One of the great anxieties I have when writing a blog post comes at the end, just before pressing the publish button. There is a categorisation ritual to go through where I apply “tags” — keywords that improve the “findability” of each post in search engines. The words you apply to categorize something can be bizarrely personal, and although the option always exists to go back and improve those choices with retrospection, I know that ain’t gonna happen.

It seems even more pertinent now because of a new widget I installed courtesy of Amaury Balmer. This allows you to find similar items within the blog automatically through hyperlinks, including so-called “related posts”, without my direct intervention. That’s a kind of editorial magic, by the way, that I only used to entertain in my wildest dreams a few years ago, back somewhere in the lower cretaceous era of newswires.

My taxonomical anxiety might be alleviated if I studied the subject, but with all the things a modern writer has to stay current with it will likely remain a bit of blind spot. My early posts were littered liberally with tags, which, when they showed up in the post’s footer, were sometimes as long as the post itself. And with Amaury’s plug-in, those old posts, for good or ill, may find a bit more life than I originally envisaged.

I did work for several years in a library, so classification of this type is not entirely alien. But I have to admit that my bibliotechnical exploits were principally motivated by conscientious objection to spending Friday afternoon’s square-bashing in the school cadet force. Yes, I was a junior draft dodger…

Well, I get some superficial reassurance from web-guru David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and more recently the fantastically titled Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Rightly or wrongly, I take it as a defense that this blog does not have to be about anything in particular, a contrarian strategy if you would otherwise heed the advice of most blog tipsters.

And that leads me to the gratuitous reason for this post, which is to point you to some more YouTube Gil Scott-Heron, where he addresses his own problems with being categorised. This is a long clip, and you “endure” some wonderful jazz saxophone before Scott-Heron’s extraordinary eloquence kicks in.

The man has had a troubled life. Despite the high moral stance of much of his music and poetry, he succumbed to drug addiction, for which he has served periods in jail, was recently arrested and re-arrested. He is reportedly HIV positive. But to hear a recent NPR interview (December 11, coincidentally two days after my last Scott-Heron Post) it suggests he is alive and pretty well in the circumstances. Here is a Cafe Hayek podcast with David Weinberger for good measure.

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Tweet Orno-blogologists amongst us will be very excited to learn that the lesser-blogging cygnus atratus has made a rare appearance today. Yes, you have to be a dedicated twitcher to see that one!

Tweet In full culture-vulture mode, the Knackered Family went to two live musical concerts this weekend. Both events featured largely acoustic instrumentalists, accompanied by a narrator. And both served to remind us that live performance offers an extra, magical dimension that recorded music can’t. But one event also provided perfect grist for the Knackered mill […]

Rather guiltily I was nursing a sense of schadenfreude when England were 2-0 behind against Croatia on Wednesday. And I was not at all anxious ahead of the earlier Israel v Russia match, which Russia had to lose (apparently unlikely, but it did happen) for England to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2008 European Championships (ie by beating Croatia). So England are out, and the manager Steve McClaren has been kicked into touch.

I don’t follow football so closely to judge whether this a fair comment on McClaren, and wish him no ill. In any event, as the Croatia game wore on, my nationalism was asserting itself, hoping for a reversal of the reversal. It came and went, England clawed back two goals and all too inevitably, it seemed, conceded a third.

But the reason for my mixed emotions was that I was secretly hoping that if McClaren went, the job would go to Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, even though he’s ruled himself out today, it appears. The reason for my enthusiasm was simple. He once quoted William Goldman’s famous line: Continue reading ‘nobody knows anything (football version)’

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stopping time


There is an expression in probability theory that I’m not qualified to explain with perfect accuracy: “stopping time”. It is used to describe the uncertain length of a gambler’s sojourn at the roulette table when he is determined to double his money; stopping time arrives when either the target is reached or the gambler runs out of money.

In a way, a blog’s lifespan might be defined by such a period. How long to devote to it? Is there a target audience or revenue to make it worthwhile before interest or ideas run out? Perhaps too, the offline period (as the Knackered Hack has just experienced) might be defined by stopping time… each day goes by… the reader checks… no new updates. When will it reappear?

I haven’t found many intermittent blogs, but I think the concept has merit. The problem is that they are bound to be less discoverable as they will be less aggressively part of the so-called “conversation”. We really should prize those who write only when they have something to say.

The reason for this blog’s absence is more deeply personal, and starting again was akin to that feeling in a marathon when Continue reading ‘stopping time’

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