Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

Introducing the dog-ear.

Originally posted to blockquote.org on in Chicago, Illinois

I built a new feature into Blockquote. Any article marked with the image of a folded upper-righthand corner is an article that’s likely to see revision. Like the folded page-corner of a book, the dog-ear indicates something I intend to come back to.

The brand-conscious might call it “agile,” but whatever. It’s editing. A public sort of editing, but editing all the same. After nursing the narrative of my personal site for the better part of a decade, the strict journalistic standards to which I held my other online writing (the contents of the present site not excluded) finally struck me as inappropriate, if not a little absurd. What I write is not journalism. As a non-journalist I don’t feel myself bound in any absolute sense to factuality or chronology. This is craft and play. I enjoy the editing and I mean for the reading to be enjoyable.

I’ve given thought to editing in public for a while now. The web provides for my living, so I know what it’s made of and how it works. The digital medium is pliant to its core, and there’s nothing in pliancy to afford real conviction. I find no compelling reason to make any pretense to online permanence, say what the experts will. I’m not going to give myself any more grief for changing what is both mine and within my power to change.

The dog-ear signifies my attempt to take the web for what I found it to be the first day I downloaded and edited the source code of a web page. Today I’m capable of making computers generate web pages on demand. All the more is my site, once again, craft and play. A second and I think more urgent reason for the mark is a good-faith effort to be plain about how I plan to use my site.

I concede that the move to make the fact of my editing as public a matter as the editing itself may bother more than a few people. Should you to be one so bothered, you don’t need to read the site. I will not be keeping a repository of old versions of articles, and I request that no one train a versioning service on my site on the pretext of keeping me honest. (I’ve seen it done before.) I do my best to write clearly, and I have every desire to be direct about the fact. I consider clarity and frankness to be honest; if I change my mind about that definition I’ll change my practices accordingly. I won’t ask you to agree with me, but I will ask for your respect.

The goal of my editing is a point where the words I use most directly represent my thoughts. What I write does not automatically, in and of itself, match the shape of what I think. I’m not the first to see a distance between words and ideas. I edit to make the words I use as congruent to my ideas as I’m able to make them. I won’t make a claim to having language down to any concrete level where word equals idea and the pair go dancing onto the page and the world is right. Linguistic transparency is a matter of faith, and it’s not a faith I hold. To my mind, the commitment to editing is a commitment to honesty, albeit an honesty distinct from factuality. But no less real or ethical an honesty for the distinction.

If you’re interested about what I’m trying to say, load Blockquote.org in your web browser, and if you’re curious to watch an article change on my reconsideration, load it again in a week. If a dog-earred article isn’t dog-earred on return, trust that I’m satisfied with it. That much I’ll give you to rely on.