Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've been writing Rondam Ramblings for over seven years now, which probably makes it one of the longer-lived continuously maintained blogs on the Web. It was not so much intended to draw an audience as to be a place for people who knew me to keep tabs on what I was up to, sort of like a Facebook page but before Facebook existed. Somehow along the way I've picked up, at last count, 26 followers, and who knows how many more have subscribed via FriendFeed and other channels whose existence I may not even be aware of. I have no idea who most of these people are. Whoever you are, thanks for reading. There is nothing as satisfying to a writer as having an audience.

I've been trying to return the favor by posting less personal stuff and more informative and thought-provoking material, but I guess I misjudged my audience pretty badly because my last post seems to have landed with a resounding thud. I was really hoping for some feedback because that post was, more or less, a true story, or at least a metaphor for one. There was no stranger in a dream weaving conspiracy theories, but there is a problem I need to solve that has the peculiar characteristic that describing the problem will almost certainly make matters worse. Some of the events that lead to this situation have bordered on the surreal. So the story is fictional, but it's based on reality. (Ironically, not getting any feedback is exactly what the real-world analog to the "conspiracy theory" would have predicted.)

I posted the story not so much because I expected free therapy but because I thought it made an interesting intellectual puzzle that would spark some discussion. Apparently I thought wrong. Trick is, now I don't know whether the silence is because the piece was crap, or because it was so thought-provoking that everyone is taking days to digest it, or because everyone is just out on vacation. The reason I'm posting this is to let you, my readers, whoever you are, know that I do care about making the content of this blog interesting and relevant, and not just a self-indulgent personal journal. The more you tell me about what you think of the content, even if it's just checking off the "bogus" box in the reactions widget, the easier that will be.


Bob said...

I'd say I viewed it more as confusing than either thought-provoking or bogus. As you note, it was quite different than what I've come to expect to find here.

As best I can reconstruct, my response was "Hmm. Wonder where that came from. Is it a metaphor? Dabbling in fiction? I'd sure hate to think that he's going off the rails. Guess I'll find out in later posts, if there are any." So maybe it was thought-provoking after all...

Ron said...

One of the surreal elements of the situation is a family member who has developed rapid-onset dementia. She still sounds perfectly fine, but if you talk to her for a while it's clear that she's not all there any more. So I don't think I've gone off the rails. But neither does she.

Ruben said...

Hmm, I found it thought provoking. Perhaps not a WOOHOOO but definitely not a THUD.

Then, I thought it was some sort of experiment and waited to find out if you'd write more. So you did.

By the way, I am one of the many who read your every post by RSS. I don't know how many people we are, but I'd guess a great deal more than 26. In case it does something for your ego, I usually like your content, even when I don't agree :)

Now, I have two family members with Alzheimer's disease. My wife's parents. One case is severe. The other is mild, but is combined with depression and paranoid thoughts.

It was hard to realize that trying to reason with them, even explaining the simplest things, wasn't going to work. Because at some point I began to have glimpses of the completely distorted reality they were living in, and the fact that it was, well, REAL for them.

I realised why they were looking at me as if I was barking mad. They probably just thought that.

At that point, I gave up reasoning and we limited ourselves to the realm of simple, immediate things. "Look how nice that sunset is" (it's the one from your home, which you relished so, but you no longer remember that). "Look, that girl laughs because she's happy to see you" (it's your granddaughter, but never mind that). "See how tasty that food is?" (you taught me to cook it, long ago).

It's better than trying to reason or convince them of anything. But then, perhaps it's just me dreading their fate.

Dan said...

Don't get discouraged by the initial response. You have readers who are interested in where this train of thought is going.

I'd also suggest that the idea that explaining the idea to some people to help you review it might be an option.

If you have done experiments to try to disprove the hypothesis and they haven't then showing other people the results would also be an interesting step. I understand not wanting to seem like a crackpot, but maybe there is a gray area where you can show some people some things without showing the whole world everything. From there either one of your audience points out a flaw in your reasoning and that basically ends things, one of your audience is intrigued and wants to discuss further with you or everyone you talk to says that you're crazy but can't explain what's wrong. I would hope it's not the final case because you are an intelligent fellow and I think you have a pool of intelligent people to draw from who would give you more constructive feedback.

A more realistic worst-case scenario might be that your idea seems crazy to people you talk to, but they're at a loss to explain why. I know that if I found myself in that position I would not be dismissive or ostracize you, I would try to delve deeper and if I couldn't I would be open to hearing more as things developed. It's not very scientific to dismiss something when you can't explain it and research doesn't disprove it.

Mike said...

Personally, I read it, then re-read it, then mentally filtered it out. I think the problem is that metaphors are rarely as exact as the coiner thinks they are. The result comes off like one of those annoying forum help requests where the poster hasn't provided enough information to enable a specific considered response. The best anyone can do is "Well, if you mean A then you should X, but if you're talking about B then you're probably Y; of course, if C then you're almost certainly Z, and...".

It's a lot of work, and it's hard for J Random Lurker to get motivated, especially when the ambiguity looks like gratuitous coyness.

Don Geddis said...

I read the previous post, but I didn't get it. You're saying you have a problem, but you're not talking about it directly, only by metaphor. But the story you tell doesn't seem to have a solution, only it isn't clear whether the real situation differs in important ways or not. And then the end confused me also.

I, as well, figured that you might have further followup posts, after which perhaps the original one would become more clear.

Ron said...

Thanks for the feedback. All these comments are really helpful.

For the record, the reason I care about this is not so much about my ego. Well, OK, maybe it is, but that's not my intention. I know a lot of people read what I'm writing, and I'm really flattered. But because my audience has grown beyond friends-and-familty I feel a sense of responsibility to write stuff that's worth reading. That's not so easy when your blog is as unfocused as mine is.

As for the gratuitous coyness and the weird ending, there was a reason for that which I hope I can make clear eventually. That post *was* an experiment. Not an entirely successful one apparently, but this feedback has been really helpful.

Jared said...

> But because my audience has grown beyond friends-and-familty I feel a sense of responsibility to write stuff that's worth reading. That's not so easy when your blog is as unfocused as mine is.

Perhaps readers (random internet lurkers such as myself) continue reading what you write because we value your point of view and find your ramblings interesting. If we don't we can unsubscribe and no one loses (except a little ego?). If we do stick around it is only because the value proposition is right, for time invested reading vs intellectual payoff. I wouldn't worry about your blog being unfocused. I can sort of see various threads running through almost all of it.