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November 05, 2009

Ideas, Packaging and Comments

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

After Michael retired things became pretty dull here, if comments to posts were any measure of reader interest and involvement. Matter of fact, I was wondering if there were many readers left.

True, my art and cars and design kinds of posts seldom attract lots of comments, and I was writing a number of those pieces for a while.

I thought that I, with the welcome aid of guest-posters, would stir things up a bit to get a better fix on reader interest. So I posted some comment bait -- something even Michael would do occasionally. Michael's comment-bait often had to do with sex. I'm not at all comfortable writing sex stuff. But I can write about politics and know that that's another hot subject.

I don't plan to turn this into a politics blog. There are more than enough of those around. But expect something political from time to time, mostly in response to current events. Michael liked to write about immigration a lot and his perspective on matters political had a libertarian tinge. While I agree with him on immigration, I doubt I'll write about it much. And while I agree with some aspects of libertarianism, my current state of political evolution is someplace in the cluster of Scoop Jackson Democrat (after all, my mom knew him and I met him on several occasions), Reagan Republican and [Gasp! Horrors!!] Neocon. But fear not: while that's where I come from, I don't plan to use 2Blowhards as a bully political-conversion pulpit. It's ideas that I want to toss out for discussion.

My take is that 2Blowhards is, at its core, a blog about ideas.

When I post something longer than a snippet, I usually try to toss in more than one idea even though the post has a manifest topic or otherwise dress up the piece in an attempt to make it more entertaining.

Here's an example -- a recent post about third parties in United States presidential politics. I used Rush Limbaugh as a "hook" to introduce the topic and agreed with his conclusion that such parties are unsuccessful in winning the presidency and that it's better to move a major party in the direction you desire.

I suppose, had I sloughed off my sloth, I could have turned up a liberal commentator who had made the exact same point. But I used Limbaugh because I was familiar with his stance on the matter and had heard that part of the radio program I linked to -- this made creating the post easy.

However, some readers saw the word "Limbaugh" and focused on it rather than the matter of merits of third parties, the theme of the post. This is nothing new. Comment threads have lives of their own. I recall a few years back Michael really, really wanted comments on a certain issue, but the commenters ignored his issue and focused on something else. Michael even hopped in, asking for comments on his topic and not the emergent one. No luck.

In this recent post I went farther than usual presenting my personal take on a matter. But I never claimed that my suspicions were solid facts and invited commentary with opposing views. Again, some commenters reacted strongly, chastising me for bringing up the matter, wrecking the blog and such.

While I prefer comments to deal with ideas presented in a post rather than personalities, four years of blogging has made it clear that the blogger simply sets the ball rolling and it's best not to interfere much in comments unless the tone becomes nasty.

2Blowhards will remain an arts and culture blog dealing with ideas. There will be politics from time to time to spice things up. And other forms of spices as well, provided I can recruit new full-time Blowhards. While I won't attempt political conversion, I can't say that I won't try to persuade you to come to my way of thinking on matters artistic.



posted by Donald at November 5, 2009


I for one was getting bored with the sex-related posts, although I agree that the Roissy-fanclub of commenters seemed pretty keen on them.

I read this blog much more often now and have enjoyed your writing so far, even though I never post comments

Posted by: Päivi on November 5, 2009 3:38 AM

If you are looking to keep this a blog about "ideas", AND get visitors/commenters, then, I highly recommend that you recruit Vladimir from the comments section at Roissy's. He is about the most interesting and smartest commenter, without a blog, that I know of.

I bet readers like PA, PatrickH, Thursday and Clio would agree.

Posted by: Usually Lurking on November 5, 2009 9:11 AM

I second the Vladimir thing -- I just looked him up after Lurking's comment. A very intelligent individual.

Posted by: Thras on November 5, 2009 10:30 AM

Personally, I really like the new direction this blog is taking – particularly with regard to the charming, witty, and presumably quite handsome “Zdeno” character. Can we get more of him? Perhaps he should be put on salary.

Kidding aside, it’s obvious that the future of is going to be very different from its past. Michael’s personality was a huge factor in 2BH’s appeal, and to say that his departure will necessarily shake things up is an understatement. The question we face – capital-B Blowhards, guest posters, the commentariat – is whether to devote our energies to bemoaning some lost golden age of Blowhardism, or to focus on creating something new.

This site has been a regular read of mine for quite a few years now, and it might very well be the most important blog in the sphere in terms of how it’s shaped my intellectual development over my young adult life. Not just because of the (considerable) impact Michael, Donald et al’s writings have had on me, but for the new ideas and perspectives they have pointed me towards. Without, I may have never come across Mencius, Roissy, Devlin, Sailer, and a myriad of other off-the-beaten path perspectives that forced me to evaluate, defend and occasionally reconsider some of my deepest-held beliefs.

My vision of the future of this website, which I’m guessing is one that Donald and many others share, is this: A strange little corner of the internet that I can regularly visit for original, provocative ideas on culture, art and politics, and a community of intelligent, intellectually diverse individuals who I can discuss those ideas with. The world is full of people hungry for just such a place.

And to anyone on the fence over whether to try there hand at a guest post: Go for it. It’s great fun, and chicks go wild when you tell them you’re a minor internet celebrity. PA, Vladimir, PatrickH, I’m looking at you. Chris White, you seem to have plenty of writing time on your hands – care to pick a tenet of Libertarian/Conservative thought and explain to us exactly why it’s so unenlightened and unworthy of consideration?

Cheers All,


Posted by: Zdeno on November 5, 2009 11:30 AM

Enthusiastic agreement with the Vladimir recommendation. And Donald, ignore the sniping of Chris White and the useless comment by Winkler. They've been protesting for some time now about how 2Bs was turning into a right-wing blog, and that was back in Michael's day.

After M's retirement, my interest in 2Bs took a short drop off. But it's coming back, and as far as I can tell, Zdeno's last post got about 30 or more comments. That's not bad for 2B's.

Keep posting stuff, and if Chris White and Winkler don't like it, they can always leave.

Better yet, ask them to write something!

I think 2B's is changing, but I see no reason to think it can't survive and prosper as an ideas/culture blog. You don't have to explain or defend yourself to the likes of Chris White and Winkler, since they haven't been bothered to be even remotely constructive in their whining. Ignore them.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 5, 2009 11:57 AM

Oh, and I think Thursday has a lot to say, too. Why not ask him? For those people with blogs of their own that I've recommended, like clio earlier, and Thursday now, I could see 2B's becoming a kind of common gathering spot, a salon even(!), with connections to lots of other blogs too.

And Moira Breen! And Townshend! And more purely arts focused people. What about BTM?

Posted by: PatrickH on November 5, 2009 12:01 PM

Blogs get exactly the number and kind of comments they deserve.

Posted by: JV on November 5, 2009 12:19 PM

Your post have had good effect - startling a lot of folk into engagement.

I flagged for a bit myself and am glad to have had my enthusiasm for this blog renewed.

Posted by: Larry on November 5, 2009 4:52 PM

He is about the most interesting and smartest commenter, without a blog, that I know of.

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I thought the post made some good points on extracting data, On a related topic if i need to get data I use python for simple html extracting data, but for larger projects like documents, files, or the web i tried extracting data from the web which worked great, they build quick custom web scrapers, extracting data, and data parsing programs

Posted by: Rachel on December 4, 2009 1:35 PM

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