What I love about the web and blogging is the chaotic and largely egalitarian nature of publicity and “exposure” that the medium offers. In 2005, a computer programmer of modest means can fire up MarsEdit and get a message to the world as quickly as he or she can type it. Some of you who slog through my loquacious posts have probably figured out that I can type pretty quickly. If nothing else, I do get words into the pipe!
But what’s really interesting is the changing nature of the world – the recipients of my words at any instance in time. Unlike the New York Times, the Economist, or Jane magazine, blog readers may come and go in giant or subtle waves of attention and distraction. If you’re using a news aggregator, my “magazine” may show up on your doorstep every few days, but it’s also exceedingly easy to “recycle” it before giving more than a cursory glance at the subject line. The world on day one of this blog was much different than the world today. Tomorrow, I may write the most interesting thing ever penned, while my readers have an especially tough day at work and “mark all as read.” And right at this moment, you’re reading this blog for the first time and we share a particular kinship as I observe the synchronicity of it all.
Every so often, the world gets all shook up, and I experience an influx of new readers – more than I could possibly hope to attract by mere internet inertia. Some pass through town, while others stick around – inevitably adding to the quality of the blog and this microscopic community. Today’s link from John Gruber’s linked list is an excellent example of this. A week or so ago, I got a similar surge from a Stepwise.com link. What’s cool about the “link and surge” nature of blogging is that completely fresh groups of people are pushed into the dark recesses of the internet. A thousand pumps of different sizes bringing writers and readers together who would otherwise never meet. These passers-through bring ideas and observations that sometimes clash with mine and often resonate – just like real life. I’m stoked!
I’m reminded of the comments made by Joel Spolsky in an ITConversations podcast, where he compares the urban studies of William Whyte to online social spaces, arguing that increasing participation improves the “quality of life” on the web in the same way that, for instance, bustling public parks are better and safer for the community at large. Though we all yearn for occasional moments of solitude in abandoned fields at sundown where we can engage without humiliation in sissy meditation postures, most of the time we’re happy to have kids running around screaming and blowing bubbles. It keeps the crackheads at bay.
A modest example of the benefits of participation came from one of today’s new readers. Jan Lehnardt wasted no time in finding and building upon my “Terminal At Selection” script, which makes it a snap to open a Terminal window targeted at your selection in the Finder. While he appreciated the solution I provided, it was more or less useless to him as an avid user of iTerm, a third party (free) alternative to Apple’s built-in utility. He offered his improvements to the script, which I’ve happily accepted and incorporated into the latest revision, available for direct download here. By editing a variable at the top of the script, you can easily adjust the script to work with whichever of the two Terminal applications you prefer.
Thanks, Jan. And thanks to everybody else who has popped their head in for the first time over the past day. I hope you find something worth coming back for, and I look forward to seeing your contributions in comments and email.