On The Verge

Doyce, whose blog posts I read most often at one remove via the miracle of quotes and feeds, starts it off:

I’m actively communicating online all day, every day, but my main blog languishes. Why is that?

Simplicity. Twitter tweets, facebook updates, Flickr photo posting, and sharing news articles with commentary… all of those things are easier and faster BY AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE than posting via Movable Type.

Via What it boils down to is this… – doycetesterman

And ***Dave carries it forward:

Now, I don’t do Facebook, and have never had a justification (see below) for using Twitter. But my own blogging has suffered, net, because of my love affair with Google Reader, and the “Share” and “Share with Note” functionality in same. Where, once, if I wanted to post about something cool I’m reading, I had to be at my machine, open up a blog client, write something out, do some cut-and-paste excerpting and copy over the link … now I just click on a button to Share with other GReader users — or on another one and write out a quick note.

It’s that easy. That quick, painless, seductively easy. And the result is the flood of stuff that appears in the sidebar of this blog each day under “Unblogged Bits.”

Yes, it’s that easy to use a quick and dirty method to share a link, or comment briefly about some transient insight. But it’s not sitting down, thinking, and putting words out there for all to read. It’s not blogging. It’s not writing. It’s not taking the time and effort to craft something worth doing, whether it’s for one’s own enjoyment or the (possibly imaginary) edification of others. And sure, it may be because it’s incredibly easy to just jot something quickly on Twitter, or click a Google Reader “share” link on a mobile device. It’s convenient, it’s fast, and it works.

But I, too have been blogging a lot less in the last year or so – even with all the election stuff. Oh, sure, I was copying and pasting quotes and links and posting them in the blog, but that’s not what I consider to be real, deep, personal blogging. This blog is supposed to be my Pensieve, and I just have not been pulling whispy memories out of my head with an alder wand and storing them away where they’re safe; they’ve been left to fade away into nothing. Stuff happens in my not-terribly-interesting life; funny things are said, interesting insights are had, books are read and music is heard. But you’d never know it from the never-ending cascade of regurgitated newsblather I’ve been in the habit of posting lately.

The problem is time, or specifically the lack of it, and constraints on my use of it.

The speed of posting/sharing GReader items is important, but the ease and portability of that sharing is just as important. The fact is, my life has, for reasons I’m not altogether pleased about, gotten a lot busier in the last year. As a result, I don’t do much posting from the office, and evenings are often a choice between a dozen different urgent activities, only one of which is blogging. ***Dave, ibid

Like ***Dave, I can blog on the fly, but my tool of choice is the iPhone which is never far from my hand. Using the iPhone, I can even blog with my CMS of choice, WordPress, with pictures either emailed to Flickr and bounced to the blog via an email link from there, or direct to the blog itself using one of several plugins. But the limitations of the interface are that you must tap letters, numbers and symbols out with one or two fingers or thumbs, so you can never type as quickly as you could on a full-size keyboard. Certainly, much faster than someone on a cell phone could text, but not as fast as I’m typing now. And it’s not currently possible to copy text to quote, or a url to cite in a blog post, although within some applications there are work-arounds. It’s great for posting quick photos, though. And I could set up an email-to-blog interface if I really wanted, but it would be a security problem for the main blog.

I’ve chosen to do that instead with a Blogger blog that I consider an extension called ginny’s links galore. I send links there from within Google Reader, but it’s not possible to edit them first; the email link sends the whole post. I’d have to fire up Blogger on a full-size desktop or laptop computer to get anything useful done as to editing there. It’s just a stopgap.

The real problem, as stated, is time. There’s not enough of it after work, and I don’t even have kids or hobbies. When I get home, I tend to veg out for a while before dinner, whether David cooks or I do. And then there’s TV. Might play a few hands of solitaire, catch up on Reader either on a full-bore computer or the ubiquitous iPhone, and then bed.

During work? Not bloody likely. A couple of years ago, I used to update constantly through the day – I had work tasks that left me with a lot of pending time while waiting for processes to complete, so I’d blog a lot about stuff I was reading online. But that changed with a recent “NO INTERNET DURING WORK TIME” edict, which is pretty strictly enforced (with some exceptions if you are on a “sanctioned” site for work purposes, such as looking for hotels using Google Maps or catching up on travel or weather news. Part of the policy specifically states “no updating personal websites or commenting on websites,” too.

Yeah, it’s that detailed.

So for a couple of years, no netsurfing and no blogging from work. As Wonkette is wont to say, the end.

Early last year, enter the iPhone: a handy little appliance that allows me to netsurf, catch up on email, or play games while waiting for an incoming call (so long as I’m otherwise caught up on my tasks). Google Reader, my RSS feed reader of choice, turned out to have a really slick, clean iPhone interface (complete with Share Note button, nyah! and email button). I get a kick out of reading stuff my husband David, or ***Dave shares. I need to find more people who share, too. And I sometimes think it’s a shame that the great little shared-comments scroll off so quickly, but life moves pretty fast.

More recently – the week of Blago’s arrest, actually, when I was home sick – I got into Twitter. It seemed kind of dumb, but then I started seeing hints of why some people rave about it so.

For one thing, Wil Wheaton and Levar Burton are on there, talking about interesting stuff in their real lives and not making like they’re stuck up famous actor-types. They’re people with concerns and problems and triumphs and questions. Just like, yes this is a platitude, everybody else. But because they’re famous, they’re more interesting than most and get more attention. However, I’m also just as interested in Sockington the Tweeting Cat, who is hi-larious.

And I’m on Facebook, too. It’s only recently started to get fun again; it had become a drag because there were too many goofy applications and games requests.

For a while, I had it set up that all of my “tweets” from Twitter would go to Facebook, and I’ve got both services patched into the sidebar of Blogula along with my Google Reader items, which are called “RED57’s Googlies.” But I had doubled up too much: I had Twitter set up to automatically post a tweet whenever I blogged something, and I also had Facebook set up to post a status update when I “imported notes” from my blog automatically. It’s much cleaner and more sane now that my Twitter stuff stays put, and the Facebook stuff doesn’t get all snarled up.

And then there’s Flickr. Well, there’s a ton – like MANY MANY MANY hundreds of pictures from a few recent trips that haven’t been uploaded. In some cases, the pictures are still sitting on flash cards. There’s so much volume that I can’t seem to sit down and take the time to sort through the cards, pick out the best images, and deal with them in coherent, workable batches. YET, I seem to have time for endless games of Spider Solitaire, or Gawd help me, Space Cadet. I’ve been coasting along using my cameraphone to send photos to Flickr, but frankly, some of them haven’t been that good. I’m feeling the need to pay more attention to photography again.

Really, all this tweeting and status updating and Flickring ought to be the supporting cast to the star of the show, my main blog. And the lack of original content here has been bugging me enough lately that I’ve tried to make more of an effort. Recent updates and theme changes certainly help; the new WordPress interface makes it easier than ever to do great stuff, and it looks good once posted (especially when compared to the semi-automated posts at the Blogger version). One of my sidebar gadgets is a live visitor update dealio, and it tickles me no end to see how many people are trying to figure out how old their washer/dryers are and how to do drop shadows on images with CSS.

Reading these posts of Doyce’s and ***Dave’s make me want to get off my figurative and literal ass and blog in a more writerly fashion. Sure, I will continue to use Google Reader/Twitter/Facebook/Flickr and put content from those sources on the sidebars of Blogula Rasa, especially during the work day. And it is at least possible and not difficult to do a blog post using the iPhone only (but it’s not very efficient or comfortable for posts of more than a paragraph in length). But all the new beginnings this year are working in me like yeast in a batch of bread (or better yet, in a pail of homebrew).

I want to do better. I need to make time for real blogging. I feel like I’m on the verge.

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