I Get Mail – Quality or Quantity

Yet again I think you guys are sending mail to the wrong person here.

I pointed out the lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors because it bothers me to see people trying make a name for themselves by posting fluff, when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there.

I agree with you, mate! But what can we two do against a whole houseful of the opposite opinion?

Here are some recent posts from Butterflies and Wheels, which shows how many words were copy/pasted from a secondary source, out of the total words of the post:

Oh right… Then why the hell would you send this to me? I am not Ophelia Benson. I am Avicenna the Last. I think the problem here is you failed to read the title of the blogs. Hers is Butterflies and Wheels, mine is A Million Gods. Easy mistake to make. They both have 3 words in them.

How to read satire 555/895
Michael Nugent visits the slime pit 556/791
Imagine 282/647

I do that too. However? One finds that blogging is less about “word count” and more about writing stuff people want to read. If you can write a single line that makes people want to read your work then you have “succeeded”. Blogging is about the transfer of ideas from a person to others by written medium. Writing expressively on the idea for no real gain is pointless blogging. There are articles where in retrospect I could have written “better” but frankly I know I am not a professional writer nor am I “good” at it. I make a variety of mistakes and I regularly return to correct things I have written or change stuff I am not happy with. If Ophelia’s writing style and niche in the “blogosquare” is such then that’s her niche.

This isn’t simply trying to be transparent and quoting people accurately. Anyone who took high school English knows that if you can’t summarize a large chunk of text, you probably don’t understand it. Quotes should be supplementary, not nearly 50% of your piece.

Actually? If you are doing a piece involving a blow by blow breakdown of a view than you may require to quote large chunks of text rather than summarise because people will suggest you are taking it out of context.

Blogging isn’t the same as handing in an academic paper, but having this much of someone else’s writing pasted into your post is intellectually lazy and sloppy writing. You could argue substance over style, but there’s so little substance there. It would be fine to do a TMZ/tabloid style take-down of subjects, but even those mediums have an element of entertainment and/or humour; it’s not to be mistaken for serious, quality information.

Or you know. Saves people the trouble of swapping between my work and the article in question that I am taking a surgical two by four to while stopping accusations of quote mining. I also link to the original work if people wish to read it there.

I’m not saying these peanut gallery style blogs shouldn’t exist. I’m saying that they should be given the credibility a peanut gallery deserves, which is much much less than well written, content focused bloggers who aim to communicate science and secular humanism with quality information. Those are the bloggers that deserve your serious attention and the guest speaker chairs at events.

Again with this?

Let me get this through your incredibly thick skulls. This isn’t the first such message I have gotten. It probably won’t be the last. My “Peanut Gallery Blog” is one of the few blogs representing atheism from a viewpoint of a non-white ex-hindu and since I live in two different parts of the world and have an understanding of two different cultures, provide a rather unique bridge between Hinduism in India, Hinduism outside India and Western Culture and the Atheism of all of that. I see myself as “like” Hemant Mehta whose Jain upbringing makes his viewpoint different.

Again, I write for myself. For my amusement. My relatively new found popularity is still a novelty to me. I still am amazed that people want to read my blog. And while I try and cover science blogging, it’s extremely hard to do so while holding down a major “job”.

And here is the thing. I don’t get offers to be a guest speaker at events. I haven’t done a single event. In fact the biggest event I have been part off was a rather nice tea where I fear I kind of was excessively vocal about my actions during the Rape Riots among a bunch of Indian atheists which included one (in retrospect) very uncomfortable woman. That’s my “first” and indeed only event and there were less than 20 of us there.

The fact of the matter is dear mailer that Indians are one of the least represented groups at such events. We aren’t invited. They don’t see us there. In fact many of us WANT more Indians to be seen at such events so that we can discuss our own issues.

So here’s the issue with your message. We can write quality and we can write quantity. If a quality post does what a quantity post does then why should you write 3000 words when 300 may suffice? Until then? I shall aim for quantity only when quality doesn’t suffice.

And honestly? I don’t know who you guys think I am but “Speaker at Events” is not it.


  1. says

    Apparently someone hasn’t even got the guts to complain to Ophelia.
    Or, perhaps they complained to Ophelia and it didn’t work so now they’ve run to doctor Avicenna in the WHAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance?

    Avicenna’s gonna smack Ophelia down and get her back to blogging properly! And make me a sandwich! (eyeroll)

    I’ve gotta go throw another $25 in Ophelia’s tip jar in honor of this jackass while I wait for the whaaaambulance to show up.

  2. says

    As you know… every Dollar you Donate makes the Waaahmbulance arrive earlier!

    It was addressed to me… I just assume they were sending it enmasse to everyone and I got to it first.

  3. says

    PS – I just checked Ophelia’s blog and apparently this is a persistent troll that has been complaining about Ophelia’s blogging style. Because, apparently, they are blogging experts who favor quality over quantity – which is why they’ve been making the same complaint over and over, in various places, worded slightly differently. “Quality over quantity” doesn’t apparently apply to whingeing.

  4. says

    Weird. That’s Sara Mayhew’s rant from Google+, isn’t it? Either she’s completely ignoring Kylie and everyone else who told her why she’s wrong to send this to other people, or someone else is sending it without crediting her. Weird.

  5. says

    I have no idea who that is… Meh if she has sent me that then she has discovered that I am FTB’s secret overlord. Or more than likely someone is being a silly bugger.

  6. jenBPhillips says

    Avicenna–obviously Mayhew and colleagues are trying to save you from going down the the “sinking ship” that is FtB (their characterization, not mine). You are tarnishing your esteem as a potential guest speaker by being all overtly feminist and shit, and they apparently believe that you have just blundered in to this graveyard of rational skepticism unawares. Get out while you still can!!!!!1

  7. says

    She did not send you an email! I really hope it was a “supporter” as that is worthy of a *facepalm* and a half. Maybe they think you are a valid target, being a little green n all, no offence but…

    …while stopping accusations of quote mining

    Hehe, you *may* think that but you are in for a shock.

  8. glodson says

    I do hope that this was sent to multiple people. It might make more sense that way… Not that making the letter more sensible would be difficult.

    If it was just sent to you as a compliant about Ophelia, that’s just weird. I would write more, but this comment will have to be lacking as I need to complain about the movie I just watched to the local radio station.

  9. says

    Say what?

    As everybody has already said, that was Sara Mayhew, complaining on Google+ about my blog. Somebody emailed it to you without attribution?

  10. blondeintokyo says

    I would love to attend an event where atheists from other countries who grew up in faiths other than Christianity were speaking! Having been to India three times, I’m particularly interested in Hinduism and Hindu atheists, which is why I was so thrilled to find your blog here, Avicenna. I love seeing these differing points of view. I’ve changed my mind about a few issues when reading your blog. I’d definitely make an effort to come to an event where you were speaking. Or if I’m in Chennai again, maybe I can come to tea. :)

    As for you receiving this complaint about Ophelia, I somehow doubt this Sara Mayhew person would send you this herself. It’s very likely someone trying to cause more trouble.

  11. leni says

    I don’t get this whole summarizing thing.

    You don’t need to summarize if you’ve blockquoted. That’s sort of the whole point of the blockquote in the first place. It’s there, you can read the damn thing yourself. You don’t necessarily need the blogger to chew it up and mouth feed it to you. Although sometimes that’s fun too.

    In general, I don’t read blogs for summaries, I read them for opinions. If one line of snark does it then, as avicenna says, why write 3000? If a summary adds clarity and context, great! If it just repeats what’s in the visibly quoted text, it’s padding. Otherwise known as fluff.

    I guess if I ever want quoted text summarized for me I know where to go.

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