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Mar 04 2013

“People trying make a name for themselves by posting fluff”

Another week begins. Mayhew is still at it, still publicly fuming about the way I blog. It’s on Google+ this time, and she did some research. She also did some attempted argument.

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.

That’s the argument part.

It’s a stupid argument.

One, “trying make a name for themselves”? How does she know that’s what we’re doing? How does she know all of us or any of us are doing that? How does she know we’re doing that more than anything else, or to the exclusion of anything else? She doesn’t. She doesn’t know any of those things. My main reason for doing it is the fact that I like doing it. When I started doing it I had no reason to think anyone would ever read a word of it.

Two, “when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there”? Wut? Of course there are. There are tens of thousands of them. If we’re talking the whole world, there are millions of them. What’s that got to do with anything? Do I have some big fraudulent label on my blog that says “quality, hard working science here!”? No. Am I taking anything away from any quality, hard working science advocates and educators? No. That “when” is as random and meaningless as if she shouted at someone for eating lunch when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there or going for a walk when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there or burping the baby when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there.

Three, don’t make me laugh. She suddenly starts complaining about “the lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors” out of some broad social concern for quality science and education? Please. Out of all the bloggers in all the world, not to mention all the problems in all the world, she zoomed in on the putative lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors…because she has a burr up her ass and she just can’t shut up about me. It’s got nothing to do with quality science and education. Her attempt at a “Dear Muslima” is pathetic.

Now for the quality hard-working research.

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:

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

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.

This isn’t high school English, Sara. A blog isn’t a term paper. It isn’t a book report. It isn’t a dissertation. It isn’t a magazine column or a book chapter. A blog is a blog, and one of the distinctive features of the blog as a medium is that there are no rules. No rules at all. You can do anything with your blog you want to (within the law).

My aim isn’t to summarize stuff I read. I know how to summarize a large chunk of text, thank you, but it’s hardly ever what I want to do here. You’re trying to invent a new rule but it won’t work, because you’re not in charge of blogging. There’s no such “should” as “quotes should be supplementary, not nearly 50% of your piece,” not for blogging. There is for other kinds of writing, of course, but not for blogging. Blogging is a flexible, shifting, creative genre, and your invented rules cut no ice.

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.

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.

Aha, now we get to the point! Nobody should be asking me to speak at events! Mayhew is pissed off that someone occasionally asks me to speak at an event.

Why? Why me, why now?

I have no idea. Maybe she’s used up her other targets and cast around for a new one.

It’s funny how I’ve never seen fit to do this to Mayhew. I don’t tweet and post and Facebook update to say she does shitty work and doesn’t deserve your serious attention and the guest speaker chairs at events. I don’t talk about her at all – until she starts poking at me.

Kylie Sturgess has a couple of very good comments on Mayhew’s post. Mayhew would be wise to heed them.

66 comments

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  1. 1
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Donation for Ophelia courtesy of Sara Mayhew.

  2. 2
    rowanvt

    She really just keeps ignoring the part where quoting large blocks like that provides context and prevents arguments about strawmen doesn’t she. :/

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    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.

    Another failure of markets and meritocracy, it would seem.

    If those quality, hard-working science advocates and educators out there need a helping hand to make names for themselves, we should perhaps institute some sort of affirmative policy. Get those voices out there!

  4. 4
    ChasCPeterson

    This isn’t high school English, Sara. A blog isn’t a term paper. It isn’t a book report. It isn’t a dissertation. It isn’t a magazine column or a book chapter. A blog is a blog, and one of the distinctive features of the blog as a medium is that there are no rules.

    prezackly.
    What chutzpah!

    Mayhew is pissed off that someone occasionally asks me to speak at an event.
    Why? Why me, why now?

    Probably just a coincidence that Ms. Mayhew was recently invited tyo speak at a conference that you weren’t?

  5. 5
    Kevin

    “so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there.”

    In other words … PAY ATTENTION TO ME! ME!!!! ME!!11eleventy!!

  6. 6
    tonyinbatavia

    And with that, Sara has just become the first person who is responsible for two donations from me to the “You Hate, Ophelia Profits!” fund. Congrats, Sara, for putting even more money in Ophelia’s pocket. (And props to Kylie for her efforts to be a voice of reason.)

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Thanks Bjarte and tony! And thanks Sara! You’re a great fundraiser, just as Kylie told you.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    Chas I think you accidentally put in the wrong link. At any rate, no doubt she was, but that’s a funny reason to shout at me! She was invited, I wasn’t, so what’s the problem? That’s the desired outcome, surely!

  9. 9
    Dunc

    Has she taken the time to criticise the lazy blogging habits of the rest of the internet too? ‘Cos I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of lazy blogging out there if that’s really what you’re concerned about…

  10. 10
    Tom Foss

    There’s a common theme here, going back to the Accommodationist Wars, that some people simply can’t (or refuse to in order to make a disingenuous point) imagine that other people do not have the same priorities and goals as them. A greater original-to-quote ratio is often necessary if your point is to analyze the quoted material. But if you’re just promoting or presenting it with commentary, it would be overkill, and would obscure the point.

    Not every post is a literary analysis. Different kinds of writing require different styles and usage of quoted material. That’s not just true of blogging; it’s true of all writing.

  11. 11
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Sara doesn’t blog, correct?

    If not, then her criticism reminds me of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s line in Pride and Prejudice, ” If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

  12. 12
    Argle Bargle

    Methinks Ms. Mayhew’s main complaint is that many more people read Ophelia than read her.

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 11 – ahahahahaha – that’s such a great line – right up there with the narrator’s line about “when Lady Catherine had instructed them what weather they were to have on the morrow” –

    Mayhew as a budding Lady Catherine. Hahahahahahahahaha

  14. 14
    ChasCPeterson

    I think you accidentally put in the wrong link

    oops, so I did.
    She’s one of the “main program speakers”listed for the next TAM.

  15. 15
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    And, that did it. I’ve activated my automatic monthly donation to B&W. In my PayPal register I’ve designated it the Mayhew Memorial Fund.

  16. 16
    And How

    Dear Sara:

    The posts you are criticizing were well written. It was necessary they have large amounts of quoted texts to make the points being made.

    I would remind you that you are not the “Blog Writing Czar”.

    Kindly do everyone (and yourself) a favor by shutting your pie hole.

    Sincerely,
    Any How

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Thanks Josh! Such an honor for Mayhew. :D

  18. 18
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    #16
    Mmmm….pie.

  19. 19
    Jafafa Hots

    A person could just as easily (actually more easily) complain about “people trying to make a name for themselves by relentlessly and baselessly attacking others.”

  20. 20
    evilDoug

    Oh, pooh! And How’s typo has been fixed.

    you are not the “Bog Writing Czar”

    bog
    n

    4. a slang word for lavatory

    Upon the walls thereof methinks.

  21. 21
    Gretchen

    Jafafa Hots

    A person could just as easily (actually more easily) complain about “people trying to make a name for themselves by relentlessly and baselessly attacking others.”

    Indeed.

    If someone says something false, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of a rejoinder…by all means, write one! I am quite frankly sick and tired of seeing people reply to that by saying “If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.”

    But that’s not what Mayhew did. She picked something actually worthy of that reply– the style of someone’s blogging, not the substance– and seized on that to kvetch about.

    To what end?

  22. 22
    Marcus Ranum

    Posting comments to the internet-at-large calling someone else attention-hungry really appears to be missing a very important point about motes in eyes and whatnot.

    (In Sarah’s name, cha-ching! I’ve donated to your cookie fund!)

  23. 23
    rnilsson

    I suspect Sara Mayhev a cunning plan to bankrupt me! All these cookies flowing like words from a sewer, or something even more original. Well, I’m not made out of dough you kow! Still have to chip in.

  24. 24
    rnilsson

    Apparently there happened to be some misteaks in my latest comment. What they were is left for the perspirating readers to work out.

  25. 25
    Brony

    Holy crap, It’s King of the Hill!

    They don’t have the skills to argue persuasively so its a logical shell game!

    Fucking primate chess…

  26. 26
    Anthony K

    They don’t have the skills to argue persuasively so its a logical shell game!

    Actually, it’s a very cunning long game to recruit conservative Jews, Muslims, and Christians to our side.

    “Look, we agree with you that it’s actually the bitches’ fault for what they get. We’re not so different after all!”

  27. 27
    jmb

    Fluff: Carefully selected, substantial quotes with relevant commentary on important real world topics.

    Not fluff: 4 pics of dresses with a couple lines of shopping squee.

    Okaaaay, then.

  28. 28
    Brony

    I should rephrase.

    Its an emotional shell-game, logically played out by group combat rules. I’m in Michael Nugent’s thread and its just sad from a species perspective.

  29. 29
    PZ Myers

    Hey, Ophelia’s cashing in on the donation game? I should get in on that one — Reap Paden would be earning me a mint.

  30. 30
    rnilsson

    Alright, here you are you mugly ug! Just a waffer-theen mint, mind you! All you reap from this skint.

  31. 31
    michaeld

    @10 Tom Foss

    It’s also an extension of the similar ‘my way of doing free speech/comment moderation is the only proper way’ arguements. Both of which come off as well as my telling Sara Mayhew how much cross hatching vs tonal shading she is should be using in her art.

  32. 32
    atheist

    It’s funny how I’ve never seen fit to do this to Mayhew.

    Probably you sorta considered her beneath notice, until now.

  33. 33
    Dave W

    Out of the 28 main-program speakers listed for TAM 2013, seven are people who I consider jerks (or worse), including Mayhew (and not including people like Penn Jilette and Paul Provenza, who aren’t main-program speakers but still featured).

    A 25% jerkitude is getting a bit high for my tastes. It’d be sorta like throwing away 25% of the $425 registration fee, no?

  34. 34
    And How

    Brony @28.

    Gretchen @ 21 sums up the situation well:

    If someone says something false, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of a rejoinder…by all means, write one! I am quite frankly sick and tired of seeing people reply to that by saying “If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.”

    But that’s not what Mayhew did. She picked something actually worthy of that reply– the style of someone’s blogging, not the substance– and seized on that to kvetch about.

    To what end?

    What is the specific problem of asserting oneself and asking Sara to keep her rude, unproductive, and condescending remarks to herself? How exactly is this “primate chess” and “sad for our species”?

  35. 35
    And How

    Edit :

    Sorry Gretchen @ 21′s full quote was:

    If someone says something false, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of a rejoinder…by all means, write one! I am quite frankly sick and tired of seeing people reply to that by saying “If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.”

    But that’s not what Mayhew did. She picked something actually worthy of that reply– the style of someone’s blogging, not the substance– and seized on that to kvetch about.

    To what end?

  36. 36
    Nick Nakorn

    There seems to be an ever increasing trend in blogging and blog commenting to treat the art, exercise or perhaps vocation of blogging as some strange competitive sport in which no prisoners will be taken. It’s so sad that attacks on our excellent host here at B & W have taken up so much space – not just bandwidth but head-space that might more usefully be put to discussing the issues we all blog to promote/discuss/explore and enjoy.

    It seems to me that, collectively, we should attempt to ignore such attacks and stick to our personal remits (whatever they might be). But, try as I might, I find it almost impossible sometimes not to rise to the goading that some commentators seem so very good at; perhaps because they are not any good at rational discourse. Whatever the reason, it seems our culture puts ‘putting down the opposition’ ahead of discovering what is right. true, ethical or rational.

    I’m seriously thinking of giving up my on-line activities entirely – I find it all too draining to be constantly arguing my right to exist when I’m expected to have linguistic, research, writing and didactic standards many times superior to my critics to even warrant a comment that isn’t somehow dismissive of me as a person, regardless of the content of my stuff (not, interestingly on my blog – few read let alone comment – so much as when I comment elsewhere). And it’s the stuff that matters surely? I have a horrible feeling that the internet is becoming less and less the debating chamber it could be (but has never really been) and more and more the field of battle for competing blogy-stars, biggots and would-be-gurus.

    Anyway, having had my rant, this is just another support message for O.B. as she has a voice well worth listening to.

  37. 37
    Claire Ramsey

    This little tempest in a teapot is kind of silly. It’s so silly that I can barely grasp the point. What is Ms Mayhew on about? And, does she not have more “important” things to do during her busy days than count words?

    I imagine that it’s possible that she suffered at the hands of a mean high school English teacher, so has an overblown and mistaken idea about writing and rules, and thinks that every single goddamn piece of text is supposed to match high school English conventions. She is wrong about that as we all know.

    But why does she bother with this silly topic when there are dresses to buy?

  38. 38
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    @Claire Ramsey:

    What does buying dresses have to do with anything? Unless I’m missing something, that sounds a bit sexist.

  39. 39
    Eamon Knight

    Joe @38 beat me to it. Among other problems it invites equivalence with Greta Christina’s fashion posts (and do you recall the thing the ‘pitters had about her shoes?). Some serious bloggers (and not only women — Jerry Coyne posts about his collection of cowboy boots about once a week) sometimes do posts regarding their taste in attire. To them, it’s apparently a significant form of self-expression — which is fine. Those of us who are satisfied to be stuck in the polo-and-cargoes rut can skip those posts.

  40. 40
    Claire Ramsey

    If I remember correctly (and I may be addled) I read something that Mayhew wrote about a place called Sam’s Dresses, about buying dresses online . . .

    So yes. It is a sexist assumption. But possibly not an assumption original to moi. Many apologies if I remember wrong. It has happened.

  41. 41
    Claire Ramsey

    I am not well enough read or clever enough to make sly reference to other blogs and their fashion posts.

    Please feel free to skip my comments.

  42. 42
    Claire Ramsey

    I remembered almost correctly. Check Ophelia’s post on Mar 1 about lazy blogging and bad writing. Here is the post I referenced.

    http://www.saramayhew.com/blog/index.php/2013/03/fashion-picks-cute-strapless-dresses/

    I regret that I got the name of the dress business wrong.

  43. 43
    Brony

    @ And How 35

    If someone says something false, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of a rejoinder…by all means, write one! I am quite frankly sick and tired of seeing people reply to that by saying “If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.”

    But that’s not what Mayhew did. She picked something actually worthy of that reply– the style of someone’s blogging, not the substance– and seized on that to kvetch about.

    I should have been more precise, i apologize.
    When I refer to “Primate Chess” I am discussing how Mayhew is trying to look like she has a point with respect to the “lazy blogging”. Basically the amount of cut and pasted text is utterly irrelevant. What matters are the arguments that tie the referenced text together. The substance of the “lazy bloggers” text plus the added argumentation produces something more than the sum of its parts.

    What is the specific problem of asserting oneself and asking Sara to keep her rude, unproductive, and condescending remarks to herself? How exactly is this “primate chess” and “sad for our species”?

    Um, I’m not impressed with what Sara Mayhew is saying so I doubly apologize for the confusion. The “sad for our species” has to do with how style is cared for more than substance both with Mayhew and the Slymepit comments at Nugent’s post.

  44. 44
    chrislawson

    Actually, Mayhew has made a rather embarrassing mistake:

    One glance at the post on Michael Nugent’s exercise told me that Mayhew’s figures were way off. So I checked it myself. Total word count: 793. Quoted word count: 129. So Mayhew has almost inverted the quoted/unquoted ratio.

    I’d like to think this was a mistake on Mayhew’s part and there was no intent to lie, but the fact remains that her figures were obviously way off, even from a simple end-of-the-room eyeball test, and yet she decided to count the words either with a browser add-on or by copying the post into a word processing program (as I did), and then highlighting the quoted text to word-count the subset. So how does someone look at a post that is overwhelmingly original context and decide that it would be a good example of excessive quotation and worth counting? How does someone mistake 70% (her figures) for 24% (the actual figure)? And how does someone highlight the quoted text, count the words, and then mistakenly attribute it as count(quoted)=count(total)-count(quoted)? And finally, how does one make this mistake, and then fail to double-check it in a post where one is publicly and personally attacking another blogger based on this erroneous statistic, especially where the main criticism is “lazy blogging”?

    Mayhew’s only decent defence here is if Ophelia has gone back and edited the piece ex post facto to dramatically change its quote lengths. That’s certainly not my recollection from reading the post the day it was put up, but if so I’m happy to stand corrected and offer Mayhew my complete and abject apology.

  45. 45
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    chrislawson wrote:

    Actually, Mayhew has made a rather embarrassing mistake:

    If Slymepitters could learn anything from making embarrassing mistakes, they probably wouldn’t be Slymepitters. It’s act first, think later – that’s the #bravehero way!

  46. 46
    Brony

    @ Nick Nakorn 36

    There seems to be an ever increasing trend in blogging and blog commenting to treat the art, exercise or perhaps vocation of blogging as some strange competitive sport in which no prisoners will be taken. It’s so sad that attacks on our excellent host here at B & W have taken up so much space – not just bandwidth but head-space that might more usefully be put to discussing the issues we all blog to promote/discuss/explore and enjoy.

    It seems to me that, collectively, we should attempt to ignore such attacks and stick to our personal remits (whatever they might be). But, try as I might, I find it almost impossible sometimes not to rise to the goading that some commentators seem so very good at; perhaps because they are not any good at rational discourse. Whatever the reason, it seems our culture puts ‘putting down the opposition’ ahead of discovering what is right. true, ethical or rational.

    I see this kind of activity as unavoidable. There are people who want to have discussions to get at reality more accurately, and there are people who want to win. My tactics involve trying to undermine the effectiveness of the psychology by pointing out the inherent dishonesty and lack of concern for reality when someone else is getting this treatment. If I can I also try to point out how the way they try to “Win” over being correct ends up hurting them as they end up reliant on emotional arguments and gain no skills for actually figuring out reality, and they leave the arguments of their “opponent” unchallenged thus making them weak when it comes to real argument.

    Maybe there needs to be a emphasis on rational discourse in parallel with everything else as a community effort? These are Atheists, and self proclaimed “skeptics” but the certainly are not rational. I think of this a just preparing your own personal social munitions because this is the ugly reality of human communication. Emotional suppression works so expect it and find ways to deal. Banning, getting to choose who your online peers are, and getting practiced at Fisking. In a lot of ways this feels to me like an analogous situation what what it might have been like back in the city-state days when it came to cultural competition between neighboring groups.

  47. 47
    chrislawson

    Goddamn it,

    I made the mistake — misread the listed content as original rather than quoted.. Ms Mayhew has my full and abject apology.

  48. 48
    jmb

    Yeah the same time Mayhew was complaining about Ophelia’s posting being fluff lacking original content, she herself was posting just about the minimum of content humanly possible beyond a link and the word “this” – reblogged pictures of 4 dresses and a couple of sentences on the vendor. It wasn’t even high-information-density fashion blogging, for Pete’s sake, it was puff posting that barely met infomercial standards.

    Self awareness, we can haz it?

  49. 49
    Stacy

    If someone says something false, objectionable, or otherwise worthy of a rejoinder…by all means, write one! I am quite frankly sick and tired of seeing people reply to that by saying “If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.”

    But that’s not what Mayhew did. She picked something actually worthy of that reply– the style of someone’s blogging, not the substance– and seized on that to kvetch about.

    To what end?

    I wouldn’t read too much into it. The point is for Sara to enjoy expressing personal spite. She’s not bright enough to notice the obvious flaws in her criticism.

  50. 50
    mildlymagnificent

    Oh dear. I already paid in on the JV post, so here we go again. Pretty soon we’ll be reduced to putting in a single dollar at a time because we never know how many of these ridiculous rantings from these ridiculous people we’ll be seeing from one hour to the next.

    But I’m happy for this particular method of dealing with madness to go on, and on and on, if necessary. Perhaps one of them might see the light every now and again. Eventually they’ll refrain for fear of unnecessary shoe purchases or because they see how silly they look to keep doing it when they know the tip jar will keep filling every time they do such things.

  51. 51
    Ophelia Benson

    Well I knew Claire was referring to Mayhew’s post about dresses that she posted at the same time she did the tweets and Facebook post about my lazy blogging. But then I know everything, as we all know.

    And again – don’t play the revenge-donation game if it hurts! Really!! Don’t!!! Play it only if it doesn’t.

  52. 52
    Anthony K

    And again – don’t play the revenge-donation game if it hurts! Really!! Don’t!!! Play it only if it doesn’t.

    We don’t get #bravedonator badges unless it hurts. I understand some groups’ badges are symbolic only, but we’ve more integrity than that.

  53. 53
    mildlymagnificent

    Don’t worry, it’s not hurting.

    I’m only doing coffee with cake and magazine level right now as it is. But you should watch it. You’ll get the jitters if you spend all of this on caffeine drinks.

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh I skip the coffee altogether and just have lots of cake.

  55. 55
    chrislawson

    Ophelia,

    May I ask you to put a strikethrough on my erroneous comment @44? I don’t want my stupid error to be absorbed by people reading my comment before they get to my retraction.

  56. 56
    And How

    @ Brony.

    I apologize for having misunderstood and misrepresentied your remarks.

  57. 57
    Ophelia Benson

    Done, Chris.

  58. 58
    Jadehawk

    y’know what? If we’re going to judge whom to invite as speakers to conferences by blogging word-count per post, then I bloody well should be invited to ALL the conferences. Some of my blog posts have absolutely frightening word-counts, even if you take out the quoted sections.

  59. 59
    screechymonkey

    Jadehawk@58:

    If we’re going to judge whom to invite as speakers to conferences by blogging word-count per post, then I bloody well should be invited to ALL the conferences.

    Perhaps, but Daniel Fincke will be the keynote at every one.

  60. 60
    Jadehawk

    Perhaps, but Daniel Fincke will be the keynote at every one.

    lol, true

  61. 61
    John-Henry Beck

    I think Avicenna would be in the running too.

  62. 62
    hjhornbeck

    SUDDEN DONATION SURPRISE SNEAK ATTACK!!!

     

     

    [sorry, but I'm getting bored of typing "donated" over and over and over and over...]

  63. 63
    hjhornbeck

    [also: that's hotlinked, due to a case of the lazies.]

  64. 64
    Eamon Knight

    @61: Don’t forget Orac (well, only for the skeptical cons, not the atheism ones).

  65. 65
    Ophelia Benson

    I love a good sneak attack!

  66. 66
    Laurence

    This just seems crazy to me. Are people actually criticizing how much you quote people in blog posts? What is wrong with the world?

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