Blogs and blogging

2009 08 05
The time Gawker put the Washington Post out of business


“A less cumbersome way for newspapers to head off the threat of blogs would be to beat us to the punchline.”

I don’t want to get all chin-strokey about blogs and the media and all that, so I’ll just say that one thing that (good) blogs have repeatedly reminded me is that news and commentary can be delivered with more humour and good sense than the norms of journalism and commentary typically seem to permit.

Update: See this too.


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2009 07 31
Blogs and book marketing


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging, Books

This is a sensible point: why would a publisher not want to capitalize on the fact that an author has a popular blog?

Note that it seems not to have occurred to OUP that mentioning LH might actually bring hordes of readers clamouring for the book. Some believe in God without knowing whether one exists; some know the Internet exists without believing in it.

A lot of the books that make it onto my reading list get there by way of a blog recommendation.


Howls of outrage (2)

2006 11 27
Your info, their info


I notice that Google-owned Blogger makes it very hard to switch blogging platforms. There is, for example, no export function, as on other platforms, that you can use to easily save your posts, so that they can be imported into new software. And the support forums at WordPress are filled with people moaning about the failure of their attempts to import blogger posts via a WordPress tool. Some of these complaints are because the CURL extension in php is required and it’s a bit tricky to install, but there appears to be a Blogger-side to the woes too.

Besides betraying a basic insecurity about their product – if you have to make it hard to switch, you can’t be very confident in the reasons people will have to stay – this is worth mentioning because this is a Google product. It isn’t just any old company, then, that is churlishly holding onto these old posts. It’s one of the most important data-handling companies in the world, and growing more important every day. And it handles increasing amounts of personal data, in addition to most of the internet, and a growing number of out-of-copyright books. I think that’s a bit worrying.


Howls of outrage (2)

2006 05 11
Before blogging . . .


. . . there was just writing it down on a wall:

Other anecdotes emphasize that our actions must be governed by reason rather than the emotions: Archytas refused to punish the serious misdeeds of his slaves, because he had become angry and did not want to act out of anger (A7); he restrained himself from swearing aloud by writing his curses on a wall instead (A11).


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 04 08
The essence of blogging


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging

This, plus the comments.


Howls of outrage (2)

2006 02 24
Malcolm Gladwell gets a blog


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging

Cool. This post does a very nice job of explaining why every writer, no matter how prolific, ought to have a blog. Among the reasons, a blog allows for a little second-guessing:

Adam Gopnik just emailed me to tell me that, for some strange reason, a debate that he and I did for the Washington Monthly on the Canadian health care system six years ago has now been resurrected on various blogs. I just took a look. Here’s one of my favorite comments: “Very like their roles at The New Yorker, Gopnik is the voice of bourgeois sense, and Gladwell of extravagant, contrarian sensibility.” (I’m not sure Adam would be as happy with that descriptor as I am). In our debate, Adam vigorously defended the Canadian system, and I attacked it. But wait! That was six years ago! I’ve now changed my mind. I now agree with virtually everything Adam said and disagree with virtually everything I said. In fact, I shudder when I read what I said back then.

Funny, I shuddered too just skimming a description of the debate. But self-doubt just makes people so much more likable . . . I think.


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2005 08 16
Blog job posting


Blottered needs someone:

The posting is looking pretty sparse around here, right? Wanna blog about crime? Any aspect of the topic is open game. No prior knowledge or ability to write impressively is required. We just ask that you avoid ethnic slurs and stereotyping unless you’re absolutely postively sure it’s funny.


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2004 12 02
Two years


One of the best blogs around celebrates its two year anniversary today with a posting free for all.

If you don’t read The Head Heeb, well, what are you waiting for?


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2004 09 05
One year of blogging


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging

Rodger Payne’s blog is one year old today. He writes:

These days, I am . . . averaging close to 70 readers/day, Monday through Friday. Weekends, about 40 of you check in daily.

70 hits a day?!? That’s just bonkers. If you want evidence that the blogosphere doesn’t allocate attention rationally, you can’t do much better than this. Payne is balanced and knowledgeable – and he posts almost every day. I can’t for the life of me understand why so many inferior sites get so much more traffic.

Bookmark that sucker! What are you waiting for?


Howls of outrage (3)

2004 08 17
“Hypocrite!”


Whenever someone sets out to parody political bloggers, the result usually plays on the tendency of bloggers to carp ceaselessly about the inconsistencies of their political opponents. “You said X about Y and not-X about Z – and that shows you are a mindless boob without any sense of shame in your own very obvious inadequacies,” gives a sense of the general form, I think. Responses to such criticisms usually either dilate on the even grosser inconsistencies in the work of the critic originating the dispute – with special attention to the question of how that critic can possibly carry on with life after these inconsistencies have been revealed – or attempt to explain why exactly X is appropriate for Y and not-X for Z.

Much silliness has gone on under this general rubric, but I think it’s important to see that the form of the argument here is perfectly serious. True, to show that someone else is a hypocrite is, sadly, not enough to defend yourself from the charge. And true, to show that someone else is not, by their own principles, entitled to make a criticism is not enough to reject the criticism itself. But let us not, because these things are true, miss the less obvious fact that a lot of very serious moral reflection proceeds precisely by moving back and forth between different cases and testing and refining the moral principles we call on to justify our judgements about these cases by noting possible inconsistencies in our responses to them. So the substance of a lot of political blogging of this variety may be quite lacking in perspective or proportion, but the basic form seems to me just fine.

Professional philosophers are just as likely to miss this as anyone else, as far as I can tell. Or at least they are in the classroom when they teach applied moral philosophy. That is one main theme of my essay How to Teach a Class in Applied Ethics. If you haven’t commented on it, I would love to hear your thoughts. I head into the classroom soon, delusions and all. Don’t miss this chance to set me straight. Or to call me an obnoxious, raving hypocrite who is apparently oblivious to the massive extent of his deep, deep intellectual, personal, and moral failings.


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2004 08 11
Political Blogging


So, I went to the political blogger event I mentioned yesterday. Although the panelists were all obviously bright people, the discussion was mostly confused and badly focused. Ah well, what can you do?

Anything of note? Well, at one point, blogging got so strongly associated with spontaneity and informality that you could be forgiven for wondering whether either virtue would have made it into the world without the assistance of the internet. Phew! Thank goodness we live in the modern age! And the question period afterwards had a decent question or two, but – oy vey – a few comments that were just really beyond strange. Oh yes, and did you know that blogs will save the world – or not!

I did give my complements afterwards to Daniel Radosh, who has a funny blog. That was a pleasure, but, I confess, not a pleasure worth $15. I’m sure he would understand.

UPDATE: OK, you can check out how unfair and biased my account was by reading these notes from the event. Or not.


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2004 08 10
Hopeless


I’m such a geek. I’m going to this forum on political blogging tonight in NYC.

There’s probably no hope for me. But, dear reader, it may not be too late to save yourself. Fly! Fly while you can!


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 06 03
Matthew Yglesias writes: . .


Matthew Yglesias writes:

. . . it dawns on me that we know surprisingly little about the political views of some of our prominent liberal bloggers. George W. Bush is in office, so the focus is typically on the various ways in which he and his cronies are bad. Fair enough. But when the Kerry administration comes to power, we’ll presumably get a more well-rounded view of what Atrios, Josh Marshall, etc. think about things. It’ll be interesting to see how audiences react.

Exactly so. As I’ve remarked before, if Kerry comes to power, I think the blogosphere will get much more interesting. The right would have something solid to chew on, instead of feeling (more or less) obliged to stick up for the indefensible. The left would shatter into a thousand pieces, as bloggers suddenly realized that shared Bush hatred obscured quite a few substantive policy differences. But – I hope – this might result in a decent, and reasonably civil, debate, since we’ve managed to forge some nice ties these past few years. Bush is a uniter, since he’s brought together people from across the political spectrum into an alliance against him. But political debate has suffered as a consequence, since every sane person’s top priority has to be defeating Bush.

What would not be especially helpful is the left reacting to every criticism of Kerry’s administration with a comparison to Bush’s, rather than engaging the substance of the criticism. As tempting as that would be, it would let Bush continue to set a very low standard, even after he had departed from office. We can’t afford that now and we would be even less in a position to afford it later.


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2004 04 28
Meta-blogging


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging

[If you don’t know what I’m talking about, neverminditisntimportantanyway.]

Steve Laniel nails what’s wrong with George Packer’s piece on blogs, thereby saving me the trouble of writing my own rebuttal.


Howls of outrage (2)

2004 03 13
Civility and blogging Norms


In case you missed it, Norm Geras is having it out with with this fellow. A tempest in a blogospheric teapot, to be sure, but it’ll do as a peg to hang a few thoughts on.

As far as the substance of the debate goes, I think for me that it’s a bit of this and a bit of that. But what I do feel fairly strongly about is that Norm Geras is not an “Apostate, Mad Dog who must be shot”. No, to put it mildly, I do not think that Norm deserves to be shot.

Here are a few considerations that ought to weigh on us when we’re deciding on what degree of civility to take up with a political adversary.

Let me dub the first the Brad DeLong Doctrine of Civility. This doctrine basically licenses the following retort to your adversaries: “If you don’t want to be called a liar, then don’t lie. Similarly, if you don’t want to be called an idiot, then don’t be one.” The justification for the Brad Delong Doctrine of Civility is fairly straightforward. Political discourse can be debased in many ways, but one of the most insidious is the distortion we introduce when we fail – repeatedly – to call a spade a spade on matters of the highest importance. A norm which prohibits strong language in response to outright lies and evasions isn’t a healthy one. It isn’t one we can afford any longer. So let’s call it like it is. DeLong’s series on the media is a superb example of someone telling it like it is, and doing everyone a world of good in the process.

[UPDATE: See below]

The second consideration is that we ought to try to maximize our opportunities for rational debate. That possibility recedes as our insults get rougher. But I think it’s obvious that Norm is capable of rational debate, even if *cough* he hasn’t yet responded to my invitation to debate the questions which really interest me.

Third, we ought to think in general about how strong emotions work in our political and moral judgments. As far as I can tell, the Buddhists think that we should try and shed ourselves of strong emotions. Myself, I’m with Aristotle on this one: Sometimes anger or indignation, in the right amount, at the right time, in the appropriate circumstances, is the right thing to feel. Anger or indignation are indispensable tools of moral reflection: they help us pick out things which are morally salient, and which might otherwise have escaped our notice. But they also distort and mislead. I’ve been blinded by indignation as often as I’ve been enlightened by it. When you’re tempted to use strong language with an adversary, you ought to think about whether the language you’re using is connected with the good or the bad kind of indignation. When you’re tempted to call – even in jest – for Norm Geras to be shot, chances are it’s the bad kind.

Finally, we ought to cut people slack depending on why we think they’ve arrived at the positions they have. Norm Geras may be mistaken about the war, but he didn’t support it for the same reasons Donald Rumsfeld did. He supported it for reasons that we ought to acknowledge too, even if we thought they were outweighed by other, stronger considerations. In fact, I’ve learned quite a bit from Norm’s blog. It irritates me sometimes, but it also gets me thinking about things in new ways. And that’s more than I can say for a lot of lefty blogs.

Let me finish by noting something Norm says:

Cue whoever it is that blogs at Lenin’s Tomb and calls himself, sometimes, Nikolai and, other times, Lenin. Supposedly responding to this post of mine, Nik – which is how I shall refer to him just to be friendly, since he has kindly allowed himself elsewhere to speak of me as ‘Norm’, and why would I ever rebuff an overture like that?

Whoops! As far as first names go, I notice that I have an inconsistent policy here at See Why? I usually use full names or last names, but occasionally I slip into the habit of using first names. I think I read somewhere once that bloggers do that all the time. Anyway, I almost always use Norm Geras’ first name. So: Pardon me, Mr. Geras, for being so forward. But your blog (ahem, “Normblog”) is simply stuffed to the brim with Norm-this and Norm-that. That may explain why complete strangers are using your first name. No offense intended.

UPDATE: And click here for a very funny response to some recent Republican whining about incivility.

UPDATE: Oh crap. Nikolai at Lenin’s Tomb thinks that I’m quoting Brad DeLong. I’m not, and I never meant to attribute the Brad DeLong Doctrine of Civility to anything he actually said. I named it after DeLong because I associate the view with him, and because I have a rather higher opinion of DeLong than Nikolai.


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