My personal website through the years

It's been a few years since I made any big changes to the layout or appearance of this website. So, I took some time recently to make a bunch of updates, and they went live this week. It's now more of a portfolio than just a blog; the new front page does a better job of highlighting the things I'm involved in and have created, and I'll be adding more to that soon.

Mostly I just enjoyed tinkering with it and applying some of the things I've learned recently in creating and supporting WordPress websites for other people. There's some more technical detail below if you're interested.

I also took the time to look back at my personal web presence over the years. I've probably had some kind of "home page" on the Internet and its precursors since the 1980s (BBSes, anyone?) and I know I had a personal site established on the Computer Science department's webserver at my college in 1995, but the earliest archived version I can find is from my 1999 site:

Pretty sparse, but at least it had a forum and a hit counter!

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Getting notifications about my new posts

If you previously followed my writing on ChrisHardie.com via your WordPress.com account, you may have received notifications via email about new posts. I'm turning off that functionality, so you will not receive those emails after this post. If you use the WordPress.com Reader, you may still see new posts appear there. Note that I've also stopped using Facebook to share links to my site.

If you would like to continue to receive email about new posts, or just occasional summary emails, you'll need to subscribe to my mailing list. Follow this link to sign up for email about new content. I'll never share your email with anyone else. And if you've already been getting emails that say "There's a new post from Chris!" then you're all set up on the new list and don't need to do anything else.

Otherwise, you can use a feed reader like Feedly to follow my RSS feed, or just stop by my archives once in a while to see what you're missing.

I write here mostly for fun, but I want to make sure anyone who wants to follow along can do so relatively easily. Contact me if you need more options.

Figuring out what to write

I've started about five or six different posts this past week, but none of them have made it to "Publish." No matter how firmly I was convinced when I sat down to write that I would make it through to the end, one of these blogging insecurities always managed to creep in. I was even trashing drafts of tweets, sure that I would just waste some of the most frequently wasted digital space. Ugh.

I want to write about elections and politics in the U.S. But I have spent so much time reading other people's commentary and I'm in such a dark place about finding any hope in political systems that I just don't have anything all that constructive to say.

I want to write about the people I know who have recently died of cancer, or who are struggling with it right now. But I don't have the patience to find words that move through the anger and sadness toward something good, or even useful.

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Richmond Matters, a new local blog

I've created RichmondMatters.com, a new site dedicated to commentary about life in Richmond, Indiana.

As I've occasionally done here in the past, I'll be sharing my thoughts about Richmond news, politics, leadership, community life and more. It's a simple site. The name is kind of boring. I've no ambition for it beyond having a place to write with a more narrow focus on a topic that's important to me.

Sometimes I'll cross-post those essays here or tweet out links to them, but usually I won't. I'll continue to post here about all the other random stuff I enjoy writing about, but the posts about local stuff will go in this new site.

So, if you'd like to follow along with my posts about Richmond, I hope you'll use the email or RSS subscription options on Richmond Matters. I'd enjoy having your feedback and comments along the way.

Shutting down Richmond Brainstorm

20140322-screenshotFive years ago this month I launched the community improvement website RichmondBrainstorm.com. The site allowed users to submit ideas for ways to make Richmond, Indiana a better place, allowed other users to discuss and vote on those ideas, and shared success stories of ideas that had been implemented. I created the site because I think it's important for a given community to shape its own course for the future instead of waiting for solutions from state and national governments, and because I was tired of hearing good, creative ideas from others that never seemed to get the attention or visibility they deserved.

In the time since, some 86 community improvement ideas were submitted and discussed, and a number of the ideas became real projects that were implemented. The site got over 140,000 visits from around 45,000 unique visitors. I've also received contact from people other communities around the country asking for help to create a similar resource in their city, and so the idea of an online community improvement idea inventory seems to itself have become an idea worth spreading.

But, after an initial period of significant activity, the Richmond Brainstorm site had become largely dormant, with no new ideas submitted to it in close to a year. Over the years I've regularly talked to local community development organizations who have said the concept of the site is an exciting one and could even be integrated into their own efforts at prompting further conversations and action, but as yet Richmond does not seem to be a place where most of those kinds of conversations want to happen online, for better or worse. That combined with the time that it takes to keep the site's software current, deal with spammers and perform other administrative tasks has begun to outweigh the value that I think RichmondBrainstorm.com is currently bringing to the community.

So, as of today I'm shutting the site down.

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How I'm using social media today

Crazy BusMostly for my own reference, but also to invite comments about what others are doing, I'm taking stock of how I use (and don't use) various social media tools today in my personal life.

Twitter

Twitter is probably the social media tool I post to most frequently. With close to 700 followers and 700 people I follow, I enjoy the quick and easy perusing of other people's tweets, the sharing of interesting / useful / important links, and the witty repartee that can result.  Since joining in 2008 and initially making fun of it, I've come to embrace the challenge of saying something meaningful or interesting in such a small number of words.

I've found a good mix of Twitter accounts to follow that both give me access to articles, ideas and resources I know I'll find interesting, and accounts that challenge me to think differently about the world.  I try to follow at least one link every day to a resource/site/article that I know I'll profoundly disagree with.

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The end of Progressive Wayne County

screenshotIn September of 2006 I announced the launch of ProgressiveWayneCounty.org, a website dedicated to   promoting and chronicling the progressive efforts of individuals, organizations and businesses in the Wayne County, Indiana area.

I'm shutting the site down here in April of 2013 for a couple of reasons:

For one, it's been over a year since the last content update to the site.  Some of the old content has even become confusing to users looking for recent versions of past events.  Over the years I've tried various methods for keeping the site up to date and current: trying to post a lot of stuff myself, soliciting area organizations to post content, asking volunteer editors to write posts, paying people to write for the site, and others.  That's not to say that there weren't times when the site was chock full of useful info, but just not in a sustainable way.

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The Richmond News Review

This blog post is serving as a bookmark for the recently deactivated podcast and website at RichmondNewsReview.com, which I used to produce and maintain.

In 2006 I created a podcast called The Richmond News Review.  It consisted of 15-30 minute shows where I commented on news and events in and around Richmond, Indiana, sometimes interviewing newsmakers, politicians and members of the local media.  The show ran weekly at first, and then less frequently, until the last episode in 2008. After leaving the website dormant for a couple of years, in the fall of 2012 I decided to take it down.

Producing the show was an incredible amount of fun for me.  I got to blend my writing and blogging about news and politics with my interest in audio and video production.  I gained a new appreciation of the time and effort that goes into creating a podcast that people would actually want to listen to (let alone content that is compelling).  I added a new voice and perspective to some interesting community discussions.  And based on the feedback I got from listeners around the community, I provoked some useful dialog.

I still have the final published MP3 files from the podcast, if there's an episode you're interested in hearing.