Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The question

"Are you Andy?"

The question totally surprised me. I was biking to work in the dark before sunrise a few weeks ago. I was riding through an industrial neighborhood with warehouses, parked trucks, few streetlights, and the occasional ne'er-do-well. I vaguely noticed an SUV parked on the other side of the street in a place where cars rarely park. I didn't think much about it at first.

But then the driver's window went down. And a head popped out. He quickly had my full attention.

And then he asked "Are you Andy?" Ahem, choke, relax. "Why, yes, I am. Who are you?"

Turns out he is also a bike commuter. He was out stargazing with his daughter. He knew this was a dark spot with a good view of the sky since he regularly bikes through the neighborhood.

And he knew it was me because he reads this blog.

The phenomenon

How cool, I thought, this blog has readers. As I rode the rest of the way to work, all sorts of thoughts and implications swirled through my mind.

A few years ago, I sent a note to a rollerblade skater in California who wrote a blog. She was surprised that a stranger in North Carolina had found her blog, and even more surprised that I found it interesting enough to visit regularly.

And now I just read a post from popular bicycle blogger Kent Peterson. He coined the phrase 'blog-famous' to describe himself, and touched briefly on what it's like to regularly have total strangers recognize him in public, greet him by name, and know things about him.

This must not be such an unusual phenomenon.

The effects

Kent also mentioned the 'Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle', a concept in quantum physics which says that learning something about a particle changes something else about the particle.

This is much akin to a tongue-in-cheek phrase I coined to describe timing-related problems in software. I call them 'Heisenbugs' because anything you do to investigate the problem will automatically disrupt the original timing of the program, and thus subvert debugging.

Along the same lines, I wonder if some 'Heisenblog' principle will bubble up here. Will I write differently, now that I know someone is reading? Will I write more words, or reveal more, or make better jokes? Or the reverse? Why am I writing this anyway? Watch this space. See if anything changes.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading. I'm heading out to shop for a white suit and grey ascot...

(Brad Pitt photo cribbed from http://www.theinsider.com/)

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