Rethinking My Online Presence for 2014

A couple of weeks ago, more or less, I stumbled on a post by Matt Mullenweg in which he discussed the seemingly arbitrary logic governing what gets a lot of attention online. Work really hard on a piece that wrestles with something you think is important, he notes, and you may end up getting a trickle of attention. Post something offhand on a whim, and it may get a ton of exposure.

In his view, there are two unhealthy responses to this state of affairs. One is to despair and stop writing. The other is “to deconstruct the elements of what makes something sharable and attempt to artificially construct these information carbohydrates over and over.”

The third way that Mullenweg offers is to write for two people. Write for yourself and write for “a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write.”

That’s not bad advice.

Around the same time I read another post that, together with Mullenweg’s, got me thinking about this blog. I lost track of that post, but happily Alan Jacobs recently linked to it. It was a post by Frank Chimero that concluded in this way:

“So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014. In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country.”

That closing metaphor makes more sense if you read the whole post, which I would recommend. You get the idea, though. Jacob’s own post also helped clarify some of the thoughts I’d been having about my online presence.

So what, then?

Like Chimero, I’m doubling down on this site in 2014.

Some of you may remember that a few months ago I commented on the relatively light posting on here throughout most of 2013. Circumstances haven’t changed all that much. I’m still too busy with a number of commitments. That said, I’m thinking of how I can weave some of that work into the life of this site, something that was only possible when I started thinking along the lines suggested by Chimero and Mullenweg.

So here is a rundown of how I’m thinking about my online presence in 2014.

A while ago I created a Facebook page for this site. There I provided links to posts, but I also linked to other articles I thought worth passing along and wrote an occasional Note. Given the way Facebook seems to be handling Pages–limiting reach to encourage people to pay to promote posts–I’m thinking of pulling the Page altogether. If it stays up, I will use it strictly to publish posts from this site for the convenience of those for whom Facebook is primary newsfeed.

My presence on Twitter is pretty low-key, and it will stay that way. While I know many smart, articulate folks that thrive on Twitter, I’ve concluded that I am not one of those people. I’ll mainly use it to provide links to posts that appear on this site and to pass on links of interest. I’m sure I’ll occasionally have a few exchanges with the aforementioned smart, articulate folks too. 

I will in all likelihood use my personal tumblr only to peruse content–mainly design, typography, art, and the like. The tumblr I created to catalog the Borg Complex will probably stay active. I have no particular problem with tumblr, except that it does encourage the tendency to be little more than a relay in the network. Other than that, dropping off of tumblr is mostly driven by the desire to consolidate my online presence.

And that is a good segue to talking about this site. In the admittedly selfish spirit of using this site in the way that most benefits me, I’m going to start including tumblr-style posts alongside the more typical posts. While the focus here will definitely remain on technology, you may start to see some other aspects of my interests and personality work their way in. You might also notice a few design tweaks to make this feel more like a personal website.

I should also take a moment to say that I’ve not done a very good job of responding to comments over the last couple of months. My apologies to those who have left comments and have not gotten a reply. I read them all, but regrettably I don’t always have time to reply. I hope that doesn’t discourage future comments, as I truly do appreciate the usually very thoughtful replies I get.

I hope all of this amounts to something that you too find useful, and if you’ve got any ideas related to any of this, I’d love to hear them.

Cheers!

On Tumblr

Alright, I finally caved. I just created a tumblr. It is born partially out of a certain slothfulness. I frequently come across items I want to pass on, but I feel as if I need to do more than just link to them if I’m going to post them on here. More often than not, I don’t have the time to do that. I’ve tried the “For Your Consideration” compilation posts, but they take a while also. Twitter’s fine, of course, but sometimes I just stubbornly want to highlight more than 140 characters. And honestly, while I’ve appreciated well enough, I’ve never quite felt at home on Twitter. I’m sure it’s a temperamental thing. Long story short, I give you the more concise, more nimble version of The Frailest Thing.

When I started this blog, I imagined it as something like a digital commonplace book. Tumblr more naturally fits that purpose it seems. Also, I had originally envisioned this blog as a more eclectic affair. While some eclecticism has survived, the focus is clearly on technology. There’ll be plenty of technology related stuff on the tumblr version too, but I do plan on using it to collect a considerably wider variety of material.

So there you have it. Cheers!

 

Kindling

The Tourist and the Pilgrim is now available through the Kindle Store.

I’m grateful to those of you who’ve picked up a copy and spread the word.

A couple of observations: First, you all are generous. Almost everyone who’s picked up a copy at Gumroad has paid more than the asking price. Secondly, if you refine the category sufficiently, it’s apparently not that hard to crack a top 100 list on Amazon, at least temporarily.

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Also, thanks for your patience as I do some self-promotion. I can barely stand it myself, but if I’ve put the thing together, I should at least make sure people know it’s out there.

UPDATE: Well, we’re movin’ on up …

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The Tourist and the Pilgrim: Essays on Life and Technology in the Digital Age

A few days ago, I noted, thanks to a WordPress reminder, that The Frailest Thing had turned thee. I had little idea what I was doing when I started blogging, and wasn’t even very clear on why I was doing so. I had just started my graduate program in earnest, so I was reading a good bit and, in part at least, I thought it would be useful to process the ideas I was engaging by writing about them. Because I was devoting myself to course work, I was also out of the classroom for the first time in ten years, and the teacher in me wanted to keeping teaching somehow.

So I began blogging and have kept it up these three years and counting.

The best of these three years of writing is, I’m happy to announce, now available in an e-book titled, The Tourist and the Pilgrim: Essays on Life and Technology in the Digital Age.

Forty-six essays are gathered into eight chapters:

1. Technology Criticism
2. Technology Has a History
3. Technology and Memory
4. Technology and the Body
5. Ethics, Religion, and Technology
6. Being Online
7. Our Mediated Lives
8. Miscellany

Not surprisingly, these chapters represent fairly well the major areas of interest that have animated my writing.

Right now, the e-book is only available through Gumroad. Of course, feel free to share the link: https://gumroad.com/l/UQBM. You will receive four file formats (PDF, .epub, .mobi, .azw3). The .mobi file will work best with your Kindle. Some formatting issues are holding up availability through Amazon, but it should also be available there in the next couple of days for those who find that more convenient.

Each of the essays can be found in some form online, but I have revised many of them to correct obvious errors, improve the quality of the prose, and make them read more naturally as stand-alone pieces. Nonetheless, the substance remains freely available through this site.

Convenience and a few improvements aside, those of you who have been reading along with me for some time will not find much you haven’t seen before. You might then consider Gumroad something akin to a tip jar!

Finally, because I would not presume they would see it otherwise, I’d like to share the Acknowledgements section here:

Each of these essays first appeared in some form on The Frailest Thing, a blog that I launched in the summer of 2010. I’m not sure how long the blogging venture would have lasted were it not for the encouragement of readers along the way. I’m especially grateful for those who through their kind words, generous linking, and invitations to write for their publications have given my writing a wider audience than it would’ve had otherwise. On that score, my thanks especially to Adam Thierer, Nathan Jurgenson, Rob Horning, Emily Anne Smith, Alan Jacobs, Nick Carr, Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Matthew Lee Anderson, and Evan Selinger.

But I must also acknowledge a small cadre of friends who read and engaged with my earliest offerings when there was no other audience of which to speak. JT, Kevin, Justin, Mark, David, Randy – Cheers!

And, of course, my thanks and love to my wife, Sarah, who has patiently tolerated and supported my online scribblings these three years.

Deo Gratias

My thanks, of course, are owed to all of you who have stopped by along the way. While it may sound sappy and trite, I have to say there is still something quite humbling about the fact that when I offer up my words, which is to say something of my self, there are those who come around and take the time to read them.

There is a sense in which I’ve written for myself. The writing has helped me in my effort to understand, or, as Hannah Arendt put, “think what we are doing.” It is no small thing to me that in making that process public, some have found a thing or two of some value.

Cheers!

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In the works …

For some time now I’ve entertained the idea of compiling some of what I’ve written here over the last three years and turning it into an e-book. In part, I’m motivated by the desire to give the work I’ve put into this blog a more finished and enduring form – or, at least what would feel like a more finished and enduring form. I’ve also been intrigued by the process of putting together an e-book and thought it might be interesting to experiment with it. And, of course, it would be disingenuous of me if I didn’t also admit that I’ve wondered whether putting together an e-book might not help finance what remains of grad school. My expectations on that count are, I assure you, quite modest. In any case, entertain the idea is pretty much all I had done with it. Until recently that is.

I’ve been inspired by Jeremy Antley to finally undertake the project. Jeremy is a thoughtful and articulate scholar of Russian history, games, and digital culture who blogs at The Peasant Muse and has written for some of the same online venues I’ve contributed to over the last couple of years. His post on the process of putting together an e-book was tremendously helpful and made the whole thing seem easy enough for me to give a it whirl. I picked up his book at Amazon, and you can also find it at gumroad.

So I’ve been working on a collection I’m tentatively titling The Tourist and the Pilgrim: Essays on Life in a Digital Age. I’m hoping to make it available in the next few days. All of what will be gathered therein, at least in its original form, has been and will remain freely available on this site. But those of you who would appreciate a collection of the better work that’s passed through these pages and an opportunity to support that work, stay tuned, it’s forthcoming.

Update:

One more, possibly oddball thought. I imagine this is the sort of thing a publisher would traditionally do, so this might be a little weird, but, whatever, these are weird times: If you’ve been reading The Frailest Thing for awhile and would be interested in giving me a “back cover blurb” sort of endorsement drop me an email at LMSacasas at gmail dot com. Cheers!