Welcome everyone! Please come in and take a seat. It’s a bit crowded in here but we’ve sent someone out for a few more chairs. Help yourself to punch and cookies from the table in the back, and say “Hello” to my wife, who would be happy to sell you a copy of my book.
Great. Everyone settled? First some announcements: This is a non-smoking facility, so if you find yourself beginning to smoulder, please go outside. The fire exits are located at the side and front of the room. Please turn off your cell phones and other mobile devices.
Okay, let’s get started. Websters, meet the Bloglodytes. If this is your first visit to the Blogsphere, you may find it a bit odd, but you’ll get used to it. Don’t be shy; make sure to mingle and chat with the Bloggers after the meeting. Now for the Bloggers, please make the Websters feel at home; we may be in your town, but they have been with me a lot longer than you have, and you may find they have some interesting stories to tell about what the Internet was like before they built this shiny, new Blogsphere. So make friends; we’re all here for the same reason.
Ahem. I started my first weblog in 1995. Back then, you staked your claim with an Internet hosting site such as Geocities, Xoom or Tripod. That worked until they discovered that ads made money, and more ads made more money. Soon, any content you uploaded was covered in so many ads that your carefully crafted site looked as tasteful as the homepage for The Carphone Warehouse.
When I bought Lindenwald.com in November 1999, it was like buying my first house. Here was a permanent residence where I could do anything I wanted and no one could post anything I didn’t want them to. We built web pages using HTML in those days, Sparky, and we liked it that way, so I spent many a weekend and late night (this was between marriages) constructing one website theme after another.
Does anyone here remember what Lindenwald.com used to be before it was “Postcards From Across the Pond”? Ah, a few of you. Was it the Cigar Pages, or the Irish Dance Diary? Cracks of Time!! Well, you certainly take the prize for longevity; pick up a free book on the way out. You deserve it.
So, yeah, I bought Lindenwald to cope with my habit of switching hobbies every few years; I felt www.cigarman.com would be too restrictive, whereas Lindenwald would allow me to reinvent myself periodically. (Also, MichaelHarling.com was taken.)
It wasn’t until 2001 that I came up with Postcards From Across the Pond, but it has stayed with me longer than any other theme. Without meaning to, I built up a following, and you, my loyal followers, encouraged me, nay, enabled me, to write my book. So this book is yours as much as it is mine, and I want to thank you – free books for everyone! No, wait! My wife is shaking her head. Sorry, I got a bit carried away there.
To get back to my story: then came the blogs. I did try them. I didn’t like them. It was like renting a flat in the city when I already had a four-bedroom house with a full basement in the suburbs. Websites were for craftsmen; blogs were the territory of tyros. Websites were a beacon shining in the night; blogs were a disposable lighter. Websites . . . okay, you get the picture.
But as things evolved, blogs became more than a temporary dumping ground for the angst-ridden verbal meanderings of earnest fifteen-year-olds. They matured, they expanded, they became…attractive. Blogs are simple (though I used to see that as a disadvantage, I now regard it as a selling point), and blogs allow other bloggers to see what you are blogging about without having to put your URL in their Favorites list.
So now I don’t feel as if I’m renting a flat, it’s more like I’ve built a clubhouse and invited all the cool kids to be members, and they have invited me to be a member of their clubs, and so on. And I’m a sucker for clubhouses—they make great places to sneak off to with a nicked bottle of your dad’s Dandelion wine and Sarah Jane Pomeroy, who told her parents she was on a sleep-over at Mary Liddell’s house.
So, welcome; rest assured you are all ‘the cool kids’ and I am honoured to be in your company. And if one of you happens to be Sarah Jane Pomeroy, I want to say I’m sorry I spoiled the mood by throwing up in your hair; it must have been the wine.