Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guess who's back

Hello internet, my old friend. I've come to speak to you again. Yeah, I've been away from blogging for... two years now. There were a number of reasons behind this (only a small one being general laziness). The other reasons why are what I'm going to talk about in this post (a ginormous update will likely be broken up into several subsequent posts). So yeah, giant rant coming through, make way!

I would say the main cause of the initial drought of blogging was high school senioritis. There were a lot of college applications and forms and stuff. Once those ended, laziness kept the posting pause going on throughout senior year. Okay, that's totally my fault; the last part of senior year was a lot of fun and I don't regret it. Turns out being a second-semester senior is busy in an entirely different sort of way. You've got all kinds of projects and things that you have to do with other people as a group. It's not just solitary studying. And plus, I was feeling lazy.

It's also difficult to describe how discouraging it is when the number of unread posts in your blogroll ends up in the thousands. By then you know you're not going to catch up, and there are probably a ton of inside jokes you've missed. So you end up just giving up. Ok, this is just complaining, I don't know why I'm bothering with this. Let's get on to the more meaty reasons why blogging may not be a constructive way to spend time.

First of all, let me say that the greatest argument against blogging, vlogging, or any other sort of mass internet communication is embodied on the sensationally satiric site Encyclopedia Dramatica. ED exists to document cases of lulz on the internet, which essentially boils down to the drama which unfolds (and in some cases, is incited) in any community. Those accustomed to reading Wikipedia articles might be initially shocked, or even offended by the highly inflammatory manner in which these articles are written. This is part of the style, as much of these articles cover the deepest, darkest crevices of the internet which are often buried on LiveJournal pages or obscure forums out of view of the majority of web surfers. These parts house people such as diaper fetishists, racist homophobic comic-drawing stalkers, and of course, /b/'s shenanigans. Most of these people have their soapboxes on Youtube or Livejournal and address their supposed "fanbases" with recycled Family Guy politics, or opinions they parrot from other youtube videos or blogs they read. I find that there are very few original ideas on the internet (in fact, my own opinions were pretty much a reflection of the blogs I read). It's kinda disturbing that these that these incestuous communities are able to fester out of the light of public opinion. If you try to offer any kind of dissenting opinion to them, it's an instant ban. But I guess that's one consequence of the information revolution that probably can't be avoided. This could probably be summed in one quote on ED (that I can't find anymore) which was basically "The internet: Where everybody gets 15 minutes of fame, but most don't deserve it" Who am I to deserve it?

Another thing that was somewhat off-putting is kinda the personal nature of weblogs, but that's something I now think is acceptable. Even for GOOD blogs, which are good at conveying complex ideas to the public, a good portion of their content is still personal things that really don't matter very much to anyone. Sure it's nice that your daughter is starting college, but do I really have to know that? Well, the answer to that is: sure. The decision of what to put in a weblog is up to the author and the author only. Readers really don't matter and have to power to choose what they want to read. In fact, it's a balance; I plan to make this blog a little more personal and less artificial in the coming days/weeks/months/years/whatever. But with less parroting and more actual thought.

One last thing I want to get to is books. One really fundamental issue I find with blogs is that they're shallow. Brevity is part of the design of blogging. You have access to a lot of information, but not really a lot of understanding. Just a bunch of qualitative descriptions and handwavy explanations. This was probably my biggest fright of the world of blogs: losing the ability to read deeply and critically. In a book, it's usually not enough to just read a passage, strip the context, and remember the essence of the message. It all has to be read as part of a whole work. And this work may take hours, days, or weeks to read; you still have to try and keep everything in mind and be on alert. (I'm kind of talking more about literature than popular works mainly because much of their message is not explicit, but is hidden inside the language constructs. Therefore, you need to be aware of words/phrases/voices throughout the book. It's hard to condense these down in a blog post [unless it's poetry of course]). This goes for science too, though. I have rarely seen an equation on a blog even though equations usually deliver the greatest insights into physical phenomena. (However, I'm not saying this is not a problem for books too. In my Introduction to Geology class, we didn't have a textbook cause the professor couldn't find a quantitative introductory geology book that described geologic processes as mathematical ones. I don't believe this is because of books as a medium though. The brevity of blogs does not allow them to adequately explain the mathematics behind these process, and any blog that tries ends up losing in the pageview race).

So why am I back? What changed? Very little actually. One problem with exercising thought and thinking is that if you don't have a good memory, the idea that you spent a while pondering is gone. So one way to keep your ideas is to write them down, and that is basically the function of this blog now. No more parroting, just ideas inspired by articles. Onwards!

Oh, and as always, this blog will be ad-free. Even I know my ideas aren't worth that much.