Five years ago today, I wrote the first entry on this blog.
I started The Map Room because I was unemployed and needed something to focus my interest and attention while I went about the dreary job of job hunting. I also looked on it as an opportunity to learn more about maps, a subject that has fascinated me since childhood but about which I knew surprisingly little: I took history rather than geography in university; it never occurred to me to brush up on my cartography. In the five years since, I think I’ve gone some way towards making up for that mistake.
It turns out, 2,250 blog entries later, that you can learn quite a bit about something by blogging about it. It forces you to figure out what interests you.
“Maps” as a subject is simply too vast to master; most blogs about maps, cartography, or matters geospatial are limited in scope, and for good reason. As a general-interest mapping blog, The Map Room is very much in the minority, but even so I can’t — and don’t — cover everything. GIS is beyond my ken, and I’m not a part of the geospatial industry, so I blog them sparingly. Google Maps and Google Earth are already ably covered by Mike Pegg, Stefan Geens and Frank Taylor, so I know, somehow, that my coverage need not be as comprehensive. I still don’t own any gadget with a GPS in it (more on which later), so I’m content to defer to Rich Owings and others in that department. Today, unlike five years ago, there are a lot of blogs about maps and related subjects, and some of them do a better job, and get more traffic, than this one does.
I can’t cover everything, but I don’t have any clear criteria on which to base what to post and what not to post, except what I find interesting. So you end up with lots of posts about things I think are interesting (like cartographic projections), important (like map thefts) or merely amusing (like dummies blindly obeying their car navigation systems). Many of my other interests (like astronomy and trains) have a cartographic component, so they turn up here a lot. It’s arbitrary and idiosyncratic, but it’s as good a rationale as any for a blog. And if nothing else, it ensures I’m enthusiastic.
Somewhere along the line, as its audience (and ad revenue) grew, The Map Room became a business, and for a while it was my primary (albeit meager) source of income. Maintaining enthusiasm during the transition from hobby to day job has sometimes been a challenge, and there have been times when I lost sight of the fun as I tried to make my self-imposed posting quotas. Over time, I realized I couldn’t post everything I was exposed to, and that focusing my attention on what I liked would work better in the long run, both in terms of maintaining my own interest and that of my readers.
I’m not sure what my niche is, but I know what I like.