The first blog I read religiously was Raw Thought.

It first opened my eyes to what a blog could be; diary, confessional, scratch pad of ideas, place to rant, advice column.

On Raw Thought, Aaron provided in-depth, game theoretical analyses on the films he watched. He discussed the efficacy of various diets he was experimenting with, including something called the Shangri-La diet, which involved eating a tablespoon of olive oil when hungry. Apparently, it was so unappetizing, that it just eliminated the desire to eat entirely. He wrote about how lonely he found it at Stanford, and admitted how one of the most interesting people he met there was his sociology professor. He was fascinated by institutions, loved Noam Chomsky and despised ‘the news’.

I was amazed by the simplicity of the site. I found the left-aligned text column a rebellious and stubborn design choice, as I did the tiny Georgia-style font. I can just imagine designers decrying these moves, but on Raw Thought they just worked. The ideas spoke for themselves. They didn’t need web design to make them more palatable.

The blog was a kaleidoscopic experience of Aaron’s frustrations, obsessions, and projects. There wasn’t anything he wasn’t interested in. He clearly had a truly insatiable appetite for knowledge, reading a baffling 140 books per year, and instructing the rest of us on how we could do so too.

Raw Thought was what a great novel should add up to, broken up over hundreds of individual posts. It was a near-complete description of Aaron’s perception of the world. But unlike a novel, which once written is static, the blog is a living thing. The story continues, and readers begin to form a kinship and sense of comfort when they log back into a familiar site, to read an entertaining update from a familiar voice.

It was extremely tragic when Aaron’s story ended all too soon, but the writings he left behind impacted me greatly and inspired a vision of what intellectual life on the Internet could be. That vision was something like a community of thinkers, learning and discussing in the open, committed to making the journey to discovery public. It was also a vision that offered incredible autonomy to the writer. The blog was not merely about its posts, but about the reader’s holistic experience on the site. There was no limit to how you could configure a web page, so there was no limit to how you could communicate ideas with readers. (Take worrydream for instance.)

Personal blogs were akin to personal gardens. There was so much to be surprised by, so much delight and joy to happen upon as you skipped through these private gardens, tended in public.

For the most part, that kind of peer-to-peer ideal is gone now. It continues to exist only in small enclaves. Most online writing now lives on decidedly unsurprising platforms like Substack. There’s a part of me that hopes, however, that people will re-discover the excitement that comes with having a unique spot of your own on the web. That they will find deep rewards not only in broadcasting their ideas, but an expansive sense of self-expression afforded by the freedom of the medium. After a brief hiatus, I’m unearthing my blogging habit. I have missed tending the garden, and missed engaging on ideas that require more than a few characters to convey.

If you start, or already have a blog — let me know. I’d love to explore your corner of the web!