Why I am here

and why I intend to write more posts, especially with first-person pronouns in their titles

[Content note: overly lengthy “meta” post, largely for the purpose of putting my intentions in writing so that I might actually follow through, and in which I sound like I’m taking myself way too seriously]

I. Introduction

Hi, I’m Liskantope, a person on the internet who wants to get more involved in internet things.  Needless to say, Liskantope isn’t my real name — “Liskantope” has no relation to my real name but is related to a conlang I worked on once — and for the moment I don’t intend to connect “Liskantope” with any concrete personal details (some vaguer personal things will eventually trickle through, I’m sure).  Which makes for a pretty short “introduction” section, I guess.

II. Background and purpose

When I was growing up, I often gazed up into the heavens and asked myself the deep and searching question, “Why couldn’t there be an easy way to write whatever I like, free for anyone to see, without having to have any sort of expertise in anything or get my writing approved by a publisher first?”  (I would often get the impulse to expound upon whatever interested me, often choosing to believe without much justification that whatever audience I happened to have was interested.)

After some years, I realized that blogging was a thing, and my question changed to, “Which of the topics that I’m interested in, and how much of my opinions on them, would I want to make free for anyone to see?”

The thing is that while I’m very straightforward about many of my opinions and personal thoughts in person or, say, on Facebook, I tend to be shy about some other opinions and personal thoughts.  But if I did start putting my thoughts online, I knew I wanted to feel comfortable with being completely forthcoming.  Thus implying that I would want to write under an anonymous identity.

So of course the question then became, “Who would ever read any of what I write?”

Now certainly, there’s still greater-than-zero utility in writing for zero audience.  Even if nobody read any of it, I’d at least be getting a lot of thoughts and feelings in order and might even reach some new insight about myself or about the topic at hand.  But a lot of the time I wouldn’t get very much out of it, because all I’d hear would be the echo of my own voice; I’m sure most people can relate to my desire for feedback and insightful discussions involving more people than just myself.

Some years ago, I actually did start a blog under an anonymous identity, and wrote a total of three posts for an entirely empty room before losing interest.  After that, I pretty much gave up on the idea.  That is until I stumbled upon Slate Star Codex almost two years ago and realized that here was a community which I related so strongly that I was motivated to finally get online.  (Elaboration on this in my next post, I think.)  So I started to spend a little time in the comments sections of SSC posts, and then started to spend a little time on Tumblr, and eventually figured that I now at least have a potential group of people whom I would want to interact with online.  But I tend to get long-winded in a way that’s not really suitable for Tumblr, so I’m motivated to go back to Project Start A Real Blog.

Still, it was hard for me to get around to it; first I was busy finishing getting my degree, and finding a job, and moving to a new location for said job (see, vague personal things are trickling through already!).  Since then, I’ve had less excuse for dragging my feet, except that I guess I tend to be pretty inhibited about writing things that will probably turn out to look like long essays rather than, say, the typical Tumblr post.  Which is kind of silly, considering that hardly anyone will even be reading this (at least, not at first, and likely not ever), and absolutely nobody is forcing me to write with any kind of polish.  I have to tell myself over and over, including right now, that I need to practice writing in a slightly more stream-of-consciousness manner (which is a good skill to have in and of itself), even at the expense of possibly rambling or sounding haphazard.  (This is “not the report, not the report, not the report“.)

III.  What I will do

I will write long-form posts on whatever topics interest me about which I have some sort of developed or semi-developed opinion, or at least semi-developed questions.  All I want to say at the moment about my choice of topics is that I expect them to be sort of “rationality-adjacent”; I think that’s vague enough.

But writing a bunch of very objective-sounding essays arguing for one position or another on well-known controversial topics is not so much what I have in mind.  I want to make this personal, even as I avoid revealing concrete personal details.  The posts I imagine writing are reflections of my personal thoughts and thought-patterns, my deeply-held feelings, and my own continuing development as a person.  This is about what one might consider a form of self-therapy, as much as it’s about anything else.  If I do endeavor to lay out some more “objective” idea, I will have to view it as at most a work in progress and probably nothing more than “thinking out loud”.

The usual advice in regard to writing is to “write about what you know”.  Well, I know myself (at least, certain aspects of myself) as well as or better than I know most other things.  Moreover, while in general I’m not really much of a writer, I am pretty experienced at rambling through e-mail or private Facebook messages about my life, my feelings about this, why I think that, etc.  It’s the arena of writing where I feel the most comfortable.  So that’s the style I’ll adopt at least for now, and I resolve not to feel bad about liberal use of the first person — my impression of this, my reaction to that, it reminds me of the time that… etc.

IV.  What I won’t do

To a probably unreasonable extent, I really like the idea of remaining anonymous.  I think a large part of why I’m so intent on it comes from the idea that on the internet, once something is revealed, it can’t really be taken back.  I can choose to be anonymous or not and it may not even be obvious a priori which of these is preferable, but once I choose “not”, I can’t change my mind.  (There must be a term in the rationalist lexicon for this kind of motive, but I don’t know one at the moment.)

Anyway, let me just put in writing for myself a few lines I think I should not cross.  These aren’t completely set in stone, and I reserve the right to relax any one of them, but right now I think they’re a good idea.

  1. In the course of telling personal anecdotes about people I know, I won’t include any more information about them than is strictly necessary in order to fully convey whatever point I’m trying to make.  In the case that that person has a very particular relationship to me — e.g. family member, boss — I will avoid referring to that relationship unless it’s necessary to the story, instead using “my friend” or “someone I know”.
  2. If I do talk here about someone I care a lot about, I will avoid saying something about them that I wouldn’t say un-anonymously to their face.  (I believe this is a good rule to try to follow in general, although it’s probably nowhere near feasible for anyone to follow it all of the time.)

V.  Conclusion

Conclusion-writing was always my least favorite part of having to compose essays in school.  How was I supposed to find fresh new words to convey something I already summarized in the introduction and expanded on elsewhere?  On that note, this conclusion will be even shorter than the introduction was.


3 thoughts on “Why I am here

  1. Are you my “blogging twin”? Picking the start of 2016 as the time to begin writing after being inspired by discovering the rationalist community, describing your writing as “rationality-adjacent” but somewhat personal is my exact story (+ adopting a pseudonym for similar reasons). Looks like rationality in general and Scott A in particular has inspired lots of people. Hang in there, you aren’t alone in the room.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just had a look at your blog and agree that we’re really like-minded! What you write in your first post sounds uncannily similar to some of what I said in my first (and so far only) two posts, as well as expressing an interest in the mechanics behind human disagreements which I didn’t explicitly write about which sound like they could have come out of my mouth. For years I had the somewhat audacious idea of trying to lay out a sort of Grand Unified Theory of Rhetoric not unlike what you’re describing, but I never planned out the ideas I’d like to write about in as elaborate detail as you seem to have, which is perhaps part of the reason I’m feeling more inertia than I expected in getting started on actually writing.

      Thanks for the encouragement and for contributing the first comment here; now that I’ve read your posts and am digesting them, I might soon post a comment myself.


      1. I like the notion of a “Grand Unified Theory of Rhetoric”. Rhetoric as taught, and practiced as in PR, seems mostly a bag of insights that are the results of experience. A real foundational theory is lacking, and would need elements from several quarters, like cognition, social instincts and the intra- and inter-tribal roots of them, literary theories of the indeterminacy of meaning, paradigmatic incommensurability etc. It’s a small part of LW, but much more prominent at SSC, and some of Scott’s best posts are steps toward this kind of synthesis.


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