Two very legitimate and possibly obvious questions are “Why a blog?” and “How is that different from what you’ve been doing?” I probably can’t answer either of those questions to everyone’s satisfaction but I’m going to try by tackling the “How…?” question first.
I never refer to DennyGibson.com as a blog. I know some people do and I’m OK with that but my idea of a blog is something different. Web stuff does not need to be produced by things like WordPress or Blogger to be a blog but the stuff that WordPress and Blogger produce are certainly blogs. In my view, if it looks like something that could have come from WordPress or Blogger it might be a blog. If it doesn’t, it probably isn’t. My trip reports definitely have some similarities with blogs. The biggest one being that both have chronological entries. But a multi-day trip report at DennyGibson.com is treated as a unit and tied together with a “cover page”. If it’s big enough, there might also be some other pages related to just that trip. Maybe you see the difference and maybe not. The truth is that there is no rigid definition of the word “blog” that precisely distinguishes what I’ve been doing from what Gizmodo has been doing so it’s a good thing that I’m not trying to convince you that I haven’t been blogging but just explain why I don’t think I have.
What I’ve just added and what you’re now reading is clearly a blog. It qualifies as “something that could have come from WordPress” by coming from WordPress. It will have a single chronological flow of entries which will be archived monthly and which can be commented on. That last bit is starting to get at the “Why…?”.
Ever since that first reported trip in 1999, I’ve looked for ways to interact with readers. I received some emails throughout that trip which led to some one-on-one conversations and that made me want something more. In 2002 I added a guestbook. People could post and I could answer but the conversation either ended with that single exchange or became one-on-one and private. A forum seemed like a good idea so I added one just before my 2003 Route 66 trip. There was some initial interest and some folks signed up but there was very little activity. I retired it not long after I returned home. I tried again in early 2010. Again there was some interest and even a small flurry of activity though it soon faded. The forum is still there but it’s been more than seven months since anyone other than me has posted. A blog won’t permit others to start conversations but it will permit them to comment on ones I’ve started and it may be more familiar and accessible. I haven’t removed the forum yet but I intend to shortly.
The other “accessories” will stay. Namely the guestbook, the newsletter, and the home page RSS feed. There’s already some overlap there, especially between the newsletter and RSS feed. Now there will be some more. On the other hand, some misuse should go away. Both the newsletter and the RSS feed were intended to be ways that people could learn of road trip related activity without repeatedly visiting the site to see if something had changed. But I’ve used them for decidedly non-road trip stuff, like web server issues, because there was nothing else. Now this blog should handle things of that sort and the feed and the newsletter should be left to their intended function.
Most of the overlap between the newsletter and the RSS feed is intentional. The newsletter came first and when I added the feed I received some email from concerned and potentially disgruntled subscribers asking if they had to change. They remained gruntled when I assured them that I was definitely keeping the newsletter and was merely giving them another option. I hope to do the same with the blog. RSS is automatically produced by WordPress but email is not nearly as natural. For that, I’ve gone to FeedBurner, a service that lets people sign up to receive RSS feeds via email. A widget was available for subscriptions to the blog’s post feed and I included it. To make that work, I had to register the feed at FeedBurner and I registered the site’s other feeds as well. Those are the existing RSS feed from the home page and the blog’s comment feed. A new page, accessible here and through the “FBurner” link on the home page, supports signing up for email delivery of any or all of the three feeds. FeedBurner delivers email once a day so any “real-time” aspects of the original RSS feed will be lost but it’s there if you want it. As previously mentioned, FeedBurner email of the blog’s post feed can be subscribed to on the blog’s main page plus email of comments on individual posts can be subscribed to via the post itself. Of course, all RSS feeds can be subscribed to directly through any reader you may be familiar with.
The most important thing to stay is everything else. I am not changing the way I do trip reports or post photos. I’m merely adding something new to the site and you can completely ignore it without missing a thing. Oops, that’s not exactly what I meant to say. Hopefully I’ll have some things in the blog that are worth reading but you can ignore it without missing anything you’re seeing now.
Blogs should be fed regularly and I hope to feed this one at least once a week My goal is to have something posted every Sunday sometime between noon and midnight. See you next week.