500,000 Customers Served

Well, my handy little SiteMeter counter tells me that sometime on the overnight last night, The Truth Laid Bear its 500,000th visitor.
I think that’s pretty spiffy, I have to admit, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I indulge in a bit of nostalgia to celebrate the occasion. If you have no interest in the history of TTLB, run screaming now, ’cause this will bore you to tears.
Still here? You fool! You were warned.
TTLB officially opened its doors on May 16, 2002, with this post. Five-hundred and sixty days later, over five hundred thousand visitors have passed on through; an all-time average of just under nine hundred every day.
When I started this blog, I really had no idea where it would go. At the time, I found myself with a large amount of free time on my hands, being on an extended leave from work (which eventually turned permanent), and I decided that I would try to do something to rekindle the writing bug I have always had lurking in the back of my mind. Originally, I had thought to dive into the Fray over at Slate, and try to make a name for myself there, but then I stumbled upon the weblog world, and it seemed a far more direct approach.
“N.Z. Bear”, of course, is a pseudonym which I have consistently refused to fully explain, and I shall not change that policy here today. But to give a little more background: as I’ve said before, the “N.Z.” part is not New Zealand. It is, in fact an abbreviation of a personal nickname someone close to me likes to use for this humble bear. And further trivia: I actually first used “NZ_Bear” as an online handle in a massively multiplayer space-combat game to which I became briefly and heavily addicted (prior to becoming more permanently but equally severely addicted to weblogs). So if you thought you once blasted me out of the sky flying a heavy fighter somewhere around Hyperion sector — you might well be right! (I was a lousy pilot; I’m a much better blogger).
So with penname in hand, “The Truth Laid Bear” just seemed to fit. It had a stupid pun in it (good), and it would give me a theme to run with (better).
I started on Blogspot, like pretty much everybody else, with a hideous little standard template layout (like pretty much everybody else). I was fortunate to have early help from my old buddy Meryl — who I knew both online and in real life from the BBS days back in the 80’s — and her (and my) newfound friend Lair, who seemed to take an inexplicable liking to me for no good reason (thanks, Lair!), and altogether decent folks like Martin at Patio Pundit. It was particularly fun to rediscover Meryl after many years (we had not been in touch for probably about a decade) — despite my taking the rather obnoxious approach of saying ‘hello again!’ by emailing her a scanned photo of her in a somewhat compromising position fifteen years ago, she welcomed me back into the online world and helped me get a leg up with the weblog thang. Thanks, Meryl!
Early on, I was fortunate to draw the attention of heavyweight bloggers such as Glenn, Bill, and Mickey, who ensured a fast launch for TTLB in its very first weeks. Early themes included attempting to recruit science fiction writers to fight in the war against terror, commenting on campus speech codes, and the perennial favorite, beating up on Richard Bennett. Not everything was an instant hit. I’m still bummed that Bloggers: The Musical hit the ground with a resounding thud, and I still think it’s funny, damnit.
A huge moment came when I made an honest-to-goodness Professional Sale to Salon.com for my piece Back in the Day (retitled to ‘When 300 Baud was the Bomb’ on their site, which I like equally well). I must confess that was quite a moment for me and caused a bit of bouncing-off-the-ceiling; knowing that somebody was actually willing to pay for my foolish words certainly went a long way to convincing me that perhaps I wasn’t utterly incompetent at this whole writing thang after all.
But TTLB truly went supernova on June 2, 2002, when I completed implementing a silly little idea to produce a list of weblogs which ranked them based on their number of incoming links, and the Ecosystem was born. (No, you can’t see the actual list, sadly, but that’s the announcement post at least).
A bit of confession/belated thanks: I was inspired to name the Ecosystem by Virginia Postrel. I’ve tried to find the exact post of hers, with no luck, but I have a dim recollection of her referring to the interaction between media and weblogs as an ecosystem: and so, when I completed the listings, it seemed a natural fit. So a very, very late thanks Virginia!
With the Ecosystem, I found a niche that has served me well to this day. Despite my fairly abysmal web programming abilities, I discovered that I enjoyed tinkering with what could be done with weblog-tools, and with public projects such as the Ecosystem. Some worked, others didn’t. The Weblog Action Center worked quite well for a while, but proved too much work for me to maintain; The Weblog MetaData Initiative is still technically alive, but I have frankly never managed to figure out how to push it to a true level of usefulness, and so it sits rather dormant. But the Ecosystem itself has proved a consistent favorite, particularly after it returned from a long hiatus in a new, automated form this past March. And the New Weblog Showcase continues to chug along rather nicely.
But these projects also pose a challenge for me, as I find myself consistently torn between focusing on coding/tool projects, and actually writing for the blog. Both are rewarding; both have their own pleasures for me. Lately, I have been tilting probably too far towards focusing on the tools side, although I’ve been attempting to swing back into balance over the past few weeks, as those watching closely may well have noticed. Going forward, I doubt that tension will ever ebb: I expect I’ll keep writing when I find something that strikes my interest, and keep tinkering with the Ecosystem and its associated gizmos as well.
So that’s the news to date on the first half-million visits. I look forward to the next half-million, and the ones after that. Keep coming back, keep linking, and I’ll keep doing whatever it is I’m actually doing here that seems to hold your interest. And if you want to indulge a bear on this day, take a browse through the “Classic Bear Truth” section on the left nav bar — a decent sampling of what I consider my best work resides there, and it warms my ursine heart to see some of those posts still drawing interest to this day.
And once more, to all those who have visited, linked, or otherwise provided encouragement and support over the past two years: thank you!