For the past week or so I've been playing with Vox, the new platform from SixApart. Here's where I'd mention how long I've been writing online, but it's irrelevant, and also I don't want you tracking down the story about when I accidentally drank my own sperm accidentally I said accidentally, okay? Geez.
But back to the point: a long time ago I used to write online to a ton (like 30) of faceless, nameless people who used to laugh and possibly email me about how funny they thought it was. I was just goofing off, I wasn't too concerned about offending anyone if I could make something funny.
But then some of these people became friends and it was WAY more fun to interact and relate with them in Real Life® and in email, AIM, and working on projects together—plus who wants to shake the hand of a known masturbator? Not I. So I toned it down a bit. Things were good.
Then in a repeat of something like the great AOL influx, a lot more people started discovering weblogs. For a small percentage who didn't understand it, a weblog post was a challenge to say something mean or a veiled request for marital advice. Lots of controls were developed to stifle the negative comments, a lot of people just turned the feedback loop off because so much of it was spam or hurtful. That early feeling of freedom and openness died for almost everyone but the thickest skinned.
A lot of my friends from those days disappeared back into the woodwork.
[Incidentally this reminds me that I even have one comment I wrote once, years ago, that I completely regret. It was totally pointless and stupid and I seriously think about it a lot. There are a few others that make me cringe, but that one really makes me feel bad. Especially when I see the person I annoyed at events, around San Francisco, or for 3 uncomfortable floors in an elevator (gulp). I usually console myself with the fact that he's now a millionaire. Jerk.]
My friends pointed me to LiveJournal's friend/family controls and I tried out, but I must have some sort of LiveJournal blind spot because every time I looked at the interface I thought, "Why do you hate me?" It's a fine service, and obviously tons of (goth/emo) people like to (cut/take photos of themselves) use it. But it wasn't for me and MySpace is just not an option because of all the child molesters and Rupert Murdoch. Flickr has been allowing me to share a bit of my life with friends in a more spontaneous way, and I appreciate the control I have over who can see what, but it's not exactly the same thing as writing.
Vox is a return to that early time I don't think most people had a chance to experience. The commercialization of blogs has, I think, skewed people's perception of what they can be. To many, if you're not doing 50,000 unique visitors a day you should just throw in the towel, you're a failure. If your funny story about shopping at the Apple store can't be Digg'd or Boingboing'd then what good is it?
Someone once gave me some good advice on how to write a blog post, they said, "Write it like you're writing an email to your friend." That became hard to do when it turned out lots of non-friends were intercepting our correspondence. Vox gives me the chance to write to my friends (and family!) again and I can't wait for you all to join me.
Ugh Update: I did get invites, but it turns out they aren't the sort of invites that let you publish. So me inviting you in with one is pretty much like saying, "Look but don't touch." I did get two real ones, and they're gone already.