Some experiences from my recent reading:

  • My recent Christopher Alexander reading made me wonder: what are the centers in this blog? Am I nurturing them properly?
  • Seth Godin’s Tribes got me thinking: I see other bloggers out there leading tribes, and I quite enjoy being part of one of them. To what extent, however, do I want to try to actually lead one?
  • The theme of Goldratt’s The Choice is that “any real life situation, no matter how complex it initially looks, is actually, once understood, embarrassingly simple.” (p. 9) Is he right? How should I apply that to my life?

All somewhat different points, but all suggesting that I should consider paying a bit more attention to unity than I have in the past. In fact, sometimes I marvel at the fact that anybody reads this blog at all: I think most people come here because they’ve encountered me in some sort of topic-specific forum, but then they’re immediately confronted by a lot of other posts on completely different topics.

Let’s start with the first point: just what are the centers of this blog? There are a bunch of categories over there on the right side; I don’t think they give a particularly accurate idea of what the blog is about, though. Off the top of my head, I’m probably focusing on three areas right now: video games, agile (or lean), and a category which I’ll tentatively label “personal improvement” (of which this post is an example). In the past, there were some number of non-agile-specific programming posts on this blog, but I don’t think that’s been a big focus of this blog for the last year or so.

At least that’s what I think off the top of my head – does it match reality? Looking at my front page as I write this, my previous 20 posts contain: 11 on games, 3 on agile, 1 on improvement, 3 other/miscellaneous, and 2 from AYE that could either go in agile or improvement. So: right now, I’m blogging a lot about video games, no big surprise, but some on those other areas as well. And going through a few more pages of my history gives a fairly similar picture.

Looking at the categories I’m currently using, there are several areas there that don’t fall into any of those three buckets; none of them cry out to be included as a possible fourth bucket, however, with the possible exception of computers/programming. One other thing I notice when looking at the list of categories: I don’t have a category for personal improvement. I should probably fix that, rather than labeling those posts as “General”. (Or maybe get rid of categories entirely: do they serve any useful purpose?)

(Another random observation: I get the feeling, though it’s not particularly backed up by evidence, that many of my readers actually find my personal improvement posts the most interesting, or at least the ones that are most likely to lead to comments. Not sure what to make of that.)

In some sense, actually, I’m tempted to say that this blog has two themes instead of three. There’s a straightforward enough chain computers/programming/agile/lean; to me, though, agile and lean are about figuring how to work better as much as about a particular set of approaches, and so I’m comfortable in sticking “personal improvement” at the end of that chain. (See e.g. applications of lean to buying books or to my driving habits.) So perhaps, in some sense, that chain is a single theme, though the two ends are quite distant from each other.

I would be hard-pressed, however, to extend that chain to include video games: it’s not a coincidence that I like both computers and video games, but I don’t think the computer posts on this blog are in any significant way like the video game posts on this blog. Hmm, maybe I should get a job at some point programming video games? Any interesting Bay Area game companies that are doing agile? (Note to coworkers: no, this is NOT a sign that I’m about to quit my current job, don’t worry!)

There is another theme that includes both part of the above chain and video games, however, though it’s a theme that doesn’t come out particularly strongly in the blog: it includes the well-crafted code aspects of agile as well as video games, music, food, (fiction) books. It’s something about beauty, or craft, or art: I’m not sure how to name the concept that’s lurking behind it.

And that concept, in turn, does link to the personal improvement idea at the end of the earlier chain: both parts are about having a rich, satisfying life. Who knows, maybe that’s the theme of this blog, to the extend that there is one? But it’s an extremely personal theme: I wouldn’t expect anybody else who is looking for a way to lead a satisfying life to find my blog particularly useful toward that end. If a few posts happen to give others ideas, that’s great, but I’m sure most won’t. Still, it does give me hope that there’s some kind of underlying coherence waiting to be brought out here. And it does fit in well with the one way in which this blog has been unquestionably effective, in helping me think through whatever matters are on top of my mind, and to do so while bringing together different areas that interest me. (I can at least be confident this blog is the place to go if you want to read posts mixing Shadow of the Colossus with Christopher Alexander!)

Hmm, we seem to have wandered quite far away from the topic of Alexandrian centers in the blog, haven’t we? At first, to be honest, I wasn’t sure that that concept was at all applicable here: one would never raise the question of what the centers are in one’s diary, and this blog has a similar function to a diary for me. (Which raises another possibility: should I come up with another forum for more focused writing?) Still, I’m willing to consider this blog as a living structure, and as such there’s something to be said for thinking about what structures are present within it, whether latent or on the surface.

Not too much more that I want to say about that right now, though I really should spend more time thinking about the smaller centers, not just the larger ones. To move on to the next experience: do I want to lead a tribe? I think that now the answer is clear: I’m happy enough to lead micro-tribes in some contexts, but this blog is far too personally idiosyncratic to serve well in such a vein, unless I somehow manage to come up with a grand synthesis that puts this all together into a compelling package. And I am not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

So: on to the third point. Should I take Goldratt seriously, and try to find the sincerity inherent in my situation? But what situation? Something about this blog? My life in general? His techniques work best when you have a problem to solve, a situation you’re unhappy with; I suppose the next step if I want to go that route is to identify such a situation, and see if I can construct a current reality tree for it that has some useful suggestions.

Which isn’t a bad idea, and probably would have been a useful way for me to spend a day or two of my holiday break. Not something that I’m up for this evening, though, and this blog post is long enough as is.

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