Taking a Step Back

There’s some point in the decline of a blog’s activity at which you just can’t apologize with a straight face for not posting any more. Only ironically.


I brainstormed reasons why I’m not blogging. It took a while for me to find a reason that felt right, but I think it’s mostly the concern that I don’t have anything important to say, and I’m just spamming people’s inboxes or Facebook feeds. I make fun of my perfectonist tendencies, but they haven’t gone away and have been exacerbated by how public this blog feels now. There’s also a general feeling permeating life that I should be trying to present myself professionally to people, because like a diamond, the Internet is forever.

I don’t know why I tried to publicize this blog, with all its years of hyperbolic angsty ramblings and emotional baggage from a different era, by linking it so tightly to my online identity and other blogs and by tagging posts so that they’d appear on some WordPress search thing. I went through the motions of getting people to read my blog because that was what bloggers were supposed to want. But it may have been counterproductive for what I actually wanted my blog to provide. Instead of feeling inspired or motivated that my writing will reach lots of people or whatever, I’m just a lot more skeptical of my writing and constantly scrutinizing it to see whether it’s complete, accurate, evenhanded, noncontentious, and just a modicum relevant to anybody other than me at all.

Linking it to Facebook was a particularly bizarre choice. I think when most people add others as Facebook friends, the implicit social contract is that this means “I’ve met you or know who you are” and mutually granting the ability to send messages, look up more information about the other person, and maybe occasionally getting updates. “Occasionally” being the operative word — certainly not “weekly 2,000-word screeds whenever you feel angsty and start binge-posting”. Probably a third of my Facebook friends won’t ever read this just because of the language it’s written in.

In hindsight, I think most of the people I want to read these posts know how to sign up for a post by email, or subscribe with an RSS reader, or just check a blog randomly when they’re bored.


This blog will stay here and I will probably keep using it for “public” public statements or actually polished writing, but I don’t think I want to update it substantially more often than the pace of the last couple of months.

I made a new blog a few weeks ago and tried just not caring and writing like I was in fourth grade again. It felt right. That blog isn’t going to be private because I don’t like making echo chambers, but I’m not going to share it here; ask me if you want to read it. Or find it by being really good at either Googling or perfectly replicating my thought process for picking a new blog subdomain. That is all.

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Musings on Time Pressure

I hate doing things under time pressure, but I have to admit I do a lot more things when time pressure exists. One of the things is writing. Another is posting the things I write. They aren’t very good, but they’re better than writing that doesn’t exist.

(in case you forgot, I’m still posting this pretty much only because I made myself post once every weekend)

It’s interesting that I can impose time pressure on myself by declaring commitment devices by fiat and it works. Other people have developed other methods of doing this — I recently discovered The Most Dangerous Writing App, which puts time pressure on you to type every five seconds or it deletes everything you wrote. There are many other ways it’s done.

Of course, there are more organic sources of time pressure, like school and work assignments. But it occurred to me today that other people starting a discussion on something I want to comment on also provides time pressure. If I put off commenting too long it means I’ll miss the discussion and be necroposting, which is an online faux pas, except when it’s a funny anniversary or a forum game. So suddenly I find myself writing and writing (and hitting backspace a lot, and taking walks around my apartment).

This seems like a source I have little control over, but there is probably some way to take advantage of it or amplify its effects to make myself write more and think more, which I can’t think of right now because I’m writing this right before the deadline (Sunday, 11:59 pm, Hawaii–Aleutian Standard Time?) as usual and it’s too late for my brain to function.

The weird thing is that when I sit down to write anything, I almost inevitably end up realizing something I didn’t before — maybe because it allows me to follow a complicated train of thought to its conclusion, maybe because it lets me see the flaws in an argument more clearly after I have it all written down — and it feels pretty good. Yet I can’t internalize the feeling enough to want to write for its sake, and have to come up with these hacks to make myself do it. Brains are weird.

No Excuses

Wow, this has been the longest silence on this blog in a long time.

I can’t justify it with lack of time either. Interning at Dropbox takes up all of my weekdays, but my weekends are much freer than I’m used to. I carelessly let two weeks at home in Taiwan pass by without doing much about blogging, and once again a lot of my few blog drafts have drifted into the temporally awkward zone, being too far away from the events they are about.

Neither is it for lack of things happening. At MIT, there was the Senior House turnaround and freshman moratorium. I can’t even begin to sum up the discussion around this issue, but I think the best response I’ve read is this open letter. Then there’s the official Senior House response. But that’s enough links, since I imagine the chances that this issue is relevant to you and you’d need this blog to link you to them if you’re reading this are pretty low. (Then again, the chances that you’re reading this are already pretty low. Although the chances you‘re reading this right now is 100%.)

Then there was the Orlando shooting of Christina Grimmie and nightclub shooting, which I even more probably don’t need to link to. I will just say that Vi Hart made this video and I watched it a couple times.

And finally, Brexit happened, which affects the most people but which I understand the least. Well, I do want to note that it seems lots of people are reading unreasonably much into the Google Trend about UK searches for “What is the EU?”

People seized on this as evidence that British voters didn’t know what they were voting for, but I don’t think it shows that at all, for a lot of reasons…

  1. The query is a very simple question; its search count will be exaggerated relative to more complicated queries, which might be phrased in slightly different ways that won’t get aggregated.
  2. Googling that question doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know what the EU is; it might just be how you interact with Google and get a list of information or different opinions about the EU.
  3. The searches could come from children or tourists or others who couldn’t vote and only decided to learn about the referendum after it passed and started mattering. Even a few of these people could make the question rank highly; the ranking doesn’t have any absolute numbers.
  4. Why am I making this list. This takedown, Stop Using Google Trends, has far more details and is more entertaining anyway.

This is your every-so-often dose of unnecessary current events recapping. You are now all caught up. If you are reading this blog as your primary news source… stop doing that.

(And finally finally on a personal note, I didn’t make Google Code Jam World Finals, so I can put that aside, and maybe at some point put out the blog draft about last year online rounds…)

The question remains in the air, though; why haven’t I blogged?

I spent a long time listing a bunch of excuses and then deleting them. (I kept the above non-excuses because this post needs to have something in it.) I don’t have a good reason; the closest I can come is to say, it’s like I’m living a new life in a new place to a new schedule, a life that I haven’t integrated blogging into the flow of yet, and this post is actually part of that integration process.

So the commitment device returneth! Expect one post every weekend until my internship ends.

C-c-c-Combo Breaker!

I made it!

After a misstep on the fourth day I managed to post one post every day, completing the rest of the streak! This post is scheduled to go out around the time my plane takes off.

I’m free!

I’d insert a Frozen gif here if I could find a good one, but I don’t like any of the ones I found and besides, copyright is an issue. So instead:

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

IMO2007.C6. In a mathematical competition some competitors are friends. Friendship is always mutual. Call a group of competitors a clique if each two of them are friends. (In particular, any group of fewer than two competitiors is a clique.) The number of members of a clique is called its size.

Given that, in this competition, the largest size of a clique is even, prove that the competitors can be arranged into two rooms such that the largest size of a clique contained in one room is the same as the largest size of a clique contained in the other room.

Author: Vasily Astakhov, Russia

If you remember where I first posted this to break a combo, you have an excellent memory and/or spend too much time stalking me. If you remember the context under which I posted this to break a combo, you have a better memory than I do.

Was my streak a success? On the bright side, I definitely generated lots of posts, many of which were radical departures from my old blogging habits:

I also had lots of fun conversations about my posts, such as:

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Coming Up with Blog Post Titles Is Hard

(Disjointed blog content, posted as part of a daily posting streak I have openly committed to; standard disclaimers apply)

Blogging is weird. I’m still nervous when I post stuff because I’m concerned I’m wrong, and end up looking unprofessional or attracting a bunch of Cueballs or something.

xkcd

Before I told people about this blog, during the time when 100% of its traffic came from its coincidental placement in search results, I didn’t have to worry about this. Now, I choose my words. Because some Important Person™ might show up. Maybe even misinterpret something I said and/or get furiously offended at a badly phrased joke.

I also fear that I’ll update my beliefs quickly; maybe I’ll change my mind or discover a much better argument for the other side really soon. But the blog post would still be there, displaying my old belief, giving the reader an inaccurate or misleading impression of myself. People might even chat with me to argue about it, and then I have to admit I’m wrong oh no! It feels a lot better admitting I’m wrong on my own turf, in my own time.

This passage from Lord of the Flies comes to mind (I had hurriedly reread the book as ammunition for the AP Literature test and noticed that my past self had marked it):

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Signal Boost

(Short blog content, posted as part of a daily posting streak I have openly committed to; standard disclaimers apply)

For the interested, I wrote a post summarizing issues in copyright and patent law on a new blog for a school club. Actually, if you’re reading this post, you’re probably already interested enough / bored enough to read that post, so go read it. I think the videos are worth watching despite their length, but I tried to summarize the key points in text, so decide how much to read or watch depending on how much spare time you have.

I don’t know if that blog will work out, but anyway WordPress tells me I have 8500% more followers on this blog than the other one, even though I have doubts about how many of those followers actually read anything I post at all, so I thought I should link to that post here. Also, by publicizing the blog, I get to shame my friends and fellow club members into posting so that it doesn’t look so empty. Social media expertise, you know?

If I had any sense of foresight, I’d have ordered a bunch of EFF or Creative Commons pins or stickers or something to sell, to actually leave people with an impression, and also leave myself with something cool to stick on my next laptop. But I don’t and I didn’t. Oh well.

Darn.

Maybe I should try to prepare for things it is actually early enough to prepare for now. Like the Calculus II and Linear Algebra exams I will probably be taking in one and a half months. Or the next five weeks of daily blog posts.

(Wow I just realized that is a lot of blog posts.)

A Commitment

Obligatory life update: I have graduated [from] high school.

But that’s not what this post is about. I contemplated setting up a schedule for my blogging three long years ago, and decided against it, because I didn’t think writing was a high enough priority for me. Well, I am setting up a schedule now: I am going to post something on this blog every day until I have to leave the country (which is happening once before college, so it’s not for as long as you think; but I might decide to continue the schedule anyway after I get back. We’ll see when the time comes.)

This has nothing to do with writing; it has everything to do with following through by actually posting the stuff I write. As of the last time I attempted to summarize my blogging status, I had 12 blog post drafts. By looking at chat logs I think it was February 7. As of starting this post, I now have, I don’t know, somewhere between 13 and 30, I lost count. I am very good at getting inspired and writing a lot of incoherent jumbles of words, and very bad at coming back the next day (or week, or month, or year) and polishing the word jumble enough to feel like I should post it. This is not a sustainable way of blogging. And since high school is over I can no longer claim that homework or other commitments are getting in the way.

Standard disclaimers: Expect low-quality stuff that is incomplete or not well thought out, and stuff entirely unlike anything previously on this blog, and one-paragraph or even one-sentence posts if I get desperate. But expect posts. And nag me (or better yet, provide post ideas (that can be explored in a single sentence)) through any communication channels you want if it’s nearing midnight in my time zone and I haven’t posted in the previous day.

This is the first day’s post.