Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for July, 2008

Reading, writing, blogs, media and the new workplaces

Posted by shannonclark on July 14, 2008

Since sometime in early 2000 I have been an entrepreneur, at times with employees and an office and for the past few years with no fixed office and either only a handful of people working with me, at present just one co-founder who also has other active projects.

In the mid-90’s I bought my first laptop, with the money I made selling off my first computer I had bought for myself, a NeXT Cube which was my computer for the first two years I was in college. It still remains both the most expensive and in many ways the best computer I have ever owned. I bought the NeXT secondhand, and even then it was about the cost of a very nice used car (if memory serves I think it was about $6000 but this was some 17+ years ago). As it turns out since owning it taught me Unix, launched my career in technology and much more it was also perhaps one of the best purchases I have ever, even to this day, made.

But the next computer I owned also had a major impact on my life, in an equally important but vitally different manner. That computer was a Compaq laptop, I think it was a 486 but I’m not actually certain now, in any case it was that laptop which granted me mobility, which allowed me to work off campus, to work portably, which started my lifelong habit of working from cafes (and while still in college from desks in libraries – do less of that now however). In short that laotop also in many ways sparked my writing habit and fit better the direction I was headed academically.

When I had bought the NeXT it was because having started to use Mathematica while a summer intern at Argonne National Lab I wanted to own a computer which was capable of running Mathemica and at the time all NeXT’s came with a copy of Mathematica pre-installed. My plan entering college was to be either a math or a physics major (or possibly a history major, even entering college I was torn in multiple directions).

However that summer at Argonne National labs working with research physicists followed by the first quarters of university level phsics and calculus somewhat convinced me that my passion wasn’t fully in either field. I loved science and math, but I was also too interested in the humanities and too interested in being rooted in the reality of the world and other people (not that academic history is all that rooted either as I would also learn later). So early in my first year at the University of Chicago I changed my courseload considerably and started along the path to a history major, not a science major. Though it didn’t fully take for a few years (in part because I had a scholorship which I anted to keep for a year or two).

But getting back to the point of this trip into my past history of computer ownership.

In the past few months I have been reading once again at my historically common pace, a pace I haven’t been keeping up for much of the past few years. Historically since I learned to read (at a fairly young age) I have read multiple books a week, some weeks at nearly a book a day pace or even faster. As a child I would go to the library and return with a bulging backpack full of as many books as they would allow me to check out at one time, and before they were due back in a few weeks I would have read them all and on returning them would check out still more books. Or I would spend hard saved allowances or money from lemonade stands and holiday presents in the aisles of the local used bookstores where I grew to know the owners and even started my serious book collecting while still young and in high school (I entered high school at the age of 13 and graduated at the age of 16).

However for the past few years I have been reading more and more content online, reading a lot of individual articles and research papers offline (printed out) but fewer and fewer books for much of the past few years. This year, however, that has shifted.

Two years ago when I moved into my new apartment, connected up a new DSL connection and bought my iMac desktop I ended up owning a printer which though networkable is both no longer configured correctly for my internal network and doesn’t have a working driver for the Mac OS X. And I haven’t yet replaced it, instead I have managed to mostly live without printing out anything for the past few years. In turn this has, perhaps somewhat negatively, meant I no longer spend as much time printing out and reading academic papers, dissertations, and other long form articles.

And in the past few years my online habits have changed many times over. A few years ago I mostly read individual blogs directly at the blog sites, or I used Bloglines to skim a vast collection of blogs I had subscribed to – but which I was never caught up with. I switched to Google Reader which remains my primary means of reading most blogs.

A year ago when I bought my iPhone I started using my iPhone and the versions of Google Reader which were made for the iPhone to read my feeds, now I read more feeds via my iPhone than I do via my regular computer browsers.

What this means, most crucially, is that while I am keeping up with my much edited down collection of blogs I read plus the posts which some of my friends share via Google Reader, I am only rarely also seeing and reading the comments which form such a vital part of many blogs. I’ve also mostly stopped participating in online discussion forums, which for many years while I was in Chicago in particular, were a vital part of my online activity.

In recent months in addition to Twitter which I started using two SXSW’s ago, I have also to a lesser degree started using Friendfeed. There I do see more discussions, though I only dip into them myself and only very rarely does anything I share in my feed there spark a discussion (even spark a single “Like” or “Comment” at all).

And my blogging which had for a while now been mostly only here at this blog has bifarcated. I’ve been blogging for Centernetworks, for the Conversation Hub of SuperNova, at the MeshWalk blog for MeshForum, and at my new blog Slow Brand.

I no longer quite know how or where to define myself online, perhaps I should start using a service such as FriendFeed but even that doesn’t capture the multiplicity of my online identities or the many different ways I work, read and play online.

So all this is to say, what do you use as your workplaces today? Now I have shifted to my primary tool being my iPhone, my secondary tool my laptop, and my desktop though useful is my third option, though keeping my media libraries and the like in sync across my many devices is also increasingly difficult.

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