The first ten years of blogging are the hardest

Congrats to Matt Mullenweg on ten years of blogging. I say it half-jokingly every time someone I know observes the decade anniversary of their blogging, but there really are key lessons about this medium that I didn’t figure out until I’d been doing it for eight or nine or ten years, and others of the same geriatric vintage as myself have confirmed that this was their experience, too.

Matt says, “This is definitely the longest sustained activity I’ve done, and I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t continue the rest of my life, however long or short that may be.” and the same is true for me. Some of these themes popped up last month when I interviewed Matt at the PaidContent conference as well:

Longtime readers will recall that Matt and I used to spar from time to time when I was at Six Apart working on Movable Type and TypePad and he was busy getting Automattic off the ground as WordPress started to take off. We even caught the attention of TechCrunch in its early days with our back-and-forth.

What I’m not sure was as clear to the community, or to Matt himself, at the time was that I really did have a lighthearted, fun intent in poking fun at WordPress. To be clear, I was passionate and sincere about my advocacy of the products we created, but I also knew it was entertaining for the community to see some fireworks from time to time, and was strategically useful in keeping Automattic’s attention focused (at least for a while) on users that Movable Type wasn’t serving as well, instead of the users where we were building most of the business. Put another way, I was trolling, but with relatively positive intentions.

The Feedback Loop

But what more than a decade of blogging has taught me is that the feedback loop from our audiences can be a negative thing, too. As addictive as it is to see the response to a pointed blog post, getting uncritical applause from people who were already fans, and unsurprising criticism from those who were already inclined to dislike us, didn’t actually serve much of a purpose. I’d said this a couple months ago, but wasting so much energy on which of two competing tools is better is a fool’s errand, best left to meaningless tech blogs:

[W]hen I would spend my time flinging zingers at Matt Mullenweg about the merits of Movable Type vs. WordPress, you know who was winning? Mark Fucking Zuckerberg. Facebook won the blogging wars. The web became a more closed place than if either Movable Type or WordPress had evolved into the tool that powered social networking.

So these days, I find it much more interesting to focus on what we’ve learned. One of the most obvious lessons, in retrospect, was that anyone who’s got the same overall goal and mission in their work as I do, whether that’s in getting people expressing themselves online, or making more meaningful technology, or any other passion, should be treated as an ally.

That’s not to say I won’t still have fun snarking at people or trolling in a friendly way when there’s an opportunity to compete. But I’m much happier these days fighting much bigger battles in a much quieter way.