Tables turned

Joash was drinking at a dingy club with lanyes .Soon he saw a pretty one and he decided to buy her drinks .The lanye decided to spike his drink but joash had a very high tolerance for rohypnol and wasnt getting drowsy.Thinking that maybe the mchele wasnt working she decided to test it on herself.
Joash was aware and and went to the room with her .The girl blacked out midway .Joash met the threshold and left her in the room took her phone and money

It works like that. Ile yenye ako na intention ya spiking you and you spike her first.

I need two memes here

  1. Things that never happened
  2. Idi Amin laughing

Kijana … sema hypothetically speaking.

:rolleyes:

…and Joash came to tell the tale of his massacred tail.

[ATTACH=full]376898[/ATTACH]

Really?

Before you doubt this, i once drunk with a pack of girls and was drugged, but never blanked out. in a very responsible manner, with full awareness, I declined even to ride together with the girls in a taxi, to their disappointment, but i did not know i was not only drunk but drugged too. The effect of Mchele never kicked in until the afternoon of the following day. I hardly slept well, drove for two hours to Nairobi but feeling very sickl, upon arriving in Nairobi, I blanked out. I was indeed hospitalised and the medical tests confirmed I had been drugged the previous night with the said mchele. so yes, not everyone succumbs to Mchele instantly.

There you go
[ATTACH=full]376939[/ATTACH][ATTACH=full]376940[/ATTACH]

the number of times COUSIN yangu amepigwa mchele, hio tolerance lazima ame achieve

Pure madness

Kuna story nilisoma mahali juu ya jamaa aliona Dem akimwiba, akangoja Dem akaingia bafu, akamwibia 1500. Ama ilikuwa Tom Bayeye

Umemaliza kudinywa mkundu?

Niaje buttco umependa sana story za mkundu.Mkundu yangu kazi yake ni kupitisha mavi.Mimi hudinya madem kuma .

Ati umesema nikunie?

Haya basi.

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.
Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-yLarge blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-yLarge blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

Large blocks of uninterrupted text: a talk on blogging and “Say Everything”

This is a light-edit/fleshing-out/neatening-up of a talk I gave Oct. 20, 2010, at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.

The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.

“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”

This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.

In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.

When I looked at the Internet I saw a medium that involves a huge amount of reading. Sure, a lot of it is presented in a highly decorated or distracting form. But a lot of it is in large blocks of uninterrupted text, too!

And there’s something even more significant: The Web isn’t just inspiring a lot of reading. it has also opened the opportunity for a stunning amount of new writing.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the chief fear on behalf of literary culture was that television was going to destroy it. What if we were becoming a nation of passive, glassy-eyed couch potatoes — mindless consumers of numbing video entertainment?

To some extent, that happened. Yet we survived! And then something came along that challenged TV. The Web was a two-way medium. Each consumer was also a potential creator or contributor in a way that never happened, couldn’t happen, with television. That’s a huge transformation of our media landscape, And we’re still just getting our heads around it.

So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day on writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”

Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day of writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.

You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.

When I titled my book “Say Everything” I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting into. It turns out to be a really interesting title.

First of all, I promise I will not even attempt to say everything myself today. I’ll talk for maybe 30, 35 minutes, and then open it up for more of a conversation — which is very much the spirit of this topic, anyway.

Pretty soon after I started working on this book I realized that the title was sort of a taunt to myself. Say everything? Saying everything is a writer’s dream. It’s what you think you’ll get to do when you write a book. Get it all between covers! Then you learn that a book ends up feeling really short. And you never get to say more than a fraction of what you want.

The title also turned out to be problematic, because everyone, from my first radio interviewer on, gets it wrong. They say “Say Anything.” So don’t worry about it if you do, too. I don’t mind — it’s OK. I’m used to it. But my advice is, don’t give your book a title that’s just a little different from a popular old movie’s name.

I chose the title because it seems to touch on so much of what’s exciting and what’s threatening, too, about blogging and all the other changes that we call, collectively, the digital revolution. “Say everything”: the phrase suggests the thrill of the universal project the Web sometimes seems to be, in which everyone gets to contribute to a vast collective conversation and pool of knowledge. “Say everything” also raises all kinds of questions about this new world. If we say everything, how will we have time to listen? And, “Aren’t some things better left unsaid?” So these are some of the things I’m going to look at today.

Now, a little about the book itself. SAY EVERYTHING tells the story of blogging. Where did this thing come from? Who got it going, and what were their stories? So it’s a kind of contemporary history. I get two reactions when I say that: One group of people, in the technology industry, thinks blogging is now old hat. It’s over. They’ll say, “Blogging? That’s SO 1999!” They’ve already moved on. The other group, which I think is bigger than the first group, says: History? Blogging? What history? It’s so new!

In fact, blogging by that name is now a decade old, and websites that were really blogs in all but name have been around since roughly the mid ’90s. There’s a lot of history — a lot of stories — tales of what happens when people get the chance to say everything they want to in public. I think these stories have a lot to teach us about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of life online.

The culture of Silicon Valley, the tech industry and the Web tends to have a very short memory. And even though the story of how blogging began is a recent one, it’s not that well known. I wrote “Say Everything” because I thought it would be good to get this story down while it’s still fresh. And I was lucky — I’d watched a lot of it first hand.

I built my first website in 1994. And I want to take you back to those days, the early days of the Web. Have any of you seen a video that was circulating a while back called “Medieval Help Desk”? Look it up when you have a chance. This is the one where the medieval monk in Scandinavia is freaked out about this new thing called a “book.” He’s used to scrolls! Books are a weird new interface. He has to ask a helpdesk guy to explain to him how to open it, how to turn pages, and so on. He’s afraid the text will disappear when he closes the covers.

It’s a reminder that every technology we take for granted today was once forbidding and unfamiliar. The Web was the same way at first.

So back then I was the technology editor at Salon.com. My job was to find and assign stories about the Web and computing. We needed one story a week at first — later, we really cranked it up to one story a day. We’d take that story and edit it and illustrate it and publish it with a certain amount of loving care. And people liked it — we did good work — but we could only do so much.

There were a bunch of other websites that I found myself returning to over and over during the course of my day. Because every time I returned to them, they seemed to have something new. These sites didn’t put a lot of time and effort into each story. In fact, they didn’t really publish stories — they posted items. Some of these sites were produced by professionals; others were one-man shows, amateur efforts. They all shared some traits: they tended to be written in a casual, personal voice. they linked a lot. And they didn’t have a “lead story” or “top story.” Each time they posted something new, it went at the top of the page.

Now, I was an editor. I spent lots of time in meetings that were held for the purpose of deciding what goes on top of the page. And here these sites were saying, “Go home. We don’t need you to do that.” So this was a little distressing to me as an editor.

And yet I kept going back to these sites. They worked. They got news out fast. And they were easy to use. What these early bloggers had discovered was a way of organizing writing that was native to the Web. It made such sense that it took off. It wasn’t an import from print or broadcasting. It was discovered by outsiders who fell in love with the Web and what it could do.

SAY EVERYTHING tells some of their stories. So let me get a reading: How many of you read blogs? How many write a blog?

To answer these questions you probably had to pause and ask: What exactly is a blog? We don’t have a formal definition, do we? The usual definition of “blog” is: A personal website where the newest material goes on top — often with lots of links to other sites. That definition is pretty neutral. It describes a form.

But blogging was also the embodiment of a vision: The idea that the web should be two way — that we should be writing it as well as reading it. The spread of blogging represented the first time this idea of a two-way web got implemented on a really large scale. That’s why I think the story of blogging is worth our time as we see our culture filling up with ever more efficient variations on this idea –led by Facebook and Twitter and multiplying on all these ever smaller and more versatile little devices that we carry in our pockets.

In SAY EVERYTHING I tried to sort of follow a spark that started among software developers, and then spread to upstart journalists and political writers and concerned citizens, and then out into the business world and pop culture and beyond. This spark carried the ideas of blogging into wider and wider circles of society. Let’s look at what those ideas were.

The first idea is self-expression. Blogs are usually written in the first person and they are most often autobiographical. This is not, in itself, revolutionary. The ideal of self-expression isn’t some late-20th-century innovation. It has a long pedigree. I think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. the essays of Montaigne. the diaries of Samuel Pepys. The confessions of St. Augustine.

The difference today is that the opportunity is much more widely available to express yourself in public. In the early days of the web people began to realize this. One of those people was a guy named Justin Hall whose story opens my book.

He was a student at Swarthmore in the mid-90s who told the story of his life as he lived it every day on the Web — then discovered the limits of that way of being. His tale is instructive for all of us in the Facebook age. Justin found that, tempting as it is to try to say everything, it can really mess up your life. For any of us to say everything about our life isn’t really possible and probably isn’t a good idea.

The second idea at the heart of blogging is novelty. With a blog, the new stuff goes on top. This appeals to our innate sensory makeup. Our brains are finely tuned to sense what’s new inour environment. If a cat walked across this stage over there — and this has happened to me! — you’d stop paying any attention to me. The cat would be the new thing here. Blogs feed that.

This is also a temptation, of course. It can lead us toward superficiality. We can find ourselves skimming the surface of the present And neglecting the timeless.

This doesn’t worry me as much as it might. Because the Web has a beautiful duality at its heart. The stuff we post online is often ephemeral, of the moment, but it’s also archival. It has a staying power that our spoken words don’t. However casual our online writing may be, it is still writing.

This brings me to the third idea at the heart of blogging, which is linking — connection. Links are pretty mundane: they just take you from one page to another, right? But links also represent paths of our attention. The links that bloggers put into their posts leave trails of meaning. These trails tell us what’s of note and lasting value in the vast pile of stuff we’re accumulating online. They sort out the present and leave a record for the future. Their value can be really simple, like: helping you find something you want to reread. They also provide usable data for programs and services that can mine unexpected meaning from our collective writing output. That’s how Google built what is still the most valuable tool for finding anything on the Web.

So we have self-expression. Novelty. And links. Put that all together and you get a picture of what kind of writing blogging is: Personal, immediate, and connected. If you understand that, you can see why it has become so popular, even though so many of us looked at it at first and thought, what’s the big deal?

Once it became popular, blogging also became the target of a series of criticisms about subjects like trust and truth, anonymity and civility, narcissism and shallowness, overload and addiction. These criticisms are worth spending some time on. They are proxies of a sort for the larger debate we’re all having today over the role of the Internet in our society and whether it is a force for good or ill.

I want to begin here with a story. it’s about a blogger named Joey deVilla who calls himself Accordion Guy. (Cause he plays an accordion.) And it’s a story that didn’t make it into Say Everything – so you can think of this as a kind of bonus track.

Now, to understand this story you need to know one thing in advance. If you study computer science, you know it already. There’s this problem in computer science called P=NP. Doesn’t matter right now what it is. What’s important is, nobody can prove that P=NP. If you could prove it, you’d get a million dollar prize. Hasn’t happened yet. It’s an unsolved problem.

Anyway, here’s the story: Joey DeVilla is a computer programmer and blogger who plays an accordion. In 2003 he wrote a long post about a very strange situation. He’d started dating someone he called the New Girl and begun writing about his excitement at this new relationship. He even wrote a post on “Ten cool things about the New Girl.” Then he gets an email telling him: “Stop. You don’t know this person. I do. Everything she tells you about her life, including a lot of those ten cool things, is a lie. She’s pathological. She’s left behind a long line of people she’s taken advantage of. Beware!”

So of course Joey DeVilla the Accordion Guy finds this really upsetting. He can’t believe it. He corresponds more with his informant, whom he refers to as Whistleblower. She seems reasonable and for real and what she says is plausible. Joey calls the Web company where New Girl had said she worked. Nobody there has ever heard of her.

Accordion Guy comes to think Whistleblower might be right. But he has to know, he has to confront New Girl and be sure. So he lays everything out for her. She protests that he’s got it all wrong, she’s telling the truth about everything — for instance, about being a computer programmer with a computer science degree.

So here’s what Joey DeVilla does: he pulls this trick he remembers from an old episode of Columbo. Here is the conversation as he presents it in the post where he tells this story.

Me: So you really did graduate from computer engineering?
New Girl: Yes I did!
Me: And you took the “Algorithms” course?
New Girl: Of course!
Me: And you have all the papers you wrote?
New Girl: Yes! I kept them all, and I’ll show them to you tomorrow!
Me: I want to see the one we always called the “Hell Paper” — the mandatory fourth-year paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

ear paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

ear paper. You know the one, where we prove that P = NP?
New Girl: I did that! I proved P = NP!
Me: Gotcha.

So Accordion Guy sadly concludes that his Whistleblower was right. And he says goodbye to his New Girl. End of story.

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort

So let’s start looking at this list of criticisms of blogging and the Web, using Joey DeVilla’s story as sort