Spitting Into the Wind
The first blogging software hit the market in 1999, but it was a technology in search of a use. I never even heard the word “blog” until the early 2000s, and didn’t focus on it until, in 2004, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary selected “blog” as the Word of the Year. (It’s a truncation of “web log.”)
Even then I was more than a bit foggy about exactly what a blog was. In late 2006 a firm that no longer exists contacted me and asked me to write a “blog post” on the subject of risk in the markets and whether investors were underestimating it. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I’m not sure what you are asking me to do.
Them: We just need a thousand words on the subject.
Me: Ah, so it’s an article you want.
Them: Sort of, except that it’s for our blog.
Me: Which is what?
Them: (Belatedly realizing that they are speaking with a Luddite.) It’s, uh, a part of our website where people post things.
Me: Like a…, magazine.
Them: Yes! An online magazine!
Me: Got it.
I dutifully sent them 1,000 words on the topic, “Think the Central Bankers Have Eliminated Risk? Think Again.” Alas, the “online magazine” went out of business before they could post my blog. Which, as it happens, is terrific, because I can now claim to have called the Financial Crisis and no one can prove me wrong.
In 2008, a firm called Summitas, which also no longer exists (although a firm with the same name exists, offering wealth management tools to family offices), asked me to write a series of blog posts, which I did through the end of 2012. At the same time, but beginning in 2011, “The Alliance Report” asked me to write for their blog, which I did through November 2012. Some of these latter posts are still available on the Family Wealth Alliance website.
I found, to my amazement, that the blog format worked well for me. The (typical) 1,000-word limit seemed about right for busy readers and it was something I could fit into my day job. On the other hand, I frequently found the word limit frustrating, which resulted in many posts continuing into the next week—and the week after that and the week after that… And while the terror of every columnist or blogger is that we will run out of things to say, I’ve found that the world is constantly giving me hilarious new material to work with. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, when a man is tired of blogging, he is tired of life.
I spent a good deal of time figuring out how blogging software worked (I use WordPress) and, in January of 2013, launched my own blog. Not being a blogging sophisticate, I didn’t realize that blogs should have names, so mine doesn’t have one. I also didn’t realize that people could hack into your blog, that readers could get incredibly irate about what you were saying, that if readers expected the new post to arrive on Friday mornings and it was late they would fly into a tizzy, that columnists all over the world thought nothing of casually plagiarizing your work, and so on and so on.
As so many people say, if we had had any idea how complicated it was going to be we would never have done it.
I’m not sure what I expected to happen. My first post went out to a grand total of 35 people, mostly friends, colleagues, and family members. The subscription list gradually expanded, and eventually a very fine magazine called Pittsburgh Quarterly began carrying my posts in this online edition which comes out every week.
Today, roughly 50,000 people get the blog, although of course not all of them read it every week. In fact, I doubt that there is anyone on the planet who has read them all, except me. To paraphrase another famous man, Curtis can write blogs faster than you can remain sane.
Of the 50,000 readers, most have come to the blog late in its life, and so they don’t really have convenient access to the first several years of the blog. You can, of course, go onto the blog’s site (GregoryDCurtis.com/Blog), but it would take you many hours and many aching fingers to scroll back to the older blogs (say, 2013–2015). You can use the search function, but what would you search for?
As a result, many people have asked whether I might consider republishing the blogs in book form so that they are all conveniently available. And that’s just what I did. It’s called “Spitting Into the Wind: Best of the Blog, 2013–2018.”
Next week we’ll look further into how the blog—and the book about the blog—happened.
Next up: Spitting Into the Wind, Part II