In fact it’s older than I am. But it’s as good a place to start as any.
I decided to start this brand new Tumblr just a few minutes ago as a way to talk, er rant, about my current feelings about the Internet. This past year has been a very introspective one for me with regard to my life online, and I just realized that there would be no better place to talk about what I’ve been going through than a blog like this, powered by Tumblr.com.
I’ve been dealing with a hello world statement for most of 2012, and maybe a bit of 2011, and certainly not too much before 2010. But I thought that maybe, when I think really hard about it, my whole life has been one never ending series of hello worlds. A string of started projects that for one reason or another just never got completed.
And this really frustrates me to no end. I am already wondering if this will be the last post I ever write on this brand new Tumblr. If tomorrow I’ll forget about it, or feel less compelled to think about it, and if by December it will just be another item on my Tumblr dashboard drop-down of sites I’ve started.
You see, I am currently at odds with the Internet. You’d never know it, especially if you follow me at any length, but the Internet has been problematic for me for the past year or so. It’s not so much that I don’t like the Internet anymore. Quite the contrary—I kinda love the Internet. It’s just that, I feel overwhelmed by its magnitude and entropy.
The thing is, I’m on the Internet. Well, we almost ALL are on the Internet in one way or another, and as James Bridle mentioned the other night in his talk at the New Museum, it surrounds us. But the real thing is, this causes a panic. At least in my thoughts that consistently bubble to the top of my daily routine with the Internet. The truth is, I’m panicking.
If you’ve been to my website in a while, you may have noticed that it’s pretty lame. In fact, the other day I asked Aaron Straup Cope to link to my site from his and then quickly panicked due to the fact that I also remembered that all my current site had on it was another hello world statement. So, I fixed this by reluctantly adding a new node pointing people to my other various spots on the the web. This small act of fixing things really got me thinking. In fact it happened yesterday, and it took me until just about now to really come to the conclusion that what I really needed was a space to spill my guts about my own misgivings when it comes to building a cohesive network of web properties.
So, that’s how this Tumblr began. It may be how it ends, but hopefully not. I really need a place to talk about the things I think about when it comes to the internet. I need a place to rant and rave about all of the misguided attempts to build something that means something, to preserve my own thoughts and work, and to easily fall into the delusion that this is all OK.
hello world is kinda a blocker
Here’s the thing—every time I attempt to build a project on the Internet, I start at the end. I create a space, much like this one, and then I do a few sort of building block things, that are in fact completely not necessary. For example, every new web project needs its own email address. It needs a domain name, and a twitter account and a Facebook page and Pinterest board. You get the idea. It needs all these places so that once it’s live and running and people are looking at it ( oh yeah and google analytics ), it will be, for lack of a better way of understanding it, a totally comprehensive and social-media-tized web project.
This is a huge mistake. The one thing I’ve learned after all of these failed attempts at creating web projects is they ALL start with the content. So, that’s why this time I’m gonna do it right. I chose Tumblr.com because I don’t have to do anything. I can just create my blog, write my first post, and be done with it. Well, OK so I picked out a nice icon from the Noun Project. And yeah, I chose the default Tumblr theme, because it reminds me of Steve Jobs’ turtle neck and jeans, but to be honest, I looked at a few other free themes first.
It’s the content though that really matters. You need to create something, even if that something IS the something. You need to create it. You just need to. You cant just have a new Twitter account, with that lemon/rain drop icon thing you get. You need to select, you need to curate and most of all you need some kind of divine intervention to get your juices flowing so you can channel GOD almighty and put something down on the web.
you can make a new gmail account in about 2 minutes
It takes me about 2 whole minutes to create a new gmail account. This is of course after I’ve spent at least three hours debating in my head what that address should be. Thinking of its uniqueness and trying to make it clever. My parents blessed me with a somewhat unique name in that it’s fairly easy for me to come up with new addresses and domain names that haven’t already been taken so long as I incorporate “micah” into them. If you know my work you might start to get the picture.
But, regardless of how unique a name you have, when you conceive of a new project, isn’t there this crazy race to see if you can grab up as many handles, domains, and properties before someone else does? You know, micahwalter.com, micahwalter.tumblr.com, facebook.com/micahwalter, pinterest.com/micahwalter, and on and on. Every project needs a whole new set. Again, it’s a bit of a distraction, and a blocker, and totally unnecessary, but it’s what I’m getting at. You NEED all of this stuff before you can even begin.
tumblr wordpress blogger whatever
I know it really makes no difference, but it kinda does, to me at least. Whenever I begin a project, I am faced with the question of platform. Where do I put this thing I am to build—what software or service do I use? These somewhat simple questions for most I imagine are easily answered due to a matter of taste and past experience, but for me, things quickly get existential.
Wordpress.org might be fun since its a great user interface and theres tons of nice themes out there, and since I can host it anywhere I want, I own all my own data, and yadda yadda yadda, but it’s Wordpress, and it has its limitations. Whatever. I like Tumblr right this minute but before today I hadnt even logged in to tumblr for like 6 months. Blogger is so old it has its own aesthetic we can all talk about in an already nostalgic way. You know, because its more than 5 years old. My current website is running on Drupal, mostly because its what I was somewhat forced to work with at work an dI kinda use it to run experiments before I let them loose on our live institutional website. Yes, I just said that correctly, I perform experiments on my own website. My website is a guinea pig.
You can get really frustrated, and I certainly have over and over again, when trying to pick the right tool for the job. The truth is, they all kinda work just fine, and they all kinda suck in one way or another. So, maybe the thing to do is to resort to building your own thing with a framework like Django or Rails, or one I was more recently introduced to called Flamework which tries to be not a framework at all but more of an abstract design concept. Wow, I can see the hello worlds already stacking up.
twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, flickr, pinboard, delicious, ifttt
I have four flickr accounts. This wasn’t on purpose. It just happened over time. I forgot my password, forgot the email the account was connected or forgot that email’s password and for one reason or another just decided to say fuck it and created a new account. A few months ago I spent about three weeks back and forth with flickr.com customer service and was finally able to unlock all four accounts. So now I am wondering how to merge them all in to one big thing, and if I should even be thinking of doing that in the first place. There is just too much.
Not only do I have four flickr accounts, but for a while my instagram account was linked to one flickr account and then I reinstalled my iPhone and accidentally linked it to another account, so some of my instagrams are in this flickr account I don’t really use anymore. I have issues with the publishing platform.
You may have noticed, if for some reason you follow me much on the web, that I have been basically doing lots of instagramming for the past year. Aaron was right in his talk the other night when he said that “flickr’s big mistake was making its users think their photos weren’t good enough to upload.” It’s interesting to me that a measure of a website’s success has to do with the “quantity” of uploaded images, but I guess that’s a whole other topic. Anyway, he is sort of right. Instagram, with its small selection of nostalgic filters and a few cool editing features ( does anyone actually get why its called tilt-shift? ) really did a great job in enticing people to upload their photos. But for me, one of my favorite things about instagram is that it automatically sends my photos to just about all of my “things” on the web, all at once. Bam!
Of course this wasn’t good enough for me so I installed Aaron’s parallel-ogram on my own server, and I guess it’s working, but I really don’t look at it much. It’s just peace of mind. Which brings me to my next and final point for this first and hopefully not last hello world.
why is it important to own your own data
One can get really obsessed with the idea of owning ones own data. But what in the wide world of sports does that even mean? Certainly a bunch of the things Aaron has built get at this notion of wanting some sort of backup of the things you stick up on the internet. I think thats kind of why he built parallel-flickr, parallel-ogram and privatesquare. And to make a full disclosure, I use all of them. But what does it really mean, to own your data. Are we going to distill ourselves down into a discussion about backup and preservation? I hope not. And worse yet, terms of service? Oh god, please! But yeah, owning your data is interesting, building from scratch, or rolling your own is also interesting, but there is also the whole “whats the point” bit in there. I love how Tumblr doesn’t offer any kind of commenting system. Most of its themes are designed to work with Disqus.com — so who owns the comments? You can quickly get into a very abstract and frustrating “disqussion” about this sort of thing.
On the surface I want to own my own data. But deep down, I’m not sure it matters, and for some reason so many of my projects, which on some level are about this very topic, require me to relinquish that ownership by their very nature. The choice of using the tumblr.com domain vs. setting up a custom domain name has so many implications, and we aren’t even talking about content ownership here, but just branding. The fuck yeah dot tumblr dot com sites which in many ways are a meme of memes need to have that tumblr.com part to make them what they are, sure.
so my brain just exploded
I’ve reached the apparent limit of this cup of coffee, and I need to stop, re-read what Ive written, add links and funny YouTube references, tweet, and post and pin disqus and whatever.
And so why “rediscover the internet?” Well, I hope this blog is more than a hello world project. I hope it becomes a place where I can learn to love the Internet all over again. I hope it serves as therapy, at least for myself, and helps to guide me back into alignment with this beast called the Internet. I haven’t rediscovered the Internet yet, but I aim to, I really want to, and this is the best place I can think to of begin—right here, on Tumblr.com.
Will there be a second post?