No, Thank You. And You and You.

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on November 9, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

Kate has a lovely post thanking a few folks, including me, for linking her I Think Therefore I Blog blog, more personal than her Electric Venom blog. She writes:

Links mean that someone likes what you write, and they’re ready to say as much to those who read them. Those with whom they’ve earned their own reputation, those who’ll judge them by the links they’ve chosen to display.

Right on. My blogroll is comparatively short; I like to be careful who I add because where I send people from here says volumes about me and my values. I know that the blogroll will grow as the blog does and I’m looking forward to seeing who I’ll add in the future.

Because what Kate says is so true, that links mean somebody likes what you write and will say so to everyone who reads their blog, it’s a world of encouragement to a nugget blogger like me when the older, established bloggers add me to their blogroll and link my posts.

For that I thank Xrlq, who, the night I wrote him to say the blog was online, wrote back to say he’d already read and blogrolled it–much to my astonishment, since even though he knew I’d be starting, I didn’t suppose he had the time or motivation to watch for it. He readily offers advice and recommendations, technical and substantive, whenever I ask. I love reading him for his no-nonsense views and bottom-line arguments. Blog life would be dull if we always agreed, but we agree far more often than not and it’s almost a pleasure when we disagree because I know he will never be at a loss to pick through the long, twisty sentences that come out when I get going on something.

Thanks also to Karol at Alarming News. I love reading her for her eagle political eye, knack for searching out some of the best argument going, and staunch devotion to American and Republican ideals.

Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy followed a link trail to my blog, read something, commented, and blogrolled. Snap. Just like that. I remember being shocked–somebody I had no prior commenting relationship with, who found my blog from a common topic, liked it, and linked? You mean … it really works that way? Talk about encouragement to a new blogger. And Beth is another no-nonsense blogger … you don’t click there unless you’re up for the really straight talk, the kind that comes with a language warning. Thanks, Beth.

Allen Thompson of Thompsonian*Net, you of the clever domain name, clever IT skills that migrated this blog away from its original ill-chosen hosting company to the new stable one, and clever snark about politics, pop culture, and many other things, thank you.

And of course, bringing this full circle: Thanks, Kate. I came to Electric Venom through blogrolls elsewhere and stayed for the insightful looks at education, politics, and some of the more egregious examples of the dark side of human nature. Here’s to your guts in putting your more personal self on the line at I Think Therefore I Blog and your luminous descriptions of life in the personal. Carry on. We’ll both be glad we did.

Okay. Sentiment off. Long stream of “Blogging” posts off. More disagreement with Xrlq (and Lileks, just to make it more fun) on a substantive issue tomorrow. Mwahahaha.

Blogfight Redux

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn @ 12:12 am

So the fight turned out not to be between Xrlq and Hot Air, but between Xrlq and Patterico, who wound up a ridiculous amount of comment thread going back and forth over whether Allah’s initial interpretation of a weasel’s remarks was a reasonable one. With that more or less put to rest in that same comment thread, this is old news, but I promised an answer to Xrlq’s calmer post taking Hot Air to task.

I tried making a list of the things Xrlq thinks are wrong at Hot Air, but then realized they all really boil down to one thing: He wants them to issue corrections/clarifications to opinions if those opinions are shown by a preponderance of evidence to have a high probability of unreasonableness or just if other bloggers disagree. Examples of evidentiary opinions he wants corrected: 1) Allah on the Sabato thing. From Patterico’s comments:

… I have no complaint against Allah, period. I still think that his conclusion on Sabato hearing Allen say the N-word was a bit silly, but “silly” isn’t exactly one of the seven deadly sins. I do think he should issue a correction or at least a clarification to the post, though. Not because of his own relatively harmless error (or, shall we say, conclusion that I find erroneous), but because of the major ones others have made by taking his conclusion and running with it. The same would hold for a post that was 100% accurate, but which its author learned was being used to promote a nasty rumor that wasn’t.

But Allah still maintains, per Patterico’s comments, that his interpretation was reasonable at the time. That being the case, why would he issue a correction? Because Xrlq and I disagree with him? Allah’s commentary is just that–commentary. Opinion. I’m trying to say this without reopening the whole can of Sabato worms, but Xrlq’s position is that since plenty of reasonable people think it never sounded at all like Sabato heard Allen say anything relevant that Allah should change his mind. I don’t think there’s much hunt in that dog. You don’t become a blogger as big as Allah without being willing to put your opinion on the line and stick by it, even if it means people think you’re wrong from time to time. Xrlq’s parenthetical was right: he finds the conclusion erroneous (and so did I, and said so at Pat’s), but that doesn’t mean Allah has to. Nor that his readers have to agree with him. Patterico did his lawyer thing and put up a more than able defense of Allah, but I disagreed with him too, and the fact is that Sabato was trying to make it sound as much as possible as though he’d heard Allen himself without going on the record that he’d done so. Patterico’s and Allah’s mistake, in my view, was trusting the weasel when he said “it’s a fact,” as though it could ever be proven whether it was a fact or not unless he said the words, “I heard him say it,” which he did not. Conclusion: while I agree with Xrlq that Allah’s and Patterico’s conclusion–was erroneous, I don’t think Allah’s obliged to correct an opinion he still holds because others disagree.

2) Michelle on Francine Busby:

Last June, Democrat Francine Busby committed the cardinal sin of advising a foreigner, and likely illegal alien, that he didn’t need “papers for voting” to help out with her campaign. Two Hot Air posters, Ian and Michelle, were on it like white on rice. A little clipping here, a little highlighting there, and a little trademark outrage on the side, and voilà! Suddenly Busby wasn’t talking about prerequisites for volunteering on the campaign after all, she was advising the guy to vote illegally! These posts have never been corrected.

… because apparently Michelle didn’t believe the woman’s explanation. Again, Xrlq and I might have disagreed with her, and did, but she wasn’t the only one who drew this conclusion. Patterico did too, but he changed his mind and said so. The fact that Michelle didn’t say so presumably means she didn’t change hers. She’s entitled. Xrlq’s therefore entitled to think what he likes of Michelle’s reasoning skills, but again, to demand a correction of what is essentially an opinion is, I think, a waste of breath. Opinion v. opinion is a little thing called an argument, and it’s usually not the people holding the opinions who have the clearest outside view of them. They usually stick by them.

Example of “opinions other bloggers disagree with” that Xrlq wants corrected:

Also uncorrected is Bryan Preston’s uncommonly silly screed on why Christians with no Islamic upbringing are competent to judge Islam but non-Christian secularists with Christian upbringings are not competent to judge Christianity. I’m not sure how one goes about correcting a goof as colossal as that, but Dean Esmay did as good a job as anyone.

Bryan wrote an essay. An essay! Xrlq wants an essay corrected because he disagrees with his own boiled-down summation of Bryan’s point. A correction? It’s not a news story–it’s Bryan’s op-ed. A correction? Seriously? Bryan argued with Esmay good and long and loud and did not change his mind. Why would he issue a correction? Anybody could (and did) read Esmay’s rebuttals and decide for themselves.

All of this clamor for correction of opinions could go a long way towards being ameliorated if Hot Air would do what Xrlq advises in the matter of comment registration–open it up. It’s closed except for brief, announced periods. Xrlq and others who feel as he does could then argue with Bryan about his essay right there and not have to make ridiculous demands for corrections as if they were errors of fact in a newspaper. But here are my problems with Xrlq’s advice to Hot Air. Xrlq:

No apologies, however, for saying your comment system sucks. It really does suck, due in no small part to the echo chamber effect that inevitably results from requiring comment registration at specific, rare intervals that are unlikely to coincide with the time any particular reader, myself included, might have something (beyond “me too,” that is) to say. Either find a way to bring more diverse views into the mix, or consider getting rid of comments altogether. You don’t have to have comments, but if you do, then for chrissakes do it right.

1) If you were walking around with as big a target as Michelle has on her forehead, would you open your comments? I do agree with the substance of your point, because Hot Air comments, with many notable exceptions, tend toward a lot of preemptive troll bashing and other items of limited value, but the practicalities of what you’re asking for would be most likely to turn Hot Air into one of the biggest comment sewers on the web. The nutroots hate her with the fire of a thousand suns and would probably like nothing better than to spread the love to Allah.

2) Purely selfish: Smaller comments are, the more they get heard. I shouldn’t even include this one because it’s taking personal convenience over principle, and I’ve already said I agree with the principle, but it’s nice at Hot Air to make a comment and if it warrants it, get a response from one of the posters or start a decent back-and-forth with some of the better commenters. Bigger the comments are, the more that’s lost. It’s a shame, but does pander to the elitism formed by those of us who registered early, I guess.

3) Interesting aside: Xrlq, why don’t you email to get registered? The Hot Air team will allow comment registration out of season if somebody just asks. Is it against your libertarian principles to ask for it personally when you feel it should be open to everybody? I’m not trying to be antagonistic, I’m seriously asking the question. Their closed comment registration isn’t trying to keep out you or any other reasonable commenter like you but instead Joe Donk from DU, Joe Screw U from DKos, or Shorter Reproductive Anatomy from Sadly, We Really Are All Like that. If Allah, Bryan, Ian, and Michelle had to patrol their comments to get rid of those nutroots unmentionables, they would never get anything done. I really believe that and seriously cannot blame them for not opening comments to gallop off to the sewer races. It would drive their more reasonable readers/viewers right away to have to deal with that garbage. If Patterico had to deal with that on a daily basis, how long do you think his comments would be open? His comments are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere, but I’d go far on a bet that Hot Air’s wouldn’t stay that way for one hour after they were opened to all comers.

To wrap up: Xrlq thinks Ian is unqualified for the job, and I can’t blame him there. I don’t read too much of Ian’s stuff and so will defer to Xrlq except to say I think Ian’s biggest drawback is that he’s just not nearly as interesting a writer as Allah or Bryan.

Lastly, Xrlq says:

Better still, get someone to edit everyone. Maybe that person should be from outside the tent. After all, it’s one thing to be a conservative news site, and another to make all the same ideological errors in reverse that make the liberal media (in-)famous. Patterico has made similar suggestions for liberal papers in the past – get at least one guy on board who has different ideological blind spots than you, and more errors will get caught as a result. It was a good idea then, and it’s a good idea now.

It’s a good idea for papers who get their facts wrong out of ideological twistedness, but I don’t think it would work at Hot Air. The freedom of the blogs is to get your stuff out there the way you want it and trust to your readers to agree, disagree, point out errors, etc. So far it works pretty well, and again, the things Xrlq wants corrected are opinions that would normally be on an op-ed page if they appeared in the paper. You think the op-ed folks would change their opinions if an editor of opposing views came on board? I don’t. The blogs trade on speed. Editors slow things down. It’d be more reasonable to suggest a fellow blogger of more leftist leanings, but again, who are you going to get? Kirsten Powers? Right on, but hey, she’s practically in Allah’s corner already. The idiot chicks at FlamingDogpooPond? How about somebody from HuffPo?

It seems to me as though Xrlq’s taking Hot Air to task for the very things that make blogs blogs and not older media. I don’t think we’re ready to go there yet. He ends:

Or, if you’d rather just take Hot Air or any other blog as gospel truth, that’s your prerogative. I’ve made the argument why I think you shouldn’t. I shan’t press the issue further.

Nobody should take any blog as gospel truth, because the blogs trade just as much on issues of opinion as on issues of evidence and fact. When it’s calling out doctored photos or sock-puppets, the good bloggers follow the evidence and put it together for our perusal. When it’s pointing out the idiocies of politicians, it’s fact followed by opinion. Everybody who reads blogs has to come through their own breaking-in period, imho: at first it’s a breath of fresh air to find people who hold opinions so similar to yours. Then you learn that your favorite bloggers aren’t always right, that you don’t always agree, that … hey, that’s wrong, dammit! And so you learn and go on more open eyes. It’s not the individual blogger’s responsibility to keep reminding his or her readers of that–the readers have to be smart enough to figure out for themselves. None of that makes us all Greenwalds or any of the other twits–we have to keep honest, and posts like Xrlq’s are good for Hot Air keeping honest, I think. I hope it was read and noted, but I don’t think Hot Air needs to go quite as far into the penalty box as Xrlq does. That’s really all it took me this whole terribly long post to say.

Xrlq’s not pressing the issue further, and unfortunately that puts me in the position of doing so, but it’s really not my intent–I just wanted to hold myself to it when I said I’d post in answer. I welcome his (and any other) comments (if anybody’s actually made it through this unforgivably ponderous post), but if he thinks it’s old news that’s cool too. To end on a lighter note: I usually don’t watch too much of the video blogging while my son’s awake and in the room, but occasionally I’ll put something on. Vent really caught his attention because of its opening blue flames, and when he sees me watching any other video now, he always asks for his favorite, as he did this morning: “Mom, I want to watch the one with the fire in it.”

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace