Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
MNB Achari on Google Nexus 4 photos
MNB Achari on The ups and downs of English
Robert Hale on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Laurence Sheldon on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Bryn Braughton on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Bloggers and blogging
Immediately after my first relaunched Last Friday, the one at which Sam Bowman spoke, I suffered a dose of success depression. This is when you achieve a goal, and then feel not happy but empty, because deprived of the goal. The event had gone well. But I expected a little too much from it by way of immediate good consequences. A wise friend who attended the evening later told me that good results would indeed happen, but more gradually than I had been assuming, and that is now starting to happen.
One of the better consequences of these events is that because I send out emails to anyone I half know or know of who I think might be interested in attending, I have re-established contact with a number of friends and semi-friends who I was in danger of losing touch with.
One such, Alastair James, a libertarian friend from way back, recently sent me an email which included this:
I know you mostly like shots of one thing (often with some clutter in the foreground), but if you are also interested in panoramas I wonder if you’ve ever been to Blythe Hill Fields in Lewisham. I think it has some of the best views in London of Canary Wharf and the City but I rarely see it mentioned.
For years I have been nagging people to tell me about good spots to photo London from, but mostly without success. And now that turns up, pretty much unsolicited, merely through me being in touch with Alastair and discussing his son’s sporting triumphs, they being the reason that he often finds Fridays rather hard to do.
As it happens, I had never heard of Blythe Hill Fields, but it immediately sounded very promising, the clues being in the name. A hill, with nothing in the foreground getting in the way, just fields. Ideal for wandering around on, to find the best shots, and so, yesterday it proved.
I immediately found out where Blythe Hill Fields is (from Google maps), identified the nearest station, Honor Oak Park, and soon discovered (from this train website) that there is a train direct to Honor Oak Park from Victoria, which is very near to me. I also learned (from a weather website) on Monday evening, that the short-range weather forecast for Tuesday was, in a word: superb. Not a cloud in the sky, they said, and so it proved. So, a superb forecast in the other sense also.
Yet again, we see here the working through of one of my favourite Laws, which says that new methods of communication (in this case the internet) do not replace older methods of doing things (in this case going there). Rather do the new methods complement and as likely as not reinforce the older methods. Writing gives people more to talk about. Printing makes writing massively more productive, and gives rise to masses more talk. Television adapts books and sells books and provides yet more conversation fodder. Email makes meetings, at which we can all talk to each other some more, far easier to organise and publicise. And now the internet makes wandering around London (also the world) massively easier.
This posting is already getting rather unwieldy, so I’ll hold the photos I took at and around Blythe Hill Fields yesterday for another posting. Instead let me finish up this posting by quoting and commenting on another bit of the Alastair James email, which further emphasises the point about how the internet makes travelling easier, and in his case more fun:
BTW I recently finally got a Smartphone and I find it much easier to follow blogs since I got it – I’ve always felt guilty sitting in front of a PC reading a blog that I’m doing something unproductive. Anyway I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading yours and how much I enjoy it!
You might be surprised to learn what a difference declarations of that sort can make to the morale of a blogger like me, who doesn’t now get many comments, still less comments like that. Without my Fridays, I never get to hear that, which is a perfect example of a somewhat delayed effect that my friend in paragraph one above talked about.
But note also the smartphone thing. Presumably Alastair now uses his to read blogs in circumstances where more serious work would be difficult, such as while travelling.
I am myself currently engaged in buying a smartphone, helped by my friend Michael Jennings (who is giving the next Friday talk this Friday – do come if you want to). Whereas for Alastair James a key app is reading blogs on the move, for me the killer app is definitely being able to learn exactly where I am at any point in my various wanderings, and how to get to where I want to go to next. It would have come in quite handy yesterday, but because of some serendipity that occurred without it (more about that later), I am actually quite glad that yesterday I did not have Google maps with me. That’s another story, for which stay tuned.
I suspect that Alastair and I are not the only ones now, finally, kitting ourselves out with smartphones. I sense a general society-wide stampede in this direction, as the iPhone works its magic. The iPhone defines what a smartphone is, and all those for whom money is no object get one. That tells the Taiwanese copyists what to copy at half the price, and now they have pretty much got there.
I will also be buying a “bluetooth” (Michael J says that will work) keyboard, much like the black keyboard in this posting (scroll down a bit), to go with my smartphone, the idea being that I will be able to type stuff in as well as read things. (That keyboard is also a straight copy, in black, of an Apple keyboard, incidentally. Again with the Apple influence.) A smartphone screen too small for typing, you say? My very first computer, an Osborne, had a screen that was hardly any bigger, and I loved that. Osborne equals a very stupid version of a smartphone, plus a keyboard, plus half a ton of electro-crap that is no longer needed. Discuss. I feel one of those ain’t-capitalism-grand postings for Samizdata coming on.
The trouble with my current laptop is that, like the Osborne if with less extremity, it is still quite heavy. This means that I don’t always have it with me, in fact I pretty much now never have it with me, because when I do take it with me on my travels I often never actually use it, and in the meantime greatly resent its weight. The idea is that I will always have my smartphone with me (obviously), and always (fingers crossed) with the keyboard. So whenever a blogging opportunity beckons, when I am out and about, I will be able to respond.
The smartphone I am getting also has a rather good camera included. It’ll be interesting to compare that camera with my present one.
And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS. Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.
Read, and be amazed:
I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worst press than it had yesterday. (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)
I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing
The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run. And of course massively better in the long run. But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.
Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse. Brainwashed fools! They will never see sense! But they are seeing sense. And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense. Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.
See also: collapse of the USSR.
The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around. But, any year now ...
When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes. That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.
At exactly the time when I started getting un-ill yesterday afternoon, but moments before I realised it, Michael Jennings rang to ask my opinion, about photos on Samizdata. Still believing myself to be ill, as perhaps I still was at that precise moment, I cut him short. Now, here is an answer.
My opinion is that photos, lightly sprinkled on a blog, send an important message to readers beyond the obvious one that here is a medal, or a strange toy airplane, or a funny media mistake, or whatever. That message is: this blog is something the people who do it care about. Shoving up text is the easiest thing in the world, but adding a photo requires a bit of pausing and considering. These people want their blog to catch your eye as well as your mind. They are putting themselves about a bit. Not only is this blog regularly updated, it looks regularly updated. Even if you don’t read this, others will.
But as those three links illustrate, there have been rather a lot of photos on Samizdata lately, and there is a danger that it will look like photos are being used as a substitute for thought rather than being a mere signifier of blogging seriousness. Besides which, the mystery of sticking up photos is hardly much of a mystery any more, is it? Most people know that sticking up photos is now as easy as sticking up words.
What Michael was asking about, before I told him I was ill and to postpone it, was, in particular, or so I surmise, photos like the one this sign, and like these ones of Samizdata jollification over Christmas. What do I think of those?
Well, they are clever. Notice how, if you narrow your window, to the point where the text rearranges itself to fit in a narrower column, the photo also narrows itself. Cute. Well, I’m impressed. I’m guessing that’s especially good for Samizdata accommodating itself onto smaller media like tablets and smart phones, which (commenters say) the new set-up does very well. These big new photos are also the result of Samizdata having become more tablet- and phone-friendly, because a tablet is where Michael has been doing them from?
The trouble is, however, that by making photos expand to fit the space available for their display, you risk (I think) making photos look like the point of the whole exercise. They cease to be mere seasoning, and become the meal. So, much as I like the expanding and contracting thing, I think that these potentially very big photos would be better if smaller, with the option to expand but not the routine habit of doing this.
Samizdata is all about concepts. It is about, as Perry de Havilland never tires of saying, the metacontext. For that you need words. Even if many of those words don’t get read or are only skimmed over, it needs to be clear that, at Samizdata, it is in the words that the real message is to be found.
Does that answer what was going to be your question, Michael?
At least the whispered question of a few months back, about whether Samizdata is dying, is now well and truly answered. No. (The comments on that posting now make even more interesting reading than they did when posted.) Perry de Havilland may not have written that much lately, but as a leader he remains very much in place and swinging. The makeover proves this.
Here, it doesn’t matter what I do about pictures. This is a kitten blog.
Not quite. The last posting at Samizdata before it does its Big Jump Through Hyperspace is actually entitled: Nice job you have here ... shame if something happens to it.
On Friday of this week, those links don’t work. Here’s hoping they come back on Saturday.
Things seem to moving fast over as Samizdata, first there was an email telling us not to upload any pictures “whilst we are working on moving the blog”, and now this:
As of this Thursday, Samizdata will temporarily stop updating and on Friday, it will go off-line completely for… a while.
We wil be back at some point over the weekend with the New Improved Version.
And there has been another email clarifying when we may not post.
Meanwhile, here, there was another involuntary outage yesterday afternoon. Something to do with upgrading a router, or some such thing, and all was soon well again. No incoming emails told me of this. I found it out for myself. I deduce that this blog was not much missed.
I look forward greatly to seeing how the new Samizdata system works, and hope that it will continue to make sense for me to use the same software for a revamped version of this blog.
I love it when this happens:
That was yesterday morning, and the Insta-link was to this. (I went looking for the posting in the picture, but already it has disappeared off the bottom of Instapundit, into the archives of history. I could find it, but if you really want to, so can you.)
The great thing about being linked to these days is that you, by the nature of things, get to tell your side of the story, in exactly the words you choose. In the days of “Hey, I’m in the newspaper!” you had to just hope that what they said was approximately accurate. Often it was almost absurdly inaccurate, to the point where you wish they hadn’t mentioned whatever it was.
By the way, I am finding myself taking more trouble over the titles of blog postings, more than in the glory days before Proper People got hold of blogging and started Doing It Properly, often for money. Then, you could call what you put anything and there would still be a million readers.
I wonder, for instance, if Instapundit would have done that latest link, to “Azhar Ahmed - and I - and every British citizen - should all have the right to say offensive things” if I hadn’t written that micro-essay at the top of it. Maybe yes. But such a title saved him the bother of having to find out and then say what the piece was about, and it already said something he wants people to be told. So, he just copied, pasted and linked.
I wanted to put the words “and informative” in between “long” and “titles” in the title of this posting, but Expression Engine wouldn’t allow a title that long and hence informative.
Yes, Patrick Crozier (to whom deep thanks) has just improved the state of this blog, by making it that if you go via a monthly archive, you can easily access the comments on a selected posting here, even though the chances are you almost certainly won’t be allowed to add any more comments.
If you follow one of my links back to an earlier post here, however, you still may find yourself at a posting which has comments, but which makes no mention of them. In a recent posting, for instance, I did a link, back to an earlier posting about a Muslim man photoing four Muslim ladies in black letter-box costumes. But, as linked to by me, this posting has no mention of any comments. If you want to look at the comments (a bit interesting in this case), then click on the title of the posting, and you will arrive at this, which is the exact same posting, but with all the comments there.
If you feel compelled to add something more, try emailing me.
A recent Patrick Crozier piece at Samizdata illustrates further the value of being able to access ancient comments. Often a blog posting is a question, and a pretty blatant - often shamelessly explicit - attempt to solicit comments that answer that question. I also do this a lot, and I do mean a lot. There is little point in being able to read such questions, but not being able to read the answers.
I am still hoping that someone will tell me who this guy is. He looks a bit like a young Rio Ferdinand. Anyone?
... I have just posted a piece on how to attach Austrianist answers to un-Austrianist questions.
Last night we had a Transport Blog dinner, dinners every now and again being all that is now left of Transport Blog.
As I told the guys last night, if we did still have Transport Blog, then this would have gone up there, rather than here:
Forget about train privatisation. What the world needs is giant motorised shopping trolleys.
With his latest Samizdata posting title, Perry de Havilland puts his finger on a real problem with blogs that have been around since the year Dot. The feeling that you’ve said it all before:
I may have said this before but ...
Because, you have.
Say it anyway mate. One of the major rules to follow to be an effective propagandist is that you must be willing to repeat yourself. Say it again. And again, and again and again. And again.
This guy is one of the most effective propagandists on the planet just now. Central to his success is his willingness to say, again, something he said only minutes earlier, and again, and ...
A comment on this at Samizdata, from “Fred”. Harsh, but containing much truth:
This used to be a great blog, but it’s dying. Not that the contributors still on it aren’t doing a decent job, but there’s not enough of them, with not enough time and energy. You need some new blood. The country needs Samizdata to come back revitalized. (I’d offer my services, but I’m also a burnt-out case).
I doubt that’ll be discussed very much on Samizdata itself.
For me, the key figure is Perry de Havilland. Samizdata is indeed now a shadow of what it once was. But when Perry writes for it, the shadow seems to go away and the thing itself returns. But he is now, it would seem, blogged out, and Samizdata is hugely the worse for it. Groups in general and group blogs in particular don’t function properly if not properly lead, and Samizdata used to be lead by example. Perry did a superb job setting Samizdata up, and the momentum has been extraordinary. But “Fred” is right. That momentum is no longer there.
I am entirely aware that I myself am a part of this problem. I too find that I can only say and do so much. I look back on the last decade of my life with a feeling that I could have done a whole lot better. All I did for Samizdata was join in, and contribute well and often, for a while. Perry de Havilland did massively better than that.
Personally I’m not sure that Samizdata itself “needs” to revive. The country may “need Samizdata”, but the country may just have to make other arrangements. But the attitude Samizdata embodied when it was started, and still tries to embody, needs to stick around, if not at Samizdata itself then somewhere.
The sight of a bunch of old guys casting about for “new blood” can be rather undignified, and the process usually fails anyway. Can ageing firebrands find younger replacements, to do the same old jobs? This is just about the hardest thing there is when it comes to institution making. Personally, I have always concentrated on putting the ideas out there, and relying on the next generation to stay with them and express them in their own way, with their own enterprises and communicational techniques, not as junior members of Old Guy Institutions. I tend to doubt the excellence of younger people who attach themselves to ancient institutions, rather than creating their own. I mean, what’s stopping them doing their own thing? It’s not like it takes a revolution to set up a new libertarian drumbeating machine. And there are a couple out there that I can think of. But maybe the fact that those operations are even on my radar means that they are not where the real libertarian action is right now, and the Real Thing is happening entirely elsewhere.
I often find that simply stating a problem out loud can make it go away. The answer, that had seemed impossible, becomes obvious. Maybe this posting will do that for me now.
This blogging stuff really works. I blog here about Emmanuel Todd, and a blink of an eye (i.e. about a couple of years or more) later, these two American guys are writing a book about America, concerning which they say things like this:
America 3.0 gives readers the real historical foundations of our liberty, free enterprise, and family life. Based on a new understanding our of our past, and on little known modern scholarship, America 3.0 offers long-term strategies to restore and strengthen American liberty, prosperity and security in the years ahead.
America 3.0 shows that our country was founded as a decentralized federation of communities, dominated by landowner-farmers, and based on a unique type of Anglo-American nuclear family. . . .
And that “little known modern scholarship” is, among other things, the work of Emmanuel Todd. If you look at the (quite short) “Essential Readings” list to the right at America 3.0 you will see, among other links, these:
America 3.0 will be on my Essential Reading list just as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.
Usually, when a blog goes rather quiet for no explained reason, one of two things then follows. Either the hiatus just goes on indefinitely, and the thing is eventually seen to be what it has been for some time, dead. Or, a mournful little posting appears in which this circumstance is made official. It’s over.
This blog is not dead, however. It is simply taking it easier. I did my customary period of relaxation over the summer, and found that this time I wasn’t inclined to get things here back up to speed, on the first day of some subsequent month. Instead, I have made a conscious effort to put more of my thoughts at my mothership, Samizdata, where many more will read them. And that means that less stuff goes here, what with there being only so much blogging that I seem able to do.
Quite a few of the recent postings here have been photo clutches, too photographically voluminous to be welcome at Samizdata, but which I have then linked to from Samizdata. I daresay that will keep happening.
Other postings, of the sort which go well here but not so well at Samizdata, have been fewer and further between. So, there’s been less here. However, Perry de Havilland does not encourage navel-gazing postings about the process of writing for Samizdata, and about its internal workings generally. So, if I want to say anything about that, as in this posting, it has to go here. Other things, which I just can’t be bothered to think about with the thoroughness that posting for Samizdata automatically encourages, also go here. Posting here is easier. Which might explain why so few people read this blog. They sense the casualness of it all. Life, for most, is too short for such casualness.
Another kind of posting that I prefer to put here, precisely because it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, is a big gob of stuff copied from a book, in a way that maybe flirts with copyright law. The most recent one of those being this.
I have been doing more for Samizdata and less here for purely selfish reasons. It is to my personal advantage for Samizdata to continue to flourish. So, if it seems not to be flourishing as much as I would like it to at any particular moment, it is in my interest to make it flourish a bit more. Which is not that hard to do, but it does involve a bit of effort.
It’s kind of the opposite principle to the Tragedy of the Commons. What would that be? The Comedy of the Commons? That’s not the right phrase, but I do like it.
Says Anthony Watts:
If there’s one speech about the climate debate worth reading in your lifetime, this is it.
Arguments can be placed along a spectrum. At one end there are arguments which hinge on people understand just one simple chain of logic. Many other things, which seem to matter, don’t. It’s not complicated. Are you older than me or younger? If we know both our birthdays, there’s our answer. Which of us merely looks older, for whatever complicated reasons involving the look of our bodies or the sound of our voices or the colour of our hair, can be set aside, if we have the dates of birth to compare. Your birthday comes before mine, therefore you are older. Simple.
But other arguments are complicated. No one little bit of logic clinches things. The things being argued about are complicated, and the number of different considerations involved in the argument, all of them significant, are similarly complicated. Climate is complicated. The case for not getting excited about C(atastrophic) A(nthorpogenic) G(lobal) W(arming), and in particular not in the ways now being recommended to and inflicted upon the world, is complicated.
Ridley’s summary of the case for climate skepticism is the best I have yet read. As long as it has to be, but as short as it can be. Understandable to the intelligent layman, and especially to the non-climate scientist.
I believe that the argument against CAGW has long been won. But news of this victory has been slow to circulate amongst the wider public. This lecture could change that. And the number of comments accumulating at Bishop Hill and WUWT proves that I am not the only one who feels this way about it. Thank you Ridley, for speaking our minds so well.
I have been reading and thinking about Detlev Schichter’s Paper Money Collapse for quite a while now, but until today had not written anything. When I heard yesterday that the time to be talking it up had now arrived, I was taken a bit by surprise, the exact release date never having been made very clear to me. Maybe to others, but to me, not.
There is already quite a buzz out there about this book, and even more of a buzz about its author, thanks to all the blogging he’s been doing on the basis of the ideas in the book, and I surmise that there is a demand for opinions about the book which, just for the time being, is not being met adequately. In a fortnight, that probably won’t be true. Now, it is.
I further surmise that I am not a grand enough personage for my opinions about a book to count for anything much, in a world where several dozen reviewers and bloggers have already sounded off. My opinion will only have impact if I get it out there now.
So I decided to move quickly. Something okay, at once, would get my opinions about this book noticed (as in noticed at all), and the book noticed the tiniest bit more than otherwise, because I would be beating the drum for it at a quite time, so to speak. Instead of spending further days being ultra-clever, at ultra-length, by which time nobody would care what I thought of the book, I immediately (in the small hours of this morning) wrote an adequate little review of it, for American Amazon, which is where the action now is, because Americans can already buy it there. My review is brief enough to be Amazon friendly, but long enough to suggest that I had really thought about it, and meant it when I said it was very good.
Then I put it this same review up at Samizdata.
Commenters at Samizdata suggested I also put it on UK Amazon, so I did.
Then the Cobden Centre also stuck it on their blog.
What the book says is that the end of the world as we know it is nigh, but never mind about that. The point is, people are reading my stuff. Hurrah.