The American Mind at 10
Congrats to Sean Hackbarth who is today celebrating the 10th anniversary of The American Mind, where he was blogging before there was such a thing. An excerpt from his longer, reflective post:
Weblogs are a wonderfully messy communication medium that has given many a way to express themselves, rant, rave, and inform. Weblogs have helped crank up the news cycle and made our personal info gluts worse. At the same time, they feed our insatiable need to know something—anything! The power of personal publishing unleashed vast amounts of creativity and knowledge. The last 10 years have been a wild, crazy ride. I can safely say my weblog changed my life.In 1999, there wasn’t much of a “blogosphere.” In fact, neither that term nor “blog” had been invented yet. As early as then there were hundreds of weblogs collecting links to interesting websites and offering short bits of commentary. Did you ever hear of Robot Wisdom or Dave Winer’s Scripting News? With some exceptions these first generation weblogs were all about technology. (The more introspective and longer essays were more likely to be found on Live Journal which started in early-1999.)
I was reading these weblogs to satisfy my tech geek knowledge addiction. At some point in late-1999 I figured I could take the same format that these link curators were using to cover technology and the internet but do it for subjects I liked: politics; books; sports; and music. The initial theory for my weblog was I would use it to keep up on events, write a bit about them, then turn those embryonic ideas into longer op-eds I might be able to sell as a freelance writer. I got a few pieces into other online magazines, but that’s about it. What I failed to realize was the weblog itself soaked up so much of my creative energy.
When I wasn’t searching the web for stories to write about, I was working on maintaining the weblog itself. The first version of The American Mind (TAM) lived on Angelfire.com and wasn’t powered by any weblogging software. My publishing process was hand coding HTML into a text file and uploading it to Angelfire’s servers. There weren’t any comments and no permalinks. When a new month started I renamed the old month’s HTML file, put it into an archives folder, and created a link to it on TAM’s front page.
The screencap is of a previous iteration of his site from January 31, 2003 — the day I started OTB — by which point Sean had already been at it more than three years. (The story is about an Ohio high school basketball star, LeBron James, who got into some trouble taking freebies from Nike. Sean sagely advised NBA general managers to think twice about this kid. Amusingly, my last post of the day/month was on the same subject.) It’s amazing how much the medium had evolved even by then, much less in the ensuing sevenish years.