Last week, I got a phone call from someone who had worked for one of the outlets where I've been published. Their name was listed in my copy of the article at thomaswilburn.net, and they asked if I could take it out in the interests of trimming their online presence a bit--I guess they didn't want to be associated with the publication anymore. I can certainly sympathize with that feeling, and was more than happy to help.
It was an interesting coincidence, though, because I've been thinking more about my own Internet shadow lately. I write here, and maintain a portfolio elsewhere, under my real name. This has advantages, and it also has disadvantages. At the very least, it can be surprising: the now-unnamed correspondent was able to contact me at my (unlisted) work number because I list my current place of employment on the portfolio (and also likely because I don't provide an e-mail address there, which I should probably fix). Like it or not, I can be easily located online, which ties my realspace identity to all the writing I've done here. And while I consider that a net positive (pardon the pun), it should still give any reasonable person pause.
Or to put it another way, when I meet someone who says "Oh, I've read your stuff," my first impulse shouldn't be to wonder if I've advocated a coup or something similarly inflammatory lately.
The obvious solution is to try not to write stupid posts, and I'm working on that (it's one reason that I suspect entries here have become both less lengthier and less frequent). But at the same time, over the last week or two, I've gone back through the archives here and spiked quite a few entries. They're not permanently deleted, but they are unpublished. A post may have been spiked for any number of reasons, including:
In my experience, this is an unpopular action for a blogger to take, and I'm not entirely comfortable with it myself. That said, I believe it's necessary and prudent. While it's a nice idea for the "arc" of the blog to follow my viewpoints and development as a writer and a person, the fact is that very few people will ever read it that way. More likely, any entry needs to be something that I can support professionally, regardless of the publication date, since it may be encountered without context or supporting posts.
It should also be stressed that this is hardly the first time my archives have been reshuffled and restructured, although it is the first time it has happened intentionally. Over a period of four years, the process of changing hosts, tweaking Blosxom and its plugins, and server outages means that any website will undergo some level of "memory loss," and Mile Zero is no different. This time, it's simply editorially-directed--and for most of the cuts, I suspect, the posts won't be missed.
In any case, while I've already conducted this surgery on the archives, I'm announcing it here in the interests of full disclosure. If something you found valuable has been pulled, or you believe that a particular post should have been retained, please feel free to send me a note via the mail link on the right, and we'll see if we can work something out.
Won't lie, it was nice to have a week away. Almost considered not coming back. When work is busy (I've been putting together the second set of Africa Good Governance on the Radio Waves programs, and that's never a smooth project), I don't find myself with much time to think about extracurricular writing, and at home it's too tempting to just relax and do something less challenging. Belle and I watched the first season of Heroes this week, for example. Good show.
Still, I'm kind of compulsive about writing. It's habit-forming, and it's therapeutic. But writing on a blog is also a dialog, as I said. It's like talking to yourself, except other people can read it. I think that puts it one step above crazy street person in terms of psychological profile, just because of the literacy requirement, although I've met some pretty literate crazy street people.
Anyway, the point is that blogging is like talking to yourself, but not entirely. There's comments, for one thing. For another, it's not completely isolated. That bothers me a little, as I go through the archives. There are topics I write about here, and I wonder if they would really be so important to me if events hadn't wandered their way.
For example: I turned MileZero.org into a blog in late April 2005, a little over two years ago. In early June, barely a month later, I managed to get myself into an argument with the editor of a gaming print magazine, and got linked by a number of the blogs on the right side of the page there. It felt like a big deal, and there are a lot of game-related posts after that. I don't know if it's because I was really so interested, or if it was the rush of joining a new community.
That's happened several times. For a while, I wrote a lot more music posts, especially after I got linked for coding the Excel drum machine. Some of this is just my changing moods--I have my obsessions, but I don't really consider myself single issue. I think I'm lucky, actually. Although I've had a number of people comment here or link to my posts, Mile Zero has never been a strict gaming or music or politics or culture blog.
On the other hand, I'd be lying if I don't sometimes wonder how long I can go without writing about a topic, because I know that's what some people probably come to read. I know I've written posts sometimes when my heart wasn't in it, just because I thought people might be getting bored. I have a love-hate relationship with my readership statistics.
Like a couple of weeks back, when Lance Mannion wrote a post saying that he'd added me and a few other people to his blogroll. That's an honor, and I was really proud. But at the same time, I also started thinking: "great, now what in the world should I write to keep people like him around?"
I kid, of course. No-one will ever de-link me. I have blackmail material on all of them.
We're social animals. We all react to the opinions and statements of people around us. That doesn't change just because our peers are online, instead of being neighbors and coworkers. Some people are wired to respond to that more than others--I think most writers online fit that profile. It makes me a little nervous to know that about myself, but it's probably best that I channel it into some kind of productive path.
Because if the blog thing doesn't work out, I've got these sandwich boards in the closet, and a spot all picked out in front of the White House. I think it could be a hit.