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When is a Blog a Blog?

April 11 2022

Blog archive

Last 10 blog posts
Programming Style Influences
snare: a Minimalistic GitHub Webhooks Runner
April Links
Where do Research Problems Come From?
Practising Programming
Making Rust a Better Fit for CHERI and Other Platforms
When is a Blog a Blog?
Last 10 essays
Static Integer Types
Automatic Video Editing
The Evolution of a Research Paper
Automatic Syntax Error Recovery
Stick or Twist?
Which Parsing Approach?
Alternative Sources of Advice
Minimum Times Tend to Mislead When Benchmarking
A Quick Look at Trait Objects in Rust
Why Aren’t More Users More Happy With Our VMs? Part 2
At some point in 2004 I added to my website the sort of thing that most normal people would have called a "blog". For reasons best forgotten, I called it a "bliki", before quickly realising that I had no interest in creating anything resembling a wiki. I soon renamed it "technical articles / blog", an awkward hybrid that reflected my lack of clarity about what I wanted it to be. In late 2012 I gave up and shortened the name to just "blog" — except it never really was a blog, at least not in the sense that other people use that word. Really, what I've been doing for the last 18 years is infrequently writing lengthy essays.

"Better late than never" is a phrase that trips off my tongue worryingly easily. In yet another instance, I have finally relabelled my previous "blog" as "essays". I enjoy writing essays, because they invariably force me to investigate things I'd previously glossed over, and rethink others from scratch. However, that means that essays are hard work [1] — each typically takes about 3 to 5 days of my time. As the years have passed, I've found it more difficult both to carve out, and to justify, the time they take — too often, there seems to be something more important to do.

Perhaps the fundamental problem with essays is that, to my mind at least, they come with a contract: they should be on fairly meaty subjects, and have been subject to enough thought that they can stand up to a reasonable level of scrutiny. That makes essays an appropriate medium for getting across mature ideas (or ideas that I think can be matured), but it makes them a poor medium for new, incomplete, or simple ideas.

So, having denied reality for getting on for 20 years, it finally seems sensible for me to acknowledge that a standard blog might be a useful thing for me to have. I hope it will contain more frequent, informal updates, where I also feel that I can risk being wrong more often than I can in essays. I've promised myself that, at least for the first three months, I'll make weekly updates. Beyond that only time will tell how this will turn out — after all, I have by now established a terrible track record in this area!

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[1] Only once has an essay been easy to write: Fast Enough VMs in Fast Enough Time. From memory, I wrote those 11,000 words in 2 or 3 days, far exceeding my typical 1000 words a day. It's perhaps no coincidence that the ideas in that essay have been a dominant force in my professional life ever since.


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