Friday, March 28, 2008

On blogging inactivity

A column in last week's New Statesman struck a chord with me:

Blogs are like gym memberships - it's keeping them up that counts
It was a damning indictment of my record as a blogger. Bored in Brussels, with nothing but my laptop for company, I decided to check on my blog. Perhaps I was half-thinking about posting some photos; perhaps I just wanted to see who was linking to me. In the end, my intentions didn't matter. The blog had gone.
How could this have happened? Simple: I had forgotten to renew my domain name. http://machine-envy.com/blog, once (I like to think) a bustling hub of the digitally informed, was now an advert for a domain registration service. Although it was distressing to think of all the lost page rank - Google goodwill that once meant my blog was returned third on a search query for "Becky" - what was more distressing was that I hadn't even noticed.
They say there's a new blog created every second. But that's an empty statistic. Blogs are like gym memberships - it's not creating them that's important, it's keeping them up. Once, it was a badge of honour to have a blog (hand-coded in HTML, naturally) which it was clear you hadn't updated in five years. It meant you had been there at the start, before off-the-shelf blogging software became commonplace. And long enough to have started, got distracted by something more interesting (a multimillion-dollar web start-up, say) and stopped blogging. But that was 2004. Now an expired blog just looks sloppy.
When Machine-envy started, it too was hand-coded in HTML. It didn't need to be - I was just showing off - and later it migrated to the custom blogging system WordPress. Although I have tried to encourage co-bloggers, my stipulation that they must use their real names puts most off, the only taker being the in-house tech support. His post on installing Linux on a Nokia mobile remains, to my despair, the blog's most popular post. An unconscious motivation behind my own neglect, perhaps? In any case, the last time I posted to Machine-envy was on 30 December 2007, when Egypt announced its intention to extend copyright to the Great Pyramids, lengthening the law's effect by almost 4,000 years. The time before that was August.
I could at least take heart that I'm not the only one to forget. In 2003, Microsoft failed to renew the domain name for its email hosting service, hotmail.co.uk, despite, like me, receiving reminders from its registrar. But just as I was starting to believe I could get over this episode pride intact, the emails started coming. Friends, readers and random correspondents got in touch: did I know my blog had disappeared? Was there anything they could do to help?
In the end, it was all much simpler than I'd expected: half an hour's conversation with my domain registrar service, and the blog was back online - with only a one-point page-rank drop. But the episode has taught me a valuable lesson. What's that? To find out, just read my blog . . .

Becky Hogge

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