Setting a new focus for my blog January 22, 2023 on Drew DeVault's blog

Just shy of two months ago, I published I shall toil at a reduced volume, which addressed the fact that I’m not getting what I want from my blog anymore, and I would be taking an indefinite break. Well, I am ready to resume my writing, albeit with a different tone and focus than before.

Well, that was fast.

– Everyone

Since writing this, I have been considering what exactly the essential subject of my dissatisfaction with my writing has been. I may have found the answer: I lost sight of my goals. I got so used to writing that I would often think to myself, “I want to write a blog post!”, then dig a topic out of my backlog (which is 264 items long) and write something about it. This is not the way; much of the effort expended on writing in this manner is not spent on the subjects I care about most, or those which most urgently demand an expenditure of words.

The consequences of this misalignment of perspective are that my writing has often felt dull and rote. It encourages shallower takes and lends itself to the rants or unthoughtful criticisms that my writings are, unfortunately, (in)famous for. When I take an idea off of the shelf, or am struck by an idea that, in the moment, seemingly demands to be spake of, I often end up with a disappointing result when the fruit of this inspiration is published a few hours later.

Over the long term, these issues manifest as demerits to my reputation, and deservedly so. What’s more, when a critical tone is well-justified, the posts which utilize it are often overlooked by readers due to the normalization of this tone throughout less important posts. Take for instance my recent post on Rust in Linux. Though this article could have been written with greater nuance, I still find its points about the value of conservatism in software decision-making accurate and salient. However, the message is weakened riding on the coat-tails of my long history of less poignant critiques of Rust. As I resume my writing, I will have to take a more critical examination of myself and the broader context of my writing before reaching for a negative tone as a writing tool.

With these lessons in mind, I am seeking out stronger goals to align my writing with, in the hope that the writing is both more fulfilling for me, and more compelling for the reader. Among these goals I have identified two particularly important ones, whose themes resonate through my strongest articles throughout the years:

  1. The applicability of software to the just advancement of society, its contextualization within the needs of the people who use it, a deep respect for these people and the software’s broader impact on the world, and the use of free software to acknowledge and fulfill these needs.
  2. The principles of good software engineering, such that software built to meet these goals is reliable, secure, and comprehensible. It is in the service of this goal that I beat the drum of simplicity with a regular rhythm.

Naturally many people have important beliefs on these subjects. I simply aim to share my own perspective, and I find it rewarding when I am able to write compelling arguments which underline these goals.

There is another kind of blog post that I enjoy writing and plan to resume: in-depth technical analysis of my free software projects. I’m working on lots of interesting and exciting projects, and I want to talk about them more, and I think people enjoy reading about them. I just spent six weeks porting Helios to aarch64, for instance, and have an essay on the subject half-written in the back of my head. I would love to type it in and publish it.

So, I will resume writing, and indeed at a “reduced volume”, with a renewed focus on the message and its context, and an emphasis on serving the goals I care about the most. Hopefully I find it more rewarding to write in this manner, and you find the results more compelling to read! Stay tuned.

$ rm ~/sources/drewdevault.com/todo.txt

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