a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

shitty blogs are back (and this time they're scribble.nu again)

I saw a post recently encouraging people to start shitty personal blogs again, and I wish I could find it, because it's my main inspiration for trying to stick with this blog

Now, I know what you're thinking: "m;, what the fuck are you talking about, statistically the internet is nothing but shitty blogs," and you're right. Here's what I mean:

I'm using "shitty" as a term of art. I'm reclaiming it. Sort of. We should be allowed to make stuff without needing to make it perfect. We should be allowed to be messy and make mistakes and be vulnerable and human. We shouldn't need a reason to express ourselves. We shouldn't feel like everything we write needs to be polished and professional

What is a blog? I think today the word makes people think three main categories:

Category one is pure cynical wordpress SEO adsense spam written so badly you can't even tell if it was written by an AI. These blogs exist purely to pollute search results and trick people into clicking on them. These are the blogs that make people hate the whole idea of blogging, and they don't even rise to the level of shitty. They should be eliminated

Category two is blogs written by someone who's known mainly for something else. These are usually sporadically updated and mostly serve as news about what the person's been up to. Their new album, what they've been up to in the studio, what their goals for the comic are in the new year. Some would call this a news section, not a blog, but sometimes the posts can be more personal and show a bit of the author's humanity, so I think it counts. Either way, these are totally okay

Category three is the Medium / Substack thinkfluencer sphere, and it's a wild card. I think whenever the word "blog" isn't used in the pejorative sense, this is what people mean. The think pieces, the essays, the breakdowns and explainers. There are some people in this category I like, some that are all but indistinguishable from category one, and some that are just pseudo-intellectual reactionary cryptofascists1 painting themselves with a veneer of respectability

If you tell people you're starting a blog, I think category three is what comes to mind. They might ask "oh, what's it about?" The assumption is that there's a specific topic you want to add your voice to, and possibly monetize, but not in the same sense as category one. Category one bloggers don't say they're "starting a blog", they say they're "embarking on an exciting entrepreneurial journey in dynamic content marketization" or some shit

Anyway, in the beginning, none of this was a thing. You had scribble.nu and diaryland, which were essentially CMS minimum viable products. You had some very basic automatic page management, a couple basic themes, and that's it. If you wanted to get your hands dirty, you could tinker with the HTML to make it look different, but as far as features, that's the beginning and end. They were static site generators before static site generators were only for programmers who use them to blog about static site generators

Remarkably, diaryland still exists and people are still actively using it, but I don't remember my password, don't have whatever email address I used when I signed up, and there doesn't actually seem to be a way to sign up for a new account. There's a signup link but it doesn't seem to do anything. If I wanted to, I could pay them $19 and they can help me get back into my old account, but I'm not that interested in recovering the posts I wrote when I was 15, I just wanted to use the service again. Ah well

So scribble.nu and diaryland were cool for a couple years, but fell out of favor when livejournal came along and accidentally invented the social network. I'm not clear on the timeline, livejournal may have technically been first, but for awhile it was off-limits to anyone who didn't pay for an account or have an invite. Once it opened up, pretty much everyone using scribble or diaryland jumped ship, because it was clear that livejournal was the future. And we were right, but in a monkey's paw kind of way

Livejournal was cool for seven or eight years, but started falling apart. It got sold a couple times. Promises that livejournal would always remain ad-free and be member-funded were broken. The ancient perl code started showing its age, the site became less reliable, features started breaking, it felt like a crusty relic of the old internet

There was also a cultural shift. By the late aughts, teenagers who grew up on livejournal together were pushing 25. We had jobs and responsibilities and were embarrassed by the raw emotional stuff we wrote on LJ as teens. Vulnerability was out, snark was in. And lo and behold, along comes a little site called twitter dot com

I think the best thing twitter did was make it easy to post. On livejournal, you have a huge empty canvas staring you in the face. You have to think of a title. You have to decide what mood you're in and what music it would be cool if you were listening to. You have to decide what should go behind an <lj-cut>. And most distressingly, you had to think of something to say

You couldn't just dump a stream of consciousness anymore. That's teenager stuff. You have to give people a reason to read and comment on it, because you're an adult, and adult thoughts should be important. So everyone stopped writing in their livejournal, because who had the time anymore?

Twitter gives you one 140-character box. No options. No hand-wringing. You can post right from your phone! All the pressure is off. You can just say what's on your mind. It was a breath of fresh air. I genuinely think the limitations of a microblog made me a better writer. I expressed myself more succinctly. I wasn't paralyzed by the urge to self-edit. It felt like I could be honest and casual again.

Then twitter had to figure out how to make money, so they took this new casual paradigm, this public forum for uninhibited expression, and weaponized it to make people angry all the time. This creates the angry engagement monetization loop that's become our doomscrolling hell

There was also some stuff happening on tumblr, but I never got into that one

In conclusion, the internet is a toilet and I can't sign up for a new diaryland account, but thanks to bear I can blog like it's 1999

I want to be honest, vulnerable, funny sometimes, interesting sometimes, uninhibited (but not an asshole) and overall just be myself. I want to share me, as a person, without the anxiety of analytics. This isn't to say I don't want to be criticized, I absolutely welcome constructive criticism and invite anyone reading to email me because I never want to stop growing. I don't want to accidentally hurt anyone, but I want it to be a dialogue. I don't want to constantly think about how I might be fucking up and tailor my writing to be as bland as possible to avoid pushback. I don't want pressure to write what I think will get a lot of likes, or boosts, or be picked up by an algorithm. Maybe no one will ever read this, and that's okay. I don't want to know if they are, except the people who choose to reach out. Those are the important connections.

This is my watered-down version of N. Senada's theory of obscurity. If I wanted to stay truly pure, I'd write everything in notebooks to be found after I'm dead, but I get no joy from absolute solipsism. I think this is a reasonable compromise 🦝

  1. this has become a confusing term, but I mean it in the original sense of "fascists who launder their beliefs with dogwhistles or academic-sounding language", not fascists who are into cryptocurrency. (Maybe blog subcategory 1.1 would be "blogs about cryptocurrency")↩

#currents #personal