Writing is like a time capsule

Writing is like a time capsule Picture

It’s probably the new year (2015), or the fact that I’m up past my bedtime, but reading my own writing makes me reflective. Everything we do these days seems to be a vapor. We post our dreams and fears into the ether. Some people like it. Most ignore it. And then, it disappears.

I’m not particularly interested in how other people respond to my content. I generally only post links to articles that I find interesting or funny. I don’t use my timeline as a gauge of my self-worth. That statement alone feels like some sort of stupid #humblebrag. Very rarely do I reveal too much about myself or my family online for the general public to see. I like Path. But, I only have one friend, my wife, and we use it as a simple way to share family moments. I like Goodreads, but I mainly use it to keep track of what I’ve read. I use Twitter and Facebook but it’s generally for business use and more out of necessity than for a real, practical purpose.

So, I find it interesting to look back at things I’ve written here, on my business blog. Most entries are technical in nature but even in that, I can see bits of what I was feeling the day I wrote it. Bits of humor sneaking through. Bits of personality that aren’t often revealed online.

I also tend to take notes and pictures at events that I go to - conferences like An Event Apart or South by Southwest - and post them here on this blog. I could post them elsewhere - Flickr, Facebook, Twitter - and sometimes I do, but it’s nice to have something that you own and have control over with no fear of it being lost. Something you can come back to a year or two later and look at and recapture some of what you were feeling. Some of the excitement over 3D printers or responsive design.

The Past Me

So, when I look back at what I’ve written, I’m looking at myself in the past in a way that is different, often deeper than if I were to simply look at a picture of myself. When I look at a picture I scrutinize the superficial; how much weight I’ve gained, how much hair I’ve lost, why did I have hair there? By reading my own writing, I get a feel for me at that time; the words I used, the cultural references that I made, even the punctuation or acronyms that I use. It’s really interesting how these articles or entries become time capsules.

We all have these time capsules in our lives. The problem is that most of us have forgotten about them or no longer have access to them or know how to make the information stored inside meaningful.

You can never have enough hard drive or shelf space

I remember when hard disk space was at a premium. If you remember Zip drives and how exciting it was to be able to store 100MB on one disk, then you know what I’m talking about. Floppy people… you’re welcome here too. Now, I’ve got terabytes of unused hard drive space encased in attractive, portable USB enclosures, at my fingertips, collecting dust.

The problem with scarcity is that it causes you to make decisions that may look like a no-brainer at the time but leave you with regret. Despite how terrible it would be, I would love to look at the web development work that I did from 1998 through 2005. Unfortunately, it’s either gone - deleted to make space for some other digital detritus - or forgotten, burned to a CD-R at the bottom of a pile of CD-Rs. I’m sure you’re the same way. You’ve got photos locked away in some digital vault that are lost forever simply because no one placed a marker in the ground for the time capsule.

The more I use technology, the more pessimistic I become about digital media and our ability to keep it organized and maintain its fidelity as we move from OS to OS and service to service. I try to buy more printed books, but I always opt for both physical and digital if that is an option. I buy physical music, but enjoy AutoRip from Amazon or use Rdio to listen to music most of the time - in the car, while running, etc. I take photos with my phone but have started printing a selected number every month using Shutterfly. I’m really trying to make things last. I want digital items to last. I just don’t see how they can.

Everything is Meaningless

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
  says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
  Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
  at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
  but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
  and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
  and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
  ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
  yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
  there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
  more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
  nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
  what has been done will be done again;
  there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
  “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
  it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
  and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
  by those who follow them.

Ecclesiastes 1

Two Years from Now

Two years from now, I’ll probably crack open this time capsule and think, why so melancholy? Good question. Ask the past me, present me is going to bed.

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/5JtWgy

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G. Brad Hopkins's avatar
  • G. Brad Hopkins
  • About Me: I bought my first computer - an Apple Performa 6320 - when I was in college and have been building websites ever since. These days I spend most of my time writing code and helping to bring interesting projects to life.
  • @gbradhopkins