Strands of the Web: Blog Connections

Blogging has changed, this blogger’s life and world have changed in the past five years since Fragments began. I miss the way it used to be those first years. I look forward to the way it will be next year and the next, as small voices join in the growing sea of self-expression, information and ideas that is the expanding world of internet self-publishing.

Yes, I feel cut off from an energy that once existed on both sides of this computer screen back in the early and uncertain days of exploration, experimentation and innovation. I remember the Ecotone–a collaborative group centered around writing about place, for which I was a founding member. I remember the first bloggers’ Carnival of the Vanities (first among the aggregating carnivals and father of subsequent themed postings on trees, birds, nature, cats…) where the first “issue” had maybe a dozen contributions of which mine was one. I remember the first meeting of another “live” blogger on my front porch, while that list has grown to more than a dozen now.

And while I feel “left behind” in many ways online (I haven’t caught on to Twitter or Facebook yet) I also sense the ways that the medium is changing for the better. I have three examples from just this week, and since they include me in some small way in their efforts and activities, I feel included in this evolution towards whatever it is that blogs and blogging will become.

First, I was happy this week to learn of Whorled Leaves–a site that is “an experiment in blogging book communities, web-based friendships, and more inspired by a common love for the natural world.” That group has chosen for this month’s selection to read my book. So our words do live on, and even when they have grown faded and distant to us, those reading them for the first time can make the moments, places and sensations they depict live again.

Blogs that become books (or “blooks”) is a phenomenon that of course didn’t exist in 2002 when FFF began. Now the list is long and growing, and you may have visited Lulu’s Blooker Prize site where over 100 entries from 15 countries competed for the $10000 prize. (Amazingly, I did not win!) Cheryl Hagdorn has created “Blooking Central: Examining published blooks to discover what makes for a blookable blog and how you can turn your blog into a blook.” She gave a mention this week of Slow Road Home in answer to someone asking “if you can read it on the blog, why have the book?” SRH, she said, is “the sort of thing you want to curl up with on your lap in front of a fire or sitting in your glider sipping lemonade. Hard to do that with your lap top and still smell the pine in the Blue Ridge mountains.”

And finally, from amidst the angst and ire of blog-pundritry and the babel of mundane and quotidian blather that composes no small portion of the blogmatter in the universe, Sheila Cason from Guam has created Beauty on the Web, a site “…all about beautiful things found on weblogs.” Here’s another example of how bloggers, blogs and creative energy can work together for good. She asked for and I sent a contribution. You may have something to share as well. Sent it her way.

My writing life no longer is limited to my weblog. But I won’t abandon it, even in its diluted and enfeebled state, because there is still energy to tap into, to add to, to learn from. I don’t think, even as long-lived as I am among bloggers (and among my fellow seniors, for that matter) I don’t think I’ve seen it all yet. There is more to come in my life as writer and photographer, and this blog will somehow be a part of that growth.

How does your blog fit into your life, past, present and future? Do you think of it as obligation or opportunity? As an inspiration or a drain on your creative energies? Is it time for a change in your voice, your brand, your direction that might enliven your time in the edit-box of your blog platform? Now’s a good time to be considering where to go from here. The New Blogging Year is approaching fast!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks for the links Fred. My blog is just a few months old, but in just this bit of time I’ve connected with several people and made, what I think of as virtual friendships. It’s really quite fascinating.

    My blogging began as a means to rekindle my creative juices. I saw your blog and Colleen’s and decided to dive in. It seemed like a perfect medium…one with space for writing and photography.

    So for me, blogging is certainly in the “inspiration” column.

  2. I sometimes think the only reason I’m still blogging is inertia. Although I guess the fact that my job is linked to one of the more popular blogs on the Internet may have something to do with it too.

  3. Your perspective in this post on blogging really resonated with me. After 3 years of blogging my energy for it has waned and my posts have been sparse and sporadic lately. As you point out, the blogging community has changed a lot in the last 4 years. Over that time a lot has improved. The software and the communities, like WordPress, Moveable Type, and the newer Blogger, are greatly improved over the rather buggy early editions of Blogger. However there does seem to be something missing and I think it is that pioneering enthusiasm for a new frontier. Blogging is no longer new. It has become so common as to have lost several degrees of cultural coolness but at the same time it has matured and gained (in many instances) substantial social, political, and literary relevance. The very fact that some blogs are worthy of committing to paper is a clear indication of an enduring value which was certainly not evident in the early years of blogging.

  4. I have started thinking about my blog more as an elaborate business card than as my reason to be, in and of itself.

    On the strength of what others have read and images they’ve seen on the blog, they’ve been interested in my involvement with worthwhile and interesting projects–as if I had sent in a resume to display my credentials–except that they saw my CV in a sense before they contacted me.

    And sure as I think I’m operating in a void, I’ll get an email from a long-time reader I’ve never heard from telling how an image or post found a receptive spot in their memories or hearts.

    We can’t let reader count be the sole measure of what we do. And yet, if I feel like I’m just talking to myself, that severs the nerve of motivation to no small degree. So I’m looking for a good balance and haven’t quite found it yet.

  5. I’m new enough to blogging to enjoy the aspect of journaling, something I’ve tried to do for years (witness the attractive array of charming blank-paged books on my shelf, complete with lovely pens).

    My grown kids, even my grandkids, enjoy keeping up with my life and musings and Sadie Mae, my Yorkie-Bichon puppy, whose antics keep us laughing.

    I hope you won’t drop blogging, Fred, as many of us enjoy reading your daily postings.

  6. Hi Fred
    Yes I too miss the “Village” aspects of when we first bumped into each other. In 2002, there were about 50,000 bloggers. A small town.

    Now there are??? A large country!

    I am blogging more than ever. Why? It helps me think – Every 6 months or so I think I have an insight and then I realize that it is only another step – but even so, my understanding of how the world really works does expand.

    I stay in touch by following a few of my “originals” such as you and I find that I get a lot of work as a result of what I write as well.

    My work has become explaining how a many to many world works and right now, this is an insight that is needed but, like flying a plane, can’t be taught except by a practitioner and except by practising.

    My own friends find it a good way to follow me too. Robin is always a bit stunned to hear how much they know about me.

    So I think that the reason I am still pounding away is that blogging has become central to my work and to my social life. Finally – it has given me back my voice – lost for decades in the corporate world

    But I miss the “Village”
    Best wishes and have a wonderful thanksgiving

  7. blogging wouldn’t be the same without the blogfather…. 🙂

    i really feel that ‘village’ in my little posse, as i call my lil group of regular readers and blogfriends. i’ve connected to people on a level that i never though possible in the virtual world. and i hope to make it to your porch one day… 🙂

  8. I think blogging is only rewarding if you do it for the right reasons. Some of us keep a journal, others just do it because they’re so passionate about what they’re writing/blogging about.

    I liked the way you reviewed the changes to the blogosphere lately, and chose to highlight the good side of blogging. It’s good to remember that side still exists, even after all the ego fueled flame wars and splogs that have popped up in recent years.

    Blooking is new, yes, and it is still stuck in the fringes of the public consciousness. I’m determine to see it grow better, since quality is something we’ve got working against us at the moment.

    Thank you for mentioning blooking in your post.