A Thousand Riffs

This is my 1,000th post on this blog, which I’m using as a cheap excuse for navel-gazing. I’ve actually had the ideas herein kicking around for a while, so when I saw the odometer about to tick over, I figured it was as good an excuse as any.

The question I’ve been sorting out in my own head is this. Why blog? I’ve got a schtick going here that is almost by design guaranteed to drive away most of my audience. Here’s the problem: I’ve got kind of a short attention span. And I’m fascinated by a lot of things that don’t really have much at all in common. Sorry ’bout that.

When I started the first incarnation of this, blogging didn’t really exist. I wrote some simple perl code as a front end to a MySQL database and wrote a few vaguely disjointed entries. It was a short-lived exercise, in part because the software used to run it was not exactly, uh, friendly. Those of my free software friends who have actually seen my code will no doubt understand this point.

The second incarnation was in March 2001 on Advogato, the free software community site. I lived there for a couple of years, but increasingly I found myself writing about stuff that wasn’t related to free software. By that time I had a blog at work, and my boringly specialized Nuke Beat blog (which, amazingly, gets like 100 visits a day – what’s up with that? I think it’s all bots.). But I decided I needed a blog that was just me. I had Inkstain, so it seemed appropriate to set up shop here. I argued thus:

I have too many blogs already – Advogato, the Nuke Beat, my ABQJournal musings. Starting another seems a bit of overkill. They all have their roots elsewhere – a pre-existing publisher in the case of the Journal and Advogato, which provides a built-in audience. There’s comfort in that. The Nuke Beat’s just a hare-brained experiment, which may or may not work. But they all have something in common, which is me. There are times when, writing for one or another, I feel uncomfortable. Too much free software ranting is prolly a bad idea on the Journal blog, and I’ve never been entirely comfortable bragging about my incredibly smart and talented daughter on Advogato.

That’s why I decided to consolidate things here. By no longer hiding behind the skirts of an existing publisher, I lose built-in audiences, but that seems fine. I’ll still do the other blogs when my whim suits their audience (and in the case of ABQJournal, I get paid for that, which still amazes me). But if Tim Berners-Lee’s original idea of the web as a medium for both reading and writing has any meaning at all, this is it, so my Inkstain web site must reflect that.

It seems sort of quaintly naive, but ultimately accurate – “But they all have something in common, which is me.”

I have this problem – happens to me all the time – where I’ll sit down to write a post and have to Google myself to see if I’ve already written it. (Lissa suffers the same fate, except there’s no Google. I’ll start sharing some wild idea, and then I’ll have to stop and ask her if I’ve already told her.) I have this constant conversation going in my head, and y’all are one of the audiences I’m working it out for. And I’m never sure if I’ve just thought about writing the post, or rehearsed the telling of the story to Lissa, or whether I’ve actually done it.

The conversation is about a lot of different subjects, which is part of the audience problem I have. Free software has long been a passion – I was heavily involved in the GNOME project for a long time, and I still stay connected with a lot of my friends from those days through Planet GNOME, where this blog is still syndicated. (Poor Jeff, who runs it, has faced some amount of abuse over the last couple of years: “That guy never writes about GNOME!”)

I blather on a lot about climate, which is a fascination of mine, so you’ll see folks gravitating my way via RealClimate. But that seems more than a little odd to me at times, imagining folks coming from that august and serious site to find my latest post about baseball and gay rock bands.

I’ve picked up a bunch of Albuquerque readers lately, because I’ve been writing more about the community I live in and love. I sure can’t imagine them caring a whole lot about my climate ramblings. Or baseball and gay rock bands.

Luckily Mom reads this, and she loves it all. Thanks, Mom.

The Planet GNOME criticism used to bug me, and I admit I felt a little weird when the RealClimate people put up a link on their blog. As a writer, it’s ingrained in me to think about my audience, try to reach them, to address their needs. What is it they need to know? What is it they will enjoy?

But with this blog, I’ve realized that ultimately, the audience is me. I admit to the blogger’s ego of checking my hit counts, and feeling all pumped up when they spike. But the great joy for me is the simple pleasure of reading my own stuff. I hope this does not sound egotistical. I think it’s just that, at the gentle middle age in which I find myself, I’m basically comfortable in my own skin. I enjoy my own company, and the blog is a favorite place to share it.

It’s not that there’s literature here, or good journalism. It’s more like a writer’s equivalent of garage band riffing – getting together with some friends (that’s you, gentle readers) to play stuff you like.

I have favorites, things I’ll go back and read again and again: Armstrong and cancer, Don’t Bogart that Joint, Ebert’s Peak.

The last, if I may be immodest, I think is fucking genius, perhaps the only truly funny thing I have ever written. Unfortunately, no one else seems to get the joke. But that’s OK. Because the whole point is to amuse myself.