I'm currently reading Taylor Lorenz's Extremely Online. It's not just because Taylor is a Write Now interviewee, but this book is amazing. It feels like it was written explicitly for me (or others who also grew up online and still somehow missed entire swaths of internet history).
The start of Extremely Only takes us through the blogging history. It's a fun trip down memory lane, looking at the original platforms and some of the people who were blogging before it was a thing. As I read Taylor's book, I couldn't help but be transported back to my first experiences with the internet.
My first web public presence was a GeoCities page circa 1998. It was black with white font and yellow links, and, well, I haven't strayed too far from that design aesthetic. The site had some ancient gifs (that must have taken forever to load on a 56K modem) and not much else.
The first version of a blog appeared on my website sometime in the early 00s. I'd ramble my thoughts into the void, and friends or internet randos would chime back. In the mid-00s, the blog expanded to include some of my friends as guest authors. There was a time that, no thanks to myself, JustinCox.com ranked at number one on the Google machine when searching for
Dawsons Creek Finale.
As I thought through this history (and wondered how Google worked before SEO), I came across a striking question: Is This Week In Writing my blog!?
Blogging became a dirty word in the 10s as platforms drew our attention. In hindsight, I think it was intentional to diminish blogs to draw attention to the rising "social" media landscape. Ironically, early blogging communities were, in many ways, far more social than anything big tech ever produced.
Over the last few years, blogging began making a comeback. Fake followers and "influencer" culture paved the way for more authenticity online. As a result, people started blogging again. (Food for thought: It's worth noting that the shame levied on the word "influencer" is very similar to what happened to "blogger.")
This Week In Writing is a writing-themed newsletter where I share my thoughts, opinions, and revelations with you, the reader. You share your responses, experiences, and where I missed the mark. It's a ton of fun and why I do this whole thing.
With the exception of professional journalists who pivoted from traditional publications into independent digital media, the newsletter is starting to feel like the 20s version of a blog. And, you know what? I love it! Call it what you want, but digital communities are reforming -- RSS is popular again!
The return to blogging is also a great way to be real amidst the rise of generative AI. In last week's update on spam submissions, I had an unintentional typo where a crucial word was left out of a sentence (oops). Multiple people used it as an opportunity to let me know it's clear that I actually wrote the words myself because to error is to be human. Honestly? I found it hilarious and ironic.
What's great about this anecdote is that these kind of interactions connect us. It's a chance to share a little bit with each other, be it reader or writer. We learn together and we grow together. It's what made writing on the internet fun and what's making it fun once more: humanity.
If it took a bunch of computers churning out optimized content to bring us back to blogging, I guess I'll thank the AI overlords.
So, to answer my own question, yes, This Week In Writing is my blog. I'm glad you're here for the ride.
An Update on Quality
I've recently been thinking about the writer request and submission process for The Writing Cooperative. It's been a topic in recent newsletters (err, blogs?) and I've greatly valued your feedback.
Over the weekend, I changed the process for writing requests.
I've always required a writing sample, but it was never used to evaluate the person's writing ability. Instead, I wanted to see if they could write in English. That was pretty much the bar. Submissions to the publication were where I evaluated for quality.
Due to the overwhelming number of spam submissions and the necessity to revoke writing privileges from multiple writers in recent weeks, the policy has changed.
I'm now evaluating writing request samples for quality before accepting new writers to The Writing Cooperative. The sample should align with what we publish in style and quality. Though, it doesn't have to be something intended for the publication. If the quality isn't there, I'll ask you to submit another sample.
Ultimately, I'm seeking to raise the bar of submissions and stories in The Writing Cooperative. If that means we publish fewer stories daily (currently a max of seven), I'm ok with that. Frankly, it means more time on the front page for each writer and a higher likelihood I consider the piece for boost nomination.
Do you have thoughts about this policy change? Let me know.
An Update for Substack Readers
Dearest Substack reader... I've begun the process of moving from Substack. My reasons are well-documented. While I thought the process would take a few months, it only took two weeks.
Thanks to some techno-magic shared with me by a reader, new Substack subscriptions are already landing on my website. In other words, Substack readers will likely not notice a single change in the coming weeks (other than a far superior design aesthetic, if I do say so myself).
So, why am I even mentioning this? I'm sending today's issue through Substack to remind you about the Goodbye Substack discount offer. It's also a chance for those who only read This Week In Writing through Substack's app to be aware of the change.
If you're a current paying subscriber, I'll reach out in the next week or so with a special discount based on your subscription type.
I can't wait to open up this next chapter of my blogging history. See you on the other side!