Numbers from rereading more than ten years of my blog

I’ve been rereading more than ten years of my blog posts, rating each of the entries on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how significant the memory was to me. I started blogging in 2001, although really, that was more like 2002 – mostly notes from class, Emacs Lisp adventures, and other things I wanted to remember.

I was eighteen years old and taking my bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, firmly convinced that I would teach in the Philippines all my life and grow old in an apartment with a cat or two. My plans have changed a bit since then. I moved halfway around the world for my master’s degree, enjoyed working in the IT industry, got married, and started my own business (four months ago!), picking up three cats along the way.

It hasn’t been easy rereading my blog posts. I winced at memories of ex-boyfriends, mistakes like sending people a ton of mail, and the chapter drafts for the Wicked Cool Emacs books (I turned the project over to Ian Eure, but he seems to have been busy with other things too). I missed the earnestness of my declarations of teaching and of not joining the brain drain. I miss having close, close friends and spending time with my family without a departure date looming on the horizon. Some things I do better than my past self, and some things I do worse. I don’t play the piano or sew the way I used to, and my blog posts remind me of what it was like to have fun with those skills. I knew things before that I’ve forgotten since, and it’s interesting reading them in my own words.

Still, it’s been a great experience rereading all of my old posts. Writing and reading help me remember the good stuff vividly. Eventually I’ll get the hang of refreshing my memory, and then I won’t forget so much of the things I’ve learned along the way.

I’m planning to collect the highlights into an e-book so that it’s easy for you to read through things as well if you want to. In the meantime, let me share a few numbers.

  Rating    
Year 1 2 3 4 5

Total

Rated >= 2 % >= 2
2001 1 1 1 3 2 67%
2002 39 10 2 1 4 56 17 30%
2003 982 95 10 13 37 1137 155 14%
2004 850 84 16 8 19 977 127 13%
2005 462 201 7 3 8 681 219 32%
2006 633 227 8 7 5 880 247 28%
2007 305 192 6 1 7 511 206 40%
2008 342 55 11 3 10 421 79 19%
2009 332 61 13 8 38 452 120 27%
2010 234 92 17 5 51 399 165 41%
2011 328 61 4 2 2 397 69 17%
2012 107 31 1 1 140 33 24%
Total 4615 1110 95 51 183 6054 1439 24%

I rated 1439 of 6054 posts (24%) as interesting and worth going back to. That’s probably too many to include in one e-book (well, maybe just the long version), but maybe I can focus on the posts rated 3 to 5. I’ll need to go over the posts rated 2 to 5 and re-rank them. I’m pretty good at saying, “This was definitely significant to me: 5!” and “This was a highlight, but it’s not too important: 2”. The rankings in the middle are a little more difficult. What makes something a 3 versus a 4? What can I demote or promote among the 2s and 5s in comparison to other highlights?

Some more context for numbers: In the early years, I used Planner Mode for Emacs to capture quick snippets about life. Many of these notes weren’t particularly for public use, but they weren’t confidential, so I included them when I figured out how to add blogging capabilities to Planner Mode and again when I converted my blog to WordPress. In 2003, I graduated from university. In 2004, I went to Japan for a six-month technical internship. In 2005, I went to Canada for my master’s degree. I graduated in 2007 and started working at IBM, writing a lot about what I was learning along the way. In 2010, W- and I married. I also started trying to limit myself to one or two posts a day. In 2012, I left IBM in order to experiment with business, and I’ve been writing about what I’m learning there too.

I like getting a sense of the kinds of posts I find myself still enjoying after years. I want to write more of them, and I want to have more of the memories and experiments that lead to them.

Figuring out an easy way to export filtered blog posts might take time, but I’m looking forward to putting together something that I can re-read on my Kindle and share with other people to make reading my blog easier.

It’s amazing what you can learn from yourself when you’ve forgotten. I hope many people will be able to look back at their own decades of writing someday.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/raymondzeitler Raymond Zeitler

    It’s funny because in a sense you’ve given yourself a test at about the same time that pre-college students are taking final exams!

    BTW, an idea for a post would be test for your readers. How well have we been following along, or how easily can we search your blog and come up with the answers.

    For example, you might have a question, “In what year were W- and me married?”
    A) 2008
    B) 2010
    C) 2012
    D) Trick question — we’re not married!

    Incidentally I was so looking forward to the Emacs book.

  • http://charuzu.wordpress.com Charles

    Sacha,

    Looking forward to the “Sacha highlights” e-book. I have a question for you – what is the total word count for all these blogs? Maybe there are more words than War and Peace?

    I just installed Emacs 24 on Windows and was thinking about your Wicked Emacs book – do you think it will ever get published?

    Charles

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Raymond: Old rhythms die hard, I guess. =)

    Charles: Looking at just the posts I’ve rated 5 stars, I see that the sum of the post length comes to 540,454 characters. Wikipedia says that the Oxford World’s Classic version comes to 561,093 words, so I’m nowhere near that. Yet. Although if you take the other ratings too…

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Speaking of the Emacs book – I might talk to the publisher to see if they don’t mind my writing small e-books with some of the material I’d started drafting. Trying to write a code-focused book was difficult because people kept folding good ideas into the source code (yay open source!) – and the problem would’ve been worse anyway with a paper book, because it would be obsolete shortly after publication. <laugh> I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing something along the lines of Livin’ la Vida Emacs – almost a biography entangled with software…