The first thought that popped into my head upon viewing Spivak’s Razor was “middle school computer lab”. The green courier text on a black background threw me at first. It seemed unsophisticated and old fashioned, but as I delved into the site and learned more about the author, the design began to make sense. (More on that later.)
Spivak’s Razor has been around for quite a while. The archives go back as far as September of 1999. I looked around for an “About Me” page of some sort on the author, hoping to get some background information before digging in, but none was found. Through reading the older entries, I discovered the author was a New Jersey man in his late twenties. The name “Spivak” was the name of a character he used on LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO, along with other online role-playing games, figures prominently in his journal. Indeed, some entries are clearly meant to be understood only by other gamers, but these entries are few and far between. Spivak is a prolific journaler. His entries are long, detailed, and for the most part intensely personal. He doesn’t mince words or censor himself. His brutal honesty is admirable, although there were passages that were a bit uncomfortable to read (entries detailing various bodily functions, for example). There was also a subtle bit of racism apparent in some passages that bothered me, although Spivak owns up this and offers explanations.
Some of the author’s entries are detailed and wordy to the point of becoming tedious, and it’s tough to get through them all at once. As a reader, I could do with a little more quality instead of so much quantity. There is some genuinely lovely writing to be found here and there, however. His descriptions of being outdoors on a cold winter’s night, his love for animals, and his struggle to overcome depression and self-hatred are particularly evocative. He also has an impressive imagination, and can be quite funny.
As I wrote earlier, the design of Spivak’s Razor is reminiscent of the old days of computing when text was all you had. There are pictures scattered here and there throughout the entries, some quite funny and interesting, but the site itself is text-heavy. Upon reading the journal, and discovering how into computers and gaming Spivak is, it became clear that the simple design fits his personality. He’s more concerned with the writing itself than he is with flashy graphics. His entries are color-coded according to a key found on the front page. Dreams are in purple, posts about gaming are in yellow, holiday posts are in red, etc. It’s a clever concept, a twist on the traditional category system, although some pages resembled a rainbow and were a little hard on the eyes. There were some broken links on the older archive pages.
Spivak has recorded three hundred of his dreams and nightmares and includes them in his journal, along with handy index on the front page allowing you to jump directly to the dream entries, if you’re so inclined. He also includes links to the gaming diaries he has kept over the years. These are hard to follow if you’ve never been a gamer, but I imagine they would make a fun read for someone into such things.
Overall, I found Spivak’s Razor a typical online journal. It’s a true view into the author’s life and thoughts. It was hard for me to maintain interest throughout the entire journal although there were bright spots here and there that caught my interest. A lot of the author’s writing seems to be aimed at friends and online acquaintances, and I would imagine that this is his intended audience. It succeeds as a personal diary and is certainly entertaining in many spots, but lacks the consistent quality necessary to become a daily read. I wouldn’t add Spivak’s Razor to my “must-read” file, but would check in from time to time to see how he’s doing. spivak’s razor