On beginning a blog
One reason I’ve not started a blog until now is that I have never been particularly happy with my prose. I don’t enjoy writing where you can see the join. With some writers you can see the cogs working: you can visualise them sitting at their desk, pen in mouth, staring out of the window, reaching for the thesaurus, grasping for the right word. With some you could even describe their prose as laboured. But with others, the words seem to flow onto the page like cool clear water, straight out of their minds with no effort at all. I have been reading some modern fiction recently and in virtually all of it I found myself brought up short by a particular passage where I could hear the author in my head trying out this phrase and that, before picking the one that ended up on the page.
But I feel it would be good discipline for me to write something every few days, and a blog is nowadays the perfect vehicle for that. You might ask (indeed, I have asked myself): why add to the 100 trillion words*; already clogging up the internet? As a commenter on a TED2011 presentation said: ‘the dude is adding original content to the web, unlike the meaningless astroturf which is prevalent across many personal blogs.’
I do hope that this blog will not simply be “meaningless astroturf” but will contribute in some small way to the fount of human happiness, even if it’s just mine.
* However, a little research shows this widely-quoted figure is spurious. According to an article by Dean Takahashi published on 31 May 2007: ’Peter Norvig, the director of research at Google, gave an interesting speech about the meaning and power of all of the data that Google is collecting. I was floored by a fact he threw out. His educated guess is that the Internet is the repository of more than 100 trillion words. After the speech, I asked him how much it is growing. He said that it is growing about 10 percent to 20 percent a month. Some parts of it, however, are dying, so the net growth rate is less than that.’
Unfortunately this article is no longer available (although the summary of it is still available in the archives of The Mercury News). A little digging gives a selected transcription of the original speech in which it is clear that what Norvig actually said was: ‘It took at least 30 years to go from a linguistic text collection of 1 million words (106 words, Brown Corpus) to what we now have on Internet (around 100 trillion words (1014).’ So it appears that he was referring, not to the total number of words on the internet, but just to those in the scanned repository of Google books which is a very different kettle of fish!↑