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There’s always something to howl about

Word-slinging in the Rain — or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog . . .

None of this is new to me — except for the parts that are.

I’ve been writing on the nets since before there were nets. Since BBS systems — I ran two of them at different times of my life. Since CompuServe was a time-share system called MicroNet that charged $3.00 an hour for half-duplex transmission at 300 baud.

(Think about that! “Baud” is Bits of Audio Data. My first modem had an acoustic coupler that attached to a phone receiver and transmitted data with actual, annoyingly audible sound. It raced along at 300 bits per second, which sounds slow but is actually about half-again faster than a really fast typist. The connection through which I am by now continuously enthralled is only about 10,000 times faster than that.)

I’ve been writing on the nets since the time when you would log on, suck down everything you wanted to look at as fast as you could, read and respond off-line, then log back on to blast back your own contributions without wasting a second. I’ve been writing on the nets since waiting up for the “off-peak” hours represented a substantial savings.

The funny things is, when the technology was that grossly inadequate, that obscenely expensive, I was writing maybe 8,000 words a day, seven days a week. And as lousy as everything was, it was a whole lot better than working on a 900 pound IBM Selectric typewriter.

I can barely believe the things I did in those days. With my trusty soldering gun, I built myself a little NULL modem that I could configure on the fly, so I could liberate access wherever I found a temporarily mute dumb terminal. I was young and possessed at the time of a multi-faceted morality, and I tended to think of electrical power and underutilized bandwidth as mine to appropriate.

I wrote through generation after generation of computer hardware and network topography, avidly connecting machines that were never meant to be connected and connecting my own computers to a topology that was still called Arpanet when I first started playing with it.

I worked in Usenet for years, and I still know many, many people there. I built my first web site in 1996, my first weblog in 2002. During all those years, I wrote a ton of software — in assembly language, FORTH, Pascal, C, Javascript, Objective-C and now mostly in PHP, when I have time to write software at all. I wrote dozens of Macintosh utilities, plus their manuals — and the manuals, at least, are still fun. I wrote books, essays, stories, poetry, messages and lots and lots of email. I can tell you from experience how to get good at writing: Do it a bunch. Usus est magister optimus. Practice is the best teacher.

The point of all that is this: The writing that goes into writing a weblog is not new to me. I know that sometimes people have to strain to get words out on paper (phosphors!), but text just pours out of me. If I have the time available, I can write a thousand words an hour for six or eight hours straight. If I’m writing something big, I can do that day after day, and the words come out of my hands as though they were being dictated, not composed. I make no testament about quality — and certainly none about art. But for the yeoman chore of putting thought to word and word to paper (phosphors!) — this is a job I can do.

What then to make of my remark to Dustin Luther, which he quotes back on Rain City Guide:

This is actually our third swing at a real estate weblog. It was the example of Rain City Guide that showed me how I wanted to approach this.

Never doubt it: I’m in your debt.

The simple fact is, as much as I might have written in the past, I had a tough time working out how to do a real estate weblog.

I tried this the first time in 2003, when we built the Bloodhound Realty business model. I thought a weblog would be a good way to help my clients comprehend the real estate news between issues of our emailed newsletter. But while the newsletter worked out well, I thought — it was and is rude and funny and only incidentally promotional — the weblog felt strained from the first. It was at once too topical and too commercial. It read like somebody was trying to sell something.

Eventually I let that attempt die. I tried again last fall, and those entries, running from November 2005 through April 2006, are the first 60 posts in this third and current incarnation of a Bloodhound weblog. This second attempt was better overall, but its major focus was beating up on the Arizona Republic, which got boring to me after a while.

Meanwhile, I had been reading Rain City Guide and other real estate weblogs off and on, when I could make time. The others I don’t remember at all, but I came back to Rain City Guide again and again. I was writing posts for my own weblog that I liked well enough but didn’t love at the same time that I was reading content that I was crazy about on Rain City Guide. At the same time, I was writing a completely different kind of commentary to long-time friends and colleagues in email. About a month ago, I realized that what I needed to do was to take the emailed opinions and make them public. I’m not blaming anyone at Rain City Guide for what I’ve done here. But I want thank them for showing me, by their good examples, what I was doing wrong.

The rest of this world has been completely new to me. I hadn’t paid any attention to RSS syndication or Technorati or any of the rest of the enblogged globe. It had never occurred to me to do anything to promote my two early, failed real estate weblogs — a fortuitous ignorance. I had linked out to mainstream media outlets and trade sites, but never to another real estate weblog. I can hector other Realtors with some authority about internet marketing and marketing generally, but here I am essentially a newbie — not at blogging but in the blogosphere.

I owe all this, whatever it might turn out to be, to Dustin Luther and the team of writers he put together at Rain City Guide. Without them, I would still be flailing. At some point I might try to pay my debt forward by writing about what I think is important in a real estate weblog. But for now, I simply want to thank them — Dustin first, but everyone at Rain City Guide — for casually throwing off more riches than I can ever hope to repay.

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9 comments

9 Comments so far

  1. ardell dellaloggia September 3rd, 2006 10:05 pm

    I found myself wandering, as if through empty halls, with our blog in the operating room, waiting for the doctor to come out and give me the news and happened upon this post I missed when it was written.

    We thank you for the tribute, we say that you are very welcome and we acknowledge that it is people like you who keep us going.

  2. Robbie September 4th, 2006 10:20 am

    I’m still flailing about, but I’m having fun doing it. :)

    Keep up the great work, I’m sure we’d have some interesting tech war stories to share if we ever met.

  3. Greg Swann September 4th, 2006 11:45 am

    > I’m still flailing about, but I’m having fun doing it.

    I think you have the gift. You veer around unexpecterd corners — and link to them — so your posts — and your comments, even — are fun reading.

    > Keep up the great work, I’m sure we’d have some interesting tech war stories to share if we ever met.

    I think you must live at a completely different level of excitation from mine, but I’m sure I would be much improved for having been blinded by your brilliance.

  4. Greg Swann September 4th, 2006 11:51 am

    > We thank you for the tribute, we say that you are very welcome and we acknowledge that it is people like you who keep us going.

    At your service, always, Your Grace. 😉

  5. […] But… BloodhoundBlog is three months’ old today. A three-month-old Bloodhound can move your furniture and mow through a pair of shoes in three minutes flat. A three-month-old BloodhoundBlog is but barely aborning — well begun, but half-baked, at best. Four-hundred-twenty-five posts, but they add up if you do a few dozen in a single day… […]

  6. Norm Fisher December 6th, 2006 8:06 pm

    Greg,

    I really appreciated this post. I’ve been reading your blog for about a month and certainly see you as an accomplished blogger. It’s nice to know that you considered yourself a “newbie” not long ago. It gives me some hope.

  7. […] A:Greg Swann: I’ve been writing all my life, but my goal in trying to start a workable real estate weblog was the same as other Realtors: I thought it would scare up business. We tried and failed with two other weblogs. We didn’t know what we were doing — in the sense of “linkation!” — but, by being overtly promotional in content, they were boring to me, anyway — contributing greatly to their failure. BloodhoundBlog works, at least for me, because it is fundamentally indifferent to the idea of milking the readership for leads. I’ve come to believe that a real estate weblog with a large, regular readership is a lousy way to generate leads, in any case, but I don’t care anyway. I want to write what I want to write, come what does. […]

  8. […] By the way, one trick I recommend for new real estate agents to help stay away from the self-promotion angle is to make sure there is always at least one link in their posts that references an idea of someone else. The link could be to a news article, but preferably it is another blog post. (A ton of credit for promoting this idea goes to Greg as I’m not sure I would have realized this advice was novel without his encouragement…) […]

  9. Chris Johnson April 8th, 2008 11:39 pm

    This was good writing…remarkably transparent for you, greg.

    That was me that was scouring your backlog today, that which wasn’t in google’s cache.