey Joe’s Cafe had a similar effect. During the first part of July, it was my job: the Project from Hell, which I had been working on since last fall, suddenly demanded a lot of extra hours.
But that’s finally over. My ankle is mostly healed, Smokey Joe’s Cafe is over, and I’m finished with the Project from Hell. If anyone is still reading this, I thank you for your patience. Actual posting of new material will resume shortly.
At least I’m in good company. It appears that none of the GNO blogs have been updated more than once or twice in the past month, except for those of my teenage offspring. Ben, of course, has been consistently putting us all to shame for a long time with his frequent and thought-provoking posts. He even had a moment in the spotlight recently when he wrote an essay that reduced Kim du Toit to tears. And Ruth, whose blog has been silent for months, has suddenly become talkative again. I hope it lasts this time.
I decided I didn’t like Blogger’s new commenting system. I also wanted to experiment with Trackback, and I discovered that HaloScan‘s commenting system also provides Trackback support. So I switched.
It’s been weeks since my last substantial blog post, so I’m sure that speculation is rampant, out there in the blogosphere, about exactly what has curtailed my output so drastically. Has a rat stepped on my own personal Power button and shut me off? Did the Valar notice that I was writing about them and express their displeasure with a few well-placed lightning bolts? Was I silenced by the global oil cartel for knowing too much about why gasoline prices are high?
Those are all good guesses, but none of these theories are correct. Actually, my lack of blogging over the past few weeks was caused by Nazis. I’ve been working on a post that explains exactly how this happened, but the story is rather long and complicated. It may be a while before I finish it, and it doesn’t make sense to keep my blog on hold while that process continues.
This is a chronic problem that I have with blogging. It’s been noted by numerous observers that bloggers tend to fall into two broad types. One type posts brief, pithy items, typically consisting of a link to something elsewhere on the web and a paragraph or two of commentary. (Classic example: Glenn Reynolds.) The other type of blogger posts long, thoughtful essays that explore topics in detail. (Classic example: Steven Den Beste.)
My natural tendency is to emulate Den Beste, but those long essays take a lot of time to write. Den Beste has the time because he’s retired and has no children. I have two teenagers and a full-time job, so emulating Den Beste is not very realistic. As Bob has pointed out, the result ends up looking less like Den Beste’s blog and more like that of Bill Whittle, who writes 10,000-word essays at the rate of one every two or three months. (Whittle isn’t really a blogger at all; he’s an author who’s posting his book on the Web in pieces.)
So perhaps the person I should really try to emulate is Rachel Lucas, who recently returned to blogging after a hiatus of several months. Rachel also is an essayist by nature, but her blog faltered after she graduated from college, bought a house, and started working full-time. She now has, at most, an hour a day for blogging. So she’s had to adjust her blogging style to fit her new limitations. She’s making a conscious effort to write shorter articles and spend less time trying to make each one perfect. And it’s working; her output isn’t what it was a year ago, but she’s posting something every day or two.
Well, if Rachel can do that, maybe I can too. It won’t easy to combat my natural tendencies to be a longwinded perfectionist, but I’ll try. With luck, I should be able to get this blog back on track. As long as I can avoid the Nazis.
Blogging has developed its own specialized vocabulary, and I sometimes forget that not everyone is familiar with the lingo. For example, at one of our weekly Guys’ Lunches, someone asked what a moblog was, and I attempted to explain (not very coherently, I’m afraid). More recently, I used the term “blogrolled” here, and received an e-mail from my mother asking what that meant.
So I’m relieved to discover that the folks at Samizdata.net maintain a blogging glossary. I should probably add a permanent link to it on this site, so that people can look there for enlightenment if I use a jargon term and forget to define it.
I only meant to sabotage Jen’s NaNoWriMo project, but apparently I underestimated my own powers. After posting nothing for almost a month, she has finally reappeared with the revelation that she has lost the ability to blog. This is terrible — and it’s all my fault! I am now working to repair the damage, but I may need some help with this. Everyone, please focus all the positive psychic energy you can spare in Jen’s direction so that she’ll recover quickly from this case of Blogger’s Block and start posting again. Do it for Jen — and for me, because I don’t want to go down in history as the evil mastermind who killed Jen’s blog!
I have a confession to make. All through November, I have been secretly hoping for Jen’s NaNoWriMo effort to fail.
Wait, let me explain! I like to read Jen’s writing. And when she posts to her blog, I get to read it. But she doesn’t publish her fiction, so when she works on that, I don’t get to read it. And it’s a zero-sum game; every hour she spends writing fiction is an hour she doesn’t spend posting to her blog. So really, from my point of view, for her to write fiction is a bad thing. Can you blame me for hoping that she would give up early in the month and go back to blogging?
Well, it didn’t work. We’re nearly to the end of November, and Jen is still striving to meet the NaNoWriMo deadline. (As far as I know, that is.) But if she doesn’t make it, my rooting against her will serve another purpose. Instead of indulging in self-recrimination, she can blame me for sabotaging her effort with all of the negative psychic energy I’ve been sending in her direction. See, I’ve actually made a noble sacrifice on her behalf! I sure hope she appreciates this.
Bob may have no comment on CNN’s article about abandoned sites, but I can think of a couple of things to say about it. First of all, the journalist who wrote the article seems to think that this is a new phenomenon, but it’s not. A blog or other personal Web site is the online equivalent of a newsletter, and a lot of newsletters peter out after the first few issues.
Unless you are receiving a newsletter in the first place, you don’t notice when it stops coming. But defunct Web sites are more conspicuous, thanks to search engines like Google. As long as a dead site remains on the Web, search engines keep dredging it up and showing it to us. So we tend to be more aware of abandoned sites, because they’re in our faces more often than abandoned newsletters.
Why have newsletters always had such a high infant mortality rate? I think it’s because most of them were started for the wrong reason, or no obvious reason at all. It just seemed like a good idea. Well, the existence of a newsletter about your favorite topic is a wonderful thing, but somebody has to create it. And not just once, but over and over, every time an issue is due. It requires an ongoing commitment of time, money, and creative energy — and when the initial enthusiasm fades away, you need a reason to continue doing it. Otherwise you’ll realize that you’re wasting your time and energy on something you don’t really care about, and you’ll quit.
Maintaining a Web site is no different. Because of tools like Blogger, creating and updating a Web site seems easier than publishing a newsletter, but that’s an illusion. Sure, you don’t have to make a stack of photocopies, collate and address them by hand, and then drive to the Post Office to mail them. You just open a browser window and start typing. As a result, some people conclude that maintaining a Web site is effortless. But they’re walking into a trap, because the requirement for creative energy hasn’t changed. You still have to think of something worth saying, and then painstakingly craft sentences and paragraphs to communicate it. Fancy tools like Blogger don’t help you with that. When you have to face the Dreadful Blank Page and fill it with words, the fact that it’s a computer screen instead of a sheet of paper does not make the prospect any less daunting.
Most of those abandoned Web sites were doomed before they ever appeared on the Internet, because the site creators forgot to ask themselves: Why am I doing this? The commitment of time and energy to maintain a Web site is nontrivial. If you don’t get anything out of it, you’ll end up like Ajay Powell, viewing your site as a burden rather than a joy.