Words in Boxes

Nouns, verbs, and occasionally adjectives.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Words in Boxes

From now on, this site will be called Words in Boxes.  It even has a fancy new domain name — www.wordsinboxes.com.

So, why the change?

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Almost exactly three years ago today I started posting on this blog.  I gave it the name Indigo Flats — the name of my then-apartment building — because I lacked the creativity to do better, and I kept that name because I lacked the motivation to change it.  I posted sporadically, about random topics, and wrote with widely varying quality.  While I usually didn't worry myself much about gaining an audience, I did share the delusion of millions of bloggers that I had something to say that was worth other people's time.  The problem was that a lot of the time, I didn't.

If I'm going to blog, I should follow the example of those who do it well.  The blogs I respect and enjoy most are written by people who have a strong idea of what they want to say.  Marginal Revolution is about economics.  Coding Horror is about software development.  Cocktail Party Physics and Uncertain Principles are about physics.  The O'Reilly XML Blog is about XML.  Even kottke, who posts about seemingly everything, keeps a strong focus on design.  These blogs are fun and informative.  They justify their existence.

My blog should do the same — it must be interesting to you.  But even more importantly, it must be interesting to me.  Make no mistake, this blog is still a selfish exercise; writing it takes real time, so I need more in return than the slim prospect of minor Internet fame.

I like Jeff Atwood's explanation of why he blogs:

Mostly for selfish reasons. I needed a way to keep track of software development over time-- whatever I am thinking about or working on. I research things I find interesting, then document my research with a public blog post, which I can easily find and refer to later. Hopefully other people will find these posts helpful, relevant, or interesting. I firmly believe that blogs are a two way conversation, so I welcome email and comments-- as long as they're on topic, more or less.

The process of writing for the blog forces me to actually think about my topic — in other words, to learn.  And if I'm learning as I write, then it's still worth my time even if nobody reads it.  That's important.

So what is it that I have to say?  I work as a software developer at a book publisher.  I spend most of my time working with XML documents, and I consider myself somewhat proficient at designing XML schemas manipulating XML markup with XSLT.  Before that I worked as a copy and layout editor, and (very) occasionally as a freelance writer.  So I'm particularly interested in how the technical business of text fits in with actual people doing actual reading and writing — and of course, in the words themselves.

The name "Words in Boxes" tries to capture that theme.  If you want something more literal, you can think of an XML document as a collection of text-containing boxes:

<section><p>This is a <b>great</b> paragraph.</p></section>

So that's it.  The old name had a certain ring to it, and I will miss it.  But I'm excited about the new one.

A few technical notes:  The transition should be seamless.  The old address should direct to the new one, and the RSS feed should continue uninterrupted.  I still recommend updating any bookmarks you may have. 

I'm James Sulak, a software developer in Houston, Texas.

You can also find me on Twitter, or if you're curious, on my old-fashioned home page. If you want to contact me directly, you can e-mail comments@wordsinboxes.com.