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This how I left my first blog. Jonathan.Diaryland.com
It barely scratches the surface of the memories a brain can recreate. I tried. I have in there repeated efforts to recall the very first things I could ever feasibly have formed as viable memories: or were they words and images put into my head by my mother much later? I also noticed that in the comments I have two years of conversations with the now published author Catherine Valente and, would that I could verify it, a short exchange with Norman Mailer.
This diary is on ‘Diaryland;’ started in September 1999, finally ended in March 2006.
It feels like landfill: there’s so much stuff in there rotting away. Though it doesn’t, it’s digital. Closed because while I don’t give a monkey’s about writing on everything I have done, thought about or think where people can be identified it could cause embarrassment and offence. It took me a few years to realise that if I was receiving 200+ views an hour some of these people might know me.
No one I knew ever, ever said they were there. Not for a long time.
Perhaps they knew I’d close it down if they let on? I tried to obscure names and locations but that just got very confusing. I held a mirror along the Pennines and set everything that had taken place in Northumberland in Cumbria and vice versa. For people’s names I tried initials, so taking ‘JV,’ for me is a giveaway, so I ‘cleverly’ decided to change names by one letter in the alphabet, so ‘JV’ became ‘KW’ and I’d go by he name ‘Ken,’ for example. I knew a lot of Sallys who all became ‘Tamsin’ or ‘Tabatha’ which threw my head as it immediately had me constructing different fictional personas for them – just as well? That’s what writing fiction is about, embellishment? ‘Ken and Tabatha’ sounds like the relationship between a Barbie doll and a Sasha doll.
There were a lot of ‘Js’ too for both boys and girls from the 1970s and there is a limited choice of ‘Ks’ to go with.
Only a few years later bumping into old friends from home and school have they said they knew all about ‘X’, and ‘Y’ or looked at the drawings I did of ‘K’ and the photo of ‘T.’ The greatest shock was getting into a conversation with my ‘petite amie’ from my school French Exchange when I was 17 – 33 years after we’d last seen each other (two years ago). I’d posted a teen sketch I did of her and wrote up in detail how we had behaved.
This content is of far greater value to me not ‘cleaned up.’ I keep it closed though I’m drawing upon it constantly as it contains a substantial part of the diary, verbatim, that I kept from the age of 13 to 28 and a great deal of stories that I wrote drawing on some of those experiences. These are finding life once again thanks to the OU’s FutureLearn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ and, once again, a close writer/editor relationship that has formed. It is, should I ever get published, a sound example of the value of keeping a ‘notebook’ as that diary, even as I conceived it age 13 is a substantial ‘writer’s journal’ that follows life through the eyes of a boy growing into manhood, taking an healthy interest in the opposite sex and after some pain and love, finding and marrying ‘the one’ – and now celebrating 20 years married and soon to celebrate 25 years together.
What I find touching, then and again today, is that supportive friendships form with fellow writers or readers or editors that is enormously encouraging and guiding; people want my words. I feel like a stand up comic who loses his audience from time to time, then gets hit by a soft ‘carrot’ or a bendy ‘stick’ and subsequently re-adjusts his ‘voice’ to the one they want to hear.
Marking five years since I started my OU degree and an OU Student blog almost coincided with a logical, deserving step into the legitimate world of e-learning as I completed an ‘in-tray’ exercise ahead of a second interview. As I prepared to mark this ‘Five Years’ (a totemic time period for any David Bowie fan) I thought I could be announcing this literal step onto a ‘platform’.
Though I also had in mind my response to it not happening:
- no more job applications
- no more OU courses
- back to writing with a renewed vengeance and determination. (I feel the Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn has refuelled me. I’ve been a petrol engine trying to run on diesel all y life and they fixed that)
- once again give a substantial body of unpublished work (manuscripts for novels, screenplays, TV series, radio plays) their chance. (I have made and found the time and was for a couple of years indulged by an agent and producers enough to get interviews to discuss treatments and first scenes. On reflection I was a chef who appeared to promise something delicious but kept serving the thing up either cold or over spiced. SWF has been like a short course in Cordon Blue cookery; I may not be there yet, but at least what I’m now producing is edible).
- and commit to a two month sailing trip later in the year: the Atlantic via the Canaries and Cape Verde to Bermuda.
- Meanwhile I have picked out one manuscript, something I dated March 2006 when I boxed it away, that runs to around 100,000 words and 42 chapters. I am revisiting, rewriting and posting this in little bits. It’ll take at least six months working 14 hours+ a day.
- eight hours a week ‘work’ fails to keep the wolf from the door. I could do with at least 20.
I didn’t get the job.
Life has moved on.
I am writing with fury and loving it. My only regret? The need to sleep.
Writing fiction at:
http://www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com = password protected
http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com = password protected
This are me thoughts from reading:
An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship
Heap & Minocha (2012),
Fig.1. Digital Scholarship with a nod to Martin Weller‘s book of the same name. (Created in 2011)
By stripping back the paper what do I learn from this paper:
- about blogging and digital scholarship
- about devising the research question(s) and method of research.
This quote from Axcel Bruns is wrong in relation to blogging.
‘Were originally more popular amongst journalism and business context’ Bruns (2007)
In fact, from my experience from 1999 onwards, journalists were highly dismissive and didn’t cotton on to blogging as a valid way to share their opinions for several years. The exception being financial journalism where breaking views on markets were fed, blog like, to subscribers,
Fig.2. An excerpt from my own early blog.
I was reading blogs in 1998, did some Dreamweaver training and if I’d got my head around FTP uploads I may have been up an away in 98 rather than 99 when I heard of Diaryland and joined the platform soon after it started.
Fig.3. An excerpt from a blog created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998
Over the next 4 to 5 years I saw a massive growth and influx of what by modern terms would have been described as journals, creative writing, fantasy, role play and social networking.
Fig.4. How I saw blogging in 1999/2000
I question why bloggers are defined by the institution they are at – the blog is more personal, like the noticeboard at someone’s desk in the bedroom or study, or a diary or journal they carry about with them, whether electronic or paper.
Fig. 5. We should stop seeing blogging in isolation – forms of ‘keeping a journa’, for whatever purposes, is as old a writing itself.
Little is ever mention of a history of keeping diaries, a writer’s journal or other kind of daily record for reflection or in scholarly circles to record the iterative process of a learning journey or a piece of research. John Evelyn was a diarist. Was he scholarly? What about Pepy’s he was keeping an historic record? For whom did Lady Anne Clifford keep a diary if not for an historic, even a legal record, of her rights to her father’s estates? (Lady Anne Clifford kept at a diary late 1500s into the 17th century).
Was Virginia Woolf using herself as the subject of an internal discussion?
What did Anais Nin learn and share about her writing as well as her personal journey, a journey that was shared with Henry Miller and that a couple of decades was taken by the filmmaker Francois Truffaut. As someone who had kept a diary since he was thirteen and had been typing it up and putting on disc for nearly a decade, the move to the web was a natural one.
- for personal reflection (e.g. Xie, Fengfeng, and Sharma 2008)
- collaborative working (e.g. McLoughlin and Lee 2008)
- developing writing skills (e.g. Warschauer 2010)
- flexible usage of blogs to suit the individual blogger’s needs, such as
- a space for reflection, to seek peer support, or both (e.g. Kerawalla et al. 2008).
I read blogs and corresponded with writers who were using the format to try out chapters of fantasy novels, to share poetry, to test webdesigns even to meet and indulge in intimate chat, role play and even cybersex. (Early blogs were the forerunners of a lot to come).
Whilst some of this activity isn’t within the parameters of ‘scholarly’ practice, certainly from a creative writing point of view self-publishing was.
From personal experience there were those exploring their personality, who were lonely, depressed or bi-polar. Most studies in English speaking countries … yet it was presumably going on elsewhere. And where does someone who is using writing in English in a blog to learn English stand in terms of being a student and a scholar?
Defining scholarship in the digital age
Boyer (1990) developed a conceptual framework which defines ‘‘scholarship’’ as a combination of teaching and research activities. In particular, he suggests four dimensions to define scholarship: discovery, integration, application and teaching.
Fig.6. Another excerpt from a blog for young writers created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998 when she was 17 herself. (I think she went off to study Computer Sciences)
The earliest bloggers played a teaching role, for example Claire Z Warnes set up a series of web pages to encourage and support young writers in 1998. She was teaching, they were exploring through reading, writing and sharing just as if they were meeting face to face in a classroom.
Boyer’s dimensions constitute an appropriate starting point for researching digital scholarship (Weller 2011).
Pearce et al. (2010) elaborated on Boyer’s (1990) model to theorise a form of digital/open scholarship, arguing that it is:
- more than just using information and communication technologies to research,
- teach and collaborate,
- embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society.
Which is exactly what Claire Z Warnes (1998) was doing, indeed, as some remaining posts that can be viewed show, it was as if she were becoming the Dean of one of the first online creative writing classes.
In relation to the research here’s the problem that needs to be addressed:
There is a lack of empirical evidence on how the openness and sharing manifested in blogging can influence academia, research and scholarship. (Minocha, p. 178. 2012)
‘We have found that blogs seem to occupy an intermediate space among established writing forms such as peer-reviewed academic papers, newspaper articles, diaries, blurring the private public and formal informal divide ‘. (Heap and Minocha 2011).
There is a growing awareness of blogging as a writing or communicative genre in academia and research and as a new form of scholarship (e.g. Halavais 2007).
- to ensure validity of work through established forms of publishing,
- to integrate blogs so that research findings reach more readers
- to enable sharing information without time lags involved in formal publications.
The next steps in our research (according to the authors of this paper) are to validate the effectiveness of the framework (they developed) as a thinking tool about digital scholarship, and for guiding the practice of blogging in academia and research.
Heap, Tania and Minocha, Shailey (2012). An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship. Research in Learning Technology, 20(Supp.), pp. 176–188. (Accessed 28th February 2013 http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/19195 )
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar
- All you need to know about blogging that you can’t be bothered to research for yourself because you’re too busy blogging … (mymindbursts.com)
- Scholarly Blogging (malmsy.net)
- What my pink highlighter taught me. (dfbierbrauer.wordpress.com)
- Essay on placing academic work in the right scholarly context (insidehighered.com)
- Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (mymindbursts.com)
- Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education (mymindbursts.com)
- Digital Curation Bibliography: Preservation and Stewardship of Scholarly Works XHTML Version (digital-scholarship.org)
- Blogging Inspiration, Where Does it Come From? (prefs.zemanta.com)
This is the first blog I came across in 1998.
A few months later I was up and running. I couldn’t code so had to wait for a generic platform to post to. This was Diaryland. Then along came LiveJournal. And five years or so ago I decamped to WordPress.
Millions of words, and millions of bloggers later and the world of self-publishing (we now call it user generated content) is a profoundly important form of global and universal communication.
I like the line ‘can I show it to my grandparents’ as if in 1998 they would be online and looking.
I re-found these pages courtesy of waybackwhen – type in a defunct web address and discover to your delight or horror that everything that was ever posted online is still out there.
If you thought that locking the pages would save you, you’re mistaken.
One click and it’s there forever.
Fig.1. Glass Skull by Rudat
The current generation will be able to begin to achieve a fraction of this if they please; all I have to go on are diaries I stared in March 1975 and efforts since then to recall all the events, feelings and dreams of my life to that point.
This alongside photoalbums, scrapbooks and sketch books, with lists of books read and films seen, maps of places visited and a complete extended family tree ought to offer a perspective of who or what I am.
Does any of it impact on how I think and behave?
Without my mind is it not simply a repository of typical memories and learning experiences of a boy growing up in the North East of England?
Blogging since 1999 there are like minds out there, though none have come back with an approximation of the same experiences (its been an odd, if not in some people’s eyes, bizarre, even extraordinary roller-coaster of a ride).
It’s value? To me, or others?
I could analyse it ’til the day I die. My goal is no longer to understand me, but to understand human kind. And to better understand the value of exercises such as this, not simply hoarding everything, but of consciously chosing to keep or record certain things.
For now I will exploit the tools that are offered. In theory anything already digitised on computers going back to the 1980s could now be put online and potentially shared. Can I extract material from a Floppy-disc, from an Amstrad Disc, from a zip-drive? Should I add super8mm cine-flim already digistised on betacam masters? And the books Iv’e read, beyond listing them do I add links even re-read some of them? And a handful of school exercise books (geography and maths) A’Level folders on Modern History. I kept nothing from three years of university, yet this is where the learning experience ought to have been the most intense. But I had no plans to take that forward had I?
My university learning was spent on the stage or behind a video camera.
Should I undertake such an exercise without a purpose in mind?
Do I draw on it to write fiction?
There is a TV screenplay ‘The Contents of My Mind’ that could be stripped down and re-written, even shared.
And all the fiction, the millions of words.
Will this have a life if put online?
Is it not the storyteller’s sole desire to be heard? To have an attentive audience?
I have stubbornly kept with a clunky, bare coded blog site whilst around me new wonders have formed.
Diaryland has been around since Sept 1999. The format’s hardly changed,. It feels like using a slate while flying through space to Mars.
There was a period, around 2002/2003 when too many new blog sites were forming. I tried one or two, then fell back on a basic format in Diaryland which gives the user considerable control to create a bespoke layout. I tied my head in knots with HTML … then left it to a nascent web designed … only to attempt some crafty alterations (innovations/experiments) to it myself and nearly bring the roof down.
I didn’t care. I had become tired of some of the weirdest layouts where the text was virtually impossible to read. Style over matter. The content never king.
It’s ideas that appeal to me. Ideas and how they form.
Despite this and given my desire to climb a mountain that has grown beneath my feet, I will be working in WordPress … though this evening getting in was proving difficult.
At the autumn of 1999 Ellen Levy was featured in the Washington Times. She had just completed a ‘web log’ – an entry for every day, for a year. Someone thought it was a first. She had included 800 photographs. The journalist thought there might be some 40,000 blogs by then.
I wonder what’s happened to Ellen Levy?
Did blogs catch on?
She thought her ‘online diary’ might chart her professional relationships and so help her with her work.
My mind has needed the break; I can feel it getting back into gear. The excitement is still there. Its been well fed – writing, reading & consuming so much – doing things that would have never crossed my mind during the headiest days of working at a Web Agency. The habit of keeping a journal has meant that while periods I may not of been online, plenty was being typed up and filed. No return to a traditional pen in a notebook ‘journal’ has been possible
Chasing ‘readers’ was ridiculous. It transformed things. It does. Then you have a a few fans and you pander to the things they enjoy to read. It is no longer a blog. No longer the contents of my brain.
What patterns might I find in 1,600 entries & some 1.5 million words? How long would it take me to transfer the text, edit it (yet again) & tag it? Why do activities of no apparent value appeal to me so much? From this is invention born? Who cares? My brain’s done nothing interesting.
My favourite button in all of ‘that’ is nothing sophisticated at all. It is the ‘random entry’ button – sometimes chaos is more interesting than order.
Think about it, I was. Whilst we attempt to order nad box and tag and list and group our thoughts … don’t we find inspiration and fluke insights in the oddest of random places? The smell of the screenwash on the windscreen bring up recollections of a journey through France? A dream that visually had nothing to do with any of this, but from the feelings it engendered at everything to do with a sense of ‘missing the boat; and then trying to catch up by taking a plane … and then missing this too.
AOL pushes their blogging tools and space in our face. Is this not all familiar?
Create Your Journal
Choose your Journal format. You can have a private journal, which you share only with invited friends and family, or a public one, visible to anyone on the Internet.
Set Up the Structure
You can choose the layout and colours with a Custom Journal, or have it done for you with a Simple Journal.
Invite Your Friends
Add your first entry and create a list of people you want to share it with. Save it in your Favourites so you can update it easily.
Develop a Writing Habit
Update your journal regularly, to avoid disappointing your fans. You can IM an entry to your Journal and set up an Alert so you know when someone’s left a comment.
Join the Journals Community
Share your tips with other bloggers on the message board.
Search by keyword or Screen Name:
Was all of this not pioneered by the likes of Diaryland?
Isn’t ‘Diaryland’ a far more meaningful and powerful ‘brand’ for this kind of thing? So you ever feel like the guy who bought Betamax when everyone else has VHS, the guy who ran Netscape against all others, had a MAC well before PCs created Windows? Used ‘Ask Jeeves’ before Google got a hold?
Is it always the case that the little guy trail blazes only to be bounced out of existence by others with clout and capital?
Has Diaryland never developed a suitably healthy revenue stream?
Are others innovating fasting than them (or should I say him?)
Should Diaryland have sold up a year ago before the inevitable like the creators of Tripod before them?
With difficulty I am ‘playing away’ in Live Journals and Myspace
It pains me when Celebs in the UK get excited about either one of these having just discovered the pleasure of writing online.
Do I have a choice though?
Do we have a choice?
Do we want to be read or ignored?
My favourite writers, those who have kept a dairy online for several years, long ago went elsewhere.
Diaryland is becoming like a retired film star in their 70s or 80s. You can’t believe they are still alive. When they finally die in the 90s, like Bob Hope, those still around have little recollection of what it was all about.
If I’m still here it is only because I can’t be bothered to learn a new set-up, even if it replicates all the best ideas from Diaryland. I feel just as I did when I gave up my SLR camera for a digital camera. I gave the new technology a go early, ran both simultaneously, then switched allegiance when I found the old system couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up.