Ten years ago, gas prices were $1.03 gallon, “My Heart Will Still Go On” be Celine Dion was still a Top 10 hit, most internet users were going online with 28k modems and AOL, and Windows 98 was the hotly anticipated new platform, and while the word blog wouldn’t be “coined” for another two years, in downtown L.A. one journalim student was already posting diary entries online.
Ten years on, the former student, Darleene Powells still has gone on to apply the skills she learned developing her own site as the Online News Producer for CBS2 & KCAL9 and doing “web stuff” for the AAJA (Asian American Journalists Association) and coordinating panels like this month’s on journalism and blogging. To celebrate her ten years of blogging (she still maintains her blog at Darleeneisms), she’s having a party in late May. Readers, friends, and stalkers are all invited.
Yesterday I grilled Darleene with five questions on being one of L.A.’s first bloggers, the infamy that comes with spilling your guts online, and the state of the blog-la-sphere…
What were you thinking when you started a blog 10 years ago – what platform was it on? Who did you expect to read it? Was the word blog even coined yet? Where were you living at the time?
10 years ago, I was checking out the cool websites of all these other people and thinking to myself, I want one! So I literally began the blog as a way to learn HTML and how to build a website. I had no platform (Blogger debuted a year after I began blogging, I think I read on Wikipedia) — all I had was a free Geocities account and HTML Goodies, where I learned the basics. You should have seen the silly, animated gifs I employed… After some time at a dot-com in 1999, I started messing around with style sheets and CSS, which I think made my site a lot cleaner, but it took about five years for me to wise up and start using Blogger. I didn’t buy a domain name until a couple years after I started blogging, but even then, I was still using hosting space from Earthlink.
I don’t think I expected anyone to read it really — I was active on what you would now call social networking sites like Mixture Online, Asian Avenue (I know, I know *shaking head*) and iiStix, so I used the site address in my signatures when posting on those sites. Mostly, I think my “readers” were those who stalked me on those sites. The word blog was possibly coined at the time, but I didn’t use it then — I called it my online journal.
When I started the blog, I was living in L.A. on Temple Street, but I was also attending classes and working a part-time job in Fullerton. So it worked out in a weird way — I didn’t have a computer to start my blog with, but I had lots of down time between classes and waiting for a train from Fullerton to L.A., time I used to spend oodles of hours at the Fullerton College computer lab.
Were there any other local, LA “bloggers” around then? Any still around now? Any you miss?
I don’t think there were any other local LA bloggers around at the time, that I knew of. Personal blogs I enjoyed at the time were maganda.org (written by a CSUF Daily Titan alum!, based in Santa Monica at the time, I think) and kottke.org. A lot of the people whose blogs I used to troll just let them lapse or took them down between then and now.
What has been the biggest direct benefit or perk of blogging? Anything surprising ever come of it?
Over time, I recognized that my blogging and maintaining a web presence meant I was dominating the Google search ranking for Darleene and Darleene Powells, although when you Google my maiden name (Barrientos), all you get is my old news articles. However, in the beginning, everyone seriously thought I was nuts for putting my life online — my student adviser in college wondered if I could be sued for libel or defamation (which hasn’t happened so far), my friends in college just shook their heads at me in disbelief if I was working on a blog post. Luckily, I found a guy who is utterly patient with my blogging, so my hogging the computer (first my iBook and now our iMac) at home is not a problem — he knows that’s just what I do.
One perk of blogging is that if you employ a stat counter, you can see if someone’s Googling you. It has always fascinated me who finds my site and why.
Probably the only surprising things that have come out of it have been when I’ve been recognized on the street, out of the blue. That once happened at an FPAC festival, in front of a bunch of journalist friends from out of town, and there was immediate laughter and a red face (mine). I have from time to time been contacted by commercial interests about my blog posts — a post last year about TBS’ House of Payne got me a comment from the network’s director of digital marketing. In 2002, a blog post about how I thought Crumpler bags were cool got me an offer of a discount from the business manager of their U.S. importer.
What do you think of the LA blog scene now? Any hopes, disappointments, etc?
L.A.’s blog scene rocks. I actually think that Los Angeles was the jumping off point for some of the country’s most famous blogs — Drudge Report, Boing Boing, Dooce, even Michelle Malkin (who I know is not well liked here) got her start here (although I think she was not blogging at the time). I love it that its as active as it is now. Now everyone who thinks I was crazy 5, 10 years ago is looking at me, wondering if I can hook them up with this blog or that. I’m like journalism’s ambassador to blogging, or vice versa, in some circles.
I love it that local blogs (even though some are anonymous) are filling the gap left by daily local newspapers in places like the Foothills or Claremont. In fact, I lament the fact that I don’t read books as much (and I used to be a voracious reader) because I have to catch up on my blog reading or on my email. I really believe I know more about Southern California because I’m a blog reader — and I’m a native!
However, one thing that I’ve noticed, as I meet with more bloggers offline more and more, is that there are a lot of old rivalries and spats that are becoming evident online. I don’t much like that development, but I suppose where there are people, there are spats. So I suppose it just goes with the territory. And, no, I’m not going to say who I’m talking about.
How far ahead do you plan a blog entry? What, if anything, can we expect on Darleenisms in the near future?
I don’t really plan my blog posts. There is no rhyme or reason to what I post about — I just like to write about what interests me, which in the past have included racial conflicts in the news, journalism, photos, my cat. I love playing tourist, even though this is my hometown, so you may see a visit to the Will Rogers house sometime in the near future. That’s probably why I’ve lasted as long as I have — I blog for myself more than anyone else. I have a terrible memory, so I treat my blog really as a personal online journal. I love reading about I wrote about 3, 4, 5 years ago. I’m really weird.