Well, three of the five people I’ve tagged on the “five things” meme have posted their responses – thanks Ndesanjo, Janet and Bruno for sharing with us. We’ll cut Ory some slack for being on vacation, and Abdurahman gets a free pass since he’s been watching the situation in Somalia very, very closely.
So far all three have given me at least one fact I didn’t know about them… and some of these facts are intriguing indeed. Ndesanjo opened his list with a fantastic story about falling in love with books and out of love with school:
When I was in primary school (what American would call elementary school), my brother took me to the town library in Moshi, Tanzania and had me registered. Before that day, I did not know that there are “buildings full of books” for people to read for free. I loved reading. After discovering the joy of being inside a library as opposed to being in a classroom (where the learning structure was very rigid, centralized, and there was canning, too), I stopped going to school…
And Bruno cemented his credentials as the next James Bond (upstaging Jackie Peng?) by advertising his linguistic versatility, as well as his past experience as a hostage negotiator:
I once took part in a diplomatic mission to rescue three Swiss tourists that had been kidnapped by the Kurdish guerrilla in eastern Turkey. It played out like in a spy game, because the Turkish government was not eager for an official Swiss delegation to meet with representatives of a people they don’t recognize.
(Janet, on the other hand, has mostly given me advice on what not to order for dinner the next time we’re wandering through Budapest or Bishkek together.)
Phenomena like the “five things” meme are pretty common in the Live Journal world, and less common on most of the blogs I read regularly. I suspect this is a phenomenon of the fact that blogs have rapidly become a professional space – I’m cognisant of the fact that this blog is read by colleagues, critics, funders and other folks I generally don’t want knowing about my growing addiction to Veronica Mars or to bore with details of my new interest in cheesemaking.
But those details are the sorts of things you expect to know about friends, and blogs are increasingly a way I’m finding myself making friends. A larger and larger percentage of my friends are people I know primarily online, and who I have deeply limited knowledge about. I was reminded of this over New Years, when dozens of old friends descend on our house, and I’m suddenly surrounded by people I know lots and lots about. I don’t usually remember why I know someone’s hometown, or what their parents do for a living, but I know these details because we’ve had huge amounts of common context.
This is less true for the online friends, even people who are very important to me. So perhaps it’s a good thing that there are some structured ways to let each other know the details we’d either accumulate from years of sharing the same space and time.