Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Web 2.0 Expo -- midway

Okay, so the post a day thing went down the tubes. Right now, I am at the Web 2.0 Expo where the wifi is overloaded, especially when sessions are on. It seems there is no limit to the underestimating of traffic at these things.

Because I can't jump on, I can't check out digg spy at the moment. I also don't have a chance to check out TruthScape.com which is a site set up to help people from getting scammed in the popular free online game RuneScape. It also has some parental advice. However, that last one comes as a recommendation from a parent in the forum I support and not from Web 2.0 people.

I know this will sound overly negative, but I'm really tired of hearing misapplications of the "wisdom of crowds" (the Net Gain of this post-bubble bubble) which most often comes out as a confusion between crowds (people who may be aware of each other, but are not influencing each others actions) and communities (where people are influencing each other through trusted relationships). Crowds are *not* inherently communities.

So far the best session wasn't even on the schedule. Tara Hunt of Citizen Agency and HorsePigCow organized a community roundtable in one of the unused alcoves on the third floor. It was scheduled from 10am to 5pm and I missed the first half, but poked my head in and saw Gail Williams and John Coate who gave it a thumbs up and said they would return after lunch. There's a set of notes and soon to be audio and video (where you can witness just how big my mouth can be).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Growing up with Charles Addams

Not literally. But I'll get to that.

Last night, I woke up and couldn't fall asleep. I woke up because for the past week a muscle in my left jaw has been acting up. Any attempts to chew or otherwise close my jaw resulted in excruciating pain. It's not TMJ, but more likely just a stress knot in my Masseter muscle. It's getting better, though.

I couldn't fall asleep because I had a dozen ideas kicking around in my head again. Stuff ranging from ways to improve how we foster community at the parent's website I work on to coming to the conclusion that arguing about which is better for fostering community, blogs or message board is moot because the design of both has been rooted in one form of narcissism or another and neither are purposefully designed to foster actual conversations.

I typed all of these ideas up just to get them out of my head. Then I looked for something to read. I grabbed a biography my mother had given to me for Christmas, Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life by Linda H. Davis.

As I said, I grew up with Charles Addams. Since before I was born, my father had a copy of Addams and Evil on the family bookshelf. I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade when I first pulled it off the shelf and started flipping through the pages, reading, though not always understanding the captions.

It didn't matter though because some of my favorite cartoons were of the boy and the trouble he made: speeding a wind-up school bus across toy tracks just so the locomotive would hit, building a town in the bath tub and turning on the spigot, mixing chemicals in a Jr Scientist kit and turning into a Jr. Hyde and back before his mother arrived. Though my mother may have worried about my desire to find and hang stolen "danger: bridge out" signs on my bedroom wall, she used these moments to point out why that would be wrong.

It may have stopped me from doing it, but it didn't stop me from thinking it was still funny. These were the moments when I grew up --knowing the difference between right and wrong, but still being able to imagine the possibilities of wrong were funnier than the possibilities of right.

Today, I have only a small collection of his cartoons on my bookshelf. Whenever I read these, especially the macabre ones, I get a sense of nostalgia. They comfort me and I love to revel in his art and their twisted takes on the twisted world around us. It's Charles Addams' cartoons that warped my sense of humor -- and my sense of tragedy.

I can't see myself any other way.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I hate blogging and why I'm doing it anyway

I swore to myself many years a go that I would not ever write a post about the fact that I haven't been updating my blog.

"It is the beginning of all true criticism of our time to realize that it has really nothing to say, at the very moment when it has invented so tremendous a trumpet for saying it." - G.K. Chesterton (1923)

Well, there we go. Chesterton was most likely talking about broadcast radio when he said this but it seems to apply nicely to myself at this moment. The fact that I am not the first to use this quote in reference to blogging is, to me, proof of the validity of the criticism.

For a long time, I've viewed creating personal spaces on the internet (since the days of Geocities) and now blogging with an unhealthy grain of salt. Part of this comes from a few paragraphs from Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting:
Graphomania (a mania for writing books) inevitably take on epidemic proportions when a society develops to the point of creating three basic conditions:

(1) an elevated level of general well-being, which allows people to devote themselves to useless activities;

(2) a high degree of social atomization and, as a consequence, a general isolation of individuals.

(3) the absence of dramatic social changes in the nation's internal life. (From this point of view; it seems to me symptomatic that in France, where practically nothing happens, the percentage of writers is twenty-one times higher than in Israel. Bibi is, moreover, right to say that looked at from the outside, she hasn't experienced anything. The mainspring that drives her to write is just that absence of vital content, that void.)

But by a backlash, the effect affects the cause. General isolation breeds graphomania, and generalized graphomania in turn intensifies and worsens isolation. The invention of printing formerly enabled people to understand one another. In the era of universal graphomania, the writing of books has an opposite meaning: everyone surrounded by his own words as by a wall of mirrors, which allows no voice to filter through from the outside.
[Later in the text]
One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.
I always come to the end of reading this and have the overwhelming sense that anything I might write afterwards simply contributes to the universal deafness and incomprehension that surrounds us today.

This is why I don't blog.

However, conventional wisdom claims that in order to connect via blogging, one must produce. If one cannot produce quality, then produce quantity.

Aside from my moral misgivings about excessive blogging, I suffer from a form of mental constipation where I will read something that will trigger an idea for writing a blog post, but I have a need to look deeper before I say anything publicly. What happens is hours of reading other people's commentary, often months after I have had the original urge and often better though through or written than what I might wish to say. Then comes a day or more of thinking about all of what I have read and forming some half-baked new tangents off of that. After that, the desire to regurgitate any of it and put form to it in a way that it is even remotely comprehensible to anyone outside my skull is gone.

In the mean time, pent-up ideas needing feedback, or ill-formed opinions needing correction lie festering only to explode through my synapses at the worst possible moments.

So, I will give conventional wisdom a try and commit to writing a post a day, regardless how trite, how ill-formed, until either I form a habit or I completely solidify my view against inane writing altogether.

Fantastic. I'm clearly off to a good start on the ill-formed part.