Tue 25 Jan
Last Friday my girlfriend and I drove to Northern Virginia to see family, leaving just before the “Blizzard of 2005” hit and returning just after the snow finished falling. Before I left, I didn’t get a chance to update my weblog with one of those “Gone fishin’” posts to let readers know I was going to be away from my keyboard for a few days. I’ve never liked those kinds of posts, especially the times I’ve gone back over them while performing housekeeping tasks on my archives — they seem irrelevant and superfluous beyond the immediate present. I’m a bit precious, I suppose, about the idea of making my archives readable, free of that kind of cruft.
That got me thinking that it would be nice to have a little module that I could use to update my whereabouts, a simple little peripheral blog integrated into the right column of the home page that I could simply update and say “Visiting mom in Northern Virginia. Back to blogging early next week.” Or something. That’s easily enough done with some PHP includes, though I know there are more complicated solutions out there that use Flash to graphically map such data. I’m not sure I need that.
In fact, I’m not sure I need even a little text display of my whereabouts. After I started brainstorming this, I got to wondering whether I was attracted to the idea of supplying data on my whereabouts as a useful and illuminating supplement to the main content of my weblog, or whether I was just attracted to the small technical challenge and the moderate bells ’n’ whistles quality of making such data available. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
Which in turn got me wondering what the true purpose of this weblog is, whether it’s an online record of my every action and thought or simply a forum for my completely unqualified opinions on design and Macs and shit. It made me think that, sure, I could easily create the means to regularly update my location, but should I?
For me, I know there’s a real tension between being explicit about the details of my personal life and being guarded about my friends, family, job and even my whereabouts. Most times, I try to respect the people that I know personally and professionally, and the proprietary events and occurrences that happen in my life, but I often feel that I am unnaturally withholding information. For a decade now, I’ve been nurturing this fantasy of having everything in my life cataloged and archived in a huge database, and this weblog is the closest I’ve ever come to doing that, but it still doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I still don’t feel as if I’m writing to my full potential here.
Part of the reason is that I don’t think that personal content is what readers come to this site for. By and large, the posts I’ve written from a personal perspective have been the least popular, while the ones that deal squarely with some combination of graphic design, the Macintosh and/or the Web have been the most popular. I almost know which ones are going to see the most number of remarks added to them, though I am occasionally surprised by the popularity of other, less likely crowd-pleasers.
To some extent, I feel now that I should be writing more or less within a selective area of focus if I want to continue growing the readership of Subtraction.com — specialization seems the surest way to achieve notoriety. I’m not saying that’s bad, because specialization can still produce some wonderful weblogs full of genuinely surprising content — 43 Folders is but one example of a specialist’s weblog being about all kinds of things wide and far. But it’s definitely a trend that I’m seeing as weblogs become more and more prevalent in popular culture — the days of creating a new weblog about any old thing seem to be behind us. I mean, you can still do it, but it’s unlikely you’ll become a celebrity blogger. Not that that was such a huge aspiration.
Anyway, for the time being, I’m back here in New York City.