A communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space

Earlier this week I wrote a short post on Thought Shrapnel that quoted this line from Paul Jarvis: “What makes the content you create awesome is that it’s a story told through your unique lens”.

This ‘unique lens’ both stays the same and changes over time. Take Warren Ellis’ decision this week to retire his blog at morning.computer:

My mornings have been so fucked up and non-morning-y for a while now that I haven’t had any rhythm on this journal, and it feels increasingly like a bad fit for the way my life is now. Four years ago, it let me order my thoughts. Today it’s “well, shit, it’s 3pm already.” I’ve been thinking, for the last couple of months, that I’d like to maintain a public presence on the net, but that I need to do something else.

Our lives change, sometimes through an act of will but more often through serendipity and the shape of events. Ellis has decided that his online presence doesn’t suit the change in his circumstances, showing that that lens we have on the world can (and probably should) mature as we age.

My good friend Bryan Mathers, no doubt influenced by Ecclesiastes 3, often talks of us having ‘seasons’ in our life. I think that’s a good way of looking at things, as it’s a kind of eudaimonic ‘happy medium’ between, on the one hand, a chameleon-like changing of one’s views to suit the surroundings and, on the other, being a stubborn (often grouchy) stick-in-the-mud.

Thankfully, Warren Ellis is keeping Orbital Operationshis excellent Sunday newsletter, going. In today’s issue he cites Venkatesh Rao who has a question for those who still maintain blogs:

Old blogs must choose: should they turn into elder blogs, or should they turn into late-style blogs? One does not preclude the other, but you must decide what you solve for.

I have, and continue to, maintain a patchwork of blogs that come to life and almost die-off at regular intervals. It’s been this way since about 2004, so I’m coming up to 15 years of blogging. But what does Rao mean by ‘elder’ and ‘late-style’ blogs?

The idea is that in a complex game, after most players have finished a first full play-through, the mechanics might still leave interesting things for them to do. An Act 2 game-within-a-game emerges for experienced players who have exhausted the nominal game. A game dominated by such second-order players is an elder game. In Borderlands, the elder game was apparently gun collecting.


An elder game can be contrasted with a late style, which is a style of creative production taken to an extreme, past the point of baroque exhaustion, in a sort of virtuoso display of raging against the dying of the night. Late-style game play is an overclocked finite game resisting the forces of mortality. An elder game is a derivative infinite game, emergent immortality hacked out of mortality.

I’m going to get some flak for this, no doubt, but the forty-something year-old white dudes who are 90% of the IndieWeb community are, to me, definitely an example of late-style blogging. They’d be very happy if we could turn the clock back.

You have to roll with the times, and/or decide who you’re doing all this for. I guess I’m an elder blogger, not in the sense of any seniority (or, for that matter, knowing what I’m doing), but in the words of Venkatesh Rao, I’m hopefully providing a “communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space of interest to many”.

We live in a world of extremes, and often the middle of things gets hollowed-out leaving just both ends of the spectrum. In the online space, that feels like podcasts and newsletters at the long-form end, and Instagram and Twitter at the short-form end. What does that mean for blogging? Well, I’m not particularly bothered about business models, about huge audiences, and about ‘trends’. I’m happy just getting my thoughts out there using whatever vehicle feels right for the purpose.