Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-05-17
  Does anyone deserve a pencil
Blogging is a pretty funny thing. Those with some amount of audience tend to take it way too seriously, and others who don't have the audience they want wonder what's wrong with blogging. Web logs are pretty cool, as distribution is essentially free. What's not free is my time writing things or your time reading them. Audiences and content are the scarcity here.

I'm sure they went through the same thing when the printing press came out. That was a radical change (where web logs are not). The printing press allowed people other than the government and church to distribute ideas beyond their direct social group, and more importantly, led to a worldwide drive for literacy of the common people. Before that you only learned to read if your parents were rich enough for a tutor, or if you were high enough in the church. There was a lot of control over information (since it was not practical to copy most things). Books were extremely rare and precious. Predictably the church was against the printing press. Putting the bible into regular people's hands where they could read it themselves. That's just dangerous.

Web logs pale in comparison. Printed media has already had to deal with the web for nearly a decade, and they're still standing, though not without some holes punched in the status quo here and there. The major difference blogs bring is that they legitimize far more niches. I can now read about the trials and tribulations of other programmers, assistant directors of technology in the governments of foreign countries, venture capitalists, protocol hackers in india, and homeless machinists in LA. In the same way, if they can find me, others can read about my adventures TIG welding, my quest for good aluminum ingot molds, various technical difficulties with the electronics that surround me, my neverending battles to pound C++ into something useful, random forays into science, and things I'm learning from my kids.

Whats it all going to amount to? I have no idea, but I keep putting my ideas down, because I think they're interesting. If nothing else, my kids can look back in ten years and shake their heads at my strange ideas. Other than them, I'm not writing to any particular audience, nor am I expecting one to show up. That's the secret down side of publishing--just because you wrote something, doesn't mean anybody will read it.

The most popular thing I've written so far was about messing with Fluorine in a college lab, and how the stuff can kill you easily. Somehow that article got picked up by 0xdecafbad which has a lot of readers, and suddenly I had tons of traffic, and was ranked number five on Google for technical difficulties. That's all long since faded, and life seems to be back to normal around here, though according to the logs I have a few regulars and I get interesting contacts from time to time from other people about various things I've written about.

That's probably the killer app for weblogs (sorry, weblogs are not a killer app themselves): helping create critical mass around ideas. Don Park digs up SQLite or LUA, and then after digging around in it I put up more information about what its all about, or go yell at him for wasting my time (but in a good way). Or Brad Feld and Fred Wilson start ruminating about what these logs are for and I can wade in with my take on writing, publishing and audiences. Or I can put some crazy ideas out there about future energy solutions and get some feedback as to where my science has gone wrong.

I guess the reason I really keep at it, is that I can keep in touch with the bigger world this way. Being isolated out here in Flagstaff, the local scene doesn't provide much in the way of stimulating conversation. With the blogsphere, and the internet in general, I feel like I'm still part of what's going on, and can make my small contribution to the bigger picture. Oh, and maybe get venture funding for my startup after we've got a couple more customers.

 
Comments:
I have a lot of readers? Wow... heh. Never thought I'd be responsible for a decaf-dotting. :)

-- l.m.orchard
 
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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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