I mentioned that I wanted to make some major changes to the blog and how things operate, but what's triggered this?

Alan Jacobs wrote about architectural blogging:

"I have come to think that there is something architectural about writing a blog, or can be – but not in the sense of a typical architectural project, which is designed in advanced and built to specifications."

The idea is that building a personal site is very much like an open-ended architectural project, you add something here, redesign there and, eventually, "you get something big and with a discernible shape."

That shape cannot possibly be predetermined, this type of building and growth is totally organic, its direction unknowable in advance.

Tom Critchlow picked this up and ran with it saying "there’s something brewing here - something about building a digital homestead, building it in a way that reflects your soul."

The real lightbulb moment for me was Tom asking:

"How do you create pathways (and desire paths?) through your site? How do people start, journey, get lost and ultimately find their way through your site?"

It got me questioning how and why I do what I do here. To what end is it created and presented? Where are the pathways and journeys? Beyond going 'day-to-day' how does anyone find their way around? Do I leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow? Why not?

There has to be more to blogging than just turning up each day and doing your thing.

I've been trying to build something like a fully functional home on the web but it is largely a piecemeal undertaking. Isolated thought worms may prepare the soil but they don't grow the garden. Speaking of which, the Garden is grossly underutilised (as I've said before) and, with the new Notes feature, often duplicitous.

So, what to do?

I've always sald I wanted to create something of meaning and thought the "It's Only Words" project was that thing. Now I realise that the larger body of work, the story of a life (or at least part of one) is what I really aspire to. But stories need narrative and flow, a sense of cohesion and coherence.

How do I go from here to there? How do I set out on a meaningful journey? How do I map out the lay of the land, rebuild and restructure?

I've had some ideas.

I'm thinking about scraping the Garden completely and folding it into the blog. Not so much organising things by pages but, perhaps, utilising a version of labels as currently employed by Notes.

I want things to be a lot more fluid, less structured and more "thinking in public." Snippets that would normally live in the Garden will become posts but not in a traditional sense — it will increase the emphasis on viewing the day as a conglomerate rather than a series of individual items.

Using labels in this context will not be in the traditional vein of tags or categories, more an indication of threads, collections of thoughts or blogchains.

This is part technology change part mindset shift, something that I want to achieve with as little clutter as possible — visually and mentally. I see it as the next logical evolution of what I'm trying to build. while the day-to-day blog will be largely unaffected, the possibility for creating pathways and journeys is introduced.

It's going to be a lot of work (although some of can luckily be ported from elsewhere) and things will get broken so bear with me. But I'm hoping it will be well worth it in the long run.

  • Blog - Mar 8, 2022
  • Blog - Feb 17, 2022
    • Archive - Nov 20, 2019
     An initial version of the 'feed updates' page is live.

    (See this post for the background.)

    It's nice and simple, just listing those sites with unread updates, how many and since when. A 'mark as read' check mark is shown next to each when logged in.

    Feed updates

    This is, obviously, only intended for me as it reflects my unread status in /reader. It's an experiment to see how if affects my reading behaviour.

    An extra option has been added to /admin to choose the default view of /reader so that I can switch between this and the standard 'items' view. This doesn't affect the view when not logged in.

    • Blog - Jan 21, 2023
     I keep going back to the thought that "the most focus you'll ever have" on something is when it first grabs you.

    I've had a number of items left as unread in Reader, a number of notes left unfinished, a number of tabs left open, all just waiting for me to return to them and write something.

    Two years ago, Drew Coffman wrote that notes can be a graveyard for your thoughts, written down then lost. I remarked that it felt my blog could be like this: "that I'm not doing enough with what I've got, making do instead of making strides."

    If that is the case, if it is a graveyard, then I want to speak to the dead, build on their ideas. (And by 'the dead' I mean past instances of me who thought something was worth linking to or writing about.) That's why I've made all the recent changes to the site. Reader, Start, it's all about extending blogging, getting more from it, hopefully doing more with it by creating pathways through my thoughts over time.

    Tom Critchlow wrote about increasing the surface area of blogging; he was talking about blogging as a whole but it can equally apply to a single blog. Creating a larger surface area allows for more scope, more references, more links, more connections – with some work and a bit of luck that leads to more ideas. Critchlow wrote:

    "I think there’s something quietly radical about making your feed reader open by default. It increases the surface area of RSS so others can discover content more easily. It makes blogging more visible."

    That's true but, in a setup like mine, it also allows for easier consumption and reuse.

    The desire to turn the blog into a database, rather than just be held in one, has been long standing, five years at least. My interest was, therefore, piqued when CJ Eller quoted Justin Murphy's post Personal Knowledge Management is Bullshit. Murphy argues that having an ever expanding dataset is "oppressive not impressive. It’s not useful, and it’s not illuminating."

    "Individuals blessed with high degrees of industriousness and orderliness will build sophisticated media diets, note-taking systems, and automated archiving pipelines much more effectively than those less blessed with these traits."

    Then they try to sell these systems to the rest of us.

    I am definitely more of the latter, the 'less blessed' and always have been; organisation has never been a strength. To that end, I've always been a bad curator. Start is an attempt at improving things, taking them out of my hands to a degree, with a minimum of effort.

    It seems a waste to have years of material, of my personal history, sat there for its own sake rather than be able to take advantage of the potential held within. But Eller likens PKM to a garbage heap, "a perpetually expanding web of hyperlinked notes" asking how we can prevent one from developing and save ourselves from such a fate.

    Maybe the answer is simply to be selective.

    For various reasons, I have been very bad at feeding the machine, very few posts have been marked with labels that would place them within my system. Maybe that's a good thing. By being slow to add items I am preventing an unwieldy build up. I originally intended to throw all sorts in but find that something really has to resonate before it gets labelled.

    I also feel that integration is key. Having tried a wiki-like system in the Garden I decided it was better to have any form of PKM as integral to the blog, directly fed by it rather than as a separate repository. Thoughts and ideas are posted once to the blog, why duplicate the effort? I don't want it to be what most would consider a traditional PKM system. Yes, there are bi-directional links in some cases and, between posts, I have the ability to indicate these links, but there are few. Instead, I mainly rely on internal webmentions to indicate related posts. Start deals more with mini-hierarchies originating from individual starting points, threads rather than a web.

    Perhaps the blog is finally ready to be the "digital public commonplace book" or thought space alluded to by Chris Aldrich almost two and a half years ago.

    Past, present and future me are in a far better position to communicate across the years than ever without having to shoulder too heavy a burden, or continually sort through (and possibly dispose of) a garbage heap. The blog exists in its own right, and will continue to do so for years to come. Everything needed is held within and I now have a way to unlock it.

    What could be easier than that?

    • Blog - May 7, 2022
    • Blog - Apr 20, 2022
     Bookmark Redesigning Waxy, 2016 edition – Waxy.org...

    From 2016:

    "Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control."

    Also see here on ownership and control.

    • Archive - Jun 27, 2018

    "If you should ever turn your will to things outside your control in order to impress someone, be sure that you have wrecked your whole purpose in life." — Epictetus


    Here we are, alive together. You woke up this morning, and so did I. I wrote some words down, and you’re reading them. That’s a miracle, maybe a small one, but it matters to me.


    "Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" — Henry David Thoreau

     It rolls around every year, the third Monday of January (Blue Monday) is supposed to be the most depressing day on the calendar - in the Northern hemisphere at least.

    It is based on a formula calculating the impact of weather, time since Christmas, time since those failed new year's resolutions, and debt.

    But it's nonsense and has been debunked and derided so many times but keeps reappearing.

    The term (and formula) was created back in 2005 as part of an advertising campaign for a travel company. Hey! You're blue, book a holiday and cheer yourself up.

    Yeah, right.

    It may be complete rubbish but it can serve as a reminder to check in with ourselves, and others, to ensure that we are taking steps to improve our mental health or to just let someone know that we're there for them.

     This week (10th - 16th May) is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and the theme is nature.

    It's good that the conversation about mental health has taken the position it needs and deserves over the past year but it's disappointing that it has taken a global pandemic to truly make that happen.

    We are approaching the next phase of restrictions being eased in England and, as we approach normality, I fear that the focus on mental health will be reduced as though being able to go to the pub means that you're okay again. That's not how it works.

    This past year has caused more people to experience issues and given a lot more still an insight into the problems faced by those who suffer from mental health problems. I can only hope that this insight changes things on a long term basis.

    There should now be no reason for any kind of stigma attached to any mental health issues after what everyone has been living through (not that there should have been anyway) so there is no excuse for the conversation to recede and be a taboo subject again. We cannot afford for short-termism with people thinking that once the pandemic has passed it's no longer something they need to worry about.

     Today is World Mental Health Day.

    If you are struggling don't feel ashamed to admit it and, please, speak to someone. It is not weakness to admit that you're not okay — it's the opposite, it's the strongest thing you can do.

    If you're not struggling then please listen, without judgement, without preconceptions. It can be tough but it's the best thing you could do and might just save a life.

     The question of goodness:

    With an eye to the relationship between the good and “the real which is the proper object of love, and of knowledge which is freedom,” she considers what it takes for us to purify our attention in order to take in reality on its own terms, unalloyed with our attachments and ideas.

    What it takes, she suggests, is “something analogous to prayer, though it is something difficult to describe, and which the higher subtleties of the self can often falsify” — not some “quasi-religious meditative technique,” but “something which belongs to the moral life of the ordinary person.”

    The Marginalian


    Word of the day: jocosely

    • adverb, "in a way that is humorous or shows that you like to play"

    Via Althouse


    Word of the day: prosody

    • noun,
      1. the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry
      2. the patterns of stress and intonation in a language
     It's been over a year of procrastination and faffing so I thought I'd finally put my "book" project to bed.

    I was going to properly self-publish It's Only Words but that would involve getting permission to reprint sections from other people's works and I don't think I want to put myself through that process and incur even further delays.

    It's Only Words cover

    Instead, I'm just going to make it available here via the blog for anyone who wants to read it. I'll create a separate page for it over the next couple of days but, for now, you can use the below links:

    The EPUB version won't open in Apple Books (it just doesn't like it) but seems fine in any other ebook reader.

    For anyone unfamiliar, It's Only Words is me putting to rest the thoughts, ideas, angst and anguish that came with my #write365 project back in 2014. I vowed to write something, anything every day for a year of around 300 words. The subtitle is "Lessons learnt from a year of writing" and that is how this is presented.

    That project became intensely personal and surfaced a number of issues for me (triggering extended mental health problems) so "Words" is a way of putting that all behind me.

    There may still be typos or grammatical errors. It may not make perfect sense. You might enjoy it or hate it, agree with some points but vehemently disagree with others. That's fine — it's a starting point, a conversation starter and, more importantly, therapy.

    I'm happy to finally share it with the world. Even if no one reads it at least I can say "I did that. Me!"

     Several Short Sentences About Writing isn't so much a book that you 'read', more one that you peruse a section of every now and then.

    As such, I'm going to start Consolations by David Whyte.

    That will technically be four books I'm reading at the same time (along with the Daily Stoic and Daily Thoreau) — maybe five if you include the audiobook of Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks.

    I've never really been one for having multiple books on the go but the nature of these means that I can dip in and out as required. I'm also looking for those serendipitous moments when things align across multiple texts and create connections that wouldn't normally appear.

     Johann Hari's Lost Connections was recommended to me so I used my monthly credit on Audible to get the audio book.

    Over the past couple of days (while walking Jac or doing the dishes) I've listened to just the first four chapters and it is already the stuff of revelation, and we haven't really gotten into the meat of anything yet.

    I'm glad that Hari narrates the book himself. The story he shares is intensely personal so hearing it in his own voice adds a deeper connection to what you are hearing. There appears to be a trend forming here.

    I've had his book Stolen Focus on my wishlist since the start of the year. Listening to Lost Connections has served to reinforce my desire to read (or listen) to it.

    • Blog - May 16, 2022
    Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog