External Requests Versus Internal Requirements

A commenter observed that a side-effect of my blog reset is that now any answers on Stack Overflow that pointed to my blog are broken. This is an unfortunate situation that I didn’t consider when I decided to reset my blog, and it did give me some pangs of regret when I looked at the list of answers that referred to me. It also got me thinking about the inevitable conflict in life between external requests (i.e. things other people want from me) and internal requirements (i.e. things that I want for myself).

From the Internet’s perspective, it would be happy if every piece of information that ever appears on the web would: a) stay on the web forever, and b) stay in exactly the same place forever. This makes total sense from the collective perspective—I’ve been amazed by the number of times that I’ve gone to research some obscure thing (such as how to unbind a DOS executable from a DOS 4/GW extender… don’t ask me why) and found some answer from back in the dark ages (like, 1996). Information disappearing, from a public utility standpoint, is a Very Bad Thing because you never know how useful that information might be some day. In college I was always amazed at the variety of interesting historical information that could be deduced from everyday things like private letters, diaries, commercial correspondence, etc. The true enemy of the scholar indeed is people who throw away… well, anything, really.

But from my perspective, it’s a lot of dead weight. I mean, a lot of the stuff I dumped off my blog was written five or six years ago. Some of it was wrong and a lot of it was irrelevant when looked at through the lens of later events. Some of it reminded me of things that I’d rather forget all about. And some of it was, frankly, embarrassing. One could say, “Well, then, just don’t look at it!” And, most of the time, I didn’t. But, you know, it was still there, taunting me from the archive list on the right hand side of the blog.

Some changes in my personal life recently motivated me to go through a bunch of boxes that had been sitting in storage for years. They were mostly full of stuff from my high school and college years—old papers, letters, other random stuff. I’d been holding on to a lot of it because, well, it was my stuff. But in looking through it, I realized how much of a burden most it had become. Like the blog, I didn’t look at the boxes very often, but there they always were, taking up space, having to be moved around, making me keep track of them. So I decided to go through and throw away anything that didn’t have a strong, tangible, positive, personal meaning to me. I’d say I threw away about 90% of what I had stored in those boxes, tons of stuff I no longer even remembered anything about. And the wonderful thing? Once I was over the initial trauma, I felt a lot better, freer, and lighter. It’s amazing what wonders getting rid of old stuff can do for you, even if it does make my theoretical future biographer’s job harder.

So my apologies to the Internet: I realize that losing my miniscule contributions to global knowledge might make life a little more difficult, and I’m sorry about that. But I have to say: I feel a whole lot better letting go of that stuff. I’m sure it’s going to cost me some (or even a lot) of visitors, but it seems like a small price to pay. At least, for me.

You should also follow me on Twitter here.

Hitting the Big Red Switch

As you’ve probably noticed (and I’ve commented on from time to time) my blogging output over the past several years has fallen off precipitously, to the point where there has basically been nothing written on the blog at all in the past six months. I spent a while debating whether it was just time to go ahead and shut Panopticon Central down but in the end I decided that it’s likely that I’m going to have a few more things to say as I start to really settle in to the SQL Server team.

One thing I did decide I wanted to do was get out of the blog hosting business entirely. Those of you who have been exceptionally loyal readers may remember that this blog started off with a hand-built engine running on a server in my basement and has steadily moved in the direction of requiring less and less of my time to administer it and keep it running: first to using standard software (.TEXT and then SubText), then to a hosting provider (Server Intellect). To be honest, though, even administering a standard blog package on a hosting provider is more than I want to be doing. So after a lot of thinking I’ve decided to move wholesale to WordPress in the hopes that I can forever be done with such fun and exciting tasks as upgrading my blogging engine database.

That leaves the question, though, as to what to do with the large amount of previous stuff on the blog. Reading through the archives, most posts seemed to fall into the following categories, in order of frequency:

  1. Inside baseball discussions of the design/shipping process for previous versions of Visual Basic.
  2. Highly technical discussions of design decisions for features shipped in previous versions of Visual Basic.
  3. Random moment-in-time personal commentary.
  4. Highly confused (and often very inaccurate) discussions of now-cancelled or re-directed projects.

After some serious consideration, I’ve decided that rather than trying to bring all the past posts and comments over to WordPress, I’m going to wipe the slate clean and start over with a fresh, clean blog. It was surprisingly difficult to decide to toss out eight years of accumulated blogging detritus, but as I started to look through some of my old posts, I was convinced it was time. There just wasn’t much there that seemed particularly important to save for posterity. OK, maybe posts that fall into category #2 above might provide some value for people, but even a lot of that information is quietly starting to rot or become irrelevant. And, to be honest, I’d rather just expunge some of the things I talked about regarding future plans for Visual Basic (most of which haven’t turned out to be true) or Oslo/”M” (ditto), to the degree that’s possible in today’s Internet.

If you’re seeing this in a RSS reader, then you’ve probably got a narrow window of opportunity to grab what you want off the old blog, as the first step of the move is going to be redirecting my RSS feed to my WordPress blog but not moving anything else. After that’s been given a little while to settle, I’ll move the entire domain over and the old blog will be decommissioned. I will dump all of the old blog into a database, so if you find yourself missing some pearl of my wisdom, let me know and I can probably dig it up for you. There might also be some select gems that I might republish, but we’ll just have to see.

So thanks for still being a reader, and look for newer and fresher content soon! And you should also follow me on Twitter here.

[Ed note—in case you’re too young to remember it, the “big red switch” was the power switch on the back of the original IBM PC. With only floppy drives, turning off the power meant resetting the machine entirely and starting fresh.]