Tuesday 31 July 2018

A-Z of old school blogging and ch-ch-changes

After 11 years of blogging, some days I feel a bit of an anachronism in the new fangled world of blogging.  The blogging world has changed so quickly since I started.  I enjoyed Cadry's recent post about Why don't food bloggers shut up and get to the recipe (with her pet peeves).  It made me think about how things have changed, both for blogging in general and for me personally.  So for a bit of fun here is an A-Z of changes in blogging.

A is for Advertising.
When I started blogging, it was quite unusual for blogs to have advertising.  Now it seems to be quite common.  I think this is a reflection of how blogging has changed.  It used to be about sharing personal diaries and making community connections, but now it is more about promoting a post and making some money.  As for me, I have resisted the lure of advertising income.  It is far more relaxing for me not to worry about stats being linked to advertisements.

B is for Blogosphere.
We don't talk about the blogosphere as much as we used to.  Blogging back in the noughties before social media, there was a feeling that we had a corner of the internet for blogs, a community corner in many cases.  These days social media has made the world of the web far more complicated.  Blogs are now integrated with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and a whole host of software for keeping up connections.

C is for Comments.
Comments built communities in the blogosphere.  It was a really important way of connecting with readers and other bloggers.  Now social media has diluted the comments function.  If you post on a few platforms, you can have comments are likewise dispersed.  I used to respond to every comment but as life has been busier I haven't been able to and miss this part of blogging.  However with limited energy I try and comment on others' posts.  I have noticed that in general people seem to comment less on blogs.  Is is because we are all too busy trying to keep up with social media where we have lots of likes and shares but less meaningful contact?

D is for the Data Protection Act 2018 (UK).
The most recent Data Protection Act in the UK (and the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU) in May this year seems to have had some impact on internet systems.  Since it was introduced Blogspot urls have changed from having country codes to being just .com (happy dance), my Pinterest settings went awry and I no longer have blog comments emailed to me.  However ever since I have been blogging, it is not uncommon to hear of an introduction of a new data protection law that creates a lot of navel gazing.

E is for E-Books.
When I first started blogging no one made e-books or had newsletters.  Now they seem more common.  I like the idea of them and would be curious to try and make one if I had time but the reality is that they get lost of all my computer files.  And too many bloggers seem to use them to drive traffic.  Because if you can build enough of a following you can move from e-books to a hardcopy recipe book.  And blogging seems to have led to some really beautiful recipe books because popularity in blogging usually means beautiful photos as well as great recipes.

My FoodGawker page, July 2018
F is for Foodgawker.
Foodgawker is just one of the sites that encourage beautiful photography in blogging by having rigorous criteria for the blog photos they will feature.  When I started blogging, my photos were not worthy (and neither were many of the blogs around me).  Now many blogs have amazing photos that when I started would have been far more rare.  I worry it makes it harder for anyone to start a blog because it seems there is so much more pressure to perform well with all that learning being behind the scenes rather than as upfront as it used to be.  And yet I also yield to the pressure to try to take better photos (even if I don't always succeed as Foodgawker will sometimes remind me).

G is for Google.
Google has a huge influence over blogging.  When I started blogging, Google (Blogger) and Wordpress were the two biggest blogging platforms.  I chose Blogger which seems a bit old fashioned next to platforms like SquareSpace these days, but it has changed a lot over the years.  As well as Blogger, Google gave us Google Reader which was my blog reader of choice until it closed years ago.  Google gave us Google Plus, which never took off, Google Stats which was really great until it changed years ago.  Best of all is Google search engine which has given bloggers much food for thought on how to get the best SEO to rise up the Google search results.

H is for Headers.
Headers are so essential these days. When I started my blog it took me a couple of years to work out how to put an image on my header.  It just wasn't that important.  Now most people have personalised blog headers.  They have grown bigger and more impressive.  First impressions are so important.  And everyone is so busy that if first impressions don't wow, you might not have a second chance!

My Headers now and then:
Top is my first header screenshot in 2009
Bottom is my current header screenshot taken in 2014. 
Probably due for an update, if only I had the time,
I is for Indexes.
In the early days, many blogs did not even have a menu of any sort.  Indexes, if they existed were a list.  Now every blog has a menu bar and most indexes are pages of images.  I have resisted too many images in my recipe index.  I must prefer to scan a list than scroll through lots of photos.  I find too many images in an index makes it too time consuming to scan.

J is for Juggling.
All the pressures to have that right look means that blogging takes me more time these days then when I could post a crap photo, write a stream of consciousness and press Post.  Now there are photos to edit, links to include and getting the formatting right.  It is hard to find the right blog/life balance.  I find myself juggling time needed for work and family with blogging.  This might mean buying the ingredients and being too tired after work to cook a dish to blog; having a blog post written but not posting because I have family distractions; or taking photos during the day of food I should eat at night without natural light (but who would believe we eat without natural light if you were to look at blog photos!). 

K is for Kari.
I was sad recently when Kari of Bite Sized Thoughts wrote on her blog that she was stepping back from blogging.  I understand.  But I have seen too many bloggers fall by the wayside during my 11 years of blogging and it makes me sad.  I think this is partly because in the early days I would connect with other blogs far more easily than now when I have so much less time for blogging.

L is for Light.
The current trend seems to be lots of light in photos and lots of white space in blog design.  When I started there was more backgrounds and patterns in blog design but now it is more minimalist, more white light.  In photos there is more light on the food but also lots of white space around it.  I have noticed I need far more time to set up a photo in this way and edit it too.  I don't always have the time I need but I feel the pressure for well lit photos.  We now live in an instagram world of images where lighting and editing are considered essential tools of blogging.

My camera (EOS550D - aka to a Rebel T2i) I have mostly been using for the blog for years and assorted lens.
M is for Money.
I see a lot of people write about how much blogging costs them.  It has always been pretty low cost to me.  Yes I have bought fancier cameras but most of my kit is for people as much as blogging.  I have chosen to go with Blogger, do all my own design, and use the blogspot domain rather than spend money.  If I started now, though, it might be different.  I could be tempted to pay SquareSpace for hosting my blog and buy a domain name. 

N is for Names.
When I started blogging, it was common to use a blog pseudonym.  It was a security issue.  People seemed more wary of having a public persona that could be linked to them In Real Life.  (Or was that just me?)  It was rare to see a blog whose title was the full name of the blogger.  This has changed and now most people seem more comfortable with sharing their full name, often as the title of their blog.  Bloggers also more commonly use a photo of themselves than they did in the early days.  Are we all just become more used to being online.  I am still wary of what I post online on my blog and social media. 

O is for Old school blogging.
When I talk about old school blogging I am reflecting on how different blogging has become.  When I started out, it was more of a personal reflection on cooking, it was an invitation into someone's kitchen to find out what they loved.  They were keen to learn from each other.  Now bloggers are often coming into the reader's kitchen as the expert who can help them to make the Best Damn [Insert name of recipe].  Old school blogging is not dead but it often seems the exception rather than the rule.  I confess I delight to see a blogger with blurry recipes who is just doing their own thing rather than presenting their best face.

Bloggers potluck picnic in Princess Park
P is for Picnics and Potlucks.
When I was first blogging there was a group of vegan bloggers in Melbourne who used to have picnics and potlucks that were open to all bloggers.  It was a great way to taste some of the dishes people were sharing on blogs.  I still see some of these people at occasional picnics or dinners.  These days they organise on FaceBook rather than on blogs.  This is the sort of community that was so wonderful when I first started blogging that I don't see in blogging any more.  (Which is not to say it does not happen in social media.)

Q is for Quirky.
I really loved it when bloggers used to post quirky recipes that I would never see elsewhere in cookbooks and magazine.  Blogging didn't have to be safe.  I started blogging partly because blogs gave me novel ideas.  The very first blog event I participated in was called They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT). It encouraged bloggers to try unusual food pairings.  Such as strawberries and coriander in Berry Guacamole.  Now I think that such quirkiness is more mainstream.  And bloggers are more interested in appealing to the masses rather than just pleasing themselves.

R is for Recipe Attribution.
One thing I learnt as soon as I started blogging was to make sure I made it clear where I had found a recipe or even where I had found inspiration.  There was lots of discussion about recipe attribution and ethics.  Originally a lot of recipes on blogs were from cookbooks.  There weren't many recipes online then.  Then bloggers began to make other bloggers' recipes, often with adaptations.  It was great to be able to follow the links back through all the previous incarnations.  Then bloggers got cookbook deals and we all tread a bit more carefully about reproducing cookbook recipes.  Now blogging is now more about original recipes and less about attribution.
Fun changes to stop sign in Castlemaine
S is for Sharing.
When I first started blogging there were lots of blogging events.  Someone would give a theme, bloggers would send them in and the originator would gather them together in one post.  It was a great way to get inspiration, make connections and drive traffic.  I miss this sort of sharing of recipes.  We used to ask advice, share learnings and links to each other more than now.  I think this is partly because social media has taken over the sharing but I find it less open (because you need a membership and there are so many platforms) and more overwhelming (so it is easier to miss helpful social media posts).

T is for Trove.
In the old days, every now and again someone lost a lot of data or had their blog hacked.  It doesn't seem to happen so often now (or I am not aware of it).  I suspect our back up systems are better these days.   We are all far more aware of backing up.  In Australia, the National Library of Victoria has an online archive of websites that is searchable on the Trove database.  I feel very lucky to be one of the blogs being archived on Pandora, not just once but every year or two.

U is for Updates.
In an ideal world, every post would be up to date with no broken links, updates when cafes have closed, and lots of external and internal links to relevant content.  Updates were always a challenge and get harder as my blog gets bigger. The other updates that are a challenge is keeping hardware updated.  I note this as our modem died today and we had to buy a new one and make sure it is compatible with the NBN (National Broadband Network) that is set to roll out soon locally.

V is for Videos.
The idea of videos and podcasts was unheard of when I started blogging.  Now it is quite common.  In fact, we now have vloggers who just blog with video.  I appreciate how videos are useful for a visual picture of how to cook a dish.  But I often skip over them as I prefer to skim text at my own pace.

W is for Writing.
Years ago, the size of pictures was a big issue.  They would slow down your internet speed if they were too big.  Hence writing was still king.  These days writing seems less valued by many but I still love it.  Cadry recently wrote about people who want to go straight to the recipe without reading.  But you can easy find recipes online without all the introductory chatter that is part of blogging.  I love to write and loving to read good writing.  When I look back at old posts, I am far more proud of the writing than the photos. 

X is for X- rated comments.
Spam was not such a big deal when I started blogging but along the way I have received a few nasty x-rated comments.  Not too many but enough to feel uncomfortable about it.  But most spam is harmless: just annoying and inappropriate.  Spam got worse and spam filters got better.  One of the best recent changes in Blogger is the ability to have all comments moderated except those from the last 2 weeks.  It stops the blog filling up with spam comments and means I hardly take much notice of them.  But I do get annoyed by constant emails asking me to promote other blogs and webpages, many of which are irrelevant to my blog.

Y is for Y am I still blogging?
I started my blog because I wanted a resource of recipes.  I am still blogging because I enjoy the creativity, I love to write, and I feel very lucky to have a blog that is a resource of favourite recipes as well as a record of moments in my life.

I wish I looked as cute as this wee wombat when I sleep!
Z is for Zzzzz
Blogging has slowed over the last few years as I get busier, older and need more sleep.  There are never enough hours in the day.  'Nuff said.  Time for bed!


  1. Loved this, Johanna! Three cheers for snoozing wombats and old school blogging. I love the bits before your recipes :)

    1. Thanks Shauna - I figured a cute snoozy wombat might be what you need at the end of lot of reading :-)

  2. Your thoughts are completely in keeping with what I also see. However, as you have defined food blogging, I never really fit the bill and still don't!

    You made me curious, so I just looked through my blog and I think the last time I posted a conventional recipe (not just a description or a link) was in April. And that was a screen shot from a restaurant, not one that I keyed in -- I guess that makes me quite odd.

    Your remarks about advertising are welcome -- but I don't think you go far enough. Like anything to do with money, ads and promotions (like getting free stuff for a so-called honest review) can truly lead to corruption. Sometimes I'm really dismayed at what bloggers will do to get a book or a few canned goods! And how can a blurb be honest if they would not have bought the product and probably wouldn't buy it again?

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks Mae - so interesting to hear your thoughts. I have always thought you a food blogger - it is not just about recipes but about talking about food and you do that. I have always been interested in posting recipes because that was where I started as a food blogger (and my post reflects this). But other food bloggers are not all into recipes.

      And I can put up my hand to a few freebies - usually through or from friends - but sometimes I worry it is so widespread to get sponsorship that people will think my in my kitchen posts are sponsored - which they aren't - but it is a reflection of the culture that I wonder if I should actually say they aren't sponsored. But I have never been about freebies and probably could count mine on one hand.

  3. It is so very different now. I'm on instagram but the instant-gratification/validation/popularity contest aspect of it bothers me!

    1. Thanks Faye - I still toy with whether I should do instagram - by the time I am ready the world will probably have moved on :-)

  4. Your blog is one of my favourites. The balance of writing and recipes is perfect. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Judy - that is really lovely to hear

  5. This is a very insightful blog post Johanna and I agree with a lots, but I think you have been kind and I agree with Mae around advertising and how some bloggers will advertise anything. I have given up reading so many blogs, some that used to be favourites because they are now just full of promos and how to drive traffic and get ratings, there is no real soul in that kind of blogging.

    PS I have never made it onto Foodgawker and gave up pretty sharpish. I will not give up reading your blog though, it is perhaps my favourite blog of all and continues to remain true to it roots. Honest and humble.

    1. aww that's so kind shaheen. I know what you mean about how some blogs change - some I don't read and others I think do the advertising and sponsorship better.

      I am surprised you have never made it onto FoodGawker because you have lovely photos - it took a lot of attempts for me to get on but I am glad I did because I do get a buzz from some of the traffic it drives but also because I have learnt a bit about photography from the feedback - even though when pictures are rejected I get quite cross sometimes. At the same time if I only posted FoodGawker approved photos I wouldn't have that many on my blog :-)

  6. Every blog is different and every blogger is different. I'm not sure how much I agreed with here because I think that people grow and change and that's their prerogative.

    1. Thanks Lorraine - I agree that blogs and bloggers grow and change - I have tried to note that some of the changes I notice are probably because I have been blogging for so long. But not all. I think social media in particular has made a big difference on how we blog. I would be interested to see a post on changes by someone like you who has a very different sort of blog to me.

  7. I laughed when I read some of this - it was so true. I still mainly blog to please myself (so I am very old school). I went from zero comments, to lots of comments, and now back to very few. I miss the sharing - Is My Blog Burning used to post lots of group theme cook a longs and it was a good way to meet people online. Now, it's all gone. Sad. Lots of the blogs I used to love have also faded out. Will I join them? Who knows. I forgot my blogiversary this year, but to be fair, I had a bit going on in the background then.

    1. thanks Cakelaw - I really like your blog because it still has that touch of old school though it has changed over time. I miss so many blog events - they were always good for a challenge and to see other people and other ideas. I hope you continue to post, as I always love to see what you are baking.

  8. What an excellent post! Things have changed so much and the one thing I have stuck to is that life is way more important than blogging.

    1. Thanks Tandy - that is a good rule of thumb - though I think that is why some people stop blogging but I also think one of the nice things about blogging is you can take a break and come back in your own time.

  9. Aha! I noticed that I was no longer receiving notifications about your comments on my blog, and I guess point D explains it.

    1. Thanks Cindy - it is harder to keep up with comments now they are not emailed to me - but I guess I should check some blogger forums - found it useful when someone hacked my blog the other day to see that others had the same experience and to see what they did

  10. What a nice reward for opening Inoreader this evening - thank you for the lovely reflection and for the very kind mention. I didn't intend to stay away from reading blogs for so long but clearly was more burnt out than I thought with the whole blogging scene (plus we had my parents visit and a 2nd birthday party). I am looking forward to catching up on your recent posts and even sharing one of my own again soon, albeit it won't be as part of a return to regular posting - but keeping my foot in the door and perhaps a little more regular than the last 2 month hiatus.

    I hope all is well x

    1. Thanks Kari - good to hear from you - blogging is harder as life gets busier - but glad to hear you will be still doing some posts - will look forward to these - hope you have had a good break from blogging


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