Hacker News: Why aren’t we all more serious?


Another post of mine appeared on Hacker News last week, this time thanks to luu. It was one I wrote back in July responding to the charge that my blog isn’t serious enough, a touchy-feely topic I didn’t expect given HN tends to appeal to hard computer science and engineering types. I was also surprised at the number of positive comments.

The biggest takeaway I took were an affirmation that not everything needs to be a hussle, or justified in the context of money. tayo42 had my favourite comment:

I really wish we didn’t put so much pressure to be professional and serious all the time. Working takes up 1/3 of my life currently and I can’t actually be my self. Another third is sleeping. So for only 1/3 of my time I can actually act like my self. I hate that there is a pressure to talk a certain, act a certain way, express my self a certain way. I think we really need more of a emphasis on being human, less “circle back” and “work streams”, more jokes, more smiling and experimenting.

KaiserPro also raised a point I hadn’t considered: being too serious could also limit the reach of your work in unexpected ways:

They couldn’t seem to grasp that if I’d have written [his sweary post in] a dry, clean style, not only would they have not read it, but they wouldn’t have understood my point. [..] Humour, irreverence and swearing are all tools to convey a meaning, point or story. Used well (I am fully willing to admit that I have not been masterful in my use) they can create a mental image far stronger than any other metaphor.

There’s also the angle that simply fewer people are writing online these days, or are confining themselves to social networks. There are so many reasons why this is sad, not least because they’re surrendering control, propping up invasive business models, and relegating their important ideas to ephemeral social posts. But just as important is the lack of personality: I miss seeing people’s personal sites in the 1990s, and how people presented their blogs in the 2000s.

Curiously, the few negative comments had to do with my site mascot Rubi, which I’ll admit didn’t surprise me. Once people on mobile found her—she only appears in the desktop theme—a few proceeded to discuss her appropriateness. One specifically called out her “hiked-up skirt” (since deleted) which amused Clara who drew her, and who often cosplays in similar getup. It was a good thing they didn’t see Rubi in her summer swimsuit and shorts for that brief month a few years ago!

I’ve always had a small anime badge somewhere on my sites since at least 2006, back when it was SOS-Dan to demonstrate my allegiance to Haruhi. Before then it was Star Trek insignia. I love stumbling on another personal site and seeing a different aspect of someone’s personality shine through. That’s what makes the web fun. If I lose a few readers from doing that, they probably weren’t the kind of people I wanted to spend mental energy on in the first place.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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