Just over twenty years ago (!), I started a personal blog. It’s past time to bring it back. Welcome!
December, 2001: I was past deadline for a magazine column I was co-authoring at the time, and after noticing a series of Google searches all sent me to some random guy’s personal website, I wanted to learn more. As I submitted my article (did I mention I was late?!), I decided I’d give blogging a try.
Blogger seemed the easiest – I typed something up in a form on a webpage, clicked a button, and the words I’d just typed were sent via FTP to my webhost where my blog took shape. (Spoiler alert: you’re going to want to remember that sentence.) Writing on the web was addictive: the feedback was faster and broader than any prior experience I’d had on the Internet, largely thanks to Google’s ability to steer people to the blog who were searching for things I was writing about.
The more I wrote, the more people I met. People who weren’t like me at all – professors, professionals, politicians, journalists – but people who shared at least some of the interests I had. They commented on my posts, or linked to my blog from their own. I traveled a lot for business those days, and I got in the habit of mentioning when I’d be in New York, or Boston, or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or New Orleans, or London. It was a rare trip that I didn’t get drinks with at least a couple of folks who I met online. Many of those people remain friends today.
In those first few years, my blog was primarily about two things: legal technology (I did go to law school!) and politics. For more than a year, I actually maintained two separate blogs: one for each of those topics. Then it dawned of me: I wouldn’t not talk about politics at a cocktail party any more than I would avoid talking about work. Both were important to me, so why not just be me online? So I combined them. (Many years later, I’d come to realize just how privileged that decision was. But that’s for later.)
FeedBurner got bought by Google, and a little over a year later, I found myself getting an opportunity to become a product manager, working on Blogger. It was, in every possible way, a dream come true. In 2009, Blogger received more traffic than Facebook, in many countries a Blogger-hosted blog was the most visited website (over Google!). I exported my blog from WordPress, set up shop on Blogger, and got to work.
It’s a funny thing to run one of the largest blogging platforms in the world, see just how vital your product is to the millions of people who rely on it, and simultaneously realize how hard it is to use that same product to say what’s on your mind because of where you work. I found it hard to know how to draw the line between “some dude named Rick said…” and “Google exec Rick Klau said…”. I started blogging less. It was strange: I loved the product I was responsible for, even as I found it less and less natural to use it in the way I’d first learned to blog.
(About that line above: how I first used Blogger? How awed I was by clicking a button and a few minutes later, thanks to the magic of FTP, I had a blog? There’s no easy way to say this: I killed Blogger FTP. Not metaphorically killed, actually killed. I permanently eliminated Blogger’s first, and arguably, it’s original, killer feature. You can read more about the backstory (on Medium, sigh) here; suffice it to say, many years later, I don’t think I’ve ever again made that many people angry all at one time.)
I moved to Google+, which at the time was a super-secret project, where I couldn’t talk about what I was working on. Then YouTube, where I worked hard to learn a new medium. I blogged even less.
Then I left YouTube to join Google Ventures. As much as I loved my job at GV, GV didn’t need me talking out of turn about our portfolio, or about the venture industry more broadly. When I did write online, it was generally on Twitter. It offered many of the same benefits of my blogging from a decade earlier (my network grew, my friendships expanded, every once in a while I learned something), but felt, somehow, more ephemeral. The blog felt more permanent, more risky. Looking back, I wonder how much of that was real, and how much was self-imposed.
Lately, I’ve come to realize: I miss writing. I miss taking the time to reflect on what I’m trying to say. I spoke to a group of students a year or two ago; in passing, admitted that I often didn’t know what I thought about a subject until I had to write it out. Writing helps me think, helps me reflect. It helps me learn.
So I’m going to give this another go. There’s a lot that isn’t quite right just yet (the blog’s domain is the same, but the permalinks are different, and I forgot everything I ever knew about .htaccess; none of the categories from years ago seem to have come over, that’s probably not terrible).
But the blog’s here, I’m typing into a form again, and I’m clicking publish. Feels good.