My blog is 1 year old today.
I think that it is time for some healthy self-reflection and self-criticism – where this blog is at (the good and the bad, as I see it) and where it is going.
First, some general impressions.
Of course, I want everybody on the planet to read my blog and think it is the best thing ever written. That hasn’t happened. However, I have been able to accomplish more with this blog than I think I would have been able to do in another of my favored professions – that of teacher. (Specifically, a lecturer in moral philosophy.) If I had been such a teacher, I would have had 30 students each in two classes that I talked to three times each week.
Here, I have 100 people visit me every day and, though I am sure that some of them scream and run out of the room as soon as they get a peek at what is going on, there are a few who stay. Hopefully, when they did leave, a few of them have taken away something of real value.
Remember, I am somebody who believes that there is such a thing as “real value.”
Of course, if I’m wrong in anything I say, and I convince others, that does not have “real value.” I need to be right – which means that I need to be careful. There is no value in spreading lies or even from error. People make mistakes. But a mistake, even if unintentional, is still a mistake. It leads people down wrong paths and makes the world worse than it would have otherwise been, not better.
So, I try to be careful. To give real value I have to be right – and I have to be careful. I do actually try to make sure that the 100 people who will visit me each day will find something that actually improves their understanding of the world – that they leave with a little more truth and understanding, instead of a pack of lies and misrepresentation that aims to manipulate them into actions that I (or my ‘faction’) would benefit from.
So, that’s what I try to do. I try to give those who come here a better understanding of some of the arguments being thrown about in order to decide policies, to help separate the good from the bad, in order to help people make better decisions. That, I have decided, is where I want to put my efforts in my time on this earth.
Do I think that I am always right?
Heck, no. However, I do know this: I am better than Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and the people who are responsible for that miniseries “The Path to 9/11”. I am better than Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and smarter than George Bush. I think that a person who cares about truth will still make mistakes, but will have a higher batting average than those who care only about effect, and are willing to lie for effect.
I know that this blog does have a traits (one a fault, the other is not) that tends to keep the readership lower than it would otherwise be.
(1) The posts are just too bloody long.
Newspapers have a limit of about 800 words on their articles, and they do that for a reason – because people do not read more than 800 words. They get about that far, and they stop. Newspapers want readers. Newspapers lose readers if they write more than 800 words, so they refuse to let their opinion writers write more than 800 words.
Back in February, I tried to limit myself to about 800 words. When I did, I found that I was merely making assertions. Those assertions only spoke to the people who agreed with me; and gave those who did not agree with me any reason to change their mind. It was actually during this period that I “missed days” on my blog because I could not figure out how to write something I felt was worth writing within those assigned limits.
When I filled in those assertions with arguments and I took the time to anticipate and consider objections, the posts grew longer again.
I found that I wrote comfortably at about 1600 words.
I know it is too long. However, I can also imagine somebody saying to Albert Einstein, “You have a wonderful proof for relativity here, but it is 235 steps long. Cut it down to 70, and we’ll consider giving it our attention.” Of course I am not saying that my proofs are as elaborate or rigid as Einstein’s. I am saying that if I cut things out of an argument, I must leave it up to the reader to fill in the gaps. This generates two hazards. First, a certain percentage of the readership will fill the gap in incorrectly. Second, hostile readers almost always respond to these shortcuts by saying, “You have this gap in your argument. Therefore, your argument sucks!”
So, I am back to filling in the gaps, and using extra words to do so.
I’ll keep working on this. Perhaps I will think of something.
In the mean time – this is not going to become a ‘news’ blog. I will write about arguments – why they are good or bad – and what they tell us about the character of the people who use them.
(2) Criticizing the Liberals
I have also noticed that my readership takes a massive hit whenever I say something bad about liberals.
I am not talking about some subtle shift in the numbers. I am talking about a nose-dive every time I point out that some liberal organization lied or they are using arguments not unlike the arguments they criticize when Republicans or Conservatives use them.
These reductions are serious and significant – and it takes a while to build readership back up again. I have found that “successful” blogs seldom say things that would antagonize the tribes that make up the bulk of their readership. They will criticize dishonesty, but will not criticize a member of their own faction for dishonesty. They will condemn hypocrisy, but not suggest that there is anybody on their side who has ever been guilty of this.
I can see why. All a person needs to do is see the effects of doing something like that once and, if he has any interest in running a successful blog, he learns, “never criticize the tribe.”
I am not accusing these people of insincerity. I think that the mind works in more subtle ways than that. I think it has more to do with the phenomenon I discussed yesterday – an ‘uneasiness’ that causes a person to think that there is something more important that needs doing – something other than criticizing the tribe.
I do not consider this a fault with this blog. I suspect that those readers who stick around even when I criticize liberals are those who are, like me, more interested in truth and integrity than in party loyalty. Those are the people that I want to write for anyway. Those are the readers worth having.
Besides, I think that criticizing the tribe is good for the tribe. It makes it stronger.
Advertising and Other Sources of Revenue
I would love to be able to do this for a living. Unfortunately, I fear that doing this for a living might leave me vulnerable to compromising certain principles in order to get paid. I am pleased that I have the liberty to write what I think, and not what I think will make money.
I don’t collect any revenue through this site. One of the reasons is because I want to focus on the quality of the arguments, and not on some irrelevant feedback criterion such as income. I have watched how advertising – the need to increase eyeball count – has damaged or destroyed many things of value, from The Learning Channel to cable news.
However, I’m working on a book. It is a smaller, simpler book than the “Desire Utilitarianism” book that appears on my web site. It simply presents the case for the moral theory that I use in this blog.
Its chapters include:
- Introduction: There Are Moral Facts
- Desire Utilitarianism
- Objectivism and Subjectivism in Ethics
- Ethics from Scripture
- Dong Good without God
- Moral Persuasion
- Hume on ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’
- In Defense of Realism: Answering J.L. Mackie
- Rational Self-Interest
- A Problem with Faith
- Morality as Evolved Sentiment
- The Love of True Belief
- Using the Founding Fathers in Moral Arguments
- The Meaning of Life
Some of these come from posts here on the blog. Others come from my web site. All of them have been rewritten in light of comments that people have made here and in other conversations.
It is written. I will clean it up some, and then I will make it available. I hope you will find in it something of value.
Tomorrow, I will write my first substantive post of the second year.
I do think that this will be a good time to introduce some changes – to try to make this blog better than it has been. “Better” does not mean “more popular,” by the way. “Better” means “contributing to the fulfillment of more and stronger desires regardless of whose they are.” That’s how I work things here.
I hope that you have a pleasant day and that I will see you here again in the future. I hope that when you come I have something of value to offer you. In the mean time, I hope that you get what you want out of life (unless it involves doing harm to others).
See you tomorrow….