Things I've Learned From Blogging

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For my 1125th post (selfishly counting all of Wink's posts as mine but not counting any I've written for Prosblogion or OrangePhilosophy), I've decided to recount some of the biggest lessons I've learned through the practice of blogging. These are in no particular order, and they're sort of a mish-mash. Some are very serious, with serious consequences. Others are a bit sarcastic but about things with serious consequences. A few might be just humorous. I'm not going to try organize or categorize them. I just wrote them in the order they occurred to me. All of them really did come from personal experience, in case you might get the thought that I'm making any of this up.

1. When someone trackbacks to you and doesn't link, assume they just forgot. Don't leave a comment that assumes they did it deliberately. Email them privately and ask if they intentionally sent a trackback without linking. If they respond that they did, kindly inform them that it's considered rude to do that. If they respond well, fine. If not, delete the trackback. If you start by deleting the trackback and leave comments on someone's blog asking why they sent the trackback but didn't link, they will assume you are trying to make them look bad, even if you never thought about their reputation. Do think about it, and ask them privately and nicely before doing anything else.

2. If you're going to de-link someone, try not to let anyone find out about it. They will assume that you had evil motives for doing so. Certainly don't bother trying to explain why you're doing it. No matter what you say, it will be taken as evidence that you think you're superior to everyone else. You'll be thought of as abusing your influence because you used your influence (with no argument why using it constitutes abusing it). You will be taken to have acted out of motives far from what you initially announced were your reasons, even though such assumptions amount to calling you a liar.

3. Do not try to support lesser-known blogs with any endeavor that gets public attention. You will be accused of trying to start a clique. You will be said to be thinking of yourself as better simply because more people link to you.

4. Don't link to a picture of your wife with the expression "hot chicks" in the hyperlink. It will lead to many hits from searches for "hot chicks" not to your blog but to your wife's picture. The only reason you'll know about it is Google image search calls up your page as it finds your link with the keywords when it calls up the picture on the basis of those keywords. You may expect such tricks to draw traffic, but it turns out that it does no such thing.

5. Don't submit any posts to the Carnival of the Vanities without first looking at the blog hosting it to see if they will treat your post fairly. Some real jerks host that carnival, and then when you call them on it they treat you as if a child unworthy of responding with real arguments despite your showing them that they took you out of context and were too lazy to do a quick search on your front page for other posts on the series while complaining that they couldn't find the other posts in the series.

6. On hotbed political issues, when you first find something out, always do a Google search on the issue or try to see what the major bloggers on both sides and any other political blogs you like are saying about it before you say anything too condemning of anyone. Chances are pretty good that your one source on it might have left out something important that undermines what you'll say, and if you have halfway decent commenters they'll call you on it pretty quickly. If you're unwilling to do that work, then ask questions to see if others who have can provide that information. This avoids false accusations and moral judgments.

7. Look through a comment thread before commenting on a post. I've more than once noticed that someone I've said had already been said once or twice. It may also be that the tone of a conversation has turned to something very different, and it will feel weird for you to say what you're going to say or say it the way you were going to say it without a more careful introduction to your remarks. It may also be misinterpreted as being about what was just before it if you don't make it clear what you're responding to.

8. If you're in an interracial marriage and hold to somewhat conservative views about race but know the issues well enough to present both sides and thus count as someone who knows diversity issues, then it might be a good idea to put your family pictures on your blog. It may well be that a women's studies department chair will find your picture and see it as a great example of a picture promoting diversity. The person may then discover that she knows you because you teach in the same department and shoot you an email asking you if your family can stand as an example to blow people's family categories out of the water, sitting right alongside a lesbian family and the Simpsons. Your wife may even consider it a delicious irony and encourage this use of your family picture.

9. Instead of getting mad at the stupid Google searches that people use to end up on your blog (or rather the false assumptions behind them), just display them to the world by putting them in a post and then make fun of them. It's great therapy.

10. Don't start a blog if you're supposed to be writing a dissertation, at least not if you're good enough at blogging that you really feel a sense of accomplishment at it and certainly not if you see a higher purpose to it that you really think ought to be maintained. Blogging might actually help you work toward a dissertation, but once you have something to work on you'll most likely rather blog than work on it. Blogging is good for testing ideas and developing them until you get to the level of detail necessary for writing about them, and it ceases to be useful very quickly once you need to do academically respectable work that isn't little bitty pieces of a larger project. It's the putting of it together that needs to go beyond what you can do on a blog.

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4 Comments

Does number 10 mean that you do have a dissertation topic that you've been blogging about and you just need to take the time to put it all together?

I'm not sure why I need to tell you what you already know, but I've had a racial classification topic since at least spring of 2004 that I could possibly turn into a dissertation, and I haven't gotten it back together since the hard drive crash last fall.

You guys crack me up!

Jeremy, you should not be concerned about what other people think, but I was once in a conversation where it was wondered aloud if you understood the principles behind #10 and clearly you do. And the conversation wasn't with Sam. Can you guess who?

I couldn't begin to understand what it takes to write a dissertation so I will stop now, before I get myself in trouble.

Funny blog entry. I am a hopeless fan of the Pierce family blogging.

And I thought you were going to write about philosophy. :-)

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