Category Archives: Blogging

Grundy interviews Sabio

GrundyGrundy, over at Deity Shmeity, just posted an “interview” with me here.  Addendum: So as not to lose the interview, I also include it below (in clearer format).  Click “more” to see it.

Grundy looked over my blog and sent me some questions to answer. He’s done the same to several atheist bloggers. These “interviews” are a good way to learn about others and, wink, a good way to get readers to visit your blog.

Grundy, like me, uses an alias.  And like me, he is also a former Christian believer — though a bit more cultic.  He is a former Christian Scientist! Unfortunately, Grundy never took my advice to build a good About Page to tell us more about himself, so I can’t give a better intro.  But with a face like that, can you blame him?  🙂

Please do visit Grundy’s site and say “Hi”.

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3 Quarks Daily bans Sabio Lantz

3 Quarks Daily3 Quarks Daily is an excellent e-magazine which offers readers a daily fine selection of readings from around the web which you may otherwise not get a chance to read. Occasionally they also offer space for their own writers to do an article. Today, one of their writers, Fausto Ribeiro, did a post entitled, “A Universe from Nothing? Or: Desperately Seeking Transcendence in a Materialist World.”  Well, the title accurately tells you where that post is going.

It was a sappy, weak post setting up straw-man criticisms of scientists and doing this all digitally while pontificating about the evils of digital entertainment. One commentor succinctly responded with, “Jeez” — a rather generous comment, in my opinion.

But S. Abbas Raza, one of their “moderators”, didn’t think so and vehemently replied:

“I have no idea what that means. In any case, I will say this only once: either leave comments that engage the piece in some substantive (and civil) way, or you will be banned. Understood? Good.

I am very tired of people acting superior and contemptuous toward our writers. You don’t like what we publish? Go somewhere else. Or engage our writers in a polite way, even if you don’t agree with them.

We don’t need people rolling their eyes at us like 13-year-olds.”

Reading this, I also then decided to criticize but the article and Raza’s critical attitude toward disagreeing commentors.

Then, in my e-mail, I see this reply from Raza:

“Three or four of our readers above seem to have liked the article very much. What I fail to understand is why certain people are so sure of their own opinions that they can’t simply move on to something they do like instead of staying and insulting the writer. Not every piece is to everyone’s taste. Why is that so shocking? Can you name any reputable magazine or journal where you like everything they publish?”

When I look back at the site to respond to this, I see that my comment had been deleted. Indeed, even this last comment of Raza was self-deleted. And when I tried to reply again, and I see that I am now banned from the thread.

So in protest to 3 Quarks Daily, I am posting what I would have posted:

(1) I think it is fantastic that folks like the article.
(2) Are you saying, look, on 3 quarks daily we don’t want any negative comments but just compliments? If so, you need a comment policy.
(3) This writer is “so sure of [his] own opinion” and we are responding to his public declaration of it. I would think 3-quarks-daily would encourage open debate.
(4) I can not name another reputable magazine who would like to shut down disagreement like you would.

Interestingly, 3QD is in the middle of a fund raising campaign and Raza just did this post asking for financial support. In his plea for money, Raza tells us that 3DQ offers “intellectual refuge” – sure, if refuge means being able to hide from criticism. He says, “We know you like 3QD (and we are extremely flattered) because you have just told us so.” Sure, and that you censor disagreement.

So, are you considering supporting 3 Quarks Daily? Well, I actually was, until today.

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Reductionist Blogging and Blur

I have experimented composing this post using diagrams and words all in one .png file because illustrating it otherwise would be pretty complex.  It was a fun experiment. However, the image may be hard to see on your cell-phone. Let me know how it appears in your reader. And tell me how this post made you think about your blogging and the concept of “reductionism”.

Reductionist_Blogging

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Deceptive Blogging Stats

Dora the Explorer

Yeah, Great Stats!

Web advertisers measure their ad’s success by number of clicks — this is closely associated with sales. But unlike ads, just because someone is clicking on one of your blog posts, doesn’t mean they are “buying” your stuff — it doesn’t mean they are reading your posts (yet alone affected by your writing).

I love WordPress and can only write about the stats they offer bloggers, but I am sure some of the principles carry over to other blogging platforms.

Clicking on your WordPress control panel’s “Site Stats” will offer you three “Most Popular” stats and “Daily Visits” by which to try to figure out if people are reading your blog. All four sets of statistics are deceptive.  Don’t believe them. Below I tell you why:

(1) Most Popular Posts

If you look at my “Top Posts” since starting my blog in 2009 (>900 posts), the list reveals the vacuous nature of these stats. Below I list the top five visited posts and in brackets I tell you why they are probably “popular”. Note, none of them are popular because of what I wrote:

1) Fighting Dragons & Santa [for a great pic of Santa: 40,000 hits!]
2) Hindu Gods Iconography [for pics of Hindu gods]
3 Hinduism was my Undoing [great pic of Lord Ganesh]
4) Was Jesus a Coward [google search: Jesus & Coward]
5) Ambulance Snake: Bible Literacy [google search: Bible Literacy]

Heck, my “Buddhist Hemorrhoids” post is right up in my top twenty — what do you imagine brought “readers” there?

These “most popular” posts have very few comments and thus showing people aren’t there for content. Some statistical blogging software (not-free) shows how many minutes a person spends on a post, which would tell you something meaningful.

(2) Most Popular Search Terms:

Now look at your “Most Popular Search Terms” — the terms searched that brought people to your posts.

My top all-time high ones (in order) have been:
santa (26,000), ganesh (14,000), dora the explorer (10,000), buddha (10,000), hinduism (8,000), jesus (6,000), shiva (6,000), mushroom cloud (5,000), Wanderer above the sea of fog (5,000), reincarnation (5,000), celtic cross (5,000)

You get the point.

(3) Most Commented On:

Lastly, WordPress offers a way to see which of your posts have been most commented on.  And though more helpful then the two above, this is also deceptive.

My top four have been:
a. Is Evolution just a Theory
b. What is your Greek-Philosophy Type
c. Why Yahweh Kills Innocents
d. Redefining Atheism

So what is the problem with weighing these too heavily.

(a) Few actual commentors:  These numbers may just involve a back and forth between a few people arguing.  And they count the author as one of the commentors (which is often half of the comments).

(b) Unimportant posts: These posts may not be the ones you care about at all.

(4) Total Visits

Since the total number of visits to your blog are compromised of the problems I list above, these too are not very instructive.  I may seem like a hypocrit on this issue since I have many site trackers at the bottom of my right column, but I put these up early in the game. Now I just have them there for curiosity sake and to remind me of how easily we can be fool by superficial numbers.

Interestingly, WordPress offers a great graph showing daily visits in too bars: one showing the number of unique visitors, and one showing the amount of views.  This shows you if people are clicking through your blog, I think.  Any thoughts?

Conclusion:

Understanding statistics is hard stuff — people are tricked by them easily. Mere numbers are deceptive. For instance: just because the majority of the world believes in Astrology, doesn’t make it either interesting, deserving of further attention or right. I would reconsider weighing the your WordPress stats carefully.  For just as we teach our children that being “popular” is a superficial judgement so are our common evaluations for the impact of our blogs.

Question to readers:  How do you think deeper and evaluate the quality of your blogging rather than looking just at the statistics I list above?

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Threader Challenge

Threader“Threaders”

I was going to coin a new word, but as you can see to the right, it already exists.  So I am going to coin a new blogging use for the word: “threader“.

Threader (noun): a blog commentor who does not have their own blog — their sole blog participation is on threads.

I love threaders. Not everyone has the time or desire to run their own blog. For unlike us bloggers, threaders probably have a much healthier, productive life! 😉

I am very happy (and privileged) to have threaders who participate on Triangulations. But a challenge with threaders is that they can be difficult to get to know. And here at Triangulations, I contend that getting to know someone on a personal level is probably as important as getting to their ideas. Indeed, I wonder if you can really understand a person’s ideas if you don’t know their lives.  Ideas can be separated from lives, but they never are.  Idea serve people’s lives in different ways.

Threader Challenge

If I have linked you to this post, it is because I am challenging you to either:

    1. Put the link to your blog in your profile on Disqus, Blogger, Facebook, or Google.  And if you have a blog, be sure to have a fairly detailed “About” page .
    2. If you don’t have a blog, set up a blog and just make it a one page blog with information about you.   If you need help thinking of things to share, consider using my “Share Thyself” tables if you wish.

Obscure Threaders

Some threaders love hiding behind obscurity.  They enjoy throwing out cute teasing aphorisms to sound wise and yet not spell out their ideas.  Please consider some degree of blogging transparency.  Share yourself.

Question for readers:

  • Are you a threader?  What do you think of this post?
  • Have you shared yourself on your blog?  If so, why not?
  • If you don’t have a blog and prefer to only be a threader, has this post moved you a little closer to consider at least putting up a 1 page blog: an “About” Page?

Note: Pic source here — for more on what I feel about bait, see my post on Roadkill Theology.

triangle_end_tiny

 

 

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Share your Demographics !

Reading each other and dialoguing can be vastly improved by sharing our demographics. To that end, I have made the table below to help.  I filled in my own details as an example.

Our thinking is more a product of our environment and experiences then we’d like to imagine. Sure, even if your beliefs match your demographic, doesn’t mean that you mechanically are fated to your beliefs nor that they are wrong.  But some of that is usually true and because we subconsciously know we aren’t as free as we imagine, it can be scary to share.  We fear that we will be judged, classified and dismissed. But the risk is worth it — it will help you to know yourself and perhaps change. Share your experiences with each other and see what that vulnerability does to your dialogues.

Feel free to cut and paste this table into your blog — modify it as you see fit and then link it to your “About” page to help your readers.  Add that link in the comments — don’t give me your demographics in the comments, please.

Suggestion: make all your answers as brief as possible or link to other pages when too long.

Biology Background
 — age/generation  baby boomer
 — gender  male
 — sexual orientation  heterosexual
 — health challenges  none now — but gettin’ older
Family Background
 — ethnicity, race  white (Welsh, German)
 — birth order, siblings, household  oldest of 3 boys
 — parent’s / guardian occupations  Dad: sales, factory owner (deceased)

Mom: elementary teacher (deceased)

 — present family  married, two kids (son, daughter)
Socio-Economic Background
 — occupation history  Physician Assistant (more here)
 — residence history  Mid-west, USA
 — class / income  middle class
Education Background
 — languages  mother tongue: English

previous fluent: Japanese (more here)

 — education  See here
Affiliations
 — religious  non-religious, former Christian (see here)
 — political  libertarian-ish (see here)
 — clubs and groups  no affiliations
 — hobbies  weiqi, kayaking, music (guitar)

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Please Build an “About” Page

AboutIf I just directed you to this post, it is because you are blogless commentor or a blogger without an About Page.

I completely understand why a person wouldn’t want to have their own blog — blogs are a lot of work and not everyone’s desire.  But if you are spending a lot of time commenting on other blogs, may I make a compromise suggestion: put up a simple About Page.

Instead of a big, time-intensive blog, simply build an “About” page and leave the rest blank.  Go to  Wordpress.com (my favorite) or at www.blogger.com or other free blogging sites and get a blog and just set up that page and tell us about yourself.  That way when someone reads your comment, they can click on the link under your name, and then quickly go read a page or two about you so they know more about who they are taking too.  Such sharing makes conversations much more interesting.

If you are already a blogger and don’t have an About page, please consider building one and sharing a bit more about yourself.

Resources:

For folks without an About page, here is how to format an “About” page:  Blogger folks see here and WordPress folks see here.

For those with scant information about themselves, I offer some helpful outlines on sharing your demographics, your philosophy, your theology and more, here on my “Share Thyself” post.

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Visual Organization: a friendly post

Dismal PrintThis is another of my posts on blogging tips. Here I offer a few suggestions on how to make your posts visually and intellectually more pleasing.

I don’t know about you, but if I come upon a post that is a long, rambling, black-and-white desert of dismal typeface I probably won’t read it unless that author is famous or I already know that their writing is amazing — and that ain’t many of us!  So below are my suggestions for improving the visual appearance of posts by us ordinary bloggers.

Organize, Organize, Organize

Organize your thoughts.  Think of the main points you want to make.  Don’t try to make too many points.  Do several posts instead of one long rambling post.  But even your shorter posts will need an outline, a structure, some organization.

After organizing your thinking, use your post’s layout to illustrate your outline — show us that you didn’t just write a post like you write a letter to a friend where you just ramble.  Show us that you did a little work for us.

One way to organize your post is to create an outline first.  The other way is to just write your thoughts out (like that rambling letter) and then go back, look at your rambling, pick out your main points and then re-organize it.

Now your post should be organized and contain an implicit outline. Making that outline visually apparent in your post will do us all a big favor.  One, it keeps us reading and two, after reading, it helps us remember what you said

Two main ways to show us your organization and beautify your post is by using illustrations and sections.

Illustrations

Paragraphs are easy — anyone can ramble.  See how the illustration I made above demonstrates my point. So if your post is going to be long, consider doing a little work and create images.  Tables, bulleted lists and diagrams or pics work well too in showing us the effort you put into organizing your thoughts.  Illustrations are visually easier to digest than paragraph after plain paragraph of dry print.

Sections

Don’t write more than 5-6 paragraphs without breaking your posts into sections. Show us your organization.  This will keep down unnecessary verbosity.

Here is how to make sections:

    • Bold Titles:  Put a bolded title to each paragraph section.
    • Simple Titles:  Don’t make cute or cryptic titles that can only be understood after reading the paragraphs.  Instead, your paragraph titles should be clear. They should illustrate the outline of your post. Make those titles explanatory (instead of tricky or fancy).  Make the title draw me forward and keep me reminded of the smooth flow of your ideas. Create them in such a way that I can look back at them and actually remember the logic of your argument or your presentation.
    • Indentation:  Indent after each section.  This is easier on the eye, breaks up the paragraphs and visually displays your outline.

 

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Using Links

click_hereBelow is a short list of my main gripes about link habits.  I realize that much of reading and writing is a matter of aesthetics and can’t be argued, but perhaps one or two of these points will help the reader consider something they had not thought of and change your linking style.  Thus making the web better reading for me!  🙂   Seriously, though, I think these may be helpful.  Readers:  Tell me if you disagree or offer your personal gripes in the comments — I may go back and expand or edit the list.  Thank you!

Linking Suggestions:

  • Don’t makeLink-Soup“: Filling your post full of links is a terrible idea:
    • Clutter: Link-soup looks cluttered and subtracts from the outline your post should have. (see what I mean by “outline appearance” here)
    • Dissatisfaction: Link-soup offers tons of reading that I inevitably won’t do and so my mind says “Look how much you are ignoring.”  You don’t want reader leaving feeling they are dumb, lazy and unread!  🙂
  • Make it clear why we should click your link?
    • Make it clear where your link is taking us.  I love the mouse-over option as a way to get that information when your link is not clear.  Because I expect a link to take me to an explicit explanation for the underlined item.  I don’t want to go to another long, verbose post by the author.  I just want a simple expansion of the term or idea.  OR, if it is a link to a long article, the author should tell me why I should read it.  Don’t expect me to click your links without guidance.  Using a friend’s blog as an example, in his post on Jesus’ appearance after his execution his first link is “customary-Jewish burial“.  But that link took us to his long post that discusses his thoughts about Jesus’ burial story in the NT, not about actual customary Jewish burials. Instead, I would have prefered this link on Customary Jewish Burial, and that if he felt it necessary, he could have parenthetically added a second parenthetic link to his post like this: (here is my post on Jesus’ burial).
  • Make Reference Links:
    • Consider putting your reference links at the end of the post as footnotes, notes or references.  This will help make your post less cluttered and less demanding.

So don’t link just because you can. Think about the reader. I probably link too much too.  My linking style has changed over the years.  There are probably lots of good linking styles–all different from each other (sort of like child rearing)–but there are lots of bad obvious linking styles too that most folks would agree are bad.  Again: What is your opinion?

Note: See more of my suggestions on blogging here.

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My Petty WeiQi Gripes

Placing_Go_StoneUnderstanding an author’s personality, helps you weigh his/her writings.  So to round out your understanding of me, I thought I’d show another side of myself:  I am a petty person, full of unnecessary silly gripes.

For example, I play an inappropriate amount of an on-line board game called WeiQi — see my other posts here.  And here are just some of things that piss me off about some on-line KGS WeiQi players:

  • Selfish Players (~):
    players who have a tilde(~) next to their rank tells us that they rarely play ranks lower than themselves.
    They are selfishly only concerned with your own rank. As a penalty, KGS attaches a tilde to your ranks so we can avoid selfish players. I will play tildes free — it help me avoid a tilde of my own while not rewarding their selfish behavior. See more here: https://www.gokgs.com/help/tilde.html
  • Game Scammers:
    players who mess with komi and handicaps (others don’t, why do you think you are special?)
  • Lack of Aesthetics:
    players who don’t use avatars (avatars beautify KGS)
  • Lack of Creativity:
    players who make handles with letters and numbers without meaning (seriously, be a bit more creative or I won’t play with you)
  • Rudeness:
    make violent or rude handles (this one is obvious, I ban them)
  • Arrogance:
    use handles with “Dr” in their name (seriously, relax, you ain’t no Dr. when you play WeiQi!)
  • Time Wasters:
    don’t list the ranks they want to play (1k – 13k) in the game offers (please don’t waste our time)
  • List Makers:
    make “pet peeve” lists and use emoticons   🙂

Questions for Readers: So, what are your pet peeves about blogs?

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