Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Questions of Blog Etiquette

by Tom Bozzo

New Year's resolutions were among the dinner conversation topics last night. The first one that sprang to mind for me? In 2005, I will only read blogs that are actually worth reading.

If this were British comedy, at this point Rowan Atkinson would gaze levelly at me, cock an eyebrow, and say, "Ah, so you'll be giving up blog reading, then."

No, not quite. I'd give a favorable nod to, among many others, all of those linked at right.

As a brief digression, I saw about 20 minutes of Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back, bowdlerized for late-night extended basic cable TV (the need to maintain a somewhat sensible bedtime weighed against seeing the whole thing). One more than moderately amusing concept from the introductory scenes was that what really set the eponymous characters off was being subject to the disapprobation of anonymous nerds on the internet.

The sort of blog I have in mind is "Polish Immigrant." I won't even provide a link, lest I abet others in doing what I am resolved to foreswear. It strikes me that withholding links, even disapproving ones, may be worse in the blogiverse than calling the author a "part of the anatomy unique to men."

If you nevertheless a feel need to read ravings about the perfidious French or those unspeakable liberals, please let World O'Crap filter them for you.

(Addendum: Another example is the widely-anticipated Becker-Posner Blog, which is not addictively odious like Polish Immigrant, but instead mistakenly assumes that its eminences grises are interesting independent of what they have to say or how formulaically they say it. It ought to resemble Judge Posner's current guest blogging at Leiter Reports, but doesn't.)

This leads me to wonder what obligations are owed the anonymous or pseudonymous blogger. The Polish Immigrant, as it happens, outed himself by linking a City of Madison property tax record with his name in it. I won't give him the self-Googling pleasure of mentioning it here, but obviously if I felt like doing so, I'd not be violating any explicit or implicit confidence.

The blogroll is, you might have noticed, divided geographically among other ways, with a section in which liberal and not-so-liberal Madisonians, one of whom is not even a lawyer or an aspiring lawyer, are all thrown together. It so happens that another notionally pseudonymous blogrollee recently ran an hilarious series (starting here, scroll up for more) that might affect the classification. I could imagine that the pseudonymity in this case may be an inside joke within some circles — in which I clearly do not operate — but it still seems like a jerkwad thing to report the semi-obvious. What to do?

I also discovered another blog named Marginal Utility, about two months older than this one, decently written (in an almost-no-links personal journal style), the title shared with a column the author writes for an e-zine, PopMatters, that I'd otherwise never heard of. It slipped past my due diligence in titling this one, which was to search the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem and the blogrolls of every economics blog I read. I'm not too inclined to change the name here, though I feel a bit sullied for not having come up with something more original.

Among other coincidences, other "Marginal Utility" author Rob Horning's blogger profile lists among his favorite books Baudrillard's For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. I would not categorize that as a favorite book of mine, but I nevertheless just shipped my own copy to myself from Delaware, along with another 120 lb. or so of books and records that never made it to Madison back in '96 for some reason or other, at what turned out to be breathtaking expense. (What's a mostly orthodox neoclassical economist doing with such a title? Long story.) But a review in PopMatters tells me that the Flatmates records in the shipment will probably make it worth my while.
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