Information overload

Today is apparently the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web (again), which seems like a good excuse to reflect on the future of our own little contribution to the medium, namely this blog.

One of the many statistics that I’ve seen bandied about today is that, of the billion or so web pages in existence, around 75% are inactive. I’m not sure exactly what the definition of “inactive” is in this context, but I’d have to admit that SLS, with our relaxed update schedule, must be at least flirting with it.

Why is this? It’s not as if I’ve become any less opinionated in the last couple of years, and there’s certainly no shortage of subjects to comment upon. If anything that’s the problem; the sheer deluge of information, handily delivered at all hours of the day, means I never have time to stop and write about anything before I’m distracted by the next item on the timeline. Even when I do pause long enough to start to formulate some thoughts on a subject, I tend to be discouraged by the feeling that someone else will undoubtedly have already expressed them, and probably more eloquently, a suspicion that I can usually confirm with a couple of clicks.

Would it really matter if this blog slipped into a permanent limbo? To the world, I guess not, but I would feel more than a twinge of regret. I enjoy reading our old posts, and it would seem like a shame to give up just when we are closing in on our tenth birthday.

So what’s to be done? I have to drop back to a slower pace of news acquisition; perhaps I should start reading actual papers again, instead of addictively clicking on a Facebook feed. I could get rid of my smartphone and attempt to wean myself off of the need to be constantly connected. I might even try just hanging out with my friends and talking about stuff, like we used to do back in the old days.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve tasted the sweet drug that is the modern internet, and I’m not about to give it up. I’ll just have to try harder not to be so passive…

2015: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

The less said about this the better probably; a year of infrequent and underwhelming posts, with only a couple of pieces that were anywhere near our past standards. (Even this post is half-baked; I’m not going to get it finished before I go out, but I want to post it tonight, so I’ll have to add the links tomorrow).

It’s not a lack of topics to write about – the Trump Presidential campaign alone should have been enough to keep me in material for months – but rather the opposite that has been the problem; the dizzying mass of immediately available information that is a constant distraction. Countless are the occasions when I’ve spotted the kernel of a promising story, only to be diverted from developing it by the next shiny thing on my timeline.

Anyway, here’s our top ten posts by views over the past twelve months, all from years gone by:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. Free Pussy Riot!
  3. On Second Life and addiction
  4. All Stars
  5. Watching the Okhrana
  6. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  7. 2010: The year in review
  8. What’s up
  9. Break On Through (To the Other Side)
  10. A Radical Game

Of the posts we did manage this year, there’s only two I would save for posterity; this one about the Battle of Waterloo, and this minor example of our signature nostalgic style.

Our global reach is much the same as last year, 92 countries in total, with perhaps a slightly greater skew towards the Americas and away from Europe. Top ten countries by visitors:

  1. United States
  2. Brazil
  3. United Kingdom
  4. France
  5. Italy
  6. Germany
  7. Canada
  8. Australia
  9. Portugal
  10. Russia

I’m not sure how to regain my enthusiasm for blogging, or indeed if such a thing is even desirable. I guess the first step would be to break my Facebook habit, which would free up time to engage with more stimulating cultural activities, with the added bonus of forcing me to get my news from a wider range of sources, and to actually think critically about stuff rather than just reading opinions I already agree with.

Politics always has potential; back in the early days of SLS we kicked off a good run by covering Obama’s path to the White House, so I might draw some inspiration from this year’s race, though I’m finding it hard to get excited about what looks to be a foregone conclusion. On this side of the Atlantic the main political event of the year is likely to be the EU referendum, the debate around which will probably turn quite ugly, so there should be plenty to write about that too.

And Second Life? I did renew my premium membership back in October, which prompted me to pay a rare visit to my virtual homestead, to see if it was still there (it is), but I haven’t been back since. I can’t really imagine investing time in it like I did back in the old days, but I might manage a post or two.

So, as ever, we start the new year with the best of intentions; we’ll see how far that takes us…

Summer torpor

So here we are at the end of August; another month past, another month where I’ve mentally composed posts on all sorts of interesting subjects, but not quite got around to writing them down. Pieces on politics, comparing and contrasting the Trump surge and Corbyn-mania, or weighing up Bernie‘s chances of upsetting Hillary. Articles on the interface of psychology and technology, referencing the APA paper on violence and video games, or considering what the Ashley Madison hack reveals about online identity. General philosophical musing on the nature of time, and how an instant can seem endless while weeks pass in a flash.

Alas, all this will be lost, unless I get my act together and start posting before I forget it all, a turn of events, which, in light of my recent history, seems highly unlikely. I guess the world might just get by without my thoughts on these matters, but I’d regret not saving them for posterity, so I’ll try to make September a little more fruitful.

Making up time

Today is going to be one second longer than usual, and I feel I should use the extra time to catch up on my blogging duties. There are two obvious stories that we really should have covered in the past month, but, for one reason and another, never got round to. The first one is the tale of Rachel Dolezal, which is right up our street, concerning as it does issues of social identity and personal reinvention, which we’ve considered many times in the context of virtual worlds. The second, and I think rather more important, is the unfolding situation in Greece, which looks set to come to a head with the referendum this weekend, and is likely to have knock-on effects across the continent, not least on the ongoing debate on EU membership in this country.

So, plenty of work to do. I’ll get right on to it tomorrow…

Total eclipse of the blog

I did manage to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse last week, as the thick grey cloud that habitually blankets the sky at this time of year briefly parted. Though my view of it only lasted a few seconds it was quite impressive, a reminder of the eternal procession of the celestial host.

Except of course it’s not eternal. In about six billion years, the sun, the moon and the earth will all be gone, along with every trace of humanity and its works.

When you think about cosmic time scales like that, a month between blog posts doesn’t seem so bad…

Will this do?

Back at the start of this month I renewed the secondlifeshrink.com domain for another year. As I handed the $50 over to WordPress I resolved that I would try to start posting regularly again, confident that I could manage a long, thoughtful essay every couple of weeks or so.

Yet here we are on the evening of the 28th, and I’m hurriedly penning yet another apologetic space-filler. It’s not for want of inspiration; at various points in the last few weeks I have mentally composed pieces on some of our favourite subjects, like the effects of internet addiction and its treatment, the unreliable nature of memory in the digital age, and the political situation in Europe, but none have made it into print. Normally I would plead overwork as an excuse for this lamentable state of affairs, but I’ve actually been off work most of the last month, and, perhaps predictably, my productivity hasn’t been improved by a strict regime of getting stoned and reading comic books.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. We do have a potentially exciting election coming up, which should give me something to write about, and I’m planning to stay straight for the foreseeable future, which will help with my focus, so I’m sure SLS will soon be back on track…

2014: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

This has been the year that I’ve had to face up to the fact that this blog is all but dead, and I can no longer honestly call myself a blogger. Gone are the days when, on hearing an interesting piece of news, or reading an intriguing article, my mind would immediately start working on a post for this space. I am still occasionally inspired by events to turn out a few lines, but, more often than not, I let the thought slip away. Consequently I’ve managed a mere 20 posts over the last 12 months, including this one. I’m happy with most of the individual pieces, but there are not enough of them to fully record where my head was at this year, which is the whole point of having a personal blog. I’ve completely ignored some momentous events, in my internal and external worlds, and while I have noted my reactions to these in other places, it would have been nice to have them collected here for posterity.

Anyway, on with the review. We do still get a steady stream of traffic, though I suspect a lot of it must be robotic; certainly all the comments we get are spam. Here are our top ten posts for the last year:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. On Second Life and addiction
  3. Free Pussy Riot!
  4. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  5. Like Pompeii (or Herculaneum)
  6. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  7. Win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me
  8. A Radical Game
  9. What’s up
  10. Bastille Day 1989

All of these are years old. The posts on demographics and addiction have been at the top for a while; they got linked to quite a bit back in the day, which must still be drawing in some hits. I have no idea why the other posts should be more popular than the rest of the stuff in our archive though. I suppose I could study our referral patterns to glean some clues, but that seems significantly more trouble than it would be worth.

Of this year’s posts, these are my favourites:

We still get traffic from all over the world, 95 countries in all, including China, which I’m sure used to block us. Here’s the top 10:

  1. United States
  2. Brazil
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Australia
  8. Italy
  9. Mexico
  10. Netherlands

Topic-wise it’s been mainly history, politics, culture and nostalgia. Only one post this year directly concerned Second Life (though another one alluded to it), and my total time spent on the grid has probably added up to a couple of hours at most. Despite this I did renew my premium membership in October, but I can’t for the life of me think why, since my interest in the virtual world is practically nonexistent these days. Perhaps the original spark will reignite.

So what of the future? Every year around this time I resolve to be more productive, and it never happens; maybe it’s time to admit that this project is finished, and to move on to something else. We’ve been going close on eight years now though, and I do look back fondly on my past scribblings. Even this year hasn’t been a complete write-off – I think my New York nostalgia post from July is up there with our best – so I guess I’ll manage to keep plugging away…

Turn The Season

Well, that’s midwinter past (though, interestingly, the mornings will keep getting darker for a while yet), and Christmas is upon us, so I guess it’s time to come out of hibernation and start thinking about reviewing the year gone by. Though there’s surely time for a few beers and a mince pie or two before I get down to work…

(Here’s a song link, something we haven’t had for ages.)

Waking from the virtual dream

Towards the end of 2011 I wrote a post about the different strands of my online life; back then this blog, and my associated Second Life persona, were by far the most time-consuming portion of my virtual existence.

Fast-forward to today, and we find SLS almost moribund, and my avatar utilised only sporadically. The total time I spend online is about half what it was, and my most active presence is the Facebook account which carries my real name.

Does this shift away from anonymity and virtuality have any deeper meaning? Probably not. My retreat from the (relative) depth of blogging into the shallows of social media seems to be in line with general trends, and there are various personal factors that have kept my focus on reality of late. I’m not sure whether these are good developments; the time I spend consuming mindless click-bait on Facebook probably would be better employed in composing thoughtful posts on this space, but I can’t say that eschewing SL interaction in favour of seeing my real friends a bit more has been an entirely bad thing. I am a bit sad that the liberation from corporeal limitations that Second Life seemed to promise never really materialised though.

I guess these things go in cycles. Perhaps come 2017 I’ll be be re-immersed in whatever iteration of virtual life is fashionable, and boring the world with my pseudo-philosophical pieces on the significance of it all. In the meantime I am going to keep on blogging – I’ve managed at least one post in each of the last 89 months, which seems too good a streak to break…

Seven Year Itch

I’ve not been paying much attention to this particular corner of my online life recently, so I nearly overlooked the fact that this our seventh birthday. I’d be prouder of keeping going this long if our content hadn’t been quite so lame recently. The anniversary might spur me back into action I guess…

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