How Blogs Make Technology Feel Like Mother Nature

by Kevin Farnham


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.




and:




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




and a very interesting project project involving




Quite a combination of technologies! And it works on all the major platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac, etc.



Conclusion


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...


9 Comments

M. David Peterson
2007-03-17 21:56:49
Finally someone who understands me! (which is great, as up until now, nobody > including myself < has dared to even try ;-))


So I have to admit that was like the most surreal experience I've ever had. I don't think I've actually read a blog entry in which referenced me that didn't also contain something to the effect of "Grmbl... I hate that Mdot guy! Grmbl... Grmbl.." ;-) Thanks!


So coming back to the apples,


>> But, we do have some nice Fuji apples waiting out there in the crisper. Hmm...


Mmmmm... sounds scrumptious! :D If you're feeling a bit adventurous, I find that this time of the year the Pink Lady's (originally bread in Australia in the 80's) are both tasty and readily available, and the Ambrosia (originated in British Columbia around the same time frame) is quite nice as well, though the current availability here in Salt Lake City seems a bit slim in the pickins' :-( Oh well, life could be worse ;-)


So with that, and now that I have showcased proof positive that I truly am a phreak of nature, back to hackin' the Xameleon code base :D


Thanks for both the self enlightenment, insight, and lift to my day, Kevin!

Matthew Sporleder
2007-03-18 19:22:04
I started eating Ambrosia applies this year and now think they are the best.
GreatWhiteDork
2007-03-19 10:01:20
Finally! I've grown tired of the same old Holy Wars. Now there's something I can really be passionate about.... Apples.

Honeycrisp are the best. All others suck!!! Discuss...
;P
GreatWhiteDork
2007-03-19 11:52:48
I intended to put this in the last post. Sorry.

You make some good points about the nature of the person coming through on blogs and the low cost of 'publishing'. Sometimes the only way to understand what is being said is gaining insight as to why it's being said.
M. David Peterson
2007-03-19 15:59:02
@Matthew,


>> I started eating Ambrosia applies this year and now think they are the best.


Aren't they the best! I'm so glad I'm not alone in this :D

M. David Peterson
2007-03-19 16:02:19
@GreatWhiteDork,


>> Finally! I've grown tired of the same old Holy Wars. Now there's something I can really be passionate about.... Apples.


AMEN!! :D


>> Honeycrisp are the best. All others suck!!! Discuss...


Ohhhh... You know, Honeycrisp are quite tasty, though they seem a bit difficult to find here in Salt Lake City. I think I may need to look harder, because now that you bring this up, I've got a craving like none other! ;-)

M. David Peterson
2007-03-19 16:05:11
>> Sometimes the only way to understand what is being said is gaining insight as to why it's being said.


I was hungry ;-)

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laptops
2007-07-12 02:54:27
The low cost of publishing is one of the greatest benefits of the internet, in my opinion. I love the fact that anyone, regardless of where they live, what they do, how much money they have, etc., can publish their story and their writings on the internet for such a small cost. While it does mean that EVERYTHING can be published regardless of its content or its quality, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. As you said, all it takes is a click of the mouse to be somewhere else, making it just as easy to avoid writing we don't want to read as it is to find blogs and articles that we do want. I think blogs in particular have great reading value because there are almost no restrictions on them. You can say whatever you want in whatever manner you want, letting, as you said, the writer's true personality come out.