December 30, 2002

Why blog?

I was recently asked

I’m writing a piece for the Chronicle about Austin bloggers, and I was hoping that some of you could share your thoughts with me about why you started blogging, and your perception of Austin’s blog community and its relation to Global Blogistan, that sorta thing. And for that matter any other thoughts you might have that seem relevant…?

Here goes

  • I started blogging because other people were doing it, and it seemed like fun. I’ve had a website since long, long before I started blogging, and would occasionally post a rant there, but I wasn’t using any kind of specialized tool for it — just hand-coding HTML. After a while, I got to a point where I had enough rants backed up in my brain that I felt like I really needed to start blogging, just to loosen that blockage. This was shortly after 9/11, so there was probably a lot on everyone’s mind around then. The funny thing is, looking back on my earliest blog entries, it seems clear that I didn’t get around to setting down all those ideas.
  • I haven’t made a methodical survey of other Austin-area bloggers, but from what I have seen, they seem to be similar to the blogs I see everywhere else: they tend to focus on news, technology, and the authors’ own lives. And, to some extent, on blogging itself (metablogging). And on the intersections of these different elements.
  • I don’t see Austin bloggers as having a very special place in the blogosphere. Austin does have some distinctive qualities, with the music, the tech industry, and the local culture, and I suppose that comes through in blogs to some extent. But I haven’t seen as distinct a sense of place in Austin bloggers as in, say, New York bloggers — or to get even more specific, say, Brooklyn bloggers. Although technology is obviously a part of Austin culture, for whatever reason, blogging (which doesn’t really require much in the way of technical chops) hasn’t achieved critical mass here, the way I’ve seen it do in NYC, where multiple people will routinely blog about the same party, and point to each others’ posts. It may have something to do with Austin’s low population density.
  • Other thoughts: Some people seem to think of blogging as solipsistic, narcissistic navel-gazing. And many blogs are that way. But many other blogs are written by people who are knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, and blogging provides them with a medium they otherwise wouldn’t have. And the Internet’s qualities of speed and bidirectionality mean not only that they can publish at will, but that others can take on these ideas in the blog comments or in their own blogs, refuting or corroborating the author’s point, or shining a different light on it. When one person’s blog entry becomes the subject of many others, you can tell there’s something interesting going on.

I’ve long felt that citizens in democracies have a duty to stay informed. With the extreme concentration of conventional media ownership today, we are getting to a point where citizens have a duty to participate in blogging — at least as readers, so as to stay exposed to views that haven’t been homogenized by commercial interests, and ideally as writers, so that we as individuals can learn firsthand what we as a society are thinking.


For the past few days, I’ve been wrestling with the problem of creating a simple order-tracking system for my side business lately, and after trying out a few different candidates, I felt as if they’d all take too much work to get something that was almost — but not quite — right. I sighed wistfully “I could build exactly what I want in Hypercard.”

Alas, Hypercard is a mothballed product. You can still buy it (somewhat to my amazement), but it hasn’t been updated in years, and certainly doesn’t run under OS X. It does run under OS 9, but I haven’t installed that.

So it was with great hope that I started fooling with Supercard today. Hope that was dashed. Supercard seems like a decent product in its way, but it’s just different enough from Hypercard to make some things that were easy in HC to be like pulling teeth in SC — as if it is trying to emulate HC in a superficial way without really partaking of its more fundamental structures. It lacks some of the handy coder features that HC had — that allowed you to watch variables as a script executed, shortcuts to break into certain script-editing windows, etc. It also has some minor but infuriating bugs. The differences and shortcomings are just enough to make me throw up my hands in frustration.

Maybe I’ll re-install OS 9 on my machine, just so I can run Hypercard.