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Old 07-13-2008, 04:36 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa®ah
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Low Serotonin Edition

Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
While we're on the topic of commenters, I think this article from Quark Soup is worth discussing.
Didn't do much for me. [Update: Well, now that I've finished ranting in response to his rant, it's clear that's not true. So, let's say I didn't find much to agree with.]

I can understand the emotion. I think most people who read a lot of blogs get a feeling a staleness or superficiality from time to time. I know I do. Once that happens, it's easy enough to pick out individual posts that irritate one the most. But really, the only thing David Appell has proved is that he is as susceptible as anyone else to crankiness-induced confirmation bias.

He sounds like he's got a plan -- read a different form. He says he's going to switch to books and serious magazines. Hats off to him, I say, although I do have to ask, what took him so long to realize that this might be a good idea? And why does he have to be so absolute -- why must it be only one thing and none of the other? Well, maybe he'll level off after a while. Sometimes you have to quit cold turkey at the start.

I don't completely disagree with one of his observations: A lot of blogs, especially those run by people who get paid to do it, have evolved away from reporting or op-ed-style column writing into a structure that's more rapid and more scattershot -- lots of posts, not necessarily connected, each containing only a single thought or observation, many of which are transient in worth. Appell is right to say that this approach has its shortcomings, especially if he's looking for a complete answer to a complex question. Again, though, I wonder why this is just now occurring to him. Perhaps, as with many blog readers, he was struck by the pithiness of a few observations at the beginning of his time online. Maybe it took him a while to realize that sound bites are not a speech, a newspaper story is not history, and, as Hannibal Lector has noted, you can't build a philosophy from Bartlett's Familiar. Again, though, even as I am inclined to mock him, I do realize that we all have to learn such things for ourselves.

The real complaint I have with Appell's post is its laughable over-generalization. All right, so he's tired of Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Ygelsias. I've unsubscribed from a few (other) feeds myself. But these two guys are hardly the sum and substance of the blogosphere. If Appell wants to read people who post longer items less frequently, he could start by looking at some of the blogs on my humble roll; e.g., Hendrik Hertzberg, Sean Carroll and friends, Doghouse Riley, Steve Yegge, Cosma Shalizi, and the gang at Crooked Timber. And that's just for starters, and that's resisting the temptation to list friends. There are thousands of people out there putting up substantive posts.

There's another thing Appell forgets, too. Some bloggers are very good at providing a play-by-play as they move forward in their research, as events that they're covering unfold, or as they start up a new project or start down a new path. It's a mistake, here, to expect any one post to offer the conclusion; the real meat comes from the accumulation and the process. It's both instructive and enjoyable, at least for me, to watch things develop, instead of holding off on reading until the arrival of the Final Answer.

Appell also seems to have forgotten the concept of reading for pleasure. Or, maybe he never had it in the first place. For me, the feeling of being beaten down by the sturm und drang of what we call "news" is relieved the quickest by spending a few minutes with Roy Edroso, Jon Swift, TBogg, Angry Professor, Defective Yeti, and Sadly, No!. Again, just to name a few. If I read nothing but blogs like these, do I feel unfulfilled after a while? Sure, same as if all I ate for dinner were chocolate chip cookies.

The thing is, blogs, even the many-short-items type, offer things that were hard to find until a few years ago. They offer a new form, and the way to look at this new form is as a compliment to what already existed, not as a replacement.

Last edited by bjkeefe; 07-13-2008 at 04:39 AM..
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