All posts tagged blogging

Five Years & Three Months Since Blogging

This blog was started on August 15th, 2006.

It’s sort of our five year anniversary around here.

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Before that I was writing an anonymous blog called PsychoticNormalcy. I got that website online in 2002 and I was using Moveable Type (which was a bitch, honestly).

I began writing online because I was reading these bloggers who were telling stories about their lives, and they wrote so beautifully.

This was pretty new at the time, writing about your life online – Blogger & LiveJournal were three years old.

But these people wrote with incredible courage and clarity. There were many, but the ones that seem to pop into my head when I think back to those times include Tony PierceRaymi, Tankboy, Gwen Bell, Chris Messina, Ryan McGee, TinkDarkness, AntiDis and xTx. I’m forgetting many.

They inspired me to write, and to keep writing.

I sucked at first…I wrote like a teenager. I wrote arrogantly as if my perspective mattered and as if my life was legend. I wrote “as if”.

Often, I’d try to figure out what whomever was reading would want me to say, and I’d write that.

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I haven’t written here in three months.

It’s been an interesting experience. I’ll explain why it happened in a different post, but I found myself facing the deletion of all of my websites one day. It was unexpected, and as you can probably imagine it created a bit of a hassle if I was going to fix everything.

After about two weeks, and heavily influenced by Gwen Bell’s Blank Slate and Digital Sabbatical, I decided to sit with the downtime.

To lean into it and to contemplate the clean slate as an opportunity as opposed to a dramatic problem.

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I’ve moved things around on this site as a result of the reflection that the downtime afforded me.

I’ve moved them around in an effort to align this site with what I’m doing, thinking, and experiencing.

If you’re reading this in a feed, you might want to click over here to poke around and get acquainted. There’s even a page to see what I’m seeing each day.

//

I’ll explain more later.

For now, it’s nice to be back behind the keyboard writing.

How have you been?

Quote: Harlan Ellison

“It’s not often people will tell you how they really feel about gut-level things. Like God or how they’re afraid they’ll go insane like their grandfather or sex or how obnoxious you are when you pick your nose and wipe it on your pants.”

– opening line of Harlan Ellison’s Introduction: Brinksmanship, in Over The Edge.

I have a feverish fascination with a book’s opening lines. I think the best pieces of writing in print (and certainly online) win the attention and trust of their reader with just a few opening lines, and those lines…the ones I love anyway, set a mood, scene, attitude, and conversational tone with such brilliant concreteness that you immediately feel as if the author is in the room speaking to you.

Personal Blogging & Geek

I think we’ve established that I’m a geek.

As Foodtree heated up, I started being able to justify paying attention to technology and the way it’s changing things. We want Foodtree to change the world, full stop, and when you want something like that you need to know what’s happening around the world and way that people are using technology to empower themselves.

So I started Geek, a tumblr, to share the stuff I was seeing and had something to say about.

Anyway, I didn’t want to muck up a blog composed of highly personal prose with chatter about the potential of Twitter and the implications of Facebook, so I kept it separate.  These posts are almost always quotes from articles, a link to the article, and my thoughts.

Not to worry, though, because the punchline here isn’t that I’ve decide to muck up the blog.

What I have decided is that I need to channel more of my sharing through less channels, so I’ve set up this blog to handle both Geek and me.

I’ve tweaked the RSS feed so that anyone who’s been following this blog will still only get my blog (personal) posts in their reader or inbox.

Also, the Geek piece of me will be done here, and will spit out a different RSS feed, which you can subscribe to or ignore at will.  I’ll sort out the twitter and facebook feeds too, hopefully.  I’ll definitely do what I can to make it clear that something is in the vein of personal blogging or not.

Welcome to my schizophrenia.

Haha, but really, there may be a hiccup or two, but in the end I think it should really only affect those of you who type http://blog.dshan.me into your address bar regularly, because all those posts will be here.

Are we cool?

Seriously, let me know if it all goes notaccordingtoplan.

My Mom Thinks I Write Well, So

I get so worried about writing well that I reason away nearly everything that pops into my head as it relates to writing about it here.

Every single day I see or hear or read or do or watch something that turns itself into words and sentences that would best serve torecount it all the way I’m experiencing it.  Sentences get reworked and reordered and I think about these things three different ways just mulling over the way I’d write it to convey what it is in a way that would make sense to you.

Whoever you are.

That’s the thing, right?  I don’t know who you are.

You could be my mom.  Hi mom.  I know you’re probably there, thanks to the wonderment that is Facebook and my feeding every piece of my digital life into its gushing lifestream.  Amazing shit, right mom?  I told you all along this stuff wasn’t just here to stay…I told you it’d reshape the way we could all communicate.  I think I even said that all this new scary and seemingly distracting technology was bringing us all closer to one another.  That were now at one another’s fingertips.

I bet you didn’t think you’d be reading my diary on Facebook, wishing I wasn’t so far away right now, huh?

I miss you too.

The rest of you could be people I know and love, or maybe you’re a blogger who’s been hanging out with me in this weird party for the last few years.  It’s okay that I’m not sure who you are.  It shouldn’t really matter.

I mean it matters.  Of course.  You definitely matter, no matter who you are.

I not only worry about writing well because I want to be able to write well.  I think it might actually be more of a need than a want, honestly.  I think I love how writing allows you to deliberately try to communicate clearly.  With precision.  With deeper emotion, a way to talk without your voice getting in the way.  Truly communicating is a holy grail for humanity; to feel known and understood.  I need to think I can use words to really be known.

No, I worry about you guys, too, and I want to write well in front of you.  I wonder about you and I wonder why you might spend a few minutes reading the sentences that do finally get to my keyboard from all of those splashes of inspiration that the world keeps throwing at me.  Back in the day I used to just throw words at the screen.  Early and often.

I used to say fuck the filter and fuck the rest stops and seriously fuck it all: writing is heroic.  The act of it moreso than the product when you think about blogging, because in the end blogging isn’t about the endgame.

There’s no book to sell and we stopped putting ads on our blogs before I ever started.  We’re not closing in on the sale here…we’re driving with the top down and life is passing us by and we’re gonna try and share it all with one another.

Or I’m gonna try and share that with you, anyway.

Writing well be damned.

Generation BlahBlah

I’m not holier than thou, or anyone for that matter.  I haven’t made it, by any measure, as a writer or a professional.*  I was really good at soccer a long time ago…that’s totally irrelevant to this post, but I will be honest when I think I have a measure of authority.

This was deliberately written before I’d caught up on any of your blogs, going back months.  It’s not directed at anyone in particular, at all. It’s loosely influenced by conversations at SXSWi, but also in the way that I everyone I met there (and in reflection, everyone I have met from the net in general) to be such inspiring and smart people.

I’m probably wrong about all this, honestly.  I don’t consider myself to be “in the audience” of the content that I’m addressing, which is probably enough to just write this off and go have a cup of tea.

But my gut is telling me that there are a lot of people out there focused on describing, quantifying, and motivating Generation Y, and they’re misplacing their talent and time.

Gen Y Is Bored With Gen Y

Maybe it’s just that I’m 30, but this talk around Generation Y was not around while I was in my early and mid-twenties, and that was fine.

I wouldn’t have read it then anyway, and if I had I think once I’d made it to 30 or so I’d have wondered whether “live the dream or bust” or “respect our uniqueness” or “the new work/life balance or lack thereof” really made much of a difference as to where I ended up.

More and more Gen Y’ers are getting comfortable with their post-college lives and I think we can all move on now.  It feels as if our collective voice is just repeating “blah blah blah blah“.

We’re Really Not That Different

Sure, we’re a bit** more agile with technology, but everyone else is catching up fast.  Sure, that’s given us a bit of a unique profile when it comes to brands that want to sell us things and employers who want to keep us happy, but that’s their rat race.

You’re still buying things, and you probably work for someone.

Age Is Irrelevant

For the few years while young adults aren’t ready to take life by the balls and make it their own, some “we’re all in this together” stewardship can be helpful.

Then we all grow up and have real problems, and require real thought leadership that tackles the challenges that life indefinitely keeps throwing at you.  You are all the people who need to start thinking about this stuff and doing so without considering age.

We’re tackling these challenges lot later than our previous generations, and don’t think for a second that the world’s going to reward us for it.

Thought Leadership Is Action

This is more a message for the brilliant writers I think are wasting their talent writing about Generation Y; color commentating our segment of the population is and could continue to be a great way to build an audience and make a life of it.  If that’s your goal, I step back.  I hope to say I knew the Voice of Generation Y when I’m 80 and looking back.

My concern is that I think a lot of you have bigger plans…you want to make real-life differences for people…you want to tangibly lead people and companies into an exciting future; I think you should start doing that.

Aligning yourself with a generation makes you a Narrator.  You’re talented enough to be a Novelist.

It’s The Same Amount Of Work

In my mind, there’s a reason that leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Chris Guillebeau, Gwen Bell, Tim Ferris, Brian Solis, or whomever else floats your boat seem so innovative and sharp. They’re trying to push an envelope that’s not tied to an age group.

It’s interesting because if you’re in their wagon, they’re trying to push that wagon up a mountain.  They’re tackling a piece of life…not the process of life.

Both endeavors take lots of work. Being a leader, thought leader, author, blogger…it’s all a lot of goddamn work.  All of those people work really, really hard.  (They party hard too, by the way.)

A note as well; I mention these big wigs because I very honestly think a number of you guys could join them.  I think you are incredibly talented and smart people. I wouldn’t have wasted nearly a thousand words on this if I didn’t.

Stop The BlahBlah

I think the rhetoric has reached a bit of a stand-still and thoughts are being regurgitated.  The Generation Y Writing Movement has plateaued. Call me wrong…I very well could be.

My feeling, for what it’s worth, is that the buck needs to stop.  If what you’re saying or doing needs to be qualified with a Gen Label than rework it.  Think about it differently. Take it out of the age context and find what’s really interesting.

Stop the BlahBlah and get to the meat of the issues. You can see the meat, and that’s what makes you different.

That’s your edge.

Soon the everyone else will figure it out.  Soon, they’ll see the same world you see.

And they won’t give a rat’s rear end who you are anymore.

Thoughts?

Image by Mike Baird.

I hope that my respect for all of you, anyone who’s blogging in fact, is obvious in this post and elsewhere around the web.  If we’ve met or meet, I hope that’s clear in person.  If I’ve offended anyone at all, please don’t hesitate to email me and tell me, because I will attempt to rectify it.

*You show me a 50 year old who’s never heard of twitter and I’ll show you a 28 year old who doesn’t know how to use it.

**I work for “myself”, which some might offer up as evidence of success.  What that really means is that I have very little money and hope to heaven that what I’m working on works out.  I’m writing this having spent a pretty sizable nest egg to end up with almost nothing a few months ago.  I’m writing this with almost nothing to point at to say, “Hey, I know what I’m talking about.”  You might suggest that my experience with 20 Something Bloggers gives me a measure of credibility, but I’d argue that I didn’t make it was it is…I just try to make it better.

On An Island

There’s something about the kinds of changes I’ve been through lately that make me feel as if I’m on an island.

I want to assure you that this isn’t some emo blog post about being lonely, and I’m pretty sure it won’t even contain a Lost reference.*

Back in about June, I had lunch with Anthony and we subsequently started spending time with an idea that became foodtree.

I have no clue as to whether any of my old colleagues are reading this, but I want to make sure it’s clear that that doesn’t mean I’d started checking out of the financial industry.  Last Summer and this past Fall, I worked extremely hard to push my practice forward.  I’ve always been a project guy, and 20 Something Bloggers is testament to that; I spend a lot of my free time getting involved in things.

Anyway, it’s almost impossible to illustrate how quickly things changed at the end of last year, and I think that’s partly because it was often in ways that made writing about it here inappropriate.

Hell, making any claim as to what might happen in the context of something like foodtree would have been (and still would be) outright irresponsible.  We’re a startup, and every day’s a blessing even now.

As a blogger, though, I’ve spent a lot of my written words pushing for a few common endeavors within the community.  One of them is transparency; I think blogging is at it’s best when we try to be concise and honest.  The other is confidence; I think personal bloggers write themselves towards a voice that represents them, and the more they write the closer we all get to the good stuff.

Yet for months now I’ve left a lot out, and I’ve quite obviously written far less than at any point in recent memory.  If you know me in person, I’ve probably complained about this more than once over a beer.   The most uncomfortable thing I think I’ve dealt with through this process is censorship.  Initiated by me, no less.

(The second most uncomfortable thing I’ve dealt with would be an overdrafted bank account.  Sidenote.)

I feel as if I find myself on an island.

I feel that way because I can’t think of anyone in my life who could honestly answer this question:

“So…how the f*ck did you get where you are right now?”

Which makes for quite a lot of filling in, I suppose.

*Don’t get me started on Lost.  Don’t get me started on being on the West Coast where things happen later, and Lost.  Don’t get me started on Canada, and Lost.

Investigate Your Value

To me it says we’re all lost.

We shouldn’t be talking about what really matters, as bloggers.  As writers.  As gardeners, managers, executives, joggers, eaters.  It should not ever, ever, be a question as to quantity and quality.  It should never be a discussion about whether we are all in a room looking to score the most points, or whether we’re looking to help one another be better versions of ourselves.

This is relevant to those of you who read my blog and aren’t bloggers.  Maybe you aren’t all that concerned about what’s being tossed about in the digital conversation.  You’re looking for something personal or narrative or useful when you read what I write.

I don’t care who’s reading this.

We’re all here to try and leave things a little better than they were handed over to us.

We’re all here to find something that motivates us, and when we do, we’re supposed to run down that corridor until it splits into another decision.  If that’s agriculture, so be it.  If that’s research, carry on.  If that’s writing, kudos.

Hobby or profession, public or anonymous, we either show up and we try to further the experience or we don’t.

We could all spend our time planning out our route to money, promotions, fame, comments, traffic, or attention and we could all meet back here in a year or two or ten and take a tally.  That’s completely possible. Does it matter?  Not one bit.

What we could also do is, when we get that rare chance, add something to the overall experience.  It could be a random act of kindness.  A particularly impressive brief or project analysis.   A killer blog post.  A project that transcends work and play.

A stunt.  An idea.  An experiment.

That only difference might be that all your comments and traffic, dollars and cents could amount to a lot of people who tell you that you’re great, or you might have ability to buy couches (or send your kids to school, in certain cases).

Or it might just turn out that…

…your truly unique, exciting value will be measured on your meaningful contribution to the overall effort, and amount to the way people remember you.

Pick your priority.

Photo by Hamed Saber.

Looking Back

In honor of the 20SB Blogger Carnival*, I went back to my old blog and wanted to share with all of you my very first post, because it’s a great one.  It has newbie written all over it, even though that was my second blog and fourth year blogging.

Some how my second blog still meant ‘newbie first post’.  In fact, it’s just one line.

Here it is!

“this blog was started on a wednesday. which is today, and which is the fifteeth of august, which sounds and feels like a nice round date to start a blog.”

posted on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 3:26pm.

The emphasis sheds some light on what a newbie post it was.

Gotta start somewhere, right?

*This post is a part of 20SB’s Looking Back Blog Carnival, and Ben & Jerry’s is awarding free ice cream to lucky bloggers and readers!

You Know Things

I had an interesting conversation this weekend with someone who didn’t know that I blog.*

I also had an interesting conversation with someone who didn’t know that I played soccer.

Conversations can get pretty quirky when you’re talking with someone, they take the authoritative position on a subject right away and you let them do so. You position yourself at the quieter end of the chat and let your partner take the reins and all of a sudden you realize that you have a phenomenal indication of what someone knows or how much experience they have or, in some cases, how highly they consider their own opinion.

And I don’t mean to undermine the conversations I had this weekend. Neither was awfully ‘arrogant’ or anything along those particular lines, but when I am ‘assumed’ to have a certain level of understanding on a particular subject without any evidence to support the theory, I not only wonder what lead to the assumption (usually I think it has more to do with the assumptor, but who knows) but I know right away that I’m in the middle of one of those conversations.

As for the subjects, blogging and soccer are quite different.  Soccer is a game, it’s a spectator sport, and thus it’s a relatively passionate subject.  People have opinions, a many have experience with the game.  There might even be some correct opinions out there, but we all know what it’s like to talk about sports or watch people talk about sports and while here and there someone might think they’re right (Cubs fans?) the mere fact that people are willing to posit an argument against the idea that Tiger or Michael Jordan is/was/will be the greatest player to have lived means the topic has a lot of speculation going on.

I don’t often argue with anyone about soccer.  I have a long history with the game and a lot of it’s current players, so I just squirm in my frustrations as I watch the misteps in this country as they relate to the sport.  Half the time I ignore soccer…I don’t follow European games like I used to, and only recently as we gear up for the World Cup do I find myself paying attention here in America.

I mean, as you all know, I really don’t write about soccer a whole lot.

Blogging, though, is not a sport.  (Okay, for some it might be, but I’d like them to explain how.)

From where I’m standing, I’d position blogging as an activity that anyone can do, and everyone should do.  It’s a communicative extension, and there’s no right way to do it, and there are ways to do it that will get you more attention than others.  Writing, dancing, singing, speaking…all the same thing.

When blogging comes up in a conversation, it tends to be a uniquely personal conversation.  Aside from the “what is blogging?” or “how?” or “why?” conversations, a real life chat about blogging is usually a reflection of how two people approach the activity.  That has a lot to do with who they are.  Their influences.

It’s an intimate thing.

Which is why I think it strikes me when subjects like these are commandeered in a conversation between folks who don’t know one another well.   I don’t know…maybe it’s just that these two topics kind of resonate with me personally.  Maybe I hope that I’m being conscious of how I might assume that I’m the expert in a conversation, or maybe I notice it because I’m very sensitive to the idea of being perceived as intellectually arrogant.  There’s nothing wrong with thought and intellectualism and all of that…I adore it and I adore conversation as a result…but assumption and arrogance make an enemy of the fun, mutual, inquisitive conversation that I find the most worthwhile.

We all know things.  Finding out what you know is the fun of it.

So what do you know?

*This may be obvious, but this conversation is obviously not a conversation I had at the blogger/tweeup on Saturday.  That was a ton of fun and you are all wonderful people.

(the family blog)

i discovered this morning that the family blog i’d started for my aunts, uncles, and cousins to keep in touch just had its sixth anniversary.

i’m not sure what about that surprises me the most.

the fact that my mother’s been blogging for six years.

or the fact that ANY group-type blog could last that long without falling out of favor.

or maybe it’s just that i really wasn’t sure if anyone would really use it.  if the value i saw as a recent college grad who had been blogging personally for so long was value that my older relatives might recognize.

back then blogging was twittering; it was a word you thought might stop the music in a bar or restaurant.  most of us didn’t really bother to mention our blogs to real life people, and we all found each other by farming one another’s link lists.

back then a link on the sidebar meant everything.

but then i asked more than thirty of my relatives to try to use a blog to keep in touch.

i said this:

“anyway…i really think this could be fun. i’ll give as many family members as i can find access to this site, and give everyone the freedom to post to it. the idea would be to keep in touch…update family members on your children’s successes…brag about yourself…make fun of yourself…argue (we hope the elders – namely my own father – will keep political arguments to a minimum:))…and plan for our weddings, vacations, and pubcrawls. do with it what you may…i don’t care as long as people find it useful!”

as my cousins joined up and started chattering away, and a few of the more email-prone uncles began using the site as a way to share their (typically hilarious) thoughts on current events, the whole thing took off, and pretty soon we had one place to go for all the family updates.  we had one place to go to hammer out family reunion dates and to announce college graduations.

and even as those college graduations became less frequent, and the engagement and newborn announcements replaced them, the blog lived on.

we were reunited in a meaningful way with our more distant family, and we arrived every summer in upstate new york in a state of contextual familiarity.  our annual week in the mountains wasn’t half wasted on getting up to speed.  family around the world had a way to connect throughout the year.

but for me, it still blows my mind; the act of writing for a group is a very different endeavor than writing an email.  it’s different than writing an email to a long list of friends, family, or acquaintances.  it’s the act of writing something that people will see at their leisure, with no real insight as to who will see it, and who may not.  it’s a ‘public’ message board, and in that way it is sort of a courageous undertaking.

it’s just so cool that so many in my family are so plugged in.