We didn't realize that HouseBlogs.net had been mentioned on the Editor's Page of the July 2006 edition of Old House Journal until we returned yesterday from a vacation. We caught wind of the mention via other housebloggers. Some of the language in the article seemed to rub a few folks the wrong way and I was intrigued since I've been a fan of OHJ from WAY back and still have all of the issues I've ever received.
So, we went out last night to pick up a copy...
Before I even read the article, I was feeling a little apprehensive. When you decide to buy a fixer-upper, you have a target painted on your back from the moment you leave the realtor's office as there are MANY people who will question your sanity. Often. Often loudly. Many times you can shrug it off, but sometimes it hurts a bit, no doubt. And if you blog about it? Paint a bullseye on your front as well, because, well, why on earth would you waste all of your time (not my words) on THAT endeavor when you could be (fill in the blank here)?
Hence, my nervousness when I imagined that my sanity was being called into question in a magazine. Published by fellow old house lovers. With a much broader readership than anything I could write. Ouch.
I sat down and read the piece from top to bottom a couple of times.
Having discussed houseblogging with more than a few curious journalists over the past couple of years, I breathed a sigh of relief as I recognized familiar themes. I don't believe that the Editor-in-Chief of OHJ, Gordon Bock, was writing his piece as an old house owner or even an old house lover. He wrote his piece from his perspective as someone who is in the print media business. Someone who is sincerely curious to know what this houseblogging thing is all about and where it is going in relation to what he is closest to...print media. I can respect that because I have heard these questions before.
There are a few moments in the piece where I cringed. For example, when these two sentences were written in this order:
Just this spring, both the Washington Post and The New York Times Magazine highlighted [houseblogs] proliferation, with the latter noting that "an army of the competent have taken to the Internet in recent years, starting up blogs that follow, step by grueling step, the renovation of their old houses." That may be an outsider's perspective...
Was the intention of this text to mean that only outsiders, those who don't know old houses, would consider housebloggers to be competent? I would never say that I'm a professional in the old house arena (I'm not) and my blog is more of a "How Did" than a "How To". But I feel pretty competent when taking apart a 90 year old wood window and then putting it back together better than it was. Or when I repair a major appliance and it works. I'll give Mr. Bock the benefit of the doubt here and assume that I'm reading into things too much. On to the next words that made me pause:
Why should folks bitten by the old house bug--still an eccentric passion in some circles--feel compelled to not only keep a running journal of their construction exploits but also post it for all the world to read?
Well, that one is easy to answer. Mr. Bock, I'm lazy and I'm forgetful. Therefore, I blog. Yes, you read that correctly. Lazy. Forgetful. Okay, so I blog for other reasons too, but let's start there.
Lazy. I hate to repeat myself. Hate it. The photocopier is my friend. Email send lists are a gift. Every time someone asks about our progress on the house, I send him or her right to the blog. Most friends and family don't even ask anymore. They know to go there first.
Forgetful. BB (before blogging), I had all of my old house ideas, business cards, vendor contacts, diagrams and product wish lists on tiny bits of paper all over the place. Falling out of my desk drawers, crammed into files and notebooks. Now? Everything is kept in the blog and is (oh THANK YOU technology) searchable.
Other reasons I blog:
I would journal this anyway. I've kept a journal since the seventh grade when Mrs. Soccio, my beloved English teacher from Peters Township Middle School, taught me how. Journals help me to sort out my thoughts and feelings, to remember things in detail that I find interesting or amusing, and to purge racing thoughts before I jump into bed at night. I'm not a great writer, but I write. A lot.
Commiseration. This one should be self-explanatory. Old houses can equal pain. Much pain. The kind of pain only understood by other old house owners. How do I commiserate with other old house owners? Through writing and reading blogs.
Motivation. First, the photos. Because the work goes so slowly, I think that, without the photos in our blog, I would believe that we've accomplished very little in three years. Luckily, there is a lot of photographic evidence to the contrary. And, yes, I am going to admit that I have thrown myself into finishing a dreaded project JUST so I could have something to post on the blog. Accountability to others, even those you've never met in person, is a great motivator.
I felt better about Mr. Bock's article when I read the following:
Perhaps, a houseblog is simply a 21st-century incarnation of an oral tradition that includes the trading of old-house war stories and hard won experience.
Yes, that is IT! When Aaron and I were invited to talk about houseblogging at K/BIS, we explained it as the "back fence phenomenon." People talk about these things anyway. They have photograph albums that they dust off for visitors after a project is complete to demonstrate that their current comfort was hard won. They ask each other advice over the backyard fence, trade stories and experiences, share the names of vendors and products. Blogging simply "lifts the veil" and lets others see and hear what has been going on for decades.
Perhaps this is what Mr. Bock was referring to earlier in the article about an "outsider's perspective." That the Times and the Post were making a fuss about old house lovers sharing ideas and talking about our houses, but the insiders know that we've been rambling on long before the internet was around.
So, where does blogging fit in with magazines and newspapers and TV and radio and any other form of mass communication? Are blogs and more traditional publications in competition?
Aaron and I took a walk around the block tonight and I asked him this question. I really liked his answer.
"I think this diversity of content is all good. Blogging is popular because it is different than what was previously available. If it was a replacement for what had already existed, it would never have gotten this much attention in the first place."
That seemed to make a lot of sense.
As a nerd with a background in research and knowledge management, I could go on and on about the needs that I believe blogging meets. And none of the things that I would talk about would have anything to do with fame (for my groady kitchen??) or money (ah ha ha ha hah ha!) or a desire for Mr. Bock's job.
No, I would talk about the psychology of connecting information and people. How exciting social networking is and how I've really enjoyed blogging. How blogging has helped me to retain my sanity during tense moments when laughing about tragedy with others online sure beats crying in the bathroom alone. I would be very long winded and passionate about it in an extremely geeky way. I'll spare you that.
As for me, I'll still be reading Old House Journal. And Fine Homebuilding. And Cottage Living. And Natural Home. And all of the house and DIY publications that I'm addicted to. Because they are different than the houseblogs that I read...not better or worse. I really can't compare them or their content. It would be like comparing apples and oranges. Making myself choose one or the other when what I REALLY love is a nice fruit salad.