September 1854 Archives

The Languid Pace of Nineteenth Century Correspondence


One of the things that attracted me to the idea of using a weblog for technical discourse, as compared with a news group or mailing list, is that the pressure to concoct an immediate, near-realtime contribution to a discussion is nowhere near as acute. Oh, sure the expectation that a reply would be warranted is still there, but somehow it feels more manageable. Correspondence can take on the same less hurried, more languid pace of correspondence among pre-electronic men-and-women-of-letters, if you will. "Sir Percival, I received your missive of 24 September 1854 with alacrity and delight, and hastened to my inkwell to craft a worthy retort…". Or some Merchant Ivory sort of response like that.

I'm afraid that despite having over twenty years of USENET and Internet history under my belt, I have remained, for the most part, something of an electronic wallflower. A lurker. A spectator. Pity that. Perhaps.

There is something comforting about not pushing one's opinions on people. The fact that they must be sought out, pulled, makes one feel less inhibited about make them (quasi-?, semi-?) public. In terms of pure exhibitionism, posting to a newsgroup feels a bit like nailing one's theses to the door of the castle church sometimes. 'Blogging feels more like sitting at home on the couch with the shades up and the curtains open, secure in the knowledge that no one is watching anyway…

Weblogs are little like scrapbooks too. As much so as diaries…

Of course, the one problem with a languid pace of correspondence is that it is easy to put off one's reply. Paul Graham will write a nice piece on procrastination about one hundred and fifty-one years from now…

Procrastination is what has made me everything that I ain't…
--Sir Thomas Jay Peckish the Elder

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