What was the first online diary you ever read?

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What was the first online diary you remember reading? How did you happen upon it? Did you think it was weird?

-- Jennifer Wade (jenwade@earthlink.net), July 18, 2000


OK, to answer my own question, the first online diary I ever read was Justin Hall's, back in 1995. I happened upon it in the typical internet fashion--I was looking for people I'd gone to high school with, and one of them was acquainted with Justin so her name showed up on his site.

I did think the concept of writing about every detail of one's life online was strange (and at that time, Justin really did bare all, writing detailed descriptions of everything from his girlfriend's ovarian cysts to his father's suicide), but I was fascinated. I remember checking the page hourly to see if he'd updated yet.

Justin's site was also the way I found out about other diaries, through his links page, and it was the inspiration for my own diary.

-- Jennifer Wade (jenwade@earthlink.net), July 18, 2000.

This is a very intersting and informative site! Thanks for putting it together.

The first journal I read was Beth's Dear Jackie Robinson, when she was writing as Lizzy. I found it through the famous Salon article and was inspired to put my own journal up (First Person Particular.) This was in 1998 which I suppose makes me third wave or something.

I didn't think DJR was weird. I thought it was wonderful, if somewhat confusing. Reading Beths archives was as gripping as reading a novel, but in this case it was by and about a real person, and being written in real time. I was confused because I felt like I was now her friend, but she of course had no clue who I was. The confusion came mostly from not knowing what my role as a reader was in this new medium.

This is why I understand completely when new readers write to me with that overly-intimate tone of old friendship.

Online journals are a wonderful phenomenon and along with weblogs and other personal sites may save the net from becoming nothing more thatn an infinitely large discount mall. The journaling community for me is not diary-l or whatever, it is the much smaller group of my readers and the journalers I read. We correspond by email, meet (or plan to meet), help each other, and share our lives via our journals. This to me, is what a community should be. I am happy to be part of this one.

-- Viv (viv@rosamundi.com), July 19, 2000.

The first online Journal I read is David Siegels < href=http://www.dsiegel.com/diary/>. That was back in 1995 and that is also when he start writing his journal. Now a famous web guru, and a multimillionaire, Dave discontinued his journal in 1998. According to Journal history I think his journal was second of its kind.

The archives are still there and also still a good reading material.

-- Karie (momoe@bigfoot.com), July 25, 2000.

I found Justin first, but the earliest journals I remember reading regularly were Xeney-Beth's Dear Jackie Robinson, Diane Patterson's The Paperwork, and Cory Glen. I miss Cory. I wish he'd put his archives back up (hint, hint...).

-- Sara Astruc (astruc@astruc.com), August 07, 2000.

I read quite a few journals that were outside the main journaling scene -- Elly's journal (not the Elly connected to the Gus, the other Elly), Puce, and Joanna. I didn't think they weird. I thought they were braver than I was.

But it was Kat's site (Ophelia Z) that convinced me to start my own.

-- Beth (beth@xeney.com), August 15, 2000.

I got my Webtv set for my Birthday in April 1999, and spent months surfing, visiting art museums that I will never see, then I fell into Columbine and Mouth Organ, posting comments there kept me happy. Somewhere along there I became the fascinated reader of Al Schroeder's Nova Notes, Bonnie's "Rant and Rejoice," and Sandy's "Dirt Road Ramblin'" In e-mails with those three when I made remarks about maybe starting a diary myself and my trepidation about baring my soul to whoever happened by I was given the encouragement to give it a try. January 15, 2000 I stuck a toe in and got in deeper and deeper all along. My first ? I would say Nova Notes, because although good, neither Columbine nor his Mouth Organ seemed to qualify as Journals to me. http://bastion.diaryland.com

-- Denver doug (ionoi@webtv.net), August 29, 2000.

My own diary was the first online diary I read at http://www.webkin.co.uk I just decided one day to put my life online. It was read out on National Radio over here in the UK. Some people thought it was weird but a lot of people liked it.

-- Ellen Stafford (ellen@webkin.co.uk), November 10, 2000.

Okay, I doubt anyone will have heard of the first diaries I hit. For the most part, they weren't much of diaries. Usually something like one page where a couple entries had been written, then abandoned. Patrick Farley's Glass Box was the first and there was another I can't remember who's it was--just a few sentences of writing, abandoned.. Then I found "Loren's weird life" in August-September 1996-- the first full-fledged calendar link style journal I'd seen, with more than one page, and previous next links, and real talk about day to day life, the ups the downs, the triumphs and embarrassments.

I had started a digital journal a little before I found Loren's journal but didn't put it online because.. well, why would I? There were too many things that I didn't think I could just SAY and allow just anyone to know. I had a personal website that I'd updated daily and enjoyed working on, and really wanted something that would give me more to do with the site. Seeing Loren's journal, gave me nerve to put mine "out there" too, adding a "Life" section to the site, and eventually giving it a less generic name when it took over the site. I was an infamous user of html commenting of the real meat to say the things I thought maybe I shouldn't say, when I needed a good digital scream. Does anyone bury meat in comments anymore??

It wasn't until early 1997 when I was added to some journal list that I was surprised to find there were a decent number of journals around by people that seemed to have no problem with the ability for anyone to read it. I had made no effort to look for journals because I didn't really think there were any out there. It was the blossoming phase-- by the time I found Open Pages in fall of 1997 there were some 160 journals and growing by the day-- and I always wondered how many there really were, if only a fraction signed up with OP.

-- terri (syzygy@stratos.net), June 27, 2001.

The first diary i ever saw or rember was on openDiary.com i also rember making my diary on there in 2000. It has been a great way to get over my depresson and such. I lost the link to it for a bit when i moved and stuff but i found it again when one of my friends suddenly asked me why i wasent writing in there any more! So its nice. I write about all my prblems and fears and stuff. sometimes i just put some songs that make me feal important that day. or just whats going on in my life. its nice to have the fead back of everyone else. I like the safty net of having the "safe" notes becouse then if you write something that is a little personal and someone writes a note that you just dont like you can go and deleate it. What else. they also have it where you can put any one of your entrys on private witch is great if you just dont want to share it or something like that. but i have made great friends with people all over the world from there by just puting down my experances and stuff. like people comming to me and telling me that they have the same prblems and want to stop and stuff and asking me where they can go to to get help! i think thats great! so ya. my diary is at http://opendiary.com/entrylist.aspauthorcode=A180021 if you want to look at it! kay Kutrina

-- Kutrina Shumuk (prozac_kat@hotmail.com), July 17, 2001.

The first diary I ever read was kerykes. It's not the oldest or the most famous, but it did inspire me to start writing, and I have for the past 8 moths... every single day.

-- Susan Murray (futurebird@diaryland.com), July 21, 2001.

Hi, I think this is a very interesting project. Hope it's not dead. I urge you to look into the pre-history. The first online journal that I read was Robert Elton Maas's back in 1983 or 1984. I had a friend who would print it out regularly, so I'm not sure how it was distributed, but I think it's important to know that this didn't start in 1995. I became interested in this question after reading Diane Patterson's assertion that she had "been around the online journaling scene for a very long time." I swear it's like these kids don't even know what a printer terminal is. If you choose to get in touch with REM, do so with caution, he's not exactly an ideal poster- boy, but he was there at or near the beginning.

-- Jay O'Reilly (jay@bubbleboom.com), February 14, 2002.

An inquiry by a university researcher brought me back to this wonderful site after too long. I'm glad it's here. I know I still owe it a contribution (if it'll even have it, by this point!).

Jay makes a good point, one that I've been woefully lax in researching. I personally still credit Carolyn Burke as the first full, public, web-based diarist. But as Jay has mentioned, folks have been using the Internet at large as a means to share personal recollections for much longer.

There were certainly e-mail travelogues. And I've heard Robert Maas' name before (although I too am unclear as far as the original medium). And I've heard from dozens of people who remember journal- focused communities on proprietary networks (before the commercial, public Web) like Prodigy and Compuserve. People were posting journal entries to community boards and forums there, so arguably, they did come before Carolyn.

Definitions are funny, though... if you use 'disclosure of personal information over the net,' then UNIX .plan files -- which people, including me, would update so folks would have something unusual or interesting to read when they fingered me (!!!) -- would count, too. And I was doing that before 1995.

To me, the Prodigy communities, .plan files, and large-audience e- mail mailing lists are all ancestors, very much related, and should be documented as well. But moving from generally closed or obscure fora into the everybody-can-see-it Web world (those heady days of Yahoo! -- then at Stanford -- and 14.4k Compuserve accounts) was a significant step, and the one at which I mark the beginning of the genre.

The same genre, by the way, that today includes personal weblogs. Sure, the bloggers that cluster by the thousands into groups (just as diarists did) and bemoan the overblown and inaccurate coverage of the hot, trendy new phenomenon (again, sound familiar?) would probably never consider themselves something so arcane as diary writers. But as long as their blogging about their boyfriends or their new shoes (and not commenting on other sites, which is what a weblog technically is), they're journalers. They're one of us. And I still love 'em.

-- Ryan Kawailani Ozawa (ryanozawa@yahoo.com), July 05, 2002.

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