What really happened Next

In honour of everyone at my work now knowing about my journal (dammit, although given that I’m number one on Google I always sort of expected this), here’s what I told the journalist via email.

Hi Danielle,

Please find below answers to your questions – I’m sure I will talk at
length, but if I haven’t explained myself very well at any stage,
please let me know.

There may be a lot of questions but please note, that most are just to help me set you up in my mind and provide background. I would also need to know your full name, age, occupation and where you live. That’s to provide background to the reader, and helps to introduce you into the article.

My full name is Joanna Tiare McLeod, and online I am known as Jo,
Joanna and Jo Hubris (there was another girl for a long time who moved
in the same circles called Joanna, and so we were differentiated from
each other by our domain names – she was Jo Starla. She doesn’t exist
any more though). I am 26 years old, I work doing communications for a
government agency (I work for * which is part of the ministry of
*, but I’d rather not specify if that’s okay – it keeps
things a little simpler with our incredibly long Code of Conduct), and
I’ve had an online journal for the past eight and a bit years.

SO what I want to ask is first, WHY the online journal?

An online journal to me is the virtual equivalent of a piece of paper and a pen – it’s about writing about yourself and being inward-looking. Blogs meanwhile are more outward-looking – too often they come across like “here’s a link and it’s funny” and that’s about the extent of their content. I’m not interested in doing that. I write because I would like to think that I am pretty good at stringing words together, and because I like to tell stories. A blog is usually about one particular subject, like politics or food or architecture (or at
least the good ones are), wheras online journals are a record of one person’s existence.

When I started my website in 1997, the word ‘blog’ didn’t exist. Back then as well as walking five miles to school barefoot in the snow, most web pages were done either in special programmes or hand-coded in HTML, and then uploaded onto the internet. There was none of this fill in a box and click tomfoolery that there is now, so people who had webpages had to be more dedicated and in to what they were doing than people who use things like blogger and myspace these days. I think in a way that meant content was a lot better. As a whole, people put more thought into it, and because it was so much more effort to get things
online, people were more likely to stick with it. This will sound incredibly stuck up, and please be aware that I am mocking myself here, but when blogging came along, and the media jumped all over it, it was kind of like I’d been doing all these great complex oil paintings and then all of a sudden people were like “woah, check out these awesome paint-by-numbers kits that people are doing!”.

I know a couple of people from New Zealand like Robyn from secret-passage.com and Annette (who’s now at nutandbee.com) and we were all doing the online journal and heavy content thing back in 1998 when there was like no one else in NZ doing it, and so we like to call ourselves the tangata whenua of the interweb. I can’t help but feel like I should get special recognition for doing it for so long. Man I got shitty when Bizgirl won a netguide award when SHE’S NOT EVEN REAL. Well, not that shitty, because James Guthrie is a friend of mine, but still…

What do you get out of it?

There used to be a lot of people who would write disclaimers on their pages things like “I keep this journal for me, and me only so if you don’t like it you can go away”, but that always struck me as being kind of silly, because if you didn’t want someone to read what you were writing, why would you put it out in the public forum? For me, I love having the audience. I think it pushes me to try to write better, to try and include more interesting stories and therefore even a little bit to try and live a more interesting life so that I have more
interesting things to write about. Knowing that I have an expecting
public (haha, oh, that sounds so wanky) gives me good motivation to
make sure that I continue to update my site, rather than just let it
slide like so many other projects I start without finishing. Hubris
serves as a useful place to let out my feelings when I am angry about
things, a platform for my opinions when I want other people to hear me
and also a place to build a sense of community in a way, so that if
there are ever people who find themselves going through things that I
have been through who come across the site might not feel so alone.
Which sounds very altruistic, but there’s something very cathartic
about writing about crappy stuff, even if it’s just in semi-coded
vague references.

It also means I can keep a record of more mundane things like books
I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, places I’ve eaten and when I get my periods. Looking back over journal entries is an awesome way to track moods and mental health, and also to see how far I’ve come in many ways.

Do you look at it as a place to express your thoughts, political views, worldwide views, talk about your life, your day or to vent?

All of the above. Hubris is full of pretty vapid empty crap sometimes,
like a big pile of whatever my catchphrase of the day is (“The Gilmore Girls are so hot right now”), and fairly mundane descriptions
of my day, while my locked down footnotes are where I vent. I have
political views that I think come through in my writing – I don’t
think anyone could read more than one entry and think that I was
right-wing, but I really don’t want to be seen a “political blogger”
because I’m just not that interested in the details. You’re much more
likely to find fairly broad statements about living as a decent human
being from me, or stuff like “so Don Brash has had sex with at least
three women? Really? Ewww”.

And I will bitch and moan about the state of the media or the state of
the world, but usually only about things related to me.

What made you start?

When I used to write a paper journal, I used to get a little frustrated thinking that I’d be the only person who ever read it. I wrote sometimes with an audience in mind, and would occasionally read (fairly censored) parts of it out loud to my friends.

I first came across online journals in 1998, when I was really into
Tori Amos, so I used to go to a lot of her fan sites, which were
mostly run by angsty American teenage girls who used to keep online
journals that were written in tiny little 8 point verdana font, and I
just really related to what they were doing. They had an outpost for
their thoughts and rantings, and an audience, and through their
guestbooks, they built a sense of community. I didn’t think I was as
angsty, or as obsessed with Tori Amos, and I didn’t like their sort of
competitive nature – it seemed like in order to be cool you had to be
on six different kinds of medication, cut yourself and have a
borderline eating disorder or a history of sexual abuse, but I could
relate to many of the things that others would write about – a sense
of alienation from your peers, and a yearning to be a writer, or just
to stand out, and so I started keeping an online journal too.

What made you carry on?

I enjoy doing it, and I love being able to look back on things. I’m
gutted that there are chunks of my life that are not as well
documented (like having the ihug hacker delete July-Nov ’98) or when I
was just too depressed to be able to write at all, but I am grateful
that there is this record, because basically all I really want to do
with my life is become famous enough that I can get an autobiography
published. Hehe. There’s a reason I had to use Hubris as a name…

But on a slightly less hubristic note, I’m full of regret that I never
got to hear enough stories about my grandparents’ lives. They left
behind some stories written down, but they’re handwritten, and on my
mother’s side they’re in Dutch, so I can’t really read them. I want to
make sure that there is some record of my life for my grandkids that
they can easily access, if they want it. I really admire what Heather
from dooce.com is doing for her daughter in that way, although I find
it kind of weird that I know more about what it’s like for this
complete stranger I’ve never even emailed to be raising a daughter
than my own mother’s experiences. That’s something I should work on.

Now that you are into it, do you think you will still be doing it a year from now? Two years?

Having been doing it nonstop for the past eight years, I have no doubt
that I’ll always be keeping an online journal of some sort.

Did you write a diary as a child/teenager/adult?

Yep. It was all descriptions of “she said ‘blah blah blah’ at school,
and pinings for the first boy I pashed. Hubris is pretty much no
different.

Is is something you gave a lot of thought to before starting or a spur of the moment thing?

I had wanted to start keeping an online journal for a while, but I
didn’t really give much thought to what I actually wanted to write in
it until I got going. Content has therefore evolved over time.

What do you write about?

I write about my day, parties I’ve had, injokes that are hilarious to
me and maybe two other readers, tasty food I’ve written, hatred of
people who talk at gigs, reviews of stuff, and I also post writing
that I’ve done for publication elsewhere.

Do you know who reads it? Do you have some sort of mechanism to find out who reads it?

I’m lucky with Hubris in that it’s a customised system my friend built
for me, so I can track everyone’s IP address, and also people can have
their own logins to the page which means every time they visit and
they’re logged in, it keeps a record. People can get themselves to
Level One, which is what some entries are locked to, but I have to
chose to bump them up to Level Two which is what my footnotes page is,
and any kind of rant about things that make me unhappy which shouldn’t
be talked about in public (like work issues), or things that I am
currently squeeing over – like crushes on people. I can actually put
in more levels too, so I can choose what information what people see.
Mostly level two membership just goes to people who I know really well
(online or in real life) or people who actively contribute to the
Hubris community – and by that I mean leave me comments, because of
course as an attention seeker, it’s all about the feedback.

Do you care? How careful about personal info on it are you? Do you include details about other people in your life?

Hubris is the number one result on google for a search on Joanna
Mcleod, so I write on the basis that anything I write can be read by
anyone – although as I mentioned above, I do have some security
measures but I’m aware if someone was dedicated enough they could hack
me. In the olden days before google, I used to use people’s full names
when I wrote mean things about them, and use my friends’ full names
and so forth, but I am much more aware of self-googling now so I don’t
do that so much. My restraint also includes never mentioning who I
work for (I don’t want to get dooced!) and trying not to give away too
much information about other people’s crap. One of my friends last
year made me remove every occurence of her name on the site because
she found her parents searching for her and therefore didn’t want her
name associated with drinking and drugs. Many years ago the first
time I went to bed with a certain boy in the morning he was like “this
isn’t going in your journal, is it?” – well that particular incident
didn’t go in, but I’ve said some very non complimentary things about
him since then, and him being a little drama queen, he’s done the
whole “lawyers, defamation, blah blah” speil. But funnily enough the
only legal letter I’ve had in regards to my website was regarding my
improper use of the word Sellotape (r) without using the registered
trademark symbol. Laaaaame.

Have other people, complete strangers (Like me!) been in touch?

Yes, many many many. In 1999, my friend and I used to have a thing
called The Breast Club, where we made scans of our chests in our bras,
and put them online and encouraged random people to send in theirs,
and so I met lots of people through that. Another time someone wrote
to me and said that since they read my site every day and it made them
happy they really wanted to send me a 21st birthday present.

Have you made new friends from it?

More than I can count – oh I’m so popular. Heh. But no, internet
friends are easy to make – you swap “i like your site” emails – well,
in the olden days you did, nowadays you comment instead, usually, and
that can progress to instant messaging, and then maybe you meet in
real life, and it’s all hunky dory.

Sometimes I meet (online and/or in real life) people through them
coming to my site – getting links from publicaddress.net brings them
in – and sometimes I meet them through contacting them on their sites,
or on forums, and then they come to my site to find out more about me.
It’s a way of demonstrating common interests or feelings, I suppose,
like joining a book club or a sports team might be in the real world.

Do you pay particular attention to what you write should someone you do care about it read it? Like your mum?

I do find myself censoring myself more than I’d like to sometimes
knowing that my friends read the site – sometimes I’d just like to
have a bit of a vent about a particular person without having
repercussions about it, but there are ways and means to get around
that, with different levels, or secret journals that others don’t know
about that.

I asked my parents not to read my site, although my dad did but I
think he was more embarrased about it than I was. I don’t have a lot
of boundaries anyway, so I’d like to think that the person I am online
is the person I am if you talk to me in real life – I don’t have that
much to hide.

Do you expect your family/friends to read it?

I’d actually kind of rather than my family didn’t read it, because
who’s more fun to bitch about than family? No one. And I feel
differently about different friends reading my site – I mean, when
it’s people I met online to begin with, that seems perfectly natural,
but the juxtaposition of my real life friends being in my online world
can be odd (and I know that contradicts my statement of being the same
in both worlds). If I’m away, or if my friends are away, I might cut’n
paste from my journal into emails to save telling hte same story over
and over again.

And if you do, do you feel offended if they haven’t?

If they’re not regular readers of my site, I don’t feel offended if
they don’t read it, but if they’re supposed to be regular readers and
I’m talking to them and they’re like “what? when did you do that?”
I’ll be all “DIDN’T YOU READ MY JOURNAL?” mock angry. But seriously, I
know that my journal can be a higher level of self disclosure than
some people might be comfortable reading (case in point: my review of
the Dimmer gig that was just sex sex sex).

But I would like to think that everyone wants to stalk me and know
every single detail about me ever.

Do you read other online journals or blogs?

Yeah there’s about 70 that I read religiously. Thank god for
Livejournal friends lists and RSS feeds, otherwise I’d be surfing all
the time.

Do you have a favourite? WHy?

One of my current favourite sites is what I’d call a blog if I didn’t
cringe at that word so much – it’s http://wellurban.blogspot.com. Tom Beard who writes it is passionate about Wellington, and he takes the time to
read council submissions and all those things I’d never bother doing,
and provides handy summaries, and he always finds new bars, shops and
restaurants for me to try.

I also love www.dooce.com because Heather writes in an easy, funny
way, but she also writes in great detail about her struggles with her
mental health, and she’s just an inspiration, even though that’s a
cheesey-as-fuck word to use.

and I love my friends’ sites because I like catching up with their
lives. And I like it when they write about me, of course.

Do you expect your online journal to take on a particular direction in the future that you haven’t yet established or are thinking about?

I want to write more stories about things that I did in the past –
like the Lost in Translation entry I wrote recently about moving to
Japan. I want to start writing my autobiography (yes I know, I’m 26,
I’m not that interesting and I haven’t really achieved anything, again
with the hubris), and so that’s what I’m keen to do.

How many times a week do you write in?

I used to write every day, but I also used to have a huge list of
people I could only talk to online that I’d spend hours chatting to
and write at the same time. I also used to be a student who didn’t
have bung wrists, so now I only update a couple of times a week. I
wish I wrote more.

For how long?

Entries take about an hour to write – more if there are pictures and
many links, but that’s an hour of much surfing at the same time.

Would you say this takes up a lot of your time? Does reading other blogs take up a lot of your time?

Yeah it does. But that’s okay.

Before email, were you big on writing letters? Or still are?

Only when I lived overseas. Now I wish I kept the letters I used to write.

Are you personal friends bloggers/online journalist or website owners? Family members?

I’ve always had online friends who were journallers (not journalists –
that’s like, media. Although I am trained in that too), and now it’s
weird, I have a group of friends who are so not into computers but
because of goddam myspace they’ve started keeping blogs. And boy are
they ugly…

What do they think of your new hobby?

Eight years isn’t a new thing. People used to think I was weird, but I
suppose at least the one thing I can thank the word ‘blog’ for is that
it’s mainstreamed me. Hang on, do I really want to be mainstream?

And do you consider it a hobby or something else entirely?

My job is writing website content, so writing online hones my job. And
one day I’d love to write a novel – or an autobiography, so maybe it’s
research for that. I just want to have a legacy, even if it’s a “I
watched Buffy all day and then laughed at some emos and got drunk”
legacy.

Ummm, sorry about the novella-length answers, I hope this helps!

Jo

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