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20th Anniversary: On This Day 20 Years Ago, This Blog Began

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With this post, I mark the 20th anniversary of Patrick’s Place, the silly little blog I started in February of 2004, as a new hobby.

I’ll answer the most obvious question about hitting this blog’s 20th anniversary right off the bat. No, I had no idea when I started Patrick’s Place on Feb. 7, 2004, that it’d still be going two decades later.

Who could have imagined such a thing back then? But as I celebrate this blog’s vicennial, I thought I’d post a few thoughts here.

I started this little endeavor back on America Online. Back then, they offered a free service called “AOL Journals.” Journals stood as AOL’s version of blogging. Your options were limited. You could only customize things so much…and that “so much” wasn’t a lot.

The really nice thing about the “AOL Journals” era was the audience. It was a small, close-knit group. Most of your readers back then had a journal of their own. We commented on each others’ blogs. You had a real sense of community. It felt like a real neighborhood.

AOL eventually went under, but I had left it a while before then over a censorship issue. No, my blog didn’t get censored. But one complaint over one single graphic prompted AOL’s editors to delete — without warning — a user’s entire graphics library. They didn’t kill just the one graphic someone had complained about; they wiped out everything.

That was one of the first lessons about the importance of owning your own domain and hosting your own content. Eventually, after a visit on Blogger, I went with self-hosted WordPress.

While I still miss that close-knit “neighborhood” AOL decided to bulldoze, it’s nice to be in charge of your own destiny, as it were.

How old is old in the world of blogging?

Most people think the very first blog began in 1997. Back then, the term we used was the weblog. Someone decided to shorten that to blog at some point along the way. I never cared much for the term, but after this long, I think we’re sufficiently stuck with it.

The first entry into the “blogosphere,” however, came earlier than that. In fact, Digital Limelight Media tells us Swarthmore College student Justin Hall created Links.net as the first blog in 1994. He beat me by a full decade.

I’m sure he didn’t think that his blog would still be active 30 years later.

I started this blog at a time when I had moved out of my home state for a new job. My in-person social network was gone; I didn’t know anyone in Virginia. As someone who doesn’t build in-person friendships that easily, I somehow decided that creating an online presence might somehow suffice.

That was before any of the social media networks were around. (Facebook, interestingly enough, made its debut as “The Facebook” just four days before I started my blog. As social platforms appeared, I’m happy to say I didn’t give up this site to spend all my time on those sites. I think that would have been a big mistake.

But how do you celebrate 20 years of this?

A decade ago, Hall produced a documentary on his website marking his big anniversary. He told not only the story of himself and his site but also his efforts to empower others to tell their own stories through their own websites.

A documentary seems far too time-consuming for me.

I looked back at some previous anniversary posts I’ve made over the last 20 years. At the five-year mark, I talked about what led me to create blog. When the blog hit 10 years, I wrote about 10 things I’d learned (Part 1 & Part 2) over a decade of blogging.

At the 15th anniversary, I wrote about 15 blogging truths I’d figured out. That one came in five parts, so if you’d like to revisit them, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

I’ve learned a lot over 20 years. I don’t know that I’ve learned five additional things worth talking about since that five-part 15th anniversary series.

What I think I’m going to do, rather than just make a single anniversary post, is take a deeper dive.

Most of us don’t stay the same over 20 years

The way I look at it, if we’re lucky, we evolve over time. Our opinions change. What we might have a strong opinion about one decade may no longer even be a concern a decade or two later. And vice versa.

I’m not just talking about politics, although politics certainly applies there.

But if we allow ourselves to be open-minded and we try to listen at least as much as we talk, we may well have a few changes of heart along the way.

So maybe, just maybe, having 20 years of blogging history might allow me to examine some of those instances. (I’ll confess that I haven’t gone back much to look at things that riled me up in the mid-2000s, yet. But I’m confident that I will have had a change of mind on at least a handful of things.)

On the other hand, some things that we feel strongly about remain things we feel strongly about over time. In fact, we might grow even more passionate about some things.

It might just be interesting in this anniversary year to explore some of those things. Maybe you’ll share with me some of your thoughts along the way as I revisit some of those old topics over the next few months.

Yes, I might just stretch this anniversary celebration into a series of posts rather than just a single “Happy Anniversary” post.

Creating a blog is like building a house

Many, many years ago, I wrote a post to mark AOL Journals’ first anniversary. I thought I’d repost a portion of that sentiment now. I compared creating a blog to building a house, furnishing it, decorating it to our own unique tastes, then going out for a little while and not locking the door behind you:

Those in the neighborhood who walk by, seeing that door, can step inside if they wish and have a look around. Who wouldn’t? You’re in a nice neighborhood, you see an open door — almost an invitation in itself — you know no one is around and that no one is watching. You can step inside, have a look around and no one will ever be the wiser. Unlike real life, you can’t really take any furniture or belongings from the house…all you can do is look around. If you want to, you can leave a note or two to let someone know that you’ve been there, but you don’t even have to identify yourself when you do so. In the real world, I can’t imagine anyone resisting that temptation for very long.

It’s very intimidating, though, when you get back home and you realize that someone has been there. I mean, you left the door open, so you know that it was possible…but when you find proof, well, that’s different. When you see that “sticky-note” left on the refrigerator, surrounded by those magnets that have been rearranged into a smiley-face, or when you find that note card on the coffee table, you realize that someone else has browsed through your private little world.

It can be very pleasant when someone leaves a comment that says they like the way you’ve chosen to decorate your place. It can be unpleasant when someone calls you an idiot for placing the leopard-skin sofa on the green shag carpet, no matter how cool you think it looks.

Thanks for visiting, no matter how long you’ve been dropping by

A handful of you have been dropping by for that visit, checking out the place, for nearly all 20 years. Many of you have dropped by only a few times over the years. I imagine some of you might hit this post on your very first visit to this blog.

No matter which one applies to you, know this: I appreciate you. I appreciate your time.

And I hope that you won’t feel I wasted any of it here. I do my best to respect both you and your time.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

2 Comments

  • I went looking for 20th anniversary blog ideas and the first thing that came up was this! I remember Patrick’s Place! My own 20th anniversary is coming up on Feb. 16, and it began in J-Land, too. I’m so glad you stuck with it!

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