Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Deric, a vacation, and thinking about MindBlog-opps!

(NOTE - somehow the comments got turned off for this post initially, I'm grateful to a reader for pointing this out to me.)
I will be in Mexico for a week, starting Wednesday May 23, to attend my son's wedding, and am uncertain whether it will be practical to continue doing blog postings. This potential hiatus makes me pause for a moment to mull over how this whole blog trip is going. I am a relative newbie to the business, having started this up in Febuary of 2006. On reading about the blog phenomenon in the New York Times, I thought to myself "Here I am doing all this reading and scanning about mind and brain stuff for my own pleasure, and also to prepare the occasional lecture...I might as well make the small extra effort of putting it online in case others are interested." I meant it to be an optional, casual activity. I also meant it to be fun, i.e. , not like work. For a retired academic type, with major obsessive compulsive tendencies, that is easier said than done. I've become addicted to the daily ritual, as well as paying the Feedburner.com site a few bucks a month to show me that by now that there are approximately 170 daily subscriptions to the site's RSS feed, and 350-400 views of individual postings (this is more people that I was reaching in my live university lectures). I have no idea how this compares with other sites out there that deal with similar stuff (and there are a lot of them - I don't look at them that much because I'm too busy reading the new material I find in the literature...).

I do get the occasional email and comment - there have been a few "thank you for doing this" emails that I really appreciated - but in general I'm surprised at how little feedback there is. I scratch my head and think, "I guess this thing is keeping me off the streets; yet, is it worth the energy I'm putting into it? Would getting out of the lockstep of two posts/day increase the perceived fun/work ratio and open up time for more thoughtful writing?" No resolution on any of this.... but, I thought I would put down these wandering thoughts. Comments welcomed.


  1. I wouldn't worry too much about people not leaving comments.
    There are a lot of "silent" readers out there who don't feel it necessary to comment on posts.
    Hell - I read your blog eagerly every day - and would love to discuss some of the topics - but am just too busy working and posting on my own blog ;-).

    Please do continue blogging - it's the best way to give the world a lasting legacy of one's own view of a certain topic.

  2. Same here Deric. I read hundreds of weblogs including about 12 classed as "brain". I enjoy your posts, especially the short reviews of papers and your piano works (The wide-shot on your most recent is nice.)

    This post prompted me to explore a little more and I look forward to reading your articles and lectures. That suggests that you try some more interactive posts to engage your subscribers.

    Keep it up! And have great fun in Mexico!


  3. You're just hitting cyberpuberty...or the terrible twos...or some other nearly ineluctable stage a lot of bloggers go through. People do peter out. Others metamorphose. I don't know what decides it. At first I only commented at others' blogs, since I had no autobiographical urges, but it disappointed me that I never seemed to engage anybody else in dialog, and I hypothesized that was partly because I commented under "anonymous" and so could never establish myself as a regular. So I got a "login," but that automatically generated a "profile" page on blogger, and I decided that made me look conscientiously antisocial, because I said nothing about myself on my profile (see above) and I had no blog. There was nothing left to do but claim a Web page and post things too it. But my posts appeared unpredictably and at intervals averaging long apart, which makes my blog experiment different than what's typical. Anyway, I'm in the (at least) intermittently petered out category, which I think is largely dissatisfaction with the amount and quality of the interactions that result. I asked an intellectual cyberpal why he thought people didn't engage with my posts, and he offered that people comment mostly to object or patch omissions, so if you post something unobjectionable and thorough, you ought not to expect much in reply, no matter what a wonder and a pleasure it might be to read--at least regarding the realm of ideas (the soap opera/reality tv show that is your life is another thing). I think that's right and that it's because composing anything long and at all self-standing is to a commenter's greater glory if he or she posts it on his or her own page (do you read other people's comments on the blogs you visit?)...hence the phenomenon and seeming importance of the "trackback." Also I imagine there are self-conscious concerns that make the opportunity to comment unappealing--as you would have to know if you've taught large undergraduate courses and called out for questions. Your blog discloses that its author is an eminent scientist and author. I imagine that muffles some urges to mouth off. My blog doesn't offer any kind credentials for its author, but my intellectual pretenses and access to at least a few expert-sounding words must come through...as does my willingness to argue--wryly and with sarcasm--all the live long day, which also probably causes would-be commenters to think twice. Anyway, I don't think many people like Marvin Minsky or Noam Chomsky are out here surfing the blogs. I got second-hand scintilla of positive feedback from Richard Posner once, but that's only because I spammed him with a post I was so proud of that I found it conceivable that it would interest him, given an interest of his. I wouldn't have such chutzpah under my real name though. Anyway...I've been paying regular visits here and appreciate not only the posts in themselves but my sense of the interests and perspective and knowledge the items are filtering through to wear the MindBlog label. Thanks!

  4. Anonymous2:41 AM

    IMO, it would be a pity to stop posting. I discovered this blog few months ago and it provided me with some interesting and insightful food for thoughts. I particularly enjoyed the posts concerning the Mirror-Neurons and the Theory of Mind which are more closely related to what I am doing (research on partner modeling in HCI). However I could also understand the reflexion about the ritualistic way to blog and the compulsive tendencies it can involve (I share the doubts). Just to say that I really enjoy this blog and hope you will continue posting and sharing your experience.

  5. Same thing for me – out of all brain-blogs I check daily, yours is top three: up-to-date topics and a profound perspective.

    Thank you from Germany!

  6. Anonymous5:55 AM

    I agree with Matthias. I am one of those silent readers. Your blog is one of the few I check on a daily basis and I find it most useful and interesting (it is actually my starting page when I open my browser).

    So yes, please, continue blogging!

  7. Anonymous7:20 AM

    This blog is one of my all time favorites, please continue with it! :)

    Comments are few and far between on any professional blog.

  8. Deric

    Thank you for your blog which I found doing a Google search for Theory of Mind blogs.

    My search is for experience from older people who like me seem to have missed the essential ToM experience as a child.

    My own housetrained.blogspot.com is autobiographical and relates anything of note in my own daily life to my understanding of ToM.

    Steven Mithen of Reading (UK) University gave a seminar at Sussex Uni suggesting that we took maybe 2m years to develop ToM. Steven's Prehistory of the Mind made a lot of sense.

    Then I fell across Judith Rich Harris's No Two Alike in which she suggested life experience for those who lived within that period.

    Her commentary the modular mind and
    on parenting in that context gave me such a buzz and brought me up to date. My only regret is that I'm an old man shunted into the
    sidings and have little chance to talk this through hence my blog

    I'm encouraged by the memory
    of an old man, Frank Coffin his name, a farm worker who still came to work when there was a chance to do something useful. He spoke of wearing our rather than rusting out.