So, although all milestones are arbitrary, something has been floating around my mind for the last few weeks: it’s been 10 years since I first started blogging.
Like any milestone, this raises some thoughts, mainly around the whole notion of what blogging means to me today.
Whilst writing this, my four-year-old popped up and asked what I’m doing. ‘Writing about my ten years as a blogger’. I then realized he has no idea of what ‘blogging’ is, even though he’s definitely a digital native (his first brand affinity was with Netflix, which, I know, says little for my parenting skills). This made me think it’s not necessarily given that blogging will form part of the lexicon of new generation digital naturals. Is the blog doomed to the same fate as the fax machine and CD as a quaint old technology that has had its time?
I don’t think so.
‘Blogging’ as a term may fall by the wayside but the act of self-publishing is alive and well. Back in 2004, I didn’t have access to Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Facebook, Instagram or any other content-based social network. Blogging was just about it. WordPress and Blogger ruled this world. That’s hardly the case now. As each of the new pretenders arrived, a recurrent trope along the lines of ‘blogging is dead’ would rise up.
But I’m with Mitch Joel (in this post from last year) in that even though the new generation may rarely use the term blogging, at its core the way the new generation shares content bears striking similarities. The power of publishing is now in the hands of all of us. Whether we call it blogging or not is largely a matter of semantics.
But getting back to me, when I say I’ve been blogging for 10 years, what exactly does that mean?
Have I been a diarist?
The chronological nature of blogs leaves them well-suited for diarists. I’m a lousy diarist. Sure, early in my career I made a living by publishing diary entries of my life in Goa. But (with very few exceptions) I’ve only ever kept diaries when I was compelled to do so. When I knew there was a platform for me and my ego. Even though one of my most popular posts covered one of the most profound moments in my life, I’m definitely no Samuel Pepys, if for no other reason than a lot of life passes me by without me documenting it.
Have I been an opinion leader?
Has my blog been my very own digital soapbox. Not exactly: I’m someone that either feels like they don’t have enough intimate knowledge of a subject or knows it so well that can readily see both sides of an argument. That never makes for the best opinion pieces
Is my blog a news center?
I do share new and noteworthy tidbits that come my way, especially as I work in marketing and fair chunk of my career is tied up with launching stuff. Having said that, I’m rarely the first off the presses with new news so this is largely me sharing my (vaguely educated) spin on a story.
Is my blog a hub/portal into a topic?
It has been in the past. Around 2007 I was really looking at the idea of blogs as curation points, gathering relevant information on a topic and dishing it up in a single portal. Then along came Twitter and pretty much stole that mantle.
Have I built a solid community?
Some blogs are incredibly effective at uniting a tribe; linking a community. Fred Wilson does a sterling job for the startup world. Could I take up this space? Hmm, I tend to float around on topics of interest and where I want to put my attention. I’m afraid I can easily confuse the hell out of you if you elect to follow me constantly. As I have tended to move through different communities and interests, so has my blog. (A lot of my early posts were on SEO, something I rarely talk about now).
Does my blog link all my social sharing?
It should, given I’ve found myself recently professing the benefits of using blogs as a central repository for YouTube videos, Slideshares, SoundCloud podcasts etc. Also, Sandy Carter, who I work with closely, does a great job of this. I’ve been errant on this over the last 10 years but it’s definitely an area I want to focus on.
Does my blog offer support and tips?
Blogging is great for support. The great James Taylor (not the music guy, but this one) talks about how he first started blogging as a way to send general information to a sales team, saving himself a bunch of emails in the process. I’ve definitely done this in the past – particularly when coming across a solution that wasn’t readily available via a Google search. Something it still makes sense to continue as we march into brave new worlds like video production.
So, what is my blog and why should I keep it?
This gets back to my original thesis: a blog is a slippery chameleon of a platform that needn’t be confined in its objectives, or what’s shared on it. Sure, sometimes a blog will have a real set objective, but that’s a loose rule and one you have to decide on for yourself.
I think as a business tool, the blog will continue to grow in importance. Just look at the growth right now in Content Marketing (as reported by Google Trends):
Whilst content can take many forms (from landing pages to ebooks to Instagram videos, for example) a blog remains a great tool as companies become media houses.
Whether we continue to call a blog a blog remains to be seen, but I’m glad for the last 10 years I’ve had with Caged Ether and the doors it has opened up for me. I doubt I’d be doing what I do today if it wasn’t for this blog. It’s also been an outlet for me to express myself in a way I can’t do on any other social network, with a stronger sense of ownership to boot. I’m fascinated to see where this will lead me in the next 10 years
Postcript: Why Caged Ether?
I have been asked a lot over the years to what ‘Caged Ether’ refers. Just as my blog has morphed over time, so has the meaning of its name.
The origin of Caged Ether is tied with a word we rarely use now. Back in 2004 we used to talk of the internet as the Information Superhighway, and had the notion of information travelling through the ‘ether’ (whether down ethernet cables or over wifi connections).
So the original definition referred to the blog as my little corner of the internet.
However, over time other connotations came into play. An idea that runs through both Buddhism and nuclear physics (and has been popularized by Deepak Chopra) is that all matter is mere illusion. The universe is all about the flow of energy. That’s all we are: bundles of flowing energy. Caged ether.