Principles of My Blog

08 November 2019

Over the years of blogging on various platform, I have arrived at a number of principles that guide my practice. While these are not intended as strict rules for everyone – the great variety of blogs forbids such generalisations – they might nonetheless be of interest if only to set the expectations of my readers.

1) Value Intellectual Work and Insight

I share the by now marginalised vision of blogs as a form of participation in the public sphere. As a philosopher and academic, I contribute to public debates by sharing the fruits of my intellectual work and providing insights into the academic research process. Thus, the value of my blogging to the public derives from the intellectual quality of the posts. Hence, I aim to maximize for this quality given certain constraints. One of these constraints is the experimental character of my blog and, thus, the texts are not nearly as polished as my journal articles. That being said, valuing the intellectual work of myself and others and the associated insight is a leading principle for of my blog, from which much of the other principles follows.

2) Not All Engagement Is Equal

My blog does not allow readers to post comments. This choice relieves me from the burdensome duty of moderating, but at least as important a consideration is the quality of discourse comments invite. While I find myself occasionally reading the comment sections of various blogs, it is exceedingly rare that the content is worthwhile.[0] As this case illustrates, not all engagement is of equal value. Comments often express immediate responses before the labour of thought has taken place. A tweet is quickly composed and forgotten. Rarely does it take the context of the original post into account. In line with my first principle, I therefore discount forms of engagement that lack intellectual work and insight.

3) Eschew Superficial Metrics

I don’t look at the number of page visits, clicks, or likes. The blog template I use came with Google Analytics by default, which I removed.[1] These metrics measure superficial forms of engagement. A million people sharing my post does not matter as much as one person writing a thoughtful reply on their own blog. Of course, people visiting a blog post is a step towards such valuable engagement, but it is far from a guarantee of it. The popularity and the epistemic value of a text should not be confused. The superficial metrics tempt us to commit this fallacy. If I haven given rise to an insightful response, I have contributed to the public sphere, independently of whether the response agrees with me. Neither a thousand visits nor a thousand clicks carry the same weight.

4) Embrace the Idiosyncratic

On the internet the blog is largely distinguished by presenting itself as a contribution to public discourse as well as an unapologetically idiosyncratic form. It is the product of one person, or of a limited number of contributors, who speak from their personal positions. As a consequence, it reflects the specific interests of its maintainer. There are few other places on the internet which discuss the design of a metaphysics course, Theda Skocpol’s analysis of social revolutions, and artificial neural networks.

One of the worst mistakes, at least if one does not want to commit a great part of one’s life to keeping the blog alive, is turning it into a news site.[2] A news site puts an implicit claim to adequately represent what matters, at least within one area such as academic philosophy, and it will be held accountable if it falls short of that ambition. Since I do not want to invest the resources required for such an endeavour, I openly acknowledge my limitations and maintain a blog that is emphatically mine. I write about what I want, albeit with an eye to what a blog can accomplish in the public sphere.

5) Write Charitably

While I embrace the blog as an expression of personal interests and perspective, that should not serve as a justification for problematic behaviour towards other members of the public. It is far too easy to give in to one’s own worst impulses, especially those that undermine the quality of the public discourse. When in doubt, one ought to act on the basis of the most charitable reading that is also reasonable, at least when the discussed piece of intellectual work warrants attention.[3] If it does not warrant attention, it should not be discussed on my blog at all. After all, I do not strive for completeness.

These are five principles which guide my blogging. They might be revised in the future, but only because new considerations demand changes. If you believe any of them are misguided, please feel free to send me an email.


Footnotes

[0] One exception are blogs like The Philosopher’s Cocoon which have the aim of crowdsourcing advice for specific practical problems.

[1] I am still using other scripts hosted by Google, so I cannot ensure that they are not tracking you. The website is also hosted on GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft.

[2] Daily Nous is one of the more successful examples of this work-intensive model. With all due respect to Justin Weinberg and his contribution to the discipline of philosophy, I don’t believe it helped his academic publication list.

[3] Hence, I am more willing to present a position in too positive a light than a too negative one. Since this is a blog, I do not hesitate to refrain from discussing work that I just do not consider worth public intellectual effort.