Did you know that it’s harder to become an MIT admissions blogger as an MIT student than it is to get into MIT as an applicant? It was true my year, in which 18,306 students applied and 1,467 were admitted (8.0%),1 whereas 69 students applied for 5 blogging spots (7.2%).2 Anecdotally it might also be true for future years.
I was among the 92.8% who got rejected in the latter process. Although I obviously would have preferred things go the other way, I can’t say I was surprised, firstly because, objectively, the odds were against me (as they were for every other individual applicant); secondly because, to the extent I can make educated guesses about the criteria the folks at MIT Admissions would have chosen bloggers by, I would have been close to the worst possible candidate;3 thirdly because my application probably wasn’t very good.4
I didn’t dwell on it; I just thought to myself some vague consoling thoughts and moved on. No matter what I missed out on, at least I retained complete freedom: to choose what to write about, when to post it, and how to format and typeset it, down to the very last box-shadow. Right? But, although I mostly successfully avoided thinking about it, there really was a lot to like about being an admissions blogger! I liked writing — or perhaps, I liked being a person who has written a lot more, and having a commitment to blog regularly would be a way to force myself to become that person. I liked the idea of getting to share things with thousands of readers, or less euphemistically I liked the thought of being, if ever so slightly, famous.5 I liked the idea of having a sketched portrait and being part of official events with “Blogger” in the title and all that jazz. Collectively these things just felt cool.
The thing is, though, that there were things I could do to try to get those things for myself, and I didn’t do them. I know how to force myself to blog regularly, which is just by announcing publicly to nobody in particular that I’ll blog regularly (it’s worked effectively at least twice). I know many places I could promote my blog and try to get more readers. I can buy a sketched portrait.6 It’s not that hard.
This is the first post on this blog after I migrated off WordPress for a static solution.
At first, I wanted to set things up on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which was an adventure. There are lots of online posts about how to do this, but Amazon’s services change quickly and there was often outdated information. For instance, Amazon had a wizard that led you through setting up a static site, which I clicked on. It helpfully handled a lot of grunt work, but now I was out of sync with all of the guides. Oh well.
I think things are confusing partly because there are four AWS components all interacting to make a static site happen:
tl;dr: I don’t use Facebook much. If you want to contact me, I would prefer nearly any other mode of communication. I am also going to stop autosharing posts from this blog onto Facebook. RSS readers are great; get yours today.
Recently I checked Facebook and it said something like “You’ve added N friends this past T units of time! Thanks for making the world more connected!” and I just couldn’t any more. Facebook friends are not friends. Dunbar’s number is around 150, maybe double that if you want to stretch it; humans cannot handle that many human relationships. Facebook’s siloed ecosystem is the opposite of connected with the rest of the Internet.
That is one of many reasons I pretty much don’t use Facebook any more. This is not new, but I’ve never formalized it. Also, I figure others might assume otherwise since I still do have an account and still accept friend requests and post sometimes. Thus, I’m writing this post.
There’s some point in the decline of a blog’s activity at which you just can’t apologize with a straight face for not posting any more. Only ironically.
I brainstormed reasons why I’m not blogging. It took a while for me to find a reason that felt right, but I think it’s mostly the concern that I don’t have anything important to say, and I’m just spamming people’s inboxes or Facebook feeds. I make fun of my perfectonist tendencies, but they haven’t gone away and have been exacerbated by how public this blog feels now. There’s also a general feeling permeating life that I should be trying to present myself professionally to people, because like a diamond, the Internet is forever.
I hate doing things under time pressure, but I have to admit I do a lot more things when time pressure exists. One of the things is writing. Another is posting the things I write. They aren’t very good, but they’re better than writing that doesn’t exist.
It’s interesting that I can impose time pressure on myself by declaring commitment devices by fiat and it works. Other people have developed other methods of doing this — I recently discovered The Most Dangerous Writing App, which puts time pressure on you to type every five seconds or it deletes everything you wrote. There are many other ways it’s done.
Wow, this has been the longest silence on this blog in a long time.
I can’t justify it with lack of time either. Interning at Dropbox takes up all of my weekdays, but my weekends are much freer than I’m used to. I carelessly let two weeks at home in Taiwan pass by without doing much about blogging, and once again a lot of my few blog drafts have drifted into the temporally awkward zone, being too far away from the events they are about.
After a misstep on the fourth day I managed to post one post every day, completing the rest of the streak! This post is scheduled to go out around the time my plane takes off.
I’d insert a Frozen gif here if I could find a good one, but I don’t like any of the ones I found and besides, copyright is an issue. So instead:
IMO2007.C6. In a mathematical competition some competitors are friends. Friendship is always mutual. Call a group of competitors a clique if each two of them are friends. (In particular, any group of fewer than two competitiors is a clique.) The number of members of a clique is called its size.
Given that, in this competition, the largest size of a clique is even, prove that the competitors can be arranged into two rooms such that the largest size of a clique contained in one room is the same as the largest size of a clique contained in the other room.
Author: Vasily Astakhov, Russia
If you remember where I first posted this to break a combo, you have an excellent memory and/or spend too much time stalking me. If you remember the context under which I posted this to break a combo, you have a better memory than I do.
Was my streak a success? On the bright side, I definitely generated lots of posts, many of which were radical departures from my old blogging habits:
Blogging is weird. I’m still nervous when I post stuff because I’m concerned I’m wrong, and end up looking unprofessional or attracting a bunch of Cueballs or something.
Before I told people about this blog, during the time when 100% of its traffic came from its coincidental placement in search results, I didn’t have to worry about this. Now, I choose my words. Because some Important Person™ might show up. Maybe even misinterpret something I said and/or get furiously offended at a badly phrased joke.
I also fear that I’ll update my beliefs quickly; maybe I’ll change my mind or discover a much better argument for the other side really soon. But the blog post would still be there, displaying my old belief, giving the reader an inaccurate or misleading impression of myself. People might even chat with me to argue about it, and then I have to admit I’m wrong oh no! It feels a lot better admitting I’m wrong on my own turf, in my own time.
This passage from Lord of the Flies comes to mind (I had hurriedly reread the book as ammunition for the AP Literature test and noticed that my past self had marked it):
For the interested, I wrote a post summarizing issues in copyright and patent law on a new blog for a school club. Actually, if you’re reading this post, you’re probably already interested enough / bored enough to read that post, so go read it. I think the videos are worth watching despite their length, but I tried to summarize the key points in text, so decide how much to read or watch depending on how much spare time you have.
I don’t know if that blog will work out, but anyway WordPress tells me I have 8500% more followers on this blog than the other one, even though I have doubts about how many of those followers actually read anything I post at all, so I thought I should link to that post here. Also, by publicizing the blog, I get to shame my friends and fellow club members into posting so that it doesn’t look so empty. Social media expertise, you know?
And I broke like 90% of my HabitRPG streaks too. I was busy running Monte-Carlo calculations to estimate the number of domino logic puzzles, and forgot about midnight. Okay, before that I spent twice as much time on Flight Rising for whatever reason. Bad life decisions.
I guess that means today I have to post one now, before going to sleep, and one later. Eh, time to harvest really weird mini-posts from nowhere.