23 May

Monk WritingI have tried keeping journals at various times over the years. I don’t know why I never managed to stick with it more than a few months at a time. The act of writing out my experiences, feelings and thoughts almost always makes me feel good, no matter the subject or mood. There is a stack of really nice, hard covered journals in my home office from those times when I wrote in my journals long hand.

The practice of keep diaries or journals is pretty common among many of the people I admire, both historical and contemporary. Jefferson, as I recently learned, kept five daily journals. Those were as often as not logs, just places where he kept certainly short observations or even just data. He was fastidious about certain things, especially planting and growing, know what was in season, even when specific produce was at its peak, in order to better plan the stocking of his larder and pantry.

I spent some time last weekend with an interest of mine, brewing, which is rich with data. Tracking that from batch to batch is beneficial, from improving recipes to honing specific techniques or skills. I created pages on this site for each of my beers. Each page includes the story of the specific beer so far as well as a link to the latest version of its recipe and to a tag within my lifestream for that beer.

I have been using my two web sites to anchor my lifestream for a while. For those not familiar with my experiments, the idea is simply that sites I own and operate are the source of as much of what I publish everywhere online as possible, including on social networks. It may seem like an odd way to go about sharing, rather than just using those tools directly, but it means what I capture here, no matter how else I may share it, has a permanent home even if the external channels change or go away.

I share a lot in the process of working on a beer, far more of it as pictures and short posts than any other form. Most people see those only in real time, as they are shared more broadly. I thought it would be interesting and valuable to tag all of those shorter bits that related to a specific beer. Using tags, a very common and well supported mechanism for organically organizing content, let me share another, more permanent view. Collecting together all of the otherwise more ephemeral content for a given beer along with the more expansive durable stuff indeed turned out to present a much more complex and nuanced view of how I work on any given brewing project. If you click on one of those tag links, like for my latest beer, A Sprig of Grass, then you can see the power of this approach for yourself.

In that section of my overall lifestream, you’ll see pictures of the latest batch as it progresses through its various stages, from brew day to bottle. You can read my impressions of the finished product and contemplations on how to formulate and improve the recipe. You can even see how my setup has captured the conversations those short posts have catalyzed elsewhere, collected all in one place.

Jefferson had his five diaries, I have always had sites like this own and its sibling. I have certainly found writing in my blogs easier to keep up as a practice than any other form of journaling. Even so, my more structured writing still often progresses in fits and starts as I struggle with particular topics or worry over the quality of my writing. I now realize, thanks to the way I now have my sites set up, that there is so much more to my diaries than just the long form content.

Everything I create could always be tagged but I never thought much about how and why. When I set up my lifestreams here, at first I didn’t think about tagging any of that content. I actually worried about the mass of my lifestream overwhelming everything else. That is why I filter my lifestream posts out of everything except the view you get when you explicitly click on the lifestream category. The epiphany was realizing that I had a way to share all that material in aggregate that was not overwhelming, far from it. I could leaven the more sparse but longer content with the much higher volume but far shorter bits that reveal so much texture about my various pursuits.

I have started here, on this site, but will be thinking more about coherent tagging on my other site, too, especially how I can extend it into the part of my total lifestream that I host there. I think I can offer similar interesting collections that those readers and listeners might enjoy along side that site’s blog posts and podcast episodes.

For this site, beyond gathering collections for each of my beers, I can see tagging travel and specific trips, and my recent explorations into cooking and baking as well as thoughts and experiences about food in general. The sky is the limit, really, not just in the breadth of content I can collect to make it easier to share and for me to reflect upon, but even that the topics I curate can grow and change as my interests evolve.

Stay tuned as I expect I will be adding more pages to help make the more coherent tags easier to find and sift through. Feel free to explore tags on existing content and to suggest new tags to pull information on this site together in new ways.

One Reply to “Diaries”

  1. I have a friend who thought long and hard about lifestreaming and the tagging content. He dealt with the same issues you describe and was a fervent OS supporter. If it was not OS (used in the broadest possible sense), he wanted nothing to do with it. If you’d like me to put you in touch, please let me know.

    Actually, you already know him. Well, you’ve met him. Different context, but he’s very thoughtful and you two may enjoy sharing with each other on this topic.


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