First, a minor note. People have repeatedly mentioned my Pinboard in the comments. This surprised me, as the kind of things I bookmark for later are very diverse and…interesting I suppose. Out of curiosity I checked to see how many people had used Google Reader to subscribe, and it was 27! Anyway, if you want to see what I’m bookmarking every day, then here’s the RSS (and if you like that, subscribe to Jason Malloy’s Delicious feed).
Second, I want some reader feedback on a survey design. I normally ask questions on reader surveys about attitudes toward things like sex differences. I want to do something similar, but in more in-depth. I’d also like to ask readers about genetically modified organisms and other such things. The reason I’m putting this post up is that I always get complaints about the wording of questions no matter how precise I try to be. So enter in questions, and demographic variables, that you think might be interesting. I’m not a patient person, so I’ll probably put up the survey next week.
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.
Chad Orzel may be giving up blogging. And no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke. He’s been at it for 10 years, so no big surprise. I may be where he is at some point in the near future. For me, I always have something to say (or at least I think it’s worth saying!). But writing takes a little time out of my day, and many days I’m not gifted with a surplus of time. So we’ll see. I’ve been telling people I might give up blogging since 2004, and it just never seems to happen. But I never had a small person with whom I enjoyed wrestling with before.
I dislike cluttering this site with administrative notes, but I want to put this post up as a reference for the future. It’s not really aimed at regular readers/commenters, who know the explicit and implicit norms.
1) If you use quotation marks, make sure that you’re actually quoting something your interlocutor said, rather than adding them for effect (yes, believe it or not, people have quoted me, where the “quotes” were actually their own interpretation of what I intended)
2) It is generally not best to paraphrase someone else’s argument in your own words as a prologue to your own comment. Just quote the appropriate sections of text in your reply if you want it to frame your response. If you are engaging in paraphrasing to distill the argument of your interlocutor down to a pith, understand that subconscious tendencies are such that you’ll reshape that argument to better suit your response. In other words, you’re probably arguing with your own conception of their argument, not their argument as such. More maliciously some people just paraphrase because it makes setting up a straw man so much easier. That’s not nice. I have wasted a fair amount of time rereading posts to try and figure out how commenters came to a particular perception of my argument. I don’t take kindly to people telling me what I obviously really think, when I point out that their perception was wrong.
3) From that you can gather that inferring “between the lines” isn’t appropriate in most cases. It is part of normal human cognition, and you can’t help it to some extent. But being too liberal about the practice means that you’ll just distort the argument of the other person, who then has to waste their time correcting your misunderstandings. This gums up the exchanges because people have only a finite amount of time. Read as plainly as possible.
4) There’s no presumption here of symmetry. If the host asks you a direct question, answer and don’t evade. If the host tells you to drop a topic, don’t make the case for why you shouldn’t drop the topic. Wasting time trying to argue these issues is a banning offense.
5) I’m busy, and getting busier. I don’t respond well to people wasting my time. Some of the other commenters are busy too. It’s important to make exchanges “count.” Excessive posturing, and an obvious fixation on “winning” arguments with clever ripostes, are bannable offensives.
I’m not taking comments on this post, because as I said this post is more a placeholder so I don’t have to have the same stale argument over & over.
Note: See this companion post.
This occurs every now and then…legit comments without copious numbers of links get caught in the spam filter. Regular commenter Michelle has had her comments tagged as spam twice since she’s changed her back-link URL to Scientific American. Today she tweeted me, and I noticed 4 other people who were also false-positived in the filter. To my knowledge these were all people whose comments I’d approved before. If your comment doesn’t show up after 24 hours (or immediately if you are a regular who has been approved already), please feel free to ping me via twitter, facebook, or email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com. I apologize in advance for the inconvenience. There’s no way I can scan the spam manually, since there’s always thousands of fake-comments about how awesome my blog is in passable English to wade through. So make sure to tell me what your handle is.
So today I received an email from regular commenter German Dziebel:
Razib, what’s your relationship with the Discover Magazine? Up until now I thought of your blog as more or less a public forum, rather than a private franchise. Please clarify, so we don’t bicker about ethics in public.
I have no idea what German precisely means by “public forum” or “private franchise,” though I have a general sense. Discover Magazine pays me to blog. I also have an editor who I consult now and then. For example when I discussed traffic patterns to this website I asked if that would be OK, since I know that sort of information is often material sites like to keep somewhat private. When Marnie Dunsmore threatened to sue me for “stealing her ideas” I shot an email to the editor to notify him of her strange accusations. But in general my communication with Discover Magazine is limited to technical issues, as well as some exchanges of ideas and topics to post on (this isn’t formal, the editor knows the kind of stories and papers I dig, and will send me an email or point a tweet my way).
I like it that way. It gives me time to blog. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in my “task stack” which I never get to because of the pressures of time. When I began blogging in 2002 I did so with an assurance I wouldn’t have to spend too much time on technical or administrative crap with my co-bloggers. That didn’t totally work out, but it is an ideal which I like to aim for. This post is a violation of that ideal. I’m engaging in meta blather about comments policy and what not when I could be blogging, finishing the coffee I’m drinking right now, or watching the episode of South Park which I haven’t watched yet.
If I had to condense my summary for how I run these comments, I’d say I run this place as if I’m Sulla during the period in his life when he was the dictator of the Roman Republic. Since most of you probably don’t get the allusion, I will elaborate….