Mulling About Writing About Mulling.
It's easy for me to write quick email posts but far more difficult to write without the safety of the small group and the lists context. And then there are those typos. Maybe if I confess I can feel freer to write more freely but probably not.02-Dec-2006

I’ve probably still got a few typos but, if so, they add authenticity to my comments.

This is a follow-up to an earlier set of comments on my writing. I’ve been blogging since at least 1998 when I published what I called “Columns” but I’m still struggling to find my “voice”.

Good writing is hard and in the vein that as Mark Twain’s comment “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”, I need to be able to ramble a bit. By attempting to do too good, well, not terrible, writing I’ve found myself essentially mute. Instead I’ve been confining myself to email discussions which provide context and familiarity so that I can be forgiven bad writing and even typos. I’m also able to feel free to be a bit more outrageous it’s just among friends.

I do have a particular problem with typos. Someone recently asked if I use a speech-to-text program. In a sense I do – it’s an internal software package that listens to what I think and attempts to put it on “paper” using a keyboard. I discovered that it was essentially autonomous during my freshman year in college when I watched my hand move away from the keyboard on its own accord because it knew it wasn’t needed for the rest of the sentence! I was just a surprised observer. This autonomy has its problems, I might think “our” but it will type “are”. Obviously it doesn’t listen very well. When I change course in midthought – it will have typed what I first thought and then merrily proceed on the new track without deleting the abandoned path. This can be especially vexing when a word like “not” is left in after I’ve reversed my approach.

I can find many of the typos when I reread what I wrote but then I start to improve the writing and while I may make the text much better it also takes much longer and nothing gets posted because it doesn’t quite measure up.

Of course once I’ve been mute for a while I want to write something significant and my minor comments get queued up till I do.

Since I often say what at first glance is outrageous I want to be careful about the veracity of what I say – another source of delay though it might be futile because the larger problem is simply misinterpretation. For example, if I say “broadband” is a bad idea it’s too easy to dismiss this as my being against new technology when it’s just the opposite – I’m trying look ahead and emphasize that “broadband” (as the term is used) is a legacy technology.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that I don’t want to just blog – I want to accumulate essays on various topics even if it seems that I’m obsessively focusing on the Internet and Telecom. That’s only because that’s where the lack of light is (to reverse the joke about searching for ones lost keys where the light is rather than where the keys are). The concept of telecom limits our ability to communicate and innovate so it’s a fundamental problem rather than just another topic.

Other comments get lost among the “major issues”. I’ve attempted to organize them using keywords or other categorization but that’s (always) a future project. I do want to revive the spirit of those original columns – the quick remarks but with fewer typos. After getting criticism for the bad (or simply opaque) writing I’ve become too cautious.

So all of this is a long way of making a short point. Perhaps it is better to ramble than be silent – now I only convince myself. If I do, then please forgive my ramblings – I can sometimes be coherent and when I really do want to be heard I do put in the extra effort.

But, alas, it’s still a lot more fun to write a program or make something than to write about it. Yet I do projects not as so much ends in themselves as ways to learn. All the light switches in my house are “smart” but no one would mistake my house for a glitzy trophy home. My major achievement after more than a decade is that the switches generally work – still a novelty here. I have learned that giving people more buttons to press doesn’t help – to do more I have to make it easier to do anything more complicated than turn on the light in the room. The technology isn’t available in a ready-to-use form and building what I need is too much for now.

I want to see my writing in the same way – works in progress not polished gems. While some only make sense in a particular time and context others have lasting value. But here too the UI is an issue – I need a better way to make it easy to explore a theme. Some blogging packages allow for but I want to continue to learn by doing and let Dan Bricklin deal with I’ve tried using keywords but haven’t been very consistent … another task on my should’ve done list.

Until then, well, maybe bad writing isn’t good but good writing is better than no great writings.