That was the title of my very first post, and it seemed appropriate to reference it for this one. Hopefully some of you noticed that I’ve sort of fallen off the grid since I returned from the ACA meeting in Halifax in June and I think I owe you a bit of an explanation.
First, between being away for a week and having to deal with a bunch of real-life matters, I got behind on everything on the Web. And I mean everything–email, Twitter, Facebook, and reading other blogs. The prospect of having to catch up was a daunting one. I had also been thinking quite a bit about Roger Ebert’s recent blog post about Twitter referencing discussions about how using the Web has rewired our brains. I am quite sure I have more information sources flowing into my inbox than almost any of you and I do it because it’s my “job” to keep on top of what’s happening with archives and technology. But I’ll let you in on a little secret–since the advent of Twitter, it’s gotten rather exhausting. (Yes, I blame Twitter.) Having thousands of references to things you need to look at coming at you every day is exhausting. It leaves you very little time or energy for following up and really thinking about what those changes mean. I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy, I’m just stating a fact.
I have also been thinking for quite a while about what I want to do next. Longtime readers will know that I started this blog in March 2007 after I left the National Archives and moved to “the country.” A venerated archival figure asked me shortly after I started what I wanted to accomplish with the blog, and I replied that I didn’t know. I was just going to write what I wanted to write and see what happened. Well, a lot of stuff happened as a result of this blog. Books, workshops, articles, talks, other blogs, being elected to SAA Council. A lot really good stuff. But also a lot more stuff that pulls my attention away from the kind of serious thinking that allows me to write what I think are good meaty posts for this blog.
And is there still even a place for long serious blog posts any more? Back in October 2008, a Wired article advised readers to “pull the plug” on their blogs: “The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.” I disagree with the premise that these other venues are a replacement for long thoughtful posts, and I think anyone who reads Rober Ebert’s blog and his tweets would never argue that the short bursts are a replacement for his more substantive thoughtful prose. They are both good but different. Still, when I started this blog I think it filled a need and it’s possible that need no longer exists. In an era before widespread Twitter adoption and before many archives and organizations (like SAA and NARA) were sharing information themselves via Facebook, Twitter and blogs it was harder for most people to seek out information about “what’s new.” Synthesizing and sharing that news may still be a valuable function, but it’s not as necessary as it once was, I think.
So this was the landscape in which I decided to stop and take stock. For me this meant taking a break from social media and attempting to implement the famous “Getting Things Done” system. The first step of this process is to collect everything that you need to deal with, including every piece of paper, electronic record, or idea in your head. Next you process everything. Well, readers, I’m still working through that part. As I think I said on Twitter and Facebook (ok, I didn’t take a total vacation from social media), when I started I had over 2300 messages in my Gmail inbox. That’s not a good thing. I also had countless piles of papers lying around and many many boxes of files that I’d accumulated from previous projects. And an insane number of incoming RSS feeds–both in Bloglines and GoogleReader. And things I’d bookmarked with Delicious. (135 things with the tag “to-do” is not good. 94 things with the tag “forbook” is not helpful when I don’t know which book they’re for.)
I’m still not done processing all these things, but my email inbox is now down to almost 1,000 messages and I have a huge pile of papers waiting for the next recycling pick up. I’ve also had to say “no” to some new opportunities, which has been a good experience for me. When I was trying to build a new reputation for myself beyond my experience at NARA, I said “yes” to every new offer. Now I have a reputation (for better or worse), and I can be a bit more selective. Years ago a good friend told me I absolutely had to read the book Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui and I dutifully did. If you’ve got a problem with clutter, I recommend it. I’m bringing it up here because the author makes the point that you need to make space in your life for new things–new books, new ideas, new projects. If your life is so cluttered that there is no room (or time) for anything new, you can’t expect to ever successfully take on a new project or explore a new idea. I have new ideas I want to explore and new projects I want to take on. Something has clearly “gotta give.”
So, what does all this mean for this blog? I’m not sure, but I think what it will mean is less frequent but longer posts. If you want to keep up on “what’s new,” I hope to keep doing that once I make it back to Twitter; you can follow me, subscribe to an RSS feed of my tweets, or just check in via the Web now and then, if you want to (although be warned, it’s not all archives-related on Twitter).
As I was clearing out and organizing my RSS subscriptions I ran across scads of archives blogs that had died off long ago or to which people only rarely posted. Keeping up a professional blog takes a time commitment that’s hard for anyone to make, especially when Twitter and Facebook provide such convenient options for sharing short bursts of information. I think this blog still provides a viable forum for me to share and explore more complicated ideas, but I also think that in order to move in the directions I want to go I need to invest time in other projects too. So, please, don’t add this to the list of dead-and-buried archives blogs, but be aware that postings will be less frequent than of old.