Mike Levin SEO

Future-proof your technology-skills with Linux, Python, vim & git... and me!

Use Your Inside Writing Voice

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 02/16/2010

It’s snowing outside today (again) here in New York, and because of President’s Day, is going to be a short week. Maybe because of that little slice of spare time, I’m thinking a lot about blogging again. Right now, I’m typing away in VIM at work into an SSH terminal to my home-server. I’m thinking about and planning the week, and I can feel myself thinking in a different voice than I use for blogging. I figure I’ll make an exception here, and transition into my work-time private voice into my discretionary-time public-speaking blog voice in order to make a good blog post.

One of the most important issues I had to resolve over the years was channels for writing and publishing/non-publishing. Competitive advantage comes from thinking out loud, in a way that journal-style writing forces you to do. Yeah, it’s a lot like talking to yourself. But it’s also a technique to force yourself to recognize and think-through issues in a different way, which generally makes you better prepared and less surprised by the trials and tribulations of life–both in personal and professional life.

And with writing as a competitive advantage, there are two types of writing, the keeping separate of which I have always found as a stumbling-block on getting the full, optimal advantage of writing. You want it to both inform your behavior to make better decisions, but you also want to get some of it published, even if it’s blog self-published. But the two types of writing live in dangerously separate worlds. So the temptation is to build a firewall between the two, so there is no chance of information-leakage. But the problem there is that it’s in allowing the right amount of information to cross between the two worlds in the right way that makes it most interesting–exactly as I am doing now.

In the past, I’ve kept the worlds separate by the electronic-ness or non-electronic-ness of each. Specifically, the professional world was electronic, with my thoughts going into digital format, since that’s what I worked with most often at the office. It made it searchable, and it made it uniquely and surprisingly fragile. In personal life, I used paper notebooks, which are all with me today, but are incredibly limiting in terms of search-ability, speed-of-writing, space occupied, and a number of other factors. I might add that security issues such as privacy and back-ups are issues in both the paper and electronic worlds. Neither is a cure-all.

Recently, and the motivation for this post, is now that at nearly 40 years old, I’m figuring out the solution to this two-voice/two-media problem. And it’s not just me figuring it out. It’s also the world changing. Of course, I’m getting at an iPhone always being in my pocket. You might think I’m about to sing the praises of cloud-computing, and connecting the iPhone apps to documentation repositories like Google Docs–but no! Actually, the solution is what my opening of this blog post implies–running my own Linux server with a revision-control system.

This sounds super-geekish, and it is. Eventually, the world will catch up with some consumer product for the benefits this provides. But first and foremost, it frees me to use whatever voice I like in writing. I have no concerns about information-leakage into the cloud. Google is likely to run advertisements at you based on the content of your writing. They are not reading your documents per se, but just like they algorithmically scan your gmail to run ads, your deepest thoughts in docs are fair game as well. Really, the only option I’ve found in really secure (both in terms of backups and info leakage) is to put it on your own server with distributed revision-control.

The benefits of such a system, and why the pattern it establishes is such an important future-trend, will be the subject-matter for many posts here. Suffice to say for now, it solves the voice problem for the personal-journal style writing utterly and completely. You speak with the voice you wish to speak with. You access it from wherever you sit down. You employ the same encrypted security as business. You can have as many “instances” of it that you want–each encrypted in-turn, and each with the entire revision-history and inherent value as the original.

I’ll keep the discussion of the public-voice solution for a later post. Suffice to say, you can see a portion of it in action here, where you can seamlessly switch into that voice, and use it as an “extraction” from your private voice writings. It’s always deliberate, because you have to copy-and-paste it across unconnected systems. But because there’s server technology under there, if you wanted to create some innovative publishing scheme, you could.