Thursday, February 14, 2008

Declaring Blog-Reading Bankruptcy

I recently caught mention of the idea of declaring email bankruptcy on AKMA's Random Thoughts. The idea comes from Lawrence Lessig, and a little googling shows it to be a popular idea. Many, including AKMA, post links to a blog post on the topic at 43 Folders. I am so extraordinarily behind in my emailing at the moment, that this is something of an attractive thought. But the problem is that by doing so, I would be effectively rejecting many of the most interesting, longer term, less urgent emails, the kind that require slightly longer replies. The tyranny of the urgent is particularly pressing for university lecturers and professors, especially where one has students with deadlines. At Duke, our undergraduates are very bright, highly motivated and most ambitious, but such things just add to their levels of anxiety and stress, and they are emailing me like crazy this week. I naturally prioritise talking to my students, and other things are going by the wayside. I was already rather behind, but this has thrown me way off.

I wouldn't, I couldn't declare email bankruptcy, though. If people have taken the time to email me personally, they deserve a reply. (Well, some don't on account of their rudeness and presumption, but they are in the minority). And I enjoy correspondence. It's just that I now feel like it is all I do in every spare moment. I can't imagine how I ever used to be able to keep up with academic e-lists, much less contribute to them. Others presumably feel the same way since many of the e-lists continue to die their very slow death. But if not email bankruptcy, what about blogging bankruptcy? Being underneath the email mountain prevents me from getting to the Blog Reader, and waiding through the (academic) blogroll when one has been away for days simply prolongs the opportunity to post oneself even longer. So I am declaring blog-reading bankruptcy today, something that is very easy to accomplish; I click on my Blog Reader's header (I use Google Reader), and "Mark all as read", and several thousand blog posts happily vanish, the vast majority of them never to be seen again by me.

There comes a slight feeling of guilt with this declaration, however. Why should I expect anyone to read my posts when I have just sent theirs off into oblivion? Well, if this post is one of those that vanishes from readers while others, like me, are declaring blog-reading bankruptcy, then I am delighted to be sharing the experience with you. And no doubt the best blog posts will still somehow rise to the surface in the coming months as people continue to discuss them and link to them.

So, here's starting fresh and looking forward to a clean blog-roll, and rebooting my blog. Incidentally, I had always assumed that the term "blog-roll" had the same ring to all ears, reminding one of "bog-roll", and so a little disparaging in the association it conjurs up, but it occurred to me while writing this post that "bog-roll" is British slang and that I have not heard anyone use the expression here in the US.


Dr. Claude Mariottini said...


I sympathize with you. I have been behind in my emails, in my blogroll, and even in responding to comments left on my posts. The problem is that when one is trying to do academic research, time is limited and many things are left behind.

I feel like you. At times I just feel like deleting all my emails and marking as read all the posts I have not yet read. Something has to give but academic responsibilities come first.

Claude Mariottini

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "bankruptcy" concept as it is quite apt.

In my field of information security, we are forced into ephemeral communication because of the rapid rate of change and the unfortunate fact that once something has made it into the traditional media, it is probably out of date. I turn green with envy at the concept of being able to engage relevant professional ideas from discussions that happened over a thousand years ago.

For what little it's worth, I have a core list of blogs and correspondents that I read and respond to -- it's elitist in effect (but not intent) -- and that helps me stay involved and informed while not consuming all available time.

I hope the gateway weblog is not one of the assets in your bankruptcy proceedings. :-)

AKMA said...

In my defense, I didn't mean to declare bankruptcy; but once the mail import failed, I had an unintentional occasion for the relief. And I'll tell you, seeing an empty inbox is a tremendous relief.