Happy Birthday, inessential!

A brief history of this blog, and thoughts on its value.

November 07, 2019Filed under blog#writingMarkdown source

Brent Simmons’ blog inessential has, as of today, been online for twenty years. That seems an astounding feat to me… and then I remember: I have been blogging for 14 years myself, and could not possibly have been blogging when Simmons started. I started a Xanga sometime in mid-fall 2005, my freshman year of college. In July 2006, I set up the Blogger site that first mirrored that Xanga and then quickly replaced it. That site ran from then until 2010. In 2011, I worked primarily on other projects—mostly getting myself up to speed on web development.1 In 2012, I relaunched my site as a WordPress MultiUser site, which I maintained through 2013, until the frustrations of WordPress drove me to rebuild the site with a static site generator—the same one I am using for this very post.

This site, in other words, has gone through a number of revisions over the last decade and a half. It has, however, remained a fairly constant presence in my life for the duration—and to great profit, as I suggested yesterday.

I have been blogging longer than I have known all but a handful of people outside my family—longer even than I have known my wife. Lord willing, I will hit that same 20-year mark for the blog (though I won’t be able to mark the day, as Simmons did today, unless I go digging through the Xanga archive I have lying around somewhere). In truth, I think it far likelier that I will hit that 20-year anniversary of active blogging than that I will succeed in nearly any other goal I set out for myself—not for lack of confidence in my ability to accomplish other goals, but entirely because I have discovered that I essentially cannot stop blogging even if I try to make myself.

People often speak of blogs as a career-building tool, at least in the tech industry. While my own blog has served that way, and I am grateful that it has, I did not set out to blog for that reason. My discovery of the medium far predated any such consideration, for one thing. For another, my use of the medium has always been far too varied for it to serve as an effective advertisement. Yes, there are technical materials here, but also a non-trivial amount of mediocre poetry and an awful lot of theology (much of it quite academic in nature). This has not been an effective way to build a personal brand. It has, however, become a rather deeply-integrated part of my identity.

I consider, from time to time, taking my reflections private—or at least, primarily so. I end up finding, most of the time, that the notes I take could just as well be public blog posts, though. So: why not share them? There are many reasons not to share them, of course. The world likely does not need the noise of yet another opinion on many of the topics I touch. At the same time, thinking out loud in public allows others to respond to your thoughts, to critique them and sharpen them. This is good and valuable. Still: I do sometimes now choose to put a note in Bear instead of writing it as a blog post. This also has upsides, in that it allows me to develop my thoughts by way of interactions with others without the specific kinds nof social costs that can come in the form of judgment of my ideas! I am free to opine, consider, and revise without a great deal of direct external input.

Here’s to Brent Simmons’ work on inessential, and to another 20 years for him and 14 for me—at least!


  1. I thought I was going to spend the year working on a novel; that… didn’t pan out. I’d still like to revisit that novel idea, though, possibly even for a NaNoWriMo some year in the future!↩︎