16 Years

Sixteen years ago today I set down at my computer and wrote what would be the very first entry in what I was then calling an online column, which I labeled “Whatever”; and look, here I am today, roughly 10,000 or so entries later, doing the same thing. Time passes; people change; children get older. And yet, here I am, at it still.

And the sixteenth anniversary comes at an interesting time, both for the site and for me. I very recently wrote about how my online center of gravity has shifted; Whatever is my home online, but I spend a lot of time out of the home, and particularly on Twitter. This mirrors me in the real world as well: I’m writing this piece from home, but only because I’m on a small break from a monster book tour that started August 26, when Lock In came out, and will continue through September 20, when I take the last plane I have to take to come home (and even this small break isn’t really a break, since I have an event this very afternoon at 2, at my local bookseller, Jay and Mary’s Book Center). Next month, I’m a week away at New York ComicCon and then Books on the Banks in Cincinnati. And there are reasons to believe that next year will see me away from home even more than I am here in 2014.

These are not bad things — I’m out of the house a lot because my writing career is doing very well, and Twitter is a ton of fun, which is why I’m there a lot — but they are things that affect this site. Add to that the general slow migration away from blogs toward other social media, which is occuring in tandem with the Internet generally changing from something you read during a long sit in front of a computer to a thing you glance at from a phone while you’re on your way to (or wasting time during) some other thing, and what it means is that for the first time in a very long time, I wonder how Whatever fits into the world, and fits into my life.

At the moment, I don’t have any answers to any of that, other than: I guess we will find out. I don’t have plans to stop writing Whatever, that is certain — now as much as ever it’s a release valve for me, and a place where I go to air thoughts that I want to express, on whatever topic I’m thinking about today. And it’s still fun for me, and I think interesting for people who stop by, whether they’re longtime readers or people who funnel in because they’re referred by a link from Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Tumblr/etc. So this isn’t me trying to break the news gently that Whatever is going away. It’s not. I suspect it’ll be here for a long time yet (assuming that I, myself, will be here for a long time yet).

It is me recognizing, however, that as in all things, time moves on, and I move along with it. I’m curious to see what that means for Whatever, and how what’s here will reflect the changes in the online world and in my world. It’s an exciting time in my life, for reasons you know already and for some reasons you don’t — all good things, I’m happy to say, for the moment at least, and I hope that this particular moment lasts. I expect at least some of that excitement will be reflected here; that I will, as I always have, share at least a little of my thoughts at these moments in time. Which is, of course, what Whatever has always been.

So, things change and yet in some ways they will also stay the same. Here’s to another year of Whatever, and to all of you who come by to read it. Thank you. Let’s find out what happens next, shall we.

(Comments are open on this entry — because I’m home for two days! Wheeee!)

44 Comments on “16 Years”

  1. I dreamed last night (technically, in the early hours of this morning) that I was at a party at your house. Now I know what it was celebrating.

  2. Ok, so am I a Luddite, that I don’t Tweet? I have a FB, and web presence — but I spend a lot of time in a particularly favorite venue, which is real-time shared storytelling via HTML picture chat. My kids tweet, and instagram and I have a snapchat that gets stuff from my daughter — but for some reason, Twitter intimidates me. Go figure! I am THRILLED to know that things are going great for you, John! You have no idea how often I tell people that YOU are what I think of when I think of “SpecFic Writers Who Are Also SUPER Decent Human Beings and Also Writers Whose Body of Work Is The Bomb!”

  3. I only encountered your work a few years ago through a link to something on Whatever, whatever that something was. Since then I’ve become someone who pre-orders your Kindle or Kobo ebooks and is interested in whatever comes next. And I almost always read through whatever is posted on Whatever. So, John, you know. Whatever.

  4. A quick question on your previous entry.
    The Italian title is “Men in Red” and the cover reinforces this gendered description.
    Did the Italian publisher ask your opinion about this? Any other comments/thoughts?

  5. Clearly the answer is to send your threeps on endless book/con tours. Surely we fans would kickstart a cradle in which to maintain you while you write even faster.

    Lock-in was fantastic. As much as I can’t wait for the next Human Division book, I hope there are more Haden stories percolating through your mind.

  6. Sixteen years in real life is, like, 160 internet years, right? (Yes, it’s like “dog years” … don’t laugh, I just made it up.)

    I really don’t think of the Whatever as a “blog” any more. I think it has evolved beyond that; into what, I don’t know, but it just seems bigger somehow.

    Both the posts and the comments here are consistently worth reading, and we will be doing so for as long as you choose to keep this entity going.

    So thanks John for being such a great host, and Congratulations to the Whatever! (Will Athena be teaching it to drive? :-)

  7. Congrats on (if not exactly, close enough) 10,000 posts here. FWIW, the migration to other social media is not linear. I migrated away from FB, and just last week G+, because they started being more engines to drive revenue than social media – particularly inserting essentially paid ads, moving things up and down my stream based on what OTHER people think of them, completely suppressing some items, etc.

    So I’m back to Twitter and LiveJournal. LJ has been doing it right since the turn of the century and hasn’t even made any noises about this kind of garbage. Unfortunately twitter is now making these noises. I’m not encouraged. Twitter does fill a useful place, the spot for casual conversation and just random thoughts rather than long treatises. I hope that even if they feel they have to change, they don’t ruin the service.

    Just in the last couple of years I’ve moved TOWARD blogging, in addition to other outlets. In my case I think it’s likely that nobody even reads the thing, but I definitely think there are places for at least straightforward sites like LiveJournal and private blogs and I’m not writing a eulogy for blogs yet.

  8. “my online center of gravity has shifted” — (1) In a 600-page report that I wrote for USAF on the future of packet-switching communication, and what was to became the internet, I had a chapter of “centroid” of networks in a network of networks. My only copy of the report was thrown out by a Caltech Director of Communications when I was one of three finalists for the next one in that slot, along with a stack of documents of mine with a bright page on top saying “Please return — no photocopy available.” Your perception is valid.

    (2) For meatspace, they talk of the “third place” — after home and workplace, which includes, for example, the Mall. So your first place is writing, at home, with wonderful wife and daughter; 2nd place was Whatever; third place was elsewhere is cyberspace. Is that even close to how you see it?

    (3) And does the centroid shift with TV and Cinema grow in your life? When Virtual Reality is booming (“Destiny” cost more than Avatar to make; sold half a gigabuck in 1st week)?

  9. Add me to the camp of people who discovered your work through Whatever (specifically the ‘who gets to be a geek?’ post, I think). Now I’ve read Lock In and am working my way through the OMW series (or do we call it Ghost Brigades now?)

  10. Time constraints dictate format.

    Twitter is like being in a bus station, where conversation is limited to brief bursts in passing.

    Facebook is like being at a party, where you can engage in conversation but it’s going to be superficial no matter the topic because your time is limited.

    A blog is like sitting down with a friend and a glass of wine or beer or whatever and having hours for a good talk.

    (Someone else can continue this sequence short stories, novellas, novels — I haven’t had enough coffee yet)

  11. Congratulations. And (a bit late to the party) I just finished Lock In and loved it. Now I don’t know what to hope you will write next. Except it had better be soon!

  12. I much prefer the long form discussion and comment of a blog, to the short form one-liners of Twitter or FB. I read Whatever daily, I’m not sure I’d follow a Twitter feed.

  13. Congrats on 16 years! As above, I also just finished Lock In and really liked it. As mentioned above, more Haden stories would definitely be welcome!

  14. I agree with old aggie that Whatever doesn’t really feel much like a blog, or at least not like other blogs I’ve encountered. Most of them are long on popcorn and short on good writing (or any writing). Whatever, on the other hand, routinely offers well thought out and well written essays of varying length, and that feels more like, oh, I don’t know, an offshoot of NPR or something.

    I do recognize that such writing takes a lot more time and effort than firing off a series of short phrases, which I understand is what twitting involves. But speaking as someone who does not, in fact, have a telephone that I can read stuff on and take pictures with and surf the internet and all that other stuff, I am grateful that you still invest that time and effort in Whatever at least occasionally, if perhaps not as much as was the case sixteen years ago.

    Congratulations on the anniversary in any case, Mr. Scalzi; doing anything consistently for sixteen years is an accomplishment, and something as thought-provoking and well crafted as Whatever for that long is a real achievement. Selfishly, I hope that this kind of writing continues to be something you enjoy, because I certainly enjoy reading it.

  15. Hey, congratulations.

    I started reading the Whatever with that post you did about the Tinky-Winky controversy (such as it was — really, it was Jerry Falwell making a complete fool of himself). That would’ve been in February or March of 1999, so while I haven’t been hanging out with you online since the beginning it is damn close!

    I’m glad to have met you online, and in person, and I’m glad you’ve stuck with the blogging, because you’re a lot of fun to read (and I don’t get to hang out with you very often).

  16. “. . .from Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Tumblr/etc . . .”

    I totally understand the shift, but none of those platforms encourage thoughts of substance, or much in the way of thought at all. They have their place, but they are of no interest to me. For me, each has more flaws than useful uses. When I have something to say, I put it on one of my websites or send an email. Most people, most of the time, should STFU. (Maybe even me right now. Ha!)

    I used to love Google, but Google+ has driven me away from almost everything they have a hand in except for search and YouTube. If there were a reasonable YouTube alternative I would be gone in an instant.

  17. I am happy to read your blog, and I will miss you if you stop. I like the thought that goes into your usual posts here.

    But my Internet isn’t something I glance at whilst on the go to do something else. I prefer to be doing what I’m doing in Realspace, not juggling two things in a half-assed manner. The Interwebs are not so important they can’t wait for my full attention. The closest I come to your model is when I’m standing around on call, waiting for something to do, then I might check my mail or the web.

    I don’t Twitter, because I don’t see the need to post every thought that goes through my head, or read the same from others. If that’s all you’ll post, best wishes for a shiny future.

  18. I still enjoy reading blogs, and I can read a blog on my phone if I have to. I find Twitter to be weird. It feels less like a conversation and more like the floor of the NY Stock Exchange before the closing bell. Your tweets are funny or informative, but overall Twitter’s not a good environment for an introvert like me. I suspect I’m not such a minority in that opinion.

  19. I like my snark in extenso. Also, your more serious thoughts (and I look forward to them) don’t do so well in 140-character snippets. Please don’t abandon the blog; TL/DR isn’t a issue for me.

  20. I would miss Whatever. I don’t Twitter or Facebook (surely that’s a verb by now) and I prefer the long form, myself. But, ya know, adapt or die .. or just be spending less time on the internet because one more valuable site was gone, is what I’d probably do. If the time ever comes to decide, please put my vote in the “Keep Whatever” column.

  21. I liken FB/Twitter to a cocktail party, a good blog to a dinner with friends. There is purpose for each; the relative amount of time I spend on each varies with circumstance.

  22. Maybe it indelibly stamps me as asocial (maybe even anti-social?), but I’ve never bothered with FB or Twitter or similar operations. My online social connections are pretty much a private Yahoo group plus friends at several security-oriented forums, and maybe you could stretch a little and include my occasional review at Amazon or discussions on the IMDB boards.

    But I *do* check in here every morning, except for Sundays which are your most common days off with the family, and I for one will be most unhappy if Whatever slides too far down your scale of relative importance in the cyberworld.

  23. JS

    It does seem to me that Whatever has contributed to the depth of your fiction writing; you have spent a lot of time thinking about, and commenting on, social interactions, and all of that feeds through to you engaging in Big Questions.

    I don’t think that Tweeting is ever going to be a substitute for thinking…

  24. When I retire I might get a Facebook account and do social media. My phone is still a flip phone that only does phone calls (never bothered to see if it would take pictures). So for us 20th century types resisting the new millennium, this blog rocks! Congrats on 16 years. I figure you are good for 32 more, then you can retire.

  25. Congratulations but more importantly, thank you. I stumbled across Whatever about a decade ago & it is still a regular stop. Not every post interests me but that is as it should be. They almost always entertain or inform and never disappoint. That is an amazing thing & it says a lot about you as a writer and a person as well as the fine community you have built here. thanks!

  26. Oh my goodness, this has to be a kind of “Dear John”. A Dear John, I hope you are wrong about the possible shift away from “blogging”. After years of talking about it, I have only just ( one hour ago to be exact) started mine! Perhaps fate brought me to your sight and I can learn from someone, quite obviously highly regarded, in this field. Anyway congratulations on sixteen years of the sight.
    Your title makes me laugh and reminds me of a time I was in a supermarket and, after complaining about the really bad service, I said I no longer required the goods( didn’t put it quite like that) to which the enchanting member of staff replied
    So I will remember this site.
    All the best to you.

  27. the Internet generally changing from something you read during a long sit in front of a computer to a thing you glance at from a phone while you’re on your way to (or wasting time during) some other thing

    I think the internet is big enough to be both. As many others on this thread have already pointed out, tweets can’t take the place of blog posts and shouldn’t try (or vice versa for that matter).

    Perhaps this sentence says more about how often you have time to sit in front of a computer? In which case I would suggest that just because *right now* you are spending a lot of time frantically rushing from one thing to another thing (or maybe calmly rushing, I don’t know), doesn’t mean that will be a permanent change in your life, or that you want it to be.

    And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that nobody wants to take the time to read your writing in quantities greater than 140 characters, if you happen to still be interested in writing some — there’s enough on this thread already to testify to that.

  28. I note that there’s no link to that first entry, and that the archives on the site go back only to 2002– are the very first Whatever entries lost to the winds of time at this point? That’s too bad, if they are.

  29. I tend to skip Twitter because of two things. Firstly, I’m in Western Australia, which means I’m about eight hours out of synch with just about anyone interesting in either direction – when I’m waking up, it’s midnight in the UK, and late afternoon to early evening of the previous day in the US. At about the point where I have time to stop and deal with things (mid-afternoon my time) the US is asleep, and the UK is busy with their daily routines. By the time the US is up and dealing with things, I’m just about ready to crash for the night. Which means real-time international conversational apps like Twitter, IRC and online chat for me are pretty much a solid waste of time. Time zones suck rocks through a straw.

    The other reason you’ve probably figured out by now – I have a catastrophic failure on keeping things short.

    Facebook I originally took up as a way of staying in touch with people I’d known in Canberra at work. I gave up on it when I realised the ones with the Facebook accounts weren’t the ones I was interested in keeping up with, and it also clashed horribly with my “can’t keep it short” problem. The only things I was regularly interacting with on Facebook were the games, and I wasn’t willing to spend money on them. Giving up the account didn’t really hurt much.

    Meanwhile, I keep up with my Dreamwidth account, and post long rambly pieces there on occasion, and follow a group of blogs which provide RSS feeds (I have the RSS Ticker app for Firefox, so I have all the headlines for my feeds scrolling along the top of the browser). Whatever is one of these.

  30. For me, the biggest difference between the blog and the other formats is the conversation to be had in the comments.

    If you decided to stop blogging, I could still read your books; but the conversation would not be replaceable.

    I hope it continues for another 16 years.

  31. Well, I discovered your blog early in 1999 when I decided to start a blog of my own and was disappointed to see somebody was already established with the title “Whatever” (which led to my comically distinctive “One Swell Foop”, which, years later, somebody contacted me frustrated that I came up with it first – what goes around…) but when I took a few minutes to actually read it, I was hooked. Personally, I’ve drifted totally away from blogging AND from Social Media (I have two unused Twitter accounts but I totally deleted my Facebook connections), leaving my ‘online presence’ to just comments left at a few GOOD blogs and contributions to MetaFilter (don’t you EVER stop making comments there… you gotta stay a step ahead of rstross, right?). I let my own 15th anniversary pass recently with a big “meh”, but things like this make me think “it’s never too late to restart”…

    And you really should commit to keep blogging until your 20th Anniversary in 2018, or 25th in 2023, or the age where they finally give up on doing “The Simpsons” (I’m in a pool with ’32 years’).

  32. I have been a reader of this blog (and your books :-) since old man’s war (my wife is from Darke county (dating back to 1852, AFAIK). Thanks for the ent6ertainement. As things change, I have had less and less time for this site, but I’ll still miss your take on the book business and science fiction (I used to work for Amazon, where there was quite a following for this site).

  33. Congrats on 16 years!

    I’ll see you on your book tour on Wednesday in Saratoga. I’ll likely be the one who says something vaguely insulting then looks like she wants to sink into the floor. I have a severe case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. Sorry in advance.

  34. First. Congratulations to the time. Within 16 years, whole online have risen and fallen.

    Second: Twitter is not my thing. I will still be looking here for the occasional leftover ;-).

  35. I have used Twitter, on and off, mostly for monitoring football(soccer) developments in the world; usually having to do with game results, but also journalists like to drop links for pieces they just wrote there.

    Other than that, it’s pretty much to see what Scalzi and his cohorts are up to really, and I don’t do that very often unless I see a funny tweet on my homepage or here. My network is not very good for Twitter, basically.

    I use fb too, but again, it’s of limited use. Handy to have around when family or friend issues arise, though if it’s serious I email (or call). What’s tiring with fb is all the obnoxious stuff that gets pasted in consequence. So, I usually make a quick dip in fb, like/share/post what looks interesting, then get out.

    What I’m trying to say is I like Whatever. This is a format (relatively static page with extended comments on some subject) that advocates a sense of ‘locking in’ and seeing what someone has to say. Sure, the world is moving on, but one has to remain cognizant of where that direction actually leads. It would seem germane to maintain this form of communication on the net, based on the premise that attention spans are a good thing. It’s certainly required to read a book.

    Okay, that last couple were smart ass. I blame my genes.

  36. Like a lot of people, I have limited time. I spend it more with e-mail and seldom follow Twitter just as itself. So it’s great that WordPress allows us to get posts in daily digests. That’s how I usually read this.

    What I value most about Whatever is the inside view of SF as a field, the conventions, and some of the inner workings of publishing. I feel very far away from all that, and your frank comments on the Amazon/Hachette kerfluffle (among other issues) has really helped me make sense of what’s going on.

    So thanks for that, and I hope Whatever sticks around.

  37. I mostly read Whatever on my phone, and I read your tweets on the blog as well. But I don’t drive, so I have the time on my commute to surf, read longer blog entries, and even comment, without causing MVAs.

    On another note, congratulations on your success. It’s always nice to see someone doing well, and enjoying themselves. I’m also finding my 40s to be excellent in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated 20 years ago.

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