GrooveStomp

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Ruminations on Writing

As my blog has become neglected, I’ve had ample time to contemplate my approach to writing. When I reflect on my habits it is clear that I haven’t been directing my attention and energy where they could most effectively be applied.

Not all of my thinking has been negative or quasi-constructive, though; some of it has been generative. As an example, I’ve really been wanting to write about computer graphics. The scope of what I want has changed wildly from a few simple one-off C++ programs to a strongly-typed Haskell-style rendering and animation engine written in C++. I’m currently leaning toward the latter, but, there’s a bit of planning involved with that. I have a very rough outline in my mind, but I need to commit this somewhere and start working on the details.

As far as where my actual time has been going, I spend far too much time on activities that return very little for the investment they require. Reading about videogames is probably the largest one. Twitter would be the big #2 on that list, followed by online shopping.

##Videogames

I have a long history with Videogames. Starting from playing them exhaustively on the NES, to my career making games at Electronic Arts, to the present day where I juggle my hobby with being a good husband and father.

Depending when you catch me, I might be fully absorbed into a game, eagerly anticipating the next one that I can latch onto. The last time this happened to me involved me picking up Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on my Playstation Vita. I played that fairly diligently, much to my wife, Daniela’s, dismay.

But moods and hobbies are interesting. My brother Kari says that videogames as a hobby ebb and flow. I have definitely noticed this with myself. It starts when I can’t decide which videogame I want to play (even if I’m in the middle of playing one that I’m enjoying) and wind up reading about videogames and watching reviews instead. It’s a short trip from there to feeling like I’m spending way too much productive time on a relatively unvaluable activity.

##Twitter

Oh Twitter. To start off with, it’s a proprietary service that has very unfriendly terms of use on its API and policies that indirectly support harrasment. With that out of the way, I have actually found some pretty good information via Twitter that I might not have found out about any other way. Mostly this has been recommendations for specific books, or links to websites with articles that I’m interested in reading. There’s marginal value in being able to follow people I look up to and see what they’re thinking and doing. Unfortunately, Twitter is a lot like a Tamagotchi; it requires frequent monitoring if you want to get the most out of it. You could check it once a year, but the signal to noise ratio is terribly out of your favor. Unfortunately the signal to noise ratio remains terrible even if you aggressively filter your following list, and I believe this is because Twitter itself encourages vapid communication.

I really think 140 characters is not sufficient for proper communication. All the good conversations I’ve had have involved a lot of threaded tweets, ultimately reading similarly to a forum or chat conversation. It’s not as good as one of those, though, because Twitter’s UI is actually really bad at properly threading conversations between two people; and it gets worse if anyone else chimes in. When you’re directly replying to people, their handles also chew into the 140 character count, severely limiting the amount you can write in a single message.

Back to the idea that Twitter itself encourages vapid communication. I enjoy writing and am what is commonly referred to as “detail oriented.” Writing engrossing, detailed blogs about subjects I’m interested in is probably one of the most obvious things I could be doing. This would have the additional benefit of possibly helping others. Part of the drive to do this is from having an idea to share. With Twitter it is trivial to mention the idea you want, share a link to related material and be done with it. This is satisfying, but nowhere near as satisfying as writing a curated blog that accurately portrays your position and contributions.

##Online Shopping

Online shopping isn’t a particularly interesting one because it’s not a huge problem for me, and I think the negatives are mostly pretty obvious. Sometimes online shopping is fruitful if there’s a pre-determined goal and the shopping is simply a means to achieving that goal. Often, however, I’ve found myself browsing for collectibles on Amazon, or looking for some fancy new thing-a-ma-bob for no particular reason other than I may have read about it in a news article somewhere, or someone I know has recently aquired thing-a-ma-bob v1.

Usually this practice leaves me greatly wanting to purchase. Often I don’t, and I’m just left feeling empty. I’ve found something interesting - maybe even the best of the category of things it fits in - but I don’t have a direct need for it. So I don’t buy it, but I still want it. Recently I experienced a day like this and wound up with a positive feeling of not having succumbed to consumerism. I’m very happy with that, and hope that feeling of overcoming desire occurs more frequently.

##Conclusion

I’ve already gone through a few stints of blocking Twitter, removing it from my smartphone and generally trying not to participate. Those have been fruitful. I am convinced that it’s wholly habitual. As I think about this now, there are definitely a few occurrences of positive findings from Twitter that I’d miss if I were to give it up cold turkey. Unfortunately, Twitter disabled RSS support, so I can’t just follow RSS feeds from the folks that I’m interested in following. Maybe I’ll just institute a read-only policy on my Twitter usage and trim my following list even further. In fact, I’m sure that will be sufficient.

In addition to the Twitter stuff, I will write down ideas so I can more thoroughly address them and present them here. I have ideas on how I’d like this blog to be, and there’s a big delta between those ideas and where it is currently. But it’s nothing insurmountable. One step at a time.

Talk to you soon.