A slow-burner

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, whose theme this month is “Burnout”.  I have also cross-posted it to my other blog.

I think I might experience burnout differently from the rest of you, and that’s why I’m here.

Case in point, one of the big events in my college years, was getting involved in atheist student groups. These groups experienced very quick turnover, with people often disappearing after their first year or two of participation. But I stuck with it an unnaturally long time, longer than any of the other students could imagine. 9 years! And I didn’t quit because I was burnt out, I quit because the group dissolved. And it’s not like I was happy with the group; on the contrary, I was perpetually annoyed with them. When I finally left, it felt long overdue.

So you might say I have a problem, and the problem is that I don’t burn out. At least, this is my worry. If I notice that I’m tired of an activity, I wonder if that means I’ve been tired for a long time, and if I should have just stopped a long time ago. As a result, the way other people discuss burnout, and the way I personally think about it, are incompatible. Whereas other people seek the strength to continue doing something they want to do, I seek the strength to realize that I want to stop.

Aside from the student groups, another thing I have done for a very long time is blogging. I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. No, I’m not about to announce the end of my blogging! I really like blogging, if you couldn’t tell.

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A tumblr ban hot take

Anyone remember that time that Google tried to ban adult content on Blogger, and then took it back three days later?  No?

Tumblr announced that they are banning adult content, starting on December 17.  According to their policy,

Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.

The policy includes additional exceptions for breastfeeding, health-related situations, political speech, and nudity in art.

This morning I saw a lot of doom and gloom about the ban, which I would deem justified.  Most obviously, this hurts sex workers and erotic illustrators, who may be using tumblr as a source of advertising or income, and are now being evicted.  But more broadly, it’s a big concern for fandoms.  Although not all fans are interested in erotic art, fandoms are interconnected communities, and you can’t just excise the adult content without affecting everyone.  It is likely that entire fan communities will just get up and leave.  There is precedent for this in Fanfiction.net and LiveJournal.

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Content granularity

I’ve decided to invent a concept that can be used by bloggers and other content creators. Content granularity is a measure of the size of individual pieces of content (or alternatively, the effort that got put into them). A fine-grained blog produces lots of little pieces of content. A coarse-grained blog produces large pieces of content, usually with lower frequency.

Why is this a useful concept? Because blogs tend towards uniform granularity. Usually, you don’t have a blog that publishes a 2000-word essay, followed up by several 280-character posts. Sometimes, this is because the blogger themself finds mixed-granularity to be aesthetically unpleasing, and this can become a problem if they find themselves unable to write the grand essay that they have come to expect from themselves. So let’s examine this in a bit more detail.

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On blogging networks

As many readers know, I run a group blog, The Asexual Agenda (TAA). Other readers might be aware that I’m on this blogging network called Freethought Blogs (FTB). Still other readers may be aware of other blogging networks like The Orbit, or Skepchick. Have you ever wondered how these blog networks are organized?

This is something that interests me, as a group blog admin. But perhaps nobody else is interested, because I hardly ever see anyone else talk about it. Or perhaps people don’t talk about it because the information is too sensitive. You don’t want to give away information that is potentially embarrassing to other people on the network. Many blogging networks may even have formal rules against disclosing certain information. I myself am limited in what I can say. But there’s some stuff that is public knowledge, at least in principle, so I’ll talk about that.

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10 years of blogging

As of today, I’ve been blogging for 10 years!  Yay!  Time for a retrospective.

I first started reading blogs around 2006, when I started college.  I was a fan of the Bad Astronomy website which had funny material debunking the claim that the moon landing was a hoax, and other skepticism-related stuff.  At some point I found that there was an associated blog called Bad Astronomy Blog.  From there I branched off to other blogs, including The Friendly Atheist, Memoirs of a Skepchick, Pharyngula, and the ScienceBlogs network.1 After reading these for a while, I decided to start my own skeptical/atheist blog.  I called my blog Skeptic’s Play because I was bad at coming up with names.

I came bursting out of the gate, writing original content once per day.  Obviously that wasn’t sustainable, but I think it goes to show that I always had a strong motivation to write, which is probably the most important determinant of long-term success in blogging.

However, it was immediately clear that I wasn’t cut out for skeptical blogging.  To be a good skeptical content creator, you either have to know stuff, research stuff, or else you have to not give a shit and just be entertaining.  I gave a shit, but didn’t give quite enough shit to spend significant amounts of time researching every bullshit claim.  I ended up writing about a lot of low-hanging fruit, like logical fallacies and elementary philosophizing.  I also wrote about physics, math puzzles, and atheism.

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Please don’t pick up the phone

I haven’t entirely been following this, but David Smalley wrote an article saying that petty disagreements were killing the atheist movement. PZ Myers disagreed, and it got hashed out in the Dogma Debate podcast. I have a lot of trouble listening to podcasts, so I mostly heard about it through Trav.

One of Smalley’s points is that we should resolve conflicts more amicably by “picking up the phone”.

Let’s pick up the phone and have conversations when we disagree. If you don’t have their phone number, send them a private message asking to get on Skype to talk it out.

PZ Myers argues that many of our conflicts are too substantial to be resolved over the phone.

My own reaction: calling my phone to talk about an internet disagreement would be hella aggressive. Sending me a private e-mail is also aggressive. I am astounded that people who want more civility sincerely advocate such nasty tactics.
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