Engineered Eloquence

A Product of Reflection: Paring Down

Letting go is a skill; it takes consistency, practice, and intentionality. Skills also take time and effort to build into a competency. My wife tells me I have a skill for detaching from physical items; that skill often shows itself in the "let's get rid of everything we own and start from scratch" statements I make, often around the holidays given the excesses I see elsewhere in the world. However, I am still building my competency in letting go of digital clutter.

Back in 2018, I wrote about digital clutter here and noted the following:

With that brief philosophical overview in mind, I would consider the expansion of minimalism from the physical to the digital to be common, but I assume it is unsurprisingly controversial.

I went on to discuss the categories of digital clutter and how we might be able to scrutinize our behaviors, starting with online accounts. In closing my Twitter account, I took one of the biggest steps I could in effectively letting go of one of the last social networks I still (albeit rarely) used. In looking through the rest of the list, the numbers I used for accountability have fluctuated but largely remained the same in total.

As a part of my most recent site move (and at its heart) was the process of letting go of some historical cruft, older parts of the site and content that was no longer serving the purpose I want the site itself to engender. But letting go is hard, especially when the overall purpose is still a bit muddled and it will leave a stain or shadow behind. In the case of a website, the stain is an ever-growing list of error pages. As a very current example, the link and block quote above were not published on this version of the site until last night and would have brought readers to an error page.1

I am starting with a perhaps overly simplistic approach: I am bringing over only the items that I have marked as "posts" over the years, the ones that would be considered my writing. Back in 2012, I wrote about the desire to create something timeless in my writing, noting:

The fact is that writing about the iPhone 4 is irrelevant if the iPhone 4S or 5 exists with few exceptions. Ten years from now, will I look back on such quips with pride or distaste for having written what the 36 year old me will discount as drivel? This is not to say that we should not be writing about such things, simply that our readership should see the depth at which we choose to discuss such topics, the difficulty that we as writers have in hitting the publish button. If we haven’t thought through the elements of the text that are fleeting to get to the more lasting ideas, then we have failed to provide the truth for which the reader is undoubtedly looking.

Wow. I was onto something. Here I am at 36 and looking back on some of these posts with (to use 26-year-old Jay's word) distaste.

So my simplistic approach noted above was intentionally just the first step. Ideally, as I pare things down, I am also keeping an eye out for those long-form items I am truly proud of (see 26-year-old Jay is still in the Featured section of the homepage) and noting those in the list that are of little value. My intent in the end is to have a curated list of writings that embody my work and myself.

In this vein, I have long had a section of featured posts on my homepage to bring forward old writing that still holds weight and enjoys a moment in the spotlight again. Add to that the series that I have been writing about leadership. Long-term, using a combination of featured items, series of posts on a given topic or subject, and links out to other published work online will create an interconnected set of ideas that I can look back on with pride.

  1. As a technical aside, some users will still be brought to an error page due to the shift of link paradigms for different web hosts. The old slug included the entire post title, "digital-hoarding-or-the-fight-for-digital-minimalism" whereas the new slug is simply, "digital-hoarding". These things are inevitable and unavoidable. My 404 page does try to sort some of this out by directing readers to known good links for more information.