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Defining an Audience for My Log Entries

Hello there. Who are you - who is it, reading this text. I don’t mean in some existential way, but just, is it me, reading this back later? Is it someone stranger on the Internet who’s never read a word by me before these, and has no familiarity with any of the jargon I use? Or someone who’s familiarity is somewhere between?

Defining who it is that’s the “nominal” audience for these logs is important, I think, in deciding their tone. A few concepts come to mind:

Bounded Wordsharing

I haven’t settled on a word for it, so I’ll use a hodgepodge of Saxon-y English to convey it. I believe in doing bounded wordsharing, or escalating publicity of communication. It’s influenced by a notion I was taught as a child, but can find no evidence for called “from god to town hall talking,” or similar.

The first time I have an idea, it should be mulled over, privately, or with a relevant spiritual patron. Once I’ve mulled it over as best I can, I should discuss it with those in my household and family - in the bedroom, as I was taught. From there, I can talk about it in the living room, with close friends, the sort who’d be welcome to spend the night when in town.

The next boundary is the parlour, where I’d feel comfortable discussing the notion with any given associate. This is a big boundary, because I can’t trust all of my associates to keep tight-lipped, the way I can close friends. One of them might share that I’ve said this idea, and depending on the idea, that might be undesirable.

The next boundary from the parlour is the tavern, where I’d feel comfortable sharing the idea with strangers directly, and the last step is the town hall. I’ve talked the idea over with my gods, my family, close friends, associates, and everyone in town who might care to weigh in. A lot of people have probably given it some criticism, it’s probably grown in sophistication since I started, and I’m probably a lot better about talking about it.

So, in the town hall, I can start advocating for the idea. This boundary intersects with the notion of the four boxes of liberty, so when I say town hall, I actually mean going to the press first, and then town hall.

Anyway, that’s one concept I have going into this: my writings might should pass through boundaries of sharing, from private to for close friends, to for associates and then to the general public.

I have a set of personal directives I try and live by, and two seem relevant here: information should be private, and useful information can never be owned. The two seem at odds, but it’s just a way of saying that the “default” state of an idea should be private, but useful ideas can’t stay private: they’ll be shared unless great care is taken to prevent it, and that care becomes increasingly costly the more useful the idea is.

I think based on that I can reduce the number of boundaries for a log entry: private, confidential, and public. So that gives me some sense of who my audience might be: myself, a particular friend or few friends, and then, anyone at all.

Starfleet Logs

When I first wrote about using log entries for the bulk of my computer work, I mentioned wanting to keep it as a sort of Starfleet-y log, the way we’re shown Starfleet members do: Captain’s log, stardate today, we’re exploring the Oooeoevieous Gas Cloud…

Those logs are written for the official record, which often is the audience, from an untalebound perspective, but in-universe seems to be for the use of their superior offices and, in extreme cases, their court system. I don’t have a “superior” for my personal life, except perhaps in the sense that I am, at present, in service to myself, in the future. And writing my logs to be court-ready seems… tiring.

If I’m writing to myself in the future, it can be assumed they know everything I know. That seems like a bad audience to write for, for a piece that might be potentially read by someone who isn’t me.

Hmm… thinking about it more abstractly, the main issue is knowing how much knowledge I can assume the reader has. This applies to technical stuff, but also the names of people and places, that might be unknown if this text is to be read in eighty years.

I guess those are two separate things, though related; how much does the audience know, and is the audience contemporary or in some potentially diconnected future?

I think weighing the potential costs of these assumptions might prove more helpful than trying to decide them in the abstract. In the abstract, I want to write for a way that’s helpful for people in any future who might know nothing about what I’m writing about, but that would be unrealistically difficult: every time I mentioned Emacs in an entry, I’d have to give an explanation of it.

However, if I don’t ever explain things, it won’t make for very useful reading, should I decide to share it.

Attempt at a Conclusion

For now, I’m going to write logs in whichever way is comfortable, and then edit them if I decide to make them a post or use them in a composition. Some topics, like things involving Emacs configuration, are clearly destined for a larger-than-private audience from the outset, so I can plan them appropriately.

The next step from here, I think, is coming up with a way to concisely add frontmatter and other untalebound information to log entries turned into posts. Already there’s a fair bit I want to add and it doesn’t even have stuff I need to have like license information. I ahve some ideas of how I’ll implement this, but it’s late and I should head to bed.

Editorial and License Information

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