From the Boidem - 
an occasional column on computers and information technologies in everyday life

January, 2010*: The Long Dark Year of the Boidem

Web sites come and web sites go. Or, perhaps more precisely, web sites come, and then web sites have a way of sticking around in some neglected corner of cyberspace until they become totally forgotten - even to the people who built them. There shouldn't be anything particularly extraordinary about this process. Even calling it a process seems an exaggeration. It's pretty much simply the way things go. As George Harrison put it, All Things Must Pass, and I suppose that he knew, considering that he put it that way after the breakup of the Beatles. And yet, after twelve and a half years of monthly Boidem columns, when I suddenly missed one month, and then another, and then another, and I found myself seriously playing with the idea of saying that the Boidem had run it's course, I was hesitant about making it official.

Throughout those twelve and a half years I found numerous opportunities to note that according to the Boidem's tagline it was "an occasional column". But this was primarily lip-service, even posturing. With only slight dips and bumps, the Boidem enjoyed (or suffered from) an almost obsessive consistency. And then, for a full year, between February 2009 and February 2010 no new editions of the Boidem appeared. No clear decision had been made. About 80% of that February column had already been written when it encountered speed bumps that turned into roadblocks that ultimately stopped my writing. At first I explained away the delay as the need to deal with "more pressing tasks", or played on the excuse of "paying jobs take precedence". And of course I was falling only slightly behind. At first, I simply missed my February deadline and thought I'd be a week late. But that week became two weeks, and not only didn't I finish the column - I didn't return to working on it. My notes for the March column were promising, but since I hadn't finished February's, it also didn't materialize. In April I still told myself that if I'd just sit myself down and start typing, I'd successfully catch up. By June, however, I'd become acutely aware that these columns had dropped almost totally off of my radar and been pushed so far back to the bottom of my agenda that "catching up" wasn't really a possibility.

What was perhaps more distressing was that I clearly wasn't succeeding in getting into "Boidem-thinking mode". The vast majority of my writing was in Hebrew - for my internet in education blog. Though there was considerable overlap between the issues I attempted to examine in the blog and the issues that I wrote about in the Boidem, the style was considerably different. It had become clear to me that as much as I might want to write short and concise blog posts, my blog style was undeniably essay-like. Essay-style or not, however, it wasn't the Boidem. One reason was that the end product was different. But it wasn't only the posted result that was different - in general I approached the entire process of preparing these two projects differently. Boidem column's were cumulative and diffuse - they attempted to examine an issue related to our online lives. They purposefully branched out into iterations on the core subject. Blog posts on the other hand were purposefully limited - I tried hard (though not always successfully) not to wander off on tangents. Still, even if primarily in terms of content, there was overlap. This overlap created a small window of opportunity that was soon transformed into an overtaking of my writing efforts by the blog.

Materials that might previously have found their way into Boidem columns received at least a bit of attention in the blog, and in that way were somehow "satisfied". They no longer demanded to be integrated into a larger framework, into a more complete overview. And of course to a large extent that "larger framework" had already been outlined numerous times. Since there no longer seemed to be much that might still be considered novel about being online, a major justification for the Boidem no longer seemed called for. That, however, presented a different, and in many ways larger, problem. The Boidem had become an integral part of my life. It was something that oriented by thinking, that gave it direction. It not only served as a filter, or as a looking glass, via which I evaluated the numerous (should that be "countless"?) web-related involvements that comprised my being, it also set a pace for accomplishing my other activities. Could I actually "be me" without the Boidem? And if I could, and if I could so easily abandon it, who was I? Rather than being a question of no longer writing Boidem columns, it was an identify crisis.

Month after month, even though I kept myself very busy with numerous writing tasks, I continued to feel that something was missing. As I've acknowledged, I purposefully constrained my Hebrew blog, consciously keeping myself from branching out. Thus, even if much of the material that I collected (or accumulated) was the same sort of materials that I dealt with in the Boidem, the playfulness through which I'd learned to make semi-sense out of what I read was missing. I discovered that I need the Boidem. Certainly it's become more and more difficult for me to find topics that I think merit columns, though there are probably limitless angles from which various topics can be approached. To a large extent the problem with the Boidem is a problem that stems from success - not the Boidem's, nor mine, but the internet's in general. When the web was young it was strange, it presented a different perspective, a weird presence, in our lives. Because it was an unknown quantity it invited exploration and investigation. Over the years I engaged in these, as did hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others. The internet, however, is no longer strange. For many it's become an old friend with very few secrets left to reveal. Ubiquity has its virtues, but not for a column in constant need of new territory to examine.

Over the past couple of years it's become obvious (as though it wasn't well before then) that the internet can survive without the Boidem. What I've learned over this past year, however, is that I'm far from sure that I can. So, hard as it may be to find the time to continue, it seems that, temporarily at least, the Boidem is back.

That's it for this edition. Reactions and suggestions can be sent to:

Jay Hurvitz

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