On the 365th day, the blogger rested...sort of
Prior to that, I had had over 7 years experience on Usenet, particularly in alt.revisionism (and, to a lesser extent, sci.skeptic and talk.origins) and, more recently, in misc.health.alternative, trying to speak up for reason and rationality over conspiracy-mongering, pseudoscience, and pseudohistory. This whole blogging thing seemed like a new way to do the same thing. You see, Usenet, being in essence a huge unmoderated discussion forum, is primarily reactive, with the tendency being to respond to whatever discussion is going on at the time. You have only a limited ability to shape the conversation, and the whole forum tends to be dominated by a few personalities. Given my experience on Usenet, I thought that I had what it took to become a blogger, and, more or less on a whim, I started this blog that very afternoon. My very first post (in essence a test post) is here, and my first substantive post is here. A couple of days later I figured out how to add SiteMeter to the blog to find out if anyone was actually reading, and the rest is history, sort of.
Cue one year later. Now it's a cold but more sunny Sunday in December. The year since I started this whole thing has been rather eventful, blog-wise anyway. Early on, bloggers who had been at this longer than me noticed what I was up to and gave me an initial boost with a link, bloggers such as PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Tim Gueguen, and others. How they found me I have no idea, but I'm glad they did. Then, after a couple of months, people started to notice, and my visit count started an upward march, which has only now started to plateau, although my shocking nominations for a couple of awards (shocking, because I never thought I was that good) seem to have produced an uptick again. Over the last year, I've covered medicine, alternative medicine, quackery, pseudoscience ("intelligent design" creationism and HIV/AIDS denialism being prominent topics), pseudohistory (mainly Holocaust denial), and some occasional fluff, in the process inheriting the responsibility for keeping the Skeptics' Circle going, something I hope to carry on for the foreseeable future.
All I can do is thank my readers for putting up with what I lay down on a nearly daily basis. One of the great things about the Internet and blogging is the ability to come in contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people from distant corners of the globe, something that would have been utterly unthinkable in my youth, and something that keeps me going even when pressures of my chosen profession start to make me think that I should give this little hobby up as too time-consuming.
Of course, not everyone likes me. Some of what I've written has royally pissed a few people off. Ah, well, if what I've written didn't piss off a few alties and hawkers of pseudoscience, I wouldn't be living up to my original manifesto. To characterize what this blog is about (and, hopefully, will remain to be about), I think that Isaac Asimov said it best:
I stand foursquare for reason, and object to what seems to me to be irrationality, whatever the source.
If you are on my side in this, I must warn you that the army of the night has the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and, by its very nature, is immune to reason, so that it is entirely unlikely that you and I can win out.
We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right.
So what's on the agenda for the second year?
Of course, there will be more of the same, but hopefully better and more succinctly written than in the past. I don't see any reason to make any radical changes, although, as always, I will continue to tinker and try to improve things. I'll also be a bit quicker to cut back on the frequency of posting during times when my other responsibilities demand it, rather than losing sleep writing, as I have occasionally done over the last year. More importantly, I'd like to write about more hard science and biomedical research; so, beginning after the holidays I'm going to try to write about various biomedical papers that I come across, explaining the findings and their significance, much the way PZ does with developmental and evolutionary biology. At around the same time, I'd also like to inaugurate a feature not unlike Matt Ford's weekly debunking of various creationist videos and books, but this time about specific quack therapies. Whether or not I'll be able to keep it up on a weekly basis or not remains to be seen, but I would like it to become a regular feature, as opposed to just something I do when the mood strikes me or when I find out about dubious "cures" that aren't. I also plan on redoing my "Best Of" links as a part of my impending template redesign. (The way they are now, you'd think I haven't written anything decent in about three months, which was about the last time I updated them. Or maybe I haven't.) Also, never fear, I do plan on removing comment moderation sometime in the near future. I was originally planning on removing it last week, but unfortunately an old "fan" from my Usenet days tried to add an inappropriate comment a few days ago. So, for (hopefully just) a little while longer, comment moderation stays.
So, thanks, everyone, for reading. And, starting next week, please join me for year two of Respectful Insolence. The first year's been a blast. I've learned a lot and (I hope) gotten better at this whole blogging thing. (You be the judge). If year two is half as eventful and fun as the first year, it ought to be a wild ride...