In the past week, I’ve received two separate notes of encouragement to continue writing my blog from complete strangers. The first was from mdhatter, who wrote:

So, I came across your blog, through 'jessicas'. which i got to by looking up an A Whitney Brown quote and seeing who wrote a funny comment. That's 3 degrees away from my original search, but it was time well spent. Nice place you've got.

And then someone else just sent me an email saying:

I haven't yet commented but I lost your blog for a while and only recently discovered it. Even though you usually dont receive very many comments, keep up the blogging. You do a great job of it and I like hearing your interesting opinions; chances are you'll have a regular commetor.

I wouldn’t find this so odd except that in the five years I’ve been writing a weblog (oh wow, almost exactly five - my first post was on August 22), this has never happened. Am I being too cynical in suspecting some cause for this beyond the simple kindness of strangers?

Have I been giving off the impression recently that I intend to shut down my weblog soon? (I don’t.) Is there some sort of coordinated “improve the atmosphere around here” effort afoot? (Maybe there should be.) Is this all part of a targetted spam campaign? (I get a dozen I love your blog!! spam comments daily, but none with references to specific content.) Or is it really just strangers going out of their way to be nice?

 

Now, I was about to say that this is a bad thing because peacefully dealing with incompatible people is important to living in a society. But that's not true. No, peacefully dealing with people you can't stand is society. That's literally all it is. People with opposite tastes and conflicting personalities sharing space and cooperating, through gritted teeth sometimes.

David Wong, 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable.

 

Last week, Shelley Powers wrote about web browsers in terms of "Cane and Able," which was strikingly similar to the old tale of Cain and Abel. Today Danny Ayers wrote about the upper- and lower-case semantic webs in terms of the Garden of Eden, and added a disclaimer at the end ...if anyone feels uncomfortable with my use of Judaic mythology here...

In both cases, I think discussing technology in terms of a shared mythology makes for much more interesting — and thus easier — reading. It's too bad we don't have more shared mythology from which to draw. Certainly we have more mythology than we ever have before, but it's less and less shared. I can discuss complex issues in terms of Battlestar Galactica, but how many people will understand the references? How many people even understand the Biblical references today?

I know many people who are worried about the loss of "morals" (which more often than not means "the right to be comfortable among homogeneous people" — but that's another post) in society, but I think more troubling is the loss of shared stories. Even if someone were able to write a modern epic, commonly accessible by a wide variety of cultures throughout the world, I think there's a modern intolerance for believable fiction that would kill the story before it spread.

In the past, we could weave a lie in with the truth, and make a new truth from it. I think that's how most religions have begun. But I'm not sure we can do that today.

 

I promised myself I would never write about Lisp again after accidentally stumbling into a mob in search of a flame war. But Aaron Swartz's account of an irrational Lisp community sounded too familiar to ignore:

The idea that there is something better than Lisp is apparently inconceivable to some, judging from comments on the reddit blog. The Lispers instead quickly set about trying to find the real reason behind the switch.

One assumed it must have been divine intervention, since "there seems to be no other reason for switching to an inferior language." Another figured something else must be going on: "Could this be...a lie? To throw off competition? It's not as though Paul Graham hasn't hinted at this tactic in his essays..." Another chimed in: "I decided it was a prank." Another suggested the authors simply wanted more "cut corners, hacks, and faked artisanship."

So it's not just me. Turns out Reddit's post followed the same path as my own. It was posted on Lemonodor, without context, and with emphasis that spun it as a vehemently anti-Lisp post, and then it was picked up by Planet Lisp. I take back what I said about the problems with planet sites. It's not the aggregator, it's the writer that removes the context. John Wiseman is the author of Lemonodor. I want to paraphrase Jon Stewart and say to John Wiseman: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting Lisp.

By provoking unnecessarily emotional defenses of Lisp across the web, John is causing otherwise neutral people like myself to actively avoid the Lisp community, because it comes off as a bunch of irrational trolls. I know there are intelligent people using Lisp, but John's reposts distort people's actual views through half-truths and re-emphasis, and the result makes Lisp look like a language only ridiculous people use, people who say things like When you say that you've never spoken Chinese and have no interest in learning it, you are not being anti-Chinese, but you are being closeminded and parochial or My first reaction was 'say it ain't so'. Then I decided it was a prank.

This type of comment prompts reactions like I have never been on a lisp forum but the way the lispers here are reacting are sure to keep me off it too... True that.

 

Over two years ago I wrote "i don't believe there are currently any newsreaders that allow users to subscribe to an OPML file." Over a year ago, I repeated "i believe there are still no newsreaders that allow users to subscribe to an OPML file." I've mentioned this to NetNewsWire author Brent Simmons three times now. Still no subscribe-able OPML.

But now that Dave Winer mentioned the idea, it's being discussed more widely, and I expect it will be implemented by the third anniversary of when I first mentioned it. Sigh. Trickle-down idea economics. Oh well. Better late than never.

 

Earlier this month, Phil Rignalda wrote a post titled "Planetary Damage," the damage being that individuals like Danny Ayers don't feel the need to write about things that show up on sites like Planet RDF. I, like Phil, read Danny and Shelley Powers but not Planet RDF, so if Danny or Shelley don't write about something in the world of RDF, I don't read it. Planet sites run the risk of forming closed communities in which the only people reading about a technology are those already using it. And that's one form of planetary damage

I experienced another sort today when something I wrote (which I thought was about screencasts) made its way onto Planet Lisp. My comments on Lisp weren't altogether positive, and that brought the fanboys out to tell me how evil I am for hating Lisp. The thing is, I don't hate Lisp. I don't even care about Lisp. I know next to nothing about Lisp. I certainly don't belong on Planet Lisp. Planet PHP, maybe. Planet JavaScript would be a stretch. But Planet Lisp? That's just ridiculous. In this case, I wish the community were a bit more closed, with the only people writing about a technology being those who are already using it.