Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar RTod says:

    Since it seems like conflict often drives response – with the long threads of commenting between two commenters often taking over – this seems natural. Take your own last two post, I Told You So and Goodbye Buffalo (not their exact names).

    The former was just putting out on observation and opinion. Everybody who agreed or disagreed could pile on, regardless of how much we actually knew. We could even just fall back on the same rhetoric we always use about the pros/cons of the GOP, with the same folks we always use the rhetoric on.

    But the Buffalo? That post was far more informative, and therefore fun to read. But even though I wasn’t sure I agreed with your thesis (and posted so), it was quickly obvious that you knew WAAAAY more about the situation than I did. (What do I know about upper-NY State tax codes?) It’s hard to get discussion flowing over a post where the author knows so much more than everyone else. But I might argue that those are posts are often the most valuable (at least to me), so maybe the number of comments isn’t the best unit of measurement for a post’s success?Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to RTod says:

      Totally agreed that number of comments has nothing to do with a post’s impact. Just making an observation here, and I hope this didn’t come across as whining.

      As a writer, it can occasionally be disheartening to put a ton of effort into a post, be proud of it, and then minutes or hours later fire off a lazy red-meat post that took five minutes to write and see it get hundreds of comments and five or six times as many pageviews (which of course is itself entirely a function of the fact that the comments thread is active).

      The rational conclusion is as you describe. But when you get comparatively little feedback on that post you put a lot of effort into, you start doubting yourself and wondering if you screwed something up to make the post incoherent or make it just go completely over everyone’s head. Of course, the opposite is more likely true – people are most likely to comment when they either think you’ve made a bunch of errors or when they agree but have a wide variety of things to add that you may have missed. But the insecurity remains since there’s no way to get feedback. It goes away if you get a nice link or two, but the increasingly hierarchical nature of the blogosphere nowadays is such that links are a lot harder to come by.

      This really isn’t whining, though – it’s just my own lizard brain at work, and besides, the time-consuming posts are far more fun to write and are a reward unto themselves, loads of comments or no comments. That this place and its commenters almost always spur me to conceptualize those time-consuming posts is what makes blogging a worthwhile activity for me.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I don’t take your hypothesis as whiny, and I get your point as a writer. (Maybe a FBish ‘like” button would help?)

        But I’d also encourage you to look at the big picture: How many blogs out there get a zillion comments from ditto heads vs. trolls precisely because they are written suck-y, preach-to-the-choir, mean little douche bags? And how many of those get linked, by friends and enemies, over and over? You guys are on the radar enough that you could flip to that model and get those results anytime you wanted.

        The fact that you guys take the effort to be something better is why most of us spend too much time here. That you can get us readers to help pony up when you need funding is a pretty good sign that what you do is both valued and uncommon.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Your story checks out.

    Now is this a limitation of the blogosphere in general? Or is it really not a problem? Should we be more secure about what we post with the knowledge that it’s posssible to research a post for weeks, and have people read it and think it’s cool but have nothing much to add?Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Rufus F. says:

      “Now is this a limitation of the blogosphere in general?”

      Hadn’t thought of this, but maybe so? The hypothesis certainly adds fuel to the argument that people who are informed through the internet are looking for short-attention-span McNuggets and aren’t learning to learn.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Ultimately, I think it’s not a problem at all, and is just a function of the nature of discourse in general. A quick, one-off post is going to be inherently more accessible than a post that explicitly ties its conclusions to information that most people don’t have pre-existing opinions on. But those quick, one-off posts are also the blogospheric equivalent of an election campaign – they’re where the popular debate has to take place if it is to take place at all.

      Probably the way we should view the time-consuming temperate post is as the means of informing the popular debate, or at least the popular debate in the one-off posts. It makes the debate in those posts somewhat better informed, even if the only one who winds up being better informed is the poster who conducted the research and went through the thought process.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Well, I don’t mean it as a problem of readers- as much as I’ll gripe about people’s love of distraction in the age of blinking, digital geegaws, whenever I read something from 2,500 years ago griping about how people seek out distractions, I think it was always this way. And, personally, I comment more about the provocative tossed off posts too! Oh, and I certainly love being distracted by blinking, digital geegaws!

        I just wonder what gets incentivized in the blogosphere, and if that has a long term effect on the writing. A big factor here is that the vast majority of us are not getting paid! With magazines, I can spend three weeks researching and writing an article, pitch it to a magazine, and I really only care about one person’s feedback- the editor. As long as they pay money, I don’t care how every reader responded to the article. So, there’s a financial incentive there, but not so much of an interpersonal/conversational incentive.

        With blogging, the vast majority of us are not making money, so the incentive becomes attention- how many links or page views or comments- it’s more like being at a party and wanting your joke to go over well. Since you’re not being paid, you want to be liked- or at least be thought of as interesting. I just wonder if this doesn’t incentivize being interesting or provocative over being informative and thoughtful.

        Of course, the big question here is if what we’re doing is writing or broadcasting.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Rufus F. says:

          1. “Since you’re not being paid, you want to be liked- or at least be thought of as interesting. I just wonder if this doesn’t incentivize being interesting or provocative over being informative and thoughtful. Of course, the big question here is if what we’re doing is writing or broadcasting.” – see my comment to Mark above

          2. New fun word of the day: geegaw. Thanks for that.Report

      • +1 on this, Mark, and the comments too.

        The sunny side is that everything lives forever [absent server crashes] via Google, but it’s only the substantive posts that rise to the top. The shallow red meat ones largely vanish from view. My own groupblog is on history, and it’s amazing how often we turn up near the top on Google on various topics.

        So keep on with the quality, LoOGers, as if you’re writing for the ages. You just might be!Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:


    The concept is presented in C. Northcote Parkinson’s spoof of management, Parkinson’s Law.[1] Parkinson dramatizes his Law of Triviality with a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant, contrasting it to deliberation on a bicycle shed. A nuclear reactor is used because it is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so they assume that those working on it understand it. Even those with strong opinions often withhold them for fear of being shown to be insufficiently informed. On the other hand, everyone understands a bicycle shed (or thinks he or she does), so building one can result in endless discussions because everyone involved wants to add his or her touch and show that they have contributed. While discussing the bikeshed, debate emerges over whether the best choice of roofing is aluminium, asbestos, or galvanized iron, rather than whether the shed is a good idea or not.Report

  4. Avatar J. Otto Pohl says:

    I have noticed this too. I now do not write too many long detailed blog posts because I feel the effort is better spent writing for other media such as journal articles or books. Not only do you not get paid for blog posts, but you can not put them on your CV. So really the only external validation for blog posts is provided by comments and links. If you spend a lot of time and effort writing blog posts and get no recognition it does act as a disincentive. I think this is the nature of the beast.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to J. Otto Pohl says:

      You’re right. I think the beast is going to probably going to keep evolving though. Just like print magazines are going to have to develop pretty good web content to keep surviving on the newstands, I think a lot of blogs will fizzle out, but the really good ones will end up developing a profitable side. Or there will be blog/print mergers like what The Atlantic is doing. But like HST said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.Report

  5. Avatar Will H. says:

    It doesn’t sound like someone is bucking for a 300 comment thread here.

    I thought I would say something mindless, just to throw off the hypothesis.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Speaking of open threads, there’s a lovely story here:

    Here’s the headline:

    Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”


    The vast majority of folks are jes’ folks. It’s the occasional nut who shows up who manages to make everybody else look bad by association. (See also: Tea Parties, Anti-War Protests, Furry Conventions, etc)Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Okay, given that it’s an open thread, I have two tech-related questions. Please remember that I make most people’s grandparents look like techies.

    I would like to share some of my art here. It’s nothing great, but some of it is amusing. However, I took digital pictures and they’ve come out to 2.29 MB each, while the site only allows pictures of 1 MB or less. How do you make a digital picture, saved in Microsoft, smaller?

    Secondly, as someone with no willpower to speak of, I’d like assistance in not dicking around on the web so much. Does anyone know what software internet cafes use to lock up the browser after, say, one hour? I’d like to spend about an hour/day onlline, instead of finding myself spending hours on Youtube watching Suzi Quatro videos.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I’ll bet you can find parental control software intended to control your kid’s access to the ‘net. Have your wife install it and promise not to tell you the override password.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Please log in for me, hon. I just need five minutes to pay the gas bill.”

        “That’s what you said last night about the credit card. It was two hours.”

        “Yeah, their web site was incredibly slow.”

        “Is that why you came back humming ‘Stumbling In’?”Report

        • Yeah, I was wondering if anyone had done that for their kids. We tried installing a few of them that had free trial periods and they didn’t work at all. I’ve got one on here now that, in theory, should be keeping me from writing this. If anyone has kids and has found one that works, let me know and I’ll use it for my childlike self.

          As for Suzi Quatro songs, this is the one I’ve had in my head for three days now:

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

            I mean “they didn’t work at all” in that we couldn’t get the software to work, not that they wouldn’t help.Report

          • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Well how do you like that–Rufus-a Suzi Quatro fan! We grew almost neighbors–she lived a few blocks from me. My friends and I used to go hear her play at a local music joint called, The Hideout. Oh, she was good, very, very good and quite a wild girl–an abundance of manic energy. So much fun to be around. Are you from Michigan, by any chance? I’ve completely track of any of her comings and goings–how fun it would be to see her again.

            Okay Rufus, here’s my nomination for the greatest rock song of ALL TIME. I know, there are legitimate arguments that could be made for at least 100 songs that are the “best of all time”, and they probably are, but this song is very special–absolutely the richest harmonic progressions and resolutions, Brooker with just an amazing voice, lyrics that William Blake would admire and the last minute and a half are just spine tingling gorgeous! Give it a chance-listen to a few minutes–it really is that good! How about you–what is your favorite rock song of all time? For the most part, I’m stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries, but absolutely love the music that came out of the 60s. The 90s and 2000s have been a total wash to these ears. Enjoy!


            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Heidegger says:

              Yeah, I think it’s probably pretty hard for me to get into anything after the mid 80s in general. The 70s weren’t a total wash, but I agree about the 60s (and actually the 50s too) being a great time for rock songs.

              Suzi Quatro I just remember as being almost successful when I was a kid. She had a few songs they used to play at the local ice skating rink and was on Happy Days a lot. My musical evolution as a teenager went from the rock I heard on the radio to country to metal to punk to rockabilly and finally back to country and the rock I used to hear as a kid. Suzi Quatro was one of those singers from my youth that I was reminded of recently. Lately, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Bowie, which I’m sort of always listening to, The Flamin’ Groovies, Bobby Fuller, and Thin Lizzy. Also a hell of a lot of Jimmy Reed. My parents used to listen to bluegrass, so I like that too. I think I sometimes annoy my wife with all my memories of childhood.

              I don’t know if I could even begin to decide what the greatest rock song of all time is, but definitely A Salty Dog is pretty great. And I did not live in Michigan, but am generally pretty amazed at how many phenomenal rock bands came out of that part of the country.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Well Rufus, that’s just heartening to know there’s another person out there that loves such great music! And that really is great stuff you were talking about–Bowie was a phenomenal talent, love bluegrass, too–don’t know much about some of the other musicians you mentioned. And of course, great to hear you also love “A Salty Dog”! For no logical reason, it’s going through my head, the last few days and for that, I cannot complain. Oh, a GREAT book to recommend to you–“Musicophilia”, by Oliver Sacks. Yes, the same guy who wrote, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat”, as well as the, “The Awakenings”–that was made into a movie with De Niro and Robin Williams. To say the least, he’s a neurologist who has caught the music bug in a big way, a long, long time ago. Once it happens, you never turn back–your life is changed forever. It really is that powerful. Whether or not one believes in God, one would be hard-pressed to deny that we humans are not blessed with this extraordinary, singular gift of a “neural apparatus” that can transform these moving compression pulses and vibrations of air into something that can be so utterly heartbreakingly beautiful or sad. Have no idea where music fits into evolutionary biology, or if has any adaptive evolutionary purpose at all, but damn, we sure must count our blessings for God’s irrationality and musical taste! Well, at least for the most part.

                Rufus, here is Beethoven, late Beethoven, totally deaf Beethoven, delivering to humanity music of such divine, beatific beauty–yes he really did cut the legs of all of his pianos so he could “hear” from the vibrations on the wooden floor. His genius and conception of harmony and counterpoint, and musical architecture is so out there, so boundless, so miraculous and unfathomable—the human race says to Ludwig, Alles liebe, Herr Beethoven!!


                p.s. Rufus–your wife would undoubtedly love Schumann’s Kinderszenen–“Scenes From Childhood”! Hey, she might even let you off the hook for your memories of childhood!Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Heidegger says:

              I expect you like Whiter Shade of Pale a lot too. (I do.)Report

  8. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Blogging, like casual conversation, allows for a repetition of themes and ideas over the course of many posts, so if a studiously research post fails to attract a lot of attention, it can always becomes a platform of sorts to return to directly (with a link) or indirectly (with a repetition of some of its points and, if done prudently, verbiage).Report