Richard Hall Online

A Methodist Minister Blogging like it’s 2006

If I could turn back time

I was a blogger for a long time. You could say that I was blogging before I knew what blogging was. In the last couple of years of the 1990s I had acquired a bit of webspace and was handcoding an HTML page with updates perhaps 2 or 3 times a week, sharing random thoughts with the world. OK, not blogging exactly, but on the right lines.

I bought my first web domain in the year 2000 and suddenly I was able to install and run Perl scripts. I had barely the faintest idea about Perl, but the possibilities were exciting. I had some big ideas, almost none of which came anywhere near being realised — there was a wiki, a forum and a webmail offer as I recall — but I enjoyed the interaction with others that they provided. The possibilities for community were intriguing.

While all this was going on, someone introduced me to the idea of the weblog, or blog. To be honest I didn’t warm to the idea. It seemed to me that the forum was a better method of sharing conversation, and the wiki had more promise for exploring ideas in depth, but despite this I wanted to include a blog in my online suite of tools. A bit of exploring led me to Greymatter, a Perl script blogging that was soon to be displaced by software such as Moveable Type and Blogger, but it was Greymatter that got me started.

It wasn’t very long before the blog became the most important part of the site. For more than ten years I used it to inflict my thoughts on the world, making lots of friends and occasionally getting mixed up in a bit of online controversy.

But without warning, about 2013 or 14, the fun went out of it. The rise of social media had something to do with it. There is no doubt that Facebook and Twitter significantly changed the blogging landscape. Google’s decision to withdraw Reader in 2013 didn’t help, but I’m sure the biggest influence was the shift in culture that by then was gathering pace, driven by “monetisation” and the pursuit of clicks rather than quality of engagement. Whatever the reasons, I’d fallen out of love with blogging. My site got neglected, spammers (curse them!) had a field day and ultimately I neglected to renew the hosting. My blog was no more.

I’ve never got on with Facebook, though I did come to enjoy Twitter despite its tendency to toxicity. And then, my friend Dave (who I first met through blogging, invited me to join his Mastodon server in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. I had already tried Mastodon, but this time there was a greater incentive to make it work. I quickly found a community of open, friendly people that reminded me of the internet of the early 2000s. I started to miss my old blog. I wanted the old internet back.

Maybe I am on a fool’s errand. Of course, you can’t turn back the clock. But if this blog plays even a tiny part in re-establishing an internet that is not driven by corporate interests, I’ll be content.





4 responses to “If I could turn back time”

  1. Ali Avatar

    Welcome back. You’ve inspired me to dust off my own neglected blog and see what blogging in the 2020a might look like.

    1. Richard Hall Avatar

      Thanks. A blogging revival might be too much to hope for but…

  2. Tim Chesterton Avatar
    Tim Chesterton

    Your blog was one of my favourites, Richard. Can’t remember if I never told you that.

    1. Richard Hall Avatar

      You’re very kind Tim. Thanks

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