Many eons ago I ran across an online diary on somebody’s Geocities site. I didn’t think much of it and didn’t even bookmark it (which is strange for me), but I filed it away in my memory and moved on. A couple of years later a random person read my website and recommended Xanga to me. I registered and then completely forgot about it for a long time.
I didn’t actually pay attention to things like online diaries and weblogs until a few days after September 11th, when I Googled my way into a message board for online diarists. In one thread they had been discussing the attacks while they were happening. The transparency and emotional energy of their posts gripped me. But still I moved on. A few months later I was looking up Choose Your Own Adventure books on Google and wandered into an entry from a diary called urbanality. This time it stuck. The entry was so inviting that I had to read the whole thing. I read all the archives, and I discovered once again something I often forget, that people can be utterly fascinating–as individuals, not just as abstractions.
Online diarying looked so fun that I had to try it myself. So I signed up with Diaryland, urbanality’s host, and typed away. I called it Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper because I had just read the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.
Then my friend at work April started a weblog at Xanga. This brought my attention to the large number of Wheaton students who had Xanga blogs. An online community of which I could be a part! So I revived my neglected Xanga account. I blogged at Xanga until about the time I set up my new site here in March 2005.
In recent years blogging has become a really big deal alongside other kinds of social media. While some bloggers are still online diarists, many bloggers are like syndicated columnists for newspapers, delivering informed opinions on the relevant events of the day, which sometimes consist of the posts of other bloggers. This interaction turns the various blogging communities into something like distributed forums with short threads but long posts, unless you count the comments.
I like this new ecosystem, but it's not something I can participate in very well. I react to things too slowly, writing takes me too long, and my ideas aren't formed or informed enough to give me something worthwhile to say about whatever's happening at the moment. I'm more of a topical thinker, and I use writing to work out my ideas, much like other people use talking. Since exploring the world of software engineering I've also learned the value of iterative development, releasing products early and often, even if they're in rough form.
So I've added a wiki to my site so I can make use of these considerations. I don't have to think much about the timeliness of my writings because a wiki tends to be oriented around topics rather than dates. Wikis also tend to encourage the growth of an article from a seed and, if they know where to find the updates feed, let the readers watch the growth. Blogs encourage the writer to plant fully fruited trees, and if they feel compelled to improve on earlier trees, they have to graft the branches on messily and hope the readers go back and notice. Wikis also tend to offer a few more pathways between trees via tools like "What links here."
Some people have interesting lives full of family members who say funny things or travels to unusual places. My life is pretty pedestrian. And since my ideas are what I really care about and my everyday experiences aren't, you'll probably find me posting much more to my wiki than my blog, which for now will mostly contain updates about what I've been posting to the wiki.