My uncle Freddie’s real name was Donald. I didn’t find that out until after he died, when I was a teenager. In a way, though, Freddie and Jay Cross are both partly to blame for how I backed into blogging. And that has me to thinking about home repair.
People from Cape Breton Island are big story-tellers; my parents are exemplars. A few years ago, I tape-recorded a phone call with them as they told how they decided to come to the U.S. when I was little. I turned the transcript into a web page and sent a link to my children. I also sent it to my cousin Frank, my uncle Freddie’s son, and a few days later sent him a story about how I learned his dad’s real name.
Meanwhile, I’d signed up to take an unworkshop Jay was offering, covering web 2.0 tools. I didn’t know much about them, and could see I might want to.
Frank sent me another story about his dad — stick with me and I’ll share it. He also asked me whether I had a single link for “all these family things.”
I swear, there was a flash as the realization struck. I knew what I wanted to do: save and share family stories.
This is where the home repair part comes in.
I had been thinking about blogs from a technical point of view: How do they work? How do you control them? So thinking about a blog was a little like pondering 3/8-inch, chuckless, variable-speed, reversible cordless drills.
Not to forget that when I pictured myself blogging, I felt a distressing need to have a Big Thought of the Day. I can go without a Big Thought of the Month, so that path didn’t seem promising.
Getting ready for Jay’s workshop, and emailing back and forth with Frank, shifted my mind onto a new path. I was working backwards from a specific goal I’d chosen: collect and share the stories.
I’d made the shift from drills to having the holes I wanted.
I didn’t need a Big Thought of the day. I didn’t need a Big Thought at all, because I wasn’t going to be the person writing the posts. Instead, I would create a blog for these stories. The person who told the story (either in a tape, like my parents, or by writing it up) would be the storyteller — and thus the author of the post.
Digging into the details of blogging (now I wanted to know if that reversible-drill business might help me get the holes I wanted), I saw that I could easily organize the story site so you can find any storyteller or even any person in any story.
That was how Cousin Agam Fhèin was born. The name’s Gaelic for “a cousin of my self,” and the informal common denominator is that the stories are by or about people connected in some way to my grandparents.
Most of the storytellers have very little experience with computers. That’s okay. My cousin Julene doesn’t have to know how to work the chuckless drill. She can pass along stories and I can plop them in. We still get holes where we wanted them.
As the novelty of web 2.0 tools wears off, they’ll get looked at by non-early-adopters to the extent that those people believe the tools can help them accomplish things they value. Not because they’re open source, not because they’re called social software, but because they get stuff done.
(I see that Cousin Agam Fhèin needs some sprucing up; don’t mind the mess.)
Drill photo and attached-handle photo by Vincent Ma.