Transcript: Episode 9 with @herself

Micro Monday interview with Jess Nickelsen (@herself)
Published May 7, 2018 Jean: Hey it’s Micro Monday again, the weekly microcast where we get to know members of the community. I’m Jean MacDonald, Community Manager at And I’m really happy to welcome to the show Jess Nickelsen who is Jess

Hey Jess, I’m really glad you could make it. I’m glad we could work out our timezone situation. Why don’t we start by you telling our listeners, and that’s of course our community at, a little bit about yourself?

Jess: I’m Jess and I live in Wellington, New Zealand, although I’m originally from Washington State, from Vancouver,Washington, just over the river from you.

Jean: Wow! So close and now so far.

Jess: My family is quite well-versed at figuring out that time difference because I used to be on the other end, ringing my grandparents from basically Portland. I have a little girl. And so my whole life is sort of tied up with kid stuff these days.

Jean: How long have you lived in Wellington then?

Jess: On and off since the late 90s. I finished up at university here after a stint down south at Otago University, which is down South Island. Most Kiwis tend to go overseas for a few years and have their overseas experience, or their “OE”, and I went off to Dublin for three years. When I came back, yeah, I came back to Wellington. It’s a nice place to live.

Jean: Yeah I’ve heard that. New Zealand is numero uno at the top of my list of countries that I’m going to visit as soon as I get that to work out. In fact, I was supposed to go there a few years ago. I had everything booked. I was going to do a kayaking tour on the South Island and then spend a couple of weeks with some friends in Wellington and then I had to have my gallbladder out.

Jess: Oh no. That’s nowhere near as much fun.

Jean: No, it really was not. So it’s one of those things I feel like I have to go, you know like kind of like get back on the horse, don’t let that become something that I almost did but never did. But I’ve been pretty busy lately.

Jess: It’s hard, especially when it takes so long. We have it in reverse: when you go anywhere, you feel like you have to go for a long time to make the most of it or to justify the long flight.

Jean: And the expense and everything. Well, I predict it will not be too too long before I actually get there. That’s something else to work on. I’d love to just go around and visit everybody on I always get that urge when I’m in a community. But enough about me, let’s talk about you! Tell me how you first heard about or how you got started with it.

Jess: Well I’ve been actually racking my brain because I heard you asking a few other people and they all had very concrete answers. All I can say is I think in the past I was just really interested in looking for some alternative venues for blogging. And for a while I was looking at Github static page hosting and sort of mucking around with that. I’m techie but I’m not the super duper techie and I just hit a few roadblocks then. I don’t know, I was just tinkering at the time. I put it aside and I must have come across some reference to And at the time I think you had to sort of register your interest so that you could be invited. So however far back that was.

And then, at some point, I got the email saying “Hey would you like to sign up?” I just signed up for the trial and to be honest, I sort of thought I’ll have a look. Like most things, it’s probably not going to turn into anything, but I’ll sign up for the trial, even though I’m feeling quite allergic to creating new accounts on sites these days. But the community was so great and people seemed so nice and there were some genuinely interesting conversations going on. It just feels like a really nice place to hang out.

Jean: That’s true. I agree with that 100%. So did you have a blog before you had a microblog? .

Jess: Yeah. I’ve got sort of quite a long history with blogging. I think my first blog, I actually had to look it up because I was with Diary-X and I’m pretty sure that was in 2000. And so that was the start of my first blog, 18 years ago and I would have been in my early 20s. I was experimenting with what happens on the Web and what are we going to make this into. And those early sort of heady days of people just baring their hearts out to this random space and you know having conversations with other people before everything became monetized and everyone was trying to sell you things.

Unfortunately, nobody knew it at the time because I guess we never knew to ask, but the people who were running Diary-X never made any backups. So when the servers failed, everybody’s blogs were lost. It was a real tragedy.

Jean: Oh my goodness!

Jess: And so that’s when I moved over to WordPress. So I’ve been there since about 2006, although I managed to recover a few older blog posts and things and migrate them over. My current blog goes back about 12 or 13 years now. It’s a very vague and all over the place sort of blog. It’s definitely rambling.

Jean: I feel like that was like the definition of blog in the beginning, that people posted what they were interested in and they didn’t confine themselves necessarily to one topic, but then, as you mentioned, came monetization, it became a trend to have blogs be focused so that they would reach an audience in a target market. And I miss those old days where things were all over the place. And so were the comments but you could read them then.

Jess: And it was more about the person who’s behind the blog than it was necessarily even about what they were saying then. Often you just sort of really fall for someone’s writing or maybe it was just exotic sort of snapshot of life living somewhere really random and different from where you were. A little window into another part of the world. It was quite cool.

Jean: You make me curious: what are some of your favorite blogs that you used to read or still read today or writers in particular? .

Jess: I mean there were a few who, I can’t even remember their names now, on Diary X, we were always commenting on each other’s blogs and but these these days, to be honest, I can’t even keep up with my RSS feed. Every once in a while I’ll go through and clear everything out and start all over again. But my relationship with my computer is a little schizophrenic these days because I feel like I do so much on the computer because I’m a software tester, and my other hobbies are writing and I’m getting back into photography and things now. So I just feel like I’m spending so much time at the computer. When I’m not doing those things, I feel like I really have to force myself to run away.

Jean: Yeah, I understand completely. I’m not sure what I would say if somebody asked me that either.

Jess: Yes there are still a few really good ones that I like to follow on Wordpress. One is really random, a retired police officer, you would think you’d be really random and boring, but he provides some really bizarre insights into things like crime. And I think I started following him after some of the terrorist activities over the U.K. because he was saying some interesting things.

Jess: I’m quite frustrated with a lot of blogs these days, especially other writers, because everybody’s got this idea now that the most important thing you need to do is collect email addresses of people who read your blog. It’s all about “Sign up for my newsletter!” Everybody is following this path to self publishing success and I wish them all the success in the world. I find myself backing off quite rapidly when I get to one of those sites. I do enjoy popping in and checking up on some of the people on

Jean: Yeah, that’s true. It feels like I always have something to read if I want to. Well let me ask you one last question. You mentioned a couple of things already but just in case there is something else you’d like to add. We have been asking people: “What do you like about”

Jess: I like that using it is really simple. I like that when I hop over to my actual blog page and have a look, it’s just really basic. I like that once you get past the tendency of thinking, “How many people have commented on this? How many people have liked it?” it’s actually a nice little snapshot of what I’ve been up to. And then I can hop back over to the app on my phone, that’s primarily how I interact, and just have some really good conversations. So it’s almost like these two quite separate elements that seem to come together and work quite well. I like that the blog isn’t just filled with replies or you know things that aren’t going to mean anything to anybody else who’s sort of is having a look because Twitter can be a bit like that sometimes. You look at somebody’s Twitter feed and you’re think “I feel like I’m interrupting a conversation or eavesdropping.”

Jean: I’m really glad that you were able to come on Micro Monday today and chat with me and we get to know you a little bit better. I think it’s just a nice thing for the community in general to hear from from other community members and realize every person on is a real person, they’re not just accounts. And you, Jess Nickelsen, are not just an account! Thanks so much for being here.

Jess: That’s alright, it’s been really fun.

Jean: And thank you everyone for listening today. We’ll talk to you next week.

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