Now for something a little different and spectacularly self-absorbed.
Several of you have suggested over the years that I should make up some sort of helpful landing page to get new readers oriented. I’ve been mulling how to do that in an interesting and helpful way for quite a while now, and about six months ago, I settled upon the idea of a conceptual map. This is the first draft.
I managed to hit one of the two goals I think: the map is pretty interesting and completely unhelpful for new readers. Click here or on the image to go to the future permanent home of the map (a page that will eventually show up on the menu bar as “You Are Here”). The page has a larger view as well as a link to a high-resolution printable version (US Letter size).
Now for the back story.
I am pretty proud of this map for two reasons. First, I did not think I could actually work Inkscape well enough to produce something like this. It is still pretty awful compared to what a serious artist could pull off, but it is about 3x better than my previous best Inkscape effort. It even has multiple layers.
Second, I think the map is actually quite useful beyond ribbonfarm proper as a way of representing a larger cultural space.
This is a sort of fish-eye lens/spherical projection view that exaggerates the space I think I occupy (which I’ve dubbed “Egocentric Projection”). I wasn’t good enough with Inkscape to show the fish-eye distortions properly though.
I made up the first version of this map nearly a year ago, after my big cross-country road trip, meeting readers in all sorts of weird places. One of the interesting outcomes of that trip was that I got a sense of what else readers of this blog read. Among the frequently mentioned sources were Less Wrong, various sites having to do with Collapsonomics and Neourbanism, John Hagel, John Robb, Hacker News, the xkcd comic strip, and so forth.
So even though I cannot really describe what ribbonfarm is about, I can situate it fairly well with respect to neighboring parts of the blogosphere.
On top of this virtual geography, I added what I’d learned about the various real-world subcultures (for example, lifestyle design, academia, Makers, startup types) that readers seem to inhabit.
A watershed distinction helped organize the map: that between abundance and scarcity mindsets (or equivalently, optimistic and pessimistic mindsets). Bruce Sterling’s colorful concepts (dark euphoria, favela chic, gothic high tech) helped organize the map according to this watershed distinction.
Ribbonfarm itself is largely on the scarcity side of the watershed, but part of the Barbarian Forest spills over to the abundance side I suspect, otherwise I’d probably have shot myself by now.
As an unintended side effect, this map has turned out to be surprisingly useful in helping me think about how to position and talk about my consulting work. Actually, what motivated me to turn my pencil-and-paper sketches into this map was a frustrating afternoon trying to think through what my consulting business is about. I still don’t know the answer to that question, but drawing this map helped me get to not really caring about the answer to that question.
I think this map could be extended and refined to represent quite a large cultural space in non-egocentric ways, but I suspect I am personally too self-absorbed to pull that off. If any of you wants to take a shot at it, the map page has a link to the current Inkscape SVG. You are free to make derivative maps for non-commercial purposes.
Suggestions for other stuff to add welcome. I plan to scale up from Letter size to A3 to create more room and posterize this thing.