ragnarok: I remember sometime in 2004, Twist sent me a link to a little site called Athletics Nation, and I loved it. Even more than the content (and how Blez managed to get candid interviews with Billy Beane back then I have no idea), I loved the community, which built up in part around the "Diaries" section (the precursors to FanPosts) and the Daily Link Dump (which was the partial inspiration for the DBD). I really really wished there was something equivalent for Cal sports, but unfortunately SportsBlog Nation back then was only a handful of MLB sites, with no college blogs at all.
I continued following Cal sports pretty rabidly for a few years (though not on the paid sites), wanting more and more info and analysis. I always thought that sports journalists had some sort of special knowledge and training to know how to dissect sports and unearth insightful nuggets, but while some Cal blogs popped up here and there, including one at SBNation eventually, none of them seemed to have much more insight that me or my friends. So when Twist flippantly suggested to me in November of 2006 that, "hey, we should start our own blog," I replied, "sure, why not, we can do that!"
To give you an idea of how seriously I took the endeavor, I didn't even bother coming up with a Cal-themed handle, but instead just borrowed the one I had used for years for online gaming. Whatever, doesn't matter. Unlike pretty much all the other Cal blogs out there, we were a group blog from the start, which gave us a couple advantages that were key. First off, we brought a variety of different perspectives, which gave us a wider range of content. Secondly, we were able to generate content on a regular basis, eventually settling into having at least one post every weekday. I really believe this was a huge advantage, as just being able to meet the expectation of having fresh content, regardless of quality, every day enabled us to build and sustain a regular readership.
Speaking of readership, there wasn't much in the first few months. I know I was surprised and delighted when we got any comment at all on a post, and made sure to respond to all of them. And for a while, big traffic days involved dozens of page views, and then, especially after HydroTech came aboard, hundreds, usually generated by some offsite link. But rather than feel like small potatoes, this felt like a huge success -- I know I didn't expect really anything when we started, and then other Cal blogs were responding to what we were writing and linking to us! There really was a community of independent bloggers back then, which I worked hard to connect with (and CGB has incidentally kinda crushed as it's become the 500 lb gorilla of Cal blogs).
The growth since then has been amazing, with major contributions from dozens of people, though I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that much of the reason we can harness the creativity of all of these contributors is largely due to the work and enthusiasm behind the scenes of Twist and, later, Avinash, who provide the framework upon which everything else hangs. Ten years later, I'm so proud that CGB is the site that I wished existed back in 2004 but didn't, and indeed it's so much more.
HydroTech: I remember in 2006 receiving a message from TwistNHook telling me about this sports blog that he and his fraternity brothers started. He knew I was very interested in football, and thought that I could bring something to the table. At the time, the premiere place to discuss Cal Sports was on BearInsider. There might have been a few other bloggers out there, but there wasn't really a lot of places to go or things to read on the internet about Cal Football outside of your usual newspaper columnists.
I recall all of us excitedly looking at our blog statistics when we first started out. We were happy to see a couple dozen views. The running joke between all of us was that all those views were probably because TwistNHook was hitting F5 on his web browser (refreshing his web browser) to check for our first comment. We kept with it, and finally got a comment from somebody! We were all very excited, and we made sure to respond to the comment. After a while, we got a few more comments. Usually, they were from the same people, but nevertheless it seemed like we were starting to gain a small following.
I think the tipping point which really put us on the radar of your average internet-reading Cal fan was when somebody linked to a post of mine on BearInsider. We had never advertised ourselves and had not become mainstream, but after that point we weren't some obscure blog any more. We were finally another place to go to on the internet other than BearInsider to read about Cal Football.
As LeonPowe said, around this time football fans on the internet were really starting to get into deep Xs & Os analysis of football games. I started doing analysis posts which were very well received. I recall one person on BearInsider made a comment that they felt like they were sitting in on a film study session with the real Cal Football coaches. Those early Xs & Os posts brought in a ton of traffic since nothing like that had been done before on the internet for Cal Football.
I agree with Ragnarok that a lot of early success can be attributed to the fact that we had a stable of writers. This allowed us to produce content regularly and it did not overly burden any one person to constantly produce content. Another key moment for CGB's success was being able to break the Ben Braun firing news before anyone else. CGB was now also a legit news source.
Finally, the move to SBN was what really set this blog above and beyond all other Cal blogs. SBN brought a brand name and a fantastic platform on which to build this incredible community. I'll admit, when we were first discussing the possible move to SBN, I was against the idea. I felt like we didn't need SBN and we could continue on by ourselves. In hindsight, that opinion was very very wrong! CGB would not be what it is today if we hadn't made the move to SBN. We also wouldn't be what it is today without all of our readers who have been supportive of us and critical of us too.
To this day, I am amazed by what CGB has become. I think special thanks must be given to TwistNHook who has continued to manage the blog despite also being a busy badass attorney and family man. Avinash has been a fantastic captain of the ship as well. I really appreciate all the time and dedication that all the other talented CGB writers (current and past) have put into CGB. I know how time consuming writing can be, and the fact that so many people have chosen to write about Cal sports and their love for Cal under the CGB banner is humbling, flattering, and an honor. It's amazing to me to look back and think how far CGB has become from its modest and small start. I feel truly lucky to have been a part of this adventure. Thank you.