I’ve decided I should take a little break between tales of our Vegas depravity, before I give my parents a heart attack.
So I, like many of you, recently received my chipper ‘happy three year anniversary with WordPress’ note. I’m surprised at how quickly that three years passed. July this year actually marked my 10 year anniversary in the blogging world. Yep, an entire decade of writing down life anecdotes for the entire internet to read.
In July 2003, I was a twenty-one year old receptionist spending much of the day surfing the internet because my job wasn’t particularly strenuous. I had a boyfriend, a purple V8 Fairlane, didn’t like wine, and was obliviously stupid in a way that only twenty-one year olds can achieve. I used to spend a lot of time on How Stuff Works, and one day their daily front page poll was: do you know what a blog is? I certainly did not know what a blog was, so I set about finding out. It turned out ‘weblogging’ was a fancy name for something we teenage girls had been doing on the internet since the late nineties. Somewhere in the murky, dank cellars of the internet moulders an enormous archive of angst-filled, hormone-fueled online journals, hosted on sites like Angelfire, Geocities and Alta Vista. Anyway, this rediscovery of a habit that sustained me through my teenage years filled me with a giddy sense of nostalgia (come on, when you’re twenty-one years old, five years is a life time ago), and I immediately Googled how to start one.
My search led me to 20six. I’m not sure what made me choose 20six as my platform, but had I not done so, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be blogging today. The community was creative, talented and amusing, and it seemed like everyone knew everybody else. I’d always fancied myself a good writer, but the calibre of composition on that site completely disabused me of that notion. The majority of bloggers had several years on top of my tender twenty-one, and it showed. I hung onto their every word, and became starry-eyed when any of them deigned to award me a ‘sweetie’, or comment on my dismal, half-arsed entries. Those people made me want to be a better writer.
The site employed its very own den mother, in the form of an aspiring young journalist known as Jojo. Yes, we had a real, live human on hand to deal with technical issues and personal disputes – I guess she’d be called a moderator now. Jojo had a blog of her own on 20six, and the entire site perused rapt as she married her fiancé, became pregnant, gave birth to a baby boy and eventually moved on to pastures greener than 20six. A quick internet search shows she’s doing pretty well for herself these days, and that makes me happy.
Despite these personal touches and the close sense of community, blogging was largely an anonymous pursuit back then. There were no photos, no advertising, no RSS feeds, no tags. It was easy to camouflage yourself in the World Wide Web at the time, because nobody had an ‘online presence.’ Social media was still a couple of years away. There was an epic uproar when 20six announced that they would be integrated into Google’s search results – most bloggers didn’t even let their friends and family know they were blogging, and the thought of being accidentally discovered was horrifying.
Being a UK based website, by default the clientele was mainly British. After a year or so, the various locales would organise social drinks to bring online friendships into the real world. While I watched mournfully from across the pond, the UK contingent made real life friends among themselves – some of them even ended up marrying each other and having babies. I think there were about five Aussies on the entire site, and four of them were from Sydney, so there was scant hope of socialising outside of my computer monitor.
Sometime around 2006, 20six was sold. Consequently it turned to utter shit and the majority of users flounced indignantly out of there. Sadly, that’s where I lost most of them. I started blogging on the now defunct Whitepage, purely because it was touted as ‘Australian’, and I thought it might recreate the camaraderie of 20six – maybe someone would instigate social drinks I could actually attend. Unfortunately, Whitepage lacked the numbers to create a vibrant online neighbourhood, and to this day I’ve never had the opportunity to have Friday afternoon cocktails with my fellow blog buddies (interestingly, I still don’t know any Melbourne bloggers). My days at Whitepage were not wholly wasted however – I gathered up Snowy and Jane, and to this day they’re both terrific value.
When Whitepage became Blognow and also turned to utter shit, I shifted across to Vox. I notice there is now a Facebook page for the Vox refugees (check it out, if you haven’t already), and it seems many people enjoyed a similar sense of community at Vox to the one we felt at 20six. I missed that boat entirely, probably because the only blogs I followed were those of expat 20sixers – and they were spread all over the internet like shipwreck survivors tossed out sea, clinging to any piece of flotsam with a customisable template.
One day in 2009, I was talking to my dad on the phone, and he suddenly blurted out “I have a blog.” This was somewhat startling, because I’d spoken to him several times over the preceding years about my blogging, and it was clear he had no idea what I was on about. “That’s great!” I replied, “what’s the website?” To my horror, he then proceeded to recite a Vox address. As soon as I hung up the phone, I logged into my account and frenziedly rendered my blog ‘father friendly’. While I’ve been restricted to father friendly blogging ever since, I feel the entire project has done wonders for a father-daughter relationship that was already pretty special. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about him over the last few years of our parallel blogging, and I’m sure he could say the same for me. (Whether he wanted to or not, is another story.)
As for my humble beginnings in the blogosphere…well, the people I ‘met’ on 20six stay with me to this day. I don’t know where most of them ended up – in fact I don’t even know what most of them look like – but I still think about them often. I’ve kept tabs on a tiny handful, but I’d sure love to know what happened to the rest.
If you’re an ex-20sixer that’s managed to track me through five separate blogs – do say hello. I remember you.