Thursday, January 6

Why blog?

Today I would like to discuss the reasons why I thought that blogging would be a good thing to pick up for me. While there are already numerous essays covering the psychology of the blogger (such as this one), I thought that I could present a few of my personal thoughts.

The most straightforward reason why I started this blog is that my attempts of creating a homepage were rather unsuccessful. I would only occasionally find time to reserve for building the page, and when I did, it was not apparent what to do next, what information to put up and how to organise it, not to mention my poor design skills getting in the way. Because the process was so slow, it was not fun and a negative feedback loop ensued. As a result, I have not touched the web page for half a year. Conversely, it is really easy to post to a blog, so I hope that blogging will be fun and will not die off.

A case for blogging is that nowadays there is little point in carefully organising information that you put up on the web. Chances are that the people who need the information will come through a web search engine, therefore, they won't see or care about the structure. Of course, it is a completely different story for large sites which harbour lots of information on a specific field, but I am talking about typical homepages that include information fragmented by nature, for example, "How to set up Linux on a Toshiba laptop", "Some useful Python tricks", "My favourite links", and "Public-domain sheet music of pieces that I like to play". Just post when you feel like it and the info will be scanned by Google in at most a week.

Technical reasons and fun factor aside, there are more serious reasons why I picked up blogging. Browsing the web started to seem too passive for me. I despise television because it makes people passive receivers of whatever is fed to them. The web is better in this regard, because you can (and have to) choose what to read. It is much more interactive. However, I think that to take in the information you need to put it into your own words, or, even better, to explain it to someone. Posting on a blog is communication (even though it is indirect), and you can also get comments, so I expect blogging to be intellectually stimulating.

By the way, Paul Graham has written an interesting text called The Age of the Essay, which discusses the idea of the essay and how it improves mind flow. I think that some ideas from the text may apply to blogging as well.

My memory is not something I am completely satisfied with. That might be the reason why when reading a book or a lengthy text I sometimes feel that reading is pointless. The words just seem to zoom by without a leaving a lasting trace. I sometimes recognise quotes from books (to my surprise). However, I find that I can not consciously recall most of the essence of a book not long after I have finished it. I have discovered that whereas rephrasing helps comprehension, writing down the rephrased thoughts helps memory. It would be reasonable to hope that jolting down my thoughts will help me remember things.

Most of the above does not explain why I would want to make my thoughts available to the public. (I find it funny that apparently only now have I realised why people would write diaries.) Fact is, I am now trying to be more open and transparent to other people. I used to be a rather reserved person, but I have found that it is not the best way. Besides, I do not think that I have much to hide - for example, this essay is completely open and honest, yet I do not think there is anything in here that I would want to keep secret.

I also find the idea of blogging appealing to reveal my personality to people who cannot meet me in person. Just as everyone, I communicate by e-mail with lots of people whom I have never met. The Internet is already an alienating medium in many ways, so it can not be a bad idea to make communication warmer and more personal. I, for one, would really appreciate the chance to find essays similar to this one by people I have to deal with but can't meet.

The last, trivial and a really simple reason to have a blog is to improve English skills. I am not quite satisfied with my English writing abilities. In particular, I would like to improve not just the quality of my writing (which is reasonable, but it still could be much better), but efficiency as well. If I develop a habit of posting regularly, surely there will have to be a noticeable improvement.

I hope you have learnt something about me from this essay. Even better if you found out something about yourself - in my opinion, that is the most important goal of most non-technical writings. Now go write something about yourself if you have not yet done that, there is nothing to lose, only to gain -- to personalise your online identity, and to find out things you might not have noticed.

Whew, now that was a whole essay rather than a post. Well, I had lots of things to say and this particular text would look weird posted a paragraph a day. I guess I made up for the lag - darn, five whole days since the first post, I will have to try and improve...