08 September 2010

Now I am five: Plus ca change...

Now I am five.

Well…no: I am older than five…but this blog, one of my current online personae, is five years old.

In a world where half of blogs wither and die on their electronic vines within three months, that makes me—to borrow
Kate’s phrase–officially old.

I tapped out
my inaugural post late at night on the same laptop I use today. Then The Fussy Eater snacked away at the other end of the couch, watching whatever TV show was on at the time. Now, Hagia curls up beside me, in a whisker twitching-dream: she’s a mighty huntress stalking and eating her prey.

I think that first post still holds true: at its heart Confessions of a Cardamom Addict is food-centric diarisation: written for my edification, crystallising my evolutions as both writer and cook, homage to disparate influences and inspirations. It’s about my ravenous gullet in as much as it’s about the people, cats and events that envelop my life.

I’ve often stated social media, and blogging in particular, is a balance between exhibitionism and voyeurism. My readers find me amusing, bemusing, satiating and hunger-inducing. They like my turns of phrase and my turns of whisk. Some became dear friends; others remain silent onlookers. Some stop me while I’m out and about; others email me thanks, questions and their own stories, inspired by my flailing words.

Regardless if you’ve just arrived or have been checking in for a while, thank you for your time, your words and your kindnesses.

I’m in a bit of a retrospective mood. I still find this site entertaining, challenging and gratifying. Yet at times I feel like the grande old dame in a corner club chair, reminiscing about when we Young Turks were a type of food revolutionary. We built upon actual and virtual food traditions, helping change how to share food knowledge and culture with countless others.

Few of us remain from those days. I watch sites born, lessons relearned, tools and pages grow and die, the task of establishing individualism an increasingly crowded realm.

So here I am,
Toddtini in hand, reflecting on 18+ years online (yes, really, I told you I was old) and the constancies that hold true regardless of how online looks.

Be honest with yourself and with others as to why you’re here.
Honestly answer this question: Why do I want to blog/vlog/podcast/create a community/etc?

Being an online diarist is just as valid as establishing credibility, wanting a book deal, finding an audience or trying to profit from corporate online ad spends. There are no right or wrong answers, but without an answer you may not find what you’re looking for here.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: why you start may not be why you continue. Just be sure you feel good about a conscious shift and you aren’t refocusing because it feels right for someone else. These shifts are normal. It’s called evolution.

See social media for what it is and what it isn’t.
Social media is a connector, a stadium with a 25-kilowatt sound system, an incubator that protects and nurtures the most fragile of concepts. It’s also divisive, a string with a single tin can in a shoebox, and a graveyard of ideas.

If you want to find and grow an audience, understand search engine optimization. Audience growth can take time. Simply starting a blog or a video channel or contributing to a thread may not win you an instant loyal following that rivals the populous of a small nation.

Social media’s beauty partially lies in its relatively low barriers (cost, skill, accessibility). It won’t necessarily deem you an expert (but it will easily deem you a poseur or a wing-nut). Your content’s veracity and quality will attract an audience and be one tool to help earn street cred.

Yes, Virginia. You’re on minute 14.
No one is on a forever upwards trajectory, nor do they usually forever tumble downwards. Fads and flavours of the moment can be born, catapult to stardom and die a fiery death within a day. Learn how to ride the crest but realise you won’t be on top forever. Still wearing parachute pants? No. I didn’t think so.

Many people who’ve tied their online persona to numbers give up their presence once traffic drops. That’s fine; it’s sunk cost theory in action: when your endeavour no longer provides you the satisfaction you desire, quit and go on to something else.

But...if you’re driven by unquantifiable reasons, and still enjoy it, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re fine as you are.

Community: It’s called “Social” Media for a reason.
Social Media is like a continent, with countries, each with provinces, counties, cities and neighbourhoods:

  • Each country can be seen in context of tools: blogs, podcasts, social networking sites etc;
  • Provinces are subject-specific (food & drink, gaming, politics,literature);
  • Counties are the grander topics--within food there’s cookery, baking, history, science and a plethora of others;
  • Cities are specialties such as regional cuisines, restricted diets and techniques, and
  • Neighbourhoods can be extremely granular specialties such as gluten-free cookies.

You can move between cities and countries, or just stay in one neighbourhood: you can be both a podcaster and a microblogger; you can write about tech and books. Some people will tell you that you should write about tech or books; others tout you should use all the toys. You don’t have to do either: it’s totally up to you.

You are part of already-established communities where interactions take place every moment in different ways. Posting isn’t enough to be a part of the community. You need to interact…meaningfully.

You will find supporters and detractors, kindred spirits and antagonists. Whatever it is you think you know, there will always be those who know more than you and are willing to call you out on your foibles. There’s an old Usenet phrase that can speak to the Web as well: Usenet is not a womb.

Communities self-regulate. We have our own languages, standards of ethics and practise. None are written in stone: they’re constantly in flux, moving and twisting and evolving. Some have issues with this; I don’t...usually.

Some are neophytes to your speciality and others have doctorates and eponymous awards, theories and comets. Be aware that your community’s members can often sniff out the disingenuous. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t: if you don’t know what “cream together butter and sugar” means, don’t profess to be an expert baker.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The cupcakes? Bakery-bought. I’ve earned them.


I'm a quill for hire!

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browniegirl said...

Happy happy Birthday and congrats on 5 years!! Long may it continue. Have a fabulous day of celebrating you! MWAH!! xx

Kalyn Denny said...

Congratulations on the five years. I've always enjoyed your voice.

Lauren said...

I love the way you write. This was gorgeous. Congrats on 5 years, and I can't wait for as many more of them as you wish :).

Tea said...

Congrats on five years! (mine is coming up soon too). I love what you wrote here--so true.

Here's to the next five, eh? May they be sweet!

Lisa said...

Congratulations on 5 years of blogging you've certainly earned those bakery bought cupcakes - I bet you ate them thinking "mine are better than these".. :)

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Jasmine, congratulations on 5 years of blogging. I can't imagine. I started my blog 7 months ago, posting just once a week (on Friday morning), and though I plan to be blogging 5 years from now, I can't quite imagine it!

This was a very encouraging post for me. My readership is growing steadily, though not so quickly as I had hoped. But I'll keep at it: Cook/write it and they will come!

Joanne at Frutto della Passione said...

Congratulations and happy anniversary! Yours was the first blog I ever read and I think it may have been the first I ever commented on. It is also one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. Here's to the next 5!

Brilynn said...

Congrats on 5 years Jasmine! Nicely written post that bloggers both new and old should read.