This is not only the beginning of a New Year here at the Weblog That Derek Built, but also the (slightly belated) anniversary of my opening up shop to publish my not-so-deep thoughts online.
Last New Year's Eve, after Brother Joe and I traded off baseball tomes as Christmas gifts, he needled me about how I should write more. At that time, I wrote an extremely small circulation newsletter--just an email with cc:'s to a few friends, really--entitled "To All My Yankee Fan Brothers (And a Few Others)". This was where I'd complain about trades, discuss the 2001 gut-punch in Arizona, and argue baseball economics with my pals (well, there, the ballpark, the pool table, and whatever bar I could drag my baseball-loving friends to).
The problem was, I didn't write all that often. Often, when I did, the emails were rather massive and unwieldy. Joe wanted more, and wanted more people to see it. Since one of my annual New Year's resolutions was to write more often, I was intrigued.
I'd obtained a high-speed earthlink account some months earlier, but I hadn't really had much time to look at the "free webspace" that came with the account. New Year's day, I began eyeing earthlink's web tools. By January 2, I was playing about with layouts and graphics. On January 3 I published my first post, about David Wells signing with the Padres. That's the link above.
Including that one, there've been 193 posts to the WTDB, between the old site, and the Blogger website you're reading right now. Between some posts for the Page O' Stuff (which has been inactive for the off-season) and my work at BP, I think I've fulfilled my pledge to write more in 2004.
Looking at my year's output, I started hot and heavy, with short entries about everything under the sun. I've calmed down a bit to write 2-3 times per week. Not good enough, by my count. I miss the multiple-posts-per-day days, and I hope they return soon.
Top three things blogging taught me in 2004 (in no particular order):
1. You need to check if the assertion you're making is factually correct. This sounds kind of basic, but it's the #1 reason that Internet geeks beat up on mainstream media folks. When you talk about baseball all the time, you wind up continuously making assertions based upon experience, memory or common sense. Sometimes, experience, memory or common sense turn out to be just plain wrong.
I've never been so aware of this phenomenon as I am when I'm blogging. In this age of freely-available online information, it's simply unforgiveable to say something like "Jim Rice could never have hit 400 homers if he hadn't played in Fenway" without actually checking Rice's splits on Retrosheet to see if Rice actually hit for better power at home.
I've had dozens of articles that I've started to write, then had to scrap after I learned that a premise, or a vital factoid or anecdote I'd thrown in, was totally wrong. It's frustrating, but it makes you a better writer.
2. You never know who's reading you. When you don't exactly have the highest readership rate online, it's easy to forget that the people whose work you're critiquing can and sometimes do read what you've written. Generally speaking, I have no regrets--I'm sincere about the things I write--but it's a good reminder that when you're upset or outraged about someone's work, you should treat it as though you've written them a letter. Expect a response, and don't say anything about someone you wouldn't tell them to their face.
3. The world doesn't stop turning, even when your fingers are away from the keyboard. This is the flip side of lesson 1. All the contemplation it takes to try to make sure everything is fresh and well-researched is constantly at battle with the need to keep up with the news. Take too long to publish a game story, and who's interested anymore? Take too long to write up a nice gag about the Penny/LoDuca trade, and one of the principals might come up lame, already. Sometimes it's better to rush headlong into the fray, rather than wait for the perfect turn of phrase that comes too late.
I'm writing these things down more as a reminder to myself than as advice to the blogging public or the world at large. Hopefully, 2005 will teach me a lot more.
I have more people to thank for this site's success in 2004 than I could possibly name. I'd like to thank everyone that's linked to the WTDB, or who simply read what I've been writing for the past year. I'd really like to thank everyone who's posted comments, and I encourage you to keep up the good work. Hopefully, you'll all stick with me in 2005.