a web thing

Tag: writing


I have no idea what 404 words look like. I was thinking about Twitter this morning, and largely the reason it works is the character limit. Yes, it is successful for the things it has facilitated in society, but no one would be scanning this stream of information if all of the posts were variable or long. Predictable and digestible text posts doesn’t ask too much of a casual browser.

Working within constraints is also a commonly known method for spiking creativity. In yet another drought of writing, I’m looking for a quick fix to push me into writing again. My long-term vision is to make a simple little site that only has 500-word posts. The nerd in me thinks that “404” is more clever, so that’s what I’m shooting for.

The double challenge: write passionately, write succinctly.

Also, I’m going to start a podcast. I’ve heard that when you set a goal you shouldn’t tell other people because it creates this cognitive illusion of already accomplishing the goal (because you are painting this picture of actually doing it when you describe it multiple times to people). I hope that it keeps me accountable for it, though.

I’ve come to understand that what I think about and talk about all the time is actually the philosophy of technology. When I talk about design with my peers, it’s not the actual work, it’s the impact that it has. When I think of design, or the work that I hope to do, it’s within the context of what societal impact it will make. In the natural world, we seem to be removing resources, eliminating animals, even melting the ice. In the mental world, we have entered into another kind of industrial revolution. Instead of cranking out metal, we’re spinning off apps, and with each app, hundreds of notifications, and with each notification, thousands of eye movements and moments diluted.

The first temptation is to yell for the opposite extreme — let’s go off the grid! — but that is a reaction of desperation, an effort to move the needle back to the middle by screaming for the contrary. I think that vision is very romantic personally, but it will not have the inertia to make real adjustment. There should be conscious design happening at the heart of all this; a mitigating element, not a revolution. That is what will help steer the ship. Philosophy will save us all.

Word count: 404


[…] The steam from the coffee rose slowly and mingled with the breath from my mouth. On the school playground that lay squashed between two blocks of flats twenty meters up from my office the shouts of children suddenly fell quiet, it was only now that I noticed. The bell had rung. The sounds here were new and unfamiliar to me, the the same was true of the rhythm in which they surfaced, but I would soon get used to them, to such an extent that they would fade into the background again. You know too little and it doesn’t exist. You know too much and it doesn’t exist. Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows. That is what writing is about. Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself. There, that is writing’s location and aim. But how to get there?

You know too little and it doesn’t exist. You know too much and it doesn’t exist.
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle