Your Resident Blog Dweeb

After having successfully built up my readership to three or four, and then dismantled it, I still let this old blog hang out there as a nostalgic thing. The whole concept played out for me as a kind of writing exercise, and in that way was valuable; yet, it also showed me how writing in this format can trap me in certain habits of thought.

There is a temptation to write to attract random Internet trolls; there is a temptation to write to attract and retain intelligent people; and then there is the temptation to write simply as an excuse to spit up whatever bile I had recently accumulated, as a sort of visceral purging action. That is why I have said that here I intended to write only about things I didn’t care about. All three cases would avoid exposing what I actually care about.

But, really, not only is that contrary to the ideal exercise of the art, it is also contrary to the best practices in spiritual life, mental hygiene, and socialization. “Someday. . .”, I told myself, “someday, I’ll just open up and be who I am, a fully actualized non-pseudonymous person. Someday I’ll just own my pretentious vocabulary and multilayered grammatical structure, my contradictory political views, my prejudices, my heresies, my inappropriate and uncultured observations, and my unfounded assertions.” Yeah, I still think like that. . . like maybe, if I were to collect the best stuff and polish it well, I could at least be proud of the impersonal craftsmanship that went into the book.

That’s really the wrong attitude as well. Instead, it should be all about self-acceptance and forthrightness, that is, not being an anxiety-ridden, self-righteous, somewhat anonymous Internet blog dweeb, reliving ninth grade over and over. I’ll have to work on that.


4 thoughts on “Your Resident Blog Dweeb

  1. This is not pointless rambling. There will be points given, therefore we need not consider whether this will be rambling.

    To play it safe, you could become the technical go-to guy in your area of expertise. I decided I didn’t want to be the technical go-to guy when it comes to AV software.

    Tech talk is generally a safer way to go than talking about things of a moral and political nature.

    For me, the pseudo-anonymous stuff is related in a big way to whether I want my potential Web presence to be as a consummate professional. I don’t want to live within the confines of being the consummate professional, so that affects the choices I make.

    Here I give you a technical tip. It’s safe.

    I started using Adblock Plus several months ago, along with the corresponding EasyList and EasyPrivacy:

    I also switched from Chrome to Firefox, even though I like Chrome better, but Adblock Plus works with both. With Adblock Plus, you need to uncheck the “Allow some non-intrusive advertising,” which annoys some people. Consequently, there are forks of Adblock Plus.

    On this page, it’s blocking the statistics, and it also blocks sites like I open up a panel in Firefox, and it shows me that on this page, it’s blocking 4 different things, which all look like links which collect data.

    It’s the most important add-on I use now. Sites that used to make me irate, because of their trashy advertisements, don’t make me irate anymore, because I don’t see their advertisements. That has potential pitfalls, but looking at stupid ads is not one of them.

    I didn’t know at first that Adblock Plus blocked things like site counters, but I definitely like that it does. Depending on the blogger, you can get all the benefits of going to their blog, without them getting an ego stroke from knowing about the page view.

  2. I used to use Adblock in Firefox, then I think at some point it stopped working when I updated one instance, which is on the beta channel. The other instance I had to delete and reinstall, and I think I never replaced the add-on. So, if it’s defeating Sitemeter, does that mean it’s blocking a tracking cookie, or is it preventing a script from running? If it’s a script, NoScript would do that.

    The “consummate professional” . . . I’m not sure what that means in context.

  3. First, the technical stuff. I don’t know what Adblock does about scripts, but it blocks specific URLs. blogs don’t allow arbitrary user scripts, so something like counter has to be a simple link to an image located on a URL. Adblock keeps that image from being retrieved.

    On your blog here, I’m seeing this link:

    Being interested in general whether people have a counter that will give them my IP address, I use the Firefox “Tools/Web Developer/Page Source”, and I see the statcounter link above show up right under your poll link. I load that link, and it’s a 1×1 pixel image.

    On my page, some of the same blocked URLs show up, but not the URL, so just out of general interest, I then wonder whether it’s your own account, or something WordPress stuck in, maybe from a WordPress widget you’re using.

    You’re not supposed to tell me which is the case. When I leave a comment, I give you my IP address, so that’s not what I’m worried about. It pays to put a little effort into figuring out what info I’m giving to people when I visit a site. I’m thinking about using a paid VPN service to keep from giving my IP address to the world when I surf the Web.

    As to the meaning of “consummate professional,” explaining that requires delving into what I made an effort to not delve in with the last comment. It’s good discipline to not give my opinion about everything; expressing my opinions all the time can irritate people at times.

    Getting very general, as I’m seeing it, what you say in this blog post is related to basic writing principle of “pick your audience, write for them, and stay focused.”

    This idea of “consummate professional” is something I think about a lot in the context of my own pursuits. In particular, there is the group of professionals who produce the Isabelle proof assistant software. They are, for the most part, consummate professionals when it comes to their two mailing lists. They rarely try to be the funny guys. They don’t get political. They rarely get inflammatory. They stay on topic. I, on the other hand, about 40% of the time, ask questions and make comments in a way that isn’t professional. For some reason they tolerate it. I do actually restrain myself, part of which is to intentionally stay on the fringes. The people who are officially or semi-officially a part of their product have to be consummate professionals, so I know I’ll never fit in completely. It’s the way of the business world.

    For you, when you say, “if I were to collect the best stuff and polish it well, I could at least be proud of the impersonal craftsmanship that went into the book,” that conjures up in my mind the idea of you deciding to enter more into the realm of the consummate professional.

    Essentially, I see that you described about 4 or 5 styles of writing. You’re also analyzing things like motive, but that part of what you say, I don’t consider to be much of my business. Sorting out motive and purpose for yourself, that’s your problem. My problem is trying to sort out my own motive and purpose.

    Here, I’m just analyzing what you say from my basic knowledge of rhetoric. Ultimately, it comes down to picking an audience, and writing for them. The fact that we have to pick means we have to not pick something else.

    For myself, I’ve repeatedly decided many that what I want to try and keep from doing is making myself too much of the center of things. Are there personal things I want to tell the world? “Keep that stuff to a minimum,” I say to myself. I’ve watched David Letterman very little, but I remember a guest he was interviewing try to get the conversation focused on Letterman’s personal life. Letterman didn’t let it happen. He redirected back to the guest he was interviewing.

    If you were asking me for advice, I’d say, “Dave, you might consider using the knowledge and skills that you have that most other people don’t have. Without going into great detail, it seems to me that you fall under the category of being a philosophy guy. So get rid of the off-the-top-of-your-head conversational meandering that’s typical of most blogs, and do your own more-polished philosophy, literature, etc., and analysis of other’s philosophy. But then, you’d have to know whether that’s what you should do. And I’d think you already know that as a consummate professional, you would be one of many consummate professionals who don’t get read much, but getting heard is most everyone’s problem.”

    Finally, an example of a consummate professional atheist writer would be Sam Harris. An example of an unprofessional atheist writer would be PZ Meyers. But then the lines get blurred sometimes. With American academics, PZ Meyers can repeatedly get inflammatory, but still get taken serious.

    What I see as a big dividing line is entertainment vs. technical. Philosophy tends to be technical, and because it’s also intellectual, a writer being inflammatory, snide, and snarky will generally result in the writer being taken less seriously.

    Here’s a dry, philosophical blog that I used to look at a long time ago.

    These days, I mainly only keep track of some technical blogs on security, math, and physics. All that inflammatory stuff with a ton of comment chatter is not my primary interest these days, or even dry, philosophical blogs. For these last two types of publishing, if I’m not doing it, I’m not that interested in it, and I’m not currently doing it.

  4. The “consummate professional,” I guess, is a person who is focused on the impersonal craftsmanship of their reputation. To be a professional person means to have been educated and trained in a certain field, to have experience in it, to have been vetted and approved by peers in the field, and to continually renew these attributes. To be consummate means to have achieved the epitome, and to be striving to maintain it. Both designations imply a certain sociopathic quality, that is, a quality that could be authentically expressive of character but could also merely be a well-constructed façade, a pseudonymity hiding darker motives.

    Unfortunately, I have never had the temperament to be that person. I have the skills, the aptitude, the intelligence, the demeanor, the socialization, and to some extent the education to be that person, but I didn’t find out until mid-life what it would have meant to be that person from the start. It would have meant wholeheartedly accepting my father’s example and rejecting the freedom that he offered me, the freedom to be divergent, plural, and unfulfilled.

    Your reference to the writing principle, “pick your audience, write for them, and stay focused” is rightly connected with my remark about impersonal craftsmanship. My impersonal craftsmanship would enable me to satisfy myself as a writer without accepting the label of professional writer, which would be someone who is obligated to consummate and maintain a professional status.

    I think the “styles of writing” that you refer to are the three styles of blogging that I noted: (1) the Linkwhore, (2) the Mensan, and (3) the Ranter. These, I meant to say, were tempting precisely because they enabled me to compartmentalize and disengage from my personal interests. I’m not sure that was in my best interest, but maybe that’s what it would mean to be a professional blogger. I think it would be better to be a writer first and a blogger only incidentally.

    Your unsolicited advice is conventional, but still on the mark. There is a unique perspective I could bring, but being committed to it would probably mean doing it purely for its own sake. That’s the opposite of being a professional, in the sense of being someone who throws all their time, energy, passion, and reputation behind their professional persona in order to solidify a social and financial position. It is more like “acting professional” than “being a professional.”

    I have a professional persona (a career) that would not actually be damaged by anything I would want to write. Anyway, that’s what I would like to think; but really I don’t know, because I can’t judge how people make political decisions.

    You’re not quite right in pegging me as a philosophy guy, because I can’t manage the rigor required of a philosophy guy. I think you’re saying that because you think that if I pursued that, it might somehow benefit my professional career. But in actuality, I don’t have the credentials to make philosophical writing beneficial for my professional career. All it would do is convince the professional philosophers that it is a mistake to let anyone without a PhD mess with their books: once the peons learn the lingo, they start gettin’ uppity.

    I agree that it would be best to pursue the more-polished approach, even though that would require me to spend an inordinate amount of time for each little essay, just to get it up to my standards, never mind the standards of my potential audience. The reading alone, in the time it would steal from worldly concerns, would create a huge burden. And then it would create a little social circle of like-minded writers, and I would feel obligated to read their well crafted essays and provide thoughtful comments. At that point, the only way to justify it would be if my associates were also clients or if they were somehow connected to a client by common interest.

    I am still conflicted about political speculation and social critique. I obsessively scan the news for tidbits on certain issues, even though their only possible value could be to annoy certain other people. I should get over that.

Instigate some pointless rambling

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s