First, my apologies for writing a personal introduction, then being silent for the next three weeks. That’s not what I had been planning. The problem, as you might guess, has been too much work, too many jobs, all competing for the same time. And, since I’m an entreprenuer, my work tasks feel no shame about demanding my time late into evenings and on weekends. They tell me I chose this career path, so now I must bear it!
Meanwhile, during those weeks I have thought about posting here again. So, having a bit of unexpected “free” time, and not being the kind of person who finds the “couch potato” kind of relaxation particularly appealing, I just sat down and started writing this. But not until some reading of other blogs stimulated these thoughts.
Technology, Blogs, and Traditional Journalism
Though I have several web sites of my own, the AOL Developer Community is pretty much my home site, these days. So, I was visiting the consolidated blog page there, catching up posts I hadn’t yet read.
As I browsed back into the posts, I came upon “The Power of an Apple”, posted by M. David Peterson (of XML.com fame, of course). I’d noticed the post several days ago, but I hadn’t read it, being preoccupied with project deadlines. I was expecting the post to be about Apple computers, or about some technical innovation wherein an apple is employed to illustrate some technology principle. To my surprise, the apples in this post are simply eaten, and the post describes the effect on the writer of such ingestive activity, along with the negative consequences a deficit of apples seems to induce.
Now, this post is certainly unusual for a technology blog. Some people might even argue that it doesn’t belong on a technology site. But as I read the post, my long-running interior discussion with myself about the relationship and differences between traditional print journalism and blogs was reignited once again. I find blogs and blogging fascinating in many ways. While “serious” blogging is similar to old-fashioned newspaper reporting, it’s also different in important ways. I think it has to do in part with the cost of posting information on a blog, versus the cost of printing on paper. But, my point is that in a blog — not an individual post, but a writer’s blog in its entirety — there is room for a fuller view of the person behind the posts.
Of course, many blogs are exclusively expressions of an individual’s personality (or the image they’d like to convey). I’m really talking here more about “serious” blogs, for example, technology blogs. In the past, in printed newspapers, or magazines, the editorial staff could not permit publication of a piece that would be of interest to only a small number of readers. With the Internet, with blogs, with Technorati and Google and other blog aggregators, the cost of publishing is lower and yet it is still possible for people to find the post.
Of Apples, Alarm Clocks, and Mother Nature
Anyway, finding myself unexpectedly at home today, while I was on hold calling USAirways to try to get a refund for our tickets for our flight (which was cancelled by New England’s very late “Noreaster” snow/sleet storm), I found it very interesting to read:
In the same way the sun rises and brightens each of our days gradually, I believe that our bodies have been trained for millions of years worth of evolution by this same process to gradually come back into the world of wakened conscience.
The smiles back! And thanks must be given, yet again, to Mother Nature, a woman who obviously understands how to take care of herself: No alarm clocks, no additives, and no preservatives.
Reading one of my peers saying such things was enough to give me pause. Hmm.. So, yeah: even though so many of us spend enormous amonts of time thinking about and working on understanding new technologies and their implications; even as we find ourselves facing an almost overwhelming blizzard of information that we know is interesting and we know would be useful to study and understand; even as we see hundreds or thousands of potential good reads fly by each day, their titles barely skimmed, because we know we don’t have time for the pursuit… it is important to somehow try to keep things in perspective.
Seeing this added something to my interior conversation about blogs versus traditional publishing.
The Advantages of Blogging
I’m no psychologist (in fact, I tend to doubt that their formulations are of much relevance in most cases), but I think blogs can play an important role for both writer and reader that was not possible in the case of old-fashioned print journalism. You’re reading along, it’s part of your job to study this stuff, and you suddenly come across a little island oasis, such as “The Power of an Apple.” And it’s refreshing to the reader. Hopefully it was refreshing for the writer as well.
Although some people may complain (”What does this post have to do with this site?”), the Web is such that a mouse click takes you elsewhere if you’d prefer to read something else. But I’d actually argue that a post that brings some revelation of how the author lives, where the energy that is seen and expressed in the technology posts comes from, how life is ordered to support and elicit the creativity that is displayed in the more standard technology-specific posts, is relevant. It’s useful (and also entertaining, to me) to know that three apples a day and a lack of alarm clocks are what is behind posts such as
- “Solving FIzzBuzz in XSLT 1.0″ and “Solving FizzBuzz in XSLT 2.0″
- “Ruby on Rails and the .NET Platform: Sometimes To Embrace Means You Must First Be Willing To Let Go”
- “Week 1: the Zune Experience
and a very interesting project project involving
Quite a combination of technologies! And it works on all the major platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac, etc.
Blogging as a venue for technology writing can bring the technology itself more to life, I think, because in knowing something about the writer, who is the “narrator” of the technology posts, you have additional insight into the point of view from which the technology is being surveyed, described, analyzed. I consider that to be valuable insight, which could not normally be published in traditional printed media.
For example, now that I know M. David Peterson doesn’t use alarm clocks and does eat apples, I feel like I understand his other posts and his project just a little bit better. Not that I can throw my alarm clock out the window (though I’m working diligently to try to get to that day). But, we do have some nice Fuji apples waiting out there in the crisper. Hmm…