It was twenty years ago today that I wrote my first-ever blog post, and I figured I’d take a brief look back at my history here.
That first post was on the on the subject of…wait for it…a young lady selling her used panties online. That post was just a quick one-off to get something on the site so I could say I started. I’m sure I’d handle the story quite differently today. I’d point out that there was almost no chance she’d serve the statutory maximum 5-year sentence.After years of Ken White ranting about news reporting on sentencing. And I’m more aware of sex work issues these days, so I’d discuss the arrest in the context of the general conditions for sex workers.
A lot has happened on the blog since then. And in some ways, nothing has changed. I’m sure readers appreciate that I’ve broadened the scope of subjects discussed on Windypundit to include the war on drugs, photography, economics, sex work, the legal system, technology, a bit of epidemiology (dammit), and of course cats…although I do occasionally return to my roots.
Windypundit was never one of the big hit blogs, but there were times it seemed to punch above it’s weight. I think it started with this post about Google Earth. I had been a user of the Keyhole virtual globe before Google bought the company and changed the name. That gave me early access to Google Earth, and I blogged about it. That post turned out to be one of the first ever pieces about Google Earth, and it blew up a bit. From that day forward I had a lot more traffic than ever before.
(Had I been serious about using my blog to make money, I would have tried to hang onto that piece of Google Earth space in the blogosphere, but I’m not that ambitious. I barely mentioned it again.)
With the advent of affordable digital cameras, I was finally able to indulge my interest in photography.The waiting time for film development took all the fun out of it. I used my photos to accompany stories, to document events large and small with tons of pictures, and sometimes just to show some photography. I also ran a series of posts about eminent domain abuse and used my photos to document the properties at risk.
I probably hit “peak blog” in the years when my libertarian interests crossed over into issues of criminal law, and I started interact regularly with actual lawyers like Ken Lammers, Scott Greenfield, Mark Bennett, Ken White, Rick Horowitz, “Blonde Justice,” Marc Randazza, Brian Tannebaum, Jeff Gamso, Norm Pattis, Mirriam Seddiq, Gideon, Jon Katz, Jamison Kohler, Matt Haiduk, and several others. We would have wide-ranging discussions that spanned multiple blogs for days. It was the height of what good blogging could be, and I’ll always be grateful for all those legal professionals who accepted an outsider like me into their conversation.
Several of those lawyers have since moved on to bigger and sometimes better things. Ken White is more infamously known as @Popehat, and he has gone on to host a couple of pretty great podcasts about legal issues.He also has a side-gig taunting Michael Avenatti. Norm Pattis has pursued his dream of becoming a celebrity lawyer. The pseudonymous “Gideon” has moved on to serve justice in astounding ways that I am sworn not to disclose. Scott Greenfield soldiers on. Blonde Justice has vanished into the mists of time.I suspect that Blonde Justice has secretly returned to social media under her real name. If you read this Blonde One, say “Hi!” I promise I’ll keep your secret to my grave. And Mirriam Seddiq has exploded in 100 different directions — founding a PAC for Muslim women, providing free emergency legal service for immigrants at airports, and hosting a well-regarded cooking show on YouTube.
When you reach a (surprisingly low) level of blogging fame, you meet interesting people.
Radley Balko, blogging as The Agitator, was practically one of my contemporaries, only one or two rungs above me in the blogging game. But he was already playing way out of my league. (His secret was hard work and actual reporting.) He went on to write for Reason, the Huffington Post, and eventually, the Washington Post., where he gave me my most prominent media exposure, quoting me on the subject of…wait for it…rap lyrics.
That was for my post about a controversy involving the Bronx Defenders, who were being attacked by the New York police and the mayor for participating in a video which referenced cop killing. I eventually heard from several people at the Bronx Defenders about that piece, and from David Feige, husband of Bronx Defenders Executive Director Robin Steinberg. Feige had also commented here when I reviewed his TV show Raising the Bar.
Hearing from experts in subjects you write about can be intimidating. I remember I wrote something about the death penalty, and got a response from Jeff Gamso, an extraordinary lawyer who has defended people on death row. When I wrote about a prosecutor’s attempt to put a paraplegic man in prison for illegal use of pain pills, I heard from the man’s wife and (more recently) the prosecutor.
At some point, I thought it might be a good idea to separate the libertarian content from the legal content in the form of a new blog. I somehow talked Rick Horowitz and Rogier van Bakel into joining me in launching the new Nobody’s Business blog.Rogier had a previous blog with that name. It soon faded into oblivion, but not before we got “retired” sex-worker Maggie McNeill to contribute a few articles.
The long slow fade of Windypundit began in 2009 when my mother and father died. I spent a lot of time dealing with that, and my blog lost a lot of visitors and search engine mojo. Furthermore, without the need to care for my parents, I stopped working as an independent contractor and took on a full-time job at a 50,000-employee company. My new responsibilities took a fair amount of my time and energy, and my blogging efforts suffered.
At the same time, blogging was suffering. What had once been a vibrant, powerful conversational medium was starting to lose its energy. Smarter people than I have pondered why that was. All I know is that a lot of people stopped doing the kind of blogging I was into, and I stopped spending as much time reading other blogs. Since much of my writing was inspired by other bloggers, it became harder to come up with material. Eventually, I found myself mostly writing responses to one guy who really pissed me off, and I’m sure that was a boring time for my readers.
The rise of Twitter has been part of the problem. A lot of my impetus for blogging came from getting excited or angry about something and feeling that I’ve got to tell people about this. But now that I’m active on Twitter, I can satisfy that urge instantly, which dispels the pressure that would have gone into blogging something.
Furthermore, the variety of social media platforms has made it harder for me to participate. The kind of commentary and ideas I used to like reading and blogging about are now coming out as videos, podcasts, and Substack articles, which don’t really invite a blogged response. And at least for now, I’m not very interested in moving into any of those media.
Too Many Words
At some point, my posts started getting kind of long. Instead of writing a few hundred words about something ridiculous or outrageous, I now wrote 4,500 words summarizing the evidence of the effectiveness of masking. I suspect the Twitter effect is somewhat to blame, since shorter posts would be more susceptible to cannibalizing for tweets. That leaves only the long stuff, which takes more time and effort to write and is therefore less likely to be finished in a timely manner. I’m sure these long posts are also tedious for my readers.
The Non-Libertarian Moment
In The Declaration of Independents, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch argued we could be on the cusp of “the libertarian moment” when the American people would finally welcome the freedom that us libertarians want them to have.
Spoiler alert: Not so much.
The rise of Trumpism has been depressing as hell, and the other side has not provided an inspiring response. Both sides have given us destructive trade tariffs, restrictive immigration policies, and no relief from the war on drugs. The far right wants to impose a moral crusade, and the far left wants to control every aspect of our economic lives — or is it the other way around? It’s getting hard to tell. (And don’t get me started on the modern Libertarian party.)
It’s not that I thought I would change the world from here at Windypundit, but libertarian ideas seemed to be making progress and I thought I was helping at least a little to steer the boat in the right direction. But the last few years make me feel like I’ve been shouting into a hurricane.
Other things which have probably impaired my blogging are home ownership, the abundance of distracting material on streaming services, finding other hobbies, the increasing discomfort of sitting at the keyboard for long periods of time, and just knowing that not as many people will be reading what I write. I’m spending more of my life doing other things.
The Future of Windypundit
I have no plans. I haven’t thought much about what happens next with the blog. I’m not going to try for a return to the glory days, and I’m not planning to shut it all down. I’ll probably just keep doing what I’m doing.Although…if any of you have suggestions, ideas, or lucrative offers, send them my way.
As far as I know, I’ll just be here. Blogging when I want to. Because why not?
Reading back over this post, it came out a little more melancholy than I intended, so I wanted to end with a music video, something that captures the mood a bit, but not too seriously. It’s turned out to be harder than I expected. My first thought, given all the crazy things that happened over the past few years, was to end with a version of “Mad World”:
But then I actually listened to “Mad World” and…Oh Dear, if any of you pay attention to the lyrics, you’re going to be calling the cops to do a welfare check. I admit I’m a little down from thinking about the state of the blog, but I’m not “Mad World” down.
So then my wife suggested this one, which seems like a it has a theme that’s a pretty good match for the tone of this post:
Really, I mean, that kind of says it: Things get better, things get worse, and we just keep going, because that’s how we are. It’s the way of the world.
|↑1||After years of Ken White ranting about news reporting on sentencing.|
|↑2||The waiting time for film development took all the fun out of it.|
|↑3||He also has a side-gig taunting Michael Avenatti.|
|↑4||I suspect that Blonde Justice has secretly returned to social media under her real name. If you read this Blonde One, say “Hi!” I promise I’ll keep your secret to my grave.|
|↑5||Rogier had a previous blog with that name.|
|↑6||Although…if any of you have suggestions, ideas, or lucrative offers, send them my way.|
BRIAN TANNEBAUM says
Great memories. Enjoyed reading this.
Mark Draughn says
Dammit, Brian, I knew I’d leave someone out. (Fixed.) Those were the days. Thanks for dropping by.
Matt Haiduk says
“A lot of my impetus for blogging came from getting excited or angry about something and feeling that I’ve got to tell people about this.”
I hear this. I have about 75 unpublished posts because I end up deciding it’s not worth spending an hour editing what I could more simply say in a tweet.
Mark Draughn says
For me it doesn’t get that far. I don’t decide to tweet instead of finishing a post. I just see something and tweet about it, and then I don’t feel the urge to talk much more about it, so I just never think of writing a post about it. It took me a while to even realize this was happening.
Twenty years?! Yikes. (Hardly the most original commentary, I know.) I’ve known you (online, at least) for almost that long, it feels like. Hoping for another twenty-thirty-forty or so.
Mark Draughn says
Sounds good to me. Thanks for stopping by.