From the content to the creator

The science fiction writer S. M. Stirling has a problem with his series centered around the Domination alternative history because readers often confuse the narrative of the alternative history for the author’s endorsement of its arc and philosophy. You see, the novels and stories depict a world where a quasi-Nazi ghoulishly Nietzschean race termed the Draka eventually rise to conquer the whole world. Similarly, the fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson has had problems with readers who are curious why he has sympathetic atheist characters, despite he himself being a devout Mormon.

Obviously, some writers focus on what they know and have experienced. Jhumpa Lahiri comes to mind. She has said that she has no plans to delve beyond the purview of her West Bengali story arcs. But other writers like to explore viewpoints which are startlingly novel and at variance with those of themselves. This is probably particularly true of speculative fiction. Part of being human is the ability to do this with varying levels of fluency.

It is important in any case not to confuse the writer with what they are writing about.

Some of the same applies to what I talk about on this blog. This is clear and obvious when I’m considering the selection coefficient of a novel allele. But what about the Iranian regime?

  1. I am not personally a fan of the regime.
  2. I also believe it is important to describe it accurately and in its own terms.

Some of the latter is for instrumental reasons: if you are to defeat the enemy you must understand it. Even in the early 9/11 years, this was clear, but many people resisted this attempt, as emotions were quite raw. Islamist radicals were viewed in almost metaphysical terms, as forces of nature, evil essences of the universe. The reality though is that they are embodied creatures with needs, wants, and delusions, just like any other.

Ultimately I’m generally pretty frank with my views on a topic if I have them and want to express them. I’m not being cryptic. In some cases, I don’t want to interject my own personal views (which most can infer or know in any case). In other cases, I don’t have a strong opinion.

Blogging on an island as opposed to an archipelago

On a Twitter conversation it came up yesterday that a lot of people know each other from blogging in the 2000s. It was a different world back then, and the pond was much smaller. To my knowledge Derek Lowe is the only continuously active science blogger who has been at this longer than me (there are some, such as Dave Appell, who began blogging before me, but stopped for a while before starting up again). I’ve seen a lot of changes. Some good. Some perhaps not so good.

One major aspect is that blogging is no longer a conversation with many nodes. Rather, it’s a platform for individuals or networks to speak to their particular audience. I’m obviously part of this. I don’t subscribe to many blogs in my RSS feed. Basically I use Twitter to find blog posts. There are a few blogs I subscribe to, like Why Evolution Is True, but mostly I just wait until content shows up in my timeline.

And I’m not the only one. I have Google Analytics that go back very far. Below are referrals by site for equivalent periods in 2007, 2012, and 2017. I’ve standardized the top referral source (in pageviews) to 100.

2017, June – Aug
1 twitter 100
2 mobile facebook 38
3 unz.com 36
4 facebook 33
5 feedly.com 20
6 slatestarcodex.com 19
7 razib.com 11
8 brownpundits.com 9
9 eurogenes.blogspot.com 9
10 vox.com 6
2012, June – Aug
1 reddit.com 100
2 stumbleupon.com 60
3 facebook.com 49
4 scienceblogs.com 34
5 gnxp.com 31
6 fark.com 31
7 pulsenews 21
8 twitter 13
9 digg.com 12
10 isteve.blogspot.com 10
2007, June – Aug
1 digg.com 100
2 reddit.com 38
3 slashdot.org 20
4 isteve.com 19
5 stumbleupon.com 17
6 scienceblogs.com 11
7 dilbertblog.typepad.com 6
8 instapundit.com 4
9 del.icio.us 4
10 buzzfeed.com 3

I removed stuff like organic Google search, which I get a fair amount of. Additionally, I bolded all the sites where I am somehow involved in driving the traffic. So in 2017 I bolded Twitter because I have a big Twitter footprint that drives a lot of the traffic. I did not bold Facebook because I don’t use Facebook much to promote this website. Other people are sharing my posts. I separated mobile and non-mobile Facebook to show you that in 2017 mobile really matters.

You can see that over the years I’ve had to drive more and more of the traffic. I never posted my posts to Reddit. But for Twitter I push all my own content.