This is not easy. Not as I write this. Not as I made the decision with Bryony. Not as I made the realization. It is not easy to say goodbye to Speak Up, but this is what this post is meant to do. We are closing Speak Up for good. This is our third-to-last post. Tomorrow we will post a goodbye from Bryony and the day after that a series of goodbyes from some of our contributors and friends. And by this time next week, comments will be shut down and a new façade will overtake the Speak Up you have come to know.
It comes as no surprise that Speak Up has changed since its launch in September of 2002. I started the blog on a whim as a place to vent some frustrations and as a place for the endangered breed of traditional graphic designers in a jungle of web designers and developers. The beginnings were humble, with my basic writing skills, non-existent editing experience and a handful of visitors that had found solace in this blog. Somehow that was enough to propel Speak Up for the next two years, snowballing into larger and rowdier crowds gathering and chatting as if they had never had a chance to talk to other designers in this unfiltered manner. And, well, they hadn’t. None of us had. And it was liberating, exhilarating and we figured things as we went along. Between 2003 and 2006 we were constantly growing, yaking, doing, messing, having fun and driving some people crazy along the way. It was awesome. Then things started to change, for better or for worse.
When we started we were outsiders. I was a young designer from Mexico that no one had ever heard of. In my mind and heart I had it in me to become well known. Not sure why, but I just wanted that. And, in some sort of microcosmic way, I did. And my outsider status was gone. The same thing happened to some of our most popular authors, like Debbie Millman and Marian Bantjes who, all of a sudden, you couldn’t turn a corner without someone mentioning their name. Also, for a long period it seemed like we could all write posts all day long and keep Speak Up active forever and ever, but for the majority of our most ardent authors like Mark Kingsley, Tan Le and Jason A. Tselentis, life and work happened and their time for Speak Up became limited. Ditto for me. I also had less time to write and comment. Other authors left as they lost interest or time, or when we differed in the kind of content we expected on Speak Up.
Then there was the fact that now everyone had a blog. Blogdom wasn’t just the provenance of a devoted few anymore and with the ease of setting up a blog, people would post their own thoughts on their blog rather than commenting on Speak Up. This is no complaint, it’s just an observation that became clearer as more and more designers would e-mail me to let me know about their blog.
I always believed that the amount of time and energy that we — authors and commenters alike — were all investing in Speak Up would be impossible to maintain in the long run, it was bound to crash at some point. And it did. Since 2007ish, we have had less authors, less posts, less comments, less traffic, less energy. It’s natural I guess. We also split that energy into sites like Brand New, Quipsologies and now Word It — all topics that were born on Speak Up but that were prime for their own blogs. I also strongly believe that the kind of general-topic and long-form writing of Speak Up is just not as appealing as it used to be. With so many web sites devoted to quick bursts of visuals and the proliferation of short-message communication enhanced by Twitter and Facebook, it becomes increasingly hard to hold the attention of anyone. But this could all be debated. Maybe we just became lame or boring. It’s hard to define all the attributes that contributed to the decreased activity on Speak Up. And since the end of 2008 we have had this nagging feeling that its time had come.
Earlier this year, Bryony and I made the decision to close Speak Up. Seeing weeks and weeks go by where we have only two or three posts (and one of them being the Quipsologies round-up) has become too painful for us. It’s also like watching Ozzy Ozbourne today, still holding on to that rock glory but he can’t really rock no more, not like he used to. Posts that three or four years ago would have gotten 80, 90 or 100 comments in one day, now receive like 30 over various days — comment count has never been a big infatuation for me, but for a site devoted to interaction and dialogue they are indicative of how good or bad its meeting that goal. It’s just too demoralizing to see Speak Up not perform like it used to. And it never will again, because of the expectations I have put on it and the ones that you have all put on it. It’s just not the same. I really feel relieved that we are closing it. Its time has come. It served its purpose and it made its mark. Not many blogs can claim that and we are happy with what it’s done. Time to move on to other things.
We will maintain Speak Up live as an archive with closed comments, for future generations. Interestingly enough, a good portion of our traffic is to old posts anyway. Will there be a replacement for Speak Up? Maybe. Maybe not. We are thinking about something that would help fill the void of general-design content but we haven’t fully developed the idea; and when it comes, if it comes, we hope it can live on without the weight of what came before it. In the meantime we will be placing our energy on Brand New, Quipsologies, Word It and even The Design Encyclopedia (which has suffered of tremendous inactivity). We have one current blog in development and you will see that soon. We will also continue doing books and we are even working on one that will be self-published and mostly available by PDF to be able to provide it at a low cost. And there is an endless list of things we want to do, but we’ll see which ones we can get to.
Speak Up has made possible what we have done so far and what we will do — and Speak Up, itself, was made possible by all of your continued support. I get terribly nostalgic writing this and reading all the great goodbyes our friends have sent in. It all makes me question the decision but, ultimately, nostalgia never carried anything forward.
And we must move forward. Always.