Twenty years ago today, I started blogging.
I didn’t know I had started blogging, of course. Back then, “blog” wasn’t even a word. The other folks who were writing for the web — and there were plenty — called what they did “web journaling”. So did I.
At first, my web journal was solely about my weight-loss journey. I documented my daily exercise routine and wrote about what I was eating. I didn’t really have an audience in mind other than myself. And that was fine. Though it might be hard for younger folks to believe, in the olden days there weren’t that many people reading the web!
Although I didn’t start my first blog (or web journal) until 16 August 1997, I’d actually been creating websites for several years before that. My first page went up sometime in 1994. I was constantly posting new stuff but none of it would be what we would now consider a blog.
After tracking my fitness for a little more than a year, I decided to start a proper web journal, which I called Great Expectations. That lasted for about a month before I gave up. You see, writing and publishing entries to my web journal was just too tedious. I had to code everything by hand. This wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. I didn’t like it. So, I let Great Expectations lapse.
Sometime in the spring of 2001, I discovered a service called Blogger. This cool tool — although very buggy — automated a lot of the process behind creating and maintaining a web journal. (The downside? If you composed in the Blogger software itself, you were liable to lose your work because it’d crash. I soon started writing my material in a text editor, after which I’d cut and paste to Blogger. That remains my method to this day!)
I launched my first official Blogger blog in June 2001. Foldedspace was a place for me to write about cats, computers, and comic books — and anything else that crossed my mind. Again, my audience was mostly myself. I was okay with that.
Something strage happened though. In time, more and more of my family and friends began reading Foldedspace. We had some great discussions in the comments section, debating things like politics and religion and how awful the new Star Wars movies were.
Then, on 26 April 2005, something very very important happened. I published a post about personal finance. The article summarized several money books I’d recently read and it came to this conclusion: There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a proven method to get rich slowly.
For whatever reason, my article about the basics of smart money management garnered a lot of attention around the web. It went viral — or what passed for viral twelve years ago. “Neat,” I thought — and I moved on.
On 11 October 2005, another important event occurred.
I had long ago moved from the clumsy Blogger software to a program called Movable Type, which I loved. But unbeknownst to me, Movable Type had a fatal flaw: it was buggy. So buggy, in fact, that after years of use it decided to corrupt the database that contained my entire blog. Without any warning, hundreds of articles suddenly became inaccessible.
To be fair, the articles didn’t become completely inaccessible. While I could no longer log into my Movable Type account to manage Foldedspace, my old articles were still there. Unlike modern WordPress, which creates pages dynamically, Movable Type created static pages. Once you published an article, it was there on the web. All of my old articles are still there, twelve years after losing them. But I just can’t access them via an automated method.
One of my long-term plans (and I’ve had these plans for a decade) is to write a script that converts these static pages to a format that can be imported to WordPress. Then I can republish all of my old posts!
Meanwhile, I was starting to turn my financial life around. I was on a quest to conquer my debt. As part of that, I wanted to make more money. I was already doing some computer consulting on the side, but I wanted to make even more money. To that end, I decided to start a blog with advertising. (I was steadfastly against advertising at Foldedspace.)
At first, I tried to write a blog about comic books. It seemed like a natural fit. I liked comics, and there were folks willing to advertise on comic blogs. The problem? I didn’t like modern comics, and nobody wanted to read about the old stuff.
On a whim, I decided to start a blog about personal finance. “People really liked my article about getting rich slowly,” I thought. “Maybe I could start a blog about money.” And so I did. On 15 April 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. I had no clue what I’d unleashed…
Get Rich Slowly
Get Rich Slowly grew quickly. Within days, I had a thousand regular readers. Within six months, I had over 10,000 subscribers. By the end of its first year, Get Rich Slowly was receiving over 250,000 visitors each month. It was crazy!
As the site grew, so did its revenue. Get Rich Slowly only made $8.29 in April 2006. But in May, it earned $85.03. In June, it earned $473.22. In October, it earned over $1000. By July of 2007, I was earning more from Get Rich Slowly than I was from my day job! Thanks in part to this new stream of income, I was able to pay off the last of my debt in December 2007.
In March 2008, I quit my job at the family box factory in order to blog full time.
A funny thing happened about this time: Whereas blogging had been a fun hobby, once it became my job, that job seemed onerous. It was just the same as any other job. Plus, as the site’s revenue grew, so did the pressure. I didn’t increase my spending, so there wasn’t any added stress there; nonetheless, I felt a drive to boost readership and revenue from month to month.
Before long, I wanted out.
At the start of 2009, a company approached me about buying Get Rich Slowly. I thought they were joking at first. After they submitted a formal offer, I realized this wasn’t a laughing matter. I recruited an investment bank to shop the site around and got an even better offer. On 01 April 2009, I sold Get Rich Slowly — but I didn’t leave the site.
For the next three years, I stuck around as the site’s editor-in-chief and primary writer. Eventually, in the spring of 2012, I decided I’d had enough. I retired. Sort of.
After leaving Get Rich Slowly, I continued to contribute the occasional article. Meanwhile, I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote articles for Time magazine’s money blog. Most importantly (to me), I started writing again here at this site.
In March 2015, my girlfriend began a 15-month RV trip across the United States. We documented our adventures at a blog called Far Away Places.
On that trip, while stuck for ten days in rural South Dakota, I realized I wasn’t done writing about money. I missed blogging. I missed interacting with an audience. Plus, I’d spent the intervening years developing a clear financial philosophy (as opposed to the piecemeal ideas I’d shared at Get Rich Slowly). In October 2015, I launched Money Boss. Today, that’s my primary focus.
You might think that after twenty years of blogging, I’d be burned out on it. Truthfully, I do get burned out from time to time. My most loyal readers (and there are a few hundred that seem to follow me no matter where I go) have noticed that I go on hiatus from time to time. (Heck, I haven’t published an article here in nearly a year!) But make no mistake: I love to write — and I love blogging.
Even when things are quiet on my various websites, I’m often working behind the scenes in preparation for bigger, better things to come in the future.
Writing is in my blood. I can’t stop. It’s how I express myself. Plus, I love the spontaneous nature of blogging. I sat down at my computer an hour ago to write about my twenty years as a blogger; in a few minutes I’ll press “publish” and share this article with a couple thousand people. That’s amazing! Better yet are the discussions that arise in the comments section of this blog (and others). While many bloggers are killing their comments, I doubt I ever will.
So, what’s next for me?
I’m reluctant to commit publicly to anything because as you all know by now, my plans are subject to change. That said, I’ve been working this summer on developing a WordPress theme that mimics some of what Jason Kottke does at his site. You can see this new theme in operation at Animal Intelligence, one of my older blogs that I’m in the process of reviving.
If all goes according to plan, I’ll gradually roll out this template to a few of my blogs over the next twelve months. I want to be careful, though, not to take on too much at once. I have a tendency to way overcommit, then not follow through on anything. I want to take this slow and steady.
Meanwhile, after a slow summer at Money Boss, I’m ready to dive into that site full-time. And, believe it or not, I want to publish more often around here. (That should be easy. It’s not tough to publish more often than once a year!)
If all goes well, I hope to still be blogging twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe on 16 August 2037, I’ll publish an article here entitled “Forty Year of Blogging”! A fellow can dream, can’t he?