What’s In a Tagline?

keep-calm-i-m-a-history-teacherOnce again the Civil War blogosphere has descended into the tired debate of who is and who is not a historian. The latest foray into this web of conceptual analysis can be found at Brooks Simpson’s site in response to the recent editorial about Civil War reenacting. I have very little patience for these discussions because they get us nowhere. I’ve had others debate whether I am a historian, which for the most part has been used to question the legitimacy of what I write specifically on this blog as opposed to anything else I’ve done over the past few years.

While I will never lose sleep over this issue, one thing that is not up for debate is my own self-identity as a high school history teacher. You will notice that the old tagline is once again visible under the header. I cracked a little smile yesterday when I decided to do this. When my wife and I first moved to Boston in July 2011 I was excited about the prospect of a year away from the classroom. My goal was to finish the Crater book and make a large dent in the Black Confederates book and a host of other projects. Things didn’t work out as planned. Sure, I finished the book and I was able to stay fairly productive, but there were periods of inactivity and some of it was accompanied by a good deal of depression. No one pushed me to do anything and at times I found it debilitating. Continue reading “What’s In a Tagline?”

How I Fooled David Blight

Update: I’ve sold two copies of the book in the past hour. I guess there is no such thing as a negative review. :-)

I have to say that I really thought my book’s Amazon page was going to be flooded with negative reviews from day one of publication.  I even spent some time strategizing over how I might respond, but the negative reviews never appeared.  Better late than never.  Up until three days ago there was only one review posted.  In the last few days one very positive review appeared and today I noticed the following review from “silver dollar”.  Continue reading “How I Fooled David Blight”

Advertising at Civil War Memory

Just a quick note to let all of you know that I am no longer featuring advertisements on the blog.  The two remaining ads on the sidebar will be allowed to expire over the next few months and that will be it.  I want to take the design of the site in a different direction.  Thanks to everyone who took out an ad over the past three years, especially the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, the University of North Carolina Press, Civil War Institute, Virginia Foundation For the Humanities and Civil War Trust.  As far as I am concerned there was never a conflict of interest since I supported and used just about every product.  The extra cash was a huge help, especially over the past two years as I transitioned to life here in Boston, but now that I’ve secured full-time employment for the coming school year that is no longer an immediate need.  More on that later. Continue reading “Advertising at Civil War Memory”

Giving Disqus Another Shot

You will notice that I am giving the Disqus commenting platform another try.  I’ve been using Disqus over at the Atlantic and I have not had any problems.  In the past the biggest drawback was the speed with which comments loaded, but that does not seem to be any longer an issue.  The interface has also been streamlined, which I like a lot.  I recommend playing around a bit by leaving a comment or two on this post.

Some of you will notice that I removed the Recent Comments feature from the sidebar.  The standard WordPress widget is not compatible and Disqus no longer supports their own, which I do not understand.  I am looking into possible solutions, but for now I recommend subscribing to the comments for those posts that are of interest.  You can subscribe via feed or email, which you will find at the end of the thread.  Of course, I will monitor things from my end, but let me know if there are any problems and/or if this is going to seriously hamper your Civil War memory experience.

Does Civil War Memory Deliver Content or Controversy?

It’s been a while since I posted about blogging, but Robert Moore’s recent post on the distinction between content and controversy blogs, along with Brooks Simpson’s response, have moved me to offer a few observations.  First, the distinction itself makes very little sense to me, especially when you take a broader look at the blogosphere.  Just spend some time reading political blogs.  Regardless of the intent of the blogger it’s the subject itself that is necessarily controversial.  Perhaps all the blogger can do is control just how controversial or confrontational the content appears to be.  I often feel as if I am in the position as I explore for myself and my readers this slippery landscape called Civil War memory.

I’ve been blogging for seven years now and I still love it.  To me, blogging is unlike any other type of writing and it should be for the reader as well.  I tend to think of it as something akin to a jazz composition.  There are certain conventions and subject matter (motifs) that I try to stick to, but within it there is hopefully a good deal of free form and creativity (solos).  I want my readers to experience as many emotions as possible as well as to reflect on what I write as I do in response to your comments.  In short, I want my readers to be entertained as much as I want them to learn something.  I love the freedom of being able to quickly share what’s on my mind even if it is not clearly articulated.  Of course, I know that certain topics are hot button issues and are likely to spark controversy, but than again I don’t see how such issues can be avoided on a blog about memory.

I don’t mind admitting that at one point I read a great deal about how to build an audience and how to bring readers back on a regular basis.  I’ve thought a great deal about blog themes, typography, blog clutter, and even the color palette that you experience.  The changes that you’ve seen to this site over the years is me trying to perfect a crucial component of this medium.  In other words, with blogging it’s never simply about the content.

My favorite Civil War blogs are well written, thought provoking, and spicy.  I don’t regularly read blogs that function primarily as archives for primary sources or offer detailed analyses of the action at the West Woods or Little Round Top.  Most of them are just downright boring and since I don’t know anything about the authors/editors of many of these sites the information itself is unreliable.   On the flip side I can think of one Civil War blog that delivers a great deal of confrontational material and almost nothing in terms of content that is worth reflecting upon.  I don’t regularly read that site either.  Blogging is whatever you make of it, but it’s a certain mix that results in a loyal and expanding audience.  It’s that mix that I’ve been playing with over the years

Whether we admit it or not it’s an audience that the vast majority of bloggers want.  As we all know most blogs die within three months owing to a dearth of ideas on the part of the blogger and especially because of the lack of an audience.  The vast majority are nothing more than echo chambers.  We want to know that people are reading, but it actually takes a hell of a lot of work to build a loyal following.  The realization that no one is visiting and that in all likelihood you have nothing of interest to say to begin with can be a huge blow to the ego.  I felt it at times that first year.

In the end and regardless of how you label or categorize what I write on this site, my hope is that you come back and come back often.  That to me determines how far the “ripple” travels.  For me that ripple includes a book, a column at the the Atlantic, and an increasingly larger network of professional connections and opportunities.  I am not just tooting my own horn, but pointing to the real power of blogging or social media presence generally.