Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Looking Back Down Explorer Street

From December last year to March this year I didn't post much to this blog. Part of the reason was that I was busy in Jan to mid-Feb preparing for my PhD confirmation (which I ended up passing) and then from late-Feb to late-March on holidays overseas.

The other reason was that I was working behind-the-scenes on a kind-of summary of what I'd written to this weblog, which I was hoping to finish and post before the end of last year. But the work on it blew out and I didn't get it finished. Still haven't.

I've realised I won't have time to do all that I originally intended, so what I'm going to do instead is take what I've done so far and post it in a piecemeal fashion. The structure isn't there to put it up all in one coherent post. I'll have to try doing things in a more organic fashion.

This is like another realisation of how much more it was going to take than I'd thought, on top of the realisation to that effect that I'd already made, as you'll read about below :-).

Here is the original description of what I was trying to do:

This post tries to create a coherent description covering, and linking to, the various things I've written so far on this blog. It tries to draw out the various concepts and topics that appear in those posts, to see how they relate to each other and to organise them into larger themes. It covers the period from August 2003, when I started the blog, to the present, December 2004.

The two reasons for this post are to provide a kind of index into what I've been writing about, and to help me to organise and clarify my thoughts on those topics. I started this blog with a morass of thoughts in my head that I really wanted to bring some more clarity to. I was pretty sure that there were connections between them, and themes running through them, but I had a lot of trouble seeing those with it just in my head or in the notes I'd tried writing down in the past. So I was hoping that the blog would, along with giving me some writing practice, help me get some of this clarity.

I thought that rather than trying to just write down my thoughts off the bat, I would work in a more bottom up fashion. I'd try to pick fairly small, focused things to write about, and try to give a fairly solid description of that thing, and hopefully by doing so get a clearer idea of the more general things I'd been thinking about. I think this strategy has worked fairly well, and this post is an extension of it, a kind of second sweep through, where I'm taking as raw material the posts I've written and trying to clarify and synthesise things.

That sounded relatively easy to me at the time, and I have to wonder when I am going to learn to disregard my intuitive judgement on how long things will take and how hard they will be, or at least learn to multiply these judgements by about fifteen. So things blew out a bit as I had to write and write and write in order to try and get some of that clarification and synthesis, and it was almost like re-writing each of those posts. If it was just a matter of summarising what I'd written, I could condense things down, but as the form of the ideas changed as I rewrote, I ended up with a lot of text.

Some caveats. My main purpose at the moment is simply to try and describe my thoughts, and I don't do much of a job of justifying the points I make. I wouldn't want you to think I'm just trying to assert these things without providing a good justification. I think I need to get it clearer what I'm actually saying before I can, or before it makes sense to, try and give that justification. And of course, in trying to give that justification for thoughts, it may turn out that a solid justification doesn't exist. Also, what I've written about so far is only bits and pieces of my thoughts, and it's not meant to be some sort of treatise on my-view-of-everything.

So after much ado, here's looking back down Explorer Street...

...and as you'll see, even though this started out as a kind-of summary, I ended up writing a lot of new stuff that hadn't been covered earlier.

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