July 30, 2003
Why?It's not at all clear to me why I'm doing this or who, if anyone, I ever expect to read it (I have no intention of telling anyone it's here until it's in some kind of shape that I'm at least not totally ashamed of, so I'm not especially worried about the latter point for now).
Frankly, I've always been pretty doubtful about the whole blog concept. I mean, isn't there enough pointless maundering on the internet without adding the self-involved introspection of a whole generation of nerds (and I speak here as an out and proud nerd myself) twittering on about the trivial and transient preoccupations of their day to day lives? And in fact there do seem to be quite a few blogs that fulfill my worst expectations entirely.
But then my friend Dan started his blog, which is good for me because it provides a nice way to keep in touch with what's going on in his life now that we see each other so rarely; and that in turn led me to various others which are in some way interesting or entertaining or whatever, and I quickly discovered that blogs can serve a worthwhile purpose other than (or in addition to) being the tedious vanity-publishing exercises I always took them for (and if you think that assumption makes me look like an arrogant, opinionated snob then you ain't seen nothing yet). In particular, Bart's irresistibly touching and adorable journal, and the support network he seems to have built up as a result of it, prove once and for all that blogging can be A Good Thing. Despite being ridiculously young and innocent (and having a curious blind spot for the word "past"), that boy is some kind of hero.
Needless to say, WalkyTalky isn't going to be anything like that.
This is not, by any means, some tentative tippy-toe out onto the great information superhighway. In Forbidden Planet at the moment they're selling a badge that says "I was gay before it was trendy" -- quite a development in itself for queer merchandise to be so unremarkable in geeky comic shops -- and it's a statement I identify with, of course. But I'd also want a matching one: "I was on the internet before it was trendy."
I started out on the internet in the autumn of 1991, as a student at QMW. Hardly a pioneer, but well before the deluge. The earliest traces of myself that I can readily find are Usenet postings from early 1992. The web had been invented by then, but it was very small and only of academic interest. The idea that within a few years there would be URLs on beer bottles and everyone's mother would be online was inconceivable at the time. Like many veterans of those pre-Mosaic days, I viewed the graphical web with suspicion for a long time. Even now, part of me believes that a lot of the multimedia flummery we are presented with today is not only rubbish, but somehow decadent and corrupt. To paraphrase Thoreau: mistrust any enterprise that requires non-ASCII data.
But I've had various bits of webspace that came with other services for many years, and put assorted different things up on them; and I've administered servers for several companies, and developed web-based applications, and all that jazz. And lately, it's become clear that I do need somewhere to put stuff that I want to share with others, and also somewhere to play around with various development ideas that I don't want to sneak onto my work servers and for which just running off my laptop won't suffice. The public webspaces that are officially mine (I may link some of them here eventually) are fine for putting up static content but have little or no support for scripts like this, much less for doing the JSP/servlet stuff that I'm interested in playing with. And proper web hosting with support for such things is now so cheap and available that it seems silly not to have it. Hence last week's impulse buy of walkytalky.net.
Which brings us back to this weblog, and guess what, it is a tentative tippy-toe after all. I've been a participant in all kinds of online communities, from CIX to Slashdot, Orange to Gaydar, but a new one (if that's what blogging is) is always a bit daunting. I guess in the first place I'm interested in seeing how the whole process works from this end -- and indeed Movable Type does seem to make it straightforward (my initial impulse to develop something from scratch looks pretty silly now that I've used the off-the-shelf). Beyond that, maybe opening up a more consistent channel of communication that I can use for things like putting up photos and stuff for parents, friends, whoever. Of course, that depends on telling them it's here. Maybe I'll just keep it to myself.