This morning on Twitter the estimable Carl Zimmer stated that I had “reported” on the recent paper on European skin pigmentation evolution. I wondered, wait, am I a reporter? I don’t really know, and this really is rooted in the “am I a journalist” thread. I’m starting to get worn down by those who claim I am a journalist. My main issue is that once you’re pegged as a journalist, you’re held to journalistic standards. So, for example, people might demand that I selectively misquote and misrepresent the opinions of others, because I might alienate readership by telling them what I think, instead of using mouthpieces who I don’t even bother depicting with any accuracy. I’m only half-kidding here. I’ve had great experiences with journalists, and not so great experiences. I really, really, hate it when people go fishing for quotes to fit their story arc.
In regards to papers, I don’t exactly take the tack of someone like Ed Yong or Dave Munger. I’m just a guy offering my own unvarnished opinions, and the reality is what I do “on the blog” intersects strongly with the way I talk and behave in “real life.” If this blog is journalism than a huge portion of my time chilling with my boys is journalism And, a substantial proportion of the posts here emerge directly from reader questions. Oh, and sometimes I tell readers what I really think of them, which is often not much. All of this just doesn’t seem right to me as journalism. So I don’t feel it is. Randall Parker suggests a new word, “rifting.” Though that got me to thinking: a lot of what I do is “sifting.” The content of others, but also my own thoughts.
Wanted to ping by readers on this:
As a means of publicizing the vast quantity of high-quality content material uniquely available on its recently released website, UNZ.org is announcing a historical research competition.
A First Prize of $10,000 and several other cash prizes will be awarded for the most significant and interesting discussion or analysis of some historical issue based on the published source material provided at UNZ.org. All entries must be received by August 31, 2012, and awards will be made by September 30, 2012.
Since I’m a judge a few friends have asked if this is for real. Yes, it is.
I need to rationalize my process of modulating the stream of comments I get. Toward that end I am going to be posting an “open thread” once every week (I’ve scheduled the next month already). If you have the urge to leave an off-topic comment on a post immediately, just put it here. You can of course contact me, but I understand that is often suboptimal, insofar as you may wish for input from other readers. Because this option is available I am inclined to simply delete off-topic comments more aggressively now, with repeated violations resulting in banning.
The nature of the restrictions of the comments are relatively loose on this post. You should maintain some decorum as usual. But you can post links, ask me or other readers questions, etc.
This is probably relevant if you have a blog or run a webzine of some sort. It’ll be much more abstract if you are a commenter, and can’t relate concretely to weirdo creeps who persistently spam your comments and contact you via email. In relation to bloggingheads.tv my own two primary complaints from my experience on that web-show:
Interesting discussion on the nature of media today, and the tendency toward driving traffic via the information equivalent of Twinkies. Below are my top 10 posts since moving to Discover Magazine measured by visits. The numbers to the right is the ratio of visits of the post over the past 2 years to the rough number of visits in an average day on this weblog.
Apropos of the discussion below, Classic SNL Clip Of The Day: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Probably one of the best arguments against resurrecting Neandertals.
There’s something about this 1995 single from Collective Soul, The World I Know, which is redolent to me of the Pacific Northwest.* Yes, it’s precious, but the Pacific Northwest is a bit precious. The land of misty mornings, SWPLs, and strong coffee. The shadows alternating with colorized high key lighting common in these alter-rock videos from the mid-90s does neatly parallel some of the scenery which you encounter in the geography of that region. It was only through happenstance that my family moved to the land of big trees when I was on the cusp of puberty, but it was where I matured as a person. Living outside the Northwest now I regularly identify as a Northwesterner, and I certainly miss some of the perks of that region, though I could do without the feeling that I’m walking around in a cloud forest scene in a fantasy novel all the time. ’till we see each other again, on 47th and Division.
* I am aware that CS is not a “Seattle band.”
Bora Zivkovic has what is basically a short history of science blogging up. I was one of those who was there at the beginning, and I honestly can’t say that he left anything of great relevance out of the narrative. In normal circumstances I don’t think much about what I do, I do. But one thing I will add: blogging isn’t some exotic and peculiar aspect of science anymore, many labs use WordPress as a content management system. Blogs as they were 10 years ago aimed out, toward the populace. Today the info-ecological niches what we would have called blogs fill are much more diverse. Some blogs basically exist to update lab members and interested researchers on their publications and journal club. I add these to my RSS even though I’m not a member of the lab and don’t participate in the journal club because they’re educational to me (e.g., gc bias). Imagine, if you will, that R. A. Fisher had had a blog at Rothamsted. Though this is an opportunity to point you to the R.A. Fisher Digital Archive in case you don’t know about it. We live in rich times for the infovore.
Oh, and in the interests of social media whoring:
I’ve been thinking that I should post about what it’s been like being a blogger for 10 years. 1/3 of my recollected life! (I recall fragments of being 3, but continuity of self starts somewhere at the end of my 4th year) Actually, I always assumed I would do this post in 2012 when I joined ScienceBlogs in 2006 and realized I could turn this hobby/sidelight into a source of semi-professional fulfillment. But now that the time is nigh (I started blogging in April 2002, while the original Gene Expression launched in June of 2002) I find myself procrastinating, ironic in light of the fact that blogging is often parodied by some as a form of procrastinating. I will say that whenever I have a “9-5″ (or, in my case more often an 8:30 to 6:30 at minimum) I don’t ever write for the blog during those hours (if a post shows up in that period, it’s a feature called scheduling enabling that miracle, something obviously unknown to those readers who stupidly ask “why are you posting now loser! Shouldn’t you be hittin’ on bangin’ chicks, like I am on Friday nights?”). So blogging is not a way procrastinate for me. It is a way to say what I need to say.
So I was going to write a whole thing about how this isn’t actually terrible smart writing and that the whole thing reads like a B- paper in Behavioral Econ 201 at a second tier university, but I’ll let this quote do all the work for me:
Second, people who gain a Ph.D. at least know something of theoretical interest. This applies even to an unemployed history Ph.D.!
This is a weird cottage industry – taking obvious problems and using every available tool incorrectly to get clicks so you can sell more ads for penis creme.
Obviously I’m not going to defend my posts on law school as awesome pieces of writing. On the contrary! Yet I’m always aroused toward some curiosity whenever people criticize the content of these non-science related posts. For example, performed a routine analysis of GSS data, and someone in a forum like MetaFilter (I forget which) dismissed the results as something that a graduate student in political science might write as a paper. Here’s the point I want to emphasize: I did not spend more than 30 minutes on the post which the commenter judges as being a B- paper at a second tier university! Question: what’s the going rate for such papers? I could produce a bunch per day if needed. Similarly, the commenter dismissing my GSS posts as something a political science Ph.D. could easily generate might be curious to know that some of my posts of that genre are written in less than 1 hour while I’m killing time in public transportation tethering to my phone so I have an internet connection. The method is rather easy to replicate:
2) Look for data sets to test question
Unfortunately not too many people find this practice congenial, so the niche is left to a few odd bloggers (e.g., Audacious Epigone, the Inductivist). Naturally, sometimes I do put a lot of effort into a post. For example, I remember precisely that this post took me about 6 hours total to write. I ran it through two edits, instead of my customary single instance. Though I have to admit here that my very long posts are really not creations de novo, rather, they’re a stitching together of analytic modules I’ve developed over 10 years, or, have had kicking around in the back of my head. Any novel inferences I might have are never obtained through the process of writing. Rather, they serve as seeds for the writing itself.
The genetics of the Malagasy people have been essentially unstudied. Analysis of Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA markers have corroborated the lingustic evidence that the Malagasy result from admixture between southeast Asian and east African populations [1,2]. However, no genome-wide data from Malagasy individuals has been analyzed to date (with the exception of the individuals in this project).
Our goal is to address a number of questions about the genetics of the Malagasy. These include, but are not limited to:
1. What fraction of ancestry in the Malagasy is from Africa rather than southeast Asia?
2. Does this fraction vary geographically and/or ethnically?
3. Who were the populations that first settled Madagascar?
4. Was Madagascar settled once from southeast Asia, or multiple times?
5. Can we use genetics to more precisely date the arrival of African populations in Madagascar?
Our approach to this project is to use data contributed from Malagasy individuals who have been genotyped by a personal genomics companies. If you would like to contribute your data, please contact us.
Current results are available from the tabs at the top of this site, and will be updated as the project progresses.
Again, thanks to the people who contributed to genotype the second person. Second, there were several complaints in the origin threads that these individuals were not representative. If this is so, get some genotypes!
I’m not big into music, being of the aesthetically retarded set, but as I age memory becomes more important, and that is strongly colored by music. The 80s anthems of the Beastie Boys were part of the cultural firmament for me, but at that stage I was more of a Transformers kind of guy. In contrast, So What’cha Want takes me back to the summer of ’92 in a very visceral way. I had come to an age where the Beastie Boys were no longer social white noise, but the rhythm of a life which seemed to roll out before me with possibilities (OK, let’s keep it real, at the time the possibilities were quite proximate and driven by hormonal rushes of puberty).
Update: Actually, I was going to put up a post “10 years in blogging.” But right now I don’t have the time, seriously. 10 years is a LONG time though, so I now feel more comfortable talking about events “offline” which date to over half a decade in the past. One thing to note is that my current style of comment moderation crystallized in the mid-2000s because of various time constraints. The fact that I was going to school full time, or had a 65 hour a week job as my firm was coming up to a software release date, and, was in a long distance relationship, was not anyone’s business (did I mention I had freelance web development projects on the side, and was developing a content management system for a client as well?). But it certainly inculcated in me a lack of patience for bullshit. I was cranking out blog posts on Sundays, and in the hour I had after dinner & and my freelance project and before sleep. I recall in the fall of 2006 amusingly some moron left a comment about how I must have a lot of time, since I was posting on Friday evening. Apparently cron jobs and scheduled posts were strange and exotic concepts to the idiot. If there’s anything that’s become a motto for this weblog that emerged during that period f my life, it’s this: don’t be stupid or lazy. I try not to be stupid, and if I could manage to blog with all the various things that have gone on my life in the past, you can manage to not insult me with idiotic commentary born of lack in forethought or consideration.
In any case, I plan on blogging away. I do have lots of offline responsibilities, with my daughter foremost. But I started talking about “retiring” from blogging in 2004 to my co-bloggers at GNXP classic. It hasn’t happened yet. I have a big mouth. Though expect variance in posting frequency to continue.
Go back to original post:
You may have noticed that I put up a great many posts up over the last 24 hours. There’s a reason for that. In April of 2002 I began a blog. That was a long time ago. I’ve met post-docs at conferences who read me in high school! My blogging ‘career’ started on a lark. I was playing around with designing a content management system to learn Java Servlets. I sent my website link to a few friends to test it for bugs, and Steve Sailer linked to me, which resulted in new traffic. In May of 2002 somehow I got on Glenn Reynolds‘ blogroll. This was back when blogrolls meant something! In June of 2002 I joined the new ‘Gene Expression’ group weblog, though I stipulated that I was not going to be the ‘front person.’ Let’s just say that it didn’t quite work out that way….
A “test” post showed up on this website earlier. I’ve been told it was probably an error by IT. I had no idea that it was even up because I was off the internet and not checking my phone for ~18 hours for various reasons. Just thought I’d pass that on….
A regular issue that comes up on this weblog is that many of my posts are difficult to understand. I am aware of this. Unfortunately a problem is that there is a wide variation in fluency in genetics knowledge among the readership. To get a better sense I have created a survey with 60+ questions. It may seem like a lot, but the questions go fast because there are only three answers to each, and you should immediately know how to respond. I will likely use these responses to guide me in future “refresher” posts and the like. The questions range from relatively simple to moderately abstruse. That’s by design. Thanks.
Note: The survey will not show up in the RSS, so please click through!
I haven’t posted one of these in a long time. My own assumption is that I know the core readership of this weblog through various means relating to comments (many of you connect your email addresses to Facebook, and usually I can do an IP trace if that’s not feasible). But I know many people do not comment, so this is an opportunity to “out” yourself and such (also, over the years there has been some talk about “networking” by readers who share common eclectic interests).
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
The story emphasizes that labor costs are not the primary issue here. There is the natural discussion of skill levels, and the sheer number of Chinese works coming online. But there simply is no way that Foxconn City could exist in the United States today. There is no way I can deny the massive quality of life improvements in China over the past generation. But, the flip side of this is that a way of life has now emerged organically in places like Shenzen which is rather reminiscent of late 19th and early 20th century dystopian visions of the industrial future.