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Floor Wax or Dessert Topping? : Defying Categorization

March 15th, 2005 · 1 Comment

Fred First wondered aloud why his Fragments from Floyd fail to fit into any one category.

It’s a floor wax. No, it’s a dessert topping. I realized long ago that Fragments was destined to be a gray goo sort of blog. Why should a blog be anything but a reflection of its owner? Mine doesn’t know what it wants to do when it grows up. Just like me! And here, almost at its third anniversary. Tsk tsk. We got to find this boy a niche. Or do we?

Gray goo is the last word I would use to describe Fragments. Beautiful. Insightful. Reflective. Funny. Informative. But not gray goo, floor wax or dessert topping.

It is true though that I don’t know what I’ll find when I click to read Fred’s feed. Maybe an excellent photo. No, always an excellent photo. That’s one component I can expect.

But I don’t know if I’ll find pieces of Appalachia. Fragments of Floyd (ha!). Glimpses of rural Virginia. Or just cute dog photos and stories of Tsuga. Perhaps I’ll enjoy an essay that motivates me in my spirit and in my mind. Maybe Fred will post a piece that teaches me more of the way the world works, new discoveries in genetics or chemistry or mechanics. He might share from his marriage, from his delight in his children and grandchildren, from his perspective as a human inhabiting a corner of the planet for a finite time. He’ll talk about being a teacher or a physical therapist. I’ll read his writing and consider choices I make, both personal and political. Maybe I’ll find a new blog or link I like. I’ll find a photo I’ll remember. I’ll think. I’ll think twice. And yes, I’ll laugh. So which category is that?

This post is an excuse to praise bloggers who defy categorization and a way to share pieces of writing I’ve admired. In recent weeks I’ve noticed and enjoyed blogs with diverse posts covering ranges of topics, blogs that couldn’t be defined with one word or fit into a narrow box. Like a child finding a hidden piece of candy I’ve delighted in these rich discoveries. Here are a few I’ll share in this post…

I started reading Tim Bray’s ongoing blog earlier this year as I prepared for Northern Voice and subscribed to the feeds of those speaking and organizing the conference. Tim writes on a number of technical topics, and I must confess that I can’t (yet?) comprehend or critique many of his posts. But I will continue to read his blog, not only because I have now had personal connection with him through Northern Voice, but also because I find ongoing treasures in his feed.

Has ongoing has ever been categorized as a gardening blog? I don’t know. I might be surprised if it had been. Then again, no, I wouldn’t.

Tim Bray’s photography is the kind I’d like to hang on the walls of my home or at least hang on the walls of my mind to refresh me for a while. His flowers are vibrant mysteries in motion, opening, closing, inviting, intriguing. His words are equally elegant. Gardeners to Tim, are optimists, perhaps even prophets:

The crocuses are just past their peak, the daffodils just starting. The ground behind the flowers is still rough and unhusbanded-looking, naked in spots and frankly not that pleasing to most eyes. Gardeners’ eyes, though, see not what’s there but what’s coming.

Gardeners are hedonists, anticipating pleasure. And they have a sense of humor too. I might never know the pretty serious magic of SubEthaEdit, but I can experience the magic of Tim Bray’s gardening posts all the time.

Dave Winer, like Tim Bray and Fred First, also defies categorization. Dave could be called a technology blogger or given any number of titles. Yet Dave uses his blog to share sides of himself and insights into humanity that touch me more than any technology could. He weaves essays on journalism or Google juice with links on what it means to be alive.

For example Saturday’s posts included this story:

On Thursday I was walking down the beach, a small plane approaches, doing the beach route, it seemed so close I could practically touch it, so I waved and smiled. And the plane dipped its wings! I laughed out loud. Maybe it’s just the point-touching thing. Inside each of us we’re a point, that’s where our soul lives, and when you wave-and-smile you touch the other person’s point, and when they wave-and-smile back your point is touched, and that feels good, and, at its most basic level, is what being human is all about.

He also linked to a DaveNet piece from 1997 titled Proof that you Exist with rich snippets from tickling a baby’s tummy, to musings on previous generations, to letting life make you lighter. Dave’s a kid on the roller coaster ride, having fun, laughing, playing, splashing, delighting in what a day brings.

The way Dave goes from describing developers in the Mac community to divorce, as in one DaveNet, amazes me and keeps me reading. He tells me what my life is like. He also tells me what life is like from places I haven’t been, or gives me insight I hadn’t seen, such as his smoking anniversary post last week (also noted by Richard).

What I miss is the high, and the pain. It’s when I feel a rush of self-loathing that I wish I could light up. I think we all have moments when we don’t like ourselves very much. A smoke is the perfect companion for that feeling.

I never know when he’s going to post something that will resound within me. I’m addicted to the point-touching thing, to use his words. That’s also why I write and read blogs.

Here’s another gem from my aggregator: who can categorize Doc Searls? In his feed I might find an aerial photo of mysterious but gorgeous geography or anything from politics to podcasting to this recent note on nonpropriety:

The older I get, the more I realize that Being Right is way overrated. I’d much rather be understood. Or better yet, to have what I’m saying understood. Especially if what I’m saying isn’t just mine. In fact, I’ve noticed that the less an understanding is mine (or anybody’s alone to be Right with), the more likely it is to be understood.
“I told you so” may be the most useless thing anybody can say.

Well, if someone can’t find a category for Doc, I won’t say I told you so ;-). Being understood, as he points out, is more difficult than being right. It’s gray not black or white. It’s listening not labelling. Many blogs won’t fit into categories. I don’t like labels myself: I don’t think they contribute to understanding someone or a situation. People don’t belong in boxes so why should blogs?

I like the way Real Live Preacher ended a recent post titled Telling the Truth

Some people say that I’m a liberal Christian, but I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t want to be a liberal or a conservative.

I want to be a surprise.

This post is my thank you note to all the surprises.


Tags: blog

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 fred1st // Mar 15, 2005 at 9:53 am

    What a nice SURPRISE. And I’m happy to know there are some who prefer the Whitman’s Sampler blogs, where you never know what kind you’re gonna get. Thanks for the kind words and the association with such an eclectic group of wonderful “graygooers.”

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