Lifetime Achievement

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Extract from an interview for the site Scottish Blogs.

September 2005

Questions by Gordon McLean
This month's featured site - "Naked Blog" - started life before blogs, way back in 1997. In that sense it's the granddaddy of Scottish Blogs (and many others) and it covers the varied life of a bingo caller in Leith.
When did you start your site?

Initially in 1997 with Netscape Composer. Later I switched to FrontPage, and then in early 2001 on to Blogger. At first it was Magnificat's Home Page, with diary and features. (Remember home pages? Probably not.) The Blogger site started as an add-on, but quickly took over, as reverse chronological swept the world. This was before sidebars and before comment boxes.

Why do you blog?

I don't know. Partly to be a 'pretend journalist'. (I used to be the real thing, freelancing for the Scottish press for a couple of years - mostly The Scotsman. My Flotation Tank piece is still spoken about with awe.) Partly to say things I'm arrogant enough to think might benefit other people - to share something of my near six decades. But mostly just because I love to write. Love to. A blinking cursor on a blank screen is one of my favourite sights.

What do you write about?

They say you should write about what you know best, and that of course is me. However - there are limits to what you can expect people to put up with. Limits even to my self-centredness. So there's included a regular cast, and a smallish number of locations, mostly pubs.

All the tales are true. I never, ever fictionalise, beyond reconstructing dialogue for readability.

What DON'T you write about? and why?

Colleagues and customers. There are also moral considerations of writing about people without their knowledge or consent. I'm lucky in that most of my friends are more than happy to have their thoughts, words and deeds recorded on Naked Blog. I don't know why they do that - but I love them to bits for it. Maybe we're all show-offs deep down.
Private one-to-one conversations almost never appear, unless they're totally innocuous. Things said in public to a public audience are fair game. Nevertheless, I use my discretion in never writing something that would offend or embarrass the speaker. The Sun it ain't.

Very occasionally I get it wrong, and then am more than happy to delete. The idea is to inform and entertain - using the particular to illustrate the general. Not to cause mayhem in people's lives.
Jesus did it even better with his parables. But that's the general idea here too.

Who do you think reads your blog?

Ooooh - the top drawer, intellectually. It's "Guardian plus" in language, with no concessions or dumbing down. One of the joys of blogging as opposed to freelancing is that you can write in your own natural language, without aiming at a particular stratum. (So - you can even put in words like "stratum" :) )

Who would you like to read your blog and why?

More people. See all of the above. Naked Blog is trawled by many, many newspapers and publications, and time and again our topics are taken and developed elsewhere. This is just fine.

What was the worst or best 'blog' experience?

The worst by far was the time I wrote critically about "Gender reassignment surgery". So awful I'm not even going to tell you about it. Think Salman Rushdie. The best would possibly be the time the journalist Jon Ronson wrote to me and said how very much he enjoyed my writing. As Ronson had been a hero for many years, this was praise from the Master indeed. Now if only Julie Burchill would drop me a line...

Who do you list as your blog inspiration(s)?

Ronson and Burchill. I know they're hacks, not bloggers - although JR did have a blog for a while - but they both carved out unique niches in personal writing, which led naturally to my type of work. High on opinion and verbiage, low on hard facts.
But in terms of blogging there were no inspirations, simply because there were almost no blogs. You have to realise just how very long ago 1997 is. Think of any weblog you know, and Naked Blog was almost certainly doing it before that. Or Magnificat's Home Page.

No rules. Make it up as you go along. The world's your oyster, and by God it tasted good. It's hard to convey how exciting those days were... the thrill of finding another person's weblog you could relate to, and appreciate his or her life displayed there.
Now I could probably find twenty of those a day. This is great, but to be honest I've stopped bothering to look. A weblog has to be stunningly good now before I can take any interest. Nothing negative there; just overload.

What few blogs there were almost all happened across the Atlantic, so from 2001 I'd list the Mighty Geek and Carrie, both in New York, HooptyLoops in California, and Barbara Fletcher in Toronto as my main "blogpals". And who could forget Josh in Alaska, who, treating spelling and grammar as the distractions they are, virtually invented the teenblog. Some pre-existing Britblogs were hostile and obstructive to my emergence.

Modern-day blogging has lost its pioneering somewhat, becoming a bit samey, so I think about moving to the "next big thing". Probably some form of broadcast. Plus it's costing me almost forty quid a month to host this amount of stuff. Whoever's "getting rich quick" it isn't me!

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