I edited this a bit since then to correct some spelling..
2019-08-04 - Maybe I didn't try enough, but I couldn't find this note on his current website.
I bumped into another author who had a short essay detailing some of his concerns about being a writer on the internet. I sent him an email with a cheerie "hey, we're quite alot alike, maybe we can work together or something" attitude. I received no reply, but I believe my email has some value. It is very possible, and most likely, that email server problems screwed me over once again here. Yay. It's also very likely that I took more than a day to write the email, so his specially setup email address autorefused it.
Reading through this article, I am amazed at just how many hurdles I have leaped over. This page will eventually find itself as a part of a detailed breakdown on just how a Wiki is useful and how it addresses such concerns.
The post I was replying to ∞
About These Essays ∞
While I have lots to write about, actually producing current writing has been a
challenge. I've found my most effective medium as been email where I can write informal
notes of short length. The closest written form is the essay. Actually, even better for me
is the conversation where I can interact with someone. It is these interactions that I
thrive on. The email messages are often responses to specific issues.
As a compromise, I have started a series of "columns" which provide an outlet
for less organized thoughts. The intent (or hope) is that these will be gathered into
essays over time.
But I do have a long backlog of issues that I want to address. Mostly associated with
technology but more as a means than as an end.
I'm also interested in the mechanics of this medium:
- What are the implications of writing in such an accessible medium with anyone in the
world able to read what I'm writing.
- Will I bore everyone and drive them away? I hope to tend towards the
entertaining and provocative side but the public nature may inhibit me.
- How should I do maintenance? Should I treat it like an archival medium and only
add information or should I update what is obsolete? For now, I will change the date in
the summary and flag recent changes in red.
- How do I maintain the relationships between the essays? I'd like to do more
than just number them. In fact, there can be multiple organizations based on time, topic
- How much should I assume about client browsers? I'm slowly starting to assume
capable browsers. In particular, I'm assuming they are capable of displaying frames.
- How should I host them? They are currently on a personal machine but I do plan
to move them to a more public server. This does raise some technology issues since I would
like to be able to use Microsoft's Active Server Pages but there are few commercial
venders that support them. Of course, there is the closely related issue of how much time
I devote to supporting this site. At the moment, the system is in servere need of
- How do I handle copyright issues? I'm assuming that all the pages are
implicitly copyrighted. It's OK to link to them. If you do want to quote, I'd appreciate
- Should I provide a mechanism for discussion? For now, I'll do it manually
– adding interesting comments to the essays when they enrich the essay.
- How should I relate to the community of essay writers? I will need to create a
set cross references to the various people who might be interesting.
- In some ways, publishing essays on personal servers is remiscent of Samizdat
publishing in that it allows individuals to pass thoughts and ideas among those interested
even if stealth is not an issue
- Where should I host these? For now, they are on my home systems so that I can
use active server capabilities but this does decrease availability.
Of course, I would like to get feedback and comments. For now, just send me email to say that you've found this page. Don't
expect very good writing (on reason that there will probably be some updating). I want to
be able to write casually. Hopefully the relatively short length of the
Revised: November 29, 1999.
The Email ∞
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 2:00 PM To: [autoexpiring email address] Subject: Your essays
(warning in advance: yes I write a lot.. ;)
I bumped into your site a couple of times while doing research on a couple of topics which I've been brooding over (mainly computer topics - historical stuff, future predictions). I have been working on using the net as a means to publicize my own thoughts, and I read your "About These Essays" page -- I must admit, I myself share these same concerns!
I was wondering if you have had any recent insight on those topics, and if you would be willing to have a bit of an email brainstorming session on them. I have a number of reasonable points I could bring up. Here is a rough example:
ack, I wrote three paragraphs before realising I ought to be quick and simple =) I'll just write a bit of a comment using my own research on those topics -- except this time I won't try to be brief because I know I'll fail ;)
Your website is both specialized and textual. Much of it's content is not "live" like a news site, or entertainment-based. As such, it should be designed around a principle of becoming more specialized and appealing to a very "small" group. (small, on the internet, is a strange notion).
Because it is based around taking a snapshot of your opinion on a topic, it should be based around topics and then around timelines.
I'm not sure how valuable it would be to sort the site around timeline alone - sortof like a diary of your views of the world.. making a massive list of essays sortable both on topic keywords AND on timeline would be an intriguing project (I'll add that to my wish list =)
You will not bore everyone away, because most people (*shudder*, people.. eww..) would not bump into the site - those who do, however, will be very intrigued -- some of which will most definitely stay, and probably have contributions to make.
Maintenance should be done twofold: Maintain it both as an archive of essays which take a snapshot of your opinion on some past topic, and live followups which take that old essay and update it, taking into account changes in your opinion and user-comments. This would be a live essay created as a product of moderated discussions. This is sortof like keeping revisions of a program - the old stuff has value, but a well maintained new version has real meat.
The essay revisions should be listed as a timeline on your front page (as per a news update), and kept listed by topic. Each live essay should also have links to the older versions.
I'm not sure how your mind works.. but for me, I am designing a system whereby I assign time and a particular issue. I will sit down and work out a revision on a topic and not take on another topic without finishing that revision. I would take the time to go through the opinions of others, and answer the questions brought up within the revision. Any flashes of insight on another topic will be written as notes attached to other essays. This method will allow me to have a list of past topics with proposed revision dates, and one current working topic of the month.
I do, however, forsee difficulty in both revising and reading the revision if it gets large.. I'm not sure how to deal with that, or even if it's necessary to deal with it.
This method would allow one to have unmoderated discussion forums on past topics, and a current forum which you would go through - point by point - and publicly discuss the issues brought up. I'm not sure if I can properly explain this, but I do have some ideas on the issue -- the current method of Sophism and discussion used on the internet (and everywhere) won't cut it. Even though you will have intelligent viewers giving intelligent feedback, I have some proposed methods in creating a new conversation style which is more efficient for my methods.
The entire architecture of your site should be based around easy-to-maintain technology. Personally, my focus is on graphicslessness, and HTML 3 standards -- I want my site to work for text browsers old platforms use, and for text scanners the blind use. My focus is around ease of maintenance and accessibility to the public -- I do happen to love tables though =)
I can introduce you to free, unlimited space and bandwidth without advertisements -- www.crosswinds.net - you should avoid the lure of technology because that will just distract you from the true calling of content. It is difficult to effectively maintain and create content with the newer technologies, imho.
Legalities are a difficult issue.. especially since the internet is global. As I understand, most places consider publishing on the internet to grant automatic copyright, but I don't know. It would really be horrible to not have legal clout if someone quotes/misquotes or plagiarizes your work. right after webhosting and content organization, this seems most important
Provide a mechanism for discussion -- again, I think I have some new ideas on this. Some others include discussion forums and freehand note-writing abilities granted by outside services. Email lists should be right out -- damn I hate them.. so difficult to use effectively.
I don't know of a community of writers.. but I'm sure there is one.. and if I can't find it, I'd make it myself. There is a vast wealth of ability out there, just screaming to find brotherhood.
I have been considering becoming a content host myself.. handling the nitty-gritty of posting people's thoughts up on a website and dealing with the internal organization and webhosting issues.. mainly because it would give one unified structure to all the essays.. check out sourceforge.net -- dedicated to bringing consistency to small open-source projects. Something along those lines for writers would be invaluable and empowering.
Anyhow.. I hope I've been of some use, and perhaps kicked your creativity in the shin ;)