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.