Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Now Featuring Capital Letters!

I started using all small letters in emails while I was in law school, probably because of laziness. I don’t actually remember how it started. But at some point I began thinking of my no-cap messages as a signal of informality. Unlike my law school work, which had to be, you know, all grammatical and shit, my personal email were supposed to be something I could dash off without worrying about typos or making much sense. (At one point I also decided I needed a personalized sign off to all of my emails, and I settled on “the and,” which I think started with a typo that I thought was funny. Then it wasn’t anymore, so “the and” went away.) My lack of capitalization in personal email carried on for years. When I became a law talkin’ guy it became an even more significant marker of the boundary between my personal life and my work.

That carried over into this blog. I did not want this blog ever infected with my work. It was very important to me to keep a mental barrier between legal writing and this site. Also, as this site is basically a waste of time vanity project, I didn't want to have to waste even more time and feel like I had to proof read what I write here. Especially in the beginning, there was something very liberating about writing a longish rant--which probably had a ton of easily correctable mistakes, but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t look--and then publishing it for the world to see without looking back.In my mind, not using caps was like an implicit tag of informality, like the “dictated but not reviewed” notations I would see on the bottom of letters written by lawyers decades ago, as if using those magic words makes whatever errors there are okay.

Of course, I’m not sure if anyone else ever understood that’s what the lack of capitalization meant to me. Only one person actually asked me why I did it, Mithras, years ago at drinking liberally. After I explained he said, “why don’t you write a post explaining that?” So I’m doing that now.

Sometimes not using caps caused problems. In the first year of the blog, I went to Uzbekistan and hitched rides across the country. Outside of Tashkent (the capital) all internet access was dial-up only. In fact, the dial-up was a long distance call to Tashkent where the only ISPs were located. It took an eternity to connect, navigate to blogger, log in, and then get to the page where I could type in my post. So when I started dialing in, I would open a word processor document and start writing the post as I waited for the modem to connect and everything to load. By the time the connection was established and the new post page was loaded, I would often have the whole post written. Then I would cut and paste it into the new post field, hit the publish button and then wait until it slowly published the post. The problem was the word processor program (once I switched it to English from Russian/Cyrillic mode) would automatically add in capitalizations. I knew there was probably a menu function in the Russian version of MS Word that I could use to automatically convert all the capital letters to lower case, but because the menu was in Russian, I couldn’t figure it out. One time I went through and manually removed all the caps from the post, a tedious effort and one that seemed contrary to the entire point of my no-cap rule. After that I didn’t bother. And a few posts went up with capital letters. (see e.g. this and that). Later in the trip, I figured out which option in the Russian menu would let me remove caps and so I went back to the no-cap normal.

Then I continued on my merry way until the rise of iOS and its autocorrect function. Since 2007, an increasing number of posts were written, or at least partially written, on my iPhone or my iPad. In each case, I had to manually override the autocorrect every time I did not capitalize something that should be capitalized. I also often missed my chance to manually override and would then have to go back and manually remove the capitalization in the post. It was, and still is, a major pain in the ass.

Once again, I was always aware that the extra effort was contrary to the reason I didn’t use capitalization in the first place. But unlike when I was on the Uzbekistan trip, my iOS autocorrection was not a temporary condition I would leave behind when I flew home. On the contrary, it’s likely to be the future. It still took me a few years of mulling it over, but eventually I decided to end my no capitalization rule for this blog.

The question was, how would I do it. Should I phase out capitalization, or do it all at once? And when should I start? Phasing it out actually raised too many questions (like what are the phases, exactly) and seemed to be creating more work for me enforcing the phasing out rules than just sticking with no-caps. So I went with all at once. And when should I start? How about my tenth blogiversary?

Except I don’t exactly know when that is. As I mentioned before long ago, I created this blog a few weeks before I began posting. I don’t even remember how many weeks that was. So the actual blogiversary is probably in May, or maybe April My first post, however, was on June 4, 2003.

And what a post it was! That’s why I’m calling today my tenth blogiversary. Happy blogiversary to me! As a present I’m giving myself capital letters. Or maybe that’s more of a present for my readers (yes, both of you). In any case, from this point forward I will capitalize words when capitalization is normally called for. So enjoy!

I have ten more years to decide whether I will go ALL CAPS effective June 4, 2023.

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