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How I killed my blog - A Shout Out to My Pepys [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
The American Caliban

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How I killed my blog [Feb. 4th, 2013|07:27 pm]
The American Caliban
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You aren’t reading this. Once, you did. Here’s why.

In 2001 I started a LiveJournal entirely as a social networking tool. My friends were all signing up. We had a lot of fun sharing a circle of friends on LJ, and most of us ended up at least reading if not posting every day.

The social network expanded rapidly, and I made new connections. And I wrote more. I have a background in journalism and I’ve always written compulsively. With the spigot open, things sputtered out: personal confession, satire, sociopolitical conversations, culture, an avalanche of ephemera. It was mostly a good time, although the madness of myself and others provided some spectacular low points as well. (None of the madness has been removed. Good thing you’re not reading it.)

A few years into this I had a decent audience for someone who hadn’t tried. At best estimate the thing had 300 regular readers. If I wrote something interesting or challenging or unusually annoying I always got a few comments. Even a couple of my literary heroes showed up to say nice things about my writing. And the writing got better. There was a deadline feel to working on that LJ. I would think: “what should I write today?” rather than “should I write?”

Like others, I messed around with syndication and linking other services. There were all these ways you could stuff your LJ and photo service and other crap into one feed, but those weren’t popular in this case. A couple of times I started up a separate blog intending to put longer stuff there but didn’t use it enough or try to promote it really, and it sat there. This should have been a warning.

I never wanted to leave LJ, despite its “uncool” teen-angst image. It was a great platform for us, and a decent place to write. I had a built-in audience and a lot of daily reading for myself. But LJ started to get weird. Its ownership got passed around a few times, and the infrastructure and policies looked wobblier every day. When it was inhaled by an opaque Russian company it was looking like a worse and worse place to do anything a person might care about.

So, I made a WordPress blog and slurped up all the old LJ posts into it, and kept going here.

Whoops!

The social element is gone. Comments are rare and telegraphic. If I send a link to a friend I’ll get friendly and useful responses. Syndication to Facebook gets comments there. When comments are enabled on the syndication to the old LJ I get some responses from my friends there. But in general the thing is just dead. Traffic is awful.

As a result, I don’t write as much either. I never had too much invested in a big audience (good thing, because I didn’t have one!) but without any audience at all… Well, it’s like doing a late night shift on a radio station nobody hears. (Another story.) It’s boring and a little depressing.

I wasn’t the only one to abandon LJ, but it looks like most of the others went to Facebook for ephemera and socializing. That makes sense because the whole world is on FB, and because people don’t like uncool things (LJ). A lot of LJ’s benefits, like semi-anonymity and great filtering for audiences, are gone. But if your friends aren’t there, it’s not a social network, so, that’s the end of that.

Part of me wants to go back to LJ, but it’s not the same thing now. Mostly I want to keep the energy going with my own little thing, because I want to write and I need to control where it lives. Perhaps enforced write-every-day discipline would help.

In any case, I trashed something useful. LiveJournal was a good audience of friends and strangers and a wonderful conversation space, where I learned more about public writing than I had working full-time at a newspaper. Where did we go wrong? In any case, I met a lot (more than 50) of great new people I still have to talk to.

Anyway that’s how I killed my blog. If you’re reading this, something must be terribly wrong.

Mirrored from Be My Blog.

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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: anaisdjuna
2013-02-05 05:24 am (UTC)
I always read LJ. A lot of people are still here. Less, yes. It's what it was, but it's something and it takes folks writing here for it to ever move to the next step. One used to not be able to comment here on your posts, I thought, so I've not commented here in a while. I like what I read when it appears :-) I also like that I can comment here this time. Finicky user am I, I'd have to be super motivated to click somewhere else to comment. Ha. How spoiled and silly we are these days.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2013-02-05 05:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, I turned on comments here again partly because of the post itself, but partly because I've given up on anything like a unified comment thread. Nobody replies on the site itself, just here or on Facebook. Maybe it's just too late to do something on my own.
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[User Picture]From: auntiesiannan
2013-02-05 05:24 am (UTC)
Go where the day takes you.

If something is terribly wrong, it must be with me.
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[User Picture]From: maeve66
2013-02-05 05:42 am (UTC)
I still use LJ, and for the reasons you talk about. I couldn't transfer to Wordpress or Blogger or whatever, because of the lack of community. So here is an echoing chamber with a few people still reading and commenting, and I can't let it go. Facebook isn't this.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2013-02-05 05:51 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, Facebook isn't anyone's choice for conversation. I was just greedy enough to want all the conversation in one place (mine) and that was dumb.
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[User Picture]From: beaq
2013-02-05 07:26 am (UTC)
I hate the fragmentation and the lack of content and conversation in social-media-of-now. I read you on LJ, but I never comment because it seems like you're one step removed, over on a blog, where ... well, I don't know you, but on LJ it feels more peer-to-peer rather than guest-in-your-domain. :-/

i hope you write every day.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2013-02-05 08:29 am (UTC)
I hear that about peer to peer vs. guest. I did that partly because I felt like a guest in LJ's house and I didn't know if the house was going to be there the next day. I guess I should leave comments open everywhere and forget about having things in one basket. Egotism fails.
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[User Picture]From: alfaguru
2013-02-05 09:07 am (UTC)
*waves*
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[User Picture]From: kineticfactory
2013-02-05 01:00 pm (UTC)
I too wish LJ or something like it would come back. But Facebook has usurped most people's social-connection energy, to the point where investing time in keeping up on other networks is a losing proposition, and spending time writing multiple paragraphs of prose in case one of the few radioactive mutants who still read LJ should stumble across it quadruply so.

I recently went back to posting things to LJ and Dreamwidth (same codebase but not run by oligarchs in Moscow), though to be honest, I'm not feeling much motivation, namely due to the fact that it feels a little too much like talking to myself.

Having said that, it doesn't look like many people read my blog either these days. I suspect the forwarding of links has moved entirely to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

One thing LJ/DW could do that would make it more compelling would be to provide a Soundcloud-style “secret link” functionality, for sharing private posts to private access lists on other social networks.
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[User Picture]From: mallorys_camera
2013-02-05 01:41 pm (UTC)
I think you're wrong about LJ. Checking Alexa ratings ain't my thang ("blablablah.com captures 1.4 percent of the global Internet audience!") but my private take is that it's an underground phenomenon, rather like Deadheads once were and the whole BDSM thing is now. There's a strong readership.

Could you use it to leverage a professional media career? Not at this point. FB is better for self promotion.
But there's an increasingly strong interest in online "communities," and FB is not an online community. It's Venn diagram friendship circles, most of whom know each other in what's laughingly known as "real life."

I kept you on my flist even after months of activity because you wrote a few things way back that spoke to me. You don't know me. It's unlikely you will ever know me. And yet, our... penumbra if you will, rub shoulders. That's something.
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[User Picture]From: pigglet27
2013-02-05 02:28 pm (UTC)
I've always read LJ and whatever your crosspost from your blog. but I'm not much of a commenter in general.

I like LJ because I know I can filter posts and I trust the circle of people that are here with very personal things. FB makes things far too complicated to try and filter on a regular basis and there is always the fear that you forgot to filter and people will see something they shouldn't.

Also to your point, I feel no sense of community on FB. Mostly it is people posting picture crap about current topics (Obama, gun control, abortion, etc) and very little real discussion.
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[User Picture]From: microbie
2013-02-05 03:17 pm (UTC)
Echoing this person's comments. Also I never did find you on FB, so LJ remains my only connection to you. It is hard to venture out to a bunch of individual sites to read people who used to be in one place. I'm bad at following LJers' independent blogs.
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[User Picture]From: sp0rk0
2013-02-05 04:57 pm (UTC)
I miss LJ. I never was able to get much past my phobic fear of writing more than comments, but I really enjoyed reading the more meaningful thoughts of people I think are awesome.

Facebook makes me mostly depressed and kinda sick to my stomach, and I never have gotten the hang of twitter.

If there's a next thing, I hope it's much more like here than out there.
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[User Picture]From: robertainnc
2013-02-05 05:33 pm (UTC)
Hey you!
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[User Picture]From: robertainnc
2013-02-05 05:32 pm (UTC)
I feel you. I randomly decided to look at LJ today, even though I haven't in ages. And not because of Facebook--I rarely look at that either, and it never fit the niche LJ did. Too many people drifted away from LJ though, and when I pop back over, it does have that late night radio shift feel, indeed. Just wanted to share my sympathy, as it is a real loss.
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[User Picture]From: elserracho
2013-02-05 07:35 pm (UTC)

totally didn't read this.

i was glad when you made the switch because i found the WP format a bit easier on the eyes and never really liked create a LJ account just to sass you. Hell, i can't even remember the password for my LJ account, hopefully they've nuked it cus i can use twitter now.

I think blogging just sort of dissipated into the ether and you may have had the same experience if you hadn't made the change.

PS you are the best there is at twitter. sorry.

PPS captchas make me want to set myself on fire
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[User Picture]From: coffeechica
2013-02-05 07:43 pm (UTC)
LJ's still very much strong and has the financial support to keep going for awhile (this is from an ex-staffer, by the way, which you know of course but others might not). The thing is that's killing everybody, is that your network from 2003 isn't going to be here anymore. But people are around on LJ, they're just in different communities. A lot of them on the US-side are in ONTD-based communities, some of which actually have decently media-cynical readership. ;)

I really really miss my network from 2003-2006ish. Luckily most of y'all I can catch on IRC or whatnot, even if you're not blogging. Everybody kind of shifted, sort of like how people move out of town after graduating college, and we're left with all these empty houses.

The people who comment on my LJ are either my really close friends, or people I've added to my friends list within the past 2 years. It is such an overwhelming effort to make a new network again that I haven't really been trying, but a lot of people still are, just in places we're not watching. That's how LJ is right now.

I like your writing. I like it lots, and sometimes I share it with my other friends. I hope wherever you go that you keep putting your writing out there, because you're damn good at it.

Edited at 2013-02-05 08:30 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: potatohead
2013-02-05 10:18 pm (UTC)
I haven't posted in f.o.r.e.v.e.r BUT I come to LJ everyday to read what little there is. I guess old (11+ year) habits die hard?
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[User Picture]From: sp0rk0
2013-02-17 11:07 pm (UTC)
yessss
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[User Picture]From: rpkrajewski
2013-02-06 12:28 am (UTC)
Hey, something is always terribly wrong.
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[User Picture]From: capn_jil
2013-02-06 01:01 am (UTC)
idk i just reblog pictures of triangles to tumblr now that is my "social media experience"

i really like your writing though like a lot
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