The Last Post

Up until the age of eighteen, at which point I discovered that nobody was going to fund it, I wanted to be an architect. I can remember why. I thought architects were cool, stylish and they generally earned lots of money. I wanted it for all the right teenage reasons.

Looking back I still wish I’d been an architect. But for different reasons. I love design. I think the idea of creating spaces for people that shape their lives is amazing. Of course I’m also aware that a lot of architects have pretty miserable, repetitive jobs (I have no evidence to back this up). I’d probably have been one of those architects.

Which brings me to blogging. I wonder sometimes if some of the reasons for blogging are as misguided as some of the less noble visions of being an architect.

If I was honest I’d say that there’s a real sense of satisfaction in getting an idea down on ‘paper’. There’s an enjoyment in people responding to that idea. There’s a joy in people sharing the idea. And, of course (now we’re all content marketers) it’s great to look at the stats. A regular blog can do wonders for your visibility. Unfortunately I was never a regular blogger. Apparently some of my posts were too long as well (this one will fit into that category). There’s an optimum for these things.

I actually don’t think I blogged for cynical reasons at all. People liking what you’ve done is always nice, but then I genuinely like writing. I’m not happy with how I write but the process can be enjoyable.

The problem for me is that it’s not enough. The self-satisfaction, the connections with people, the visibility. They’re all nice-to-haves. But like the less noble features of being an architect, they don’t really change people’s lives. Good architects do that. Spaces change people’s lives.

I’m not comparing the sideline/hobby/passion (for most) of blogging with the full-time career of architecture. But increasingly, for me, blogging is neither one thing nor another. It’s a poor way to have a discussion and an even poorer way to make a difference.

And that, hopefully, brings us neatly back to the architecture theme. Architecture is important. I’ve been meaning to write a more general post about architecture for a while. But the irony of what I wanted to write became so obvious that I needed to end my short-lived blogging career at the same time (this is my last post).

The web makes it easy to throw things together. In about half a day, or less, you can have an idea, plan it out a bit, and throw up a website. Most of those websites will be built upon something like WordPress. Increasingly they will have other social features. In most cases, whatever the topic, they will do the same thing. They’ll allow you to write something and then let other people respond. If you’re lucky there will be a discussion.

The web is full of discussion. It’s one of its most prominent architectural forms. Most of the web software created over the past however many years has been designed to promote discussion. And I like discussion. It’s better face-to-face but the web brings interesting dimensions too. You can reach more people, have bigger discussions.

The problem is that I’ve become a little jaded with discussion. In the same way that I’ve become a little jaded with conferences and endless talk about how social will change the world. How we have these amazing tools at our disposal. I’d half agree. We have some of the means to create tools that will change the world. But I’m not sure we have many of the actual tools yet.

And this is the hard part. Using the incredible opportunity afforded by the internet takes design. Blogging was a revolution. It enabled people to discuss things in real time across the world, share ideas, change people’s thinking. I’m just not entirely sure how much more thinking we need to do.

Of course, if anyone comments at all, they might point out that social tools have been used to make real change, support revolutions, co-ordinate efforts. And they have. But the tools weren’t made for action. They were just repurposed. Like using a window as a door.

So, it comes back to architecture. The internet is full of the same spaces. However they’re presented most of them come down to someone writing something and other people responding to it. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a blog, a social platform or a community engagement portal, it’s probably the same kind of thing with a different look.

This isn’s a complaint against blogging. I like reading blogs and there are some great writers out there. But I’m not one of them. Sometimes I manage to write down my thoughts. Other times I fail. It’s also not a complaint against social platforms. Twitter is crap but I still love it. I use lots of other crap stuff too. It’s very human to be united in the appreciation of crap things.

What I hope I’m saying is that there’s so much more potential. Publishing is not everything. What other internet architecture possibilities are there? Or at least what’s out there already that we could use?

Most importantly, how can we use the enormous technological gift at our disposal to start doing something more than talking? At least as a complement to talking. I think it’s exciting. I also think that we’re in no better position to make the world better than we’ve ever been. But we’re in no worse position either. It’s what we do next that matters.

  1. I don’t think you’d have been one of *those* architects at all. And I spent much of my childhood wanting to use windows as doors, but I blame the Dukes of Hazzard for that.

  2. Very few architects get to build the interesting sort of buildings. I’ve worked with architects and a lot of the work was about specifying materials and methods and working out the order in which work should be done, checking what contractors had done etc. Some assess planning applications. Some design very nice loft conversions…
    Anyway, to the meat of your post…
    Most of the time, people don’t think enough. The lack of critical thought can lead to bad results for our society, as we seem to hear in the news daily at present. The discussion about immigration in the US by US citizens on Radio 4 early this week rather alarmed me because of the combination of incorrect information and lack of critical thinking.
    The sky will fall in if people don’t think.
    You can write, and you have your own unique view of things to share with people. Your posts are not too long. If the post is interesting, people might even prefer a longer post (that came out of some research, I think, but I can’t remember where I read it).
    I am utterly bemused why you think that it is necessary to write regularly or not write at all. I write every week, but I write very irregularly on my various blogs. One of them in particular still seems to get read daily, no matter how long I leave it between posts.
    Making a difference? Yes. Blogging can make a difference. Sometimes, it’s a small difference, but sometimes people make a big difference through a blog. My posts don’t get read by masses of people, and few ever comment on any (although they more often comment via Twitter), but I find that if something I have written connects with even just one person, it feels worth the effort.
    I really don’t think that you should give up blogging.

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