Depending how you count, I've been blogging for a year now. The first post, such as it was, is dated Sept. 15, but I started in earnest on the 20th. And I still think that one of the early posts was one of the best; it certainly hit the kind of issues I ended up blogging most about. (My eldest son, however, says that this one is the best of the early posts and maybe all time.)
I had thought when I began to take part in the life of the mind working out loud. There hasn’t been all that much of that here; my academic work tends to stay on academic pages where I can go on at sufficient length to be as precise as I feel a need to be. Instead, this blog ended up far more political than I originally imagined it would be. There's a reason for this.
I find it shocking and horrible that anyone running the government, anyone running the Justice Department, could argue for torturing prisoners of war, or any other class of person.
I find it frightening that anyone running the government, anyone running the Justice Department, could even entertain arguments that US Citizens should be held in solitary confinement, indefinitely, without charges or access to court and counsel. The assertion of this power strikes at the hear of our democracy. It is in my view many steps down the road to serious, genuine, good-old-fashioned tyranny, with or without raising the almost distracting issue of whether this is some nascent form of fascism.
(And the bankrupt-America policies of this administration, with many mainstream economists predicting a crash of the dollar or other economic disaster unless we change our policies doesn’t make me feel all that great either. Especially when I think about the political developments that often tend to follow an economic crisis.)
So, one reason I’ve kept on doing this is that I don’t want to look back in twenty years and discover that during the crunch time I was the modern equivalent of a ‘good German’—busy with the demands of family and career while ‘the great experiment,’ the USA, went down the tubes around me. Even bearing witness against these trends serves, I hope, in some small way to begin to roll them back.
As for the rest, it's part archive of interesting things, part sharing. The mix seems to work for some people. Your civil comments, public or private, are always welcome.
In the past year I've blogged 1253 entries, committed hundreds of typos, received just shy of 2500 real blog comments (with the lion's share in the last three months) not to mention a ton of interesting email, and blocked or deleted thousands of spam comments. My MT-Blacklist file, copy available by request, includes 2467 entries, some of them Perl regular expressions designed to catch whole classes of spam. And I still have to spend at least five minutes a day, sometimes much more, cleaning out the trash.
Dreamhost's conservative hit counter, which tries never to count the same machine more than once a day, gives me just over 160,000 unique page views this past year. Sitemeter tries not to count the same machine more than once per hour or so. It reports just under 300,000 visitors to my front page, with an average of just under 2,000 per day. Total page views run about a third higher.
These are, however, systematic undercounts, as I make the full text of my posts available in my RSS feeds. As a result, it's impossible to know how many readers I have via syndication. Feedburner suggests it might be only another 400, although if that's all then they seem to check in very regularly.
The TLB ecosystem count of 179 inbound unique links ranks Discourse.net near the bottom of its top 500 blogs, well down from the peak position as 216 (with 231 inbound links) reached June 28, 2004 when I was blogging up a storm about the torture memos. Even number 462 is well above 3450, which is the position at which I entered the system.
Oddly, if ranked by Sitemeter traffic ranking instead of inbound links, discourse.net’s seemingly paltry traffic puts it at number 137, which I think shows just how tough the power-law slope can be. (Does it also mean that the blogging phenomenon is exaggerated?) Number 50 on the list has a readership only three times larger, but #20’s is ten times the size and #10 has about 300 times more readers. I take from this disparity between readership rank and linked-to rank the cheerful thought that perhaps many of my readers are not bloggers, so I’m reaching outside the echo chamber.
Overall, however, I have very little idea what if anything these numbers mean. I suppose it means I'm not talking entirely to myself here, but my grasp of who is listening (and how numerous they are) is much less clear than I'd like. How different is this sort of blogging really from those nutty speakers in college who set up their flip charts and easels in the center of campus and lectured to invisible audiences?