goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
Lately, I've been mulling over the idea of making Internet discussion topic-oriented again.

My interest in this is primarily self-serving: my quality of writing, abilities to articulate myself, and interests in participating in online discussion have noticeably dipped since the rise of social media. Like any trained skill, this dwindling is the product of atrophy: most of my current time is spent on more immediate and people-focused forms of social media. Twitter in particular discourages long-form, longly-thought prose, and I've been feeling the strain of constraining my thoughts into 140 characters more and more as I try desperately to be less terse post-personal-depression.

The trouble is we now have a blogosphere that is, for the most part, very diffuse, disorganized, and disconnected. Writing posts on a personal blog, like I am doing here, simultaneously feels like I'm yelling into the void hoping desperately to be noticed and, when I am noticed, distracting people from other, more meaningful pursuits of their time. It's lossy, precisely because until you read the words that I'm typing here, it's difficult to determine what I'm about to go on about.

This is the inherent problem with people-oriented social media. While it connects us with a wider and richer audience of people, it also carries the expectation that everything those people say, or at least a reasonable subset chosen at random, will be read by all participants that follow them. This puts the burden of topic discovery with the reader, as they try to determine, for each post in their social stream, whether the content is meaningful for them.

This is a bad paradigm. People are very bad at being spontaneously consistent, or failing that, spontaneously supportive of the expectations of their audience. Indeed, it is a rare blogger on social media who focuses solely on the content of their work or interests of their audience, instead of cathartic spontaneity or the topical profusion and profundity of a Twitter shitter. And when you do find a focused author, chances are they'd really like to sell you something.*

This seems wrong to me. While it gives us a wide array of topics, discussion, voices, and interests, each conversation is sorely lacking for organization, structure, and any form of coherency. The purveying social expectation is also that these discussions are immediate, transitory, and prone to loss if they aren't picked up on near the time of posting. This leads to sort of an echo chamber effect, as people constantly rehash and rearticulate the same basic concepts and immediate structure for a relatively small number of interested participants, instead of moving forward and relying on the support of a topic, idea, or other nexus of research to support their ideas and opinions.**

In short, these posts don't tell an especially good story. They tell an immediate, transient one, indistinguishable from a sound bite in quality and effective longevity. On the posting side, it feels pithy, immediate, and meaningful to capture these ideas close to their original inception point. But, the structure to make these bites form part of a broader social tapestry just isn't there, leaving the burden on the reader to figure out what the hell is going on.

So, as an exercise in intellectual curiosity, I've decided to explore this a bit to see if I could do better. My thoughts soon settled on topic-orientation, precisely because it provides a focus and an implied, shared context for each piece of media. This provides a good story: it elevates the visibility of topics within their space, provides room for them to grow, and ceases to shackle them to each individual storyteller. This allows for a broader, pre-existing, shared context in discussion that is once again larger than a single individual.

The closest technical area of research I can find to re-topicizing discussion is tag search and term extraction. In which I ask an open question: are there any good, multi-social-platform clients that perform tag search and, as a bonus, a simplified form of term extraction? If not, I have half a mind to write one myself using existing APIs and tools, if only to have access to such a tool myself.***

In the meantime, I am experimenting with this using Tumblr. They already support tag search and content extraction (but not summarization) using their API, which is as good a start as any.



* Not that I discourage prospective authors, creatives, and other interests from attempting to sell their wares on social media! It just seems wrong to me that these interests form the majority of what I consider to be focused voices on social media, given the original intentions of the medium.

** One of my roommates wrote a fairly good post that articulates this better than I do here. You can read it at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/487228.html.

*** The idea of a company like Google supporting topic-oriented social search, a Google Meta if you will, pleases me. This is more or less the current public direction of their company, so I suspect there are many similar things cooking under the hood that I've simply not heard of.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
I think I'll just leave this here (posted out of order for effect):


  • 10:45 <@root> You: While we haven't yet solved the singularity for human
    lifespan, we sure have for the persistence of memory. I'm surprised no one's noticed.
goldkin: snoooooooww! (snoooooooww!)
There's a lot to say about the Internet of the eighties and nineties. For starters, it was much simpler. While graphical UIs were still finding their sweet spot with users, plain text reigned supreme. And, in a way, literacy was a mark of pride in this elitist, uncultured sense that many of us associate with the early days of our online presences.

Some time between here and there, many of us seem to have forgotten all that. I'm not sure if it was with the proliferation of the visual web or the invention of Quicktime and Flash, but something is clearly different about the web of today: it's noisy. Very noisy. And this constant battle for attention as we all come together online has caused us, in the words of Rands, to know more people less -- that is, less about more people.

It's fitting, then, that I've retreated from all of this noise back to journalspace. Only a scant time after I left with a hastily-rendered goodbye, here I am again, for exactly the reasons I originally laid out. And I feel empowered for the experience, because I now know another system that almost worked, revealing more of the whole.

In which I discuss how we learn and communicate, with less self-deprecating angst than I've displayed in the past. Yes, I'm feeling a bit better now. )
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
One of the things I scheduled into my vacation, and finally got these past few days, is more-than-adequate time for recovery. I generally use these for restful activities -- finishing a book, updating my resume, penning errant blog posts, that sort of thing. In this case, it was playing through the first two Metroids Prime while the back of my mind worked out stray ideas.

It thus comes as no surprise that I might say, "I improved my writing style while blasting Ing in Dark Aether." It's precisely what happened.

Because, my mind is strange like that. Where creativity is concerned, it needs a single activity to focus on, nearly exclusively, while my right brain goes to town figuring the rest out.


With this, I went back and read through my old posts. They all have the best intentions; what's there is good. But they're missing something -- that flow and style that says, "Hey, this is interesting!"

For me, this is a simple question of excess verbiage. I tend to focus singularly on the same point, talking at length and quite clearly obsessing over it, instead of actually saying what I'd like to. It's far more healthy for me to hit on a topic, get what I want said, and move on.

To coin a phrase, I have prose envy. I keep trying to restate the same thing until it sounds right, instead of getting my facts straight and moving on. It's a subtrope of excess justification, and a close friend of baseless rationalization.


With this in mind, I'm going to try to hit the high points that I think y'all will find interesting. Just journaling about work, my life, or progress in degunking my mind isn't going to cut it when there's more interesting stuff to talk about.

We'll see how that goes. I have far too many writing topics, scraps, and actual buffer (!) to not be interesting with it. :p
goldkin: i has book (Default)
As previously evidenced, one of the most pervasive elements of my posts is their spontaneity. This isn't necessarily because of an oversight on my part -- I simply operate on no buffer.

Unsurprisingly, this was my same strategy in college and my early career. The results have, well, been a bit humbling.*


I find I'm of a rare breed (No, not just a gold dragon. -Ed), in that I'm a rationalist with a purely intuitive base. I operate best when I make things up completely on the spot, or when I draw from sources that are relatively close at hand.**

The problem with this is flatly obvious. Because I draw on information of close proximity, I can be a complete and utter dunce when it comes to any test of depth. And because I look at problems as a matter of simple, closely-coupled components, my mind fails to retain the deeper nuances.

The result is a reasonably skilled, often competent person who utterly fails at articulating himself. Yes, that is the sound of me headdesking while trying to form this post.

This is the "mu" I speak of. Given my propensity for little information, I draw upon nothingness, starting with no assumptions and fueling my intuition with only the data close at hand. Based upon these, I select the most rational, obvious answer -- and often overlook the more nuanced ones.


What I do not know, is whether this speaks to inexperience, or to my desire that the world be a fundamentally simple place. I have found that taking the material, translating it into my private journals, then returning with the distilled, researched result tends to be better for everyone involved.***


This leads me to question my strategy of information storage and retrieval. Given the context of a suitably-geeky dragon with a tendency to ramble, would it be more correct for me to select obvious answers and address common problems, or should I build deeper wells of knowledge than my shallow base of experience?

The good news is, in either case, my lack of experience has spurned me to act on this. What falls to question is whether I act correctly.

--

* Let it be said that I'm far better off now than I was then.

** True to form, the dichotomy of "rationalist" and "intuitive" is borrowed from an unnamed party. You know who you are.

And for the nerds in the audience, the following paragraph is me failing to explain how my mind works on a breadth-first search of ideas, even in cases where depth would be more appropriate.

*** An insight into my journaling structure at home and at work:

It revolves around an ordering of three buffers: my main log (organized errata, todos), my day log (unorganized, idea-linked notes), and my project log (time tracking and down-to-the-minute information on where I spend most of my time).

These are generally presented in three splits of an Emacs window, and looks something like this:

Main LogDay Log
Project Log

My writing revolves best around this spread.

Having my Todos and Time Habits split to the left (nearer my poor eye) and my unstructured notes to the right (in 20/10 vision) genuinely helps me. There is also something to be said about how each eye is processed by the left and right lobes of the brain, but I'll leave that off the page for now.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
In reflecting over the past several years, I'm surprised by how quiet and complacent I've been in finding my own identity. This led me down many paths -- most, blind alleys and precarious loops around the same topic -- that seemed like good ideas at the time, but served only to stunt my attempts to understand this world and those who live here.

Breaking the silence was the first step toward repairing the damage. While that level of prolificism hasn't made its way here (as I'm notoriously bad at keeping up with public journals), the experience has resulted in a complete removal of the cynicism I've held toward spiritual discussion and the blanket classification of "otherkin" over the past decade. I'm coming to realize, after finding some approximation of community, that my views, experiences, and closely-held existential beliefs are strikingly common on a level I had not anticipated.*

Now, before I continue, this is a topic completely separate from discovering my own draconity and finding shared identity online. I made that discovery nearly eight years ago, after an additional four years of raking myself over coals on whether the issue was a meaningful part of my life.


Rather, this is an entirely horizontal experience -- finding, for the first time, that my cynicism isn't getting in the way of my better judgment. Suddenly, I can actually understand and appreciate what's being said in the draconic and spiritual sections of Dreamwidth, LiveJournal, et al.

While this discovery shouldn't surprise current readership, this is actually A New Thing for me. It stands as a personal shame that, being entirely too cynical to explore the journaling communities further (in 2003!), it took me seven years and a move to figure this out.


Suddenly, this flips me from worrying that an abstract "people" would out me as crazy (for any definition, they will, regardless of my views), to stumbling blindly into a well-defined audience that already knows exactly what I'm talking about. This leaves my opinions as also-rans, and myself with little to add to the conversation.

This is supremely frustrating for me, and stands as the top reason my journaling habits are so poor. It isn't that I lack things to say; I simply feel that, somewhere, someone has already said them far better than I.


Of course, I feel the same way about this post. I'm only letting it escape now, for my lack of finding a poorly-defined "somewhere," and simple need of advice.**

What are your views on the journaling draconic community as it currently exists, and how could a reformed cynic (and virtual-reality engineer) aid discussion in a way that wouldn't be noise?

---
* With the proviso that, yes, this could be my own form of confirmation bias, overly-aggressive inductive reasoning, or a similar misunderstanding on my part. I do not think this is the case, but with only conversation logs spanning to 2006 to back me up, it's difficult to tell.

** Or more likely, because it's 2AM, with my internal editor nursing his last glass of snark before the rest of me goes to bed.

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