Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aren't blogs jumping the shark...?

So, I'm taking a trip to the Nürburgring late March. For those that don't recognize this name, "The Ring" is a race track in Germany, northwest of Frankfurt; mention this name to an automotive enthusiast and their eyes are sure to widen. To an enthusiast, it's automotive mecca...but more on The 'Ring later...

I created this blog on the suggestion of my wife, Thea. Since she won't be accompanying with me on this trip (I'm going with some racer buddies) she thought it might be interesting for me to create a blog about his trip, to keep track of thoughts and experiences. And, I suspect, since she kinda wanted to go with me, with a blog she could be there vicariously (and it doesn't hurt to keep track of me, either ;)...) She also probably remembers that during our last trip to Germany and the 'Ring (January '99) I was consistently on my laptop writing down thoughts and observations (like the one time we were at a museum cafe and I wrote for an hour while she sat there bored...)

After I created this blog, I found myself staring at an empty page, wondering what to write (hell, it took me 15 minutes to choose an available blog name, and I'm not particularly pleased with the choice I ended up with...) And I got to thinking: why a blog? What is it that I could possibly write on the Internet that would be of any value or interest to someone else? It's not like I have any particularly clever insights into life (I don't), or that I'm particularly entertaining (I'm not...well, maybe not sober, anyway).

And then there's the whole concepts of "weblogs"; in this age of short-sentence, abbreviated-words texting, Twitter, and Facebook "statii" (and its resultant thoughtless tossing around of mental diarrhea) aren't blogs long, boring, and stale? Are they still useful? How many members of today's ADHD-infected society ever get through something that has more than 140 characters (a problem I'm seeing when I write detailed emails and documents at work...) Being "apparently" insightful and clever using <140 characters is easy, especially if it has a half-life of 32 seconds (I don't expect to see any Great American Novels written on Twitter...) but something longer? When was the last time most of us have even read a whole book?

(I'm as guilty as anyone on this...my primary reading over the last 10 years has been mostly magazines. I've been trying to cut back on the mags and get to that nice stack of books next to the bed, lots of very interesting stuff...)

I've been a long-time fan of blogs of people who I find interesting. One of my early followings (late 90's onward) was my friend Steve Williams, now living in California. Steve is a fellow flyer and Grumman owner, and he's always had interesting and clever insights into aviation and information technology. Steve's clever insights have, in many ways, changed the way I think and look at things (such as my "Minimalist's Panel" on the flying pages of gatm.com).

Another interesting blog is "The Angry Economist"; I'm a closet fan of macro-economics. Russ Nelson comes across as one of those curmudgeonly "You kids get off my lawn!" kinda guys, but as with Steve, while I may not particularly agree with his conclusions I certainly appreciate the insights and cleverness on how he got there. He's one of those "hey, I never thought of it like that" kinda guys.

Another one I read regularly is James Lilek's "the Bleat". Like with Steve and Russ above, I find James provides different ways of thought and clever insights. Plus, he's a big fan of 20th-century Americana that I really enjoy reading.

The point of all this is that each of these blogs have something to offer. So that makes me wonder, what do I have to offer? Am I arrogant enough to believe that I have something to offer, or am I simply overthinking this? And, worst of all, how much motivation will I have to keep this going? I'd be willing to bet a beer that 99.999% of "blogs" started on the web are rarely maintained; hell, in looking for a blog name most of the ones I tried were nothing more than pages created with one post! Fortunately, with this post I've beaten that record... ;)

Of course, if no ones reads a blog on the Internet, does it still make a sound...?

In the end I decided that blogs still do have value, fitting into a niche between Twitter and "real" (magazine?) articles (but no where close to the info in a book), offering a bit more detail and insight than a Facebook status, but less so than something more-organized and detailed. And, of course, it's a very (little-d) democratic medium, without censorship (within societal and legal boundaries), and no requirement for editorial approval, allowing someone to make their thoughts known, regardless of the value of those thoughts. We here in the USA have the right to free speech, without a right to be heard, and I think that a free blog on the currently-uncensored Internet is likely the near-perfect medium for that.

This blog is here for me and for Thea, someplace where I can put in some thoughts in any easy interface, something I can use for own reference later. Effectively, it's my online "notepad" (don't be surprised if you see me posting a list of stuff I have to buy at Harbor Freight).

You may agree with me, you may (likely) disagree. But if in the end you also find it entertaining and informative, then so much the better...

Greg

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