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Sand molehills of Time

Seven years ago, I encountered the website everything2. It is like a forum that only permits one post per user, per topic/thread and attracts fiction as much as encyclopedia type articles. In the long past I had fictional ambitions, but find nonfiction keeps me from extending the scope too wide. mostly. I got attached to the idea of filling in some of the "nodes" (threads) describing years missing from their pile. The first time, I had a deadline as there was a month long drive for exactly that kind of node. I finished a post about 1846, but felt it was spotty. Most of what I could find for non-american nations was just the age of the concurrent administration.

I thought I'd do another year - 1919 - on my own schedule, but I'd do it right. I would make sure to have a real, meaty entry for every country. Instead, I confronted my collapse in the face of infinite scope and immature attitude toward studying to complete the node. At the time, I am in college and have access to a huge library on literally every topic at very fine levels of detail. That made it a little worse, because any given topic would need to be compressed from pages and pages down to a paragraph or two. I struggle with moderation already and choosing what could be useful was much more fun than opening the cover. (For reference, look at my facebook history of posting zynga game ads.)

I tried a couple methods to keep this managable. Most of them were just variations on *defer the work of study to a later date*. I typed some passages up. I took photographs of many more (to transcribe). This hung as a stone around my neck for over three years. What made it really hard was my constant fear that someone would render all my work useless. This is the sort of topic that, unless the first post is basically empty, once something is up there's no point in supplementing it. In reality, the corresponding wikipedia node will drown the interested person in the year's trivia day by day.

(I despise "This day in history" lists. What can I possibly derive about the correlation of the Russian Revolution and Thirty Years War taking place on February fifth?)
Well, Nicholas, perhaps it's an attempt to remind people that the Thirty Years War was a thing that happened. Remember how you are also frustrated to hear that school children can't identify Kuwait on a map? Perhaps, it's some kind hearted defense against that.

And, with so much time passing, I cultured a fantasy whereby I stake a claim in every decade of the twentieth century. It turns out there is at least one empty thread for each. Wouldn't it be just the jauntiest feather in my cap? Which only serves to heighten the tension, as now the grand prize and many little prizes may be snatched from beneath me with zero warning. My whole self-identity is just wrapped around writing these things, to show what a cultured young man I am, and what could I possibly do if this dream were dashed and countless hours revealed as dross? All this self-talk came despite not publishing more than one post. If you'd have pointed it out to me so, I'd fluster. The problem with the excerpts I'd retyped was that I didn't have enough. One phase saw me abandoning hope of summarizing them; better to just quote someone who knows what sh'o'he's talking about. But then if the citation is too long or a large proportion of the post, I'm opening myself and the site to a copyright-driven takedown notice.

So, I fretted a lot in the seasons when this was my primary hobby. On the one hand, I want to write an encyclopedia for each year to do justice and value add above wikipedia. On the other, I need to ruthlessly reduce scope unless I want to eat crow when someone snatches a year. I heaped more troubles on the pile: It shouldn't be dry, this is a writer's site. It should depict what being then was like. If it's not of good quality, then I will get poor xp and never ascend to the first level. But ultimately, I had to sinning let go. Just cast it off and say, 'No, I have dozens of fantasies I call hobbies and can't progress in any of them. This one just isn't going to happen.' And so I published what I had on 1919 in a bittersweet mood.

My intention lasted a while, but my school commitments wound down and time opened for this again. I vowed to keep this as simple as possible. Just start with wikipedia's article and develop it the littlest bit. Later, I would connect it with the idea of minimum viable product because my obsession was still over netting the cachet of claiming a year of each decade. My current goal is just to have one extended anecdote about each continent, and a few sentences about other events that went on that year. It won't be very useful to someone who wants to know what 1967 was like. But really, wikipedia will always be the better option. Even if I do maintain them. And I don't plan to until after I've wrapped up the twentieth century. I just need it to be good enough that other site members don't vote so negative as to get it deleted.

I started this version of this node (it's a perennial theme) to herald the lifting of one concern. Everything2's editors changed the rules and I am now level one (I was 70 of 500 xp away before) and can vote. It turns out that means little to me, for the time being. At the same time, I am so close to publishing this 1967 node that I've fretted over a year. And yet, I am still in my own way.

I got a taste of that during a recent vacation. I was invited for a morning run, but only brought a pair of boots. I went anyway, hoping it was more of a hike. Nope. But as I ran, I saw that my discomfort was not life threatening. My job is pretty active, so my body could do it. The only one in my way is me.

I can publish what I have today and they probably wouldn't cast it down. I'm really writing this because I'm revisiting that scope creep for these last two paragraphs. It's harder for me to see, because now I'm summarizing. How detailed a description of Georgios Papadopoulos' coup would I read? I am straying, I can see it as I write about it. If I'm embarassed, I can defer that to the maintanence phase.

I promise to report how it turns out. And to keep perspective if my fantasy turns out unworkable.

(9 Mar '15) My time for posts ran out when my vacation ended. I eventually made a stream of consciousness 'summary' of the Greek coup of colonels. It's an unedited heap, but at least I've put it from my mind. But South America still has nothing and want to report about Uruguay's interesting political year. Unfortunately, a focused copy of excerpts is 25 lines long. Each weekend I think "I'll just set aside an hour and wrap this up". Or I hector myself about publishing as is. I'm getting hot & bothered as I go through everything I wrote about above. I think that I'll have to surrender my fantasy entirely. I don't feel have time for real responsibilities between two jobs and a self-improvement hobby. much less for a website I never visit.

© Nicholas Prado <earlier> ^| upward |^ <later> category: reflection tags: E2 - moderation -