I can still remember the first time I found out what a “blog” was.
In the early part of this century, in a fit of pique at a former employer, I typed the word “twat” into Google, for want of anywhere better to type it. Much to my surprise, one of the top hits was a website about a single mother named Zoe, living in Belgium, and claiming (rather surprisingly for the staid days of the early 21st century), My Boyfriend Is A Twat. I was shocked, shocked I tell you.
Of course I clicked through, to what turned out to be an at-times hysterically funny blog. I was hooked – the writing captured my attention, even though the subjects (teenage children? an English boyfriend who once lived in Africa? Belgium?) were nothing like my life. It was in the comments to Zoe’s blog that I first started bumping into other bloggers, some of whom have since become firm friends, including one who more than anyone else encouraged me to take my witty repartee and put it into what ended up being my very own, first blog.
And so, in August of 2006, I launched my nascent Ricardiblog, featuring a bog-standard Blogger template with ugly green sidebars. It’s been around ever since, with incremental tweaks to the style, sidebar content, taglines and such.
That blog has never been great art, and the writing is nothing special. Most of the early entries are pretty much online diary stuff, athough it had flashes of creativity (I think), humour (to me, anyway), and the occasional piece of serious commentary. But it served to get me into the game, and even pushed me to learn some html. In one way or another it also springboarded me into other online sites such as Flickr, when I was looking for free places to host images. It’s still around today, although in recent years it’s largely morphed into a place to show off and provide backstory for my photos. The last template re-design was in March of 2010. There won’t be another.
But I’ve jumped ahead now. Back in the early years after my first postdoc, I wrote a few “serious” pieces of online content for a former fellow postdoc who had gone on to work for Science magazine’s dearly departed Next Wave website. Those three pieces, about private sector career choices for postdocs, published between June and August of 2001, were the first real non-peer-reviewed-journal pieces I’d published, and it felt like a landmark. I’d gotten the bug, although from the amount of writing I was producing at the time, you’d hardly have known it.
In April of 2002, I joined an online community, the Science Advisory Board. Along the way, I contributed some Perspectives, op-ed articles that gave me the opportunity to recycle the Next Wave pieces. In due course, they invited me on to their Steering Committee, a largely ceremonial one-year stint that had essentially nothing to do with setting direction or policy. But at the time, it seemed like an honour, and I was proud to accept. It came with the requirement that I contribute two more Perspectives, but no matter. I was enjoying the attention.
Somewhere along the way, I came across a fellow commenter going by the handle of “rgrant”, and formed one of those twenty-first-century, “never met the bloke but I bet we’d get along ok” kind of friendships. While I thought I was being tricky hiding behind a couple of online aliases, I found out this slippery character had at least six different handles, many of which are still in use today. He’d also been a Steering Committee member the previous year. We bantered back and forth for a few years, until he moved on pretty much for good, but not before I’d laid my hands on a copy of a book with one of his chapters in it. Heck, I’ve even spoken with him on the phone, which in these days of @Twittering and FacePages and Googlepluses and online this and that, seems like some kind of an accomplishment.
One of the other pieces of the SAB that the mysterious rgrant left behind was a community blog called Life Science Tools of the Trade. Completely stagnant after the departure of its most prolific authors, I took it over. Shortly thereafter, it was re-launched on the WordPress platform (confusing my Blogger-trained brain entirely), and a few additional authors were recruited. It was exciting, a breath of fresh air… and almost entirely devoid of readers, as far as I can tell. But it gave me a sensible forum to air some of my science-y writing, which would have baffled and confused regular Ricardiblog readers.
Fast forward to late 2010, and the birth of Occam’s Typewriter. I, like others around here, had joined Nature Network (Richard is more than partly responsible for that, too – I followed his Confessions of a (former) Lab Rat there from its birthplace in Australia). When the OT community upped sticks (up sticked? up-sticksed?) and created itself here, I was invited along for the ride to be one of the Occam’s Typewriter Irregulars, an honour I immediately abused by jumping the gun on the launch date. In short order, fellow Irregular Steve Caplan was granted (see what I did there?) his own OT blog, No Comment. Thank goodness – his prolific posting at the Irregulars was making the rest of us look bad.
So now, here we are, just past OT’s first anniversary, and it seemed a good time (bolstered by some recent comments) to collapse my online presence into one, nicely packaged blog. So here you go. The consolidated content that would otherwise have been dispersed between LSTOTT, Ricardiblog, and the Irregulars, will be here from now on. Yes, there will be posts about photography and race cars, and trivial things about day-to-day life. There will also be some science. Overall, I’m hoping for a more focused and regular approach to online writing, drawing inspiration from the rest of the OT regulars (and, when they’re around, the Irregulars too, new and old).
Happy New Year, Occam’s Typewriter. My gift to you is… me.