I Created a New Language in 5th Grade

This Week In Writing, we explore our digital legacies, discuss permanence, and close out the year with something new.

I Created a New Language in 5th Grade
"an archeologist uncovering an ancient computer in the desert" by Justin Cox and Midjourney

My fifth-grade class was unique. In second grade, the teachers put me into gifted classes because I passed a test I didn’t know I had taken. Then, at the end of my fourth-grade year, the teachers told me I actually did better on the test than they initially realized and moved me to the AAIM class — I have no idea what that stands for.

While studying ancient civilizations and languages, we spent two weeks on a project that split the class into two groups. Each team spent the first week creating a unique society  —  language, poetry, and artifacts. I was on the language team, and we devised a complete alphabet based on dots — basically a written form of braille designed by 10-year-olds. For our artifact, we created a clay Rosetta Stone that we shattered for authenticity.

At the end of the first week, each group buried their civilization’s history in massive holes that had been dug in the school’s playground. The cultures lay in their respective tombs over the weekend, and when we returned on Monday, our team’s focus changed to archeology. We were tasked with digging up the opposing team’s artifacts and trying to piece together their civilization’s history from our findings.

The language team was tasked with deciphering the opposing group’s language and unlocking their written history. It was a lot of fun.

I thought of this project recently while deleting my Twitter history and setting up Mastodon. While I realize that nothing ever disappears on the internet, I wonder about future people stumbling upon my digital history. What will they think? What will they piece together? What will they learn?

Setting up Mastodon has highlighted the importance of owning our digital archive regardless of how our digital histories are preserved. We don’t own anything on our social channels. Our Twitter feed? Not really ours. What happens if the site continues to melt to the ground? Will our histories be captured in time, left for future generations to sift through?

I publish on Medium and Substack. I own my content on both platforms and can export my subscribers to other platforms (on Medium, you can only export subscribers who opt-in to allowing export). A few years ago, I also started cross-posting everything to my website. Not because I don’t enjoy the network effects of Medium but because I wanted to maintain a record of my writing. While I trust those platforms, I don’t own them.

Twitter shows what happens when a platform we merely use is mismanaged. What are you doing to protect your writing and your audience?

"twitter is a dumpster fire" by Justin Cox and Midjourney
“twitter is a dumpster fire” by Justin Cox and Midjourney

Speaking Of Twitter…

Over the weekend, Twitter announced a policy banning links to other social media platforms. The result of the infraction was a permanent account ban. The backlash was quick and harsh. Twitter ended up deleting the policy, but the warning remains: the platform is unstable.

I’ve become increasingly fond of Mastodon over the last few weeks. The platform is open-sourced, meaning no person or company owns anything. I can transport my followers and content to another server if I’m dissatisfied with my current one. While all that’s well and good, what has been most exciting about Mastodon has been the community.

People on the platform are friendly, welcoming, and willing to converse. Mastodon has a real early Twitter vibe and I’m digging it. The app has already replaced Twitter on my phone’s Home Screen and I’ll be spending more time there moving forward.

Signing up for a Mastodon is tricky, and the decentralized platform has a bit of a learning curve. Thankfully, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both published startup guides over the weekend.

If you’re on Mastodon or fancy exploring the platform, follow me at @[email protected]. I also set up an account for The Writing Cooperative at @[email protected], but I’m not sure what I’ll do with it just yet.

Speaking Of Community…

I’m working on a relaunch of my Discord server for the new year. It’s not ready yet, but some exciting things are coming. As I like to say, stay tuned…

With that tease, I’m taking the rest of the year off. The Best of The Writing Cooperative will send out on the 31st, but This Week In Writing is off next week and (likely) the week after.

I’ll see you in the new year!

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!