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"The Whole Truth" versus privacy in the K5 Diary

By johnny in Culture
Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:41:47 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

For 30 years or so I have kept a (paper) diary/scrapbook. I do this in the most desultory way, with regular gaps of weeks-- and some gaps of years--between entries. The total collection of my diaries takes up about 18 inches of shelf space. I've made at least1,500 entries. Many of them include things that I've pasted or taped on to the leaves of the books.

Since May of 2001 I've also been keeping a diary here on K5. If I count correctly, I have made 43 entries; many of them contain links. About half of my K5 diaries recount things going on in my life (or memories of real occurrences) and the other half are random bullshit and nonsense. I've conducted about twenty polls; about half of them are nonsense. I like it. It's fun.

I came to observe a paradoxical effect that has to do with audiences and inhibition in diary-writing, and I wonder if others have observed it. And I would just like to have a discussion about the K5 diary phenomenon in general.

I'm not sure why I have kept my tangible diary, and certainly my motivation and writing style have changed over the decades. But I suppose my time-invariant motives could be summarized: I want to remember; I want to understand.

My motives for keeping the K5 diary are different: I want to share, I want to learn, I want to play, I want to connect, and I want to convince people to buy my novel . Most of all, I guess, I want to play.

But it is the desire to connect that introduces the paradoxical effect that I mentioned above.

  • When I write in my own "private" diary, which I don't even share with my wife, I cannot shake the implicit audience that looks over my shoulder: my future self, and any other random persons, probably including my widow and bereaved children, who will read my diary at some indeterminate future time. This audience, despite my strenuous efforts to be completely honest with myself, inhibits me.

  • When I write in my K5 diary for an audience of strangers (that would be you), I am aware that I have an audience with whom I have a compact: I want connection (feedback; love, whatever) in the form of comments and poll votes, and you want to be entertained-- that's why you're reading, I assume (unless you're collecting data for a doctoral dissertaion on weblogs or something). My way of keeping this compact and engaging my audience is to be open, honest, and uninhibited. Also, I try to be fun.
So I've asserted that my private (paper) diary and my public (electronic) diary are for different audiences and purposes. Nevertheless I find it paradoxical that my forty-two K5 diary entries are (in some ways, at least) more open and soul-bearing than my usual entries in my private diaries.

An illustration In my diary of last December 18th I wrote about an impending visit to Tucson, Arizona; and I pondered whether I should or shouldn't stay at the home of my old friend Anne, to whom I had been engaged to be married a long time ago. My chief consideration in deciding whether or not to stay with Anne was concern for the feelings of My Dear Wife Betty, to whom I have been married for more than 21 years.

Two weeks ago I went to Arizona, and I stayed with Anne. I wrote a brief K5 diary entry about it.

But don't you know, I wanted to write more than I did in that initial post. It was not a very satisfying entry.

Why? Because my Tucsonian trip is part and parcel of the very cabbage of the intense kapusta of my life. Because I have been married to Betty for 21+ years; because Anne and I were once engaged to be married (27+years ago), because I had not seen Anne in 18 years and the last time I saw her she was powerless, a victim of a cruel trick of her body that nearly killed her; because Anne and I still love each other; because of the intensity of our love affair 1974; because Anne is gay and I'm not; because my wife Betty has become the blood that runs in my veins and our souls have fused in the millennia masquerading as decades that we've been together, because Anne called off our engagement by "Dear John" letter when I was a dysenteried/worm-infected/?malarial? Peace Corps Volunteer in drought/plague-infested Senegal living on emergency rations and shocked at age 21 to have children die of starvation in my arms and an entire village counting on me-another life-changing experience-; because Betty sent me to Tucson to see Anne with her blessing and instructions to resolve old ambiguities; because there was additional heavy karma surrounding my trip to Tucson that had nothing to do with Anne or Betty-- , because the echoes of Anne's affair with me have doomed, by her account, at least one long-term lesbian relationship; because there is too little love in the world and I seek to increase it, that is why we're here according to my favorite philosopher, well, for all these reasons I wanted to write in my K5 diary about my trip to Tucson but I was torn between:

  • My own desire for privacy-- I'm a nearly Kaczynskian technoparanoiac and hermit;
  • My desire to engage y'all, a bunch of strangers (I do so love your comments and poll participation);
  • My desire (and obligation) to protect the feelings and privacy of my Dear Wife Betty, and to repay her trust in kind.
and so I was really torn.

And I am likewise torn on many other subjects. I want to write, share, play, engage; I want to remember and I want to understand. But I also want to keep my distance, and furthermore I have no business discussing personal stuff having to do with other people (i.e. Betty, our children) who don't want their lives put out there for your entertainment.

The easiest solution to this dilemma is to opt out; to treat the K5 diary as a place to play postmodern ironic games, to troll, to lie, to fuck around, to revel in cleverness, to invent fictional selves. I think all of these approaches are fine. Like the tag line says, it's your diary, do what you want with it.

But in a way I think that using the K5 diary for trollish oh-so-clever bullshit is sad. I have made real human connections through this vehicle, and boy as far as I'm concerned real human connection is better than cleverness seven days a week. But fuckit, I'm nearly fifty years old. Maybe I'm just off my game.

How about you?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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K5 Diaries
o I keep one for my own reasons; I don't read others. 3%
o I am a post modern ironist. I use my k5 diary (diaries) for ironic postmodern cleverness. 13%
o I keep an honest and soul-bearing diary. I like others who do likewise. 10%
o Don't read 'em; don't write em. 26%
o I read them but I don't keep one. 24%
o Come on, johnny, did you have sex with Anne in Tucson or didn't you? 16%
o If you love not each other in daily communion, who can you love God, whom you have not seen? 0%
o I am a connaisseur of K5 diaries, and johnny's Proustian Kapustian diary is the best! 3%

Votes: 129
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o random bullshit and nonsense.
o my novel
o last December 18th
o K5 diary entry
o my favorite philosopher,
o Also by johnny

Display: Sort:
"The Whole Truth" versus privacy in the K5 Diary | 92 comments (86 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
I've noticed (4.00 / 2) (#1)
by medham on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 10:44:11 PM EST

A lot of this:

The easiest solution to this dilemma is to opt out; to treat the K5 diary as a place to play postmodern ironic games, to troll, to lie, to fuck around, to revel in cleverness, to invent fictional selves. I think all of these approaches are fine. Like the tag line says, it's your diary, do what you want with it.

Going on myself. I'd go so far as to say that what goes on in your mind, don't do that you'll stain the carpet, making love to every poor daughter's son, isn't it fun, your pale blue eyes, doctor's making his first incision, one goes here, one goes there.

Do you know the Pavement outtake "Wanna Fuck Around?"

Now, if she ever comes now, now.

In all earnestness, can you point me to an example of the cleverness-laden diaries of which you speak? I believe firmly that there is nothing more authoritarian that a dreary pomo ironic cynicism (it's one of the few things I see eye-to-belly with Sloterdijk on), and I'm interested in exploring the boundaries of sincerity on this forum.

My mind's split open. I've got my eyeballs on my knees.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Pavement outtake etc. (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by johnny on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 10:57:30 PM EST

I don't know pavement very well. In fact I'm sure that I am confused about who they are, but I think they're an 80's -90's greenday kind of thing, aren't they?

I don't want to cite postmodern diary entries for a couple of reasons: (1) don't want to start troll-flamewar, (2) fine line between ironic cleverness and just playing around; some inocent fun may just go over my head (3) as I said, I think it's all legit. The clever boys and girls can find their own audience (which may include me, of course) on the basis of their own cleverness.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Greenday? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:14:07 AM EST

I just hope that Stairs doesn't read this forum, hombre, or else you're in for serious flame-action.

But I agree with the rest of your sentiments regarding diaries, and I hope this story generates a lot of discussion.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Sloterdijk is for weenies (2.50 / 4) (#17)
by Lode Runner on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:19:38 AM EST

Sloterdijk and his critics get cut to pieces by Bruno Latour [in French].

I've noticed a trend here: the thinkers I like consistently beat the crap out of the thinkers you cite. Postmodernist Michel Foucault cut Chomsky down to size, and that "damned elusive" post-post-postmodernist Latour revealed the folly of the whole post-postmodern vs. postmodern vs. New Left vs. Old Left debate that was L'Affaire Sloterdijk [also in French].

In fifteen years my weltanschauung will be outmoded too and then I'll know what it's like to be you right now.

[ Parent ]

Googled irrelevance (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:24:01 AM EST

Is this the best you can muster? I appreciate what you're trying to do, really, but I'm not the ideal target for this sort of thing. My copy of Reflexive Water is signed, and I've smoked some weed out with Fons the Mons.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Keep burrowing, Z-maggot (2.33 / 6) (#25)
by Lode Runner on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:20:55 AM EST

A bit of a belated reply to the drubbing I gave you over Chomsky-baiting, isn't it?

Anyone who claims superior knowledge to a modern thinker because he's got some signed copy of a by-product of the IPP (1971!!!) has some serious issues.

Maybe Reflexive Water is a nice relic --and heck, I'd appreciate a signed copy even more than you 'cause I've actually read it -- but even elders like Elders have moved way beyond such antediluvian debates. Next I suppose you'll try to dazzle us with your mastery of Marx. It's just pitiful.

You can't read French, can you? Typique...

[ Parent ]

Consider running you own site (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by BlowCat on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 10:47:25 PM EST

Write and purge your diaries on your site and make sure that no robots are archiving it.

Harder than it looks at first glance (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by premchai21 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:16:01 PM EST

... and make sure that no robots are archiving it? What if there are people who archive it? Not only that, but how are you going to tell the difference exactly? Trying to make sure that websites never get archived is probably not going to work. The only certain way is to not allow it to be read, which defeats the purpose (usually) of putting it on the website in the first place.

[ Parent ]
People cannot be trusted as much as robots. (3.00 / 1) (#76)
by BlowCat on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 08:42:57 PM EST

If somebody claims that [s]he has a copy of your diary, the question arises whether it can be proven, given that the person making the claim must have had some interest in visiting the site and archiving that particular page.

Not that authomatic archives cannot be tampered with, but it's less likely that one particular page has been "doctored" unless the owner of the site is involved somehow.

Speaking of "robot exclusion", Wpoison authors claim that their system made even e-mail harvesters respect the "robot exclusion protocol" because failure to obey it makes them vulnerable to Wpoison and similar traps.

[ Parent ]

Paper vs. Kuro5hin/Blog (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by sparky on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 10:57:53 PM EST

I've had the same kind of dillema, and the way I figure is that i'll have both and use the online diary to, as you said, to fuck around and play games and other nonsense like that. Hey, its fun, but without a private outlet, i'd go insane, 'cos the world is full of fuckers, man (to put it bluntly).


Bene qui latuit, bene vixit.
thanks, and your sig (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by johnny on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:01:37 PM EST

He who lactates well lives well?

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Latin (none / 0) (#55)
by elefantstn on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:45:57 PM EST

He who hides well, conquers well.

Lactate = lacto
Live = vivo

[ Parent ]
The downside of the blog.. (4.40 / 5) (#6)
by rebelcool on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:04:11 PM EST

paper diaries last forever (well, until a fire or extreme age if you wrote it on cheap paper). Weblogs however, are limited. What will happen to the diaries when k5 goes away? Thousands of scraps and notes of lives washed away.

Historians often use the diaries of individuals to get a feel for the times - 200 years from now, it is unlikely that any equipment these electronic diaries are stored on will be functioning. Of those that are, the likelyhood of having them readable will be next to nil (NASA actually ran into this with some of their rocketry data from the 1950s..the readers for the tape format it was stored in were no longer operational anywhere in the world)

Indeed, the saddest thing about the electronic era is the rate of progress will leave huge gaps and holes in the history of individuals if we don't work on ways to address this.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Yes. And about libraries. . . (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by johnny on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:26:16 PM EST

THere is some person, I forget who, that has been making the impassioned case in Atlantic Monthly and on National Public Radio and elsewhere, that this fetish with technology that says "We've archived it electronically; now we can toss the paper" is a collossal folly. Can you help me remember who it is that I'm thinking of?


yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Nicholson Baker? (none / 0) (#11)
by Kellnerin on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:35:01 PM EST

I keep thinking his book Double Fold would make a good starting point for a K5 story. Unfortunately I started reading it and got too depressed to finish. Maybe I'll pick it up again one day though.

--got to be a way to make it sweeter, little more like lemon meringue--
[ Parent ]
Yes, thanks! <eom> (none / 0) (#41)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:43:47 AM EST

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Computer, paper; not much difference (4.50 / 4) (#16)
by J'raxis on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:13:11 AM EST

Back in the 1950s every computer system had its own different way of doing things. The machinery itself was specialized, and the encodings were specifically designed for the kind of data it represented or machinery on which it was processed. Nowadays everything is stored in formats that will be usable for the forseeable future.

As for encoding: ASCII text, which is I believe about 40 years old, will be readable and decodable as long as we’re using binary systems. ASCII itself is showing its age and may within a decade fall out of use, but will be replaced with Unicode, which is just a giant-mega-superset of ASCII with all other world scripts incorporated, and room for dozens more.

As for machinery: Virtually all information (or information worth saving) is published somewhere on the Internet, and hence it is probably cached somewhere else. If the particular machine that houses an archive goes down, or the disks fail, the info can still be salvaged.

The only thing that could probably cause us to lose all the computer-encoded data we have is some kind of civilization-wide catastrophe big enough to wipe out all the machines and the people who know how to read the encoded data. But this kind of thing has happened in the past (civilizations fall, and then no one can read the language when the artifacts are rediscovered), and those times can’t be blamed on computers.

Some day humanity may forget how to read Unicode text or IEEE-encoded floating point numbers, but then again someday humanity may no longer know how to read English or Chinese. Some how a machine may go down and take all the information with it, but then again brick-and-mortar libraries burn down, too.

— The UTF-8 Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

the thing is.. (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by rebelcool on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:10:12 AM EST

there will always be information lost, due to obsolete equipment. Somewhere someone one day will find an old backup tape of interesting data - only the machine to read it won't exist anymore.

With paper, the device required to read it - your eyes - will never, ever go away. 1000 years ago someone can resurrect a paper document from underground, and while perhaps the language will be different, it will be there for the reading.

Of course the real problem is that lots of media can't be expressed on paper. But most can.

I once saw a paper detailing lifetime of storage mediums. Most electronic mediums are measured in years, a few in decades. Paper? Depending on the type, some are measured in centuries.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

hardcopies, baby (nt) (none / 0) (#30)
by kubalaa on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:45:55 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Paper diaries (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by nr0mx on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:49:44 AM EST

Somehow, I dont get the same level of satisfaction in an online diary. Personally, I carry my paper diary around, and I find that nothing beats putting pen to paper, and being able to flip through the pages later.

When you look back, it's not just what you wrote, but the handwriting, the state the pages are in, etc ... that speak volumes. The diary becomes a part of you, an object you cherish. It gets torn, smudged and dirty, worn out and faded. It gains character and a history. Something that an online diary can never have.

An online diary seems impersonal somehow, and I cannot trust my feelings to it. ;)

[ Parent ]

however, there are other compensations (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:41:49 AM EST

First of all, there is the interaction with the community. That's one main differentiator.

Second, there is ability to link. I put a lot of work in to my diary entry Axl Rose stole my guitar. The story and the feelings are true. I've been carrying that story around with me for more than twenty years, and I don't know how I could have told it without the pictures and links. ANd it was great to get the reaction from the K5 community.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

404 (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by Sunir on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:19:58 AM EST

The links will break eventually. Does that make it a diary or a podium?

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

I've talked to Rusty about that... (none / 0) (#35)
by wiredog on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:28:43 AM EST

He says that if k5 ever dies, he might put the db on a cd.

I imagine he's learned about the Importance of Being Backed Up, after Operation Enduring Downtime.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

Releasing it all (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by rusty on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:14:18 AM EST

I'm pretty sure I would. My problem with it is an ethical one, kind of. According to the copyright that you agree to by posting here, I don't really have the right to do that. I only reserve the right to distribute this stuff online, here at K5. On the other hand, I think the loss of all this history would overrule that for me.

So, if it ever came to that, I'd probably tar up an archive of everything and get it out on a server somewhere, for free distribution. I hope everyone would agree that that would hold with the spirit of the thing. I don't think I could stand to just let it all disappear. And if the server was at www.kuro5hin.org, it would probably hold to the letter of the agreement as well, from a legal standpoint. All redistribution restrictions would of course apply.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

By the way (none / 0) (#51)
by wiredog on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:38:06 AM EST

How big is the db these days? Would it fit on a cd?

This place could use some sort of "site stats" page.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

Size (none / 0) (#69)
by rusty on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:49:05 PM EST

A very rough count of 'show table status' says the relevant tables total up to around 650Mb. There's maybe 1/3 as much more in the whole database, but it's mostly user data and prefs and things like that.

I think as text, or gzipped text, it would still fit on a CD.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

And the size growth rate is ? (none / 0) (#83)
by nr0mx on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:33:20 PM EST

We've been hearing protests over the number and frequency of stories making their way past the mod queue. Is there any indicator that this trend is here to stay ? Also if the number of users are increasing, which in my opinion they are bound to, the number of stories is bound to increase, irrespective of all other factors.

[ Parent ]
No (3.00 / 2) (#78)
by Sunir on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:11:00 AM EST

I don't think I could agree to that. Letters from the Hellmouth? I don't want people reusing what I wrote without permission, but providing it as a tarball would give them that right--or so they could claim. As it's you providing the tarball for that explicit purpose, It's you I'd have to punch. I'd do it too. Right on the kisser.

I think it should disappear. Kuro5hin is temporal. It's a discussion site we waste time on. We're not working on the Federalist papers after all. So, just like friendly debates over cigars, they should dissipate in the air like so much blown smoke.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

I don't think so (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by rusty on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 09:55:22 AM EST

I don't want people reusing what I wrote without permission, but providing it as a tarball would give them that right--or so they could claim.

I thought that providing the tarball with the explicit notice that the information is copyrighted by it's author and may not be reused or redistributed without your consent would be enough. That's how it's distributed here, after all. I'm not talking about putting anything into the public domain.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

True, my mistake. [nt] (none / 0) (#86)
by Sunir on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 07:01:16 PM EST

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Little history (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by svampa on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:14:07 PM EST

I have letters that my mother's gandfather received from his brother (1875) . His brother was teacher and was teaching him to write well, good spelling etc.

They talked about the price of potaoes, the weather etc. About a neighbor whose trees had too bir roots and were rising the ground of his land. and a long etc.

A lot of Great History has been right interpreted thanks to "little history". Letters that the taylor sent to a famous man in that epoch, allowed to find out how were ralations among social classes, discussions about marriage allowed to find out how waere family ralations years ago.

Nowadays there is a lot more of documentation. How much will last 200 years? probably more that years before. But a lot of important parts of our little lifes will vanish. We delete mails that today are not important, we clean the HD, we delete old 31/2" disks... and old 51/4...

It's not only because of computers, it is because of everything... telephone, it is easier to travel, so we don't send letters, etc. Perhaps we live in a never ending hurry.

I'm sure my grandsons will know less about me that I know about my gandfather.

[ Parent ]
Diaries (2.66 / 3) (#9)
by rickward on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:28:00 PM EST

I've tried the whole online diary thing before. The private/public conflict is something I find quite frustrating. I even coded a CGI (on IIS, sorry) that let parents and family read one and trusted friends w/usernames read another. My friends then didn't want to log in, of course, but anyway...

The diary I have on K5 is the longest I've ever kept a diary, including the one I hand-coded. Right now, I find the experience novel enough to not worry about my privacy too much (well, that and the fact I don't do anything worth talking about). It also helps that most likely none of my family, co-workers, and friends (except for good ol' joeyo) know I post here.

Plus, I like the polls. :)

"How am I to trust my own 5 feeble senses? Who's to say that when I open the freezer door that I'm really not just opening a gateway to a very cold dimension populated by wire racks?" —MisterQueue

It is strangely compelling, (none / 0) (#39)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:36:53 AM EST

isn't it?

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Didn't you know ? (4.50 / 6) (#12)
by Phage on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:42:22 PM EST

We don't know you, you don't know us.

It's fairly well known that it is easier to talk to strangers than to people we know. As strangers they have no pre-conceptions to filter the text through.

Similarly, you are free to use or discard the advice without fear of recrimination. I remember your advice to me some time ago, and thought that you and some others were extremely helpful. This is the benefit of the diaries. A sort of speakers corner where anything may be said, and some of it has real value.

Even without this, there is real value in the cathartic experience. I know exactly how some of the conversations must have gone with the woman in Tuscon. I have had them myself.

It could be that you can take some comfort from the fact that others have felt the same. We may not have the answers - but we can buy you a virtual beer, nod our heads, and tell you that this is normal, this OK and we feel for you.

Pass the peanuts, and I think it's my round.

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.

Conversations in Tucson (none / 0) (#38)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:35:40 AM EST

Well, this is where I am going to draw the line at what I keep private. The only thing I want to share about my conversations in Tucson is that the whole experience was good, all the way around. For all parties concerned.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Two things (4.71 / 7) (#15)
by Sunir on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:44:54 PM EST

First, assume that whatever you write in your kuro5hin diary will be around forever to haunt you. Second, assume that you will lose whatever you write in your kuro5hin diary. What happens if one of the continuous stream of server failures is permanent, and k5 just dies? Your diary is gone. Contradictory assumptions, but that's part of the reason why online diaries are so alluring.

It's all a show! But it's for real. That's what sells the tickets.

Second, I can't say that I know, but maybe you shouldn't be as inhibited by your future widow and children. But maybe you have more shadows over your heart than even what you let on. At what point do you hurt the one you protect? Maybe you're overestimating your situation; diaries are an exercise in self-centred masturbation. Are you sure you're the best judge of you?

Then again, you could always write about it, or through it, or with it. Not a diary, but with intent. A veritable work; fiction or almost-fiction, or even non-fiction. Post it here, or get it published somewhere not predominated by youngens like myself, or even both. You can write. So do it. I'd hit you with the Club of Inspiration but I've apparently misplaced it.

It's always easier to tell things to strangers. Strangers can be your best friends one day, and nobodies the next. That isn't honest. If Jesus is your favourite philosopher, you might believe in confession. But it isn't confessing to tell a stranger; you only find redemption in your life from your own life.

But you know there's a way to involve strangers without get entangled. Isn't that why we invented fiction? You can play with us, yet be honest with those close to you, all with the same prop. Hell, even use your paper diary to explain the personal connection so that one day those you love will understand.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

Quintessential Ephemerality (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by plunkymeadows on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:15:50 AM EST

I have no idea if I spelled that right, but the allure for me is the right now feel to this. I type whatever I feel at the moment; let everyone see it, and then it fades away. I don't know how to say what exactly I am getting at, but it's the flow of the K5 diaries that I love.
"Dad, I dont think I'm gonna do it Hamster Style anymore."
[ Parent ]

Cool but (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:33:24 AM EST

do you ever feel nostalgic for that which has gone?

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Of couse, (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by plunkymeadows on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:30:39 AM EST

but I derive more enjoyment from writing for an audience in a temporary format than I do permanently for myself. I'll take that trade any day.
"Dad, I dont think I'm gonna do it Hamster Style anymore."
[ Parent ]

I think you're correct & (none / 0) (#36)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:32:08 AM EST

I'll write that next novel someday. I hope. In the meantime I'll keep writing here.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Backups! (none / 0) (#44)
by ucblockhead on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:45:50 AM EST

"What happens if one of the continuous stream of server failures is permanent, and k5 just dies? Your diary is gone.
mine isn't!
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Outlet for the tight-lipped among us.... (3.50 / 4) (#26)
by Gandalf04 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:50:00 AM EST

I wonder....

In a world of increasing media, of increasing opinion, in a world where we are told what to do, what to think, what to say - online diaries have in their appeal a sense of Voice.

We as a society have become as one, yet strangly different. We have become homogenous, yet so many of us feel, think, want, live, "be", so differently then the next person.

We read, enjoy, contribute to sites such as /. and Kuro in hopes that we might belong, that our voice might be heard.

To johnny, then, I say keep up the honesty and the openess. You are being read...your voice is being heard...

...you are belonging in a community of Voices.


Thanks for your kind words (none / 0) (#34)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:26:53 AM EST

& I welcome your voice too.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Very well put. (none / 0) (#68)
by premchai21 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:44:27 PM EST

We as a society have become as one, yet strangly different. We have become homogenous, yet so many of us feel, think, want, live, "be", so differently then the next person.

Just my $0.02: there is a phrase I've heard which, if I interpret you correctly, describes this effect in three words: Unity in Diversity.

[ Parent ]
Subterfuge on the Internet (4.71 / 7) (#27)
by Cornelius on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:50:38 AM EST

"The easiest solution to this dilemma is to opt out; to treat the K5 diary as a place to play postmodern ironic games, to troll, to lie, to fuck around, to revel in cleverness, to invent fictional selves."

Perhaps also a lie is telling? What kind of lies do we make? Why do we lie? Recently I came to think of the ramifications of our "culture of success" and I believe that this idea might explain why people lie and why people lie in the way they do. What I mean by "culture of success" is simply an idea, culturally reified notion that there are some things that are more desireable to achieve in life than others. "Success" is then a set of achievements: for instance academic degrees, wealth, material possessions (antiques, expensive carpets, cars, and technical gadgets), beauty, fitness, social standing and what not.

To properly understand the issue I outlined above we must ask ourselves: what happens to people who do not achieve "success"? What frustrations does it give birth to? What behavior? In some cases people perhaps day-dream, or work harder, or cut their losses and try to feel content with what they've got, or achieve the dream in part every now and then - when they treat themselves to the luxuries and the sense of freedom they dream of (going for a vacation, buying a new car, having an affair, bidding for an oil painting at an auction - secretly dreaming that they'll get it, yet also fearing that they will). In many cases I think frustration sets in and people feel that life is lacking something. It didn't turn out like they wanted it to. They feel limited, bound or inhibited by the situation they're in.

A way of achieving a sense of freedom from these limitations is I believe made available through the web, where people can play the part of anyone, and still be anonymous. You can be rude, sexually explicit, etc., without having to be inhibted by the "role" we play (unaware or not) in social life, professionally, or in the family. To take other people's feelings, ideas and opinion of oneself into consideration can be inhibiting and even down-right limiting, especially when people's idea of you is simplistic or perhaps mistaken... But on the other hand we know that such considerations to some extent is an intrinsic part of life. To be truly "free", i.e. to act without inhibition is ultimately a psychotic experience.

So to summarize: many of the middle-class gents and ladies who surf the internet - taking new roles are acting out a game where they're stretching some of the boundaries in their lives (set up mainly by themselves but also by others) - can perhaps feel a thrill, especially when they are acting out aggression or libidinous desires, for instance when chatting romantically with an unknown "prince" or "princess", or when viewing porn.

When I think of all of this, I ask myself is this good or bad? Is it tragic to act out fantasies on the Internet, we don't dare do in real life - or is it just human? Since the blissful state of success is almost out of reach, if achievable at all, are we left daydreaming and roleplaying to, for a brief moment, feel a sense of freedom, even a freedom from our selves?


"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
I agree, but there's more (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:25:37 AM EST

I agree with everything you say, but there's more to it.

In my own case, for example, my "johnny" internet persona isn't too far from the normal me (I think?). You can find my real name and address without too much trouble, and I've certainly established friendships in the meat world that began on the Internet.

Thoreau said, (I think it wat Thoreau?) "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." I cannot speak for most men, but for myself that statement was a whole lot more true 8 years ago than it is today. Then I went through a "mid-life crisis" to beat the band (you can read about it here, if you want); I wrote a novel, I stopped drinking too much. At the end of this embarassing and godawful crisis, which nearly destroyed my family, I came out a much healthier man, and my family is a much healthier family. I don't feel desperate at all (though I wish I had more money in the bank).

I may tend to the overly earnest, but I really do try to balance earnestness with playfulness. But the one thing I do not want to be is ironic or detatched. Life is too short to waste it on cleverness that alienates. I prefer connection.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Graphomania (3.66 / 6) (#28)
by joecool12321 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:51:12 AM EST

I was first introduce to Milan Kundera through The Unbearable Lightness of Being. However, his book The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is absolutely fantastic. His theory of graphomania is of particular interest. (Unfortunately, the book is not right in front of me, but I think I remember fairly well.) I'll attempt to flesh out the theory, and apply it (as best as possible) to k5.

Kundera agues that the writer, in modern culture, writes for nobody. He brilliantly illustrates his argument through an illustration involving the main character, Tamina. She has gone to the zoo, and walks past the ostriches.

Now bunched up and pressing against the fence, they stretched out their long necks, stared, and opened their straight, broad bills. They opened and closed them feverishly, with unbelievable speed, as if they were trying to outtalk one another. But these bills were hopelessly mute, making not the slightest sound.
He argues that the writer writes for no one. The writer must express him or herself, even though the emptiness of space consumes the feeble whisper. It is the case that "in space, no one can hear you scream," but scream we must, for we are all writers, all graphomaniacs, given we meet the conditions of Kundera's theory.

Kundera's theory relies on three things:
1. General physical health and mental well-being.
2. A sufficiently high degree of cultural atomization.
3. The author must reside in a "boring" country. (Kundera claims that France has 21 (IIRC) times the number of authors as does Israel, because France is, in a few more words, boring.)

I think k5 is a haven for acute graphomaniacs (and I'm one, too).


Interesting, but. . . (none / 0) (#32)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:12:28 AM EST

Writing and publishing are two different things. I wrote a novel. I could have put it in my sock drawer when it was done, but I didn't. I published it. Likewise I publish my diary here in order to connect. I like to get comments and I like to see how people vote in my polls.

As to the boringness and lack of compelling reason to do anything at all in the modern consumerist state, well, I think he's onto something there.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

What exactly is the motivation... (3.50 / 8) (#29)
by bc on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:19:25 AM EST

...for keeping a public diary in which private thoughts and the private, inner life are revealed to random strangers? I have never understood this, it is thoroughly alien to me and smacks of horrid, whiny self absorbtion.

♥, bc.
Self-absorbtion, maybe. Now about the rest. . . (none / 0) (#31)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:08:13 AM EST

I don't think my diaries are horrid; I think they're kind of cool. I have one or two entries that are whiney, I guesss, but generally they're upbeat or playful. I think that holds true for most of the other diarists here.

As for why I do it, I don't know all the reasons. That's why I wrote this story, because it's interesting to examine the phenomenon.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Another thing... (none / 0) (#46)
by Elendale on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:07:20 AM EST

One of the interesting (perhaps semi-unique) things about K5 diaries (probably online diaries in general) is that you can make connection with people who you can talk to, but who will most likely have very little impact on your life. Want to talk about your drug problem, but don't feel like telling anyone in your life yet? I suppose it's a bit like extra-cheap counseling :)

Or maybe it's just a place to make bad puns about a guy named "mr goat" and a certain (now defunct) website.


When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

[ Parent ]
another thing to this thing (none / 0) (#61)
by mami on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:15:04 PM EST

Your comment also reminds me to look at another argument about the FoS rights being the guarantor of freedom.

If one looks through a K5 diary entry for some stranger's therapeutic input, for example, it's the positive aspect of talking openly to strangers, getting a well intentioned answer from a stranger, and going on with life. The stranger's influence on your life AND on the problem you talked about with him most probably is very minimal, if not zero.

The same thing works the other way around too, I think. People say, because, millions of people can speak freely and be heard freely on the internet, this medium is an important political vehicle (FoS as guarantor of freedom). Yet, the question is, does it really mean that your free speech has any more influence on the public policies as the therapeutic input from strangers on your private life ?

We can talk all day long it most probably does nothing to influence the political representatives, who write laws and the couple of judges, who decide if the laws they write are constitutional.

Sorry to be a bit off topic. It just came to my mind, because I wrestle with the whole FoS rights issue a lot these days.

[ Parent ]
Keeping a diary would be great... (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by Tau on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:42:59 AM EST

...then again, I've got a very boring life... certainly nothing worth writing about. Want an example? ok, well, what did I do yesterday.... today it's my mother's birthday so me and my father decided to get her a new mobile phone to replace the beaten up old one. Bought that, then to complement that I spent a few hours writing a perl script to access a railway timetable, parse out all the HTML and spit out a WML format summary page accessible from a mobile phone. Also spent a while talking to Orange (GSM network provider) trying to get them to enable WAP services on my and my mother's SIM, however it's too old or something. Today, more of the same, did a bit more C++ on this other project I'm doing; almost finished its async socket multiplex layer. Played seiken densetsu 3 a bit...

Yes I know you're asleep by now. Do you REALLY want me to go on? ;) imagine a few more pages of this sort of drivel, I live in the middle of nowhere, my life is crap, its substance is more or less sufficient to keep me entertained, but a third party? hardly.

Then again I'm not even old enough to be in college yet. Maybe life's supposed to be this crap. Then again it's not like I've got the experience to back that statement up.

It's interesting enough (none / 0) (#50)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:20:53 AM EST

I think it's interesting and valuable to take stock of where you are, where you've been, where you hope you're going. I think it's interesting to read other peoples' accounts of where they're at.

For example, I think your statemenet above was interesting enough. I have some sense of who you are; I like that. No I wouldn't want to read 48 pages of same in one sitting, but I find most k5 diaries, which are a lot like what you just wrote, to be worthwhile reading.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Do What I've Started Doing (none / 0) (#59)
by Anoymous 22666 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:51:56 PM EST

You could do what I've started doing. My life is very boring, because I don't know too many people here and I don't do that much. (Moved away from my hometown.)

Don't write everyday. Write when you feel you've got something to say. And don't second-guess yourself - some things that are boring can even be made interesting with a little spin on it. And then, you entertain yourself by writing it as well. It becomes a bit of a mental exercise for you to turn your boring life into something worth reading.

Example: my job (boring as hell) requires that I maintain programs in PowerBuilder, a programming environment made by Sybase. So, I've decided that I'm going to start collecting reasons why I hate Sybase software, and make a diary entry my experiences with crappy Sybase products. It could be relatively neat (for programmers), and it really just a different view on the daily dullness that is my life. They don't have to be extremely personal, just something that you want to write about.

I just farted... And I blame the fiction section. - Psycho Les

[ Parent ]
part of life (none / 0) (#72)
by ChannelX on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:37:35 PM EST

is thinking other people's lives are so much more interesting or different. I'll let you in on a little secret I've learned: in most cases they're not. Everyone's life is "boring". I put that in quotes because nobody really has a boring life. You might have stages of boredom but life in general is a very interesting thing. If you're not old enough to be in college yet you haven't had a chance to experience much. You're in the second stage of your life. It is funny how things seem to move so slowly when you're a teenager and how, as you get older, they really speed up. Trust me on this. Enjoy what you have now...your life will never be the same later.

As to what you wrote I found it interesting. Shows youre pretty smart and like programming. Thats where you are right now. Enjoy it.

[ Parent ]

"Diary" (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by ucblockhead on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:57:57 AM EST

I think the diary section is a bit misnamed, though I've not a better name for it. "Diary" implies personal and private, everything the Kuro5hin diary section is not. It is much closer akin to a group of people bullshitting at the water cooler, for me at least.

Or perhaps people bullshitting at the water cooler while someone makes a permanent record.

Half the reason I write these damn entries is that I know what a hoot they are going to be for me in ten years.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

There you go & diary as email (none / 0) (#47)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:13:30 AM EST

And I wonder when I look back if I think I spent not enough time or too much doing this.

Here's another thing I should have put somewhere: my living situation is that I rent a room near my job in Cambridge Massachusetts during the week, and I only see my wife (& youngest daughter, who still lives with us; older two have moved out, basically) on weekends. So I also use my diary as a way of communicating with her. It's kind of like public-key email, I guess.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

and letters as diary (none / 0) (#74)
by Kellnerin on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:53:13 PM EST

Many summers ago, I spent a month in the south of France at an obscure internship. It was a weird time for me, and what with the knowing no-one in town (and having some pretty mind-bending experiences when I did happen to meet people), I spent a lot of time in the dorm room I was living in. During the course of the month I wrote many letters -- I came damn close to going through my entire address book alphabetically, writing just about anyone who was reasonably likely to still be at the same address, sometimes renewing correspondence that had lapsed for a year or more, but most often I wrote my college roommate, who was spending the summer in Beijing. Each week we exchanged letters; I'd mail mine and later the same day I'd find one in my mailbox. There's a fairly complete record of that month in those letters, but I don't have them, or know where they are ... in a way it's strangely liberating.

--got to be a way to make it sweeter, little more like lemon meringue--
[ Parent ]
a couple of stupid questions (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by etherdeath on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:18:11 AM EST

That was a really interesting read and I don't really have much intelligent to say or ask, but I was wondering: How are you "nearly Kaczynskian technoparanoiac and hermit"? Maybe you're a hermit. You say you're a geek and this here is a big geek website. Maybe you ocassionally get what seems like strong whimsical ideas about giving up all techology? But, if you haven't exactly acted on these whims, I don't see how you can be nearly a technoparanoiac. Also, I have trouble seeing how you have a strong desire for privacy when you're here posting details about your life. Maybe it's private because nobody can track down who you are? I think most people want privacy in most aspects of their life, so you can see how it might hard to imagine how your desire for privacy is strong compared to the norm.

I guess I'm conflicted (none / 0) (#52)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:38:51 AM EST

After 15 years in the computer business, I dropped out for about 7 years. Now I'm back in it, big time. During my dropout years I went for a long time without a telephone and television and so forth, and was nowhere near the internet. My jobs included truck driver and construction laborer.

My formal training was in agricultural economics, and I have spent good chunks of time in Senegal, living in a mud hut, with no electricity, telephone, connection to the "modern" world (except radio).

My novel is in some sense a satire on the cult of technology, although it is written for geeks and contains a lot of technical detail. It begins with an epigraph from Kaczynski's manifesto. I agree with a lot of what kackzynski wrote, and I am very sympathetic to Bill Joy's famous piece from Wired magazine, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us." I am also a big fan of Steve Talbott, of Netfuture . I really do have a dread of much technology, and of technological determinism. But I guess it's my universe, so I live in it.

As for saying I care about privacy, I guess I would say that I am very upset by the taking of my private information-- by corporations, by government, by blackhat crackers, etc. However there is some amount of private information that I am willing to give away, at my discretion. It's a question of autonomy, the way I look at it.

Nevertheless, your main point, that I am self-contradictory, is true. I think that part of the reason that I play here at K5 is to examine my own paradoxes.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

does mass production factor in? (none / 0) (#80)
by etherdeath on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 06:15:18 AM EST

I sympathize with some anti-technology sentiments. I find it hard to imagine computers making humans obsolete. I've coded a few folks out of their jobs, but, maybe to make myself feel better about it, I've thought that the jobs were very mundane to begin with. I also probably haven't seen quite as much as you have, or worked on as complex projects - my job stealing code mostly relates to data entry.

I'm a computer programmer and I like to think my skills lie mostly in general problem solving, not anything necessarily particular to computer programming. I like to think people are the main driving force behind everything.

My thing is with mass production, and in this area I might be nearly Kaczynskian in the strength of my views. Recently a friend of mine was casually talking about how he might have to let go his 40 employees if he has to switch businesses from mass producing a fairly basic electrical component to making something totally different as shoes. As he was explaining to me how the Chinese make his product for less, and at less, but evidently acceptable, quality, I felt it hard to feel sorry for his problems. I got to thinking about my general anti-mass production feelings and found why I don't like it on many levels.

I go as far as to think mass production is one of the main sources (or side effects?) of problems in this world. Mass production separates us. I don't know if it has to work this way, but it seems to remove vested interest out of business relationships. Company A selling item X doesn't deal with a problem Company B has with item X, because they feel it's not worth the trouble to customize. Later on, Company B fails during a tough but normally manageable season because of the extra effort needed to deal with item X.

I don't know if this scenario has played out many times in reality, but the concept of people not taking the time to deal with each other's differences is the main theme I'm getting at. Of course, it's easy to see that concept is active in our society at many levels, and some of them more personal - health care and mental care. I suggested to my friend the he get into custom work; he has an EE degree. This didn't especially appeal to him. I also think the bottom line wouldn't be as big. I think the issue is many people want to take their great idea or their industry-specific knowledge and mass produce it and the less they have to think about it again or the less they have to update themselves on industry changes - the better. I suppose on its on, that sounds harmless and expected. But it's also what makes me particularly unsympathetic to the cries of a mass production business failing.

I also realize it's the buyer's fault as well. People could spend more money to hire someone to make the customized item X, but they rather try to cut corners. Reading your reply got me thinking more about that, and now I wonder if people's willingness to buy the cheaper, mass produced item is part of why technology can replace us. Does accepting to be one of a monotonous amalgam of shoppers makes it easy for expert systems to predict our behavior? Technology and mass production aren't the same thing, but they often come together. New technology rolls around, and now there's another aspect of your life mostly catered to by a generic product. Does that really make it easier for a person to be quantified? Computers aren't taking our spots as consumers yet, but many jobs (all jobs?) are made to deal with the irregularities of consumers, and those jobs might be taken.

Well heck, you're writing a book about it. I hope following the thoughts of an amateur wasn't too painful.

[ Parent ]
Not painful at all (none / 0) (#89)
by johnny on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 09:35:57 PM EST


Reading your post was not painful at all; I quite enjoyed it. However, because I am a lazy lazy boy, rather than respond directly to your points, I will steer you to netfuture a website that discusses your very insights. I pretty much agree with everything that Steve (the editor of the site) says.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

thanks (none / 0) (#92)
by etherdeath on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:07:17 PM EST

Interesting site. I haven't explored it enough to find anything about mass production specifically yet, but I'll check it out more soon.

[ Parent ]
What is being vulnerable. (5.00 / 2) (#53)
by Teukels on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:39:33 AM EST

In my view people who render themselves vulnerable by writing very honest diary entries recognise peers in the kuro5hin audience. (ie. The mere existance of the poll functionality is to gauge the views of the writer.)

The peerness of the readers, not just total strangers as some imply, makes you (in your view) equal(ish) to the audience.

I once had a very bad period (approx. 2 years of which atleast one half year I felt really really bad.) I decided to keep a public diary in which I was far too honest. Consequently I was 'attacked' and asked questions about all sorts of things I thought and did.

Privacy has a function, and that function has a lot to do with constituting ones existing beliefsystem. The mind is not a scientific paradigm, it is more vulnerable than that. (atleast mine is..)
You need your beliefsystem to be reliable enough for daily use. Trying out stuff 'postmodernistic' on K5 is no problem but, thats my humble advice and opinion, do not let your _entire_ existence be 'trialed' / gauged on K5.

This is what I think intuition is all about. One needs to be able to trust his/her heuristic / intuition and not be troubled by all sorts of thoughts and reservations about ones intuition.

Problem solved, for me (4.75 / 4) (#54)
by epepke on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:41:08 PM EST

Almost a decade ago, I had an experience that set me up for a total disclosure policy. There was a private mailing list I was on, started primarily to share feelings over the suicide of a mutual friend. There were some people outside the mailing list who were, to me, horrifyingly ghoulish about this suicide, and we shared our feelings about that, too.

Eventually, some pigfucking waste of DNA broke into the mailing list, changed some of the entries, and presented it publically as evidence of some Nefarious Cabal. I had just read David Brin's Earth, and the experience quite resonated with one of the early stories in that book (if you read it, you know which one.)

I then made a decision. If nothing is effectively private, then I will bloody well control the form of the disclosure, and not some humanoid creature who is not worth the carbon in his body, compressed into charcoal.

I never disclose the secrets of others or trade secrets, but everything personal that I would disclose to anybody is somewhere on a disk at Google. Have people gotten upset over that? Sure. Inevitably, some obsessive who has just met me will go on a fishing expedition, find something I wrote two or five or more years ago and get all bent out of shape over it. My attitude is, well, boo fucking hoo. If someone can't deal with the fact that I am like every other human being on the planet inasmuch as I sometimes have emotions not written by Disney and have done things that I wouldn't do now, then that person is obviously not worth my time.

I don't know your wife, but it seems to me that someone who has stuck to you for two decades is probably not one of those people. You don't divulge her secrets, but obviosly you have a life, and there is a wife in it. If you talk about that life which has a wife in it, and she goes ballistic, then what exactly were those 21 years all about anyway?

One clause in your message particularly struck me: because the echoes of Anne's affair with me have doomed, by her account, at least one long-term lesbian relationship. My "Anne" was named "Mimi," although she changed it to "Mims" and it was originally "Mary." She saved me from despair, massive wrongness, and possibly even death once, and I will always love her. But seriously, if Anne's relationships end, it isn't your fault. Despite all the PR, lesbians are just as screwed up as heterosexuals are. In particular, they tend to elevate jealousy to a degree that make the Japanese bushido look like slap-and-tickle by comparison. It's their problem. If they ever give it up, they will be in a position to be congratulated for it, but they're not entitled to shift charge for its effects.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

Thanks and clarifications (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:01:01 PM EST

My wife and I get along well and understand each other--sometimes nearly telepathicly. That's what those 21 years are about. In fact we like each other, I dare say, to an extraordinary degree. In any working marriage each partner has some degree of automy, and I just happen to work out my autonomy boundries in k5 discussions. But there are no question marks about my marriage. I am serenely comfortable in it.

The point I that I've been trying to make about my visit to Tucson was just that the emotions involved were very very strong. It's not that I was thinking I was going to show up on Anne's doorstep and whoosh, 27 years melt away and we run off arm in arm to Tahiti leaving the rest of our worlds in dismay.

It's just so very odd, and interesting, and actually nice to be the age we are (Anne, Betty, and I); to have complex histories and complex adult relationships, and to actually be comfortable in the complexities and odd twists of life. Even all the old pain is interesting in a scientific-specimin kind of way, because it's all old old stuff, no longer painful, and I'm very happy where I am. If I were in an unhappy marriage and were going to see an old girlfriend and full of regret over a wasted life or some such, then that would have been a much different experience. But it's not like that at all, although I don't know how to explain what it is like. It's just good, and it makes me think about the nature of time, love, friendship, and like that there.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Glad to hear it (none / 0) (#65)
by epepke on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:05:37 PM EST

That's what I expected, pretty much. People generally don't stay together for 21 years unless there's something going.

I hear you about the age. I am a sapling of a mere forty summers, and it's a hell of a lot better than thirty. As for myself, I'm about to move in with a woman I've known for 16 years. I find, more and more, that the number of genuine human beings is incredibly small compared to the number of human bodies that are walking around. Perhaps this is changing, or perhaps I am becoming more aware of it, or perhaps I'm just getting crotchety and am no longer so willing to suffer fools gladly, or even at all. So it goes.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
I hear you. Ah, but one thing... (1.25 / 4) (#75)
by _cbj on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:49:07 PM EST

When you turned up in Tucson, did you fuck this Anne chick or what?

[ Parent ]
The Whole Truth (4.50 / 2) (#56)
by mami on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:50:46 PM EST

I like your article a lot, because I have given that some thought too, and observed my own reactions of comments when using the diary here on K5.

I haven't read your diaries, but reading the description of your conflict to write in K5 about Anne and Betty etc, I am inclined to ask the following: (I hope you don't take this as an offense)

If you write about all your inner conflicts, protecting Betty's privacy and the urge to have us look over your shoulder and give our opinion about "seeing Anne again or not" stuff, is there a possibility that Betty in fact COULD read your K5 diary or that you hope (without telling her you write this diary on K5) that she MIGHT read it, because you would like her to know in what kind of conflict you are ?

I don't remember, which writer it was (Kafka and his wife?), but both wrote supposedly diaries, which the other one wasn't supposedly going to know about and read, but both "incidentically" made it possible that the other one could find out what they had written in their respective "private" diaries. AFAIR, none of them was telling the other, if indeed they did know and had read what the other person wrote. They let "God" be one who decided upon "the accidental discovery of the diary" and used it as a tool, which could possibly reveal "the truth about their thoughts vis a vis each other".

I think if you use the diary option on K5, there is no moment, where you could ever forget that there is NO person, who would NOT be able to read it. In other words, your wife Betty and the Secret Service is as likely a reader of your comments. The urge of Rusty and others to put the archives on CD or whatever to prevent this "piece of history" from getting lost, is a sort of a voyerist's urge to "collect history".

That is not meant as any offense towards Rusty, please. I am as much a voyerist reading other people's diaries as I am a willing participant to give you a piece of my thoughts to prey on. So, we are all in the same game. I believe that in fact anybody, who writes here, is at least somewhere aware of the fact that he is playing a part in a game, revealing more thoughts about anything and himself to anybody you would do in a face to face encounter.

The fact that you are aware of this makes your comments less truely "The Whole Truth" than any entry in a real private paper diary would, which you really keep in a lockbox to be found only after your death.

I find myself writing diaries or comments on K5 about subjects, I get upset about. I am aware that anybody who wants to enrage me, will be able to get more out of me than I might have wanted to give away. But I am aware of it at the same time. So it's a tricky game and sometimes played dirty. Playing dirty is then the part, where I get really upset. That's were the set-up and the whole issue of "keeping the piece of history on CD for our grandchildren" gets a bit doubtful. Unless you find the fact that we are looking upon ourselves discussing our own dirty "play game tricks" a valuable piece of history in itself. This is the Meta-Meta-Meta-history-searching-archiving game.

I think the reason you write in K5 diaries and elsewhere, is because you want to find "The whole Truth" . You are aware that it never really can happen to find it, so we go on looking out for it. You will continue to write on K5, until life prevents you from doing so, because we have an urge to find truth, which can't be silenced. At least I think so.

Clarification (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by johnny on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:10:15 PM EST


Please see my clarification, below. One crucial point that I have failed to keep get across is that my good wife Betty does read my K5 diaries. She likes them. She doesn't comment on them because that's the way she is. But God forbid that I would share stuff like this with a million strangers and NOT with her. Never.

The thing about Tucson was like this: I knew I would be going to attend the O'Reilly conference, and I knew that Anne lived there. I hadn't seen her since forever. So I asked Betty if I should go stay with Anne to save on the hotel bill. She said, "Sure, good idea."

But I wasn't sure that I wanted to, because I was aware that 20 years ago this had been a source of discomfort to her. So I thought, maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie. And I wrote about it in my K5 diary.

So Betty read that, and she said, "You idiot, what are you worrying about? Go see her, and send her my love." But still I was nervous, because of all the things that I wrote about.

I wish that I had done a bette job of explaining this. Oh well.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

A clarification as well (none / 0) (#60)
by mami on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:53:50 PM EST

I didn't want to imply with my example to actually mean, that your personal situation was anything like this Kafka-esque situation. I thought more of it as trying to point out something else with it. I am sorry that it didn't get through.

Your question in the article, if I understand it correctly, was in how far the lack of privacy inhibits using K5 diaries. And I wanted to point out that it has an inhibiting aspect as well as an addictive one.

The inhibitive one, I think, is the fact, that you are vulnerable to people messing around with your open and sometimes private comments in a way that hurts, so you think of dropping it.

The potentially addictive one is, I think, that, as said before, people try look for "the whole truth" and want to be as open as they can about their own thoughts and hope for as much response as they can get to find "the whole truth". And of course truth hides in jokes and it can be very funny as well.

I hope I clarified my intention as well. Sorry for being not clear enough.

[ Parent ]
Freud would be proud (none / 0) (#63)
by zantispam on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:42:33 PM EST

I wish that I had done a bette job of explaining this. Oh well.

That first parsed to me as 'Betty' as opposed to 'better'. Good show :-)

Free Duxup!
[ Parent ]
what a feeling that must be (none / 0) (#73)
by ChannelX on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:48:05 PM EST

But I wasn't sure that I wanted to, because I was aware that 20 years ago this had been a source of discomfort to her. So I thought, maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie. And I wrote about it in my K5 diary. So Betty read that, and she said, "You idiot, what are you worrying about? Go see her, and send her my love."
Incredible. Obviously its been quite a long time since these events happened (20+ years) but I read that and said to myself "wow...that rocks....that history but your wife is secure and happy and she knows that *you* are as well so its a non-issue". that rocks.

[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#87)
by johnny on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 09:00:38 PM EST

I am quite a fortunate man. Thanks for your post.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]
Polling option missing (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by mami on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:31:41 PM EST

I think you need another option. I write in K5 diary space, because I have the feeling it's more polite to get into arguments with people, you didn't really want to argue with, in your diary space than on the front page's comment threads.

As soon as you start saying something "unpopular" and you get caught by certain types of people and the discussion gets into "horseshit" type of comments mode, it's a bit less awful if that happens in diary space.

I would add an option:

I write into K5 diary space, because I don't like to get beaten up in public K5 space. (nonsense, but what isn't)

A bit OT, but... (4.00 / 2) (#64)
by bunsen on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:43:33 PM EST

Was I the only one who was surprised that the link to his favorite philosopher wasn't pointed at duxup's diary? Well, anyway, that little surprise inspired my new .sig, proudly displayed below. I'm a bit worried, though, that somebody else has already used something like it. A quick search didn't show anything, but it seems like something that should have been said before.

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
I have a similar problem... (4.00 / 2) (#67)
by premchai21 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:36:49 PM EST

I would like to be perfectly open.

Really. I would like to just serialize whatever thoughts, feelings, etc. I happen to have into whatever media -- text, music, whatever fits the particular piece of information best. I might get flamed a bit, but I can easily choose to ignore it...

... except when I can't. There exist people on whom I currently depend for the basics of life, on whom I must currently depend, and whom I cannot safely ignore for that reason. They being not perfect, I cannot trust that I will not receive crushing retribution for that which they may take as unwell, rationally or not.

All of which results in having to project a sort of illusion of normalcy, normal being defined relative to both parental units, which, they being almost diametrically opposed, is quite a thin line, if I may mix my metaphors.

I'm going out on a limb even posting this :-)

Online diaries == validation (sometimes) (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by webwench on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:43:33 PM EST

I always failed at keeping a paper diary because
  1. when I was a teenager, any honest diary would get me locked into a closet for life if it was found by my mother;
  2. unless it is being shared, a paper diary is written in a vacuum really; I suppose some of us more than others best gauge the appropriateness of our emotions and actions by the reactions others have;
  3. hand-writing a paper diary takes me too long and leads to hand-cramps;
  4. all the obvious things about inability to search, inability to link, no automatic dating of entries, etc.

I've done well with online diaries, and seem able to be more honest in them, because

  1. I'm trying harder to express myself clearly and accurately when I know there'll be an audience, no matter how limited;
  2. most (although not all) of the time, responses tend to validate my writings, and it reassures me that I'm not as wacky as sometimes I think I am;
  3. they seem easier to write -- faster and more effortless to write in a medium where there is no such thing as messy handwriting, where you can cut-copy-paste, where the ink doesn't smudge;
  4. although it is more public if it is online, it seems more private somehow from the people that matter most (especially if you use a pseudonym and keep full names out of your diary entries).

I've has an OpenDiary diary for some time, and that's where most of my more-personal and more-ranty entries go. Unfortunately, they are no longer accepting new members at the free OpenDiary. I'm still a bit more cautious here.

resonances (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by johnny on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 09:30:16 PM EST

your point (2) resonates with my experience. On the one hand, I like the idea of pure privacy, a place where I can think out loud on paper, as it were. On the other hand, it tends to make the whole exercise solopistic and sterile.

As to your points about online diaries, I agree with points 1-3. Point 4 doesn't apply to me, as I do not keep an anonymous diary. (although the fact that it seems more private, paradoxically, is part of the phenomenon that prompted me to write this story in the first place.)

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

To Connect... (5.00 / 3) (#77)
by Signal 11 on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:55:05 PM EST

I too keep a diary, although it is offline now and kept in a scrapbook. I'm pretty depressed right now, and it's an effort to write in it... but I've got several years of entries and assorted writings, pictures, etc. I don't know what it is that makes me do it either.

Maybe it's because I'm better at writing than talking... somehow, when you see your own words staring right back at you, they seem more real. Maybe it's because words vanish into air, and live only in the collective memories of your friends, people who's lives you've touched. Which on some level makes them more special, and on another level less real. Maybe because I want a record of my life, because I feel it's important enough to warrant it. The idea that someone might find me interesting and unique always struck me as somehow odd. But maybe someone might want to know... and it would be a shame to not have some way to show them, untainted by how I feel in the here and now.

It's a chronical of history as well. The highs and lows of your relationships... how major life events impacted you... you can go back and look in the mirror. Things you are so sure about now, you didn't even have a clue about then. Growth and change never seemed so real as when you read your own words, and listen to them in your own voice in your mind. Somehow, it is worth saving, worth preserving. My writing is a way not only of helping myself to understand who I am, but other people too. I've shared my writings with my closest friends... not because I expected or wanted something back, but because I had something to give.

I don't know that any of the above makes much sense, but it's how I look at it. My own personal bible, I guess. Reminders of lessons learned, of things long forgotten. I don't remember the first time I ever had sex... but my diary does. I keep certain songs on special CDs I've made... because they remind me of certain things I was doing when I listened to them, or the words that the artist is speaking, somehow reach out and touch me. I consider those part of my diary as well.

I wrote a letter to myself on December 31st of this past year, to help further some of these goals... it was a statement of who I believed myself to be, what was going on right now. Right now, I feel I am facing some pretty hard problems to solve. A year from now, they might seem trivial, but for right now, they are crushing in their impact and urgency. Somehow, part of me wanted to write that letter so that a year from now, I'd still have a reason to be around: Just to read it and say... I'm not this person anymore.

I suppose, on some level, you're right about connecting with other people... validation or what-not. I'm not sophisticated enough to have words for these things, all I know is that by talking to someone you feel better.. and that writing is on some level another way of releasing some strange kind of energy so that it can get on with it's purpose in life, rather than remaining static within you. When I finish writing in my diary, you can almost feel that energy leaving.

Ultimately, that's why I do it... and sorry if it seems too mystical, I haven't the words to make it clearer. Do what makes you feel good... it's justification enough.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

My $0.02. (none / 0) (#81)
by Icehouseman on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:09:35 PM EST

Yesterday while I was at my parent's house I was looking around in my old room for something my mom wanted me to find. Among the large unruly mess I found an old journal I kept for about 2 years from the end of 8th grade to the middle of 10th grade. The point is that it was very boring. Except the end where I tail off and only write one about once a year and the last one where I tell how I just got back from Germany after my senior year of high school.

I think that at some point in the future I will start to read my old diary entries here and find them to be just pointless bantering and self pity, like I found my old one to be.
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory

Keep your e-mail, skip the diary (none / 0) (#82)
by greggman on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:49:44 PM EST

Actaully, if you want to write a diary, that's cool. More power to you.

But, for me, I just keep ALL OF MY E-Mail. ALL OF IT. I have all e-mail from the last 9 years or so. I write way more in my e-mail than I ever would in my diary. I suppose I might write a few things in my diary that I would tell no one but otherwise, my history is in all that e-mail.

Just an idea.

I do likewise (none / 0) (#84)
by EasyRhino on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:46:59 PM EST

I, too, keep all my email as a form of a diary. I also used to keep all my receipts which I could go and look back on and remember what I was doing or thinking when I bought the item or paid for dinner. But along with the email I keep a hodge-podge of random thoughts and experiences in text files. Some day I am going to organize everything into chronological order so that it will be a book of sorts and will probably be much more detailed than anything I could maintain by just simply writing.

[ Parent ]
Me to but which client? (none / 0) (#90)
by dannu on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 12:11:32 PM EST

I keep my email too and have currently 3500 mails in my inbox (since may last year). I am still looking for a good email client which helps me to cope with these amounts. i don't want to delete much and i don't like folders. probably i am the only person having this strange combinations of wishes :-)

[ Parent ]
mutt + discipline (none / 0) (#91)
by fluffy grue on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:01:56 AM EST

First, my .muttrc (well, the important part): set folder=~/Mail
set postponed=+postponed-msgs
set editor='vim "+set textwidth=75"
# hack to get all files in Inbox/ listed as a mailbox :)
source 'echo mailboxes `find ~/Inbox -type f -mtime -3` |'
set record="=sent-mail-`date +%Y-%m`"
set mbox="=read-msgs-`date +%Y-%m`"
I use procmail to filter various things (mostly mailinglists, but also certain people who I want to have fair warning about having email from, e.g. my mom) into folders in Inbox/. Anything not caught by a filter goes into my usual UNIX mailbox. Every now and then I let mutt transfer my inbox to the 'mbox' folder (which is conveniently aliased as '>' as a mutt builtin thing), or I'll manually move stuff which I don't need immediately into >. This makes a lot of things easier, since if I'm searching on something and have a general idea of when it was, I can just search on the month(s) which it may be in (for example, I can grep on Mail/read-msgs-2001-0[5-9] if I'm sure it was sometime between May and September of 2001).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

"The Whole Truth" versus privacy in the K5 Diary | 92 comments (86 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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