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The new era

April 17th, 2012

With a lot of changes going on lately, I’ve taken a bit of time to think about the future of this blog. It will be ten years old in June, which makes it one of the longest running Australian blogs (a few, like Catallaxy, are a little older, IIRC, but their archives seem to have been lost). Those ten years have seen the rise and decline of blogging, particularly individual, independent blogs like this one. The XKCD cartoon linked in this Crooked Timber post tells the story.

The writing was on the wall as early as 2004, when I saw lots of my favorite blogs being assimilated by the Borg that became Crooked Timber. Seeing that resistance was futile, I joined the rush, but have kept this blog going with lots of crossposting, but more specifically Australian content here. Still, group blogs were clearly the wave of (what was then) the future. The most successful in Ozplogistan (the briefly popular name for Australian political blogs) have been Catallaxy, Club Troppo and Larvatus Prodeo. But there haven’t been any new entrants successful enough to attract sustained attention, and now LP is gone.

There are two obvious reasons for the decline of blogging. First, after disdaining everything to do with blogging for years, the mainstream media embraced the idea with enthusiasm five years ago or so, putting much of their content in blog form. The big media blogs now attract much larger audience than independent efforts like this one. Second, there has been the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which supply a lot of what attracted people to blogging in the first place. Twitter, in particular, can be quite close to the original form of blogging, based on short (very short in the case of Twitter) links to interesting material found on the web.

So, with the closure of LP and getting booted from the Fin, it seemed like a good time to reassess what I’m doing here. I’ve decided to put most of my effort into work that I can post in larger sites (I’ve had invitations from several, and at this stage I think I will try to play the field, rather than picking just one), but I will make it a condition that I can crosspost here. That will enable the discussion that goes on here to continue, and also make this blog a convenient point to collect all my material.

I’ll close by reproducing this post from 10 years ago

My blog is just about a week old, and I haven’t found the Internet this exciting since I discovered Usenet in the early 90s. Even setting up my website five years ago was not as good. Despite wildly varying ideological views, I’ve had a friendly welcome from bloggers across the board, and I’m already getting links and referrals (My return links will be up soon, I promise). It really seems as if blogs might deliver on the original promise of the Web – certainly the technology seems ideally suited for individuals and small groups, with no obvious way of scaling it up to corporate level. No doubt I’ll get jaded and disillusioned one day, but I hope it will be a long way in the future.

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  1. rog
    April 20th, 2012 at 19:58 | #1

    Terje accuses others of being delusional about the future while maintaining a delusional view of the present.

    Agreeing that climate change and Iraq are “big issues” is hardly novel, the big issue is that the evidence of both has been obscured by a litany of lies.

  2. TerjeP
    April 20th, 2012 at 21:35 | #2

    Rog – climate change is about the future.

  3. rog
    April 20th, 2012 at 21:46 | #3

    No – evidence is that climate change is past and present with consequences for the future.

  4. TerjeP
    April 20th, 2012 at 22:12 | #4

    Rog – you said I have a delusional view of the present. Can you be specific.

  5. TerjeP
    April 20th, 2012 at 22:44 | #5

    Fran – I pointed to two things (Catalaxy Comments and John Quiggins approach to debate) and refered to them as both disappointing. I’m astonished that you find this astonishing. However if you do then all well and good.

  6. Fran Barlow
    April 21st, 2012 at 07:47 | #6

    @TerjeP

    Strictly speaking, I said:

    It ought to be astonishing that you can compare this place with the open sewer over at Catallaxy. Nothing like {the level of personal abuse} happens here {emphasis added)

    I’m actually not astonished as vacuous false equivalence is a common feature of right-of-centre commentary. You do it on a regular basis.

  7. rog
    April 21st, 2012 at 08:50 | #7

    @TerjeP Terje, given that an acceptable definition of delusion is a strongly held belief despite superior evidence to the contrary your comment “climate change is about the future” is delusional.

  8. Rob
    April 21st, 2012 at 15:27 | #8

    @JQ, just another quick comment to say thanks for blogging and keep it up. I’ve never been able to enjoy or cohere with those group blog/sites mentioned above, for some reason.

    Your blog is one of a small handful that I check in on daily.

  9. TerjeP
    April 21st, 2012 at 21:57 | #9

    Rog – so you were drawing a conclusion about an assertion that I was yet to make. You are a clever cookie.

  10. Tim Macknay
    April 21st, 2012 at 22:17 | #10

    On the later sections of the left, including you in some regards, are delusional about the relative future cost effectiveness of making electricity on mass from wind and solar.

    Terje, no doubt there are things about which sections of the left are delusional. But if you want to cite an example, you’re going to have to come up with something better than that. The “relative future cost effectiveness of making electricity on mass from wind and solar” is a matter of speculation, and is dependent on a whole range of factors which cannot be predicted with certainty. You may well disagree with the views of some that renewable energy will become more cost effective than fossil fuels or nuclear in the future, but to label that view “delusional” simply because you disagree with it is farcical – your own view is just as speculative. It is completely different from the view (for example) that the entire discipline of climate science is engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to fake global warming.

  11. TerjeP
    April 21st, 2012 at 23:59 | #11

    Tim – Anybody claiming that “the entire discipline of climate science is engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to fake global warming” is in my opnion delusional. It would imply that the entire discipline of climate science actually believes the earth is not being warmed by human action but agrees covertly to say otherwise. Insincerity on that scale simply isn’t credible. So I agree with your point but I don’t think it is particularly meaningful.

    p.s. I’m perfectly comfortable with my example.

  12. Tim Macknay
    April 22nd, 2012 at 00:44 | #12

    Terje, it’s somewhat comforting that you agree that the frequently stated rightwing claim about climate science I mentioned is delusional – it would be unfortunate indeed if you believed such a claim.

    It’s difficult, though, to see how you can claim to have agreed with my point, which you effectively rejected, without addressing it directly, by stating that you’re comfortable with your example. So I’ll elaborate.

    Personally, I don’t know if renewable energy technologies will ever become economically competitive for large-scale electricity production. However, given that some renewable energy technologies have shown a trend of cost reduction and efficiency improvements over time, while the cost of fossil fuel electricity has been increasing, it does appear to be a possibility. It’s difficult to see how a belief that renewable energy will become competitive is so inconsistent with the known facts as to be delusional, even if that belief turns out to be wrong. So calling such a belief delusional is unreasonble, in contrast with the conspiracy theory discussed previously.

    In a similar vein, it appears to me that your stated belief that nuclear energy would be both cheaper and safer were it not for government regulation, and Peter Lang’s stated belief that nuclear energy will get cheaper in the future, are both contrary to the available facts, and therefore highly implausible in my view. Given that no nuclear reactor has ever been built without government subsidy, and the nuclear industry has not shown a trend of declining costs in reactor construction, it seems ot me much more likely that nuclear energy will continue to be expensive, and that, without government regulation and subsidy, there would be no nuclear industry.

    However, I could not reasonably call your views delusional, because it is not impossible that they may turn out to be correct. It is possible that technological improvement will usher in new cheaper, standardised inherently safe reactors and that Peter Lang will be proven correct. It is also possible that some country will adopt a laissez-faire policy regarding nuclear energy, and a cheaper, and still relatively safe, nuclear industry will arise there. I see no good reason to suppose it likely that these developments will occur, but these are speculative discussions about the future, so it is certainly possible that events which I believe to be unlikely will occur.

    So in short, your claim that leftists who believe renewable energy will become economically competitive are delusional is unreasonable and fails to establish the left-right symmetry of delusion you’re looking for.

    Of course, you are perfectly entitled to continue to feel comfortable with your example and need not be swayed in the slightest by my remarks. After all, feeling comfortable, and avoiding the feelings of cognitive dissonance so frequently engendered by complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty, is exactly what ideological dogmas are for. :)

  13. TerjeP
    April 22nd, 2012 at 01:58 | #13

    the frequently stated rightwing claim

    I’m not sure it is a rightwing claim but more to the point I don’t think that it is frequently made by any serious commentator of note. Even those that reject the theory of AGW outright don’t generally claim that all climate scientists secretly agree with their position but are deliberately saying the opposite to be deceptive.

    Clearly thinking all climate scientists are insincere is vastly more delusional than thinking wind and solar power will be an affordable means of powering an industrial society. I grant you that. However as I tried to communicate I don’t think this is the correct comparison. You are in essence toying with a straw man.

    I do think automatically dismissing critics of contempory Australian climate change policy, critics of climate change models or critics of climate alarmism as delusional is roughly on par with dismissing advocates of replacing all fossil fuels with wind and solar energy as delusional. As such members of the left and members of the right can readily do a Quiggin and avail themselves of an excuse to dismiss and then simply characature and ridicule their opponents. Certainly people are free to do this, and on both sides of the debate they increasingly do, but as I indicated it is hardly a win for public discourse.

  14. TerjeP
    April 22nd, 2012 at 02:02 | #14

    p.s. I do actually think the renewable energy crowd are to a large extent delusional. However I don’t use that as an excuse to label them all as fools and liars.

  15. TerjeP
    April 22nd, 2012 at 02:16 | #15

    Fran – you seem to be engaging in your trademark lack of comprehension. Please try harder.

  16. rog
    April 22nd, 2012 at 05:32 | #16

    @TerjeP Shorter Terje; dismissing delusionists as delusionists is delusional.

  17. Jim Rose
    April 22nd, 2012 at 11:37 | #17

    On public reason, denial and climate science, environmental activists, for example, accept the views of the majority of scientists when its suits them. in other cases, the precautionary principle and allegations of corporate political capture are used to suspend judgment and demand more and more evidence. their stout opposition to gentically modified organisms is an example

    In BAPTISTS? THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF POLITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL INTEREST GROUPS By Todd J. Zywicki, 53 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 315 (2002-2003), Zywicki specifies three testable implications on the public interest model of environmental interest groups:

    (1) A desire to base policy on the best-available science;
    (2) a willingness to engage in deliberation and compromise to balance environmental protection against other compelling social and economic interests; and,
    (3) A willingness to consider alternative regulatory strategies that can deliver environmental protection at lower-cost than command-and-control regulation.

    On all three counts, Zywicki found that the public-interest explanation for the activities of environmental interest groups fails to convincingly describe their behaviour. Instead, evidence on each of these three tests is consistent with a self- interested model of the behaviour of environmental groups.

    Most important advance in the age of enlightenment, says Popper, is we are willing to listen to valid criticism and accept reasonable suggestions to improve society.

    Popper classed as pseudo-science, devoid of any serious intellectual basis, both Marxism and psychoanalysis. The both of them are based on dogmatism, since by definition eliminates all attempts to contradict them.

    Marxists automatically assign to an opponent a class bias: if you say this is that you are objectively complicit in our class opponents, so your arguments are not admissible.

    Critical discussion should be welcomed. Mill pointed out that your critics who were total wrong add value because they keep you on your toes and sharpened your argument and the communication of your message. Mill says the fullest liberty of expression is required to push our arguments to their logical limits, rather than the limits of social embarrassment.

  18. Tim Macknay
    April 23rd, 2012 at 11:21 | #18

    @TerjeP

    p.s. I do actually think the renewable energy crowd are to a large extent delusional.

    Thanks Terje. I’ll take the fact that you’ve chosen to simply re-state this claim rather than defend it as an acknowledgement that you don’t have a rational justification for it. :)

  19. TerjeP
    April 24th, 2012 at 00:09 | #19

    Tim – Well if you presumed that it was such an acknowledgement then you presumed wrong.

  20. Tim Macknay
    April 24th, 2012 at 10:49 | #20

    But you haven’t given me any reasons to think I’m wrong, Terje. Unsupported assertions are not very persuasive.

  21. John Quiggin
    April 24th, 2012 at 11:48 | #21

    @JimRose Zywicki is no authority at all – he’s a fan of Steve Milloy, which indicates full-scale delusionism.

    http://johnquiggin.com/2004/09/01/more-shonky-science/

    and the academic work of his that I’ve seen has been both partisan and sloppy

    It’s true that some green groups have anti-science views on GM

    http://johnquiggin.com/2011/07/15/greenpeace-an-enemy-of-science/

    but this is a marginal phenomenon compared to the wholesale embrace of delusionism on the right, and notably at Catallaxy, where you seem to feel no discomfort.

  22. Fran Barlow
    April 24th, 2012 at 13:27 | #22

    Marxists automatically assign to an opponent a class bias: if you say this is that you are objectively complicit in our class opponents, so your arguments are not admissible.

    Marxism as one huge genetic fallacy … ignorant and delusional … and lacking in syntax.

  23. Chris Warren
    April 24th, 2012 at 13:44 | #23

    @Jim Rose @Fran Barlow

    None of this makes any sense?

  24. Fran Barlow
    April 24th, 2012 at 14:07 | #24

    @Chris Warren

    Read more carefully Chris. Rose was claiming that Popper saw Marxism as an iteration of a genetic fallacy. It’s hard to imagine Popper claiming that, but if Rose is right, both of them were/are ignorant of Marxism and delusional.

  25. Chris Warren
    April 24th, 2012 at 14:30 | #25

    @Fran Barlow

    Where is this claim that “Popper saw Marxism as an iteration of a genetic fallacy”?

    Of course Popper never claimed this.

    Maybe Rose would be better off at Catallaxy – a closed society where opposition is banned.

  26. Fran Barlow
    April 24th, 2012 at 15:50 | #26

    @Chris Warren

    Rose has doubtless heard that Popper was a noble crusader against all things Marxist in one of the haunts he frequents — and had imposed his own caricature onto Popper’s account.

    I don’t think opposition is banned at Catallaxy. Good sense is however an endangered species there because the crowd in those parts responds to it with something of the attitude of orchardists to fruit bats.

  27. Tim Macknay
    April 24th, 2012 at 16:11 | #27

    Maybe Rose would be better off at Catallaxy – a closed society where opposition is banned.

    heh. Nice.

  28. Chris Warren
    April 24th, 2012 at 17:28 | #28

    Fran Barlow :

    I don’t think opposition is banned at Catallaxy.

    You are joking? Some months ago I saw a post where they were bragging about a list of banned posters.

    A simple check now turns up banning of, at least;

    ‘wm is censored’
    ‘philomena’
    ‘maryt’

    and I recall streams of others which would pop-up if I searched more..

    Here is a typical comment by Catallaxy … made against “kennedy”.

    [This comment is too moronic to stand - you are a thread wrecker. You will be banned if you don't lift your game. Sinc.]

    It is impossible to be too moronic on Catallaxy.

    Catallaxy is a banning-machine.

  29. rog
    April 24th, 2012 at 18:36 | #29

    @Chris Warren Chris is correct; Catallaxy (the self elected bastion of free speech) regularly bans, deletes or modifies posters and postings. When pressed the argument is that as they are a private site the “owners” are responsible and need to protect their liability.

    When push comes to shove they go to water.

  30. rog
    April 24th, 2012 at 18:42 | #30

    To put it into some perspective; Jason Soon, Sinclair Davidson and other unmentionables are absolutely petrified that JQ will proceed with a threatened legal claim for defamation.

  31. Freelander
    April 24th, 2012 at 18:46 | #31

    Popper’s two volumes of “The Open Society and its Enemies” are worth a read. Although,eventually you recognize he is not exactly even handed.. Also. He was not beyond being afounding member of at least one quasi secret closed society, so he didn’t walk the talk.
    His most notable contribution was falsification but the Duhem Quine Thesis shows the problem with that.

  32. Chris Warren
    April 24th, 2012 at 23:51 | #32

    Defamation is the only way to go. The Catallaxy defamation has malice embedded in it. Their whole right-wing tactic is to hold people up to ridicule for political purposes.

    Catallaxy is pure unadulterated politically motivated defamation.

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