20 Years After My First Post, Why I'm Still Writing Online πŸ–‹οΈ

20 years!!! I must be getting old!

20 Years After My First Post, Why I'm Still Writing Online πŸ–‹οΈ

Issue No. 33

This is a project by Jeremy Brown. I'm a journeyman sharing insights on leading product & engineering teams, building products, and exploring technology.
I will also share occasional updates on my overall project as I build this newsletter and "The Retrospective" (a live show and podcast) in the open.

This week's post is a personal reflection on why I write online. Not surprisingly, it made me feel rather old!

πŸ’¬ In this issue, I cover:

  • πŸ–‹οΈ 20 Years After My First Post, Why I'm Still Writing Online
    • πŸ“ What Has Changed About My Writing in 20 Years?
    • πŸ€” So Why Do I (Still) Write Online?
      • 🧘 For Myself
      • 🀝 To Give Back to the Tech Community
      • πŸ—οΈ To Build a Personal Platform
      • πŸ’° What About Monetisation?
    • πŸ“œ A Short History of My Blogging
      • πŸ‘‹ Hello Social Platforms!
      • 🏍️ 2wheels2africa.com (My "Other" Site)
      • 🌐 WordPress Takes Over the Web
      • πŸ”š WordPress Is Out
      • πŸ“¬ The Newsletter Arrives
    • πŸ—£οΈ Was It All Just Screaming Into the Void?
      • πŸš€ I Hit the Front Page of Hacker News Twice!
  • πŸ”¦ Highlight of the Week

πŸ–‹οΈ 20 Years After My First Post, Why I'm Still Writing Online

I had a strange moment last week.

I realised I have been writing online for over 20 years!

I was reading a post about "20 Years of Blogging on my own website", and I thought, "Hang on, when did I start blogging?".

Thanks to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, I found out that I wrote my first blog post in August 2003. (For context, this was a year after I graduated, and I was working at my first job as a developer.)

My blogging engine was Blosxom, and each post was a text file with HTML embedded for links and images! It's funny how things have come full circle, with statically rendered websites being a thing these days!

I paid 20 pounds for the domain and two years of hosting with 34sp (a hosting provider in Manchester, where I lived then). Adjusted for inflation, that would be about 35 pounds today.

Funny side note: storage was limited, so my tiny site eventually exceeded its storage limits (by 1k!), and I had to upgrade my plan.

Unbelievably, 34sp is still around today, though the prices (and storage available) have increased quite a bit. It's great to see a business like theirs have such longevity in this day and age!

πŸ“ What Has Changed About My Writing in 20 Years?

I spent a lot of time researching this post, reviewing my old posts and reverse-engineering my blogging history.

It is strange looking back at those posts. It feels like reading the diary of another younger, more immature version of myself!

Initially, I shared inane personal updates like this one about seeing someone from Big Brother "Nearly Famous Anouska."

I was into hiking, running, and the outdoors. These posts show how much I loved those weekends in the Lake District.

Sprinkled amongst those were some technical posts related to my job:

With a few more profound philosophical posts like this one: Go West! - Nov 2003:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Gil Bailie shares a piece of advice given to him.

I want to be alive, not dead, to break out of this McWorld into something more significant, to do the things that I'm most scared of, but to do them anyway!

As a preview of what was to come, many of my posts were more like Facebook posts or tweets, like this one, "The end of the 5-second rule."

I cringed a lot when I read these posts, but they were a sign of the good old days before we posted everything on the open web.

Blogging has changed so much since it was a social thing in its early days. Today, social interactions online have moved to social networks.

Much of that intimacy we used to have has moved to newsletters because email is one of the few open protocols that has survived the corporate takeover of the Internet.

I've followed that trend, with my writing evolving from inane updates sent into the ether to trying to send fully formed thoughts about topics related to my work into the ether via this newsletter.

πŸ€” So Why Do I (Still) Write Online?

Why do I write online?

🧘 For Myself

Well, the main reason is for myself. I get the most benefit from my writing online. It helps me organise my thoughts on various topics. I enjoy writing about subjects I can reference later and share with people I'm coaching, mentoring, or working with.

I identify a lot with one of the quotes from "20 Years of Blogging on my own website":

While it changes slightly over the years, it's mostly for me to sort out my thoughts about some topic and to document something that has been going on which I might want to come back to in the future and read from a different perspective. I imagine it's similar to when people write a diary, but less frequent, less personal, and fully public.

Back in the day, I posted much more personal stuff, which I nowadays try to avoid to not expose my loved ones to the harsh reality of the Internet.

Writing online also improves my writing skills. I've improved with time, though I still feel I have a long way to go.

Another reason is that as I'm freelancing right now, publishing a weekly newsletter gives structure to my week, which I enjoy. I aim for consistency, even if I don't always achieve it (it's ironic writing this after missing last week's post!)

🀝 To Give Back to the Tech Community

The second reason I write online is to give back and help others in the tech community.

As an avid reader of books and blogsβ€”consuming 10 to 20 posts weekly for yearsβ€”I've gained immense knowledge and want to contribute in return.

I hope people find my writing helpful.

The feedback I receive not only aids my learning but also provides new perspectives. This exchange of ideas, where my thoughts meet others' experiences, is invaluable. It's a rewarding cycle of giving and receiving within the community.

All that is to say, your comments and replies are always welcome and appreciated!

πŸ—οΈ To Build a Personal Platform

The third reason, though less important than the others, is to buy options for my future self.

By building a personal platform on my own terms, not confined to any specific social media platform, I am slowly creating a platform for myself.

In today's employment landscape, nobody works for the same company all their lives. Companies prioritise profits over job security, laying off employees even during profitable periods. This volatility is even worse in startups.

Building a reputation and network through my writing offers more security and creates future opportunities than if I didn't. It allows potential clients and employers to understand my thinking, leadership style, and values. I think of it like a CV on steroids!

My platform helps me create optionality for my career, whether attracting clients, finding the right company fit, or opening doors to future opportunities.

By sharing my thoughts and experiences, I'm cultivating a personal brand that transcends the limitations of ever-changing social platforms, ensuring longevity and control over my professional narrative.

πŸ’° What About Monetisation?

Finally, monetisation isn't my main goal, though it would be great if it happened.

Building a small audience could provide initial customers for any new ventures I start - see above about creating options for my future self.

Writing online can only help with that.

Of course, if my blog takes off, I'd be happy to monetise it, but that's not my primary aim.

πŸ“œ A Short History of My Blogging

Not quite two years after my first blog post, in April 2005, I wrote my last post on my original blog, "Every dog has his day in court".

Blogging slowed down because my job at Accenture was pretty intense and also because I joined Facebook in December 2006 and then Twitter a year later, in December 2008. I was originally @tenfourty, but I changed my handle to @JeremyBrownTech when I moved my domain from tenfourty.com to jeremybrown.tech (more on that in a second).

Looking back at my Facebook and Twitter accounts, I see that my blogging moved into those platforms. It is sad these days to think how far and how low social media has come from those early days.

πŸ‘‹ Hello Social Platforms!

Social media used to be about connecting with friends, but it no longer feels like that. Unfortunately, social media started to make us all feel bad because it made us feel like others were "living a better life" than we were. Today it seems to have become a crappy cesspool where it's all about short-form videos to keep us mindlessly fixated on our screens.

🏍️ 2wheels2africa.com (My "Other" Site)

So, with the arrival of social media, blogging on my main site went on a hiatus of 5 years, though I did blog quite a lot on 2wheels2africa.com about my bike trip and adventure in Cameroon, which was very well documented.

I cringe when I look back at many of my posts about the trip (and some of the photos). But I prefer to keep them online.

From the First Post (in September 2007) to the last real update from that adventure in May 2010, "Checking in" (we left Cameroon to return to the U.K. later that year), they document the fantastic (and life-shaping) adventure I had with Keith.

🌐 WordPress Takes Over the Web

As that adventure wound down, I resumed blogging on my main site. In November 2010, I relaunched tenfourty.com on WordPress, "Relaunching tenfourty.com."

This led to a period of primarily technical posts and tech industry commentary, marked by occasional professional updates as I changed jobs.

All these old posts have migrated as my site evolved through different tech stacks. They are all in the archives (scroll to the bottom).

In August 2013, I moved my WordPress hosting to OpenShift Online, "The Evolution of Paas and how this site was setup."

πŸ”š WordPress Is Out

Then, in November 2015, I followed the statically generated website trend, migrated from WordPress to using markdown rendered with Hugo, and hosted on Netlify, "Moving from WordPress to a static site using Hugo and Netlify".

Six years later, in April 2021, I wanted more simplicity for my site (it was just a blog, after all), so when I moved to HEY for my email, I decided to move my blog over to HEY World, "A new beginning for my personal website (and email)."

However, that didn't last long!

πŸ“¬ The Newsletter Arrives

In May 2022, I wanted to "get serious" with my writing and wasn't happy with my HEY email, so I migrated to Ghost. "πŸš€ More than a new coat of paint, a new beginning!"

Initially, I used Ghost's hosting service (I really wanted to support those folks who are doing awesome stuff), but I found the service too expensive for my use case, so this site is now self-hosted on a server running in my house!

If this blogging/newsletter thing ever takes off, I'll return to their hosting plan, as it's an excellent service.

πŸ—£οΈ Was It All Just Screaming Into the Void?

A few posts have done well with Google and still get traffic today.

My bike review from Dec 2016 still gets regular hits, "2000 km with the Cannondale Slate".

And these technical posts still get hits from Google! I still chuckle when I see them in my site's stats!

In my recent writing, I'm pleased these are doing well with Google searchers.

πŸš€ I Hit the Front Page of Hacker News Twice!

I've surprised myself at times. These posts hit the front page of Hacker News:

If I measure success purely on what hits the front page of H.N., maybe I should stick to tech commentary instead of engineering leadership topics.

What do you think?

πŸ’¬ If you had some thoughts while reading this, I would love to hear them in the comments.

πŸ”¦ Highlight of the Week

This quote does a great job of capturing why I like to write online: to force myself to think better!

Good thinking is expensive. Bad thinking costs a fortune.  One way to force yourself to think is to write. Good writing requires good thinking.    Forcing yourself to make your thinking visible gives poor thinking nowhere to hide. You can’t simply take a few minutes here and there, get the gist of the problem, and expect to have clear writing. It doesn’t work that way.  Good writing, like good thinking, takes time.
Tiny Thought from Farnham Street's Brain Food No. 514 – March 5, 2023

P.S. Ironically, Microsoft is still crap! I wrote this in Aug 2003 "Microsoft is crap!" and they are still at it today - "Giving Windows total recall of everything a user does is a privacy minefield".