I’ve been using WordPress for this and my other blogs since I started them, but I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to use for the style of blogging I do. They keep changing the posting interface, I guess to move in a direction more like social media, so that you have less control and fewer options, which drives me crazy. For a while they at least offered an option to go back to the old interface, but that seems to be gone now, or at least I can’t find it. I guess this is all symptomatic of the way the internet has moved on from the kind of blogging I’m used to, but it seems like there should be some options for people who want to write at greater length with more control over formatting and so forth than is typical of Tumblr or whatever. It’s frustrating.
Edit: And now that I’ve complained about that, it appears that the old interface is available when editing posts, at least, so that’s something. Still, annoying.
I know it’s been conventional wisdom for a while that Yglesias has gone downhill since moving to Slate, but he seems to be reaching new lows. He’s now done two columns that are literally just him going to a random JCPenney and looking at stuff. He adds in some very superficial analysis of what his observations imply about the company’s various changes of strategic direction, but this is just astonishingly shoddy stuff. There are so many uncontrolled variables that this isn’t anywhere near useful as serious research, and it’s too boring to even be entertaining as fluffy journalism. It’s unfortunate, because well-done business journalism can be really interesting, and Yglesias is a very talented writer who can be very entertaining when he tries. This is in addition to all his other recent missteps, most grievously his horribly tone-deaf post on the factory collapse in Bangladesh and equally tone-deaf response to all the people who criticized him for it. Overall, it’s increasingly looking like his future is as an increasingly marginal contrarian safely ensconced at Slate but not otherwise very influential.
I find this especially unfortunate because he seemed to have so much potential. He’s always had problems with glibness and superficiality, and I disagree strongly with some of his long-held beliefs on certain issues, but he’s a very smart guy and a good writer, and overall I agree with both his overall approach to policy and his positions on most issues (including important but under-discussed ones like local land-use regulation). For a while it seemed like he was a rising star who would go on to greater influence and learn enough in the process to overcome his lack of real-world knowledge of stuff, but his move to Slate seems to have disrupted that trajectory and now he’s on a different and less promising path. Oh well.
So I just got back from the big ten-year anniversary shindig for Unfogged, held in DC over the weekend. It was pretty great. I met some new people and saw a lot of people I had met at earlier meetups, and it was a nice break from my ordinary routine. Unfogged has been a big presence in my life over the past few years, and while I’ve been ambivalent about certain aspects of it from time to time I don’t know what I would have done without it. This weekend was a nice opportunity to celebrate and reflect.
Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, this interesting Gizmodo piece describes the problems with Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr. I’ve been on Flickr for quite a few years now, though it was already owned by Yahoo when I signed up in 2006 so I can’t really say anything from experience about the initial transition. I definitely haven’t been using it much recently, certainly much less than I used to, with Facebook filling the role it used to play for me in most respects. I was never all that involved in the social aspects of the site except as they overlapped with blog stuff, so I haven’t noticed the steep decline in social use that Gizmodo describes, but I don’t doubt that it reflects a real shift to other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s interesting to see how these sites rise and fall. I sure wouldn’t want to have to predict what will happen to any of them a few years out.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, Brian Switek has an interesting article on what we know (and don’t know) about the sex lives of dinosaurs, as well as a blog post looking at the possible role of the crests on hadrosaurs such as Parasaurolophus in all this. Interesting stuff, although I for one would like to hear more about the role of chai tea and Scrabble.
When I was a dinosaur-obsessed kid growing up in Albuquerque in the nineties, I used to spend a lot of time at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. There, in the main exhibit hall for dinosaur bones, there were a few mounted casts of full skeletons and a smaller display case to the side showing a few vertebrae of what was said to be possibly the biggest dinosaur of them all: Seismosaurus, which had been discovered in New Mexico only a few years before and was still being prepared and studied. This was a big deal at the time, at least locally, and I had wondered over the years whatever became of it. Now Brian Switek has the answer with an interesting post explaining how it was determined that Seismosaurus was actually smaller than initially thought and therefore not a new species but just an unusually large Diplodocus. The picture illustrating his post shows the fully mounted Seismosaurus skeleton in that same exhibit hall, which seems to have been substantially changed since I last saw it, and a post he links to with more details confirms that the full skeleton was mounted in 2004. A bit disappointing compared to the hype when it was first found, but interesting nonetheless.
I don’t know why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to read this thread. Reading blog comments usually just upsets me, and this time was no exception. What I do find interesting, however, is that while almost every comment in the thread upset me, in almost every case it was for a different reason. I guess that’s the sign of a thoughtful, interesting blog these days.
Update: Looking back at it again, “almost every” is definitely an overstatement. There are plenty of good comments in that thread. Still plenty of maddening ones too, though.
So, Unfogged is down, and no one seems to known what’s wrong or when it’ll be fixed. In the meantime, feel free to use this thread for Mineshaft-style conversation.
I’ve had many disputes with John Emerson over the years, but I’m very much in favor of this idea of his. Personally I think I’m much too bourgeois to go for the full bohemian version, but I can definitely see myself supporting myself with a non-academic middle-class job of some sort and doing research on the side. Blogging, as a medium with both low barriers to entry and minimal distribution costs, seems like it will be enormously useful in this context.