Blogosphere

Reflections on 11 years of blogging

On this day in 2007, quite on impulse, I started this blog. I was recovering from an ugly divorce and was looking for things to do that I would enjoy (as joy had been in short supply) that didn’t cost much (as I was nearly broke). I once made my living as a writer and missed it, so starting a blog seemed like a natural thing to try.

This blog has had four phases. The first was the “I’m not sure what I want this blog to be” phase, where I told stories about myself and wrote reflections on my faith that I find now to be a little too preachy. I posted sporadically, two or three times a month.

The second phase began when I started writing about my trips to explore old roads. I had always been curious about the old two-lane highways, and spending all day exploring one was a splendid distraction. I used to document my road trips extensively and exclusively over at my old-fashioned HTML Web site, but in time I stopped updating it and wrote about my road trips only here.

It’s an odd hobby, this search for truss bridges and abandoned brick road segments. But the beautiful thing about the Internet is that any odd hobby can find a following. Soon other roadfans found my writing, and they led me to an entire old-road subculture. Many other roadfans became regular readers. Buoyed by having found an audience, I committed to posting twice a week.

Have Camera, Will ShootMeanwhile, I had restarted an old hobby of collecting vintage film cameras and was happily putting film through them and learning the mechanics of photography. I started posting about my old cameras here, too, and went looking for other old-camera blogs. A film-photography community began to form around our blogs, and I wrote more and more about using those old cameras to make photographs.

And then the WordPress.com staff found my blog, featuring it an astonishing four times on its daily Freshly Pressed feature in 2010 and 2011. That brought a deluge of visits and many regular readers.

It was at about this time that my old-camera reviews started to become popular on Google search. Turns out people want to know things about the old camera they found or about where to have their film developed. Searches for such things drive a very large percentage of this blog’s page views even today.

Feeling encouraged by increasing readership, I began this blog’s third phase by posting three times a week. I also bought a custom domain name – actually, a subdomain off my preexisting jimgrey.net domain – and bought upgrades to customize the look of the blogging template I use.

I also began experimenting, writing about other things to see which subjects would stick. It seemed natural to write about software development, as that’s how I make my living, but you stayed away from those posts in droves. So I started a second blog about it (here) and promote it separately. I’ve written some opinion posts that have been well read and discussed, such as one about bullying (here) and one about standardized testing in public schools (here). A series of posts reviewing fried chicken prepared at restaurants all over Indiana (example here) was really starting to take off when I discovered that a gluten-free diet eased a pesky health issue that plagued me. So much for that! I’ve also written about old TV shows (example here) and about raising sons as a divorced dad (examples here and here). And I’ve told many, many stories from my life (like this, this, and this).

But my photography posts had become by far the most popular. And I had come to really enjoy photography. And so this blog entered a fourth phase: as a photography blog, published six days a week. But I still sometimes write about my life and about the old roads. I also started sharing my favorite blog posts from around the Internet every Saturday morning. And that’s how you find this blog today.

Sometimes the words just come. When that happens, I set aside lots of time to write them down and soon posts are scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Other times, especially when my stress is high, I find I have nothing to say. I always hope those times come when I have weeks of posts already in the can! In either situation, writing my blog keeps my mind sharp. And seeing you read, comment on, and share my work is a rush that keeps me at it.

And so on this, my 11th blogiversary, I ask you: how did you find my blog, and what topics that I write about do you enjoy most?

This is an update of a post I first ran in 2014 on this blog’s seventh anniversary.

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56 thoughts on “Reflections on 11 years of blogging

  1. I found you via the blogging outlet that you didn’t mention – writing about old cars at Curbside Classic. It was only after I became familiar with you there that I found this blog.

    My favorite things here are the stories you have to tell. The pieces that go deeply into photography are not really my thing but even those have taught me a lot that I didn’t intend to learn.

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  2. jon campo says:

    Hi Jim, sub. since 2011 here. Your blog is among the first things I read every day. I always enjoy your viewpoint, and like the way you share personal issues without being too personal or sensational. I came to your blog because of camera collecting and enjoyed watching you develop as a photographer. Also, I have found a lot of other things I enjoy a lot on the web thanks to your Saturday feature. Sometimes I think you are the hardest working man in the blogosphere. Thanks for the years of enjoyment.

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    • Hey, thank you for commenting on what you like about how I write my personal stories. It’s a fine line to walk — I could easily use them to vent my spleen but wow, there are often other people involved and this is kind of a public space. So I go carefully and as thoughtfully as I can.

      This is my favorite hobby, and I’m willing to sink some time into it. But also, I’ve learned how to keep output high without needing it to be a full-time job.

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  3. DougD says:

    Yup, I came here from Curbside Classics too. I like your family stories and travel articles. I’ve always been a so-so photographer at best..

    Unlike a lot of people whose articles I read, I have actually met Jim and Margaret a couple of years ago when the CC gang met up at the Auburn-Duesenberg museum.

    Congrats on 11 years. Take the rest of the day off :)

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  4. I forget exactly how I found you, but probably through my WordPress reader if I had to guess. I write about photography, so it is your photography posts that interest me the most. Although overall what I appreciate about this blog is that it seems real, not forced. I’m fine with content that that evolves and changes too.

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  5. Cameras. I have been shooting film since 1959 at the age of 6. Started to collect more cameras in 1999. After awhile I went looking around for those who also were into film and what they thought of the same cameras that I had in my collection. When I found them, I’d bookmark them, and visit now and then to see what was new.

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  6. David Millington says:

    I found you via Mike Connealy’s “Photography & Vintage Cameras” blog; liked what I saw and have been lurking ever since.
    I read 10 blogs and this is one of them.
    I like all your writing, you have a way with words that resonates with me.
    As someone who has wandered the world over the last thirty years (originally from Wales), I like to learn about countries, their history and culture, but away from the larger cities (I live now in the East Bay in California).
    You fill that niche, with some to spare.
    Congratulations on 11 years; here’s to the next 11!

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  7. Heide says:

    My “gateway post” to your blog was one Word Press suggested in about 2011, titled “This cup is already broken.” It was so beautifully written and full of rich observations that I was instantly hooked. Since then I’ve seen you tinker with the topics and the format of your blog a bit but have gladly remained a loyal Roadie because, regardless of the topic, your intellectual curiosity and authenticity as a person have always shined through. So … congrats on this impressive milestone, Jim! I will be eager to see where the next 11 years take you.

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  8. Jim, congratulations on another milestone.

    I found you via a camera review, I’m pretty sure it was a Konica and I was interested in those at the time. That was probably three years ago, maybe more.

    You’ve been one of the biggest inspirations in me starting and continuing my own photography blog. Keep on writing!

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  9. SilverFox says:

    To be honest Jim I can’t quite remember how I found your blog, I think it was in response to you liking mine but I am glad that I did and that in some way that I am a part of your community partly as it has opened up a lot of avenues for me to explore and more so because I have enjoyed ‘meeting’ you and sharing experiences. Thank you and congratulations on your blog anniversary.

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  10. Christopher Smith. says:

    Happy 11th blogiversary, I originally came here via some camera review of yours can’t remember what, but been here ever since and enjoyed every minute and every word. Keep up the good work Jim.

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  11. A camera review, I think. Whatever it was, I’m happy to have found my way here.

    And while everyone else is gushing praise on you, I have a bone to pick with you Mr. Grey. Your Pentax ME review has cost me a lot of money buddy!

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  12. Andy Umbo says:

    I think I found your blog when I was looking for vintage cameras in Indiana, hoping to find a retailer specializing in them when I first moved here. You can say I came for the cameras and stayed for the local history photo stories!

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  13. Thank you for this blog. I wrote my first blog today and I’m really unsure of where it is going to take me. You have given be the strength to start and the relief to just let it go where it goes. Hopefully, 11 years from now, I too will be reflecting.

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  14. Hi Jim. I found your blog post through WordPress. I just started my own site. I was laid off from a teaching job and feel confused about my life direction at the moment. So, this is what encouraged me to start mine. I have a master’s in world literature and dream of being an author. As of now, my blog is focused on reviewing books (but, my writing has also been sporadic). I just did my first post this Monday, on a somewhat controversial topic. You can learn about me in the “about” section, where I’ve uploaded a YouTube video discussing my hopes for my site. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It certainly gives me a lot of inspiration to keep posting and sharing with my readers.

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  15. Thank you Jim for this particular blog. I JUST today made public my very first blog, and after reading your beginnings, I will expect my purpose to morph too. A time in my life when I’m existing as if in suspension with any which way possible to choose, I’ve chosen what feels best for me, to communicate in writing what is unique about me in the effort to support others. I’m gonna learn a lot from your journey, and I thank you for sharing.
    Jenny

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  16. Thank you, Jim! I found your blog just today and really enjoyed reading it. The thing is I just published my first blog live today and truly as you stated, I am in the very first phase of blogging and if blogging takes you somewhere you are today, I would keep updating my blog on a regular basis.
    Regards,
    Isha.

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  17. I found you blog by going to WordPress to publish my blog. I just started one this year. I will continue to read yours if you read mine. Happy 11th blog anniversary….OverNite JOE My blog is called Living After Midnite.

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  18. azhaarahmed says:

    Just found you on WordPress Reader while exploring it. Your words are full of hope which I really need it now. I’ve started my little first step to turn my hobby and passion into a job that I can live from and having fun too. I’m in phase no.1 you described and wish to find myself soon and to enjoy my new journey. I hope, I will write some day about my success – like you did – to inspire others who suffer that they can do it too. Thank you so much.

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  19. Hi Jim, just trawling thru’ and came across your blog. interesting thing is that when you start, you think you’re the only one and yet how many folks here have just started. I like the story about your evolution to where you are now. Yes, it’s motivated me a bit more. Good luck and thanks.

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