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Form: follow your influences

Wherein I share some inspiration and pat some fellas on the shoulder

Now that I’ve sort of ranted about tinkering with software and how it is less important than writing, let’s talk about form.

I’ve found new energy in writing here of late. Part of that, I think, comes from thinking about a handful of weblogs that I really enjoy and figuring out how to emulate them on my own terms. What I find most intriguing and energizing to study is the framework within each author writes.

Shawn Blanc is a tasteful writer and curator. His site brings me interesting insight into design, aesthetic, and interface. I like his even-handed mix of original and linked content, his in-depth pieces, and his dedication to words over imagery. You can tell I’m thinking of Shawn when I write lengthy pieces examining an idea from all sides or when I post shorter links with a few sentences on how the linked article fits into a larger idea or aesthetic I find intriguing.

Tim Bray has his hands on many of the technologies and ideas I use on a regular basis. On his own weblog, he often goes off into the weeds of an idea, documenting an intellectual journey of trying to understand a topic that is new or interesting to him. I don’t always agree, and even find some of his stuff boring, but love it when he grabs hold of an idea and works on it. You can tell when I’m wearing my Tim hat (not literally) when I write a serial, a bunch of posts tied together by some idea, trying to figure out where the idea leads and how it fits into the bigger picture of an intellectual journey.

Jason Kottke is sort of the original gangster of curation. He is at his best and prolific when he is pulling together ideas, finding the unique and wonderful stuff. But more importantly, his erudition puts a lot of ideas and topics together I don’t normally come across. Sometimes I post things that aren’t really on topic for this weblog, but I do so because I think they represent the “cult of personality” of what I find interesting or exciting; this is me playing the Jason Kottke card.

Rafe Coburn is also a curator, but his topics-of-interest go a bit deeper, a little nerdier. Rafe’s at his strongest when he’s pulling together ideas about psychology, economics, science, and history. He uses these ideas to explain the political and technological world we live in. He does so in an opinionated way, but one I find easy to read and non-offensive, even when I disagree with him. I’ve yet to master his tone and the skill by which he brings ideas together, but if you see me posting on topics that are a little boring on their surface, its me trying to make sense of the world in the way that Rafe does.

Matt Webb is the island and the bridges between thinkers, dreamers, and makers. For years, I’ve followed his work, delighting in how he brings science, futurism, technology, and materials into wonderful and contemporary ideas. Even better, in his company’s recent work, he makes these futuristic ideas happen. Should you ever find me wandering into oddly disparate ideas, trying to pull them together into something wonderful, it’s likely I’m doing my own faint impersonation of Mr. Webb.

So that’s who I’m influenced the most by lately. The writers whose form, style, and excellence I strive to emulate, whose work I most enjoy. Yours are probably different. But the formula is the same: figure out whose work you aspire to the most, write a post about why you admire their work, and then get to work living up to the bar you’ve set.

By Adam Keys

Telling a joke. Typing.

1 reply on “Form: follow your influences”

Matt Webb is amazing, been reading him for almost a decade now.

Along those lines, http://tomorrowmuseum.com/ is brilliant, the best thing I’ve come across in the last five years. She’s currently on a bit of a break while she galavants all over Asia, but I can’t recommend that blog enthusiastically enough.

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