There are three reasons I'm starting this blog.
Number one: I want to force myself to write in a concerted, focused way, even on smaller or irrelevant topics. It's striking to me that I am very used to writing in the abstract—I probably write a novel's worth on various chat services every week or so—but when I start to do long-form writing, I tend to over-think things, get bogged down in details, and then give up. I have another blog where I will write about technical topics every few months, but I'm pretty negative about the quality of my writing there, which makes me feel less excited about writing new things there. So reason one for this blog is that it's a place for me to practice writing without feeling like it has to be, well, good.
Number two: I'm a collector of the weird. I like reading about disproven, disused, or even just forgotten theories, and odd, off-kilter pieces of art or science or literature, and unusual social movements, and everything that could be categorized as esoterica. I have a set of favorite etymologies and a set of favorite conspiracy theories and a set of favorite esoteric programming languages, and I've done reading about a whole slew of odd topics, but especially food and language and notations and just plain weirdness. So reason two for this blog is that I can try to take all this miscellany and throw it into a place that's not just my head.
Number three: I'll probably write a lot about computers—I am, after all, a computer scientist—and in part, it's because I've started to notice something unusual about my own relationship with computers. In contrast to many programmers I talk to, I'm still excited about computers. There's a particular kind of joy and excitement you get when you first learn how to program, when you first explore a fascinating algorithm or learn a different kind of language and start making things happen on your screen. It feels like magic.
I think for a lot of people, that feeling tends to fade over time, once you look into the guts of the machine and notice all the cut corners and awkward edges that exist in our modern computing environments, to say nothing of the even worse state of the cultural, social, and economic structures that surround computing. We have amazing underlying ideas that we've obscured with layers of cruft and a thick forest of hacks, argued over with unwarranted fervor by cliques of short-sighted super-specialists who don't know what history their craft is (to say nothing of what insights they'd stand to gain from studying it), all deployed in the service of widespread Orwellian surveillance both public and private, or at least in the service of blandly Objectivist reimaginings of existing service companies with a thin veneer of WebView disguising the same old greedy hucksters playing the same cynical capitalist game. It's not hard to get disillusioned.
Certainly, it's important to be aware of those problems—but I also think that if we're ever going to iron out those problems, we need to be motivated by excitement and not resignation or anger. We need to recapture and relive that excitement, so we can build a new world motivated not by greed and exclusion but by joy and wonder. So reason three for this blog is that I can try, in whatever little way, to share a little bit of my excitement for the future of computers.