Tuesday, February 3, 2009

living vicariously

In some ways it's to be expected – to quote the song, "the weather outside is frightful" – so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I am spending significant amounts of time without leaving the house. On top of the crappy weather, my class load has dropped to nil (so as to give me ample time to concentrate on writing my thesis), and I have made the oft-dreamt about (and much maligned) transition to a tele-commute, freelance job. Freelancing, it has to be said, takes some adjusting. It's not just the infrequent (and much smaller) paychecks. It's that I have to exercise some self-control, which I have discovered is something I am not very good at (and which partially explains the small and infrequent paychecks).

So instead of doing paid work or finishing my thesis, I have become addicted to the internet. Addicted in general and to a number of blogs in particular. I only worked this out the other day, when I was on the phone to my mother, and I struggled to find a suitable answer to the question "What's new?" There was very little that was "new", aside from the exciting developments between Brad O'Farrell and his cat, or the new recipe that I found over here.

It's a good thing that winter only lasts till spring, and I start frothing at the mouth if I'm not outside for most of my waking hours. It's also a good thing that I have a wireless internet connection, a laptop, and a relatively sheltered spot on my veranda where I can sit naked in the sun.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

a dilemma

It has been a little while since I stopped long enough to actually contribute to this thing, but I haven't stopped thinking about it. It sort of sits there, floating somewhere at the back of my head, occasionally popping up (usually when I should be concentrating on something else, but often enough in the shower for me to wish I had some sort of whiteboard in there). Most of the ideas I have are lost in the noise, which irritates me. I keep thinking I should keep a notebook with me, but I am just not that organized most of the time. There is a collection of notes scrawled on the back of envelopes scattered around my apartment - I must do some of my best thinking after opening the mail - to the point where I have fished old envelopes out of the recycle bin just to keep a supply on hand.

But right now I keep coming back to this idea of contribution. This whole Web 2.0 caper is based on the idea of unstructured and open contribution (for more on this I thoroughly recommend anything written by Lawrence Lessig or Clay Shirky). Which is fine, great really. I think the real potential of the web and this sort of communication in general is in allowing and encouraging people to express themselves and connect with each other - great ideas don't come out of nowhere, and really great ideas don't come out of one individual. Of course, I am well aware of the enormous amount of crap out there. The web is full of garbage, but really clever search algorithms help to sift this out, and that is why Google is going to take over the world. And besides, who am I to say that there is no inherent value in 4chan, goatse.cx, that annoying Boxxy girl or any of the other memes that clog up the interwebs?

So contribution is great. I love twitter, and while I might be a little late to the party, last.fm is my new toy. I started a tumblr site. I would like to think that this little rant is a small contribution. But the other day when I was describing some of these things to my girlfriend, she pointed out the fact that I am incredibly paranoid about privacy, identity theft and putting anything about myself online. So I am faced with a dilemma: post inane bullshit that has nothing to do with myself or what I think (which I kind of ruled out in my last post), or pony up, lose some of the paranoia (which may only be a smokescreen hiding my suspicion that I don't actually have anything interesting to say) and start writing.

Or I suppose I could post pictures of lolcats.