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New year, new blog

As some of you have noticed, I recently decided to start blogging again. I’ve made a clean break from my previous blogs by creating a new site with a new domain name. My thanks go out to those of you who’ve sent notes of encouragement.

At this point, I’m going to try to explain why I disappeared from the blogosphere for two years.

In May of last year, I was having dinner with several friends at Craftsteak in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The reason we were at Craftsteak and not Gordon Ramsay Steak — the latter having been our original plan — was because of a blog post I had written shortly after Gordon Ramsay opened. While I had raved about the food, I had not been so enthusiastic about the ambiance. After reading the post, the group agreed that an evening of ear-rupturing music would not be conducive to conversation between four guys who hadn’t seen each other in a while.

Over the course of dinner, the conversation — since we were able to have a conversation — inevitably turned to the blog post that changed our plans. One of the guys asked whether I was going to blog about our dinner. I said no and pointed out that I hadn’t written a new blog post in over a year. Another asked why I stopped blogging.

I had a simple answer: It stopped being fun.

However, to understand how I managed to stop enjoying something I used to enjoy so much, we have to go back another five years to March 2009, to another conversation I had in Las Vegas, with one of the same friends, while we were sipping beers and playing penny slots at Ellis Island.

Somehow the conversation turned to blogging, which at the time I had been doing for about four years. While I had produced quite a bit of content and had had a lot of fun doing it, I lamented that few people had read it. My friend observed that most of the blogs he read were focused on a particular interest. In his day-to-day blog reading, there were few personal blogs.

His observation stuck in my head for over a year.

In 2010, I looked over my years of blog posts and noticed that the bulk of them were related to various travels, mostly in the United States and Europe. It therefore seemed my blog should have a travel theme. In May 2010, I registered a new domain name. I decided the name was too long and registered a shorter one in August. Over the course of the summer, I moved all the old travel content to a site hosted under the new domain name. My travel blog was born.

Of course, mine was not the only travel blog on the Internet. There were thousands of travel blogs. Some were well written; others were drivel. Some blogged for fun; others blogged for profit. For me, the challenge was to get mine noticed.

I began reading lots of other travel blogs, and I studied the things they did to get their posts read. I posted comments on other travel blogs with links back to my own blog. I engaged in social networking, giving my blog its own Twitter account and Facebook page, and using them to interact with interested followers. I learned about search engine optimization, tweaking each post to create higher Google rankings for valued keywords. I used analytical tools to determine which posts were the most widely read and which search terms were used to find them.

My friend was right. With a specialized blog, I had increased readership dramatically.

However, I eventually started to notice that what I’d gained in exposure, I was losing in freedom. I was no longer spontaneously posting anything that crossed my mind; I was carefully considering how each new post — in fact, each new word — would affect the ranking of my site. Out were the quick updates to let my friends and family know what was going on in my life. In were the keyword-rich descriptions of places I’d visited.

Furthermore, I noticed other travel blogs I read were changing — or maybe it was just the eye of the beholder that was changing. The blogs from which I had drawn the most inspiration were typically written by talented amateurs who drew heavily on personal experiences. These blogs were disappearing. At the same time, there was a dramatic increase in the number of professional and aspiring-professional travel blogs. After a while, many of these blogs seemed to be written from the same Banana Pancake Trail. If you’d read two or three of them, you’d read them all.

Between my unhealthy obsession with page views and a dearth of inspiration, by the second half of 2012, I was finding it difficult to write much of anything. In December of that year, Kathryn and I made an unforgettable week-long road-trip pilgrimage to all twenty-one of the old California missions. It didn’t produce a single post. In January 2013, we rented an apartment in Paris and had an amazing week there. It resulted in only a few posts, only one of which was substantive. It was clearly time for me to take a break from blogging.

Now that I’m back from my break, one might be inclined to wonder what’s different this time.

The difference is that I’m no longer writing a travel blog. I’m back to writing a personal blog. I’m going to try to bring back the spontaneity. There will be status updates, asides, links to things I like, random rants and musings, and posts about almost anything. For example, in the last two years, Kathryn and I have become licensed amateur radio operators. I may write about this or any of my other interests. Also, it turns out I still have a day job. I’ve worked in the information technology field, mostly as a computer programmer, for almost twenty years, so I may write some geeky stuff here and there. Finally, I’ve disconnected from the social networks, and I have no plans to go back. I don’t mind if readers want to share links to my posts on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, but I’m no longer getting involved with it.

I wish you all a safe, happy, and blessed 2015!

Curt Gilman
Curt Gilman