Thursday, March 23, 2006

How Blogging Has Changed How I Read

I'm reading The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs. I read about it on someone else's blog* and it sounded fun. Gotta love the local library, because I own too many books**.
It's a very enjoyable book, in all sorts of ways. I like the little factoids Jacobs includes: the trivia benefit without the time-sink detriment. I like the way he ties the entry titles to things happening in his life. I like the chatty way he writes.
In fact, the book reminds me a lot of a blog. And I keep wanting to leave comments: ask him how his wife now feels about her favorite movie star, now that he's jumped on Oprah's couch a little, for example. Other, small stuff that isn't really worth an actual letter, but would be fun to know. It's odd*** how I've changed to someone more willing to engage strangers in personal conversation, because of the commenting factor of blogging. Of course, this isn't always a good thing. If I did write a letter to Jacobs asking him my little questions, he might be concerned I was a stalker.
Another not-so-good aspect of this increased willingness to engage people on minutae is exemplified by the article in the New York Times a few weeks ago. It was about how e-mail has changed the interaction between students and professors. (I'm not linking to it because it's long been locked behind the wall of the Pay To Read Me!!! section. A number of bloggers discussed it, though; I think Pharyngula may have been one of them) I'm thinking in particular of the student who was quoted as saying e-mail has really helped him because now, instead of having to go all the way to the professor's office to ask questions, he can just e-mail them; this means he doesn't have to do a cost-analysis*** on whether the question is really worth it.
A third way my reading has changed has to do with my post about looks a few days ago. It received an extremely negative, anonymous comment. But reading the comment showed clearly that the commenter hadn't actually read my entry. Yes, my entry was fuzzy, and there were ways in which I could have been clearer, but if the commenter had read instead of skimming, she would have realized I didn't say most of the substantive issues she thought she was responding to. The best example is that I wasn't attacking Miss Scarlett. Not at all. I'm envious of her, that she has this confidence and balance I spoke of, but I don't want to drag her (or anyone else) down because of that confidence.
So I'm more careful about reading articles, blogs, books that I want to comment on; I make sure that I understand, as best I can, what the other person is saying before I comment -- in essence, before I engage her or him in a conversation about it.
And since sometimes I will discuss here ideas prompted by someone else's blog entry, I'd like to emphasize something. If I'm discussing it here, I make no claims about the precise points of the original entry. The reason I discuss it here, and not on the original blog, is because the ideas probably are not the original blogger's. The reference to the original entry may help provide some background to my thought process; it's never there as an attack on the original blogger.

Administrative Stuff: Does anyone know which blogger it is whose rules for commenting on her blog use the metaphor (simile? no, metaphor, right?) of her living room and visitors should show appropriate politeness? I'd like to use those rules, accurately, and with appropriate credit (because -- well, if nothing else, I'm practicing at being an academic. (No, there are all kinds of other, better reasons.)).
Also, I'm not quite used to commenting on my own blog, so I want to say "Thank you!" publicly to all (three or five) commenters and I'm really glad you stopped by. I hope you stop by again!

* I have the memory of an anti-elephant, so I will often say things like "I don't remember where/who/what exactly." It's not an attempt to weasel out of give credit where credit is due, it's a genuine failing of memory. Thus, I will be ecstatic if someone can tell me where/who/what I'm talking about.
** Yeah, I know what you're thinking.
*** These aren't quite the right words, but if I stop to think of the right ones, I'll never get this posted.


Blogger Kate said...

The living room thing might be Bitch PhD, but I'm not certain.

2:51 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The living room analogy? Phantom Scribbler, maybe.

6:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the link:

6:08 AM EDT  

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