Well, I wrote that ‘Zen’ piece on the 14th without much careful thought, and in particular before I had seen John Naughton’s pointer to Richard P. Gabriel & Ron Goldman’s remarkable essay “Mob Software: The Erotic Life of Code“, of which it is not worthy to be a minor sub-paragraph. And while a skeptic might say that the word ‘erotic’ is in that title more to attract attention than because it’s a major theme of the essay, the attention is certainly deserved. Recommended.
Recommended, at least, if you have the time to read over twelve and a half thousand words. There’s an assumption, built into most types of writing, that what you are saying is worth the time and effort of the person reading it. The longer the piece, the better it needs to be, either in terms of the enjoyment of reading, or of the knowledge gained by doing so.
Weblog entries tend to be brief. Quick to write, quick to read. While in general I dislike the trend towards a sound-bite culture, I would argue that weblogs are important chiefly because of their brevity, and this is not just because of the ease with which they can be jotted down and the speed with which they can be skimmed. It is because many of us are not sufficiently confident in the value either of our ideas or of our writing skills to feel comfortable imposing large quantities of text on our fellow man. By publishing just a couple of paragraphs we can try out an idea and see if others find it worthwhile, without imposing too great a burden on them if it isn’t. The timid publisher has had very few such opportunities in the past. Publishing pamphlets was too expensive, writing to the newspapers was too subject to editorial rejection, and creating websites required too many specialist skills. This, I think, is part of why weblogs are a genuinely interesting new medium.