TITLE: Miscellaneous Blogging Thoughts
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: July 25, 2007 7:45 AM
... at the end of a long day.
Back to paradise.
- I must be an old hand at blogging now. I let Knowing
pass without comment. And I let my
-- and my
-- go by with no fanfare.
- I continue to be amazed by Google and the blogosphere.
While preparing to visit my old hometown for my
high school reunion,
I googled "Scott Merrell ARC" in hopes of finding out
if the named Mr. Merrell still owned and operated ARC
Sheet Metal, where I worked as a part-time sheet metal
apprentice and installer of ductwork during several
high school summers. Scott had met me at local chess
tournaments and took me on for a job for which I had
no training or particular native talent. He patiently
taught me a few skills and endured a few mistakes. I
thought it might be nice to stop in to see Scott after
twenty years, introduce him to my wife and daughters,
and maybe give him one more shot in his pet Lasker's
variation against my Petrov's Defense. It was unlikely
that a small local sheet metal shop would have a web
page, but it cost me nothing to try.
I found only one relevant link -- the first link on the
results page, of course -- but it was not for the shop.
Instead it included a
written by a friend of Scott's son, which quoted the
full text of the son's eulogy for his father. My good
friend and former boss died this past March after a
long battle with lung disease. (In addition to being
a chess hound and a professional sheet metal man, he
smoked far too much.) The eulogy almost brought me to
tears as it reminisced about the decent man I, too,
remembered fondly and respected so. I have no simple
way to contact Scott's son to thank him for sharing
his eulogy, but I did leave a comment on the blog.
Not many years ago, the idea that I could have
learned about Scott's passing in this way and read the
eulogy would have been unthinkable. The connection
was indirect, impersonal in some ways, but deeply
personal. For all its shortcomings, our technology
makes the world a better place to live.
- I don't write a personal blog like the one that
quoted Scott's eulogy, this entry and a few others
notwithstanding. Dave Winer expressed one of the
powerful reasons for writing a blog in his essay
The unedited voice of a person.
A blog like mine provides an outlet for thinking out
loud, developing professional ideas in front of an
audience, and sharing the small insights that would
likely never appear in a refereed publication in a
journal or conference. Writing without an editor
creates a little fear, but soon the fear is
counterbalanced by the freedom that comes from not
having to carry someone else's reputation into the
written word. By having readers, I do feel the weight
of expectation, as I don't want to waste the valuable
time of others. But the voice here can be mine, and
- Besides, I like Winer's explanation for why comments are
not the be-all, end-all of a blog. I've always told
myself and anyone who asked why I don't have comments
that I would soon, but I have remained too lazy or busy
to set them up. The lightweight, shell-based blogging
tool I use,
an old version of Nanoblogger,
doesn't support comments out of the box, and in fact seems
to require magical incantations to make a third-party
add-on to work with it. And I don't have the time or
inclination to write my own just now.
But I don't actually mind not having comments. I sometimes
miss the interactivity that comments would enable, but
managing comments and combatting comment spam takes time,
time that I would rather spend reading and blogging.
- Last summer, Brad DeLong wrote a fun but more academic
The Invisible College,
for the Chronicle of Higher Education Review that
describes well why I like to blog. Even without comments
enabled, I receive e-mail from smart, interesting people
all over the world who have read something I wrote here,
discussing some point I made, offering alternatives, and
suggesting new ideas and resources to me. My academic
work benefits from this invisible college. With any luck,
some of my ideas might reach the eyes of non-computer
scientists and start a conversation outside the confines
of my discipline.
Oh, and he's spot on about that procrastinating thing.