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Medium of Choice

The web is my medium of choice, not a medium of last resort.

After reading Josh Allen's I started writing , which explains why Josh writes for the web, I dug up a list I wrote over a year ago that was a sort of personal set of principles for my own writing on the web, to see how well I'd met my own standards.

I did okay, not perfectly. This list takes the form of a set of personal, first-person statements (“I do this,” “I do that”) rather than a set of injunctions (“Do this!”, “Do that!”) because these are my guidelines, a set of principles which I am trying - slowly, in some cases - to internalize, not a manifesto. It goes:

  1. I try to create a private reading experience for each Ftrain reader.
  2. I study work I admire, and strive to make Ftrain something others might study.
  3. I ignore the advice of pundits and gurus who are not practitioners.
  4. I am active about writing and passive about seeking praise.
  5. I use the technology at my disposal and create new forms when I need them.
  6. I have a 1 month, 1 year, 2 year, 5 year, 10 year, 20 year, and 50 year plan for how I will write Ftrain.
  7. I have a plan for Ftrain to continue if I die.
  8. I answer correspondence and meet readers if schedule allows, and do not feel guilty if I cannot.
  9. I ignore people who intrude on my privacy or send threats.
  10. I don't publicize my site traffic statistics. The work must speak for itself, to individuals.
  11. I encourage criticism of my work. I have placed the words "open to criticism" on the front page of my site.
  12. I do not expect readers of my site to meet my personal, creative, or financial needs.
  13. I do not write about writing or web development unless I have something new to say, or can save someone the trouble of repeating my errors. It is unlikely I have much new to say on these topics.
  14. I use my site to condemn injustice, prejudice, and bias whenever I can.
  15. I do not give away secrets or punish others with prose.
  16. I do not apologize for loving the web more than print.
  17. I do not apologize for wanting to write.
  18. I do not apologize for giving away my work.
  19. I do not apologize for taking my work seriously.
  20. The web is my medium of choice, not a medium of last resort.

I see many places where I have dropped the ball and need to meet my own standards. And I'm sure I'll delete from and amend this list as my understanding of writing and technology improves. But in the meantime, this is the standard to which I try to execute my work.

.  .  .  .  .  

I know that the statements in the list came out of many discussions with many people, but the influence of conversations with Leslie Harpold and Jim Esch was most deeply felt.


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Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.

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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

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