Yet Another Good Idea.

Dear Internet:

I have this idea for a website that’s been knocking around in my head for a week or so. I like the concept, but somehow it’s striking me as not a ‘me’ thing. So I’m just going to throw it out there and see what you guys think about it. OK? Good.

This site would be a service on the order of Blogger or Moveable Type, but it’s intended for the kind of people who keep diaries or personal journals. Like, the kind with a tiny lock that you keep hidden between the mattress and box spring. So, first, it can be kept totally private, if that’s what the user wants. Or (this is the good part, I swear), they can choose to publish certain portions of it, and keep others hidden. Basically, censor it for public consumption. I’m envisioning showing the entire post as originally written, with the censored parts blocked out, something like this:

my mom does indeed look at this website occasionally. hello.

Interesting, right? The voyeur in you wants to know the rest. A good diary-ist will know exactly what to censor: just the really good stuff. I’m envisioning stupid little tricks like mouseovers that give a hint about what’s hidden underneath. And topic indicators to make it indexable. All that geeky stuff.

Now, I’m aware of the issue of convincing people to publish something that’s inherently so private. There’s a lot of trust involved. I’m going on the theory that everyone is an exhibitionist to some extent. Also, I’m a huge fan of the social experiment, and I think this would be a really good one. I’m wondering:

How will the diaries evolve over time? Will the writers start to censor themselves less as they get used to writing in a public forum? Will their styles change? (You write differently for yourself than you do for everyone else, right?) Will they eventually just end up as completely uncensored journals/blogs? Will their readers be primarily acquaintances or strangers?

It’s fascinating. To me, at least. How’s this sounding to you?

So, I considered writing the app and testing out the concept myself, but I realized I’d be a bad candidate for a trial run. First of all, I don’t keep a diary. The closest thing I have is an html document with random notes about stuff I want to write about at some point. Occasionally, it’s just lists of words. There’s nothing tantalizing about that; it’s the opposite of sexy1. Second, I’ve been doing this web thing since before you were even a twinkle in your daddy’s eye, kiddo. That means I’m used to writing for an audience, however limited that audience may be (and however often my mother is a member of said audience). Third, I’m positive that I’d be struck by this perverse Yossarianism, and abuse the censoring feature. I’d block out random words, parts of speech (starting with pronouns), every other sentence, that kind of thing. So, yeah, if I really want to try this thing out, I need me some professionals.

So, that’s basically it. There are further exploitative possibilities here (like publishing random out-of-context tidbits of censored text on the front page of the site, or allowing users to charge readers for access to privileged information), but that’s for later. What do you think? Let me know. I care.

And thanks!

1I can’t decide whether ‘the opposite of sexy’ would make a better tshirt, signature line, or tattoo. I’ll have to think about it some more before I commit.

Footnotes, on the other hand, are dead sexy.

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