Blogs were invented in the mid 1800s by really bored Indonesian monks. This was before Blogger and Typepad, so they had to do all of the HTML coding by hand. In my field, we trace the arc of blogging through the burgeoning years in the 60s and 70s, up through the 80s and 90s heyday period until about a decade ago when blogging died a slow, painful, and widely misunderstood death. There were quite a few personal tomes written about the demise of blogging. The irony is not lost on anyone except Al Gore, but then again he’s just getting the hang of written journals.
I started my career as a sleeping bag/router tester in 2001 but saved myself for bigger, better and more noble things like, for example, this blog. I’m not sure why I started doing this. As I’ve said many times before, I’ve written about 8,000 articles in the last 13 years. Half of those were router reviews. Why, in a crazed fit of journalistic angst I suddenly started blogging so sarcastically like this in my own personal diary I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it was because I can write a stupefying sentence like that last one. Also, there are no filters on what I say. And, I get free hosting. FTW, right?
Sometimes, writing professionally about gadgets and mobile apps is only a heartbeat away from the robotically generated prose you find at sites that are misspellings of real sites. The smartphone space radically uplifts the !exclamation mark quadcore processor Buy Now from Apple and you get to keep the memories stat! I guess anything you say about a sleeping bag after that makes perfect sense, but I started blogging to try and put sentences together that have nothing to do with Intel or Apple or Microsoft and maybe bring some respite to the disease we all share known as workplace tedium.
Honestly, if I can get you to crack a smile just once I’ll be happy.
A few days ago, someone asked me about why I’m even bothering to write a personal blog. What’s my motivation? How does it fit my muse? Those are good questions, and they made more sense to me after I looked up the word muse in the dictionary. I’m not paid for this. It’s a bit like volunteering at the local community center to write gadget reviews or do a sleeping bag round-up. If you perform surgical procedures, it’s like volunteering to do them at the library.
The surprising thing about blogging is that there’s no plan for any of this. I’m not covering a set genre. I can write about red delivery vans one day and 50 Cent the next. (I’m still working on a blog entry that talks about 50 Cent driving a red delivery van. Kind of a weird word picture there.) Today, it’s analyzing why I blog. Tomorrow, it might be Al Gore. You just never know. It’s the freedom of expression, or the freedom from expression (given my infrequency of posts) that makes this attractive to me in a literary sense. Ironically, maybe if I was being paid to blog I’d stop doing it. Sort of like the guy who does those volunteer colonoscopies at the library: it’s just not as fun if you have to take it seriously. No one wants an overlord of everything they do, judging every act and criticizing every exclamation mark! I might retire from writing someday, but I probably won’t retire from blogging. I’m like Robert Scoble who said he’ll never stop wearing Google Glass.
(Speaking of Robert, I saw him at a Harman Kardon event in Vegas a few weeks ago. Or maybe it was a Bowers & Wilkins event? I get my vaguely European speaker duo companies confused sometimes. He was carrying around a video camera the size of an obese giraffe and had that wild-eyed look of a journalist tracking down a story. I stepped aside for him because I was only interested in the snack bar.and figuring out which mildly famous 90s rock band was going to play next at the event. I felt like I wanted to salute him, though, because he is a true pioneer of the field. Also, I’m thinking of asking him if I can borrow his pair of Google Glass just for a few minutes.)
Part of me wonders if blogging might all be an escape from my escape. For most of 2001, the idea of writing for a living was a distant dream – something I had carried around with me since childhood, packed up in a little leather suitcase with metal hinges. There was something about the possibility of creative expression that held some promise for me during weekly staff meetings long ago. You know the ones. You feel like you want to reach for a stapler and inject metal into your forehead just to break up the monotony. “Yes, Mr. Johnson, I will get that accounting report to you by next Friday but first I need to go get some staples out of my forehead.”
When the retail industry spiraled out of control after 9/11, I found myself fairly destitute. I had to downgrade from a Vente to a Grande at Starbucks. There were a lot of personal sacrifices. After a few months, I found my calling in the field of technology journalism. I wrote happily about smart cards and biometric scanners. We’re talking some pretty electrifying stuff. I can’t remember the exact details of that first smart card article but let’s just say someone at Mastercard owes me a few favors. Now, some 13 years later, I have covered everything from connected refrigerators to camera drones to red delivery vans. I’ve enumerated on every tech gadgets known to man, except for those inappropriate ones they cover on Gizmodo.
What’s left to do? Not much. There are only a handful of ways you can cover cloud security and make it seem more interesting than watching teenagers play Call of Duty or learning bridge. At the same time, it’s a wonderful profession and I’m basically living the dream. (I’m still hoping to live the dream AND test a Sleep Number bed at the same time – there’s nothing like the cozy comfort of an adjustable mattress with individualized heat settings.) Blogging provides an outlet for me from my day job, a kind of unadorned release. I’m in control of my own destiny AND my own GoDaddy account. I’ve since started buying the Vente at Starbucks and throwing caution to the wind. That particular personal life crisis from my early days is long over. I have moved on to other, more pressing personal life crises.
Blogging can set you free. It gives you wings. Next to volunteering to do surgeries, it’s a wonderful creative expression. We’ll see what topic comes next. I’m thinking it will be loosely related to Al Gore.