A couple of friends have suggested I post a piece about “the thinking” behind this blog, how it all came about and so on.
How and why indeed, I ask myself? Is there a cognitive process that can actually be called “thinking” behind it, I wonder?
As a freelance journalist, I’ve often thought about having a website but have never got around to it. There are lots of reasons why I think it’s a good idea – publicity is the main one – but I really don’t know much about this ‘ere cyberlark. I read a couple of blogs fairly often (this one and these from the Guardian) and find them alternately fascinating and really bloody irritating. On one level, the whole notion of a weblog is supremely indulgent. On another, the blogosphere seems to be a very small world, with a few dedicated, even obsessive posters dominating the conversation. And some of the time (as with that guy who tried to blog about his gap year on the Grauniad travel site) it’s downright nasty.
But, like every other mid-30s journalist I feel times are a changin’ and the old model of being commissioned to write a piece by a newspaper or magazine for a certain amount of money may come under pressure as more and more people take their reading and writing habits to the web. Plus, I can write stuff here that I want to write without squaring it with anyone first. If you, as a reader, don’t like what you read you simply won’t come back so that should keep me focused.
Also – and this is where I tackled the self-indulgence problem – a good blog, like any good column, view or opinion published anywhere, should say something about life, the universe and everything which other people can relate to. If there’s a nugget of general truth within the highly personal ranting and raving, it may just add a teeny tiny amount to the sum of greater human knowledge and understanding and I’m all for that.
What’s really got me going now is hearing Clay Shirky speak at the Edinburgh TV Festival just over a week ago. Before then, I didn’t understand why someone who is paid to write would want to write for free on an open blog.
Now, I totally get it. Mr Shirky talked about a friend of his who posted short videos of himself doing funny stuff on a website and, pretty soon – through donations and subscriptions, some advertising and some direct sales of mugs and t-shirts with his catchphrases on – he’d paid his rent. Because he was a one-man band, he didn’t need to earn a fortune from his blogging. And incrementally he built an online audience which allowed him to earn enough in micro-transactions to pay his rent. I only have six years to run on my mortgage, so I’m going to try the same trick.
Clay also said that the price of failure on the net is very low. Fear of failure has always, until now, held me back from going public with any sort of writing other than media business stuff, but knowing it’s not going to cost me much to fail, I’m inspired to have a go. If you don’t like what you see and you won’t pay for anything, well, screw you. There’s a new Waitrose opening in my home town soon and you get shares if you work for the John Lewis Partnership.
So I’ll give this blog a go for a while (quite a while; my friends say you’ve got to stick at it for a few years to get noticed) and see where we get. I also desperately need to crack Technorati, so if anyone knows what they’re talking about on that score, please get in touch.
Meanwhile this blog will evolve, hopefully it will get better and more interesting as we all get to know each other and it will certainly stop looking like a standard WordPress blog as soon as I have time to get things sorted out and sexed up.
Finally, I must thank a great friend who I’ve known for almost 20 years (which is scary, I can’t be that old) and who’s helped me get this far. He is Martin Thomson, a fellow alumnus of York University, Heslington, York who just happens to have racks of his own excellent websites. One I’d particularly recommend is www.t-shirtcorner.co.uk for really shit-hot slogan t-shirts. My favourite is the one I came up with – “Fleece me, I’m a parent” for anyone and everyone taking their kids to some ‘family’ attraction which charges upwards of £50 for a family of four to just get inside, before offering them a phalanx of Westlers hotdogs and dried out fries retailing at £5 per meal. Plus the obligatory “merchandise”, again retailing at upwards of £5 for items that will disintegrate in the car on the way home.
If you’re a parent, buy one of these t-shirts and wear the freakin’ thing. Then boycott these stupidly expensive places and take the kids to the beach, a hill, a park or wherefookingever, just don’t pay over the odds for a really mediocre ‘family’ funtime experience.
Adieu and good evening.