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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Ten Years of Down the Road

Ten years of Down the Road

Today marks ten years of this blog.

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Down the Road, v. 1.0

I’ll spare you the usual blogiversary gushing and just say that I love doing this. It’s my favorite hobby. I can’t imagine not doing it.

I started this blog to scratch my itch to write. I had written professionally early in my career, but ten years ago my work had long since evolved away from trading words for pay. I missed the process of expressing myself.

But I didn’t know what I wanted this blog to be. My first post was essentially a sermon. I tried a little diary-style blogging, and I wrote articles about old TV shows. I’ve left the proselytizing and most of those other topics behind. I kept one element that has characterized this blog from the beginning: stories from my life.

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Masthead banner from Down the Road, v. 2.0

What I could never have predicted, however, is that this blog led directly to my love of photography. I’ve collected old film cameras since I was 8, and even put film through a couple of them to see what would happen. But when I started reviewing cameras from my collection on this blog, you photographers found my work and offered encouragement and constructive criticism. Bit by bit, in no small part thanks to you, I came to care more about photography than the cameras, and now I’m a devoted amateur photographer interested in doing better and better work.

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Masthead banner from Down the Road, v. 3.0

And so now this is a photography blog with the occasional story from my life thrown in. Will it stay that way? Who knows. Probably for as long as you keep enjoying it.

It turns out that’s the whole point of blogging: interacting with you. What writer wants to send his words into the ether, never to be recognized, never to be praised, never to be cursed? (Well, hopefully seldom cursed.)

I have a lot more to say about ten years of blogging, and about writing and blogging in general. I’ll share those thoughts in several upcoming posts.

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Life

Life is a highway: Down the Road turns 5

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I started this blog on impulse five years ago this month. I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay with it. But as you can see, it’s stuck.

I gave it the tagline, “Roads and life and how roads are like life.” I had been on a very bumpy road, but I was determined that things would get better and that I would come to enjoy the journey. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this blog has been all about chronicling that journey.

To celebrate Down the Road’s fifth blogiversary, throughout February I’ll be reaching into the archives from the first two years. I told some of my favorite stories during that time, but I had few regular readers with whom to share them. I’ll dust them off, freshen them up, and share them again. I hope you enjoy them.

My first post was on February 7, 2007. Read it here.

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