The other day someone asked me, "What ever happened to Vancouver Metblogs?" So I wrote over a thousand words about it, because clearly I'm insane.
A bit of history
Shortly after moving to Vancouver a website called Metroblogging Vancouver [mbv] was launched, it's since been re-branded Vancouver Metblogs but being old I tend to still use the previous title. I was one of the first bloggers at the site, and through a combination of being overeager and a regular contributor I was made City Captain. I had found Metroblogging through reading Wil Wheaton's blog [ww] since he was a semi-regular contributor to the Los Angeles Metblog [mbla], and it seemed like a fun and exciting project. I was, and remain, glad to be a part of it.
When it launched times were different. Blogging was still kind of new, I mean it was 2005 we were still amazed by Velcro on sneakers. Lots of great bloggers had joined and I was meeting people who today I still consider friends, even if I rarely see them. People like Rebecca Bollwitt [m604], Matt & Oana, Ryan Cousineau [wc] and so on. And I posted a lot. Because it was fun, and for the most part it was the only writing I was doing apart from X-Men fan-fiction.
(Uncomfortable pause as you try to determine if I'm joking about the fan-fiction.)
Even from the start there were discussions about the Vancouver Metblogs project. John Bollwitt, Rebecca's husband, pointed out that since Metblogs did not pay anything it was better to go off and build up your own personal brand elsewhere as opposed to contributing to the Metblogs brand. Which was exactly what Rebecca did, continuing to build her own site until it is now a living. Now there's a whole host of reasons why Rebecca became a successful professional blogger and I'm living in a van down by the river1, not the least of which is that she's built an incredibly strong and recognizable brand on top of good and consistent blogging, but certainly I poured a lot of written words into Metroblogging Vancouver that could have been used elsewhere to build up... well I'm not sure what.
I am trying hard not to have this go off track into a rant about the idea of a personal brand, and my views on that. It's another bucket of pickles and I like pickles so if I open that bucket I probably drown in salty water.
The point is that I, and a lot of other people, poured a lot of time and energy into the project. Overtime people left for a variety of reasons, and I tried my best to replace them. I met my then future wife, I moved out of my brother's apartment into my van behind the Surrey Future Shop and eventually Lydia and her cats moved into the van with me2. And over time I just didn't blog as much, something you'll have noticed here as well.
As City Captain I took a lot of punches for "the company". I don't know the legal term for it, it's owned by two people and is spun out of the founding blog in Los Angeles. It's their career, and they run sixty or so odd blogs around the world, and so I understand that they have much better things to do than to worry about Vancouver. But over time I started wondering who I was doing it for. Once I started freelancing with The Georgia Straight, something that was largely unrelated to my work with the blog, I realized that I was doing it because I felt a sense of loyalty to the people that owned it.
And I have taken a few online beatings trying to back up decisions that they made, or dealing with jerks who attacked the site's writers hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. It was stressful, and to be the person who handled that without being in a position to actually affect any sort of change was way too much like my 9-5 job. I get yelled at in person about the decisions made by people in Toronto, I realized that I was getting yelled at online about the decisions made by people in Los Angeles was not the change of pace I was looking for3.
I certainly do not want to talk out of school, or speculate about the motivations of people who I barely know4, but the announcement of the founders' plan to sell the Metroblogging (Metblog) idea in January [mb] was not much of a surprise. It seemed that forward momentum had stopped, and things were no longer being fixed. I have not been able to see site statistics for months, though it's possible they've been moved in the WordPress backend and I just have not located them.
Perhaps I'm being uncharitable, and unfair, when I suggest that I began to feel as though I and anyone else involved was unappreciated. It's not for the people at Metblogs to give me love, that's why I have cats5, but certainly it felt as though everyone was replaceable and that having built a self-sustaining system there was a lack of focus on the other end. People weren't important, this ship has auto-pilot!
Which is not to denigrate all of the great writers who have worked with me at Vancouver Metblogs, and who write at the other blogs in the network. It's also not about money, though obviously reality shows like Fear Factor and The Office prove that people will do a lot for a bit of money. It's just at the end of the day not blogging seemed as easy as blogging, and nobody really seemed to give a shit if I was around.
All of which I suppose comes down to me. Had I built an audience that was interested in what I do, then maybe I would have been missed. Over the years I never had a distinctive voice like someone such as Sean Orr [tgs], who no matter what you actually thought of him you wanted to listen to what he had to say. And spending years building an audience for someone else, well it was hard work and not particularly rewarding. Some people used the audience and connections they made to spin-off their own blogs [wldc], for greater control and to do their own thing.
I may, as I have done recently, continue to post on Metblogs from time to time. The more regular posters there, there are two, do a good job and I admire their dedication. But if you're asking whatever happened to Vancouver Metblogs, the answer is that people stopped posting. Maybe they were just cogs in the machine, but nobody bothered to replace them.
1That's a joke, I can't afford a river view parking spot.
2Don't feel sorry for us. Sometimes if we plan it right we can hit the four A.M. shift change at a certain Denny's and get the staff lets us have free kids' meals. It's a life for kings, no doubt about it.
3 The chief example of this was when there was a decision made to make creating an account and logging in a requirement to posting a comment, only to reverse the decision about a year later.
4I've met Metroblogging co-founder Sean Bonner twice, back when I was much more focused on the project. He seemed like a nice fellow.