On May 28, 2003, I posted my first blog entry on BrianMadden.com. You can still read it today, with DocID #1 - "Tarantella buys New Moon."
What did the web community of Citrix look like in 2003? The biggest community back then was the THIN email list (although that was an old school listserv--not really web-based). ThinPlanet was big. TheTHIN.net had a bunch of downloads and utilities and stuff. TweakCitrix had a list of performance hacks. Doug's MIAB was new. But in 2003, blogs were fairly new and just starting to creep into the fringe of acceptance in the corporate world.
So what made me decide to blog? Like most things in life, the path was not direct. Up until earlier that month, I was happily employed as a consultant at HP. I'd already published two books about Citrix, and I was working with Ron on a book about Terminal Server on Windows 2003. Unfortunately I had a, hmm... "passionate conversation" with Gagan Singh (a Citrix test engineer) at iForum the previous year. He was not too happy with what I was writing about Citrix scalability. I more-or-less told him that those were my views, and that I wasn't planning on changing them, but word somehow made it back to the powers that be at HP that they had this crazy guy writing lies about Citrix, and HP told me that Citrix had to approve anything I wrote publicly about them as long as I was working for HP. So I quit!
I was already making enough money to support myself on the Citrix book, and with the TS book around the corner and some independent consulting, I figured I could live the independent life no problem.
BrianMadden.com was a very different website in those days. I'd actually registered the domain it in 1998 after I read Tom Peters' "Brand You" article in Fast Company. But the BrianMadden.com of early 2003 was nothing more than a giant ad for my Citrix books. Since I was leaving HP, I figured I should update the site with something along the lines of "I'm also available for consulting!"
How did this lead to blogging? Of course I didn't invent the concept of the blog. They'd been around in some form since the 1990s. But in 2003, I really thought that blogs were for teenagers to gossip about what they did last weekend. Thankfully my grandmother helped me change my mind.
Ever since I was a little kid, my grandmother was looking out for me. When I dropped out of college in the 1990s to pursue this "IT thing" full-time, she bought me a subscription to Inc Magazine. Inc bills itself as "the magazine for entrepreneurs," although I'd always sort of turned my nose up at it. After all, I was a "real" businessman. To me, Inc Magazine was more geared towards the stay-at-home mom crowd who wanted to start a business selling Beanie Babies on eBay.
Nevertheless, those Inc Magazines kept on coming, month after month, year after year. Most of them ended up in a basket on the floor of my bathroom next to my toilet. For some reason in 2003, I actually picked up the May issue as I was sitting in the bathroom, um, "thinking," when I came across an article called "Blogging for dollars." The byline read, "Blogging: It's not just for pundits and teenage girls. You too can use blogs to communicate with customers."
This was so interesting to me because I can honestly say that I don't think I'd ever read a single blog in my life by that point. I tried googling for Citrix or thin client blogs, but I couldn't find any. Wow! No Citrix blogs! I was excited in the way one gets about a new tattoo after several hours of binge drinking. "Yeah! A Citrix blog! I'm going to start a Citrix thin client blog! Whooooooo!!"
Remember this was 2003. There wasn't exactly any off-the-shelf blogging software you could just install on your own web server. Websites like Blogger.com existed, but all those blogs were branded with blogspot.com domains, and I knew from Tom Peters that I had to have this thing running on BrianMadden.com. Some people tried to do a crazy iframe thing to hide blogspot.com content within another page, but I wanted to do this right, so I decided to write my own ASP blog engine.
The blog on BrianMadden.com was super simple at first--a single page showing all entries from an Access database. I "published" new blog entries by adding a record to the Access database on my laptop and FTP'ing the whole MDB file to the server. I didn't even have an RSS feed since I'd never heard of RSS at that point in my life.
The original blog wasn't even available on the homepage of BrianMadden.com. The homepage had four links--information about my books, my bio, my consulting, and my blog. (I think the first blog URL was www.brianmadden.com/thin, to give you an idea of the focus in 2003.)
I think I was getting about 30-40 visitors per day to BrianMadden.com before I started blogging. (These were random folks looking for information about my Citrix books.) In mid-July, I had the first day with over 100 visitors. I couldn't believe it!! 100 freaking people in a single day?!?!! I felt like a rock star. From there, the whole thing took off in a typical fashion. I remember trying to get a free pass to iForum a few months later because I had "over 11,000 visitors per month."
The blog went largely unnoticed until I wrote this entry about Microsoft's Bear Paw. (Apparently Citrix had some kind of problem with my use of the phrase "Citrix-killer.") What's funny is that I wrote that blog entry on August 8, but the people at Citrix didn't find out until about mid-September. (Ah, the simpler times!) But in September I got a call from David Kim (Citrix SE) who told me I had to remove that article, or else he would stop recommending my book to his clients. At the Microsoft Global Partner Summit in New Orleans that year, Nabeel Youakim actually told me that my blog was "damaging the industry" because people were confused by the conflicting messages between Citrix and me, and that we'd all be better off if we had a consitent story. (This is something that I don't let Nabeel forget today. :)
Anyway, that was a long time ago. Things have really changed since then. Maybe someday I'll write more about the crazy things that happen as a website owner and blogger. But right now I'm happy to have survived five years. Here's to five more!