The Evolution of a Website

Eleven-plus years into this whole website business, I think I now have quite sufficient perspective to see how my approach to it (and your reaction to my approach) has evolved over the years.

A few weeks back, a longtime reader emailed me about something else and added as an aside how much he appreciated the fact that I’d been a “thoughtful” and “reflective” sort and that this site had apparently provided him with something rather useful over the years. It’s not the sort of message I get very often these days, and I appreciated it. In fact, as I’ll discuss later, I think my site is actually much less reflective now, at least on a personal level, and it was nice to hear from someone who’d stuck around since the days when it was more so.

It also reminded me, though, that I rarely get any sort of feedback about the site nowadays. I’m not sure if that’s because my traffic is way down from the “peak” years, or because people no longer use email the way they used to (and because I continue to use straight HTML here with no PHP-based comments option), or maybe because I got so bad about responding to comments over the years. Then again, it could be that I’m just not writing anything of any particular interest anymore. Although it’s something I think about from time to time, it’s not really a big concern for me. As I’ve often said, the website is primarily for my own amusement; if someone else enjoys it too, then so much the better.

Anyone with a website who pretends not to care at all about being read or noticed, though, is either lying or deluding himself. If we didn’t care about being seen, we’d just write in a personal journal and call it a day, wouldn’t we? In fact, I think I’m a much better writer now than I was ten years ago. I edit myself more stringently and am more careful not to repeat the same old ideas and beat the same old dead horses; that’s part of why I post much less often than I used to. I’ve composed a few essays in the past year or two that I thought were pretty damned good — much better than the stuff I wrote in the early days of the site — but none of them generated any discussion to speak of. And yeah, that bothered me a little.

Over the years, I’ve used the site as a means of making friends — including my best friend, the one that I’m spending my life with — as well as for self-expression. And yes, I maybe felt a little slighted when a few recent milestones passed without comment. I put a lot of effort into a tenth anniversary retrospective in 2006 that almost no one mentioned. A few months later, I made another very big (and less happy) announcement, although I minimized and even buried it somewhat, and I heard very little about that either. But I understand; I haven’t been very aggressive about reacting to other people’s milestones, and I rarely write to other people about their sites at all these days either.

The site is less about my life than it used to be. There are a lot of reasons.

To begin with, even though it suits me just fine now, I can’t imagine that the current version of my life would be all that fascinating to anyone else. A lot of people lost interest when I “coupled” and stopped writing about bars and sex clubs and boys I’d picked up. Others stopped coming by when I finally left San Francisco, since we all know that nothing of substance or consequence ever happens anyplace else, right?

In addition, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable about revealing too many intimate details here. Things that would have been big time post fodder eight or ten years ago now sometimes distract me from posting. Privacy is a concern, of course, as is the fact that my personal life is now somewhat shared and revelations about it now affect another person as well, no matter how well we retain our individual identities. Frankly, it’s too late for me to try to be completely anonymous; I’ve left too much of a trail dating back to a more “innocent” time online.

Anyway, I’ve been doing this for more than a quarter of my life, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon, although I know the process will continue to evolve. I’m not quite sure just what Otherstream is these days. In retrospect, though, I’ve never been sure of what it was, and it’s never stopped me before.

My apologies for being rambling and wordy. I’ll probably continue to do that for the foreseeable future as well.