preview of coming distractions

I don’t think I’m flattering myself when I say that I have a fairly broad range of interests — and keeping track of all those interests has always been a challenge for me. I’ve mostly tried to do the online part of it by creating silos, so that people who care about only some of the things I care about don’t have to see a lot of stuff that bores them. The most general of those has been my Pinboard page. More focused sites include my blog on technologies of knowledge, Text Patterns; my soccer blog, The Pacey Winger; the blog for my book, How to Think; my long-neglected but still much-loved site Gospel of the Trees. That last is a coherent and self-sufficient project, but the others could conceivably be brought together — and there would be some advantage to me if they were. (Thanks in large part to the beauty of tags.) 

So I’m taking some steps in that direction. Interesting things I read that I have been posting to Pinboard I’ll now post here; and any reflections related to How to Think will be posted here also. Text Patterns will remain where it is, though I might cross-post more often; and I’m still thinking about what to do with The Pacey Winger. 

Anyway, it’s gonna be a little busier around here from now on. And I have some further ideas for how to make this place more interesting that I will share soon. 

farewell to Twitter?

(Cross-posted, with edits, from Text Patterns

A few weeks ago I deleted my private Twitter account — it was a good way to keep up with friends, but I found it impossible to control it (via disabled RTs, muted strings, etc.) well enough to prevent the frustration from exceeding the pleasure. That left me just with my public account, which I have been using primarily for linking to my own writing (e.g. blog posts like this one) and to cool things I’ve read by others. But I really really want to be out of the Twitter ecosystem completely — for obvious reasons: everybody knows that Twitter is horrible, there’s no need to belabor that point — so I have now deleted the public account too.

My chief concern with being off Twitter altogether is that I’ll be unable to provide a signal boost to people who are writing or making interesting things that other folks might not notice — and for that reason I could, I must admit, come back. So when Twitter notifies me, 29 days from now, that my account is about to be deleted, I might have a moment of weakness and log back in. (Twitter does prompt you when your account is about to be deleted … doesn’t it?)

I am aware, of course, that most people who read this blog get to it via my Twitter links, so I am perhaps making myself more marginal than ever. Who will even see this post? But if you happen to see it, and want to see more, please try RSS. It’s great. Most of the cool things I read or see are posted here, or on Text Patterns, or on my Pinboard page. And all of those have RSS feeds.

P.S. Have I written before about quitting Twitter? Have I quit Twitter before? Yes on both counts. I am pathetically irresolute. 

UPDATE (a few days later): Several people emailed me pleading with me to come back to Twitter, just for linkage. I guess for a great many people RSS is just a foreign technology. And since I can set up automatic posting to Twitter, why not? So that little experiment didn’t last long….

  1. Yes: ban porn. Ban it.
  2. A blessed Shrove Tuesday to you all.
  3. I’ll be back in Eastertide. Ciao for now.


I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but in between semesters I always take some time to re-evaluate how I’m spending my time, and over the last few weeks I’ve started implementing some fairly significant changes — especially in my online life.

Actually, I got a start on these changes a few months ago, when I said goodbye to Big Twitter. (I do visit from time to time but I don’t live there any more.) And then just in the past few days I set aside my Tumblr, which I had been faithfully updating for almost eight years. (My Gospel of the Trees site and my Book of Common Prayer tumblelog are effectively complete and have been for some time. I still like them, though.)

These two environments, Twitter and Tumblr, have something important in common, which they share with most social media sites: they invite you to measure people’s response to you. For many people this probably means nothing, but on me it has always had an effect. Over the years I developed a sense of how many RTs a tweet was likely to earn, how many reblogs or likes a Tumblr post would receive – and I couldn’t help checking to see if my guesses were right. I never really cared anything about numbers of followers, and for a long time I think I covertly prided myself on that; but eventually I came to understand that I wanted my followers, however many there happened to be, to notice what I was saying and to acknowledge my wit or wisdom in the currency of RTs and faves. And over time I believe that desire shaped what I said, what I thought – what I noticed. I think it dulled my brain. I think it distracted me from the pursuit of more difficult, challenging ideas that don’t readily fit into the molds of social media.

I started thinking seriously about these matters about a year ago, but after what was frankly a terrible 2014, marked by serious illness in my whole family and the death of my beloved father-in-law, I’m just now getting around to implementing what even then I knew I should do.

  • I’ll use Big Twitter (i.e. my public account) primarily for links and announcements.
  • I’ll use private Twitter to talk with my friends and family.
  • Instead of using Tumblr to create a commonplace book of fun images and snappy quotes, I’ll keep track of everything that interests me online on Pinboard, and much of it will be public. (This relieves me of a decision that I have had to make several times a day for the past few years: Does this go on Tumblr or Pinboard?)
  • Instead of using Tumblr to make brief and superficial commentary on whatever is current, I’ll use this space to write less frequently but at greater length on issues that have more lasting significance. I think often of a comment by the great computer scientist Donald Knuth about email: “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.” Tumblr and Big Twitter were for me ways of staying on top of things, but while I am no Donald Knuth, I need to get closer to the bottom of things than I have been for the past few years. This here site is where I’ll be doing that online.
  • I’ll be reading some books along with select groups of people and discussing them either in-person or online. (Amazing how that kind of environment tends to produce both accountability and coherent conversations.)
  • I will of course continue to work on my current book project, to write for Books & Culture, possibly to get back to writing for the Atlantic.

I won’t be writing less, nor will I be producing fewer words online, I suspect. But they’ll come in larger chunks, and I’ll either be getting paid for it or working out less coherent and fully-formed thoughts right here on my own turf, where Google Analytics isn’t installed, where comments are not enabled, and where, therefore, I don’t have the first idea how many people are reading this or whether they like it.

This is a test

This is a test. This is only a test.


hello and welcome

Following the advice of many wise people, I’m beginning to move my online writing away from prefabricated services and to my own turf. It’ll probably take a while for me to make this transition fully, so consider this a placeholder for action that is to come. I’ll be doing some test posts in the coming days and weeks.

© 2018 Snakes and Ladders

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑