One of the things that makes the rounds in the blogosphere as a ‘truth’ is that you have to blog every day.
In a niche, if you follow another ‘truth’.
This leads to all kinds of crap content. Really. People reblog other people’s blogs, trying to capitalize on something someone else wrote in the hope that they can write it in a more popular way so that their blog can get traffic so that…
Take a breath.
That’s the newspaper business model. That’s the 24 hour news business model. It’s driven by advertising, as many blogs are, and that incentive can actually cause a decrease in quality.
An example: I picked on sex toys in Trinidad and Tobago recently. The story the newspapers carried was rushed, was not well researched, and of course provocative. When Finance Minister Colm Imbert called it fake news the next week, I laughed – because, of course, he pointed out that there’s no definition of what a sex toy actually is. In the video interview, it was even said that a woman had her edible underwear seized by Trinidad and Tobago Customs. The joke from the peanut gallery was that it was a snack. My joke would have been that Customs didn’t know how to use edible underwear- you don’t seize it.
As it turns out, a company named Websource had simply sent out a circular stating that imported sex toys could be confiscated, and were not permitted through their service. The government’s alleged ban was hearsay. Hearsay is heresy in factual reporting.
Waiting, sometimes, is the best thing to do. You don’t have to be the first to publish. You can simply aspire to getting it right before you publish.
So it is with any kind of writing, any kind of social media posting, any kind of sharing of information – even in person. You don’t have to fill what you perceive as voids with inaccurate or incomplete information.
You can wait.
More often than not, you should.
Write frequently, write well, and don’t focus on being first.
This will be a long post, so come back with coffee, tea, something else, or not at all. It’s meant to be linked from the ‘About‘ page.
I’ve been going back and engaging some of Renard Moreau’s ongoing conversations – it’s a nice blog Renard has – and it’s healthy to pause for a bit and think about what, how and why I write what I write.
But I’m more than that now, as people who follow can see. There’s a story there that, as much as I hate writing about myself, is a good story and one worth telling as I begin to connect different writing I have been doing in different ways.
I had some poetry published while I was in my teenage years – nothing particularly great, I think. Writing was something I did every day – we all do, some more than others – but I was focused on the way out of my own prison, which at the time was computing. So I wrote logical code for systems that did exactly what I wanted.
As training goes, that’s pretty horrible training for a writer.
It did, however, get me out of Trinidad and Tobago and out of a house I wanted no part of. It got me to Irving, Texas, where… well, let’s say I enjoyed parts of the childhood I did not have while growing up. While paying my bills. While going to college. And then, while not going to college.
Then, as a sailor, I wrote logs where creativity was not considered… appropriate. No one found it funny when I logged in a Soviet Submarine into a lake at NTC Orlando, and they did not let that pass. They did, however, allow me to log rats in and off the compound without complaint.
Then, there were the SOAP notes in hospitals as a Corpsman – good training on observation, but again, creative writing was frowned upon.
It wasn’t until I got back into software that creative expression was allowed – not so much in the code (oh, the comments I left!), but in that new thing that they had come out with. Email. Not everyone enjoyed my emails, but those that didn’t were usually on the receiving end of some acerbicly made point.
Around this time, I restarted creative writing, largely as an attempt to reconnect with my late mother. We read our poetry at various places in St. Petersburg, Florida – I may even make it up there in 2019 for a CAMs reunion party. And there a conflict began within me – to pay the bills or keep writing. Pragmatically, I continued doing things to pay the bills.
Poetry was fun for a while. Then short essays. And so on.
Later in the 90s, I was able to do some creative and technical writing for a site called Brainbuzz.com, which later became Cramsession.com, and now I think it’s in the ether with study guides still floating around. And in those very late 90s, I began on a new platform.
I began blogging back in 1999. Almost 2 decades ago.
The Blogging Years – Present.
Writing at first in the medium, I was focusing on a lot of self promotion – as many bloggers do. However, I had a heavy distaste for self-promotion – I believed then, and still do now, that content should stand on it’s own. That it doesn’t is an entirely different topic.
Later, I would tire of that. At the request of my father, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago – and it was a time ripe with opportunity. Trinidad and Tobago was to be an Internet hub for South America and the Caribbean. Internet businesses had proven themselves, and my memories of Trinidad and Tobago were optimistic. Too optimistic. The infrastructure wasn’t there, the cost and quality of bandwidth at the time was below reproach, and people I thought I could count on were instead people who wouldn’t spit on me if I was dying of thirst.
So I did what I always did, what I still do with a more mature outlook: I tried to solve the problem. Call it an exercise of futility if you will, I call it an exercise of youth – much the same thing. And so I learned about why all the problems I did not think I should have were there, and tried to bypass them – to no avail. This took years. It introduced me to very quality people inside of Trinidad and Tobago and outside – as well as some people who only recently I found out were the people ripping off my ideas and selling them as their own. Mea culpa. The difference is that they were selling the golden eggs; I am the duck.
I wasn’t making enough money to feed my reading habit. I read a lot of Gutenberg.org back then, and it broadened me some more. The humanities I had kept from myself came flowing in. The world as I saw it shifted into something broader, with more meaning than silicon.
Before I knew it, I was being invited to conferences on culture and ICT – which I honestly thought I had no business going to, but even when I said as much, they still paid for me to go. With their confidence in me, I dedicated myself to what we discussed, and ended up broadening myself further and further – enough so that even years later, I still get messages asking me what I think about things.
WorldChanging/Alert Retrieval Cache.
I was writing for WorldChanging.com for a while.
Then the South East tsunami hit, and I had an idea, the Alert Retrieval Cache (ARC) – one guy, Dan Lane, fleshed it out in amazing ways. That idea later became more of a problem than a solution because of humans and distrust and reasons why humans should distrust.
It also made me leave WorldChanging.com – don’t let anyone fool you, that was a very odd place to communicate with people. There were disputes with the third party involved who also wrote for WorldChanging.com – I simply wanted it to work, he wanted to capitalize his ego with it. The powers that be were Canadian about it, wanting peace instead of progress. I left. Screw that Utne.
One thing became clear: I wasn’t just a technologist anymore. I had been given the opportunity to see the world in more ways. It was very exciting, and I ended up traveling in Latin America and the Caribbean afterwards – not the tourist stops, but in the homes of people who lived there who showed me not what their tourism boards wanted me to see, but what people there wanted me to see. I had traveled a lot before, but every place I stayed gave me new insights into a world that so many of us take for granted.
Another thing had become clear: I had unrealistic expectations of people. They weren’t motivated by the same things as I was, and my world unraveled before my eyes. I put it back together again, every international disaster another stitch in that fabric as people asked me – pleaded with me – on setting up that ARC. There was anger. There was distrust in humans.
And I wrote. Mostly unpublished, in journals on a shelf not far from where I sit. My distrust in humans became more of an acceptance, and I became better at dealing with people and their quirks – their motivations. I grew. The alternative was simply not worthwhile.
The Land Period.
When my father died, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago to settle his estate. That took years. And then I tried to do things with some land I had inherited which required me to deal with people on it. This was another growth experience; even more writing on a shelf – and it was enough to get by, what I did, but it was not enough to get ahead.
I tried my hand at agriculture, which I wasn’t terribly bad at, but it just wasn’t enough.
The Return to the U.S.
I returned to the United States with the idea that I could make enough money to get back to that land and do something of worth with it. In the downturned economy, with the shifts in technology, I made ends meet. I saw very clean parallels between, as an example, Beloit, Wisconsin, and the Caribbean as far as not advancing and why.
I learned a lot more about the world, but in the end I broke even. I was getting to that age where people weren’t sure whether they wanted to hire me, I was at that age where I wasn’t sure I wanted to be hired by them.
Long gone were the days of the code monkey for me, but everyone wanted a code monkey so that they could play their silicon organ. Attempts I made to get past that failed. Honestly, I could probably be doing code for some company in the U.S. right now if I really wanted to, but I don’t – I turned down one huge company twice, and a slightly smaller company twice. They’re names you know, but they’re not names that will make a difference here. They’re not important to me, and that’s the point I’m getting at.
There was more to technology. I’d already been reading everything all this time. It was all beginning to make sense, and I read then – as I do now – to get the language to communicate things. To make simple what seems so complex at first. To see things work.
I made my way through jobs – even getting to work at a company that did Emergency Communications, learned more about telephony than a sane person should, and left.
To return to Trinidad and Tobago, to finish some things with the land, and ultimately, to write full time.
And Back To Trinidad.
Agriculture again, and dealing with land issues – pushing hard, harder than others. Adjoining landowners were useless despite being related. So I changed the paradigm.
And now I’m back to writing – connecting things beyond just technology, looking at things and seeing what needs to be fixed. I write about it. And also, I’m writing other things, unpublished…
There’s the issue of purchasing land in Trinidad and Tobago, which isn’t actually hard, but it is something a significant amount of people I have encountered in the world and social media have not gotten right. When so many people are screwing something up, one has to wonder why that is. It’s easily dismissed as people being stupid, but it’s improperly dismissed that way. People simply don’t know. Despite writing that article, there’s a demographic that will still screw it up – but I’ve done my part.
That lead me to wonder why local media hasn’t successfully addressed the problem, if at all. Of course, they may have covered it – I spend less and less time reading local media – but the problem persists. So if that article helps one person, it will have done it’s job. If it helps 100, it’s a success. If it influences 1,000 people to do things properly, it will be slightly awesome. It will have served a purpose.
There are things people need to know. In the world, information like that is guarded for no real reason, and it keeps people back.
The truth is, I like the voids. As a software engineer, I fell in love with the problems no one else could solve, even with the advent of the Internet and search engines – the bleeding edge.
There’s plenty of bleeding edge outside of technology, too – we tend to think of things on the horizon when that bleeding edge is instead getting people to tie their shoes so that they don’t trip on the way there.
Having tripped on my shoelaces so often while staring into a void, I do not find it amusing to see other people do it.
We live in a world where there’s video, where there’s audio… and there’s the writing.
Many people write every day. Some, not at all. Writing, like everything else, takes practice.
I got a message today from a close friend:
How do you write so seemingly effortlessly? I’ve been trying to write a simple staff bio for a website for the past 8 hours and I have one sentence.
Years ago, I would have looked at this and been astonished that anyone thought that of me – that I could write ‘seemingly effortlessly’. Nowadays, I’ll take what I get. So I responded to her, told her to just write and write and write about anything – leave, then look at what you wrote. It’s called ‘free writing’…
Sadly, I don’t think my advice helped that much. Her response was that she was going to mow the lawn.
I’ve been there. I think any writer has been there.
And I think anyone who has had to write an awful bio about themselves most certainly has been there. The Geneva Convention should have something to say about that.
Bios are horrible. How do you want to be seen? Who will be reading it? What will they think of me? What’s the line between pretentious and confident? And what do they mean 3 paragraphs? Or just one?
How can you possibly boil yourself down into one paragraph? Or three? I think that most autobiographies started off as bios where writers didn’t stop.
But a bio is not too hard, really. Clearly you can’t show people the entirety of you in one paragraph – there’d have to be a very unimpressive you. So stop thinking about who you want to be seen as.
Instead, ask yourself, “Who would these people want to know?”
That’s the secret. Generally, people want to feel confident about the person that they’re trusting with… something. So, if you’re writing a bio related to baking, you might want to write how long you’ve been doing it, what sort of baking you’ve done, and where you’ve done it.
Don’t say, for example, that you collect frogs. I did that once and it went sideways. I had a few plagues of frog related things from people for about a decade. Maybe you like photography. Maybe you read. Maybe you write. Maybe you spend time with your kids, or your nephews and nieces, or maybe you like to simply sit down and read a book.
So, here’s your bio so far:
[Insert name here] has been with the company for [?] years, and has been baking for [?] years. She spends her time reading Baking Technology websites and playing with her dog, Mr. Cupcake, who also requires gluten free pastries.
There. You have a basic bio. You could add some edge to it, depending on the company or organization, but edgy cuts both ways.
It’s not hard to flesh that out from there if they want a longer bio. Play with those two parts, stretch them, and then see what is worth keeping.
And don’t be too hard on yourself. That someone wants you to write a bio typically means that they think you should have one – so do your best.
In all of this, we focus on the lack of truth. Yet, where we find truth we find precision, and where we find precision, we find error. When we talk about fake news, we’re really talking about the innocuous stories fed to the media – social and traditional – that spread not because they’re good, but because they’re catchy. ‘Sticky’, as marketers would say.
Truth itself is a fickle thing. We seek objectivity in our subjective experiences of life, and only when we master these subjectivities do we diminish error and improve the precision. Again, where we experience precision, we experience error – they cannot exist without each other.
It’s all trigonometry to an extent, which fuzzy logic measures by weight, but it’s there – particularly when reconciling two versions of the truth. When we get three versions of the truth, it gets more complicated. When we get 10 versions of the truth, it’s even more exponentially complicated. So we do what humans do – we simplify when we’re overwhelmed. When we’re scared, it might become about race or about people ‘over there’, a wide net that catches innocent and guilty simply to catch the guilty.
All of this used to be more manageable when we had fewer versions of the truth. The Internet came along and gave us the metaphorical 10,000 monkeys typing out their own versions of Shakespeare all over the Internet. Most monkeys simply regurgitate the same stuff they read somewhere else, hoping to make their audience click around their site to get a little bit more advertising revenue. When you drill down, there are actually very few monkeys that come up with the best versions and they’re not the same all the time.
But the monkeys that come up with the most popular versions aren’t necessarily the best – and the best versions are not always popular. Network powered societies amplify this and we’re network powered, so much so we cannot truly conceive versions of truth as easily. Facts have become croutons on a low carb salad – almost extinct, if not extinct.
And it all happens faster. Where we might have gotten news once a day with the printing press, twice a day with the television, thrice with the radio, we have versions of truth on tap 24/7, where the first to cover something gets the prized advertising revenue no matter how uninformative and perhaps wrong the coverage is.
We find in life that when the people around us make better decisions, we ourselves get better choices. We find that when we make better decisions, those around us get better choices.
And we find that the opposite is also true.
Rethink where you get your content. Re-assess your connections in what they share, reassess what you read and if none of it makes you uncomfortable, you’re not reading facts but your own fiction, cherry picked from the 10,000 monkeys including the ones who take joy in feeding nonsense to the masses.
Go find Shakespeare. Don’t trust the monkeys. An if you’re one of the monkeys, my word, at least try to get something in with the filler.
Now I know. In the broad strokes, the data points are cherry picked. When we look at how the world has improved based on static measures, we all should know that yes, the world has gotten better. That’s not why we don’t think it is. It’s because the measures themselves haven’t improved. I’ll make my points quickly as related to his points.
Globally, we have less people starving per capita. There’s no debate there. Where the debate should be is whether this should be a part of the debate. Population growth around the world varies; a nation with lower standards of living tends to have higher population growth while a nation with higher standards of living tends to have lower population growth.
So, if we look at the shell game of poverty, overall the number is decreasing. But is the standard of living? Are people moving forward without people being left behind? Is the number of people we’re leaving behind increasing or decreasing?
We hear more often than not about the ‘erosion of the middle class’. Where did they all go?
These are questions that we want to know the answers to; we know poverty is decreasing, but if our goal is constant improvement, shouldn’t our measure of how we’re doing improve as well? Or are we comparing poverty now with the cave people of a few thousand years ago? No, but metaphorically, the idea of comparing poverty across a few hundred years is a frequent optimistic perspective presented when the masses get a bit disturbed.
Just by social media we know more people are attempting to communicate – some literacy is involved, but I daresay that there is some functional illiteracy out there that has snuck past testing that is supposed to demonstrate literacy.
I had a real world example today. A friend of mine’s granddaughter needed a reference on a form since the form she had filled out was outdated. He told me he needed me to sign it. I looked the old form over and told him I didn’t need to sign it, that she already had references on the old form, and all she needed to do was transfer them to the new form. No signatures required.
An hour later, while I was writing this, he stopped by and told me the new form needed my signature. It did not need my signature. I didn’t need to sign anything. Functionally, that’s a form of illiteracy. Functional literacy was defined by UNESCO in 1960 – 58 years ago – as:
“using these skills in ways that contribute to socio-economic development, to developing the capacity for social awareness and critical reflection as a basis for personal and social change”
Not knowing the difference between putting your contact information on a form or signing a form is one example. So how are we measuring literacy?
By the numbers reported of those that can read by passing certain tests that, if you ever spend time on social networks, you need to question. Nevermind reading comprehension.
So, while the numbers of those that are reported as literate can be shown to have gone up – from students to teachers to administrators to nations, who wants to give worse reports? The incentive for true reporting is simply not there. How many college professors lose their hair dealing with freshmen?
Has functional literacy gone up? With increased bureaucracy over the decades, as well as technology, what is the new literacy? No one really knows. It’s sort of like the difference between pornography and art; we know it when we see it.
Germ theory is the basis of the postulation here – something come up with in the latter half of the 19th century. We’re in the 21st century; we’ve made leaps and bounds since germ theory that have been put into practice – open heart surgery, as an example, has come a long way in the last few decades. Granted, it could not have happened without germ theory, but if we’re comparing how well we’ve done since germ theory a lot of other things should be spoken of.
Yet there is at least the allegation that big pharmaceutical companies overcharge – Brazil even went rogue with HIV medications because of it. Borders between nations become more permeable when there is a noticeable price difference in medications, where the medications flow to places of higher costs. The United States is no different here; people get medications from Mexico and Canada as examples. How much? I’m pretty sure we don’t have the data for it; black markets don’t publish their data.
Access to healthcare? In the U.S. alone, this has been one of the most sharply debated topics in the last decade.
So yes, gene theory has brought us a lot of good, but what have we done since? With an increased population – remember population growth? – partly because of our advances in medicine, I’d think we’d get some better points than just gene theory.
Yet I can see why no one wants to talk about how health insurance has helped people. After all, it was only about a century ago that doctors were paid in livestock. Gene theory, apparently, gave doctors much more.
Oh, freedom. How do we define it? Is the person who works three jobs to pay the bills, ‘free’? Fortunately, no solid points were made in this section because it’s all pretty ambiguous. One has to wonder why it’s even in there.
Our population is increasing! Yes, we know that. We’re painfully aware of it, and I am not certain that it’s an indicator of things being better. It could mean that a lot of people in nations with lower standards of living might simply be unable to watch the television that they want because of content distribution rights or lack of internet access.
We live in an era where there is cultural value placed on academic degrees; they were incentivized by salaries – at least at some point – and now the value of them is publicly questioned. Getting in debt for a college education and then being unable to get a job to repay that debt is a reality in the world. Yet we say that education is increased.
Formal education. But how has formal education changed? Aside from changing and adding some subjects, adding a lot of administration, education itself has not changed – and more than once we’ve seen education standards dropped so that more people pass. We don’t talk about that.
So while more people may suffer a formal education by 2100, can we honestly say that they have been educated better than now? Than 10 years ago? We’re talking about quantities when we should also be dealing in quality.
Why Do We Not Know That The World Is Changed?
We know that the world has changed – in our little pockets of what we read and see in the media, social or otherwise, and the reinforced perspectives we get from them. People share things without reading them, without rigorous thought (education? literacy?).
The world has gotten much better since we were cave dwelling mammals, though there is at least a sense of wonder when I consider that: Did we leave the caves because of the population boom caused by fire? Cave real estate maybe got so expensive that finally – probably a guy named Bill or Steve – said, “screw this, I’ll make my own cave!”. And so to this day, we live in variations of the cave, usually made by someone else. With fire. And cooling.
And yet, how have we really improved? The same country that has children eating tide pods also had an immigrant send an electric car to Mars while at least one person on the Tesla waiting list got upset (if they didn’t, I wonder if they should own one?). We have advances in medicine that should have us discussing contraception, even of the immaculate variety, and technology is giving us sex robots that – fortunately, so far – don’t distribute little humans like sexually transmitted diseases, or like Oprah. Look under your seat! There’s one for you!
We have advanced so far in technology that our education, our literacy and lack of it, has become more pronounced as we reinvent Babel despite people speaking the same language. We have people who are so angry that they’re either a mass shooter or a terrorist (but never both). We have archaic systems of governance that cannot shift as fast as the public can become less accurately informed.
The world has gotten better in some ways, yes, but it has become worse because people who never would have known each other 100 years ago now see each other’s posts quickly, algorithmically, based on what someone in a code cave thought was the best solution… so far.
We really don’t know whether things are getting better or worse. We only know within our own contexts and what we are told, and what we are told we too rarely question because our education systems teach us to accept what we are told rather than challenge it.
Challenge it. Challenge everything. Things will not get better otherwise, and if people actually challenge things more, people won’t feel the need to write posts about ‘how much better things are’, a Hallmark card from the World Economic Forum to the ailing masses who aren’t seeing the improvements promised, with the dreams of yesteryear either dashed or worse, undreamed.
I, for one, do not wish any carcinogens blown up my posterior, no matter how fancy the pipe.
Reviewing the statistics between KnowProSE.com and RealityFragments.com has been a bit revealing – empirically.
Between the two sites, I’ve done about 300 posts in the last year.
KnowProSE.com has 27 followers and 50 likes (WordPress) with roughly 5,000 views, averaging 2.5 visitors a day with 100 posts over a year.
RealityFragments.com, on the other hand, has 89 followers and 750 likes (WordPress) with roughly 2,000 views, averaging 1.4 visitors a day with 200 posts over a year.
I did not make goals on these sites – I simply allowed myself to post as I wished to, when I wished to, as often as I wished to so that I could see what happened – because, despite what your goal oriented classes have told you, the best thing to do sometimes is to see what happens. That some more technology related writing has gone to TechNewsTT.com isn’t really worth factoring in – my contributions there, while appreciated, aren’t numerous enough to affect things.
My non-technology writing gets more interest than my technology writing – we could argue that I posted less tech, but there are some other factors: KnowProSE.com has been my domain for over 10 years, whereas RealityFragments is only a year old (and doesn’t suffer the history OpenDepth once did, which was messing with statistics).
So what does it mean? Nothing, really. But it’s interesting to look at. It’s a datapoint.