- Internet trendmongers are touting "the death of blogs". This is kind of silly, but not entirely. I already have moved to using Facebook and Twitter for the kind of look-at-this items that might have generated a blog post in the past. They aren't at all substitutes for longer forms of writing, but;
- I'm actually trying to write some papers for publication, so my deeper thoughts are getting tracked into there rather than here.
- And I'm finding the process of writing rather difficult, because I've always found it difficult to force my thought into any kind of serial form. It feels like trying to nail mercury to a wall.
- And as it happens, Ted Nelson, an early influence and mentor, has just resurfaced with a new book (an idiosyncratic, self-published thing, like all his others), and it reminded me that one of his dreams was what he called "a decent writing system". I've taken stabs at creating things like that over the years, but there still isn't anything that actually helps me get my thoughts in order. But chronologically ordering them in a blog doesn't make much sense from a thinking perspective.
I'm not sure why this feels so momentous. After all, wikis and blogs are both collections of chunks of linkable text, right? What difference does it make if they are chronological or something else? Well, even though it is the thoughts themselves that are important, not the form into which they are poured -- it does, in fact, make a difference. This is a lesson I have to teach myself over and over again, for some reason. Blogs and wikis have entirely different genre conventions. Blogs are inherently about the passing parade, they are inherently dated and nobody wants to read blog posts five years old. Whereas a wiki page is topical, it is supposed to be a timeless representation of some topic or concept, it is synchronic rather than diachronic. That sounds better, somehow, but in fact I'd probably miss the chatty, conversational, transitory qualities of a blog post. Writing wiki pages would feel pretentious.
In the Nelsonesque utopia, or my version of it, you wouldn't have to choose, one wouldn't be confined to one form or onother; chunks would be chunks and they could be effortlessly and semi-magically arranged into whatever structures were appropriate to a particular purpose or reader. Timeless truths would emerge from discourse; knowledge construction and knowledge in its finished forms would coexist with their relations clearly visible and navigable.
But nobody seems to be building a system like that. Nelson has famously failed to get his ideas into practical implementations, and nobody else seems to think it's very important. Hm, I smell another distracting side project coming into view...building software is probably easier for me than coherent long-form writing.