To all the blogs I’ve blogged before: a ten year retrospective

Some readers may be interested in my past history with blogging.

It’s weird to think that later this month will make ten years I started blogging, on and off. I was living with my mom in Manteca, California and applying for jobs. I saw on Friendster that an acquaintance had a blog with some friends on a site called Blogger. I registered a domain name and a Blogger account and set things up to publish by FTP. My blog, Russell’s Ramblings, was, as the name implies, about whatever I felt like writing about–my life, politics, my music, etc. It was interesting to get random readers leaving comments. Recall that there weren’t as many blogs around then, so even random people writing tended to get a bit more attention. At least it seemed that way.

Fall 2005, my first semester of graduate school, I read Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. It was getting a lot of circulation when it came out. Its point about specializing and using categories stuck with me, so I decided to start a bog about Latin American politics since that is what I’d gone to graduate school to study. At the time Blogger didn’t offer categories. So, Googling, I learned about WordPress. I don’t think there was a yet, just where I could download the software. It said I needed something called a MySQL database. So I poked around on my host, set one up, and changed the proper fields in the WordPress files before uploading them up. After that I was good to go.

(My friend Adam later saved the day when I migrated to a new host and somehow the MySQL database got messed up in the process, putting weird characters in all the posts. My goodness things have gotten easier.)

There weren’t nearly as many blogs about Latin American politics, so I got some readers. I did it for three years, but by then there were a lot more people blogging about Latin America and it started to feel like work, not fun. I was heading to Havana for four months to help direct a study abroad program, and I knew internet would be painfully slow. So I ended the Latin America blog but kept my personal one.

Before ended the blog, I’d agreed to be on a workshop panel at LASA 2009. So I ended up mostly talking about the pros and cons and some of the reasons to decide to stop blogging. But hearing the other panelists talk about the experience of blogging about their research, it seemed like maybe I should try a more focused blog about my specific research. By this point I’d finished an MA thesis comparing (poorly) anti-hunger policy in Brazil and Venezuela. So I made a blog called Zero Hunger and started writing about the politics of hunger. I abandoned that one while doing fieldwork in Brazil, partly because I was becoming pretty jaded about the chasm between the spin and what actually happened in Brazil’s program (about which I will have much, much more to say in future posts). I was also hesitant to write when I was still figuring out what I thought. I was a afraid of being wrong and then having a permanent record of it. For a while I also had the Twitter handle @zerohunger, which is now owned by the UN’s Zero Hunger initiative. If only I’d held on to it…

And then at some point, while retreating into my dissertation cave, I decided to end the personal one, too. I guess I was at a moment of wanting some quiet, and to process my thoughts internally before carefully writing them into dissertation chapters. I was also embarrassed by some of the things I’d written earlier, which is hardly surprising given how much most people change in their 20’s. I’m sure I’ll continue to look back on myself in the past and cringe a little, but hopefully I’ll have a little more self compassion.