Friday, May 16, 2008

Connecting with others

I think I've figured out why I've been such a terrible blogger for months now, and it's not because I'm too busy with work, or because I'm too lazy to type long entries. No, I've been busy with a couple other things:

  • Checking out what other people are doing and listening to their thoughts.
  • Joining conversations on topics I care about.
Of course there's still the usual looking for cool stuff online to share with you guys, but now I share those stuff as soon as I read them with just a click of a button, with only an occasional small commentary on my part, letting you see them all in one place and comment on them if you want to.

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I used to really hate it when I end up in blogs filled with posts like "I'm listening to this cool song right now. Oh, and my cat scratched our sofa AGAIN. I feel bored..." Let's not even get into the spelling and grammar problems. Now, if ever I see such a blog again, I'll probably just feel pity that this poor guy isn't using the right tool for the job. That's because I now see the use of letting your friends know the little things that go through your mind, whether or not you're directly talking to them. It's the little things, the outbursts of opinions, the spontaneous thoughts that might be seeds of greater ideas, the personal experiences we have...these things help others empathize and connect with us. That's exactly why chats-- those spontaneous bursts of disorganized information, opinion and reaction-- whether online or in "real life", are so important in friendships.*

The problem with some personal blogs of long ago is that some people (kids, mostly) tried to use them to chat. For one reason or another, this just didn't work. People expected blogs to start conversations, or join existing conversations...conversations that required some level of organized thought regarding topics of discussion...not to talk about the weather or about what you ate in the nearby fast-food chain (or about your current boredom). In short, the kids wanted to chat with someone...to just talk...and to listen...and to connect...but the platform they were using wasn't suited for the purpose. They wanted to chat with the world, but nobody cared.

Now with services like Twitter and Jaiku, everybody could chat with the world, to tell everybody what's up, in a place that cared about what you are doing right now. The best part is you don't have to be on a specific OS, or using a specific application. You don't even have to go online all the time. I receive updates from the Mars Phoenix Lander team every day on my cellphone. I get to read the thoughts of my high school classmates, my sister, or my crush even as I lay in my bed. The feeling of connectedness I get here just blows away anything else I've experienced in any online service, including other so-called social networks. It's just awesome!

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I've mentioned that blogs are used to join online conversations with the public. It just so happens that I enjoy conversations, be they humorous or argumentative. Now some famous bloggers join online conversations by posting their reactions on their blog, but I realized I prefer another approach. I tend to simply post my response to some blogger, and it's usually very lengthy and blog-worthy in itself, onto his blog as a comment. If you bothered to look, most of the prose I write online will be seen on Slashdot, or on my friends' blogs, or even on random blogs I come across. I never bothered to copy my comments here. As far as I'm concerned, discussions should develop where they started, to keep the arguments in context. It helps prevent bloggers from isolating themselves in their own bubble on an issue. You could always pretend that the debate is on your side when it's only you presenting the issue on your blog. Joining in an actual thread of conversation lets everyone see how you really stand. Sometimes connecting with others can be tough, but it also helps you be more humble and objective. It helps you empathize, which sometimes hurts, but will be good for you in the end.

Light-bulb: Of course, it would be ideal if I could comment on other people's blogs and still have my comments automatically visible to my own blog readers (i.e. the four of you). Maybe the Blogger Team should develop a system to let me view and share the discussions I've joined in any Blogspot page. Better yet, they could team up with the rest of the OpenID Foundation to create a relatively blogosphere-wide system that would track my comments almost anywhere.



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*Which is probably the greatest thing about the company I work for, in that it helps others generate the friendly chaos of "small talk" wherever they are.