Saturday, July 09, 2011

Still Don't Know After 5 Years - Blog Retrospective Part 1

My first post was on July 9, 2006.  It was short.  But as I look back, there was some hint of what was to come.  It was about spittle bugs.  And I'd googled enough to figure out what they were and gave some short background. I didn't have a digital camera so there were no pictures.  I didn't know how to make links so there were no links.  There were two posts that month.

This blog has covered a lot of ground in five years - in terms of geography, media, and content.  I've met a lot of people through blogging.  People I blogged about.  People I met while blogging (at the political corruption trials, the Anchorage International Film Festival, for example).  I met people who commented on my blog, and other bloggers.

While blogging has been around a lot longer than five years, when I started few people had a clear idea of what a blog was.  Since then, lots of people have started blogs.  Other Alaska bloggers have supported each other as our world exploded in August 2008 and we tried to figure out what we should be doing.  Thanks for you kindnesses to me.

Anniversaries are good times to take stock, to rethink, to make changes.  But one of the consequences of blogging is that a lot of things I should do, don't get done.  ('Should' there is, of course, relative.)  So, the serious analysis of blogging is on a pile of other unfinished things to do.

Therefore, I'm treating this like a birthday of sorts.  I shouldn't have to work, I can just sit back and chit chat with friends.  And maybe I can use these ramblings later for something more profound.  But I have to do some heavier thinking this week, because fellow blogger Peter Dunlap-Shohl has invited me to a Hometown Alaska show he's hosting about Social Media, as he put it in a reminder email, "2:00 on July 13 also known as 'Next Wednesday.'"  That's on KSKA, and those of you outside of Alaska can probably find it online eventually.

Well, I've tried to create an appropriate post here but there's just too much to say.  I had to trash most of it.  So I'll do a series of retrospective posts looking at different topics - including the struggle to discover what blogging is.  (Of course, once we 'nail' it, then we stop learning, while blogging will continue on its merry way escaping our labels.)

So for now, I'm going to settle for identifying a few favorite and, I hope, representative posts from the first year.

My 'manage posts' page says I have 3025 published posts.  Even remembering them all is hard.  I get reminded of older posts as I watch where sitemeter takes people.   And what makes something a favorite post?

Sometimes because it reminds me of a really good day, like when we visited Swe's Karen village outside of Chiangmai. 

Sometimes because I thought the topic was interesting, profound, or off-the-wall. The key ingredient was always that it rearranged my brain cells a bit so I saw the world a little differently. 

Here are a few from the first year of What Do I Know?:

India Road Motto: Blow Horn and companion post Awazdo - The creative signs on Indian trucks and the culture of blowing horns.

Blind Colors - What Food is Like Blue?  - this is one I want to repost now that there are more readers and I might get more comments. 

How Did Carnival Cruise Lines Get US Taxpayers to Buy them a $28 million Railway Depot?  - This was one of my earlier crossovers from blogging to something like journalism.  (I don't claim to do journalism here, but that's another long topic.)  There are links to two follow up posts.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Star Band Rolls Anchorage - This was coverage of a concert as I struggled to interpret the changing rules for video and copyrights in the age of Youtube, and how to use my tiny digital camera to take document events.  I ended up editing what I had into short vignettes of different songs.  But their music triumphs even my poor equipment and editing. This video has gotten almost 15,000 hits on YouTube, which for me is a lot. And because Anchorage is not too big, we got to meet the band members after the show.

Beyond the Headlines - Covering the Tom Anderson trial was my first intense immersion into one topic.  Mostly I had to report what I saw going on, because I really didn't know enough to intelligently comment.  But this post was a chance to reflect, just before the verdict was announced, on how it all might be impacting the various players involved. [Wow.  I just reread this and it cries for an update now that we know what has happened for many of these players.  While I didn't have a clue where things would go, at least I left things open ended enough to allow for what has since happened.  Anderson has a few weeks more of home detention at his parents' place and then he's free and has work lined up with a family related business.  I think he's going to be ok.  The prosecutors had their days of glory in the three Alaska trials only to have it all come crashing down after the Stevens trial.  Marsh committed suicide and Bottini and FBI agent Keppler are still subject to an ongoing investigation.]

Cow Parsnip - Heracleum - The blog gives me a chance to combine pictures and some research to show and tell about things I come across.  This post continues to get hits and led to me to the Southeast Alaska Science Fair, where David Mendivil did a science project on Cow Parsnip and used (after asking for permission) some photos from this post.

Why I Live Here - Birding at Elmendorf Air Force Base -   Out with an expert birder friend on an evening so beautiful you couldn't take a bad picture.

Blogging is Like Fishing - After a year of blogging, I had some reflections.  How little I understood things then.  And still today.

I want to do more retrospective posts.  Linking to old favorites is the easy part, but I also want to explore what all this blogging means, how it affects my life, and how I can clean up the clutter that has accumulated as I've tried out widgets to make things accessible.  Some worked better than others and some definitely need to go. 

And thanks for dropping by now and then.  Without you, this would simply be my private journal - which isn't a bad thing.  But without you, I surely wouldn't be so faithful to the blog.


  1. Hi Steve! I think you're doing a fine job. I guess I discovered your blog about a year ago and have enjoyed it greatly. Especially want to congratulate you on your reporting and commentary about redistricting. As a non-Alaskan I don't know enough to follow the discussion in detail, but I am amazed and pleased that you have done such a thorough and faithful job of following these guys and trying to make sense of the deliberations. Keep up the good work!

  2. This is one of my favorite blogs! It's always a surprise where your curiosity will take us. It might be your backyard, downtown Anchorage, your mom's world or to foreign lands or anywhere. I'm tickled when I see a picture or read a post of yours only to realize we were at the same event; a unknown shared bond of sorts. Thank you.

  3. The thought experiment continues! Congratulations on five years of helping us stop and look at the world.

  4. happy anniversary! I don't think I would remember such days. As I am getting "older" I am less interested in my own birthday.

  5. Thanks all for your kind comments. Ropi, I knew it was in July, and since I have a blog, it's all well recorded and easy to find. And even if you aren't that interested, we won't forget your birthday.

  6. I come delayed, but I want to wish you a happy blogbirthday and many happy returns! Your blog always holds one of my feet in Alaska...


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