Today is the ten-year anniversary of Analog Senses. It’s been quite the journey.
Back in November 2009, I owned an iPhone 3G and a white plastic — sorry, polycarbonate — MacBook. I also owned a wonderful 24-inch aluminum iMac that felt like the best computer ever created and remains my favorite computer I’ve ever owned. The iPhone and the MacBook were soon replaced by newer, faster models, but that iMac stuck with me for the better part of a decade, until I eventually replaced it in 2017 with the 15-inch MacBook Pro that I’m using right now to type these words.
It’s not just the gadgets around me that have changed, though. Back then, I didn’t even have an Instagram account, probably because there was no Instagram. Instead, Flickr was the place where photographers uploaded their work for all the world to see. It was a vibrant community full of remarkably creative people, and it looked like it had an amazing future ahead of it. Oops, I guess we didn’t see that one coming.
There was no iMessage, either, and still wouldn’t be for another couple years. Oh, and in a nice coincidence, WhatsApp’s first public version was literally released that same month, right after Apple enabled push notifications for 3rd-party apps on iOS. But perhaps most strikingly of all, in November 2009 YouTube and Vimeo were still two relatively small, independent video-streaming services.
I know, I know. I’m suddenly feeling old, too.
The blogging scene was also very different. Massive content-aggregation platforms still hadn’t become popular, so instead we mostly used the wonderful, open RSS protocol and small independent services like Instapaper to keep track of whatever we wanted to read. Blogging platforms like WordPress and Tumblr suddently rose in popularity because they made it super easy to start your own thing, prompting many people to jump at the opportunity, including yours truly. In fact, the very first version of Analog Senses was a Tumblr-hosted blog, and I barely even changed the appearance of one of the stock themes. I just wanted to write.
Back then, I loved reading Daring Fireball, Minimal Mac, Rands in Repose, and a few other indie blogs that I found incredibly inspirational. Thanks to them, Analog Senses became a reality. Their authors will forever have my gratitude for giving me the push I needed to start. Because in any creative endeavour, as you know, actually getting started is the most difficult thing you will ever need to do.
Over the years, Analog Senses has gone through many different phases, but it’s always been a constant in my life. It started off as a creative outlet for a technology enthusiast with a decidedly pro-Apple bias. I mostly saw it as a way to put my thoughts out there and — I won’t lie — seek validation from those authors I deeply admired and wanted to call my peers.
In the early years I mostly blogged about Apple, but I also tried to touch on several subjects I’ve always been interested in. It was a fun period, as I tried my best to balance it with the typical responsibilities of an adult. There were stretches in there when I was more successful at doing that, and others when I just couldn’t find the energy or the time to write, but for the most part, it was a healthy hobby, and it never ceased to be fun.
Back in 2014, though, I decided to make a pretty drastic change. I was less than happy at my job, and I knew I wanted to write Analog Senses full time, so I made a two-year plan to build it into a sustainable business. To this day, it remains the scariest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m so glad I made it.
If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith, I never would have worked up the courage to email Shawn Blanc and point-blank ask him for a job writing for Tools & Toys. Thankfully I did, and he graciously gave me the opportunity to write for a wider audience and actually get paid for it. It was a game-changing moment for me, and I remain incredibly thankful, and proud of the work I did over the next few years. That work not only allowed me to put my name out there for more people to notice, it also made it possible for me to continue working on building an audience for Analog Senses.
Those were probably the most creatively fulfilling years of my life, and I’m quite proud to say that, for a little while, I was out there blogging with the best of them. However, the reason I’m so glad I took that leap of faith has little to do with the work itself. It’s all about the people I got to meet along the way.
You see, if I hadn’t sent that email to Shawn I probably never would have become friends with Josh, and never would have even met Marius. Candid never would have existed and, by extension, none of us would have met Thomas. These are three of the most important people in the world to me, and even now, years later, I talk to them every single day. They’ve become part of my family, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
As for my plans to become a full-time indie blogger, well, let’s just say reality got in the way.
After three years writing Analog Senses full time, I realized the landscape was changing dramatically, and not for the better. Indie blogs were closing up shop left and right, and it soon became apparent that the Internet was shifting towards a different paradigm. YouTube was quickly growing into the monster-sized platform it is today, Google effectively drove a knife through the blogosphere’s heart when they decided to discontinue Google Reader, and the unstoppable rise of podcasting and mobile streaming enabled people to start consuming their content in video and audio form, instead of long-form written articles. In fact, the primary way written articles survive today is through big, privately funded companies like The Verge. And even those publications are quickly ramping up their video production efforts. They know where the eyeballs are.
As a long-time lover and advocate for the indie blog, this was disheartening to see. It was also a tough period because, even though I had achieved a certain level of economic success with Analog Senses, I still wasn’t able to support myself solely from it. And after three years of economic uncertainty and stressing about my future, I was exhausted and creatively drained.
So, after much pondering, in early 2017 I decided to make another drastic change and took up a different job, in which I happily remain today. When I took this new job, my plan was to find a healthy balance between it and Analog Senses, but in the past year or so that has proven to be more difficult than I initially thought. Hence, the lack of posting around here lately.
I do want to make it clear that I don’t see this as a defeat. I’m happy I made the choice to try this in 2014, and I’m not making excuses for my lack of success. I’m sure there are many other writers out there that decided to stick to their guns and were successful in doing so. I just wasn’t one of them. I was able to give it my best shot, and eventually I decided to quit on my own terms. That’s all any author can ever ask for.
When I started Analog Senses, I had a clear vision for what it should be: a site about the human side of technology. I’ve always felt technology has an unmatched potential to improve human life, but it requires us to be mindful of its potential dangers. Technology should be a tool through which we can better our lives, not merely a source of endless distraction. I’ve always tried to reflect about the struggle of existing as an analog being in an increasingly digital world, because I think it’s an important one. Whether I’ve been successful at that particular goal, dear reader, I leave for you to decide.
One thing is clear, though: ten years on, that same struggle lives on. It is, in fact, even more troubling than it’s ever been. Which is why, for as long as I’m around, Analog Senses will continue to exist, in one form or another.
I will say, however, that I’ve been having a hard time switching back to thinking about Analog Senses as a hobby. Because of my past efforts, I feel a sense of responsibility towards my readers, if they are even still out there. That makes me hesitate before posting a silly article about whatever may be crossing my mind. I want to maintain the standards I set for myself a few years ago, and so I feel that if I’m not adding value to the conversation, I may as well not say anything. That’s a noble goal, but it sucks all the fun out of writing.
If I want Analog Senses to continue being a part of my life for another ten years — and I very much do — I need to break away from those self-imposed handcuffs and just allow myself to write more freely. If, as a reader, you decide to stick with me for that new journey, I’m afraid I can’t promise you frequent updates, or long-form reviews. But I can promise you what I’ve always tried to give you: my deepest gratitude, and my utmost respect. And perhaps a few silly jokes. Because we could always use a few more of those.
The blog is dead. Long live the blog.
See you around, and thank you for reading.