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Megan Reardon

Bloggers on Blogging, April 2006

photo of megan reardon

Megan Reardon is well known among crafters and bloggers as Not Martha. After maintaining a personal site since 1999, she started her blog in Spring of 2001 as "a place for me to keep things I am interested in."

Megan, 30, has a BFA in Dramaturgy from Purchase College, where she also studied set and costume design. Since then, she has lived in Cleveland, San Francisco, and Menlo Park, CA. Her knitting patterns have been published at Knitty and in several books. She now makes her living making knitting needle cases for her business The Organized Knitter. She lives in Seattle.

What is the first weblog you read?

I can't quite remember, Kottke, Monstro, Hoopla and Smug (not a weblog, I realize) come to mind.

What about those blogs appealed to you?

What appealed to me in general was the personal voice of blogs at that time. They were like zines, but they made sense. And they were like being allowed to read someone's diary. At that time in my life I was discovering the post-college lack of meaningful communication with others, and weblogs as they were being written filled in where intimate conversations had been diminishing.

Why did you start your weblog?

I started Not Martha as a way to keep track of links and ideas I was interested in or knew I'd want to reference later. It also worked as a place to keep notes on things I'd been doing.

How has your site changed over the years?

Not Martha hasn't changed in any large ways. I took down comments about two years ago, and I've posted fewer projects as I become busier. I have not embraced tags, or even categories, and I am a little shameful about that since I find them so useful on other sites.

Why did you take down comments on your site?

Simply because I went from a job where I sat in front of a computer all day, to one where I do not. I never had a problem with comment spam or trolls, I suspect because I used an open source comment system built by a student as a programming project. It wasn't all that flexible, but nobody bothered to hack it. I admit that I wasn't motivated to keep comments since the overall tone became more combative, perhaps as more and more people got online.

Combative on a craft blog?

Ok, not combative the way you see on political blogs. But people were more antogonistic than was called for. If the same tone were taken while they were in my home I would toss them out. With all the access restriction that has become available since I took comments down I think I would feel better about having them, but for whatever reason it doesn't interest me enough to do. It's strange because obviously I wouldn't keep a website unless I felt like I needed some attention.

How does the possibility that you may be flamed affect your writing?

“ Have you noticed that frequency of blog activity is usually increased directly after a notice of absenteeism is stated? ”

I don't consciously censor myself, unless I feel a "I'm not going to post for a while" post coming on — have you noticed that frequency of blog activity is usually increased directly after a notice of absenteeism is stated? Right now I don't use my site as much of a journal and I certainly don't talk about everything going on in my life, so there isn't much to be flamed over.

Have you ever burnt out? How did you handle it?

Oh sure, I ride it until new inspiration comes along. Because I started, and keep, the site for myself I don't feel any pressure to update regularly or keep on a specific topic. The instruction pages, though written to be used by others, are my own notes, the weblog is filled with things I want to be able to find later on. So, I don't feel pressure to find interesting new things.

How much traffic do you get?

It varies by the time of the year but I average about four thousand unique visitors a day.

What is your blog's rank on Technorati?

I do not know.

Why do you think your site is popular?

I cannot be certain, a clever name and longevity perhaps. (Is the site popular? I'm a little uncomfortable saying that since I don't really know if it is, I don't have any perspective on that.)

Which tool do you use? Why?

I use Blogger. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I use it out of laziness, it's what I used at the start of the site and I have not switched.

Do you have a background in writing?

No. I found writing papers in school excrutiating, and the few times I've given writing articles a shot I didn't enjoy the process.

Is there something about blog writing that is easier or less threatening for you?

I think of it as something completely separate. I don't have to write on a specific subject or fulfill a number of words. Simply because I'm not responsible to anybody else takes away all anxiety. All the potential humiliation is completely my own. Even more important — I have control over the final product. I can edit it, or remove it and pretend it never existed.

How did you get the idea for a craft blog? Were there any others when you started?

“ I really just needed a place to keep notes on things I was making. ”

I really just needed a place to keep notes on things I was making. I had been keeping pages of lip balm recipes on my fridge, but we lived in a tiny SF apartment and moving anything onto the computer to save even that much space was worth it. I had been building web sites long enough at that point that it was easier to organize things using hand coded html than a word processing program, and setting it up as a web site seemed natural. (Keep in mind, this was 2001 and I haven't added much to my web page building skills since then.)

There were others when I started, but at that time personal websites were the norm, with project instructions as an aspect of the site. In think that topic driven sites came along a little later.

How do you choose items to link?

Whatever catches my attention and makes me want to mark it to remember later on. There are lots of things I look at regularily that I forget to link to because it seems too familiar in my own head.

How long does it take you to write an link entry? Do you spend time editing link entries?

I don't spend a lot of time, perhaps 10 minutes. I don't edit well at all, I cannot even seem to catch my own spelling errors. It's terribly embarrassing.

How do you handle corrections?

I just update the entry if it's a typo. I cringe a little these days when I do it because I know it'll be showing up in RSS readers again.

Where do you find interesting links?

Either from sites I read or from things I'm researching for myself — something I want to cook, or fix. I'm currently shopping for a new mattress and I'm keeping track of the resources online that I'm using, relevant conversations in forums, experiences at local shops, facts about different materials.

Where did you learn to do so many crafty things?

I did a fair number of projects as a kid, I was a Brownie, and went to summer camp, took home ec, that kind of thing. My mom has always been busy making things. I spent a lot of time building sets and sewing costumes in college and I became comfortable with industrial machinery and large scale things. After that experience I become frustrated with lack of space or tools to make the kinds of things I really want to.

Where do you get ideas for crafts?

From magazines and from other people, anything that charms me. I try to stick to gifts that aren't meant to be kept, or useful things made for myself. I've moved quite a bit in the last few years and I am conscious of how many things I don't really need.

How do you decide which crafts to document for your site? Do you specifically set up crafts for your blog?

I document the things I make, and I don't make things just to have something new for the site. Most of my early projects were made as small presents for friends, lately I've been slowly learning to knit and cook. I have done a lot less lately since I have moved around quite a bit. I'm currently looking for a house to buy and anticipate a few home renovation projects in my future.

How long does it take you to write a how-to for a craft? Describe your process.

About three days, perhaps six hours total. I take pictures as I make something, write out the notes while I still remember them, and build a page.

The pictures that accompany your how-to articles are always terrific. Do you have a background in photography?

I do not have a background in photography. Since we moved to Seattle from San Francisco I have not been able to get the type of light I'd like, and I don't have a very good camera. I'm insecure about photography so I take dozens of pictures, and sort through them for the best. I have a very handy thumbnail program that helps me sort, and then I use Photoshop to crop and sharpen. I struggle with the photographs.

What kind of camera do you use?

Right now I have a Canon PowerShot A80, but I do want a better one.

Explain how to properly light a project that is in process.

“ Honestly, I cannot pretend I know what I’m doing. ”

In San Francisco I simply set things up in front of a large window. These days I'm struggling with using compact flourescents, and sunlight when I can get it. I try lots of different camera settings. Honestly, I cannot pretend I know what I'm doing.

Has your weblog led to any other opportunities?

I have had a few knitting patterns published in books, and had a very small article in Bust magazine. There have been a few things that I haven't felt qualified for or passionate enough about to persue.

How many hours online do you spend a day?

Two or three hours. Considering I don't work online anymore it's quite a bit, or feels like it.

When do you blog?

In the morning, when I should be getting to work.

How much reader email do you get? Are you able to answer it all?

I get a handful a week, nothing staggering. I do answer it all, but sometimes it'll take me a month to get to everybody if I'm busy.

Whose writing do you particularly admire?

I'm afraid to admit right now I don't admire writing as much as I admire the ability to cater to my fractured attention span. I'm about to move into a home I plan to stay in for more than a couple of years, so I expect I'll have more time to read.

What about books and other offline reading — do you have time for it now?

I'm able to listen to books on tape while I work, and that often is narrowed down by whether I find the narrator pleasant to listen to. Interestingly the last few books I've read were all by people who started writing online.

Why do you blog?

I use my blog as a way to remember things, and I like the people I've met and the information that gets exchanged. That motivates me to continue.

How has your weblog changed your life?

It's made me aware of a much larger world and put me in touch with people I would never know otherwise. It's also made me aware that people are much kinder and weirder than we allow ourselves to be in public. It's such a relief.

“ People are much kinder and weirder than we allow ourselves to be in public. ”

What are your hobbies?

I don't seem to stick with one thing for very long, but knitting and baking are what I'm currently into.

What is the most telling thing about you?

I claim that I keep a weblog completely for myself but I'm thrilled about the attention it brings. (Doth protest too much?)

Mac or PC?

PC, simply because that is what my family had way back when. I'm a DOS prompt baby.

Would you read your site?

Huh. My immediate response is no — the site has no sense of the person who writes it, the blog format is very dated (the archive links hardly work, no tags, no categories). But then I would have to say yes because the site points to a lot of stuff that I would find interesting. Can I say I would check in on the site every few weeks but not read it regularly?

Previously: David Weinberger | Next: Fred First

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bloggers on blogging

2005: matt haughey | jessamyn west | heather armstrong | rashmi sinha | glenn reynolds | adam greenfield
2006: david weinberger | megan reardon | fred first | jason kottke | tiffany b. brown | scott rosenberg
2007: bruce schneier | trine-maria kristensen

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