Inspired by Aral Balkan’s Breaking Things, I’m embarking on a summer of breaking – and building – things. I'll be addressing philosophical and pragmatic questions, using this site to draw together the why and the how. In the process, I hope to establish a solid workflow that I can apply to my work, one that applies equal weighting to my thinking and how I give that thought form. I’m kicking off with a solid base of semantic markup to get the ball rolling, ‘design’ will follow.

Breaking Things

On 7 July, 2012 – a year ago, today – I followed along with interest as my friend Aral Balkan embarked on a process of ‘Breaking Things’. A short-lived, but interesting experiment, it was as he called it, “a personal reboot narrative,” intended to confront that most crippling of barriers to progress: Fear. As Aral put it:

Fear is probably the greatest demotivator that exists. Nothing stops you from doing things like fear. And by fear, I mean fear of loss. All fear is fear of loss.

Is it any wonder that those who have the least to lose are often the ones who take the biggest risks and end up achieving the most? The more you have to lose, the harder it gets. Or, more accurately, the more you think you have to lose, the harder it gets. The more attached you are to the things you have, the harder you will find it to take risks.

Reading this resonated with me deeply. I’ve often felt crippled by fear. Fear of being ‘found out’, that the curtain will be pulled back to reveal – in my mind – a charlatan who has somehow managed to maintain an illusion despite all evidence to the contrary. Fear of being judged, that the work I release into the world will be weighed heavily and found to be wanting. Fear of so many things….

I was fascinated by Aral’s decision to break things, especially his commitment to maintain a chronicle of that process, and – inspired by him – I’ve decided to follow a similar path. With his permission, I’m embarking on a summer of breaking things, a reboot, though I prefer a different term for this, something I call a ‘file system check’.

File System Check

Being of an inquisitive and technically curious nature (and having once managed a server entirely from a terminal) the term fsck appealed to me. Short for ‘file system check’, fsck is used to diagnose and repair file system inconsistencies (I like to think of the file system, in this case, as my brain). fsck is also a minced oath, which - if you've met me, or been taught by me – you'll know is entirely appropriate. The term is helpfully defined at Wikipedia as follows:

Generally, fsck is run automatically at boot time (when the operating system detects that a file system is in an inconsistent state, indicating a non-graceful shutdown such as a crash or power loss), or periodically (to prevent small, undetected inconsistencies from becoming exacerbated).

I’ll be breaking things and building things at fsck.monographic.org for the foreseeable future, undertaking an ongoing file system check. I intend to use this to work through my thinking as I work my way back from a non-graceful shutdown I recently experienced.

A Non-Graceful Shutdown

In late I experienced a non-graceful shutdown. A crash. It’s a long story, but – in short – I had a nervous breakdown. I was admitted to hospital and had to be taken there, unconscious, in an ambulance. I ended up off the grid for a couple of days – 24 hours of which I have no recollection of at all – and then returned home on very strong medication. It was a sobering experience, and one I’ll write about in more detail shortly. It forced me to look at my life a little more closely.

It forced me to ask questions.

I believe, as an industry, we focus all too often on the headlong excitement of endlessly moving forward. That’s fine, but there’s a flip side. Relentless progress brings with it relentless pressure. It can be difficult to keep up, and the pressure to stay on top of everything can at times prove debilitating.

I'm trying to unshackle myself from the crippling fear I've always hidden deep inside. The fear of not being able to keep up. The fear of being left behind. A part of this process is to work a little more openly and share my journey. I hope it helps us to be a little more open about the pressures we all face in our industry. I hope it proves useful for others.

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