In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff


We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.







Try Advanced Search


  1. Zdeno Sims
  2. Clothes Make the Cocktail Waitress
  3. Brilliance Revealed
  4. Ain't Science Wonderful!
  5. Period-Quote or Quote-Period?
  6. Ideological Inconsistencies
  7. "Themed" Casinos and Entropy
  8. Anyone Wanna Repeal the 19th Amendment?
  9. Anonymous Internet Rewards
  10. Driving Around as Entertainment


CultureBlogs
Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
PhilosoBlog
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Gregdotorg
BookSlut
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Cronaca
Plep
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Seablogger
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette


Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Samizdata
Junius
Joanne Jacobs
CalPundit
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Public Interest.co.uk
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
Spleenville
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
CinderellaBloggerfella
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
InstaPundit
MindFloss
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes


Miscellaneous
Redwood Dragon
IMAO
The Invisible Hand
ScrappleFace
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz

Links


Our Last 50 Referrers







« Driving Around as Entertainment | Main | Anyone Wanna Repeal the 19th Amendment? »

November 23, 2009

Anonymous Internet Rewards

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Zdeno is back with some musing regarding the Internet's Anonymous Side.

* * * * *

If there’s one thing the internet has taught us, it’s that people have a primal, unselfish desire to improve the world. Obviously this unselfish desire has its roots in some sort of ruthlessly fitness-maximizing ultimate cause – but the phenotype is clear. Hundreds, thousands, and someday millions of people are investing their time and money in making the world a better place, without any hope or desire for reward or recognition in the physical world.

Most of my favourite bloggers, for example, are anonymous. Virtually no one charges for content on the internet, and only a minority are so bold as to set out a tip jar. Commenters are even less rewarded, since at least anonymous bloggers achieve some degree of fame and social status among their e-peers. And yet so many blog posts are followed with comments that show at least as much thought and writing quality as the original article. Many of them aren’t even signed by the author.

I would estimate that I spend a good two hours per day reading, writing and commenting on internet content, with absolutely no tangible, material benefit to my life at all. Many, perhaps most, of the people reading this can make a similar claim. Today’s question: What motivates us? Why do we spend so many of the precious hours in our finite lives entertaining and educating others who we will likely never meet?

* * * * *

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at November 23, 2009




Comments

I see two main reasons.

First, people want to be noticed. Everyone accepts the pursuit of wealth as self-evidently rational, but what do people once they attain great wealth. Quite often, they try to make a name for themselves, by buying a sports team, founding newspaper or magazine (think Conrad Black) or going into politics. People who spend time on thoughtful blog posts (or contribute to free software, etc.) achieve the end without the hassle of having to build up an industrial empire first.

Second, people like to talk about interesting stuff. Once you leave grad school, especially for the normal working world, you'll find that really interesting, challenging conversation is hard to come by. Even if you keep up with your old grad-school friends, or stay in academia, after a couple of years (or decades) the conversation will stop scintillating. But you can get what you're missing on the internet: smart people who are interested in the same things you are.

For me, conversational utopia is an idealized 18th-century London coffeehouse. At their best, places like 2Blowhards and a few other sites are the closest we get in the real world.

Posted by: Chris Burd on November 23, 2009 12:25 PM



The appearance of 2Blowhards on the scene occurred at the advent of the era of this massive outpouring of type.

The disappearance of Michael Blowhard from the scene is, I'm afraid, the end of that era.

True, I'm still doing my daily tour of the web, but I'm finding it less and less rewarding.

In the beginning, the internet catfights were interesting and stimulating. For some time now, those catfights have been formulaic and boring. Even my own contributions.

Political discussion falla out on predictable lines very quickly. Real information is seldom manifest. The only thing that really gets proven on a day to day basis is that every asshole has an opinion.

The intial attraction was that all the gabbing might change something. In the short term, it did. In particular, the forbidden opinions of those deemed politically incorrect got an airing. Even those opinions have now become stale and formulaic.

As I said, you can mark the end of the era by the departure of Michael Blowhard. Just as he shrewdly saw the beginning of the era of blowharding, he has accurately foreseen its end.

The blowharding will go on interminably, but there is no longer any excitement. The ideas are all staked out. The sides are drawn. Calcification has set in. This post is something of an anachronism. The real question is: Why haven't our posters and commenters noticed that the day of the blowhards has passed?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 23, 2009 12:40 PM



A certain type of person needs the mental stimulation that comes from an intelligent, lively discussion, particularly if the parties involved don't all agree with each other. It keeps the mind sharp. That's my reason for commenting here and elsewhere.

When I was blogging, it was purely a creative outlet, and the following it got was a pleasant and totally unexpected side-effect. The result of that was meeting some very cool people that I would not have met otherwise. So, making connections with people is another motivator.

Posted by: JV on November 23, 2009 1:36 PM



I started my blog with a long-term commercial goal. Then came the realisation I could choose subjects I like, let discussions hang in archives, revive them at will...It's a good deal.

Some years back I was lamenting with a fellow (90's) Spectator reader that there was nothing in Australia but leftoid finger-wagging or solemn "think-tank" conservatism available through print media.

As Chris points out, one can't sit in White's coffee house with Johnson, Reynolds and Goldsmith, but the choice is far wider than fifteen years back. So appreciate.

One big breakthrough came for me right here, when Michael Blowhard wrote at length, and without flippancy, in praise of Jackie Collins. You could almost hear the New York Times readers choking on their soy-cinos. What freedom!

Can you imagine the scale of the AGW scam without the internet? And even if the net wasn't a great blessing - it is! - the net would still be HERE.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 23, 2009 5:33 PM



I think the bigger question is, "why not?"

If you read about something interesting, and you have the opportunity to contribute something interesting, and you choose NOT to... then what, exactly, is your behavior optimizing for?

Posted by: Mike on November 23, 2009 5:38 PM



Oh well, I wouldn't exactly call it an unselfish desire. But I can only imagine if there were material benefits for each comment made... :)

Posted by: Flavia Acuff on November 23, 2009 6:30 PM




I used to feel vaguely guilty about the time that I spent poking around the blogosphere. I should be studying! But instead I'm inside my bedroom, discussing climate change with a 45-year old stranger from Latvia.

Then one day I woke up and realized that 75% of what I know about economics, I learned from blogs, and I have more than one university degree in that field.

So reading blogs is often rational, not to mention entertaining. Why do I comment though? Often to ask a question, or steer a discussion in a direction I'm interested in. But not often. As JV points out, many people just have a natural inclination towards the pursuit of truth. I spend most of my social life trying to understand people and what motivates them, and most of the rest of my free time is devoted to understanding other aspects of the world through books and online conversations with intelligent people who I am very unlikely to ever meet in real life.

So that's the main reason why I devote a significant chunk of my time to seemingly pointless comments, and lately, blog posts - it's fun. I also feel like I'm doing my small part in improving the world by contributing the odd nugget of truth to the marketplace of ideas. How likely is it that one blog (or worse yet, a pseudonymous comment) will find its way into the public consciousness? Not very. But as is clear anyone who's been following Scott Sumner's ongoing evisceration of Paul Krugman, Climate Audit's regular takedown of AGW, and Roissy's brute force attacks on misandrism* - it's not impossible.

@ Robert:

I wonder what the ratio is of people who've aspired to make money off of a website, to those who actually do? I'm certain I'll regret this, but here's a link to a blog I started a few months ago, with the intention of becoming the next Christian Lander.


Ask Chad

Unfortunately, it never caught on and my plans for world domination have been put on hold. For those who are immune to such things, it is satire, I promise.

Cheers,

Zdeno

Posted by: Zdeno on November 23, 2009 8:27 PM



what Chris Burd said.

Posted by: jz on November 23, 2009 8:59 PM



The real world is an arid intellectual desert, the internet are where all the ideas are happening.

Posted by: slumlord on November 23, 2009 9:59 PM



Zdeno, I know a few people who ended up making money blogging. NONE of them set out to do so. (Incidentally, all of them are women. There's money in them thar moms!) Just anecdotal, but I think that's the case for 95% of bloggers earning an income of their blogs. Not to say it's impossible, just unlikely.

Posted by: JV on November 24, 2009 12:14 AM



The real world is an arid intellectual desert, the internet are where all the ideas are happening.

Should be

The real world is an arid intellectual desert, the internet is where all the ideas are happening.

Be great if I proof read before posting.....Sheesh.

Posted by: slumlord on November 24, 2009 7:49 AM



It's okay, Chad/Zdeno. I wasn't intending to make money blogging. My original and still main purpose is to publicize a type of bamboo, largely for the Australian market. For the cost of a camera, why not? The opinions, somewhat stifled at first, soon came tumbling out.

Of course, wild-grown bamboo isn't a great match for my politics. But it's been worse. When I drove an old Peugeot 505 and used a Mac, do you think I could persuade anyone I was actually a Right Wing Deathbeast?

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 24, 2009 8:20 AM



True, I'm still doing my daily tour of the web, but I'm finding it less and less rewarding.

In the beginning, the internet catfights were interesting and stimulating. For some time now, those catfights have been formulaic and boring. Even my own contributions.

Political discussion falla out on predictable lines very quickly. Real information is seldom manifest. The only thing that really gets proven on a day to day basis is that every asshole has an opinion.

I think this is partially true.

With the grossly lopsided bias in the mainstream media toward marxist socialism, the internet seemed like a breath of fresh air. Lots of people on the conservative side of the aisle thought that once they got a platform, they could win over the marxist socialists with facts and reason.

But 2Blowhards is a great example of the opposite. Topic after topic, day after day, the people on the left refuse to listen to reason or deal with facts that contradict their Utoipian vision of totalitarianism. It's shocking, really.

So the players have mostly receded to their camps, and take the usual snipes at at one another rather than agreeing on a set of values or rules for common ground.

The government continues on its unending march towards socialism with a big standing army. Every socialist country with a big standing army has turned it on their citizenry. But that won't happen here because it doesn't happen in Sweden, see?

There's so many examples of the nonsense. But the idea that reason and dialogue changes minds is completely false. You either have a commitment to the truth, or to an ideology. You can't have a committment to both.

Posted by: B on November 24, 2009 11:58 AM



"Topic after topic, day after day, the people on the left refuse to listen to reason or deal with facts that contradict their Utoipian vision of totalitarianism."

Are you really that stuck in your own silo? EVERYONE feels that way. Places like 2Blowhards give us an opportunity to share why we believe the way we do. I know I've learned a LOT in the 4 years I've been reading 2B, and I've shifted a bit in some of my views because of that. But if you expect people to change core beliefs, you'll be disappointed. For instance, I honestly believe that in almost every topic, the commenters on the left here have proven their cases more than those on the right. Are we reading the same blog? Yep.

Posted by: JV on November 24, 2009 12:34 PM



Are you really that stuck in your own silo? EVERYONE feels that way...I honestly believe that in almost every topic, the commenters on the left here have proven their cases more than those on the right. Are we reading the same blog? Yep.

Really? Then maybe you might address the point I made about a country becoming socialist with a large standing that is always turned on the citizenry. Like we in the US are.

See, the people on the left never address reality. They simply re-state over and over again the same idealistic nonsense. They don't deal in facts, but in good intentions.

I could go back a few posts where I made the claim to Chris White that the US was founded as a white Christian nation. Then I proved it with laws on the books that required that political office holders be Christians. And numerous statements made by the founders endorsing Christianity as the culture of America. He never backed down or admitted he was wrong, but just re-stated his own opinion that it shouldn't be that way today. That was not the point! The point was that this country was never founded as a multi-cultural or multi-ethnic society.

All the left does in an argument is re-state over and over their good intentions, while name-calling their opposition. Then they advocate tolerance of immorality and bigotry against Christianity, plus totalitarianism. That's not a good formula for societal well-being, if you read a little history.

But maybe in the future it will be if we just wish hard enough, eh?

Posted by: B on November 25, 2009 10:47 AM



The fact that "B" cannot accurately recall the case I made for why I see no reason to erase the nearly two and a half centuries of American history, during which time the Constitution, with its various Amendments, including the separation of Church and State, has stood, does not surprise me. To recap, I argued for the genius of the Founders in choosing not to incorporate an established religion clause into the founding documents for the country; that those articles in various state constitutions establishing state religions have long since been repealed; that "we the people" ratified the Amendments extending the vote and rights of citizenship to all, regardless of race or gender, generations ago ... These facts apparently mean nothing to "B", so stuck is he in mindless name-calling and paranoia.

No one with a progressive bent commenting on this blog has ever expressed bigotry against Christians, nor advocated any totalitarian solutions to anything. And the closest anyone ever came to advocating a tolerance of immorality was the esteemed Michael Blowhard in various explorations into topics such as cyber porn. And the last I knew, he was not of liberal, but rather libertarian, persuasion.

What others and I have argued is that white Christian men do not deserve special privileges that come as a birthright. What seems to get "B's" knickers in a bunch is contending with uppity leftists who call racism, sexism, and homophobia personality flaws rather than an expression of the proper, God ordained, way things should be.

Posted by: Chris White on November 25, 2009 3:16 PM



Chris White,

The ability to adopt an official church was left to the state in the original Constitution. That's why so many states had state churches. If it were really un-Constitutional, that could never have happened could it?

You are so brainwashed and habitualized by having an all-powerful federal government that the thought of that power being given to the states never occured to you, did it Chris White? The all-powerful federal government was never the intent of the Constitution, but you have no problem with that, do you? I didn't think so.

See, the First Amendment was written to allow individuals religious freedom to choose their own kind of Christianity, and to keep the states from compelling a single form, and then enforcing it on others. It was never set up for muslims or hindus, etc. See, their legal systems are tied up to their religions. There's no separation. You just don't know it yet,just like you don't know anything else.

Once again you show your immense ignorance of everything not on PBS or in the latest edition of the Granola Gazette

Another know-nothing liberal who can't admit he's wrong. And I made you eat the truth last time. But you still didn't like the taste.

Just like I said.

Posted by: B on November 25, 2009 6:53 PM



"B" – In those TV court room dramas you'll often see a lawyer leap up and object saying, "asked and answered" when opposing counsel sets up a question and proceeds to give the presumed answer for the witness, circumventing the witness being allowed to speak for themselves. You ignore and distort my views, while presuming motives that are pure fiction. What a crock.

Endlessly repeating falsehoods does not make them true. Wishing the history of the US had been different does not make one's wishes the truth and does not make actual history a mistake. Does the First Amendment set forth the separation of Church and State? A two centuries plus history of jurisprudence, SCOTUS rulings, and subsequent legislation says yes. Have those states that had official religions at the time of the founding amended their constitutions to remove them. Yes, they have. Will these facts, which represent the will of the people, convince you that " muslims or hindus, etc." are worthy of citizenship in this White Christian Nation? Apparently not; to me that makes you an un-American reactionary.

Just like I said.

Posted by: Chris White on November 25, 2009 7:49 PM



Chris White:

Does the First Amendment set forth the separation of Church and State? A two centuries plus history of jurisprudence, SCOTUS rulings, and subsequent legislation says yes.

Maybe in some parallel universe, but most definitely not in ours.

The original meaning of the entire Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, applied only to the federal government, not state governments. The statement "Congress shall make no law..." was indeed intended to limit only the powers of the federal Congress, not state legislatures. (This in contrast to the prohibitions on bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, etc., which are clearly spelled out as limitations on state powers in Article 1, Section 10.) Before the 20th century, this obvious fact was affirmed by universal consensus as well as judicial precedent. In Barron v. Baltimore from 1833, SCOTUS declared unanimously: "These Amendments [1-10] contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the state governments."

It is true that the U.S. constitutional law nowadays recognizes the Incorporation Doctrine, which holds that parts of the Bill of Rights -- picked, chosen, stretched, and spun arbitrarily according to the ideological convenience of SCOTUS justices in individual precedents -- also apply to state governments. However, this is a recent development that started only in the 1920s and gained full steam only after WW2. The utterly arbitrary character of this doctrine is most obvious from the fact that it is justified by vague invocations of the spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment, even though these ideas gained circulation only two generations after this amendment had been passed.

These are simple, plain facts, easily verified by simply opening any book on the history of the Bill of Rights jurisprudence.

Chris White:

Have those states that had official religions at the time of the founding amended their constitutions to remove them. Yes, they have.

Some of them did, yes, but that had nothing whatsoever to do with the U.S. Constitution, which didn't mandate any such thing. And in fact, well into the 19th century, several states retained and even brought laws that openly supported and favored Protestantism, which are a clear counterexample to your claims.

To take only one such example, the Constitution of New Hampshire from 1784 specifically provides for "the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality". It was also amended in 1792 to mandate that "no person shall be capable of being elected a [state] senator, who is not of the Protestant religion" -- a requirement that was abolished only in 1877. I won't even get into all the countless examples of public religious displays and ceremonies, many of them specifically Christian, which were universally viewed as the most normal thing in the world until they came under judicial attack starting with the Warren Court.

If you want to argue that the present interpretation of the Establishment Clause is a good thing, you're welcome to do so, but please don't back this by blatantly false claims that such interpretation is anything but judicial legislation from the bench backed by legal doctrines made up from whole cloth in recent decades.

Posted by: Vladimir on November 25, 2009 10:26 PM



Wonderful thread. I'm a first time visitor. "Every asshole has an opinion" is stated above and I'm one of them, and for what it's worth I despise this sentiment...

"No one with a progressive bent commenting on this blog ..."

A progressive bent ?

Left wingers like to think that any tiny incremental shift to the left is "progressive". What utter crap. Any shift to the left is a dilution of individual freedom and it is despicable. Progressive my arse.

Posted by: Ayrdale on November 26, 2009 5:05 PM



I don't think our subconscious understands the concept of anonymity. It's a recent development. So our brains think we are in public, signaling our intelligence to others. We can't override this tendency, even if we consciously know better.

Posted by: greg on November 26, 2009 11:36 PM



All cases that reach the SCOTUS, by definition, have two sides. If there were complete agreement among all parties about the interpretation of the Constitution and its Amendments there would be no need for the Supreme Court. Unanimous rulings are exceedingly rare, most decisions made by the Court have majority and minority opinions.

Should states be allowed to segregate public schools by race? Under what circumstances, if any, should the police be allowed to open the locked trunk of an individual's car without a warrant? Do poll taxes infringe on citizens' voting rights? What religious beliefs may government prohibit or promote?

As the Court has heard cases and made rulings over our history there have been periods when the majority of Justices might be described as liberal or conservative. Rulings made by the Court when particular Chief Justices were presiding can, and do, remain contentious for generations.

One can rail about "activist judges" or complain that a particular minority opinion should have prevailed. One can argue for the need to find a new case that might be brought before the Court that could enable a SCOTUS with a different balance to overturn or modify previous rulings. T'was ever thus and I fully expect there will never be universal agreement on virtually any interpretation of the Constitution.

So, too, does the sausage machine of legislating grind on creating new law, on state, federal and local levels, almost entirely without unanimity. Votes get taken and laws are enacted, almost always without complete agreement that the majority got it right.

It is the epitome of hubris to claim that one's view is "Truth" and all other views are in error. There are times when one's views are in harmony with the majority, times when one is part of the minority.

So, feel free to express an opinion contrary to current, generally accepted, public understanding and the most recently adjudicated applicable legal precedents, just don't expect all of the rest of us (especially those of us who agree with the current understanding and majority opinions) to accept that your personal opinion that "the present interpretation of the Establishment Clause is ... blatantly false [and] claims that such interpretation is anything but judicial legislation from the bench backed by legal doctrines made up from whole cloth in recent decades" is correct. It is your opinion, no more, no less. Furthermore, it is, by definition, a minority view.

To return, however belatedly, to the ostensible topic of this thread, the internet has become the easiest and most accessible venue for most of us to engage in public discourse about things that interest us. We can find, express, and argue or agree with opinions contrary to our own or supportive of them. We can discover outlets and have interactions with strangers that enable us to explore particular topics that may bore our family or friends to tears.

Posted by: Chris White on November 27, 2009 9:48 AM



Chris White:

just don't expect all of the rest of us (especially those of us who agree with the current understanding and majority opinions) to accept that your personal opinion that "the present interpretation of the Establishment Clause is ... blatantly false [and] claims that such interpretation is anything but judicial legislation from the bench backed by legal doctrines made up from whole cloth in recent decades" is correct. It is your opinion, no more, no less. Furthermore, it is, by definition, a minority view.

For start, your use of ellipsis distorts my quotation. It merges together a subject and a predicate that weren't originally referring to each other, making the claim of my sentence sound much cruder. That is not a fair way of citing.

But in any case, that the modern Bill of Rights incorporation doctrine is: (1) not older than a few decades, (2) contrary to the entire body of precedent before that, and (3) based on an interpretation of the 14th Amendment with which SCOTUS started coming up only two whole generations after that amendment had been passed, is more than my personal opinion. These facts, as I said before, can be easily verified by simply opening any book on the history of the U.S. constitutional law. Hell, just google for the "incorporation doctrine" if you don't believe me, and see how old it is and what was the consensus before that.

You can argue that this judicial intervention was just, moral, and with wonderful consequences, but there is simply no factual basis at all to the claims that it was anything but a 20th century legal invention that came around purely because of changing ideological views of SCOTUS justices. I challenge you to find a single SCOTUS precedent before 1925 that makes any claim that the states are bound by the federal First Amendment in any way whatsoever. I would be most thankful to anyone who could enlighten me with such a discovery.

Posted by: Vladimir on November 27, 2009 5:01 PM






Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:



Remember your info?