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Timing is everything - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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September 23rd, 2002

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01:30 am - Timing is everything
(Before we start, a big shout out to former Keble College flatmate, LJ newcomer and all-round good egg Guybrush Threep... er... zorac!)

There are some interesting (possibly subconscious) psychological effects at work, I feel, in the decision whether or not to reply to someone's LiveJournal posting. It's an artifact of LiveJournal being such an immediate, bordering on ephemeral, form of communication. When you see an interesting new posting but a relatively large number of people have replied to it already, it's easy to perceive that your further reply might not make much difference or that you don't have anything to add to the topic that hasn't already been said. Furthermore, the older a posting is, it seems logical to assume that the fewer people will read it in the future. As part of the reward for making a comment is the prospect that someone might reply to it, the incentive to reply is rather less. By extension, there also seems to be an unwritten rule that you can only reply to a person's most recent posting - or that their most recent posting is where to look for ongoing debate. In an extreme case, there is a sense in which it's almost slightly uncool to be seen to be the person making the last reply on a page as it implies that you aren't as dedicated a LJ participant as those making the fastest replies.

For the record, I don't want to encourage such feelings. You should generally assume that when I post something in my LJ, I am happy to talk about it, keen to hear what other people have to say on the matter and that I am very likely to enjoy what you have to say on the subject. I am also very likely to appreciate you taking the time and effort to put your thoughts into words, irrespective of whenever you care to discuss it. Don't feel that you need to craft an original, brilliant response in order for it to be worthwile; even a "me too" lets me know you care.

As you may have seen, I generally tend to avoid the surveys which go around. If you learn that someone is, say, a Demicanadian Robot Monk or somesuch then it's hard to react to that. You can either say "I'm one too", or "That's interesting, I thought you would have been a Double Wookiee Bastard Lunatic", or "Great! Let's us Demicanadian Robot Monks rid the world of Gyrognome Voodoo Princesses!" - but that's about all. The reasons behind survey sortings are almost always more interesting than the actual conclusions themselves. (Then again, perhaps you can never have too many pictures of, for instance, packets of biscuits in your journal.)

That said, there's a 23-question survey going around that focuses on people's relationships with their own LiveJournal that makes for pretty interesting reading. It tends to lead to some pretty personal comments which are rather hard to respond to, but always fine to get a feel for people's thought patterns.

I've said from the start that I regard maintaining a public journal as performance art. It will always remain performance art to an extent. How you perceive me is how I am here. If there is a mission statement to this journal at all, I'd like to build up a reputation as someone who brings you slightly unusual things. They're usually game-y, they're usually geeky, but you won't find out about them elsewhere. Of course, I won't always stick to the script, to try to keep you on your toes.

You get the truth and nothing but the truth here, but you don't get the whole truth. The major topic you don't get is detail about my family - I don't want to keep things confidential, but they do, so that's that. (It's really not very exciting.) There's also my ongoing quest with trying to come to terms with the concepts of self-discipline, willpower and responsibility, concepts which worryingly seem to rather elude me at the moment, but you don't need to know about that. Maybe some day I'll care less about how I'm perceived and start to share more, but there will inevitably be some degree of perception management - which requires performance art - involved. Everyone's journal will be different, but I suspect many of you exhibit more of this than you might be prepared to admit.

I'm not sure that I've found my style yet - this "couple of paragraphs and then into the <lj-cut>" routine isn't quite doing what I had hoped. I may experiment with putting more text outside the <lj-cut> in future. It's also hard to know how best to handle a number of short items; the cygnusfap ten-in-a-row style leads to some strange bedfellows, the songmonk two-separate-posts style can lead to the second supplanting the first for public attention. My current conclusion, which is to try to investigate even small ideas in depth, leads to a bit of an imbalance in the work:fun ratio and entries which may not be as interesting as they should have been. A few more stylistic experiments required, I feel.

A high compliment that I would like to be paid some day as a result of this journal would be "I like the way you think and I'd like to get to know you better". (Don't read too much into this. If I'd meant "Nice journal, wanna fuck?" then I'd have said so.) I guess that a listing as a Friend expreses this emotion to some extent, but sometimes it's inconvenient or hard or a potential source of vulnerability to express the emotion explicitly. It's cute to see that one of the survey questions is "Is your significant other on LJ?", though; it could well be that the answer is yes, but the two of us aren't even Friends yet...

My "full user information page" suggests that this will be my fifty-first - or, more to the point, fiftieth unique - journal entry. Happy half-birthday to me!
Current Mood: thrilled - Mr. J in the house!
Current Music: Lupin III '78 - Ventura (Bemani 3-65 stuff c/o brakusjs)

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:September 22nd, 2002 06:01 pm (UTC)


Fascinating post -- I hadn't thought about some of those things, and would hope that some of them aren't true. I had never thought there to be any stigma attached to being the last one to respond to an entry, nor to being late in the game to join. Like you, I would fully encourage others to reply anytime, even months later, and while it's true that fewer people will read it, I will at least read it (having email notifications turned on), and will reply if it's wort replying too. :-)

I never thought about people having an LJ style, but it's certainly true. People use LJ in different ways, and they present their thoughts in different ways as well too. One thing that confused me is that I don't know what the SongMonk two-separate-posts style is, and how it leads to the second supplanting the first. Not that I disagree that that's going on; I just have no idea what you're talking about. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2002 08:33 pm (UTC)
This may seem a bit silly, but is there a slight possibility that you may be overanalysing the timing of Live Journal replying?

As a person used to 200-question surveys (I normally get one a month via e-mail from high school friends), it's never something that is meant to get tons of responses. The whole point of these silly little surveys is to learn something about the person sending the survey, and if you feel like it, return the favour by filling out the survey as yourself.

From what it seems in this post, you write LJ entries in a way to encourage responses, which is not always possible. I read your LJ from a friend's friends page, and that said, many times I don't reply because either it's something completely out of my base of knowledge, or you've written something so complete that I can't think of adding something. Sometimes it's a little from column A, a little from column B.

My LJ is completely the opposite -- mostly "I did ____, then ____ed and took a ____" with some humour/opinion posts and few intentional "reply to this" posts. Since the responses (or many times, non-responses) fit the purpose I have for my LJ, I'm perfectly happy.

BTW, I hope you don't change your style too much -- it's well-written and very interesting reading.
[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2002 06:35 am (UTC)


ealuscerwen and I were discussing your LJ the other day and both agreed that's it's probably the finest example of the form we've yet seen. Now you don't want to pay any attention to my views - scruffy geeks are not arbiters of taste - but she's a young lady with a good eye for our fair language.

And I certainly agree about unfiltered content in LJs - you won't catch me putting my entire life in mine !
[User Picture]
Date:September 24th, 2002 01:44 am (UTC)

Re: Well...


(...considers how to let Chris know she cares...)

Me too!

[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2002 12:05 pm (UTC)

response zen

songmonk linked to this posting and I found it interesting. I have commented on old postings purposefully so that fewer people besides the original poster would see the response. I have never used security features to lock a posting, but is security even an option with the comment feature?

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