Wednesday, 18 November 2015

anniversary faults

I first heard about blogs and blogging in 2007 or 2008, and I thought at the time that I’d like to try. But where to begin? And, more importantly, how? Adverts from Blogspot had been appearing on my Gmail page, but when I checked one out, I soon discovered that I would have to pay to participate. I lost interest immediately.

Then, towards the end of 2009, I received an email from an old school friend telling me that he’d just started a blog, and, knowing my interest in writing, suggesting that I do so too. Blogspot had been taken over by Google by this time, and it was now free. Why not, I thought. It might provide an incentive to do some serious writing.

My first post on this blog appeared precisely six years ago today and was a piece I’d written for the forum on Richard Dawkins’ website, where the audience of rabid atheists failed utterly to realize that far from advocating the existence of God, I was making a serious environmental point. Hardly anyone has read it.

I persevered though, and I managed to post sixty-nine items in the first six months. I must have been doing something right, because more and more people were signing up to follow my blog, and most posts were attracting quite a few comments. Unfortunately, I made a big mistake here: it didn’t occur to me that perhaps I should be replying to these comments, although in my defence I often commented on other people’s blogs, yet I never went back to see whether the blogger in question had posted a reply.

While I’d be the first to admit that most of my posts have been fairly trivial, there are a handful that I’m pleased to have written and would not have written without the ability to publish them somewhere, even if that somewhere is only this blog. Here are five essays that I think constitute what my son Tristan used to call ‘a good read’ and that I hope you will check out if you’ve not already done so:

Explanations—I consider this to be my best post. In it, I discuss the four ways in which natural phenomena can be explained (religion, philosophy, science, art).

Comparative Advantage—This is my assessment of whether India or China will become the hegemonic power when the United States eventually slips from this position.

I, Robot—If you think building a robot that replicates all the functions of a human being is just around the corner, then you need to read this. Such a task is far harder than you think.

Future Imperfect—I’m pessimistic about the future of the human race, and here’s why.

Black Music of the 1960s—All my posts about popular music have been well received, but this is the one that attracted the most enthusiastic response.

Overall, my blog has changed significantly since I started it. Until the accident that left me with a badly damaged knee, the emphasis was on what I think, but since then the focus has been on what I do. I’d like to start reversing this trend, and I do have some idea of what I want to write about in the coming months, but it would be unwise of me to be more specific at this stage.

Part of the reason for this reluctance is the way the blogging environment has changed in the past few years. Or is it simply that this blog is no longer worth reading? Overall, my average number of views per post has dropped sharply since 2013. Very few of my posts are commented on nowadays, and nobody signs up as a follower. I don’t mind the latter, because I find the idea of having followers rather embarrassing, but I do miss the comments, which I always reply to now. I do get the message though: blogs are passé. The social media world has moved on, and the emphasis is on microblogging sites like Twitter, which despite its self-styled sobriquet has nothing to do with blogging. People just think it does.

Finally, I’ve been looking through the photos I’ve taken in the past six years but not used on the blog, and I’ve selected two: a serious contender for the ugliest building in the world (or is it the blast from the muzzle of a cannon?); and a brazier in which paper money can be burned (or is it a strange metallic creature with a funny hat?). Both were taken in Macau in 2010.


  1. Our thinking and ways of doing things do change over time as our wisdom grows. Let's keep writing to satisfy our hunches and interests in life.

    1. I’m not sure that my wisdom grows over time. In fact, I’m not sure I had any to begin with. But I will keep on writing: it's too late to stop now.

  2. Hello Dennis,
    As with all these things, you have to persist before you get an audience, and it's very good that you had the patience for this. Many people start a blog, then give up after a few weeks on finding that no-one's read it. I don't think the "following" system is working: I haven't had a new follower for ages, but I'm still averaging a couple of thousand hits a month. I agree that Facebook & Twitter are inferior, but useful for keeping in touch with lots of people: again, you have to be patient in order to attract followers.

    1. Hi Peter
      I appreciate your encouragement. I get a similar number of page views a month, and it baffles me why some posts do well while others seem to be ignored. The majority of my most popular posts do still get a few hits every month, but other posts disappear from the radar completely. I don’t think it’s a question of the follower system not working though. It’s merely that times have changed.


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