Monday, April 3, 2023

20 Years of Blogging, Part 2 - Together, We're a League of Something!

Editor's note:  This is Part 2 of a series.  You can view the first part with just the click of a button.  

also, this is a cross-post with the OG blog, League of Melbotis

So, yeah.  

By April of 2003, we were blogging.  For a look at the initial form of League of Melbotis on Blogspot/ Blogger, click on over to The Wayback Machine.  

As mentioned in the first post, soon I was emailing and managing comments from friends and strangers.  But, also, some of those pals already had their own blogs or quickly started one.  It was easy, often free, and gave folks a chance to speak their mind.  People were religious about their choice of platform.  Livejournal people developed quite the mythologizing about themselves that arguably continues to this day. WordPress users constantly complained about what they were using but refused to change.  

JimD started his first blog of many.  RHPT joined in.  Soon I was aware of Maxwell (she of the podcast) starting up Cowboy Funk, which detailed her life as a Texas ex-pat in NYC.  I knew her husband before we met via his own web-presence and mentions on the blog.  

Even folks like MikeS who recently did The Raid PodCast here at The Signal Watch kept a blog, along with a number of other people I still keep in touch with one way or another.  We sometimes wound up meeting in person (Natalie showed up to have BBQ with me for my birthday circa 2007!), and sometimes I never knew who folks were on the other end of a handle.  There's still folks I talk to occasionally here in 2023 I've never met.  Meanwhile, some commenters have stayed at my house.  I've been drinking twice with Randy.

Here's a list of then-active links from the blog from 2007.  

and sometimes Randy is in the Phantom Zone

There were a whole bunch of you!  I don't even remember who was behind some of these.  And, yes, there was briefly a store at Zazzle, I think.  My pal Denby recently sent me a pic of the official mug of the League of Melbotis, making me about spit out my coffee.

And, similarly, by 2007, we were comics-linking.

There's a mix of comic sites and blogs, including my brief dalliance with writing for another site, the now defunct and gone Comic Fodder.  But there's Bully.  Weird I wasn't linking to Progressive Ruin at the time.  I know I followed Mike.  Ah, the folly of youth.

The first year or so was kind of strange.  I was just doing my thing, but much like when I selected bands to listen to or what books to read or movies to watch, I didn't consult with my folks.  Nor did I tell them "I started a blog".  

I don't recall when I told my brother.  And because I wasn't using my real name, I don't really remember how folks found out about it.  But the internet was a small place in the Naughty Oughties.  But, yeah, soon enough my brother was a regular reader and started his own blog.

Somehow my cousin found the blog, who asked my parents about it, so then they knew.  And... man, one of the weirdest interactions I've ever had with my parents was explaining to them that they didn't get to tell me what I put on the internet.  Especially not at age 29 or so.  I don't even really recall what the topic was, but something rubbed them the wrong way, and I heard about it.  And I welcomed them to not read the blog, and that didn't go well.  But it was a learning moment for all of us.  

It's also worth noting, the first generation of bloggers had grown up with a basic education that included literacy re: journalism.  We understood that your job when going to print was to not lie or bullshit except for comedic effect.  You really did research and worked to get your facts as close to accurate as possible given limited resources, if you were going to tell a true story.  *And* unless you were a classless dick, if someone presented you with contrary evidence, you adjusted.  Sure, there were nasty debates in comments, but if you wanted some integrity, you generally tried.

The monetization of the blogs and news-sites was not yet in place.  The model back in the 00's was not to crank through 10 "stories" per day for pop culture sites.  If you wanted your blog to have any credibility, you kind of needed to adhere to *something* of a journalistic standard.  Unlike most comics and pop sites today, one did not glance at Wikipedia or try to remember what someone told you over beers and then rank starfleet captains from best to worst after lunch before moving on to five more short and badly thought-out articles.

I'm not pretending League of Melbotis was a bastion of journalistic integrity, but I did genuinely grind my teeth when it came to accepting items for review, any contact with creatives lest it impact my opinion of the work, and other things that impact your life less when you're writing about movies from 1945 as my current blogging has slowly morphed into.  

Arguably, I wasn't wrong on the comics-front.  Once CBR and Newsarama decided access to DC and Marvel's talent pool was super important (and they were clearly being played for chumps by the pros), it was the start of the end for either site being worth a look.

But comics weren't the only topic we covered, of course.  We talked TV and movies to a degree, especially if they were about comics.  

We also had some regular features.

Ask Melbotis was a column where folks could write in and ask my dog anything under the sun.  

We had regular interaction events where we'd put out a question to readers and print their response.  Folks would write in about their best Halloween costumes or tell their favorite spooky story.  We did this for Christmas, too, and maybe some other events.  Mostly, I was always delighted at the time and effort folks put in.  I can't imagine any readers doing this now.  Heck, no one comments anymore.

There was a controversial feature named "Dames In the Media the League Once Dug" which was more or less me writing about attractive women from TV and films, and what it lacked in taste, it somehow bottomed-out with being woefully uninteresting.  We *did* give Jamie equal time and a chance to write up on Dudes, but she rarely took me up on it.

There were posts on living a Super Lifestyle that went modestly viral.  The funniest thing to me about this post now is that it's such a 20-something or 30-year-old's take on what it means to have a collection.  Friends, this was but the beginning, and now a fraction of the collection as it currently exists.  Maybe I need to re-do this post for the next Superman film.

And, we also went semi-viral with with a post I wrote about working at Chuck E. Cheese.  The only reason this post exists is that I flew to Minneapolis a day before a conference and forgot to bring my coat and was trapped in the hotel.  And yet, people really took a shine to my no-holds-barred take on my first job.

There were, also, of course, the taste tests.  

I'm not sure "regret" is how I feel about the taste tests, but then people start writing in telling you to eat things you really don't *want* to eat.  And you realize you've become the carnival geek on some level.  I'm not saying they weren't usually kind of fun, but...

Look, one thing that was kind of true was that people started making requests for content.  And that's both very sweet and a slippery slope.  Some ideas you want to do, but most you do not.  And while there's clickable reasons to follow the whims of your readership, I wasn't getting paid for this, so I wasn't really beholden to do anything I didn't feel like doing.  But if you're just writing or doing tricks for readers...  well, that's why YouTubers tend to come off like shrieking morons.

With the current blog, I don't think I've had a request for me to cover anything in the past five or ten years.  I'm watching movies.  The formula is simple.  But with the original formula League of Melbotis, I suppose it seemed like we were up for whatever.  And I am not that guy.  I'm chipper here, but I'm a bit grumpy in the flesh.  We *do* get requests for movies on the PodCast, but generally that just means I extend an invitation to come on, and people do!  It's not bad!

One reason I wanted to just do whatever I felt like was that I needed an outlet .  I haven't talked about it much so far in the prior post, but upon review I'm surprised is mentioned so much on LoM - Jamie was very ill when we lived in Phoenix.  We were in and out of the hospital a staggering amount.  And not just Jamie, it often felt like we were dealing with a variety of issues with friends and family.  I had a whole tag for "hospital".  

So, yeah, part of the pivot from League of Melbotis-style blogging to the media-discussion of The Signal Watch was that I no longer wanted to be as open of a book about our personal business.  I felt like that chapter had closed.  I'd enjoyed the LoM experience and appreciated folks reading and following and reaching out.  But I also wanted to keep our life separate from a blog anyone could stumble onto.  

But rather than end this section on a downbeat note, I'll also remind folks of the Clambake Jake's incident which certainly helped color how I wanted to proceed and shone a light on how being online had real-world impact going both ways. 

Basically, we went to a new Italian All You Care To Eat Buffet, it was bad, I wrote about it, and the owner called the house lightly threatening us.  

In the end, I did agree that I could accidentally torpedo a new business, and I embargoed the post until a couple of years after Clambake Jake's went under.  But it was absolutely a wild ride.



RHPT said...

I'm still in the Phantom Zone. You forgot to let me out. Thank Zod there's internet access available.

The League said...

Honestly did an evaluation of how things are going out here and figured you'd be happier in the PZ.