Sunday, December 11, 2005

On the 365th day, the blogger rested...sort of

December 11, 2004 was a cold, overcast Saturday. I was a bit bored and depressed. Among all the 2004 election post-mortems, I had been reading for the month prior in all the news magazines about blogging. I had discovered a few blogs on my own, as well as the entire category of medblogging.

Prior to that, I had had over 7 years experience on Usenet, particularly in alt.revisionism (and, to a lesser extent, sci.skeptic and and, more recently, in, 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.
In my own tiny and insignificant way, through this blog and through my now much less frequent forays back to my old Usenet stomping grounds, I try to carry on the legacy of people like Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, although I hope that Asimov's characterization of the odds against us is entirely too pessimistic.

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...

12 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 12/11/2005 12:40 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

Happy bloggiversary! Many happy returns of the day!


At 12/11/2005 1:05 PM, Blogger Ahistoricality said...

Happy Blogiversary, indeed! You are, of the very few top-1000 bloggers that I read, the biggest mensch of the lot.


At 12/11/2005 1:36 PM, Anonymous Skeptyk said...

You scared me, Orac. With that opening, I thought you were closing the blog. There are few enough islands of kind reason and RI is one of my regular stops on the web. I usually learn something and when I don't, I am bouyed by the knowledge that the enlightenment is still carried on by Renmen like Orac and Pharyngula.

(Renmen = Renaissance men, not to be confused with men at Renaissance Faires. Although if you were a RenFaire Renman, you would not have hesitated to revel in Santa threads.)


At 12/11/2005 2:46 PM, Blogger John said...

Happy Blogiversary! I have enjoyed reading your blog since I first found it over the summer. I look forward to another year of great writing.


At 12/11/2005 2:57 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

Happy blog anniversary!

I found you when you posted on Usenet with your blog address on your signiture. Since I always made sure to read what you post on m.h.a. I followed you here... and stuck around.

If you get a chance, check out the Dec. 11th issue of the Funky Winkerbean comic. It is a reference to blogging.

... Now I will go back to reading the story on Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger online at the Washington Post. In his office is a furry stuffed influenza virus!


At 12/11/2005 3:54 PM, Anonymous Magnus Malmborn said...

Happy bloggiversary!

May the undead Führer stay away in the year to come... but of course he will not.


At 12/11/2005 4:04 PM, Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Congratulations. I didn't realize that i had read the blog for most of its existence. It has been consistently good, except for that one annoying guest post.


At 12/11/2005 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pleased to find your blog a few months ago since I always enjoyed reading your well reasoned posts on m.h.a.


At 12/12/2005 1:02 AM, Anonymous Nana said...

It's been a great year reading your blog. Mucho thanks!

"after the holidays I'm going to try to write about various biomedical papers that I come across, explaining the findings and their significance,"

Count me interested in those.


At 12/12/2005 9:54 AM, Blogger The Probe said...

Happy bloggiversary and many more....


At 12/12/2005 12:55 PM, Blogger IAMB said...

So this is a day late, but what the hell...

Happy blogiversary!

P.S. If you really are going to set aside one day a week for debunking quackery, make sure you buy stock in your favorite BS meter manufacturer... you're gonna need it. I blow up at least one per week.


At 12/12/2005 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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."


Happy Blogiversary! Keep it coming!


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