TITLE: Is There a Statute of Limitations for Blogging? AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 25, 2009 9:48 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I had a few free minutes tonight with no big project at the front of my mind, so I decided to clean up my blog-ideas folder. Maybe one of the ideas would grab my imagination and I would write. But this is what grabbed my attention instead, a line in my main ideas.txt file:
(leftovers from last year's SIGCSE -- do them!?)
You have heard of code smells. This is a blog smell. I have two entries still in the hopper from SIGCSE 2008 listed in my conference report table of contents: "Rediscovering the Passion and Beauty", on ways to share our passion and awe with others, and "Recreating the Passion and Beauty", because maybe it's just not that much fun any more. Both come from a panel discussion on the afternoon of Day 2, and both still seem worth writing, even after fourteenth months. The question in the note to myself in the ideas file lets a little reality under the curtain... Will I ever write them? As conference report, they probably don't offer much, and the second entry has been preempted a bit by Eric Roberts giving a similar talk in other venues, and posting his slides on the web. But timeliness of the conference report isn't the only reason I write; the primary reason is to think about the ideas. The writing both creates the thinking and records it for later consideration. In this regard, they still hold my interest. Not all old ideas do. When I first started this blog, I never realized how much my blogging would exhibit the phenomenon I call the Stack of Ideas. Sometimes an entry is a planned work, but more often I write what needs to be written based on where I am in my work. Hot ideas will push ideas that recently seemed hot onto the back burner. Going to a conference only makes the problem worse. The sessions follow one after another, and each one tends to stir me up so much as to push even the previous session way back in my mind. I have subfolders for hot ideas and merely recent ideas, and I do pull topics from them -- "hot" serving up ideas more reliably than "recent". This is one risk of having more ideas than time. Of course, ideas are like most everything else: a lot of them are bunk. I suspect that many of my ideas are bunk and that the Stack of Ideas does me and my readers the Darwinian service of pushing the worst down, down, down out of consciousness. When I look back at most of the ideas that haven't made the cut yet, they feel stale. Are they just old, or were they not good enough? It's hard to say. Like other Darwinian processes, this one probably isn't optimal. Occasionally a good idea may lose out only because it wasn't fit for the particular mental environment in which it found itself. But all in all, the process seems to get things mostly right. I just hope the good ideas come back around sometime later. I think the best ones do. This is one of the reasons that academics can benefit from keeping a blog. A lot of ideas are bunk. Maybe the ones that don't get written shouldn't be written. For the ideas that make the cut, writing this sort of short essay is a great way to think them through, make them come to life in words that anyone can read, and then let them loose into the world. Blog readers are great reviewers, and they help with the good and bad ideas in equal measure. What a wonderful opportunity blogging offers: an anytime, anyplace community of ideas. Most of us had little access to such a community even ten years ago. I must say this, though. Blogging is of more value to me than just as a technical device. It can also offer an ego boost. There is nothing quite like having someone I met several years ago at SIGCSE or OOPSLA tell me how much they enjoy reading my blog. Or to have someone I've never met come up to me and say that they stumbled across my blog and find it useful. Or to receive e-mail saying, "I am a regular reader and thought you might enjoy this..." What a joy! Will those old SIGCSE 2008 entries ever see the light of day? I think so, but the Stack of Ideas will have its say. -----