Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

What is going on here?

In his 1959 classic, The Sociological Imagination, the great sociologist C. Wright Mills told students of the discipline:

As a social scientist, you have to … capture what you experience and sort it out; only in this way can you hope to use it to guide and test your reflection, and in the process shape yourself as an intellectual craftsman. But how can you do this? One answer is: you must set up a blog…

In such a blog … there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned. In this blog, you … will try to get together what you are doing intellectually and what you are experiencing as a person. here you will not be afraid to use your experience and relate it directly to various work in progress. By serving as a check on repetitious work, your blog also enables you to conserve your energy. It also encourages you to capture ‘fringe-thoughts’: various ideas which may be byproducts of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard in the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience.

…The blog also helps you build up the habit of writing. … In developing the blog, you can experiment as a writer and this, as they say, develop your powers of expression.

Actually, he called it a “file” instead of a blog, but the point remains the same: becoming a scientific thinker requires practice and writing is a powerful aid to reflection.

So that’s what this blog is. I write here about thoughts I have, things I’m working on, stuff I’ve read, experiences I’ve had, and so on. Whenever a thought crystalizes in my head, I type it up and post it here. I don’t read over it, I don’t show it to anyone, and I don’t edit it — I just post it.

I don’t consider this writing, I consider this thinking. I like sharing my thoughts and I like hearing yours and I like practicing expressing ideas, but fundamentally this blog is not for you, it’s for me. I hope that you enjoy it anyway.

You should follow me on twitter here.

July 29, 2006


What a fantastic affirmation of purpose. I’ve been writing on numerous blogs these past few years, and it’s good to hear it described so succintly.

Thanks for sharing this great find. I really enjoy your brain-dump: it gets my brain moving sometimes.


posted by Matt Todd on July 30, 2006 #

Paul Simon sang “But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity”. Whether your blog is for you or for me, the words will return to you, someday, somehow. Just be prepared.

posted by MIT guy on July 31, 2006 #

account of similar experiences from the computer scientist edsger dijkstra: http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/transcriptions/EWD10xx/EWD1000.html

posted by anonymous on August 28, 2006 #


btw Aaron, reading that berry-inspired spam over here reminds me, did you ever come across Linus Pauling’s work on Vitamin C? Interesting story, even for the skeptic (I take a non-committal amount of Vit C maysel…).

posted by Danny on October 23, 2006 #

Hi! Have a look at my web site University of Toronto Fraud at http://ca.geocities.com/uoftfraud/ I like the way you suggest that a man’s behaviour would change wildly when he is put in different conditions. Try to guess what I should be doing when being put in the conditions described on my web site.

posted by Michael Pyshnov on January 19, 2007 #


re:that Brad Delong Jane Jacobs - and Sun’s article on the link (your new del.icio.us bookmark thing).

There is a documentary called ‘Green Apple’ out there. And that documentary tells that clearly unless we become very intentful, those buildings are no less eco/green - rather it’s an energy waster.

There was one conference in 2005, that house rep Conway attended (about green buildings) and in that one architect guy also ‘bombarded’ those office buildings and so on as ‘one of the most energy wasting’ shameless architecture thing.

And you know why NJ’s estate prices never go down. People drive up and down to get into Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens. Get a ride from someone, you’d scream - it will take several hours to really understand how many highways are connecting that region stiching across. It’s an experience.

posted by For Jane Jacobs sake on January 31, 2007 #


posted by on July 29, 2007 #

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