From the Writer’s Desk: Living Up to My Name

Writers-Desk

In hindsight I could not have picked a more appropriate moniker for this website as I truly have been lazy when it comes to updating it. That being said, I have not been idle. Over the past twelve months I have interviewed politicians, participated in an election campaign, travelled, met my heroes, fell in love, had my heart broken, volunteered, and made friends with new and interesting people. In short, after too many years in school I took some time off to actually experience life. But enough is enough and it’s time to get back to work.

Returning to the La(z)y Intellectual after a year away, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate what I had previously accomplished with fresh eyes and a new perspective. After a thorough audit I’ve decided what worked, what didn’t, what was missing, and what was unnecessary. The result of that audit was the following revelations:

  • My original plan was too ambitious.
  • Some columns offered too little value to readers or didn’t match with the purpose and goals of the La(z)y Intellectual.
  • Daily content creation is not possible for one person.

Every new website experiences growing pains and being too ambitious is an inevitable mistake that we all make, but I took things to the extreme. What follows is the weekly schedule I had planned to follow, 365 days a year. Keep in mind that all of this would be done by one person.

  • Twice daily: a news column that would aggregate, summarize and explain the significance of major news stories.
  • Mondays: a personal reflection column.
  • Wednesdays: a column that would evaluate NGOs and their missions with an eye towards helping readers decide which charities really deserved your money.
  • Thursday: a column that would examine the language used in speeches, essays, and public announcements and explain how certain words and phrases colour how we interpret the final message.
  • Fridays: a book review column.
  • Sundays: a column that would aggregate interesting and important articles from across the web.
  • Monthly: an investigative report that would feature interviews with important people and exhaustive research on a particular subject.

I may have forgotten to schedule time to eat, sleep, and be sane, but that exhaustive list gives you an idea of the content and pacing that I thought a website like the La(z)y Intellectual should provide its readers with (assuming a full team of writers and editors). In order to avoid another year long delay between articles I’ve decided to strip this list down into something that is a little more manageable and a little less rigid in its scheduling. While you won’t see content every day, the more flexible scheduling will let me do some new and exciting things at a higher quality than before. Hopefully you’ll agree the trade-off is worth it.

What’s Changed?

If you’re new to the La(z)y Intellectual you might not have noticed the biggest change since I left: the graphics and artwork. When I started this website over a year ago, I did so without a dedicated graphic artist. A novice illustrator with only a passing knowledge of the required software, I created a number of crude illustrations that would sit at the top of the website and each of the columns; while passable they were far from professional. Over the past twelve months I’ve had the opportunity to improve and, upon returning, used my new skills to redo the art in a cleaner and more attractive style. While the Louvre likely won’t hang them on display any time soon, they should make your browsing experience a more pleasant one. To see the progression from old to new, head over to the Archives.

Another big change to the website will be the frequency with which it is updated. Rather than attempt a daily update schedule, with content seven days a week, I will be posting content as it is ready. That means you might see three columns a week, or you might see none, or you might see five: quality comes first and that unfortunately takes time. Make sure to follow the La(z)y Intellectual on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ for the latest updates.

The next big change comes to the Daily News column which was originally conceptualized as an aggregation of news stories from across the internet that would append summaries and analyses. Unfortunately, due to the aggressive posting schedule the most important part of the column, the analysis, wasn’t always well researched (if at all) and relied too much on personal opinion (which the La(z)y Intellectual tries to avoid when at all possible). While some readers may have enjoyed the synopses and analyses provided, ultimately I did not feel that it provided an additional value over and above reading the actual articles.

Moving forward, the news column will now look at one story per day with a focus on separating the facts from the biases that accompany competing news organizations coverage. While this will allow me to do the due diligence each story deserves, it will also demonstrate the existence and significant differences between perspectives. For those of you who have grown comfortable relying on news services that appeal to your own personal politics, this column will hopefully shake you out of your confirmation bias habit and allow you to engage with the news critically and to form your own opinions.

What’s Gone?

While the news column was able to transition nicely to a new format, the same could not be said for two other columns: What You Might Have Missed (which never actually got off the ground), and What’s Happening in Your Community (which only appeared once). The first, like the old news section, was an aggregator column that collected stories from across the internet that didn’t qualify as news but were nonetheless interesting, and the second was a column that highlighted little known NGOs that you might not have heard of. What You Might Have Missed was cut due to the fact it offered little additional value and didn’t fit with the website’s values on analysis and critical thought. What’s Happening in Your Community was cut due to a lack of time and analysis. The first, and only, article in that series was little more than a regurgitation and rephrasing of information found on the NGO’s website and did answer the most important questions that any discerning donor would ask. Questions like: what is my money going to? How successful has the organization been at achieving its goal? And how do they compare to other NGOs that fulfil the same function? While the format was flawed, the idea of investigating NGOs and evaluating their merit was not. Consequently the concept has been rolled into a future research project that will attempt to answer these important questions and more.

What’s Stayed the Same?

The remaining columns, Reviews, The Power of Words, and Reflections will return in their original form, albeit not as regularly as before. As with everything else, quality trumps quantity and these columns will not be published until I think they’ve reached the calibre of writing that you should come to expect from the La(z)y Intellectual.

The large research projects, of which Interviews with Members of Parliament will be the first, will also continue to be written as I had originally planned. I will have an update on the progress of that project, and what the next one will be, in the coming days.

Turning the Page

To those of you who have stuck around in my absence, randomly refreshing the website to see when I’m back, thank you! Your patience will be rewarded. To those of you who are just joining us, welcome! You’ve come at an exciting time and I hope you’ll enjoy the new content that I’m preparing for you.

Sincerely,

Darius Burbidge

The La(z)y Intellectual

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