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March 07, 2008

louisgray.com: A Brief History of the Site

Editor's note: I've been thinking a lot about how I first found Web services or made them part of online life. Some, I have perfect answers for, and others, not so much. I hope to talk more about some of these experiences in the coming weeks. But I thought it'd be interesting to play show and tell with just how louisgray.com got started, with all the missteps along the way.
And soon... we can talk about all the other cool services and how we got there.

1999 - 2001


I first bought the louisgray.com domain on December 30 of 1999. I didn't do much with it in the first round, building out a set of static pages that essentially acted as an "About Us" site, featuring comments on sports, tech and stocks. Amusingly, I'd patterned the look and feel of the site off one of Google's "About Us" pages, hence the coloring and clean look. I didn't expect Google to get as big as they are now, but I liked their design even back then. Of course, if I used that look/feel now, it'd have been obvious.

But I didn't give the site much attention. At one point, I even let it expire!

(See the Archive.org Backup from February 2001)

2004 - 2005

I bought louisgray.com back again in 2004, from a new registrar, but again, didn't do much. In fact, given I'd largely deleted the old files, I had to crawl through archive.org to find the old content and graphics, and rebuilt.

(See the Archive.org Backup from August 2004)

In 2005, I messed around with launching a blog with Six Apart's TypePad software, but I didn't get all that far. Eventually, I'm sure I broke it, and I abandoned the plan, but didn't give up on the idea. In fact, most of what I did with louisgray.com at this time was serve as a repository for my ANtics Oakland A's comics, featured on AthleticsNation.com.

2006


In 2006, I finally found a solution that let me blog to louisgray.com. A little fatigued by the non-tech content on my family's shared blog, in existence from 2004, I forged out on my own, very slowly, mostly offering an echo chamber that consisted of talking to myself about the A's and Silicon Valley news. I certainly wasn't breaking news, but instead, treating it as one person's commentary on the day's news.


(See Archive.org for Mach 2006 and October of 2006.)

First Half 2007 - The Scoble Effect

Writing for my seeming one-person audience was at times frustrating. But somewhere between mid-2006 and early 2007 I had this epiphany around Web 2.0 and leading bloggers. I started leaving comments on some sites, and engaging. At times, I felt like I was catching up in terms of the quality of the content, talking about the news of the day, but I wasn't getting any traction.

In January of 2007, I let my frustration spill over a bit. Robert Scoble wrote a memorable post called "Pissing off the blogosphere…, where he recapped complaining that large blogs like Engadget weren't linking his way. The first to comment on his story, I wrote, "... for what it’s worth, you are one of the A-listers who everybody who does link links to. As you know, all us Z-listers are pumping out content every day and it could be nobody notices…"

Robert, only minutes later, wrote, "Louis, just subscribed to you. I appreciate it is tough for a new blogger to get noticed. I wonder how we can solve that?"

Clearly, I got Robert thinking... as for a later post that day, he asked, "Do A-list bloggers have a responsibility to link to others?, where he offered to visit and subscribe to good tech blogs, mine included.

This made me excited, but nervous too. For if I didn't start writing about stuff that Scoble wanted, he would unsubscribe. He wouldn't share my items in his link reader, and that'd be the end of that little experiment. Luckily, I started to arc my coverage even more toward tech, and more toward those things he liked, including Google Reader and RSS.

January of 2007 was also a big move behind the scenes, as I moved off RapidWeaver, a Mac OS X software application, and onto Google's Blogger, where we remain today. It's not WordPress, but it does exactly what I need it to.

Second Half 2007

18 months into the new blogging experiment, I continued to fly under the radar for the most part, with the exception of the occasional surprise on TechMeme and rare Scoble link. But I also started to find friends with similar interests who covered similar things, people like Steven Hodson of WinExtra, Jason Kaneshiro of Webomatica, MG Siegler of ParisLemon, Kent Newsome of Newsome.org and Frederic Lardinois of The Last Podcast. This little sub-community served, in my opinion, to help push each of us further to do better and keep up the pace. Even if just a few dozen of us were trading ideas and sharing comments, it was something. In this time, I was also buoyed by seeing my subscriber base grow from less than 100 to about 200 by end of year.

Early 2008

Not much use recapping this. It's early yet. But I've talked openly about some of the momentum we've had, now that we have a better idea of what we want to talk about, and now that we have new services coming to market, wanting to be part of the discussion and engaged. I've been delighted to see services I talk about go from 5 users to 500 seemingly overnight, or to see others excited about finding new sites with my help. And while I once felt stress to remain relevant, I feel a lot more comfortable now, that we're engaged and actively part of a larger conversation. And now that we're here... you know, as Paul Harvey says... the rest of the story.