Sense of wonder

An American engineer told me last week that there are two rules in introducing new technology into the USA:
  1. Don't inconvenience me.
  2. Don't bore me.

Wise words. Made me think.

I have been rather busy this weekend, and also mostly been sleeping off the remnants of my jet lag. I also finished Homeworld 2, one of the few games I've found immersive enough so that I could care more than a few hours of. It turned out to be rather easy, though, which was a bit of a disappointment... But it was good fun while it lasted.

People keep asking me if I've already started to play World of Warcraft (there is a Mac version, I hear). I'm tempted, but I don't dare to. I know I can be addicted to gameplay, and open-ended games are the worst.

Anyhoo, since I don't have anything real-ish to write about, I thought I'd give a nudge to some of my recent favourites from the blog/podcast world, in case some of you might like them too. Some of these are certainly worth finding:

  • Escape pod: My #1 podcast right now. Get yourself a new science fiction/fantasy story every week. They range from five-minute snippets to 30-minute short stories, and the reading isn't half bad either. It would be great if someone started this in Finnish, too. (I'll read your short story in my own podcast if you send it to me. I promise to treat it gently, though I am not a great reader.)
  • Flickr blog: Get the best of Flickr, daily. Flickr is like a diminutive blogosphere; loads and loads of average photographers, but it also is a place where pros and semipros post their stuff.
  • Digikko: (in Finnish) Digitaalimediaa mainosmiehen silmin; miten markkinointi ja rahanteko toimii uudessa mediassa ja uudessa nettikulttuurissa, blogien ja avoimen lähdekoodin pyörityksessä. Täältä löydän kiinnostavia linkkejä ja pohdintaa. Hyvä blogi, kaiken kaikkiaan.
  • Tekijänoikeusblogi: (in Finnish) Jaakko Kuivalainen jatkaa ansiokkaasti vain tähdenlennoksi luulemaani blogia ja kattaa tekijänoikeusasioiden uutisointia. Blogin kommenttipalsta on tosin sen tärkeintä antia, sillä se tuntuu toimivan parhaimpana tiedonlähteenä. Erinomainen esimerkki siitä, miten perinteisempi media voi vuorovaikuttaa lukijoittensa kanssa.
  • Tomorrow Elephant: Mostly English, some Finnish included. Writes a bit too rarely, but when it does, it does the "daily geek thing" in a bit more interesting fashion than everyone else. Maybe it's because the guy is trying his wings in writing scifi, too...
  • Touch by Timo Arnall. Exploring tangible computing - e.g. using your cell phone as an interaction device for objects within your reach. Just touch, and magic happens. Fascinating, though he should blog more. Dang, I should blog more about it...
  • Mette miettii: (in Finnish) Mette miettii edelleenkin fiksuja. Hyvää kommentaaria asioista, joita ei ehkä muissa blogeissa puida jatkuvasti.

As you can see, no personal blogs made that list. In fact, while I was going through my blogroll, I realized that few of them tend to survive for more than two months on it. I go to maybe twice a month, and subscribe to a random blogs that seem good, but few of them manage to keep my interest up for long. Probably because I don't know these people, and I've already found "my" number of people that are interesting and write well enough. Maybe this is what prompted some people about a year ago to tell that "blogs are a 'fad' and they shall soon pass." True; there is only so much you can read about someone's life - unless they lead extraordinarily interesting lives, the entries start repeating after a while. No matter how good a writer you are. I mean - would you like to read Bridget Jones' diary, part XVII? The original is a good book. Even the sequel was fun. But after a while you just start to look for something else, you know?

The world keeps turning and there are new news every day. I know of people who don't bother to read news anymore, saying that they repeat themselves, and there is little that is actually new in news these days. I sort of agree with them. It's the same thing as getting bored with diaries - the "new" factor disappears quickly. Hey, people get killed every day. It's life.

In scifi, I think, the same idea is called "sense of wonder". You need to have some, in order to be able to "suspend your disbelief", and really immerse yourself in the fictional world the author has created. I guess it also works for computer games (Homeworld saga certainly does it for me) and other entertainment in general - it just goes by different names.

But this "sense of wonder" is what creates the image of "new and interesting". Blogs - as a concept - had it for a while. Now people are getting more jaded: since everyone can now blog, the medium loses its particular attraction; the differing factor from what-was-before. Podcasting is now at this "sense of wonder" -stage; we don't quite know what they're good for, but gosh gee darn golly, doesn't it give you kicks to see that people are subscribing to your podcast?

The way I think it is that blogs are somewhere between the noisy chaos of the masses screaming about their individuality, and the cold, objective reality of idealistic journalism[1]. It's the stuff that could be news, but it just cannot pass through the filters and bottlenecks. Good blogs are written by people who could do it for a living, but they choose not to. Good blogs are written by people who have a passion for something, and they're far more interested in sharing that passion with a very limited number of other people, than they are in making a deadline, getting paid by word every day, or just abiding their time before they get to go home and do what they really want to do.

I'm not saying that these people are better writers than professionals. But passion shows, you know? That's what creates the sense of wonder; that's what creates "new" news. That's what makes a really good professional author really good.

That's what we really care about.

Passion and sense of wonder.

[#1] Boy, did I spend time deciding which one of those words requires quotes. Quoting all of them looked pretty stupid, so I leave it to the reader's imagination.


"True; there is only so much you can read about someone's life - unless they lead extraordinarily interesting lives, the entries start repeating after a while. No matter how good a writer you are."

I think it's only the Finnish blogosphere where all the popular blogs are about people's dull lives. And probably the reason why so many Finns think blogs are a fad and will soon die.

--Phil, 21-Nov-2005

No, it's universal. It's just that in Finland they're more visible.

For now.

--JanneJalkanen, 21-Nov-2005

Urghle. Reading through your comment again: yes, I agree. It's one of the reasons why subscriber top-lists skew the public vision. I don't recall seeing the "personal journals" vs "non-personal journals" discussion given this much weight anywhere else.

--JanneJalkanen, 21-Nov-2005

People who run big blog awards have the power to point the blogosphere in the right direction, they should use that power :-)

--Phil, 24-Nov-2005

No, they don't. They can perhaps get visibility in the local media, and give warm fuzzies to some people, but that's about it. (Oh yeah, and annoy people who take competitions too seriously for their own good.) But sometimes it is necessary.

The blogosphere will do whatever it damn pleases.

--JanneJalkanen, 24-Nov-2005

The Finnish blogosphere will do whatever it damn pleases, absolutely. But a certain five judges of a blog award has a lot of influence over that.

--Phil, 26-Nov-2005

Nah. Only over the ones with a weak mind.

--JanneJalkanen, 26-Nov-2005

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