No one ever accused me of being visionary.
I once worked for an online services company that asked me to give an opinion on two new concepts – Voice Over IP (VOIP) and online auctions – concepts that later morphed into things like eBay and Skype. I turned them down. The quality – in 1994 – over VOIP was worse than two tin cans and a string. And the practical reality of online auctions at 56K dial-up modem speeds seemed doomed to failure.
In the very early 1990s, I wrote parts of a collaborative, online science fiction story (parts of which morphed into “Dealing with the Demon,” now available in Innocents and Demons) and I named the futuristic, consumer-desire driven AI network “The Internet.” Someone kindly informed me that there was already a real “Internet,” and perhaps I should invent a new term, rather than risk annoying its creators with my diabolical incarnation of it as a character whose prime directive was to keep its consumers happily entertained, distracted, and addicted so that they would stay logged on 24/7.
Okay, maybe that was a little bit visionary.
So, given the snarking Facebook debacle (“raging” would be hyperbolic), I began toying with the concept of “slow blogging” (as in the “slow food” and “mindfulness” movements). It did occur to me that I might be slower than the movement I was inspired to engender, and I was right.
But then, too, I’ve been slow blogging since the late 1990s, so this “trend” is really more of a trend towards “vintage” or “retro” blogging, and can a regression really be a trend at all? Or is it a rejection of what’s “trendy” and a return to basics?
The point is that I am now smart enough to check Google to see if the wheel’s already been invented before announcing to the world that I’ve invented it. Or to see if it’s an idea that’s catching on before dismissing it out of hand. (Still kicking myself over VOIP and online auctions. Oh, and online bar trivia games – let’s not forget that one, though to be fair I did not say no to that.) A good search can lead down interesting rabbit holes, and can help you to discover new things on the Internet to love. But sometimes you have to craft the search very specifically, and sometimes you have to look past page five of the search results. Perhaps I should start a “slow search movement.”
Wow, am I ever behind the times. Or maybe I’m just now remembering something that got buried in the noise of the digital hustle: Todd Seiling’s, “Slow Blog Manifesto,” written in 2006 (found in archives at http://www.digitalmanifesto.net/manifestos/11/):
Slow Blogging is a rejection of immediacy. It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament.
Slow Blogging is speaking like it matters, like the pixels that give your words form are precious and rare. It is a willingness to let current events pass without comment. It is deliberate in its pace, breaking its unhurried stride for nothing short of true emergency. And perhaps not even then, for slow is not the speed of most emergencies, and places where beloved, reassuring speed rules the day will serve us best at those times.
Slow Blogging is a reversal of the disintegration into the one-liners and cutting turns of phrase that are often the early lives of our best ideas. Its a process in which flashes of thought shine and then fade to take their place in the background as part of something larger. Slow Blogging does not write thoughts onto the ethereal and eternal parchment before they provide an enduring worth in the shape of our ideas over time.
Slow Blogging is a willingness to remain silent amid the daily outrages and ecstasies that fill nothing more than single moments in time, switching between banality, crushing heartbreak and end-of-the-world psychotic glee in the mere space between headlines. The thing you wished you said in the moment last week can be said next month, or next year, and you’ll only look all the smarter.
Slow Blogging is a response to and a rejection of Pagerank. Pagerank, the ugly-beautiful monster that sits behind the many folded curtains of Google, deciding the question of authority and relevance to your searches. Blog early, blog often, and Google will reward you. Condition your creative self to the secret frequency, and find yourself adored by Google; you will appear where everybody looks – in the first few pages of results. Follow your own pace and find your works never found; refuse Pagerank its favours and your work is pulled as if by riptide into the deep waters of undifferentiated results. Its twisted idea of the common good has made Pagerank a terrifying enemy of the commons, setting a pace that forbids the reflection that is necessary to move past the day to day and into legacy.
Slow Blogging is the re-establishment of the machine as the agent of human expression, rather than its whip and container. It’s the voluntary halting of the light-speed hamster wheel dictated in rules of highly effective blogging. It is an imposition of asynchronous temporalities, where we do not type faster to keep up with the computer, where the speed of retrieval does not necessitate the same pace of consumption, where good and bad works are created in their own time.
I struggle with #4. We all struggle with #4. The monstrous machine wants us to struggle with #4, because therein lies the secret to manufactured outrage and controversy built on swampland that burns through the Internet like a peat bog fire. We all run to the fire like the adrenaline junkies that we are, until our adrenal glands and our ability to give a flying fuck are utterly depleted.
Some of us long-time slow-bloggers quietly rejoice (if we even noticed) the death of Pagerank, making #5 appear somewhat dated in 2016. Still, there is MOZ and Alexa and StatCounter and Google Analytics and a host of other metrics to fill the void and force us to contemplate our imagined celebrity status – and ultimately, our obscurity and imagined inadequacy.
In a sad postscript, “Even Mr. Sieling, the writer of the Slow Blog Manifesto, gave up his personal blog because he felt no one was reading it. ‘I called it the Robinson Crusoe feeling of blogging,’ he said by e-mail, “and I think it’s common.” (from Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace)
Holly Becker of Decor8 talked about the “trend” of Slow Blogging back in 2014 (a super slow “trend” if ever there was one), and this week she muses on the survival of blogging into 2016. I’m not sure that slow blogging ever really caught on, or if it continues to smolder in the embers of an underground revolutionary movement of Bohemian bloggers who eschew money and hot water and sustenance that cannot be cooked on a hotplate. Although the Bohemian blogger exists only in my imagination, so, frankly, does this blog.