James Q. Wilson Explains Thoughtful Blogging

James Q. Wilson has been guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy. (If you don’t know who he is, his Bureaucracy is a political science classic, and you or your kids likely use[d] his textbook for AP US Government.) While there, he has more or less summarized the difference between academic rigor and the blogosphere (he is guest-blogging on crime and imprisonment, hence the specific):

Can I Be a Meaningful Blogger?
A lot of readers have suggested that I am not a helpful blogger because I refer people to other studies for data to support my arguments. These critics are probably right. Were I devoted to blogging full time, I would quote all the data and summarize all of the studies, thereby getting nothing else done. I had assumed when I started my blog messages that people would pause, think, and look up facts. A few have, but most seem to have opinions they like to express quickly. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it doesn’t advance knowledge. Let me join the opinion parade by offering a few of my own: This country imprisons too many people on drug charges with little observable effect. A better solution can be found in Hawaii, where a judge uses his powers to keep drug users in treatment programs (it’s called Project Hope; look it up). The costs of crime are hard to measure (so are the costs of confinement). The reader who does not want to drive five miles to find the book, Prison State, that discusses this in detail is wasting my time and his. It is not hard to study deterring crime, but I can’t imagine trying to teach someone in a blog how to do a regression analysis. I wish I could do that, but it would take time, and blog commenters seem not to have much time.

Now for a few more facts, but I warn you that to believe my assertions you will actually have to go out and read something. [snip]

This is not a shot at y’all, since you have seen the academic rigor that applies to my ramblings. I just enjoy the “you’re really not playing in the same league as me.” A respected designer posts some thoughtful comments on game balance, and the comments thread descends into a battle of whether WoW suxx0rs. A professor posts in his field of expertise, and “Tyrant King Porn Dragon” responds while goofing off at work. Posting your opinion is fun and all, but there is only so much point in talking with people who won’t do the Bayesian updating.

: Zubon

And yeah, he could stand to include more links.

3 thoughts on “James Q. Wilson Explains Thoughtful Blogging”

  1. Silly me. And here I thought blogging was a way to pass time, catch up on some recent news, pick up the occasional insight, be they serendipitious or blog-topic-linked, and share opinions in a conversational manner, while realizing there’s other people like us (and the opposite) on the intarweb.

    Oh noes, I’m doing it wrong! :(

  2. I’d say only that the blogosphere is not the place for advancing knowledge; rather, it is the place for advancing thought.

  3. As Jeff Freeman’s blog states: If I had something to say I’d put up a web page. This is a blog.

    Anyways meaningful is subjective. Meaningful to me is:

    1. A real person. Almost always the case with MMO bloggers.
    2. A real opinion. Not something in line with an editor or editing staff.
    3. Real mistakes. Bloggers make stupid mistakes (see #1). Those that correct themselves, I come back to read again.

    Those three advance my knowledge farther than any piece of academia that I am supposed to accept as fact. Truth is, evidence can be found to support any idea. Give me a real opinion, structured in a coherent manner and I’ll find meaning in it.

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