Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A year and a bit

Pocket watch
photo: Norro
My, where has the time gone? Typically for me, I forgot to note this blog's 1st anniversary on the 25th of April. When I did notice it and thought that I should do a post reflecting on the time, I was busy with a series and then I forgot about it again. For someone interested in history, my sense of personal history is abysmal. My late wife used to tease me about that.

The first post was mainly an autobiographical introduction, but in the last paragraph  I told of what I expected to do. The only part that I have not yet done is to produce and market a few ebooks, but that will happen sometime.

Don't get me wrong, this post is not intended to be self-congratulatory, far from it. I really just want to share something of the experience and my work habits; reveal a few hopes that did not materialize and few unexpected pleasant surprises that did. When I first heard the term "Web 2.0" I imagined that it referred to Tim Berners-Lee's original vision of researchers being able to share information and communicate in real time, and how that vision had now moved on to the next step ― whatever that might be. I was disappointed that it actually only spoke about technological advances. Not that many of these have not been wonderful (although others have just been frustrating). It has been about twenty years since I first heard my dial-up modem making its buzzing noises. So much, back then, exhibited that pioneering spirit and most of the people involved were more participants than audience. I soon joined Joe Gillespie's network of fledgling web designers. In the "holiday pantomime" he talks of in the linked interview it was my task, in addition to producing my entry, to coordinate the designers and make sure that the web pages all got linked together at the right time so that the pantomime would circumnavigate the globe in the first seconds of Christmas Day (GMT). I also wrote "the intermission story" with the Christmas characters all going on about things in the dressing room. I utilized my own (minimal) acting experience for that ― a lot of it concerning the removal of make-up and "coming down" from The Method after the performance. Most of us had never met "in the flesh", but Joe eventually joined my family for a holiday in Vancouver and to visit another friend, Terry, in Victoria. I had always thought that Terry was a guy, but she was actually a gal! Another typical early web experience. We stayed at the Sylvia on the beach at English Bay. It's a lovely place to stay, you should try it (get one of the suites on the top floor).

Then Business started to take over the web. It's first efforts were hilarious: businessmen scanning their business cards and turning the image into a web page with no hyperlinks. The magic started to fade. So nowadays, businesses have taken over. Many museum sites, places that should have been promoting Tim Berners-Lee's vision are nothing more than tawdry attempts to solicit visitors or sell images at highly inflated prices. You can also read research papers at only $40 a view, or get yourself indoctrinated with all manner of spin spewed out by people with no real substance and no real contribution to research. If it never changes, it's a cult.

I had hoped, with this blog, that my research would be enhanced by other's visions and that, together, we would evolve to greater things. Some of that has happened, but in private, and behind the scenes though emails, meetings, and closed discussion lists. But there's that technology again. "The medium is the message", according to one fellow Albertan. The business web has made consumers of most of us.

Most of my stuff is alla prima and it is an interesting experiment. Sometimes I don't even know what I will write about when I sit down. Things often go in interesting directions that are quite the surprise for me ― it's organic and evolutionary. Sometimes, I'll do a bit of editing, later, if I spot something wrong.

Joe had wanted the pantomime to be a web version of the Exquisite Corpse and each designer got only the last sentence of text. I suppose a blog is abit like that. It takes you places you might never have gone, otherwise. I will continue for as long as I am able. I never thought I would get this far. I write fast and get up early. Some of my friends have often not yet started their day when I finish my morning post. Some things, though, take a bit longer. The most popular post was "Living with a coyote hybrid (Coydog)", and the two most popular series  have been (so far) : The seal of Alexander the Great, and Important new example of British early Celtic art. Google being mainly responsible for these results.

I also like to revisit topics from a different angle,and evolve my thinking thusly.

And then I like to add a few "Easter eggs" now and again. Did you spot the one here? It was "I should do a post reflecting on the time" and it refers to the reflection of the watch face in the photo. So its been a year and a bit and 150,000 words. I look forward to seeing where it goes next, and I hope you do too.

Normal service will resume shortly.

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