I realised something this afternoon that shocked me a little. This year is the tenth anniversary of Nevermore. This means I’ve spent ten years of my life, on and off, spreading my thoughts across this quiet corner of the internet. I’ve looked back from time to time at old posts, and it really is incredible how much I’ve changed over the years, with certain parts of my core remaining the same.
I don’t know exactly when the anniversary date is, if I’m honest. Or even when I should count it from even if I knew. This blog didn’t explode into existence, you see. It faded in. And it began with an email account.
When I was in sixth form, and just getting online in free periods at school (it was 2001 and I lived in a tiny rural village – home internet was not a thing for me back then) most of my friends used an email service whose name I can’t even recall anymore. The only real selling point was that it allowed you to create multiple email addresses using a plethora of domain names that they’d registered. Unlike Yahoo! or Hotmail, they weren’t backed up by other business interests, so they started charging around 2005, prompting me to move to Yahoo! However, before they began charging for their service, they tried splashing adverts on the logout confirmation screen. And those ad’s were for a website called 20six, offering free “weblogs”. In 2004, I’d never even heard of weblogs. It would be another year before “blogging” became a feature of virtually every internet service offered and “Web 2.0” would be discussed endlessly in magazines. So, having some time to idle in Cambridge Central Library’s computer room, I typed 20six.co.uk into my address bar to see what I could see.
What I found was a community, mostly based in London, who communicated with each other over 20six like an open version of a social network. They chatted via comment threads on each other’s posts, they exchanged “sweeties” (sort of a cross between a currency and a “like” system that encouraged people to read around) and most of what they posted wasn’t the kind of vanity journalism blogs are made of today – the posts were often a more verbose version of the triviality of twitter.
There was one user that got me into blogging. His username was Oberon and he was telling the tale, blow by blow, of a difficult divorce. His posts were literate and moving; his blog was like a mini soap opera and the tale unfolded beautifully. (Too beautifully. Months later it would turn out that Oberon was a pseudonym for another user using parts of divorce anecdotes he’d heard to inspire this first-person story that he was writing essentially as a literary exercise. He cut it off because he got rumbled and didn’t want people close to him to think he was writing about them per se.) Seeing what a blog could be, I decided to sign up to 20six and have a go at this online diary thing myself.
Is the day I signed up to 20six my anniversary? Even if I knew what date it was, I’m not sure it counts. My first post was just a quick “under construction” note; I wouldn’t actually get round to writing anything for a few weeks after that. Even then, I was tied up with a particular group of bloggers and posted mostly snippets and in-jokes like everyone else. It was only after I moved to Birmingham to begin university that I started to treat blogging like Nevermore was a weekly column and impose a word limit and deadline day on myself. Back when I started, in fact, Nevermore wasn’t even called Nevermore. My original blog was called The Lost Child. Also the title of a rock song (W.A.S.P. if you don’t know it), it reflected how I felt about my life at the time. The problem was, 20six had a stats page, much like WordPress uses now, that told you what search terms had been used to find your pages. Inevitably, some of those search terms will be odd. But when I found somebody had turned up my page with the phrase “Giving a little child a birthday spanking” I decided enough was enough. I put my blog’s name up to a public vote from a short list of titles, and “Nevermore” won.
However, even that wasn’t the birth of this blog in its current form. 20six would eventually dismantle itself by making sweeping changes to its platform after a consultation with only its German users. All the things that made it a blogging community went out of the window. The stats page, vital for the egos of us vanity publishers, vanished. And the new platform was just plain ugly and hadn’t been fully translated into English. Many of us voted with our feet, and I ended up hopping over to WordPress with the encouragement of fellow ex-20sixers Mikeachim and Boso. On moving, I actually transferred my posts manually rather than using the migration tool, so I would only keep the posts that I thought were any good. A lot of meaningless fluff has been lost, and the dates I posted them vanished into the ether, too. (Incidentally, I think it says it all that 20six.co.uk only returns a 404 page now.)
So where does that leave me? Well my first quality post (still under The Lost Child) was in July 2004, but I’m pretty certain I’ve been doing this since April. I suppose I could delay my anniversary angst until ten years after going to WordPress, but in my heart, I’ll still know I’ve been doing this for three years longer. So all I can do is call this my anniversary year, and stuff the exact date. By August, I’ll have lasted longer then Bigger Than Cheeses, even if I’m not so widely read…