Friday, 8 October 2010

Never going to get to France

A friend recently returning from a visit to France posted photos of said trip on Facebook. Given the fond memories I have gathered touring and working in France I looked through each of those photos, but upon realizing these were limited to people's portraits and could have been shot in my own backyard instead I started thinking. How can anyone visit France and not marvel at its beauty? And given that people obviously can visit France and not marvel it enough to take photographs worth posting, the question turned into me wondering what the purpose behind the photos that were taken was.
Quickly enough my thoughts turned into this very blog. Five years ago, when I started this adventure, the blog’s main purpose was to facilitate better communication with those that cared for me. As in, provide a tool for those physically far away with which they can have some sort of an understanding as to what is going on in my life. In effect, the blog was to provide snapshots of my life.
Since its humble start my blogging has changed. Now I blog on several fronts: this blog is used primarily by me to articulate opinions; my reviews blog discusses the movies and books that I read, a fair activity given the importance that reading and watching films carries with me; Twitter is used for quick status updates and the distribution of memes where quick and short bursts can do the subject matter enough justice; and Flickr is my detailed photo album, where all our extraordinary activities (as well as some fairly ordinary ones) are meticulously documented. As it is, if someone cared enough to want to know what goes on in my life, they have some very capable tools with which to do so; all that's required of them is time.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that not too many people like that exist. If anything, I am constantly surprised by the way people confessing their care for me avoid anything I put on the web. Therefore, if I am to try and assess just how successful a communication strategy mine is, I have to look elsewhere. I have to look at people that practice the same web habits I do.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that I know several people like that. Two of them stand out in particular, as they are people whom I track on a daily basis: John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, both science fiction authors and both guys who were mentioned in this blog several times. Both Scalzi and Doctorow maintain regularly updated blogs, both of them are very active in the Twitter department, both of them review a lot of material, and both maintain Flickr pages containing personal stuff. Indeed, at any point in time I can tell you to a surprising level of detail what these two guys are busy doing, I can tell you a lot of what takes place in their personal lives, and I can tell you a lot about what their concerns are.
Most interesting of all is this simple fact. With both Scalzi and Doctorow, but especially with Doctorow, I can tell these things to a level that by far surpasses the level with which I can profess the same information about anyone other than the people with whom I share my house. The only exceptions to this rule, and they tend to be momentary exceptions, come not from family but rather from friends of mine who do share a window to their lives through the web.
A lot of people criticize the web for taking away real relationships and replacing them with virtual ones. So much so that it became fashionable to accuse the web of ruining people, in particular younger generations. I disagree; I think the web is a wonderful tool to connect people and share ideas with. Cory Doctorow agrees with me: in his review of Steven Johnson’s recent book, Where Good Ideas Come From, he concludes good ideas require putting oneself “into innovative environments”. The web provides exactly such an environment; I can only mourn how the vast majority of people fail to use it to even a fraction of its potential.

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