This is a very self-indulgent note to mark a bit of an arbitrary milestone. This treatise is a bit rambly, and I’m not happy with it, but I’ve agonised over it too long and it’s the beast way I can put the things I want to say. I’ve deliberately not linked to any other articles here. If you’re a newcomer, and curious, I actively encourage you to search the archive. There’s a lot of it – nearly 2,000 posts and 11,000 comments.
Those who follow me on social media will already know that on Sunday evening, 17th November 2013, this site passed the one million hit mark.
I’d like to thank all the readers, commentors and contributors – the stars of this thing – that make it work so well. All the folk who dedicate time to writing, researching and contemplating matters of local history, current affairs and other stuff covered herein. All those who have helped on a personal level. Those around me who put up with me doing this. The fellow members of the local online community who’ve been so supportive.
I won’t quote names, except for one, because I don’t want to leave anyone out. But you wouldn’t be reading this now were it not for The YamYam – Mark Blackstock’s remarkable project to collate the disparate online threads of Walsall. It remains a beacon.
Managing this thing is hard work, but the rewards are fantastic. Seeing something obscure come to life, spark debate or restore lost contacts is wonderful. We’ve connected people far away back to their roots, debated the nature of our history, argued the toss over local politics. And this has been happening on a pretty much daily basis for four and a half years now. It would all have stopped a long while ago but for the interest shown by you lot.
It’s been hard at times. Sometimes, I run out of ideas, or energy, or enthusiasm. Sometimes, the grind of it gets me down. In curating the Brownhills Blog, I realised that often, your opponents come from where you’d least expect, and that some people will take any effort to create anything at all as a personal attack. I learned a lot about the darkness of some aspects of human nature that I didn’t really want to know. Fortunately, the hassle is small compared to the pleasure.
For those that have never noticed, there’s a counter in the sidebar on the right. It counts steadily as people visit the site, but cleverly ignores my visits. WordPress, the host I use for this blog, keeps daily anonymous statistics for what visitors read, what they search for, and in broad terms, what led them here. All this data is logged and held, and it shows I started this blog in the last days of April, 2009. Since then, traffic has grown steadily, approximately doubling in volume every calendar year up to now. At the moment, the site is holding steady at between about 900-1500 hits per day.
Personally, I don’t think the traffic will grow much now; I think If anything, it’s probably peaked.
In terms of other popular sites on the net, this one is tiny, insignificant, a minute blip of traffic in a sea of much better content. But for a very specifically focussed site, it’s not too shabby, and I’m proud that a small community seems to have developed here.
I had no idea, and still don’t, what I’m doing. I have no writing experience, and still find the writing process quite difficult. I think my style and punctuation skills have improved a bit, but my typing skills are still lousy. I still read back every article I write and wince. In many ways, this site is rambling, shambling and badly written, but I like to think that it makes up for it’s deficiencies with the enthusiasm and interest I attempt to share.
I’m aware that I’m opinionated, and get lots of stuff wrong. I’m know only too well that my style and manner irritates and alienates a lot of people. However, I believe that something like this should have an opinion, a position and be prepared to argue it. I welcome discussion. It’s how we move forward and develop ideas and hopefully, mutual respect. I’m happy to accept I may be wrong.
When I started this, I had no idea where it was going or what it was going to do. I had a lot of stuff to get off my chest. Local politics figured much more prominently then than it does now; but others locally are writing with far more clarity on that stuff than ever I could, and the merry-go-round of local power confounds me theses days.
When I tentatively began to look at local history stuff I had no idea how large the subject was, or how little I actually knew. Much of what I thought I knew, I found to be arrant toss. The material I found in books was good, but dry. I wanted to make it a bit softer, to have discussions, enquiries, and record them. I wanted people to take back their history from the dusty shelves of the mystics and charismatics that often people the local history scene. I hate the gatekeeper mentality, and always will. History belongs to everyone, and the best way to learn about it is to take it back.
There’s stuff I’m very proud to have shared, from lost jazz tapes to intimate family histories. The generosity and openness of the readership has been amazing, and has often brought me to tears.
I have never had a desire to make any money out of this, nor will I have. The only ads to appear here are ones placed occasionally by WordPress, over which I have no control. Running this blog incurs a financial cost, but it’s worth it, as it’s a labour of love.
At the moment, I’m tired, and may have a break for a week or two sometime soon. But if I do, I shall give notice and I will be back, for this is far to addictive to stop, and I have too much work from other folks waiting to be shared.
This blog remains the work of a man with a brutally short attention span wandering through life, finding stuff, pointing to it and shouting ‘Look!’ loudly. I don’t know where it’s going at all. But as long as people are still reading, I’ll endeavour to keep it going.