Via Austin Kleon:

Eyerollers are not naysayers. They’re not constantly cynical or skeptical or negative about your work. They don’t keep you down. They keep you in check. They’re editors.

Blogrolling and the Blog Digital Graveyard

Old blogrolls are a fun way to dive back in and maybe be inspired now and then.

Jason Kottke’s blogroll, February, 2005 (via Archive.org)

You can tell a lot about a writer by what they read.

There was a time when the most fascinating aspect of some blogs wasn’t their posts but their sources, often shared in a list on the sidebar as a blogroll. These semi-permanent placements allowed a bit of a peek in where they found ideas and inspiration and sometimes helped generate the content they’d share day to date.

Blogrolls are rare these days, rarer than blogs themselves. And most that do still exist are outdated, linking to sites that haven’t seen updates in years or domains long since expired. Which only makes sense given that the medium of blogging has moved on – as the content has dwindled, so have the links.

But in many cases, sites still live, lying dormant on WordPress or Blogger or on domains kept alive by authors who use the URL for their email or the hosting for other stuff so they keep their old thoughts on life support.

A blogroll used to also serve as a public bookmark where the blogger could just click on through each morning to see what folks were saying. Google Reader (RIP) helped make some of that work easier and now Facebook and Twitter serve up links hot and fresh. Now, if you want to stay up to date on a site, you follow it’s page on Facebook or the RSS feed in Feedly. Why have a blogroll if it’s only going to be a handful of blogs that could go away at any moment?

Still, going down the rabbit hole of blogrolls can lead to some fascinating trails through digital history. And every now and then a surprise when you find a site still being updated. Or, in the case of jyuenger, discover that the author recently posted for the first time in more than a year and has dedicated to keep at it.

Some blogrolls worth checking out if you want to see how the world used to work:

Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish has links to a range of political blogs, some mainstream, some not so much, many of them long dead, but still fascinating.

Things Magazine (which is still live and makes my blogroll on the right) has a ton of sites broken down into categories from architecture to people to music and more.

Flaming Plabum is a new addition to my Feedly and has a blog roll (“For Those About To Blog… We Salute You” – I can dig it) that has some links to voices of NYC, music and more.

Archive.org is also a great way to find blogrolls of the past like Jason Kottke’s.

There are so many snapshots of life just sitting on the internet, time capsules from five, ten, fifteen, more years ago. Authors may have moved on, but they’ve left their thoughts behind, a vast archive that used to mean something and maybe still does. Old blogrolls are a fun way to dive back in and maybe be inspired now and then.

Writing About Writing Isn’t Writing And Blogging About Writing Isn’t Writing Either

But I am writing

Transcribing chicken scratch.

Many years ago I found myself wanting to get back into writing so I picked up a daily diary/planner Moleskine and challenged myself to fill a page a day. Made it about six weeks before I fell off. But it helped inspire some stories that I did finish that year before falling into the regular routine of life and not making the time to write much.

Fast forward to 2019 and I figured I’d try again. I picked up an 18 month journal back in November and since then I have filled about a page a day with a couple gaps of a day or so here and there, but I’ve largely held myself to one page a day, 5-6 days a week. Nothing high art, I’m revisiting characters I’ve played with for nearly twenty years now (woah dang, 20 years?!!). But the challenge is to get decades of stories out of my head and on to paper. Even if they never get past that. It’s my creative outlet. Helps calm a busy day. Stuff like that.

It’s helping trigger the creative juices at the right time as well, because a friend of my reached out earlier this year and said, hey, we should work on something together. So I said sure. And now there’s a tease:

Take a moment and go enjoy Jericho Vilar’s work over at IRUINCLASSICS and his Instagram. You’ll see that I’m truly lucky to have such a talented dude to work with.

So I guess stay tuned. Because not everything that goes into this notebook is going to stay there.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?

If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)

Is Blogging Social Media’s Savior?

Social Media isn’t going anywhere – but it’s showing its growing pains and the limitations of its ability to truly inform and educate a public, not that that was every its intent or purpose.

A lot of the efforts to reshape social media, or to walk away from it in favor of RSS feeds or something else, are really attempts to recapture those utopian elements that were active in the zeitgeist ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago. They still exercise a powerful hold over our collective imagination about what the internet is, and could be, even when they take the form of dashed hopes and stifled dreams.

Tim Carmody – “How to Fix Social Media by Injecting A Chunk of the Blogosphere”

It’s more a call to arms for bloggers than a recipe for fixing Social Media on the whole, but Tim Carmody’s entire piece over at Kottke is still worth a read. But I latched on to the same closing question as Kari did:

Was it just a place to write and be read by somebody, anybody?

I think, in the beginning, for most people, yes. Blogging was an outlet for those who had thoughts and opinions on things to just get them out. Or for others to just share a public journal or diary of sorts. And I think that created the perception to this day of bloggers as this unprofessional basement dwelling class that, while it could help stir up some news and nonsense once in a while, was generally disregarded as amateur and ultimately illegitimate compared to other, more professional outlets.

There’s a folly in that view, though, because social media has sucked in most of those who’d fall into the “unwashed masses” category. Tim touches on this briefly when he talks about different categories of people that don’t fit a one-size-fits-all solution to social media:

Many more still have little capital to trade on to begin with, and are just looking for some kind of meaningful interaction to give us a reason why we logged in in the first place. The fact that this is the largest group, for whom the tools are the least well-suited, and who were promised the most by social media’s ascendancy, is the great tragedy of the form.

For those that used blogging merely as a platform to stay in touch with friends and family, share silly links once in a while, or generally fart around the web, Facebook and Twitter fits the bill.

But there was a group of people who always used it for a little bit more. Maybe it was professional, maybe it was personal, but they added more than just a nodding head to a conversation. They weren’t just thought leaders, they were thought creators. For them, blogging was the means of breaking out and getting a platform typically locked away in an academic journal or on the editorial pages of a news publication.

The problem for the blogosphere is the best and brightest were sometimes acknowledged as such and were able to utilize the tool to move on to bigger and better things. In some ways that’s great, especially for those individuals, because it showed the power of a democratic web allowing cream to rise.

In other ways, though, it caused the platform to suffer because as a brain drain occurred the medium was left with either blogs run by those who did it as a labor of love (and so sometimes had to prioritize other things over producing quality content) or the committed few who represented the loudest, aggravated voices who wanted a place from where they could shout into the darkness — only, because it’s the Internet, the darkness shouted back and they found friends.

Woah, got heavy there for a second.

Social Media isn’t going anywhere – but it’s showing its growing pains and the limitations of its ability to truly inform and educate a public, not that that was every its intent or purpose. For those who do want more out of it, especially those who found it back in the early 2000s via blogging, the solution may be going back to the old way of doing things or some sort of hybrid. That solution is up to us to figure out, because as Tim concluded:

I don’t think we can treat the blogosphere as a settled thing, when it was in fact never settled at all. Just as social media remains unsettled. Its fate has not been written yet. We’re the ones who’ll have to write it.

SOMEWHAT RELATED NOTE: Another piece worth reading is “So, What Really Happened to The Cauldron?” where its founder, Jamie O’Grady talks about the rise and fall of the sports news site. It’s a lot more on the business end than where I focus, but it shows how quality content comes up against a lot of weird valuations and metrics these days, ultimately leading to the demise of a site that had quite a few reasons to be considered a success.

Everyone makes a youthful promise not to get old and regretful, but every choice we make, by definition, rules out something else, so there’s always something to what-if about. Even the people happiest to be doing X are still going to wonder occasionally, what if they’d chosen Y? Sometimes this is sad, yes. Sometimes, though, it’s just routine maintenance on an open and dynamic mind.

Carolyn Hax: Her wanderlust has faded. Should she try to reignite it? (via)

The Kids Are Alright

Having the kids in the back of the car getting down to Tom Petty is a great way to start a Monday.

Lately the 4 year old has been really into Tom Petty after hearing “You Don’t Know How It Feels” – which he requests by asking for “that song about how I feels” and I understand him completely.

Because he listens intently when we least expect it (songs, adult conversations, commercials for toys we don’t want him to know about), he always ends up having questions that I’m not entirely sure how to answer in a way that a 4 year old might understand.

“What does he mean when he says ‘you don’t know how it feels to be me’?”

“What does he mean when he says ‘some grow cold’?”

Right now he thinks the song skips as I pass over the “she don’t give a damn for me” and “let’s roll another joint” because those are conversations we can have when he’s older.

It’s also fascinating to see the way his brain works when he starts enjoying something himself. I mean, yes, I play the song, but I can’t make him like it. But this one has two features he digs: the beat and the guitar solo near the end.

The beat (bomp-bomp-crash) reminds him of one of his all time favorite songs:

The guitar solo, while simple in the annals of solos but not something I could play, got him to ask, “Who’s that playing guitar? He’s very good.” So good that he wanted to explore other Petty songs and so far he’s landed on “American Girl” as his second favorite.

He likes this one because it’s happier than some of the other songs Daddy listens do (seems I listen to sad music). Still lots of questions – “What was her promise?” “Where is she running to?” “What’s out of reach?” – but it’s something he can dance to in the back of the car and it’s upbeat enough that it gets the 18 month old excited too. And I’m OK with that.