This week, I have been thinking in a deep work kind of way about a project which has the potential to be lovely and satisfying. However, conventional thinking says that if I wish to convince other people of the validity of what I am doing, then I have to understand why I am doing it. Basically: What’s my why?
It’s not the first time, I have tried to figure out my why. I asked myself: Why do I blog? (2013) which I answered by saying that we live in really interesting times, technologically speaking, and I want to write about them as well as writing up old lectures about human-computer interaction, which I did as, first as seven blogs in: Web design (2013), and then six blogs in Human-Computer Interaction, (2018) and then as an online course: How I created an online course, (2020) which is available on Udemy and which now of course, I want to upgrade, as there are things I would do differently now I know what I know. This has to be a why. I blog to organise my ideas about life, technology and society.
So! Starting a new blog: I clicked on + New which made me go ahhhhhh, because I love to set off on a new blog journey. We are always told that it is: the journey which counts, the taking part that matters, blah, blah, etc., not the winning which made me think about the journey of life and that quotation of Joseph Campbell: The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. So, I googled that and read some motivational, inspirational, life coaching blogs which didn’t explain much of anything, but seem a lot of winning in terms of measuring success. I don’t know why.
After some thought, I decided that what that privilege quotation means to me is that when I was younger I felt I had to be a certain way to be acceptable/successful/relevant in the world’s eyes. Now I am older, I am all about feasting on my own life, seeing myself Derek Walcott’s Love after Love style. I even wrote a series of 10 blogs about how I became a computer scientist: The accidental techie, (2019). Succinctly put, it was an accident, I wanted to do English Literature at University to understand the world better, to get insight into people to find out how they tick, but computing has given me greater insight into people and so many interesting opportunities to travel and spend time with all sorts of people and ask them nosy questions about their lives in ways I cannot imagine a career in English Literature could have done. Is this my why? I draw on my experiences, to share the insight I have gained from watching and learning how people tick.
I always start a new blog post with an image which sums up the blog. In this case, I thought why and pictured a nice question mark, so I googled nice question mark and spent a couple of minutes looking at nice question marks until, I thought: I want words inside. I googled: question mark word cloud which gave me results that made me go: Ooooo. I wanted word clouds with my words inside, so I took the rambles from the file on my laptop which I’ve called: mywhy and cut and paste it into wordclouds.com which generated the nice question mark above.
Lovely! However, it reminded of the tags on here which I continue to use only so that the related blogs widget will suggest blogs which are relevant to each blog, but often suggest, to my mind, irrelevant blogs because I don’t have a consistent system with which the plug-in can work. I thought then, wouldn’t it be cool if I could just cut and paste the whole of my website into a wordcloud, instead of ad-hoc tags?
I exported the whole of my blog database into an .xml file, which is what WordPress does, and then converted it into .csv file, which is what wordcloud wants. However, my resulting files had lots of spurious markup that hadn’t been cleaned up, which made everything not work. I thought about the plug-ins I would write if I didn’t have to spend so much time figuring out formats and converting them before I even got onto the actual problem of what I am trying to solve. Is this a why? I want to complain about how unnecessary complex and what a faff my what and how is becoming and is hampering me getting to my why.
I found an old pdf copy of my blog which I created a couple of years ago and I uploaded that, which made wordcloud hang, and so I would need to convert that pdf document to a text file which made me feel tired again. I remember when I used to open pdf files and edit the format directly but can’t seem to do that nowadays since Adobe took it over. Is this a why? I want to directly edit my pdf files? No, I want to directly mine my website without having to put a load of effort in. I want technology to help me not hinder me. Now I know that is one of my whys. That is for certain. And, I’ve already discussed in the blog our love affair with big data, (2019), and the story in the stats, (2019), me and everyone else are already hoping that by using big data and AI we will get some new insight about ourselves, and we will learn to appreciate ourselves in new ways.
We had friends round for dinner last week which was so exciting after being in lockdown this long while, and a couple of times during conversation, someone said to me: I was not expecting that in response to something I’d said. I didn’t think I’d said anything out of the ordinary, but perhaps I did. Perhaps I have a unique perspective. Is that my why?
After looking at my question mark of words, I saw that it had no relevance to anyone else and barely any to me – words are just words. It is not words or information I need, it is wisdom. I don’t think a question mark full of words can give me wisdom, wisdom comes by connecting to other humans and ourselves which I wrote about in connection lighting the fire, (2018).
In Yogi Ana Forrest’s Fierce Medicine, she talks about acknowledging our age and experience and turning that into hard earned gems of wisdom. I see now that, that is why I am doing my latest project.
One question answered. Two to ask: What will I do with that knowledge? And how will I know who it helps?
Blogging, works every time.