Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

The Daily Libertarian

John Humphries has redone the Australian Libertarian Society website, with feeds from “all the main pro-freedom blogs in Australia”, including mine.

(My various explanations as to why I am not a libertarian have fallen victim to technological gremlins here and at Catallaxy, but there is a remant here. But I am happy with ‘pro-freedom’.)

Update: One of my explanations survives in the National Library archive.

Academic quality control

I’ve had a lot on over the last week and didn’t get to read the report of the Senate inquiry into academic bias until last night.

I was rather surprised to find that my post on the subject, along with comments from Conrad, Leopold, and Andrew Elder in the comments thread, appears to have influenced the majority (ie, Labor) report. They describe my argument that this issue is about the professionalism of staff, and not the academic freedom of students, as a ‘fair summing up of the issue’.

Alas, the minority report from Coalition Senators suggests that the Nelson-Bishop micromanaging mindset is alive and well in the Opposition, recommending that a Charter of Academic Freedoms for students be imposed on universities as a condition of funding. Even if we take all the Liberal student and Young Liberal allegations at face value, we will only have a small number of cases, and as the majority report noted, there is no sign that they have pursued existing avenues of complaint. I can’t see that yet another layer of bureaucracy is needed.

And clearly Coalition Senators have not have learnt their lesson on political donations, proposing that universities now be caught in the disclosure net, with universities required to reveal donations over an unspecified level. This seems to be in response to a complaint from Jewish organisations about Arab funding of research centres. But I can think of at least one instance in which this rule would have stood in the way of an 8-figure sum being donated for medical research.

The lack of external quality control of courses and teaching at universities is an issue, but it needs to be approached carefully and systematically, rather than creating yet more ad hoc rules which cause more problems than they solve.

Where I was not the lone classical liberal

Apologies for the infrequent blogging of the past few weeks. I’ve been wandering North America – San Francisco, LA, Chicago (including a trip to the University of Chicago, where I certainly would not be the lone classical liberal), Toronto and Montreal – and decided to take a break from blogging, though I could not resist on a couple of occasions.

Of course I have come home to a mountain of work, leave from work being part holiday, part rescheduling. I will resume regular blogging shortly, but it will probably still be light for the next week or so.

Who reads political blogs?

According to the Australia Election Survey, the proportion of people looking at political blogs during the election campaign increased nearly fourfold between 2004 and 2007. But large growth from a miniscule base still leaves us with a tiny audience of just 2.7% of the AES sample. YouTube had attracted twice as many people in search of campaign material.

With only 50 political blog readers captured in the AES, it’s too small a sample to analyse blog readers with any confidence. But looking at the characteristics of that 50 there are few surprises.

30% of our 50 had done some work for a party or candidate. Only 25% voted Liberal in 2007 (slightly below the proportion who gave their party ID as Liberal). Many of the others were serious Howard haters, with more than half the sample rating their feelings about John Howard at 1 or 2 on a scale that ran from 1 ‘Strongly dislike’ to 10 ‘Strongly like’. They were more than twice as likely to feel that way about the former PM than the sample as a whole. By contrast, no readers of political blogs seriously disliked Rudd, compared to about 8% of the sample as a whole.

As we would expect, younger AES respondents were well represented among blog readers, with about a quarter born in the 1980s. However, the rest were fairly evenly spread among the decades going back to the 1940s. They were slightly more likely than the general population to have attended a private school.

The only result that did surprise me was that there was gender balance. The political blogosphere, both among bloggers and commenters, seems to me to be a very male place – perhaps even more male dominated than mainstream politics. Maybe there are many female lurkers out there. It would be good to get a large enough survey that we could find out.

Bah

The move has not been successful; or at least, not very smooth.

The original plan was to fold andrewnorton.info into the parent installation, but two days of fighting like cats and dogs with WordPress has taken about a year off my life.

Anyway, I’ve put Andrew’s site on a standalone installation for the moment. At least it’s nice and quick and the URLs look nicer.

Changes

As Andrew’s longtime webhost I thought I should let you all know I’ll be moving this site to a new server in the coming week.

Andrew has been volunteered by yours truly to be the first guinea pig for a blogging service I am putting together aimed at Australian bloggers. This is not quite an official announcement as I am still ironing out various tedious kinks, but in the coming weeks and months I hope to bring some more ozbloggers on board before opening it up to the public.

You will almost certainly experience disruption as a consequence. Probably the biggest change you’ll see is that the /blog/ hanging off the URL will get dropped, as it’s vestigial. Existing links should continue to work as I will be putting a redirection script in place to handle the required black magic.

Another thing that will probably happen is that I will have to disable comments while dumping and reloading the database, to ensure nobody’s gems go missing in the transition.

That’s it for now. See you all on the other side.

Pick the odd name out

Alasdair Macintyre, Colin McGinn, Andrew Norton, Martha Nussbaum, … John Searle, Peter Singer

– from the contributors list in the 1st quarter 2008 issue of The Philosophers’ Magazine

Philosophically-inclined readers will realise that this is a case of a peasant mixing with the intellectual aristocracy, thanks to the egalitarian institution of alphabetical listing. I’m there at all because of my exchange of letters with Alan Soble over The Peel’s door policy, which in turn came about because someone at The Philosophers’ Magazine found this post from May. As I said earlier this month, I don’t think that debate went as well the public school debate with Andrew Leigh, but both seemed to have picked up audiences I would not normally get.

Bloggish debate concludes, comments open

Andrew Leigh and I weren’t sure how our ‘bloggish debate’ on whether public schools should be privatised would go. Can you transport an old-media leisurely exchange of views to an instant feedback forum?

The posts, with comments off, did seem to lie dead on the page. They did not give me my blogging fix, or I suspect the fix of the regular commenters who didn’t want a week off from arguing among themselves – I had to write other things during the week (Andrew L restrained himself, but he has more of a life than I do).

But the idea of a bloggish debate seemed novel enough that we received far more links from other blogs than was otherwise likely, if we had we each written what we wrote separately. We even hit one of the big American blogs, Marginal Revolution, which for the first time knocked off Google to become the largest single source of referrals to my blog. My daily traffic this week has been about 40% higher than my long-term average, despite the closed comments, so overall the experiment has to be classed a success.

I’m not sure that I would make a habit of it though. I found writing it harder than writing a normal blog post, because it is more difficult to make the structure work: the challenge was to make a coherent case of my own while still responding to what Andrew was saying. It was easier in this case than my gay bar door policy debate, where the exchange went off on a tangent immediately and I had to simply ignore what Alan Soble was saying to get it back to what I wanted to argue. But the two Andrews debate still required more thinking about structure than normal for a short piece of work. It would have been impossible with comments open and many more threads to deal with.

If it worked for readers, it was perhaps because he and I were capable of having a discussion. With Soble, I was on such a different intellectual wavelength that there was little common ground on which to engage. What do you do with someone who thinks that he, sitting in Philadelphia, is better able to judge how lesbians in The Peel behave than The Peel’s owner? With Andrew, I have some ideological disagreements, but we have common views about what counts as evidence.

Anyway, I’m interested in people’s thoughts on both the format and the substantive issues. Comments are open on all the ‘bloggish debate’ posts.

A bloggish debate

As Andrew Leigh explains, this week we are trying something a little different, what he calls a ‘bloggish debate’. He mentions Slate‘s Breakfast Table as a model, but the exchange of letters has long been used by print publications in the same or subsequent issues to debate issues. Prospect runs debates , as does Philosophers’ Magazine, where my debate with Alan Soble on whether gay bars should be able to keep out women and straights is to appear.

Andrew and I will discuss a rather more important issue than a gay bar’s door policy, whether public schools should be privatised. The same material will appear on both blogs. I’m going to turn comments off as we post on alternate days, and then open them when we are finished.

The Interpreter

The Lowy Institute now has its own blog, The Interpreter, edited by my friend Sam Roggeveen.