How I killed my blog

You aren’t reading this. Once, you did. Here’s why.

In 2001 I started a LiveJournal entirely as a social networking tool. My friends were all signing up. We had a lot of fun sharing a circle of friends on LJ, and most of us ended up at least reading if not posting every day.

The social network expanded rapidly, and I made new connections. And I wrote more. I have a background in journalism and I’ve always written compulsively. With the spigot open, things sputtered out: personal confession, satire, sociopolitical conversations, culture, an avalanche of ephemera. It was mostly a good time, although the madness of myself and others provided some spectacular low points as well. (None of the madness has been removed. Good thing you’re not reading it.)

A few years into this I had a decent audience for someone who hadn’t tried. At best estimate the thing had 300 regular readers. If I wrote something interesting or challenging or unusually annoying I always got a few comments. Even a couple of my literary heroes showed up to say nice things about my writing. And the writing got better. There was a deadline feel to working on that LJ. I would think: “what should I write today?” rather than “should I write?”

Like others, I messed around with syndication and linking other services. There were all these ways you could stuff your LJ and photo service and other crap into one feed, but those weren’t popular in this case. A couple of times I started up a separate blog intending to put longer stuff there but didn’t use it enough or try to promote it really, and it sat there. This should have been a warning.

I never wanted to leave LJ, despite its “uncool” teen-angst image. It was a great platform for us, and a decent place to write. I had a built-in audience and a lot of daily reading for myself. But LJ started to get weird. Its ownership got passed around a few times, and the infrastructure and policies looked wobblier every day. When it was inhaled by an opaque Russian company it was looking like a worse and worse place to do anything a person might care about.

So, I made a WordPress blog and slurped up all the old LJ posts into it, and kept going here.

Whoops!

The social element is gone. Comments are rare and telegraphic. If I send a link to a friend I’ll get friendly and useful responses. Syndication to Facebook gets comments there. When comments are enabled on the syndication to the old LJ I get some responses from my friends there. But in general the thing is just dead. Traffic is awful.

As a result, I don’t write as much either. I never had too much invested in a big audience (good thing, because I didn’t have one!) but without any audience at all… Well, it’s like doing a late night shift on a radio station nobody hears. (Another story.) It’s boring and a little depressing.

I wasn’t the only one to abandon LJ, but it looks like most of the others went to Facebook for ephemera and socializing. That makes sense because the whole world is on FB, and because people don’t like uncool things (LJ). A lot of LJ’s benefits, like semi-anonymity and great filtering for audiences, are gone. But if your friends aren’t there, it’s not a social network, so, that’s the end of that.

Part of me wants to go back to LJ, but it’s not the same thing now. Mostly I want to keep the energy going with my own little thing, because I want to write and I need to control where it lives. Perhaps enforced write-every-day discipline would help.

In any case, I trashed something useful. LiveJournal was a good audience of friends and strangers and a wonderful conversation space, where I learned more about public writing than I had working full-time at a newspaper. Where did we go wrong? In any case, I met a lot (more than 50) of great new people I still have to talk to.

Anyway that’s how I killed my blog. If you’re reading this, something must be terribly wrong.

Area Library To Remove Books, Librarians from Library

I rarely reproduce an article in its entirety, but as would say, the whole thing is a pullquote. I can’t come up to the challenge of annotating or responding. Instead, read:

Newport may close Balboa branch, open ‘electronic’ library
Instead, part of planned community center would be equipped with computer center, on-demand book orders.

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach Public Library is considering closing one of its four branches and outfitting a planned community center with everything that it offered — except the books.

At a meeting about the Balboa Peninsula’s Marina Park development Wednesday, city officials unveiled plans to close the Balboa Branch — which houses 35,000 items, including books, DVD and other materials — and to dedicate a portion of the Marina Park Community Center to an “electronic library.”

By eliminating books and librarians at the building, they hope to adapt to modern times and save money while providing residents services they’ll actually use. In the process, they would replace the library’s most iconic features with Internet connections.

“That caused me the most angst,” said City Manager Dave Kiff. “People identify [book] stacks with the library.”

But officials analyzed how its patrons use the branches and found that most come for a quiet place to study, to plug their laptops into work spaces and to use the Internet-connected computers. Few of them actually remove books from the shelves.

That’s especially the case at the Balboa branch, said Cynthia Cowell, library services director.

“They come specifically to use the computers,” she said. “We have a lot of electronic use of the library, and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

The new facility would have a 2,200-square-foot “Internet library” room with a central fireplace and a kiosk where patrons could order books to borrow using an online system. Some seats and tables would look out onto the bay.

“What we hope to accomplish,” Cowell said, “is to create a place where people want to come and be.”

If residents still want to get their book on the Peninsula, they could order it online from the other branches and pick it up at Marina Park. Instead of holding books behind a desk, the library would drop them off in individual lockers.

“A lot of people still want to touch a book, hold a book, smell it,” Cowell said. “The sensory experience is still very important to many of us.”

The new process would be similar to Netflix. Patrons could place orders from anywhere with an Internet connection: home, work, Marina Park, etc. The kiosk would also be equipped with video-calling software, similar to Skype. Patrons could speak face-to-(projected) face with a reference librarian who could help answer research questions and point them toward the right online resources.

Cowell said she anticipates some blow-back from people in the community, but downplayed the change in peoples’ library experience.

“It’s just the delivery method,” she said.

When Long Beach considered closing its downtown library in 2008 and opening a similar Internet library with pick-up capabilities, many in the community fought back. Some of them were from the Long Beach Public Library Foundation.

In Newport, the Friends of the Library may not have such a strong reaction.

Speaking for herself, Nancy Acone, a Friends board member and manager of The Friends Book Store, said, “You have to be open for change in the library, because you don’t want to be like the railroads and go out of business.”

Presumably, it would be cheaper to run the library without trained reference librarians, but Cowell said she hasn’t run the numbers yet. The City Council would have to decide what to do with the three full-time staff members at the Balboa Branch, she said, and whether closing it would eliminate additional work for other library staffers.

At older than 50 years, the Balboa branch and the adjoining fire station need to be rebuilt, city officials said. If this plan goes through, they would rebuild the station and possibly turn the library land into a park, Kiff said.

They’ve come to take my music.

I heard today that the Pogues were used in a Subaru commercial. Haven’t seen it. I hope it’s “Sally MacLennane.” This isn’t quite as bad/good as “Blister in the Sun” advertising fast food (BLURGH!) but it’s a little surprising.

My generation (I’m 45) is now the target of semi-random generational marketing. Many of us are established and have extra money (note: if you are in this group please contact me). We’re also dominating the marketing business itself right now, so the lazy ad person will remember what lit up the night in 1986 and think “that’s what will nail it!”

In this spirit I offer some suggestions to those who want to reach the semi-lucrative market of Gen X middle-aged people, those of us who aren’t $20K in debt with no house and chronic medical problems. For instance. Let’s move on.

Shipbuilding,” by Elvis Costello. A couple dancing slowly in the sunset on the deck of a ship somewhere in the Caribbean. “Is it worth it?” he sings, as he swings her around in his arms and she smiles upwards. V/O describes selling points, ad ends with Elvis returning to sing “we should be diving for pearls.”

Lost in the Supermarket,” by the Clash. Song plays as mopey 40ish housewife pushes cart around drab yet overlit market, looking at identical cans. Red tag catches her eye, prominently featuring supermarket loyalty card logo. She picks up a jar and smiles: it’s Goober, a delight of her childhood. Outro with slowing fading bassline and slogan on screen: FOUND.

I was going to put some reggae in here but that’s all been heavily prepped by Caribbean Vacation Culture and marijuana. On we go.

I Need Love,” LL Cool J. Middle-aged African-American professional guy driving his upscale SUV through traffic, frustrated. Everything goes wrong, traffic, drink spills on him, phone rings and it’s his jerk boss, etc. Finally arrives home to wife and kids who open door both holding Cokes, and handing him one. The three enjoy the beverage on the porch. Slogan on screen, “COKE” fades into “LOVE.”

Senses Working Overtime,” XTC. Attractive woman of a certain age clearly plagued by multiple allergies. Sneezing shot, eye rubbing shot, pulling back in terror from plate of food. OTC medicine introduced. Closing shot with happy woman enjoying some if not all of her sensuous experience in life.

“The One I Love,” R.E.M. Flower delivery. Not much else to say here.

I Will Dare,” The Replacements. Parallel shots of hopeful-looking man and woman of a certain age looking at computer screens, reading emails, on the phone, meeting. Clearly some sparks in the air, shared laughter, fade into new couple walking down the street away from camera. Logo and url of dating service.

and finally,

Debaser,” Pixies. 2015 Hyundai Andalusia minivan.