Cross-Pollinating Ideas via the Internet

I was just leaving a comment on Richard Nikoley’s latest blog post, Vitamin K1 vs. Vitamin K2 concerning Natto, a fermented soy food from Japan that contains a huge amount Vitamin K2. I was specifically pointing out that fish gonads, which are considered to have a high K2 concentration, something I had learned over at Stephan Guyenet’s Whole Health Source: Seafood and K2, are absolutely dwarfed by the K2 concentration in natto^. I had first learned about natto and the importance of fermented foods via Seth Roberts’ blog (See his Fermented Food Category). Put differently, my comment took data from three different sources and presented it in a coordinated, collaborative manner.

Though this might not be the best term for it, I call these occurrences examples of the “cross-pollination” of ideas. It’s a collaborative, unpredictable, uncoordinated, complex effort whereby ideas and information gleaned from disparate sources are examined in relation to one another. It is knowing the trees and seeing the forest. The goal is to create more useful ideas and better information, and then spread this new knowledge far and wide. And do it over and over again. If this reminds you at all of evolutionary processes, not only are you catching my drift, you’re cross-pollinating.

Idea cross-pollination is amplified by the Internet. Historically, a powerful idea or discovery could languish in obscurity, the pet project of an experimenter who works in the silo of his own research. This was the case with Isaac Newton who had discovered/created calculus decades before it was made public.

Compare how calculus languished to the ideas contained within Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, a book written by a non-specialist (Taubes is a writer, not a scientist) that looks at an enormous amount of nutrition-related research, sees common threads across the data, and presents it all in once place, calling into question the mainstream nutrition mantra that low-fat is healthy, fat will kill you, and people are obese because they eat too much. GCBC was created by having the power to examine the research of a number of disparate specialists and see the big picture.

A book like GCBC is made possible by the Internet because it becomes much less likely that ideas remain within the dusty silos of specialists. The Internet takes curiosity, search, and a great deal of disparate computing power*, and uses them to spread ideas much, much faster. Non-specialists(like Taubes or me) then have the pleasure of making fortuitous discoveries of connections across specialties.

Of course, the means by which cross-pollination is accomplished are unpredictable: we can’t plan a course to find them. All we can do is cast a wide net, examine a lot of ideas, follow our curiosity, and let our organic pattern recognition software do it’s thing. This is very much a “learn by doing, then by thinking” concept. If we dabble in this gamble enough, every once in awhile, we will hit the idea jackpot.

Mind, the idea of idea cross-pollination isn’t really an external process across disparate people, at all. To the extent that we learn ideas, we store copies** of them in our brains, forever taking the ideas with us (A reason legal boundaries around mental concepts is fundamentally absurd). Indeed, it seems that the majority of my intellectual growth has been predicated on being able to cross-pollinate within these internalized knowledge stores. I am always trying to reconcile previously learned ideas with new ones. In this way my organic human network, a human brain, is mimicked by the inorganic mesh of networks we call the Internet.

In sum, cross-pollination of ideas has always been occurring — it is a human specialty, warts and all. Thanks to the Internet, it’s happening more, and we’re getting an explosion of ideas/concepts/knowledge as a result.

^ It seems that Natto is an obscure bastion of nutrition, which may be due to the fact that it (apparently) doesn’t taste the greatest. I’ve yet to get my hands on any as it is exceedingly hard to find. Rest assured, I will be eating some just as soon as I get a chance to check out the only Japanese grocery store in Atlanta.

* As in, human minds that work to understand and pull together the data they discover.

** Albeit imperfect, frequently mutated copies, but this, again, can make for fortuitous idea creation, and as far as I can tell, acts as a positive, dynamic force.

Citizen Media Law Project covers IEHI’s New Hampshire Case

http://www.citmedialaw.or…0-what-have-you

Many of you may not be aware of this, but my company IEHI, Inc. (I.e. the Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter) is involved in two lawsuits. Both are absurd in their own right and work to stifle whistleblowing activities. Both have cost our company a great deal of time and money to defend (And the lawsuits are ongoing).

I won’t go into the details of these cases here, but if you want to know more:

Our primary website ml-implode.com is a thorn in the side for many because it takes a sardonic view of the imploding mortgage industry. Ever since the site was founded, way back before most of us had even heard of “subprime,” ML-Implode has broken big news that has made CEOs cringe, often alerting employees to their own company’s impending demise before their managers had bellied up and let the cat out of the bag (a.k.a. “I’m sorry, but we’re all out of a job.”). As distasteful as this function may be to some, we side on getting quality information out as soon as possible so that people can make informed decisions. Sometimes that pisses people off. We do not do it lightly.

As it is, the financial implosion genie has long since escaped the bottle. It’s common knowledge that the world is in a recessioin/depression/stagflation/OMG!WTF!/YGTBFKM! situation, so the fact that a start-up financial news site is getting hammered on by lawsuits has been largely ignored. Fortunately, with the recent Goldman Sachs suing of blogger Mike Morgan and articles like the one from Citizen Media Law Project (excerpted below – read it in full!), there may be a glimmer of hope.

I’m posting all of these thoughts on my personal blog to spread the word that just as we are being sued for not shutting up, your free speech is being attacked. Financial considerations aside, simply being aware of these attacks is important to you. The Internet has made way for little guys to be heard; unfortunately, little guys are still squashed by the big companies who have thousands of dollars to throw at legal fees all in an effort to stifle criticism. First amendment rights are fantastic in theory, but if the rubber doesn’t meet the road in cases like ours, anyone who posts material on the internet (And with Facebook, Twitter, millions of forums and blogs, who doesn’t?) is susceptible to losing everything they’ve worked for to frivolous lawsuits funded by deep pockets (The very deep pockets used to lobby the government for bailout funds or new legal loopholes to exploit).

So take note, and spread the word. Thanks. And here’s The Citizen Media Law Project’s take on our New Hampshire case (which we are appealing):

A reader recently tipped us off to a troubling ruling from a trial court in New Hampshire: The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc., No. 08-E-0572 (N.H. Super. Ct. Mar. 11, 2009). In the decision, Justice McHugh of the Superior Court for Rockingham County ordered the publishers of the popular mortgage industry watchdog site, The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter (“ML-Implode”), to turn over the identity of an anonymous source who provided ML-Implode with a copy of a financial document prepared by The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. for submission to the New Hampshire Banking Department. The court also ordered ML-Implode to reveal the identity of an anonymous commenter who allegedly posted defamatory statements about the company and enjoined the website from re-posting the financial document or the allegedly defamatory comments. …

Justice McHugh’s March ruling granted all of the requested relief. He issued an order: (1) prohibiting ML-Implode and its agents from “displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, linking to, [or disseminating] copies and/or images of [the] 2007 Loan Chart and any information or data contained therein”; (2) requiring ML-Implode to “disclose the identity of the individual and/or entity that provided it with the 2007 Loan Chart”; (3) requiring ML-Implode to produce all other documents concerning MSI that ML-Implode received from the source of the 2007 Loan Chart; (4) prohibiting ML-Implode from re-posting the “Brianbattersby” statements; and (5) requiring ML-Implode to disclose the identity of “Brianbattersby.”

Justice McHugh’s decision is troubling on so many levels that it is hard to even list them all, but I will start with its blasé attitude towards the whole matter. The court issued no detailed findings of fact or conclusions of law before issuing the injunction, held no evidentiary hearing (apparently the parties agreed to this), and failed to even specify what cause of action supported its decision to enjoin publication of the 2007 Loan Chart. This latter point is by no means clear, because N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 383:10-b looks like it creates no private right of action against non-government parties like ML-Implode. The court apparently regarded all this formality as unnecessary because MSI sought only injunctive relief not damages, but this is obviously incorrect.

But wait, it gets worse. In its filings with the court, ML-Implode argued extensively that the requested relief constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech, sought information protected by New Hampshire’s qualified reporter’s privilege, and impinged on its users’ First Amendment rights to speak anonymously. The court brushed aside all of these arguments without anything I would characterize as legal analysis. Justice McHugh did not even address whether the New Hampshire reporter’s privilege, which was recognized by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in Opinion of the Justices, 373 A.2d 644 (N.H. 1977), applies to online journalism sites like ML-Implode, and, if so, whether MSI had made the showing needed to overcome the privilege. …

With respect to the allegedly defamatory forum comments, Justice McHugh failed to make any specific findings of fact regarding actual malice, falsity, or reputational harm, so it is hard to accept his ruling as a “final adjudication on the merits” that would justify injunctive relief. Moreover, the court failed to explain why MSI could circumvent the hoary principle that “equity will not enjoin a libel” simply by not asking for damages, and why section 230 of the Communications Decency Act did not block MSI’s claims for injunctive relief with respect to user-submitted content (not an uncontroversial proposition).

Justice McHugh’s opinion is also oblivious to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), which casts serious doubt on the constitutionality of punishing the dissemination of truthful material relevant to a matter of public concern when the publisher (as opposed to the source) obtained the information in a lawful manner. True, Bartnicki addressed the constitutionality of imposing money damages for the publication of truthful speech, but enjoining truthful speech seems equally inconsistent with protecting our “‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open.'” 532 U.S. at 534 (quoting New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964)).

Instead of tackling all these difficult legal issues, Justice McHugh’s decision focuses its attention elsewhere. Throughout, it appears motivated by a conviction that MSI is not asking for anything unreasonable and that ML-Implode is not being very nice:

Then when [ML-Implode] was asked to disclose the identity of persons or entities that had provided it with unauthorized information and potentially defamatory information [ML-Implode] refused outright. One would have hoped that when a legitimate publisher of information was notified of the fact that certain unauthorized information was given to it which was then published, presumably in good faith, the publisher would, in order to maintain the integrity of its publication, willingly provide the wronged party with the information requested. Instead, [ML-Implode] exhibited a knee-jerk reaction.

This is not a view shared by publishers (big, small, offline, online) or by the law. Counsel for ML-Implode intends to appeal the judgment to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and there is good reason to believe that the state’s high court will reverse. For now, the decision stands as an excellent example of why we need strong procedural safeguards for courts to follow when deciding whether or not to compel the identification of anonymous speakers, why shield laws that constrain judicial discretion are important, and why constitutional doctrine should limit judicial power to grant prior restraints to such a vanishingly small category of cases.

The Importance of Brain Tech and the Limits to Acquiring It

Near my desk there is a stack of unread books (And ebooks). They taunt me. What ideas are they holding, eager to be assimilated and used, but stagnant until I can find the time to read them, tease out the knowledge, and add it to my mental toolbox? There are limits on acquiring brain technology, and it seems they are presently difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

being
This is not my stack! — Creative Commons License photo credit: Annie Ominous

There’s an idea articulated in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon that goes something like this: imagine there is a project that will take five years to complete. Imagine further that a technology that could be developed in a year would, once acquired, enable the project to be completed in only two years. Thus, rather than use existing technology to complete the project in five years, it makes more sense to acquire the time-saving technology first.

Reality is considerably less predictable than this simple example allows, but it still illustrates a useful idea: acquiring the right technology first can save time and effort later.

This idea seems most relevant to acquiring brain technology, which I’ll define as the sum of useful ideas, useful paradigms, and knowledge. Modern-day prosthetics, also known as our mobile phones and laptops, are rapidly eliminating the need for this last bit of brain tech. The rote knowledge we need is almost always a google or two away (See the recent grind skill discussion on maximizing Google search). However, these prosthetic devices can’t yet do the work of a useful idea or paradigm.

Functional ideas and paradigms are the programs by which our brains process data. The better the programs, the faster we can process problems and the better our answers will be. The better our brain technology, the better our lives. It is for this reason that I take measures to acquire as much brain tech as possible. This is why I read books, blog (On the power of blogging), and follow my curiosity. It’s all in an effort to boost my brain tech, which I hope will improve my life as it improves my ability to solve problems and understand the world.

It seems simple enough but there are problems: (1) it takes a long time to acquire brain technology, it’s difficult or impossible to know what it is we should be seeking to know (2), and it’s hard to know when our existing brain technology is obsolete (3). I have no good ideas on how to attack the second problem, which is Black Swan-esque and thereby unforeseeable. Awareness that it exists may mitigate our base ignorance but then again, it probably won’t. Regarding problem three, seeking out new brain tech as well as simply sharing our own brain tech with others may help — as far as mundane tasks go, that is driver behind writing about Grind Skills.

I’m left to dwell on the first problem. My solution here is to filter through as much information as I can manage and mine out the useful ideas and paradigms. By filtering information, I usually mean reading books and blogs. On the blogging front, a feed aggregator is a must-have. And as far as reading books, get thee to a library (or amazon.com)!

Reading provides a starting point, but even here there is a problem. The volume of information that must be mined to find a single useful idea is immense. There is a brain bandwidth problem: I can only read so fast. Furthermore, even supposing I’m maxing out my reading speed*, I will inevitably read books and blogs that have broken ideas and paradigms (or none at all). How do I reduce the risk of wasting time and energy spent reading empty datasets (books/blogs)? I don’t know.

One workaround to my own bandwidth limitations is to leverage the bandwidth of others. I do this by surrounding myself with others who similarly seek out useful ideas and paradigms and are eager to share what they know. As far as the Internet goes, there again we see the power of blogging and the importance of a good, share-friendly feed reader. In real space, I think Nassim Taleb’s suggestion to “go to parties” is astute. Socialize (Don’t isolate yourself!)! Otherwise, observe others and ask questions.

These are ground-breaking insights, I know. I’m mostly just articulating a problem that has been on my mind. It’s great that modern technology has improved our understanding of the world and enabled us to outsource at least some of our brain functions to our gadgets (Thereby freeing up some bandwidth). However, it seems to me that the age-old ways to acquire wisdom, which is all brain technology really is, are the only ways we’ve got. Read as much as you can and share your tech with others**. And that’s what I’ll be doing until some other tech comes along and renders this brain tech obsolete.

* Speaking of brain tech, I’ve previously attempted learning to speed read. I’ve had no success with it though.
** I’m optimistic that this latter method (sharing) is being accelerated via the Internet.

Follow-up

The Internet is making traditional advertising obsolete [The truth prevails again?]

http://www.blog.sethrober…er-joes-update/

The cheap ability to publish offered by the Internet is incredibly powerful (I wrote at lengthad nauseam about this yesterday in my The Power of Blogging post). In my analysis on blogging, I honed in on the ability of blogging to prevent idea obscurity, encourage idea generation, and amplify the spreading of good ideas. Substitute the word “truth” for “good ideas” and I think Seth Roberts is after the same point, when he discusses how a homemade Trader Joe’s ad posted on YouTube became wildly popular because it tapped into the truth. It captured the widespread feelings Trader Joe’s shoppers have about the positive experience they associate with the grocery store.

You just can’t buy that kind of advertising.

Every publishing mechanism (Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, blogging) that is catching on over the Internet is powerful because it amplifies the ability for good ideas/truth to spread.

Seth’s point about “when science was young” reminds me of what I took from reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything; namely, that some of the greatest discoveries in science came at the hands of enthusiasts/hobbyists who were just following their own interests. The decentralization and ease of publishing the Internet provides is bringing that sort of incentive structure back. Corporate-cronies and information protectionistas best take heed.

Here is Roberts’ take. Note the tie-in for self-experimentation:

I think Carl’s commercial is very important as a glimpse of the future. Long ago, only the powerful could speak to a mass audience — and they couldn’t tell the truth, for fear of losing their power. Then cheap books came along. Instantly a much larger group of people could speak to a mass audience — and, having little to lose, they could tell the truth. The truth, being rare, was an advantage. When science was young and many scientists were amateurs — Darwin, Mendel — they could tell the truth. As science became a job, a source of income and status that you could lose, scientists lost the ability to say what they really thought. For example, David Healy lost a job because he told the truth about anti-depressants. Self-experimentation is a way around this problem because, as I’ve said, no matter how crazy my conclusions I can keep doing it. I don’t need a grant so I don’t need to worry about offending grant givers.

Can Blogging Make You Happier? [Research]

http://psychcentral.com/b…ke-you-happier/

I can’t say any of this comes as a surprise — some recent (2009) research has found that blogging can result in greater feelings of connectedness and social bonding which can improve one’s sense of well-being.

Yeah, that sounds about right to me (See my post on the power of blogging).

The researchers found support for deeper self-disclosure from bloggers resulting in a range of better social connections. These included things such as a sense of greater social integration, which is how connected we feel to society and our own community of friends and others; an increase in social bonding (our tightly knit, intimate relationships); and social bridging — increasing our connectedness with people who might be from outside of our typical social network.

They also hypothesized and found support from their data that when these kinds of social connections increase or grow deeper through blogging, a person will also feel a greater subjective sense of well-being or happiness.

H/T to Seth Roberts.

Blockquote Blogging (Thoughts on using blockquotes in your writing)

— Below is an email I sent to a fellow blogger regarding the use of blockquoted material in blog posts. The self-referenced links were added after the fact. Any feedback on my critique is welcome! —

Hey! I’ve been reading and observing your blog posts and your commentary continues to be spot-on and both well-written and fun to read. Having said that and fully realizing that what I’m about to tell you is more a guideline than any kind of bright line rule, I suggest you work on reducing the blockquot-iness (made word that up) of your posts whenever possible. There are multiple reasons for this suggestion.

For one, blog readers have a tendency to gloss over large swathes of blockquoted material. From a big picture perspective, readers [come] to your site to read what you have to say about something. To the extent that you can summarize key points rather than blockquote, you are adding the value and time-savings that readers crave. As you’ll frequently see, most bloggers intuitively realize this fact as they will frequently bolden the major quotes within the blockquote, [which is really a means of highlighting the key points and telling your readers to skip the rest!].

Of course, blockquotes are a way to give credit and save time for the blogger as they usually include enough source material to cover key points — no reason to reinvent the wheel. But assuming you are giving proper source credit, I’d suggest making a conscious effort to nail the important points early on in a post, reduce blockquotes generally, and potentially push blockquotes to the bottom of posts whenever possible. A basic structure of such a post might be:

  1. Introduction
  2. Key points
  3. Conclusion
  4. Source material (blockquote)

Obviously the above structure can’t always be put into play.

A further reason to reduce blockquotes is that they act as subtle visual queues that tell a reader that the real meat of your post is actually somewhere else, as indicated by the blockquotes. Blockquotes can function to reduce your perceived authority.

Finally, one logistical problem of abundant blockquotes is that they can severely break up the flow of your writing. This is because blockquotes necessarily contain multiple sentences written by someone else in a different style than your own. The worst offender of this practice of “blockquote blogging” is Michael “Mish” Shedlock. I went hunting for an example and needed look no further than his latest post: “In Search of Common Sense” — this is Mish’s style and maybe some people really like it. I find it frustrating to read even as I often immensely enjoy Mish’s commentary. My reaction when I see stuff like that is basic: my eyes glaze [over] and I just don’t read it, or best case, I skim for the conclusion and then determine if I need to backtrack into the quoted material.

All of the above advice is based on having both blogged and kept up with blogs now for nearly five years — the last two of which have required spending hours a day reading and managing blog content. From this experience I’ve drawn a number of conclusions about best-practices of blogging, the purpose blogging serves, and what makes a compelling blog work.

Some of my conclusions are unavoidably a biased effect of keeping up with nearly 70 websites daily (via Google Reader). I have to filter through this content to discern the best, most original, and insightful material from a large pool of commentary and news. Heavily blockquoted blog posts routinely get skimmed or skipped in my feed aggregator. More importantly, it is my experience that the best blogs out there speak from authority and minimize blockquotes to the extent possible.

As I said, this is general advice and my own style of blogging is assuredly faulty in any number of ways. I’d be eager to hear your thoughts and feedback, and since it’s your blog, you have the right to reject all of the above as nonsense and carry on doing things your way!

The Power of Blogging (On why I blog)

Blogging, which I define as published informal writing, makes me happy. I blog because I enjoy it. Why do I find blogging so fulfilling? Briefly, blogging provides me with a creative outlet to focus my thinking and share my ideas and interests with others. Even as these are sufficient reasons to blog, there are certain particulars of blogging that make it absurdly powerful, and this post attempts to get at these reasons.

What is so powerful about blogging?

Blogging enables me to write about whatever I want. I can write about the particulars of property rights, ideas for workout routines, the consequences of holding a certain belief, or how best to apply an understanding of human evolution to modern life. I can blog about my personal doings or the book I just finished reading. The informality of blogging provides an enormous amount of creative freedom to speak my mind. This freedom caters to my tendency towards boredom with overspecialization. It allows me to jump from subject to subject as often as I choose.

Seth Roberts described this purpose of blogging wonderfully in a recent comment: “[blogging] allows us to talk about whatever we want without fear of boring our listeners.” With blogging there is little fear of rejection and an empowering feeling of control. Label it “narcisistic” if you want, does it really matter? Blogging provides such a fantastic creative outlet that it is a worthwhile pursuit for this reason alone.

Blogging focuses my curiosity and clarifies my thinking. Putting my thoughts into writing requires a “good enough” understanding of a concept for my written explanation to successfully transfer the idea to others (including me at future date). This put-it-in-writing induced constraint helps clarify my thinking and can also aid my memory. Somewhat related to clarified thought, blogging provides an end-product for my curiosity. Whereas a random interest in parkour may mean running any number of Google queries on the subject only to be done with it, the add-on of blogging creates a deliverable: I can jot down my findings for future reference and produce something tangible and useful from what would otherwise be a passing curiosity.

Blogging results in the mass production of ideas. Creating a blog is cheap, which means that anyone can do it (See below for how). Since bloggers have the power to write whatever they want, an enormous amount of writing is generated. Of course, most of these blog posts will be quickly written and forgotten. And many (if not most) of the ideas generated by bloggers will be duds. Regardless, the raw abundance of ideas presented through blogs is one of the prevailing strengths of the medium. This is because the ideas captured in blog posts are public.

Blogs, whether written anonymously or otherwise, are a means for publishing writing. Whatever I blog about is almost instantly assimilated into the vast bounty of information that is the Internet. Once published, blog posts can be searched and linked. Thanks to search, similarly interested individuals can find my writings and I can find theirs. The public nature of blogging thereby prevents both good and bad ideas from obscurity. Bad ideas are subject to correction from reader feedback. Good ideas are made better by the same. Public discourse on blogs occurs via two pathways. The more basic of the two is that readers are allowed to comment on my blog directly. The alternative, and potentially more powerful pathway is by indirect feedback on a fellow blogger’s site that is hyperlinked to my site.

The resultant combination of blogging and linking is volatile: hyperlinks are the oxygen off which the best blogs thrive. Whether it is simply another blogger sending readers to my site via a blogroll link (a sort of blanket “seal of approval”), linking to a specific post, or through submission of blog posts to the virtual watercooler, social bookmarking sites like reddit, twitter, digg, stumbleupon, del.icio.us or facebook, hyperlinks can provide an immense amount of exposure. Of course, the more linked a blog becomes, the more likely it is to be linked: hyperlinks tend to follow a power law distribution. This means that a blog post containing a good idea (or a good blog generally) has the potential to spread virally. It is through being linked that an idea can go from obscurity to widespread consideration in a very brief time.

Perhaps one of the greatest powers of blogging is how all of the above characteristics provide me with a “home” in the Blogosphere. When I write, even as I do it for my own benefits, the writing is done within a community. Random ideas no longer need to stagnate within my mind: I can publish them on my blog and share them with others who are want to hear what I have to say. I contribute to this community in my own peculiar way, blogging on whatever strikes my fancy. I keep tabs on my neighbors by visiting their sites and subscribing to their feeds. Through this community ideas are freed to germinate, mutate, evolve, or cross-fertilize with each other, producing results that can scarcely be predicted but are almost always eye-opening and sometimes even world-changing.

Indeed, that is the benefit of living in any community, in real space or online. Communities provide the potential for fortuitous opportunities — luck, in other words. That’s why we choose to live with and near other human beings. Its why civilization exists. To share, trade, create, and profit from the resulting opportunities. The main difference between communities in real space and those online is that real space communities tend to be set up based on geographical proximity to your neighbors. In a way, proximity still reigns supreme in the blogosphere; however, it’s the proximity of minds, ideas, and intellect. Blogging eliminates physical barriers to intellectual commerce; as a result, more transactions occur and better ideas and communities are created.

It is for all of these reasons that blogging is one of the most dynamic aspects of the Internet. It is changing the way we learn and the speed at which we create and record knowledge. Despite this immense power, most don’t realize the huge upside potential to maintaining little more than a public journal. The reality is that they don’t have to — like me, most bloggers start blogging because they think they’ll enjoy it, and of course, most do. That the practice results in countless other benefits? Bonus.

Do you have a blog? If not, consider setting one up.

Blogging is nothing more than writing down your thoughts and publishing them. Yet doing so can change your life for the better in ways that you can’t currently predict. Anyone can set up a blog for free using services like blogger, livejournal, or wordpress dot com. If you’re feeling more industrious, you can secure your own webhosting, buy a domain name, and work through setting up a wordpress dot org or b2evolution installation. It’s really not all that hard and probably worth the effort if you want to make the most off your productive efforts. However, if you’re a bit intimidated to go this route, just pursue the free versions — you’ve got very little to lose by starting up a blog, and as I’ve illustrated above, a great deal to gain.

What I’m reading

If you’ve ever surfed over to my books section, you have seen an attempt to catalog the various books that I have read. Unfortunately, I’ve not done a good job of keeping that page updated. It’s a page best updated by batch, so I’m sure I’ll get to updating it soon.

To offset the batch-iness of my books page, I’ve created a sub-blog that I’m posting to as I finish a book. You can find posts to this sub-blog in the sidebar of the main blog or go directly to it here. The idea in maintaining this “reading blog” is first and foremost to keep track of my library. I’ve always taken pleasure in recalling the books I’ve read, and I enjoy the maintaining the chronology of the order in which those books were read.

A secondary purpose is to jot down impressions/mini-reviews of books I’ve read as I finish them.

I’m not sure how far back (if at all) I’ll go in backfilling the reading blog with past books, but going forward, it should be simple enough to maintain. Check it out!

But for

Brad* created a personal webpage sometime back in 1996. That spurred my brother and me to create our own website on AOL — The Owings Brothers Page (archived). This site had grown stagnant some two years later so I created the first embodiment of The Justin Owings Page (archived), which chronicled 4th period lunch, published bad pictures of friends, made fun of teachers, and archived ostensibly humorous IM conversations. A few short years later, a senior in college, I was tasked to create a website for an IT class. I went a little over the top for the assignment and created a new and improved (?) Justin Owings Page (archived). Highlights of this endeavor mostly revolve around Mr. Mister, the yam — not the band.

One of the last and likely most enjoyable, educational classes I took in college was Law and Economics by Professor David Mustard. The only “textbook” for this class was David D. Friedman’s Law’s Order, a fascinating read about how law has been evolved through economics.

In fall 2004, springing from discussions on the subject with Shannon mixed with the prodding of my older brother, I created Contraddiction. Contraddiction was doomed from the start as I had no steady internet access, relying on the sporadically available, unencrypted wifi clouds emanating from neighboring apartments. Regardless, I enjoyed blogging and it left me wanting more.

In mid-2005 we secured steady internet access. In January 2006 I began reexamining (at a high level) going back to school, specifically to secure a Ph.D. in either Accountancy or Economics. I emailed Professor Mustard who graciously responded — but I quickly determined that a Ph.D. was not for me. Yet I was reminded of how much I enjoyed that college class on economics and law. Some googling resulted in the discovery that David Friedman had started a blog, Ideas. I became a regular reader.

DDF wrote a post on Gangs and I was spurred to to comment. Another commenter on the same post was a fellow named Aaron who, as I realized upon randomly following the link associated with his name, also lived in Atlanta, working at Emory. From Aaron’s homepage, I also found Aaron’s Furl, which I subscribed to via RSS in Gmail.

The insights and discussion at Friedman’s blog inspired me to take another stab at a website, one replete with a full-fledged blog. Around my 25th birthday (February), I created autoDogmatic.

I invited three friends to co-blog on aD, but mostly, I was the only one blogging regularly. Six months in and all the while reading Aaron’s Furl, I stumbled upon an article written by Aaron about the Federal Reserve’s reserve requirements. An interesting read (if you’re into that kinda thing), there was one link in the article that was broken. I searched around for the correct link and emailed it to Aaron, mentioning to him that I had been subscribing to his Furl for the past few months. We got to pinging emails back and forth and realized we had a good bit in common.

We decided to meet up for a beer and a discussion. We were both probably shocked at having met another anarcho-capitalist within Atlanta. And as Aaron wasn’t blogging anywhere at the time, I invited him to join forces on autoDogmatic. He accepted.

Aaron blogged mostly on economics and I stuck mostly to politics, but our overarching theme intersected significantly — we were both staunchly anti-government, anti-Federal Reserve and, most importantly, pro-freedom.

A few months passed and around the end of December 2006, Aaron emailed me a link to a pretty basic webpage he had created titled, “The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter“, which he was going to use to track as mortgage lenders went bust (Old news these days, I know!). I created a logo for it and helped him out a bit on design. Within weeks, MLI had out-trafficked autoDogmatic. By March it was being featured on CNBC.

The Implode-O-Meter’s success meant that it required a lot of Aaron’s attention, and he was still working full-time at his “day job”. I was helping out when I could. Aaron knew I was tired of my day-job and asked me to join forces and take MLI to the next level. With a bit of prodding from Aaron and a nervous, but supportive spouse, I took up the offer in May 2007. This ultimately led to the formation of our own company, Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, in July, which owns all the Implode-O-Meters as well as a few other sites.

I rediscovered all sorts of new freedoms having left corporate America. Most notably, I suddenly felt free to blog using my real name. Within a few months, I picked up justinowings.com and established this site.

That just about brings things to the present.

Just a couple days back, my friend David, who just himself left the traditional j-o-b, started his own blog. And it was his first post that got me thinking on how I got here to the blogosphere owning my own web-media business utterly clueless as to what will come next.

But for the aforementioned events — many of which were small things, entirely unworthy of note — I would not be here writing this post.

De Vany’s stochasticity of life is in this pseudo-randomness. Life is fluid, complex, and frequently molded in big ways by things unnoticed at first, and poorly understood later, if ever.

The only lesson I can glean from it all is to follow my whims, no matter how fanciful or silly they are because those whims apparently add up.

Life is fantastic that way.

*To bring it full circle, it seems that some twelve years later, Brad is blogging these days, too.