Monday, March 21, 2011

Thanks and Good Night

Writing a farewell post, on a blog that no one reads, smacks of self-importance. But I prefer closure over an open and unfulfilled commitment, and besides, I've rarely shied away from self-importance. But even closure isn't necessarily permanent...I often had to break up with a girlfriend a couple times before it really stuck.

When I first started blogging, I was excited to share my opinion. Even if it wasn't a wide audience (note the understatement), the simple act of documenting an opinion forces an intellectual rigor that goes beyond casual conversation. When I'm standing around the water cooler, it's easy to rattle off statistics that I think are correct and quotes that I'm pretty sure I heard from a reliable source. But when I write an opinion down and post it publicly, where it will live forever, I'm much more likely to check facts and attribute sources. This rigor is conducive to forming smart opinions, instead of just regurgitating someone else's talking points. More than once I discovered, in the process of checking my facts, that my underlying assumptions were wrong.

While this enforced rigor was valuable, it also more and more revealed how unqualified I was to have an opinion. For instance, I wish we'd acted sooner in Libya to thwart the murder of civilians, but I appreciate Obama's reluctance to act without international support, especially after two long wars and nation-building efforts. Ok, that sounds nice, but is there any value at all in that opinion? Have I spent any time in foreign service, diplomacy, or international politics? Have I studied Arab culture? Have I researched historical precedents and drawn conclusions from their consequences? (The answer to all these questions, in case you're wondering, is 'no'.) So then, why should I add my opinion to the impossible clutter of valueless twittering available today?

Also through documenting my opinions, it became painfully clear that they had exactly zero predictive power, whether discussing politics, sports, or the stock market. When I'm not writing down predictions, I tend to 1) make a lot of them, and 2) remember mostly the ones I got right. But when they're all documented, it's obvious that a monkey with a coin would have a good chance to equal me. It was interesting to note that I generally fared no worse than professional political wonks, sportswriters, and stock-pickers...but that's still not good enough to be valuable.

On top of that, it began to feel extremely repetitive. There's a limit to how many times I can bash the fiscal irresponsibility of big government, the playcalling of Andy Reid, or hypocritical money-grabbing of Al Gore. There came a point where it was all familiar territory, where I felt anyone who'd read my blog over the years pretty much knew what I was going to say on a given topic before they even read the post. And that simply isn't fulfilling.

I realized that the only way I'd feel good about blogging is if I actually created content, instead of just repeating unqualified opinions. But that takes time and effort that I wasn't willing to invest. I could have DVRed every Eagles game, re-watched every play, diagrammed the personnel groupings and made notes on every player's performance. That's content - it provides value to the reader. Of course, Sheil Kapadia already does this. So for me to duplicate his effort, when he's already getting paid for it, seems utterly pointless (not to mention, it sounds like hard work.)

With no impressive skills, no unusual life experience, and no motivation to develop original content, there's really no reason for me to continue blogging. I'm fond of my writing ability, but only moderately so. On just about any topic, I can think of several writers who are wittier, better informed, and use analogies like...someone who is better at analogies than me.

So I'm done. I definitely got something out of this blog for a while, but that time has passed. Thanks for reading, and good night.