Sunday, March 26, 2006

The 100th Post

Hmmm ... I guess I never thought I would stick with this so long, or write so much over the last few months. I might have started sooner if I thought it would go this well.

I had toyed with the idea of a blog for well over a year, as I have Russian friends who are posting and writing all sorts of things (predominantly on livejournal). I was never really sure what sort of topics I might write about, and the idea of putting all my most personal thoughts online for others to read, seemed a bit of a deception if not 100% honest and very self-indulgent in any case.

I then last summer I stumbled upon Lyndon Allin's Scraps of Moscow. He happened to write something complimentary about my friend Elena Skochilo's Morrire Blog and her 72-hours of non-stop blogging during the "revolution" in Bishkek. I kept reading his blogs, and others that he referred to ... eventually making some comments or observations on various topics.

After reading this assortment of blogs, which I found very well written but largely political (rather the nature of the popular blogsphere), I felt that I could perhaps come up with something that filled a bit of a different niche. Perhaps my writing wouldn't be as serious or as political, but I thought there were many Russian experiences yet to be discussed. Russia has been and remains a bit of a black-box to most Americans ... whenever I happen to mention my travels or interests in Russia, I am always met by Americans with curiousity and questions. 95% of those are very positive and interested (even those who are not positive are at least interested). The misconceptions are many, and not generally the ones that Russians imagine (like where do Russians keep getting this idea that Americans believe bears are wandering the streets of Russia? I've only ever heard that one from a Russian ...)

In any case, I came to the conclusion this was a format that I could write within fairly well ... especially if I relied upon Katja and others to keep me steered in the generally correct direction. Given the general state of what I consider rebuilding in Russia today, I feel it would be too easy to discuss just negative sounding stories and events in the news. So I honestly try to talk about the many positive experiences that Russian culture has to offer. Many Russians seem particularly sensitive to what they see as "Russia-bashing" even from their own newspapers (oh brother, they should try coming to the US and reading what we write about ourselves). Yep, they can be rather like George Bush Republicans - they don't believe that talking about the bad stuff helps solve anything, it is only being negative.

So after 100 posts, what have I learned doing this? I learned that I am just vain enough to want to be sure that people are actually reading what I write. So I am tracking the numbers like a good engineer and trying to put the name of the blog in places where it can be seen. Yep, it is sheer vanity, but to hell with it - in for a penny, in for a pound.

I learned that I can be obsessive about editing. Having spent much of the last 10 years doing technical and business writing, I absolutely hate when I see a typo or a grammar mistake or repetive phrases. So I am split with getting things up as soon as possible, but also going back and correcting any mistakes and adding small changes here and there.

I learned that as much as I read, there is always something else interesting out there waiting to be found. Russia is an absolutely huge and diverse country, and more and more it is making headlines, both good and bad.

I've also managed a few tricks to keep myself up to date with headlines or websites related to Russia (the better to find topics to write). I read rather fast (ok, very fast - devouring the typical book in a day when I stay on task), so I can browse through many stories and websites fairly quickly. I'm not the world's fastest typist, but I'm good for about 65 words a minute. I sleep only about 6 hours a night, so I have time to be a mouse-potato at night and read.

In any case, I hope to keep this up for quite some time.


michael said...

Very interesting! Although I don't manage to read all of your posts every day, I do read as many as I can, and they are, for me, certainly very different! I do hope that you continue, as my Russian wife also enjoys many of the articles. You even inspired me to start my own blog, which although miniscule in comparison to yours, and dealing with only one subject, my family's upcoming trip by car from Scotland to St Petersburg this summer, is nonetheless important to me.
So, keep going; and I'll do my best to keep reading!

Lyndon said...

Keep it up, man! You are doing a great job, and if my blog got you into it, then at least that's something useful "scraps" has accomplished. I think I am closing in on 500 posts, which is scary. I appreciate your apolitical take and hope you don't think I'm too political (although I know I can be sometimes, I try to be an equal-opportunity basher and get on the cases of US and Russian governments equally). Anyway, congratulations on the milestone. 100 posts is just the beginning.

W. Shedd said...

I wouldn't say you are too political at all ... you do an excellent job on those type of articles (as do others such as Sean Guillory, Veronica Khokhlova, Vilhelm Konnander, Masha Gessen). You certain do excellent social commentary as well. I just realize when I am out of my league - and after reading other blogs I tried to find a niche in which to operate. To be honest, within the blogosphere, I think it means that my page will always be taken somewhat less seriously .. as I generally refuse to join the political-piranha blogs that are enormously in vogue. A quick look at any blog directory reveals they are largely debating political topics.

I've decided that I should keep political topics to less than about 1/3 of my posts. I also try to keep any critical sounding posts to about 1/3 as well ... it is just too easy a target from a western perspective. They also come across as smug.