At the risk of becoming the Brett Favre of the small pond blogosphere, I do have just one more post.
Besides featuring the full version of my Q & A in the American Journal this week (I got a little too long-winded for their column inches), I also want to use this post to thank everyone for the heartfelt comments and e-mails I've received over the last week.
I've been deeply touched by this experience and would like to extend an invitation to all for an open house/party/strategic bull session at my house on Saturday, July 11 from 3p-5p. I'll supply the beverages and some hors d'oeuvres, so please RSVP (email@example.com) to let me know you're coming and to allow me to give you my address. I figure it'll be a great chance to put faces with names and would like to thank each one of you personally.
Anyway, without further ado, the (full) exit interview:
Why are you giving up the blog?
Several reasons. Last spring, I juggled the maintenance of the site along with working full time during the day and taking three grad classes at night and I just did not look forward to maintaining the Web site amid an even more hellish schedule next fall and spring. I also owe the Coast Guard a lot of work this summer, along with the usual responsibilities that come with the job that, you know, pays the bills.
There's also the proverbial bit about wanting to spend more time with my wife and sixteen-month-old daughter. I have to say, though, nothing focuses the mind quite like getting nudged out of the house for a night after a, ahem, disagreement that had everything and nothing to do with our Netflix queue.
How many hours a day were you spending on the blog?
On the one hand, not enough. On the other, way too many.
Did you have goals when you started? If so, did you meet those?
I had three goals when I launched the site on the cold New Year's Day in 2008: To build social capital in Westbrook, to learn about the city, and to have fun. From the overwhelmingly positive feedback I've gotten over the last 18 months in conversations and postportem comments and e-mails, the site seems to have made people feel more connected to the city and to their neighbors. I've learned tons about the city and will continue to learn more about it. And, since I'm the type of geek who considers the occasional trip to Room 114 as a night out on the town, I almost always enjoyed myself. Throw in the unexpected (and unrealized) friends and acquaintances I've met solely because of the site, and I'd have to say this site exceeded my expectations.
What did you learn about Westbrook that you didn't already know?
I learned something new about Westbrook almost every time my fingers punched the keys. But the thing I am most struck by is the general civility and respect of my readers. To be sure, there were a couple times when I had an internal debate about whether a comment should remain, but the general thoughtfulness among my commenters was refreshing, especially when you consider how quickly Internet chatter devolves into racism, vulgarity, and nastiness.
What's the wackiest comment you've gotten on the blog?
I'll always remember being called out by a longtime resident of Westbrook in the letters to the editor section in the Press Herald for some comments I made in a March 2008 piece about Westbrook's burgeoning restuarant scene. Besides being told to keep my (wait a minute, I have the letter hanging on my fridge) "extremely rude" remarks to myself, I was taken to task for my inadequate boosterism on the city's behalf and my lack of appreciation for Westbrook's history. Go figure.
What posts or topics have elicited the greatest response from your readers?
The Stroudwater Place hearings, the Skybox saga, the donnybrook between Pike and Idexx et al obviously come to mind. You name the controversial issue that's popped up in the city over the last 18 months, and I'm sure I can dig up a few comments related to it.
What are your favorite blogs to read?
I have a list of blogs on my site that I had been reading nightly, but I'm hoping to live as much of a computer-free existence as I can this summer.
Sure, I'll occasionally check in on an assortment of Maine blogs, The New Republic's blogs, Soccer by Ives, and the Full Circuit Clout to get my Boston Red Stockings fix. But, I'm mostly going to party like it's 1999 by reading books and these really cool things called newspapers.
Would you like for someone else to pick up where you left off?
I was actually always hoping someone would start a similar site while I was going strong. I think the competition would've been good for readers and it would've cultivated a give-and-take environment that would've been healthy for the the city, not to mention a lot of fun for myself. Nevertheless, I'd love to see someone start a similar site.
After I lose the twenty pounds I've packed on and iron out the knot that's been wrenching my lower back since I started this project, I'm going to sit down with some people to see if we can't figure out how to take what made this site successful and turn it into something that won't force me to degrade my eyesight and develop arthritis in my hands. In other words, accomplish similar ends by using different means.
In the meantime, I'm going to throw a party for all my readers so I can thank them personally and finally put faces with names and Internet handles.
Here's to seeing you on the 11th.
- John C.L. Morgan