This is my second post here. That is, if you only count the longer-form stuff and ignore my prior attempts at blogging. I wrote a sufficient amount of explication in my first post, but I’m going to indulge just a bit longer with the meta blogging. I’ve been an enthusiastic blog reader for several years now and thought I’d look back at some other Second Posts of my long-time favorites. I’m hoping to ape these blogger-heros to the extent that I can.
The short, quotidian anecdote
Jason Kottke’s True Love (March 1998):
I went grocery shopping last night at the local superstore. Afterwards, I noticed a young couple in the parking lot. They were dancing…spinning and twirling together. Hugging, kissing. oblivious to the 10 or so people watching them. I was happy. Because I was witnessing True Love™, like in the movies.
My happiness quickly passed, much to my surprise and chagrin. It turned to sadness and just a little bit of jealousy. I’ve never experienced True Love™ before…never even close. And that made me sad.
What’s astonishing to me, reading this now, isn’t so much that Jason has veered away from writing about his personal experiences over the years, but the extent to which the last paragraph has become obsolete.
The birds-eye-view cultural observation
Paul Ford’s Urban, Boolean (October 1997) starts with:
It’s a complicated place to live, but a map of New York City is a cultural Venn Diagram; you can break down the components and see the prejudicial logic that underlines the place. I live in Brooklyn, on a street wedged between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, on 9th St, below the overlapping shadows of the F train and the elevated Gowanus Expressway. In September, at a McDonalds below the Gowanus, some Black kids from Red Hook stole a watch from some Italian kids from Carroll Gardens. Walking home in a rage, the Italian kids beat a 41 year old Con Ed employee, nearly killing him, because he looked like their 17-year-old assailant.
This may be unfounded optimism on my part (or limited perspective), but I think racial tensions have eased a bit since this was published. Of course, I’ve only been in New York since 2005. I can relate to the underlying point of view, especially living in Bushwick where many racial and socio-economic groups are increasingly getting smushed together.
The geeky info-sharing post
Andy Baio’s Spambots and Dynamic E-mail Addresses (April 2002):
Phil just came up with a clever variation of Andre’s spambot-defeating e-mail trick. On his old site, Andre dynamically displayed the current date as his contact e-mail address (a la email@example.com), and wrote a procmail script to weed out e-mails sent to addresses older than a week.
Instead, use SSI and environment variables to include the client’s IP address in the e-mail address. So,
<!--#echo var="REMOTE_ADDR" -->@example.combecomes firstname.lastname@example.org. Now that you have the spambot’s IP address, do something creative with it.
It’s interesting how much less important email spam seems now compared to 8 years ago. I chalk this up to improved filtering and alternative messaging options. All three of these guys now link to a standard email address on their site, exposing themselves to the world with a non-obfuscated
I used to use a simpler version of this trick in order to cut down on spam. I lost one big client project (at least that I know of) due to the sender not knowing to remove the
no-spam part of the linked address. So I’ve replaced it with a “real” address and resign myself to a daily spam deletion routine. It’s not so bad really.
The introspective meditation
danah boyd’s untitled entry from September 30, 1997 starts by describing an unsatisfactory visit to New York where she encounters a variety of grumpy worker bees, too self-absorbed for basic social relations:
they all looked rushed and unhappy. many yelled curse words at passerbyers or were rude when i politely asked a direction question. my interruption terribly hindered their day. what a sad state of affairs. cabbie drivers rush up and down the streets, won’t pick you up if you look like a kid without money and are paranoid that you are going to make their lives miserable. they looked pained and want you out of their backseat as soon as possible. they growl at you when you want change. how can they enjoy this life?
This is a different city from the NYC I know. Obviously I can only offer speculation on this, but I think it may be true: the city’s collective psyche changed fundamentally on September 11th, 2001.
New York is understandably overwhelming to newcomers. I found the city to be thrilling when I first got here, but I completely understand this kind of negative reaction. More than most places it takes a lot of work to get by here. You have to have patience, humility and empathy for your fellow drones. You have to make time for friendships and hobbies to avoid falling into a work-only lifestyle. There are so many amazing things happening here, all at once, all the time, that most of my anxiety from living here comes from existing in a state of perpetual missed opportunities. I do what I can and try not to take the city too seriously.
The introductory post
Anil Dash’s Birth of a weblog breaks the trend by putting his preamble in post number two (July 1999):
The first hazy outlines of a weblog are born here, expect entries to be added both forwards and backwards from here
Also, one of the primary inspirations for this site is PeterMe, which may also constitute a virtual self-weblog for me, in that Peter Merholz is also an ENTP, info-space designing GSSM.
Like Anil in 1999, I hope to populate my archives with older stuff. I don’t want content that predates this particular incarnation of my site to get orphaned. Hopefully I can make more progress going back than Anil’s lonely precursor to his second post!
The culture-technology intersection
John Gruber’s Jack Valenti Does Not Smell Like Teen Spirit (August 2002):
For people who don’t have the technical chops to comprehend the underlying issues (which is about 99 percent of the U.S. population), the whole thing just sails over their head, and gets filed under “So what?”
So instead of trying to explain it yourself, just point your friends to Cory Doctorow’s TidBITS article. It’s not that he’s dumbed the issue down — he’s simply done the hard work of making a smart argument in terms that anyone can understand.
Unlike everyone else here, Gruber just dives into his task in post number one. There’s no contemplating what it all means, what form will this blog take? He just starts. Post number two is about drawing attention to another article that clarifies a difficult subject. I don’t know that John Gruber is known, first and foremost, for his humility but his selfless tendency to share attention — to point us to useful clues — is admirable.
Then again, I think the same is true of all the bloggers I’ve linked here.