Each year, blogger extraordinaire Diamond Geezer charts the decline of the blog as a form of mass communication. He posts every day, and he's not short of readers, but the number of comments, the level of engagement, he observes as steadily falling. The received wisdom is that, as new media go, blogs are old hat, overtaken by the immediacy and spurious individuality of the likes of Facebook and Twitter. These give the impression of communication with friends on an almost personal level (Or so I believe. I am not on Facebook, and my level of Twitter activity can be gauged from the widget on this blog. I only signed up so that I could post brief updates when out of internet range, in the days before 3G); a blog, on the other hand, is far more akin to writing a newspaper column. It can be an amusing one, a special interest one, or a highly personal one, but the key point is that you don't know who's going to read it - or, unless you're very clever, who actually has read it. It's scattering your pearls randomly, then waiting to see who, if anyone picks them up.
I like the blog as a format. I like that element of impersonality; the fact that it is a public document and I have to restrain myself accordingly in terms of what I choose to post. I like the challenge of having to think up something interesting to write, something that will grab the attention of a passing reader rather than being dropped into someone's inbox and unfolded under their nose.The trouble is, of late, I have been having trouble rising to that challenge. It was easy when there were boats being worked on - first Warrior and then Chertsey; engines to be rebuilt, whole new worlds opening up. My passion for my boat, boats in general, and (admittedly to a lesser degree, i.e. one not great enough to spur me to actually do any research to write about - too much like work perhaps) canals, is as strong as ever - but it is no longer new, and therefore does not spark the enthusiasm necessary to believe or to convince someone else to be interested in it. My lack of posts since Christmas has been occasioned not (any more) by lack of time, nor of motivation, but of material. I no longer read CanalWorld Forums (they made me too cross, and anyway it does get a bit groundhog day after a while), and I don't want just to spout opinions anyway. Well, not too often. I do want to keep the content largely boat related, but I'm too lazy and/or insufficiently motivated to undertake swathes of research.
It starts to look - not for the first time - as if the blog will fizzle out. But that is the one thing I am determined to avoid. I look at Granny Buttons, among the first and the most widely read canal boating blogs, posting almost daily from 2003 until 2012, and then just stopping; fading away, no announcement, no goodbye... I don't want to do that. I noticed with surprise, just then, when I looked up when Granny Buttons started, that it lasted in total for nine years, August 2003 - August 2012. An eternity in blog terms, but a mere nine earth years nonetheless.
I started blogging in April 2006, with Warrior. I did 100 posts in 2006, 247 in 2007, 245 in 2008, and 267 in 2009 - a total of 859 posts in three and two thirds years. Then at the start of 2010 I moved over to the new Chertsey blog, where I made 297 posts in 2010, a high point from which it has been downhill all the way: 197 in 2011, 162 in 2012, 116 in 2013, 79 last year, and a pathetic five so far this year. Nonetheless, that's 851 in five years. Almost the same as the first not quite four years. Overall, it works out at an average of 171 posts a year, and a grand total of 1,715 (counting this one but not the lone 2010 changeover post on Warrior which is the one you'll land on if you visit. Go on, have a look - I wrote much better stuff in those days.)
So, a fairly noble enterprise overall, and come April it will have outlived Granny Buttons! But all good things must come to an end, and at some point it will be right for me to move on to new projects and forms of expression. Not just yet though; and not with a whimper. I hereby commit and give notice that I will cease blogging on March 31st 2016 - ten years to the day after I began. I shall thus go out with as much of a bang as a few lines of text can muster. That is the easy bit. The hard part is that I shall attempt to make that final post my 2000th - i.e. I need to create another 284 between now and then. That's about twenty a month - not an outrageous target, although you might doubt that on past form. Of necessity, many of these will be short, although not necessarily to any particular point.
So there we have it. Now that the end is in sight - although still some way in the distance - and a grand finale planned, hopefully I won't feel so vaguely (and mildly, don't worry, I'm not actually losing sleep over it) bad about the blog withering on the vine, and having already made my excuses, I can post little inconsequentialities, if I can think of any that it. Please feel free to send in topics you would like/like to challenge me to expound upon.
I wish that I knew then what I know now.
5 days ago