Blog: Ed Vielmetti

"I speak the language of Main Street, Ann Arbor USA." Some refer to Ed Vielmetti as the Kevin Bacon of Ann Arbor. But chances are there's less than six degrees of separation between you and he. Ed has spent over 20 years building, teaching, and adapting Internet services to community and local needs. In 2006 he was recognized by BBC News as one of the pioneering users of the World Wide Web. Ed will be writing about the power of wiki's and blogs.

Post No. 1: Why I Blog

Almost every day, I write a few words for my main weblog, "Vacuum". It may just be notes about links to a couple of interesting pages I've seen the day before, or it might be a few paragraphs about something that someone asked at lunch, or it might be a notice of an upcoming event which I'd like to let people know about. It's a daily habit, one that by this point doesn't take any extra time in the day beyond what I normally do.

I've been writing for the Internet since 1985, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. The funny thing was that writing was always very difficult for me in college, at least the kind of collegiate writing where you were expected to produce a 20 page paper all neatly threaded together about the details of one assignment. When you're used to the three or four paragraph short essay form, it takes a certain reworking of style to reach any sort of length, and that eluded me for a long time.

My main blog, Vacuum, has been going since 1999. As such it's a record of observations over time that's broader than my own poor memory can recall without assistance, and I use it as such to remember things that I've forgotten and to help put times and dates in context. It's not a politics blog, or a super popular gizmo blog with lots of shiny advertisements, or a center of an international movement. It is, however, regularly and relentlessly a chronicle of observations about Ann Arbor, and as such it helps connect me to the place I live and work.

Ann Arbor has a long history of locally focused online commentary. One of the first online conferencing systems, Bob Parnes CONFER, was running on the University of Michigan mainframe in the 1970s. Its counterpart and close analog Picospan was developed in Ann Arbor and went on to be the tool used for The Well, a much written about virtual community of the 1980s. 

Picospan lives in in local systems like Grex, in continuous operation for 20 years. There are people here who have been communicating with their neighbors by typing at them for long enough that it's second nature, and that makes writing a local blog about where to go juneberry picking (in front of the library) sound less like something exotic and more like part of what every functioning town needs.

Blogging is not for everyone. It's time consuming to make sense of some little part of the world every day in a form that you're willing to share with the world, and it's puzzling to figure out of the picture of the cute cat is going to send the wrong message to someone who is viewing your blog to check out your professional biography. Time, lurching forward into the future, has given us social network sites like Facebook and Myspace that aren't blogs and which make me feel old.

My great-great aunt was a gossip columnist for the Belleville, MI newspaper, back in the days when the newspaper would print the comings and goings of people on vacations and other things which seem quaint and old fashioned today. Writing about the small things that happen over a course of a few square miles makes it all that much more tangible, and in the next few days I'll be sharing more about some of the systems that help do that.