I previously spotted a blogger in an early twentieth century neurophysiologist, based on his love of writing and his consistent weekly letters to his mother. In thinking it all through, I thought there might be certain tell-tale signs that someone is bound to be attracted by the concept of blogging. Diaries and letters are one thing, but there might be other clues.
When I was a kid (age 9-14) I took tremendous pleasure in writing for an invisible unknown audience. At age eleven I wrote two parody essays at school. I forgot one topic, but the other – the funniest one – was about invisibility. It contained a section written in invisible ink (just skipped a few lines) and a newspaper picture of the (at the time) Minister of Internal Affairs with an invisible man (just a picture of the Minister). It was written in the style of a general informational piece for a wide audience, but only my teacher and my friends read it, of course.
At home, I sometimes made little booklets. I made my own comic books, puzzle books, and information booklets about my pets. I had my parents look for the latter, because I remembered that one in particular to be so extremely blog like. It was a small booklet about my guinea pig and our cat that I made it when I was ten or eleven.
This is the cover:
Neel and Snoopy
The entire booklet was full of anecdotes and facts about the pets. Here is something I thought was a very interesting fact about my guinea pig:
“Snoopy is often outside in the yard. Snoopy has a roll to run in. Snoopy also has hay to lie in, but he always eats it all”. It’s the cardboard inside of a toilet paper roll. I just called it a “roll” for short.
If you thought that was fascinating, wait ’til you hear about the cat!
We have a glass stand for the TV. Neel always sits under it and looks up at the underside of the TV.
See, it’s such a blog. Nobody read this but my parents, who were already familiar with our pets and their quirks, but it was written as if it was for strangers, with vital stats on both animals (bit of a lab book there) and talking about them as if you did not know them.
It was inevitable that once I heard about a thing called internet that I’d immediately put stuff up there myself. I went online for the very first time when I started university in the fall of 1996, and by the time the 1997 calendar went up, I already had a website, hand-coded in html that had to be e-mailed to the server. My first “blog”-like thing was a manually updated page to describe four months I spent working in Quebec in 2000. My first blog software was installed in 2001, and I went through a couple of “look at my cat”-style personal blogs before settling into science blogging in 2005.
But my first (b)logs were those little stapled-together booklets, written in pencil-crayon, and elaborately illustrated. My mom kept them on the living room book shelf for an embarrassingly long time, in between the other non-fiction books. I also have a collection of personal diaries that I kept from age 7 to 18 or 19. The first one contains an entry (age 8) in which I was really excited about two things: one was that my friend came over and I got some gift or other, and the other was that my sister was born. Next to that entry I stuck in a sticker of a horse and the birth announcement card. It’s pretty cute. (The age 16-17 diaries, on the other hand, are an existential, Adrian Mole-like train wreck, and we should _all_ be thankful that I hadn’t discovered the internet yet at that time.)
Now, like the teenage version of me, I’m once again wondering whether I’m in any way special and crazy, or if there are many others like me. If you’re a blogger now, did you ever make little info booklets as a kid? Or keep diaries? (Or still keep a diary? Or even still make little info booklets that only your parents read?)
Let me know, and look at my cat doing a handstand in a trash can: