7 Years of Writing

When I migrated this site from Ghost into a set of static files on a VPS, I had reason to go paging back through old posts. I realized that I’d been publishing something, often infrequently, since at least 2013. This isn’t my first website - for a long time, I played with graphic design on rufius.com.

However, zacbrown.org is the only one I’ve ever published any sort of long form writing on. What I’ve posted today isn’t even all of the content - I’ve written a lot of other essays and posts that I never published. Most were written in anger or frustration, lamenting some irritation I had with a person, technology, or product. Fortunately, I’ve always been self conscious about my writing so I had the good sense to post most of those. I’ve still got them kicking around but they’ll remain forever private. They’re not fit for polite company and I like to think I was a very different person when I wrote them.

Reflecting on old posts

Over time, there have a been a couple posts that have been modestly popular:

In particular, the “Year of the OpenBSD Desktop” post generated the most interesting conversation though I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, it was posted to OpenBSD and got quite a few votes: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8977029. One thing to note - the URL from that post doesn’t match the new one.

In reading the comments on the HN thread, I’ve realized that my writing tone completely went over a lot of folks’ head. My sense of humor is generally quite dry and sarcastic. I have a pretty dead pan delivery and it often shows in my writing as “matter of fact”. I get it from my mom - and I know that it can be offputting for some.

As I’ve gotten more comfortable publishing more of my thoughts on this site, I’ve also gotten better at softening that tone. If I were to write that blog post today, I’d probably substantially change a few parts.

These are just a few choice comments illustrating some challenges with writing. I never intended to have this posted to HN - it was mostly written for fun. That said, if I were intending to reach a broader audience, I would use a more approachable tone.

And for newer posts

I used to think blog posts needed to be long and substantive. I have since realized that the blog posts are for me and only peripherally everyone else. Their length isn’t some reflection on their worth or value.

Recognzing this, I’ve tried to spend more of my time writing about things I know and, in particular, teaching and explaining things. Some of this comes from my own growth as a Staff+ engineer. Some of it is just so I can remember what exactly I did to setup something.

Many of my more recent posts have ventured into “howto” style posts - everything from how I start Golang projects to [how to create modern SSH keys][8]. They’ve been useful to point others to when I’m trying to make a point about how I’d approach a problem.

And after that

My dry and sarcastic tone is still present, but it’s softened. Just as my demeanor at work has softened. My opinions are less black/white, recognizing the gray area of human experience. It’s convenient to believe that technology is black and white but technology is fundamentally a people problem. People are squishy and you’ve got to recognize that in order to reach them.

[8]: /posts/2021-01-03-modernizing-ssh-keys.html

Posted on 2021-04-02