How Blog Breed

Published: 06/12/2023

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For all human behaviors, ideas and knowledge (memes) it is interesting to consider them not only on their own terms but also the conditions of their spread (memetics). When and how people come into contact with them. Why people repeat them. The degree these processes are correlated with truth and usefulness. [1] [2]

In the case of blogs we don't have to wonder how they're spread because the practice is its own self spreading mechanism. Every blog has one or two entries talking about how truly wonderful it is to be blogging and how you should join them. The oldest one I've organically read is Steve Yegge's 2005 post [3]. Someone should ask Yegge what blog inspired him to blog.

For another, here's Alexey Guzey's on the topic. He titles it "Why you should start a blog right now" but it's actually mostly counterarguments for the pretty good reasons why you might not want to do that, a failure mode which Ben Khun calls out in his contribution to the tradition and Julia Evans side steps by titling her version "Some Blogging Myths. All of the myths are naturally reasons you might not want to make a blog.

Here's Preetam Nath's take on the matter. I'm pretty sure this is the only blog of his I've ever read out of a huge body of work which should tell you a bit about why writers keep coming back to this particular subject. Though for a bit I'd bookmark all the blogs I saw on this subject on hackernews and twitter to prepare for this post so perhaps I'm being unfair.

Neel Nanda wrote his version to wrap up his post a day for a month journey. I wonder if there's any counterfactual universe where he ended the series with a post titled "oops, I shouldn't have done that".

It's of course a massive cliche that all bloggers will eventually blog about how great it is to blog and all great writers aspire to be original so they approach it obliquely. Here's a post titled Be prolific which sort of gets at the same thing.

Paul Graham is always writing about how writing is thinking. Most recently in his post about why you should read. This is a top reason people give to justify your writing habit. Here's a post entirely about it.

So Should You Start a Blog?

I hadn't intended to write on the object level when I started this post [4]. But the gravitational pull is too strong. I understand now. I understand. You cannot help but become what you mock.

Honestly I'd recommend against it and don't think it was worth it. I think most of the blogs I linked to are well read and likely spurred a lot of connections, conversations and opportunities for the authors so no doubt were worth it for them. But I don't think I got enough out of this blog to justify the effort and time.

That's not to say I got nothing out of it. Every time someone mentions a blog of mine they read I'm tickled and delighted. And the fun thing is they always mention a different one. One time in a job interview my interviewer said they liked my blog, particularly Things that make me angry, which they agreed with a lot of. One time a college friend I hadn't talked to in a decade said Privilege of Ignoring resonated. I once had a very long email correspondence with a stranger who apparently found the blog by duckduckgoing Brownian motion and was fascinated by the random walk images in Some Generative Art. One friend of mine said he shared my post on Depression and the Internet with some family members who were struggling with internet addiction. I learned a high school friend of mine has a very similar development environment set up from my vim tips post.

That time I allowed people to comment via github pull request and like two different hackernews readers hacked me was sort of fun. Extremely stupid. But fun.

I briefly had ads and made $10. Not really because you have to make it to $100 before Google will actually pay you out. But sort of.

So it's not like I've gotten nothing out of it but I feel like I've listed out most of the actual human interaction I've gotten out of the blog and it's been like 5 years.

To the other thing people say: writing helps you think. 1. I don't totally buy it. 2. Even if it is true it seems like more of a rationale to write personal notes instead of publishing a blog. Unless you think the process of cleaning up and making presentable [5] is where the thinking magic juice comes in.

But I guess my blog has helped me think on occasion. I posted my alcohol post around a lot on twitter and someone finally responded with evidence that caused me to update my position which I wrote about in my correction here. And I learned a lot through doing. I definitely know a lot more about html/css/js/python/cloud/CICD from making this website. Of course it looks a lot shittier and took a lot more time than it might have if I just used an off the shelf solution. And I stayed away from certain web technologies that might have actually been more useful to learn. And now I'm married to this sort of legacy stack. But you can't learn without doing and you can't do something for the first time without making mistakes. Perhaps it's sort of unfortunate that it's the most public internet expression of myself. I hope it's better than being invisible but who is to say.

[1] Previously on memetics on the blog: A Taxonomy of memes

[2] Making up new words makes the ideas sound new but people have been saying X only says Y because Z where Z is not a compelling argument for all of history I'm sure. (A similar thing is going on with blog itself. We didn't really need another word for essay just because it's hosted on the internet. I recently read Boswell's biography of Samuel Johnson and was struck that he was basically a substacker in his later life. A truly lindy arc.)

[3] I first read this post in 2016 and at the time it had a totally different blogger theme. It's funny how the modern css totally changes the impact the post has. Makes it feel like it's from a different era.

[4] I started drafting this blog in my head in like 2019. But it always felt like a blog topic that can't be one of your early blogs. And then I sort of forgot about it.

[5] As if I'm doing that for my blog, lol.