Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Field Notes!

It's been two years now since I finally succumbed to the implicit peer pressure -- I don't recall that anyone was explicitly asking me, but it seemed all the cool kids were doing it -- and started a blog. At the time the idea was to draw on my vast knowledge of networking standards (well, I'd sat on a couple of committees, so that's something at least) and make my deep thoughts available to the world at large. I would then spread my fame far and wide via social networking and, well, only good things could happen after that, right?

I had a working title, Morphisms, an obscure reference to category theory, a fairly obscure and extremely abstract branch of mathematics that has been used to derive obscure, extremely abstract but yet useful results in computer science. I had a rough idea of a theme or topic. I forget exactly what it was, but it was something to do with emphasizing the relationships between things on the web, rather than the things themselves. I hope you'll take my word for it that this has something to do with the concept of morphisms.

I had put together a sketch or two, at least in my head, of an initial post or posts. Somewhere in that process I took time off to go to a concert and got to thinking about how e-ticketing can work when the admission pass is any piece of paper with the right bar code on it. By the time I'd figured it out, Morphisms was out the window and I realized what I was really doing: figuring out the web as I went along.

I had been reading Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle (which I should get back to one of these days). While there are certainly more thorough and rigorous field notes around, Darwin's really let you see his mind at work as he alternates between, say, speculating about why the geology of some island has the form it has, and actually looking at the rocks in question to see if the theory makes sense. So the idea of field notes had to come into the mix somewhere, if only as a goad to better finding-out.

I don't presume to have come anywhere close to my model in depth of analysis, but keeping its curious spirit in mind has made writing Field Notes a lot of fun, even when I'm casting a jaundiced eye at some new form of web.hype or just generally waxing curmudgeonly about some annoying site or phenomenon. Occasionally I even learn something.

If FeedBurner is to be believed, I've also picked up a handful of readers. If you are one, I extend my sincere thanks but can only offer more-or-less more of the same: sporadic musings on whatever topic springs to mind, at an overall rate of one every other day or so (I've written just over 365 in the past two years; my informal goal is at least ten in any given month). Certain themes will no doubt continue to come up. Whether that's consistency, laziness or both is up to you.

[I did eventually finish Beagle, and highly recommend it.  Field Notes is still going, of course, but much more sporadically.  The ten-post-a-month idea went away about the time I joined Google -- they tend to keep you busy -- as did material for "Hmm ... I wonder what Google is up to with this" posts, since it's easiest to recuse myself from anything Google.  I also started the other blog for less webby musings.  I have no plans to stop with either --D.H. Jan 2016]

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