Why did I take so long to start a blog?

This is a question recently asked by Lance Fortnow. There are a few boring answers: I thought I wouldn’t have time, what with my packed schedule of websurfing, procrastinating, and sleeping. I thought the human race had already overpopulated God’s green blogosphere. I thought the bandwagon had already passed in 2003, and there was no use chasing it now. I thought it would be presumptuous (as indeed it is).

But the real answer is that to run a successful blog, I knew I’d have to write about what actually mattered to me — and that included more than just the latest arXiv preprints or bizarre complexity classes. I’d have to state strong opinions, make my worst fears everyone else’s business, probably offend some people, and probably embarrass myself. So before I did that, I wanted to make sure I could at least do it in the best, most eloquent words — words that couldn’t possibly be misunderstood.

So what happened? Did I find those words? As you can see for yourself, I didn’t. What happened is that, after finishing grad school and reaching an advanced age, I started to face my mortality. Before then, I could always justify inaction by telling myself I was still preparing for the rest of my life. But once you’re in the rest of your life, if you’re not actually living it, then what are you doing? It occurred to me that, if you wait for the “perfect opportunity” to start a weblog — or switch to a new research area, or ask someone out, or whatever it is you want to do — then you’re essentially just committing delayed suicide. I’m sorry if that sounds trite and obvious.

Efficiency matters. Time constraints change everything. How could I have forgotten?

9 Responses to “Why did I take so long to start a blog?”

  1. David Molnar Says:

    Wait, what do you count as a “successful blog”?
    I’ve always run mine with an eye toward
    pleasing myself (and possibly some friends) first.
    In my case, that includes
    speculation on theory ideas and sundries. I’m pretty
    happy with the results. The fact that Lance links to it is
    nice, but I try not to take it as a
    sign of “success.” Since I’m not looking for “success.”
    It sounds like you have different
    goals in mind. It’d be interesting to hear more.

  2. Miss HT Psych Says:

    I’d be interested to know what you consider to be successful too. If you want to spark conversion, you’ve done so marvelously. If you just want to get your ideas out there/get some issue off your mind, again I think you’ve succeeded thus far. Success is relative…
    I would agree with Dave, though. I doubt your readers are looking for sings of “success.” We’re here because we want to hear what you have to say… and it sounds good to me! :)
    “The rest of your life”… I’m still waiting for that to begin. At the oh-so tender age of 25, I still end up in that new psychological category of “emerging adulthood,” where you don’t identify yourself as an adult, but certainly not as a child or teenager. I wonder when that grey area stops… I suppose when I get my first mortgage, or my first teaching job. Maybe? I’m not sure I’m ready though to be in “the rest of my life.” Is anybody ever ready? I tend to think of adulthood as a time where you start to accept your world and begin to fit into it. I’m not sure that academics ever get there. I think that if we did, we’d lose that questioning aspect of ourselves that drives research. Curiosity killed the cat… I sure hope not.

  3. Kurt Says:

    Well, this is probably a non-issue for you, but I imagine that if one wanted to express really strong opinions, one might be tempted to wait to get tenure first. But then again I guess that’s your point, waiting for tenure would be a form of delayed suicide. (Or should that be, tenure is a form of delayed suicide?)

    -Someone who’s still waiting.

  4. David Molnar Says:

    Kurt: one could also start a pseudonymous blog,
    expound all kinds of out there ideas,
    and then be “outed” by someone.
    This appears to be an
    emerging tradition.

  5. David Molnar Says:

    Kurt: one could also start a pseudonymous blog,
    expound all kinds of out there ideas,
    and then be “outed” by someone.
    This appears to be an
    emerging tradition.

  6. Scott Says:

    David and Miss HT: I wasn’t so much making an assertion of fact, as I was defining what it would mean for me to consider this blog successful. There are already several excellent blogs about quantum computing and complexity theory, and I wanted to do something different. Of course, sparking conversation is also nice.

  7. Scott Says:

    Miss HT: In Rebecca Goldstein’s novel The Mind-Body Problem, the narrator argues that academics are all basically overgrown children — among other things, they’re the only people who still consider the “new year” to start in late August or early September, not on January 1!

  8. Miss HT Psych Says:

    You know… I’ve never gotten rid of that feeling that the new year starts in the first full week in September. Even when I took time off for a year…

  9. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Rebecca Goldstein may have a point, but on the other hand I’m not sure how much you should trust her book. It is said to be a roman à clef of her unhappy marriage to Saul Kripke. Divorcees are also known to act like overgrown children.

    (This book also has a subtext, which may be relevant to blogs like this one, about believing quantum mechanics.)