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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blogs and Comments

I have a general "rule" that I don't bother to read any blog that doesn't have comments. The blogosphere is a big place, with gazillions of excellent blogs, so I figure I might as well frequent those where I can interact with that blog's community, if I so choose (though, due to time constraints, I rarely do). I do make several exceptions to my rule, however, and there's a different reason for each exception, and I think those reasons are somewhat interesting.

I read Instapundit because it allows me to skip reading news. If anything important happens in the world, I feel that I would find out about it at least as fast by scanning Instapundit as I would if I read the various news sites.

Left2Right was an interesting blog for awhile. The bloggers there were attempting to reach out to the Right in order to increase the ratio of dialogue to diatribe, or something like that. Unfortunately, after just a few months of not making much progress convincing anyone on the Right of anything, and being subjected to malicious comment spam, they "temporarily" shut down comments last summer. In order to provide a forum for continued comments during the "temporary" shut down, I created a comments blog called Left2RightComments with supporting scripts that automatically scanned Left2Right for new posts and created a parallel post with comments enabled. Unfortunately, the frequency of posts at Left2Right has become extremely limited and they've never reintroduced support for their own comments. I would stop supporting the Left2RightComments blog as well, since there is very little activity anymore, but it would take more effort to disable the scripts than to just do nothing, so that site is still operational. Since there is technically a forum for comments for each post, I guess reading Left2Right posts doesn't really violate my rule. I was considering creating comments blogs for sites like Instapundit and Powerline, but I'm afraid I would end up having to moderate the comments for those blogs and I don't have time (if anybody is interested in giving it a shot, let me know).

Brothers Judd is my latest disappointment. While there supposedly are comments at Brothers Judd, they are very carefully controlled, so that it's not a real comment forum at all. Orrin Judd allows comments that either support his general viewpoints, or that have a contradictory viewpoint but are silly or stupid (so that they make liberals seems silly and stupid). In my experience, comments that don't fit into one of those two categories are often deleted. For example, the last two comments of mine in the following sequence were intentionally deleted (confirmed by email with Orrin) (oj is Orrin Judd):

Bret:

Name a people who's ever benefitted from population decline?

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 04:01 PM

---

Well, for example, I believe the black death which hit Western Europe in the mid 1300s and greatly reduced the population (especially in the cities) accelerated and extended the renaissance which, of course, led to modern times. It did so, I believe, by increasing the productive capital (farm land, infrastructure in the cities, etc.) per person, with that wealth enabling a portion of the populace to pursue science and technology.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 04:22 PM

---

Bret:
That's not population decline but a natural disaster. Wars too have little long term effect. The conscious decision to decline demographically is never reversed.
Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 04:52 PM

---

Oh, I see, we're playing the oj definitional game again. If we asked 100 people on the street what "population decline" meant, I'd bet at least 90 of them would say any reduction in population would qualify.

But, ok, I'm curious. Which examples of "population decline" did you have in mind? Any with an actual reduction in population? Or all they all declining in some other sense?

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 05:01 PM

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Bret:

Yes, not many folks, particularly you, grasp demographics.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 05:22 PM

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What's hard to understand about "population decline". If the replacement rate is greater than 2.1 and there's a disaster that kills 50% of the people---then the population takes a drop down but continues upward at the same slope, just from a new lower base. Kinda like the stock market.

If the replacement rate is 1.5 or any number significantly less than 2, then the population size is on a downward slope and shrinks exponentially with each generation.

To paraphrase Jim Cramer, "it's where the number is going that counts".

Posted by: ray at February 13, 2006 07:17 PM

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Bret, Europe may indeed live longer than OJ, but it won't live longer than his great-grandchildren. I don't think you have a good intuitive grasp for what happens when you are on the righthand side of an exponential curve. It drifts slowly, gently, but gradually steeper and steeper----and then suddenly it goes vertical.

Posted by: ray at February 13, 2006 07:22 PM

---

ray:

Secularists measure things by their own life spans.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 07:53 PM

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Ray,
Nope. First, the 2.1 number you cite is not constant. It's based on life expectancy, which during my renaissance example was much, much shorter. Second, the "disaster that kills 50% of the people" in that case, took decades. In other words, it wasn't like a tsunami. The reduction in population (which most english speaking people would consider a "population decline") was pretty slow - a few percent a year. It was rough, but when it ended, it spawned the modern age.

As far as "where the number is going" for the western european population, the long term trend is up. There will be at most a relatively short (a century or two max) downward blip before it stabilizes or heads back up.

Posted by: Bret at February 14, 2006 12:08 AM

---

Ray,

Regarding your 2nd post at 7:22 PM. You've (sort of) described what an exponential curve with a POSITIVE exponent looks like. A growing population has a positive exponent, a shrinking population (I would usually say a "population decline", but I don't want to be misunderstood by oj), has a NEGATIVE exponent, and such curves DO NOT go "vertical" on the right hand side. They are "vertical" on the left side and then flatten out asymptotically on the right.

As an example, consider a birthrate of 1.5 children per woman with the replacement rate of 2.1 that you seem to like and a generational timespan of 30 years (since they don't have children until they're fairly old in Europe). Then, every 30 years, after reaching steady state, the population will shrink to 1.5/2.1 times as large as it was. 1.5/2.1 = 0.71.

The population of France is currently about 60 million. The following would be the future population of France predicted by the above numbers:

2005 60 million
2035 43 million
2065 31 million
2095 16 million
2125 11 million
2155 8 million
2185 5.7 million
2215 4.1 million
2245 2.9 million
2275 2.1 million
2305 1.5 million

So after 300 years, they'll still have more than 1.5 million people. That's probably more people than there were in France in biblical times. Keep in mind that the 8 million in the 2155 is roughly the same population France had in the year 1500, when the renaissance swept Europe, and at that point, they'll have a population density more similar to that of what the United States has now.

So this exponential trend won't get really worrisome for hundreds of years. By which time the trend will reverse.

Posted by: Bret at February 14, 2006 01:12 AM
The deleted comments are pretty tame, I think, and well supported with actual numbers. And they took me some time to put together. Since I don't have time to waste, no more commenting for me at Brothers Judd.

However, Orrin does a great job at excerpting the money grafs from a few dozen headline articles from numerous papers around the world - so I'll still be reading Brothers Judd and heartily recommend that portion of it, at least for now.

21 comments:

Oroborous said...

It's interesting that you chose to highlight this particular thread at BrosJudd - I had thought that it tied in nicely with your "They are Doomed!!!" post below, and tried to comment, but the comment was rejected.

This is it:

[In absolute terms] France is getting richer and will continue to get richer, perhaps mostly by riding on [American] coattails. That's not decline, that's making material progress less quickly.
[From a comment that you made at BrosJudd, that isn't reproduced in your post here].

While the latter half of the 21st century may (or may well not) be kind to France, their current economic/demographic/immigrant situation makes it extremely likely that during most of the first half of the 21st century, France WILL suffer actual, objective, absolute economic decline, and that per-capita, the French in 2030 will be LESS well-off, in real terms, than they are now.

Their national debt will grow rapidly, but their GNP will be at best stagnant, and almost certainly will fall nearly every year in real terms, between 2010 and 2030.
A steadily-rising debt, combined with a steadily-reduced ability to service it, is A Very Bad Thing.

Just ask GM.

###

So. Orrin.
He is a curious cat, alright.

I agree that there's no readily apparent reason why he deleted the comments that you made, they did indeed seem innocuous, and even educational.

However, I've had some very robust disagreements with him, and have never had any comments altered or deleted.
The trick, it seems to me, is to not comment on the threads where he posts about those subjects that he cares most deeply about.

Orrin is deeply irrational.
I don't mean that he's crazy, but rather that he operates almost solely by intuition.
He decides whether or not he agrees with something, and then that's it, no further amount of persuasive argument, logic, or opposing facts will sway him.

I probably would have given up his blog long ago, except...
He does have a knack for finding interesting tid-bits, and highlighting inobvious connections.

His blog has also attracted a regular group of well-written, highly knowledgeable commentators that is second to none, including sites with paid columnists.

I guess that the bottom line for me is that even though Orrin is infuriating, he's talented at plucking choice bits from the overwhelming volume of new information that's presented daily, and then the stable of commentors often add something of value, or help to place the info in context.

Those things are very valuable to me, and over the years I've learned as much from BrosJudd as I ever did in college, and at a far lower cost.

Oroborous said...

You might also want to check out www.lonbud.com

Lonbud never alters or deletes comments, and I've had some interesting and robust discussions there.

It's an interesting site, if you want to gain insight into the thought processes of the Far Left - otherwise, not so much.

Bret said...

Oroborous,

I can certainly understand why your analysis leads you to the conclusion that France will have negative GDP per capital growth between 2010 and 2030. Indeed, I would agree except that I think that accelerating technological innovation will benefit the French (and everybody else) in spite of themselves faster than the decline due to their less than optimal political/economic/demographic/debt/immigrant situation. I don't have all that much confidence in my belief, so you may well be right. We'll probably live till 2030 so we'll get to see it for ourselves.

You mentioned that you had a comment rejected. Was that here at this blog? If so, any idea why it was rejected?

As I mentioned in the post, I do intend to keep reading Brothers Judd, because it's hard to beat for information density. I've just given up on the comments. He's deleted other comments I've made as well, also equally tame. I don't have the energy (or really the interest) to figure out what his deletion formula is. All the more time for me to spend commenting at the Daily Duck!!!

I'll try reading lonbud for a while. Thanks for the link.

Oroborous said...

No, the comment was attempted to be posted at BrosJudd, in the thread that you posted about here.

Re: France, et al., I certainly hope that you're right.
It's very possible.

It might come down to culture and chance. Out of a group of very similarly-situated nations, some might gently prosper, and some slowly decline, and if so it'll probably be difficult to pinpoint exactly why.

One factor is that as most European nations shift hard towards a grey populace, and the burden on the younger generations gets more pronounced, the incentive for the most capable and productive among them to emigrate gets much larger.

While I don't know how strongly that will affect their economic growth, it clearly won't be good.

Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

I had the good fortune to read your posts before they were deleted -- thanks for taking the time, as I certainly got a lot out of them.

Also, I completely agree that technological innovation will prevent any country in the world from experiencing absolute material decline over any appreciable period.

Oroborous:

His blog has also attracted a regular group of well-written, highly knowledgeable commentators that is second to none, including sites with paid columnists.

Absolutely true, but it nearly defies explanation.

I have been posting at BrosJudd since around 1992, and it contains practically 100% of all my posting ever.

Until June last year, he never, so far as I could tell, deleted or altered posts.

Since then, things have been entirely different.

Sadly.

creeper said...

Bret,

"In order to provide a forum for continued comments during the "temporary" shut down, I created a comments blog called Left2RightComments with supporting scripts that automatically scanned Left2Right for new posts and created a parallel post with comments enabled."

If it's not too much trouble, could you point me to some information about how you accomplished this?

It seems that Orrin has gone into full DaveScot (of the 'Uncommon Descent' blog) mode and is now simply deleting ALL (very tame, civil, and supported by facts and logic) comments that don't parrot his own.

creeper said...

Jeff,

"I have been posting at BrosJudd since around 1992"

Do you mean 2002?

Bret said...

Hey Skipper,
So what happened in June that caused Orrin to start deleting things?

Ali Choudhury said...

I knew Harry and Jeff were posting a lot less because of their comments being edited, didn't realise it was this bad.

Ali Choudhury

Bret said...

creeper,
I wrote a perl script that does the following:
1. Requests the headers from Left2Right and checks the modification time (this requires very little bandwidth).
2. If the modification time is more recent than the last checked time, get the current Left2Right text.
3. Parse the text and look for all of the titles of the posts.
4. If there is a new title, parse the entry associated with that title, and create a new blog entry on Left2RightComments (using the blogspot API) using some of the information from the parsed Left2Right entry (title, date, etc.).
5. Create a trackback to the new Left2RightComments post from the Left2Right post (requires yet more parsing of the Left2Right entry).

When my computer boots, it automatically runs the perl scripts every 5 minutes.

If you have a familiarity with perl, I'd be happy to send the script to you. The whole thing is only 178 lines long. It obviously would need to be customized to parse the particular site you wanted to do this for.

I was actually thinking it would be an interesting business opportunity. If you did this successfully for a site like instapundit, you could get perhaps millions of hits per day and make a little something off of blogads and donations. Using blogspot to host it wouldn't work because (a) it's too slow for that volume and (b) there's not enough capability to control comment spam (which could quickly become overwhelming). I think you'd have to lease a dedicated server and do a far amount of hacking to make a go of it. An intermediate step would be to get some practice with a mid volume blog like powerline. Blogspot would probably be adequate for that.

Oroborous said...

[T]echnological innovation will prevent any country in the world from experiencing absolute material decline over any appreciable period.

While that seems like a useful rule of thumb, it's not without exception.
Just because a useful technology is available doesn't mean that it will be widely adopted in any given country.

Further, Japan is a VERY technologically advanced nation, and they HAVE experienced an absolute per-capita material decline over the past fifteen years.

There will almost surely be more Japans in the future.
Russia, for instance.

Bret said...

Oroborous wrote: "Further, Japan is a VERY technologically advanced nation, and they HAVE experienced an absolute per-capita material decline over the past fifteen years."

Are you sure about that? According to OECD statistics, Japan's average real GDP growth was 1.22% per year between 1992 and 2005, whereas I don't think Japan's population has grown anywhere near 1% per year during that period (according to this page, it's only averaged around 0.1 % for the last 6 years)

Bret said...

Ali,
Their comments were edited? Do you mean that the content of their comments was changed while leaving the attribution to them? If so, that's far worse, in my opinion, than just having one's comments deleted.

creeper said...

Bret,

First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my technical question, it's much appreciated. I'm not that familiar with perl per se, but if it's not too much trouble I would love to have a look at the script and see if I could adapt it - could you send it to me at creeperzoid AT yahoo DOT com?

The business opportunity you mention is interesting. There are some sites that provide a digest of many blogs at once (e.g. PunditDrome), but none that usurp the hosting of other blogs' commenting areas, along with all the advertising opportunities that entails.

Re. your question immediately above:

I don't know about Harry's comments. I know that on the Brothers Judd blog I have had numerous comments edited to completely alter their meaning, with no sign of the editing haven taken place, and still attributed to me, and I have seen the same taking place with Jeff's comments. It's not done in the way DaveScot does it at Uncommon Descent either - he at least bolds his own contributions and initials them, so it's like having a dialogue within a single comment. It's not pretty and only mildly irritating, but still somewhat honest. Orrin will completely alter the content in order to deceive the uninitiated into believing that the words and arguments are the other person's. He sometimes uses this to maintain his strawman arguments, which on a level playing field are easily dismantled.

Orrin has also, when he was clearly unable to come up with a winning argument, occasionally shut off comments, and then edited or deleted the last few comments to make it look like he won. Here's an example, from http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/2005/11/welcome_to_the_1.html:

This is the BEFORE:

"A claim to be scientific doesn't actually make Darwinism scientific. It's just less honest with itself than Creationism for obvious reason."

I didn't say Darwinism claimed to be scientific. I said it was a strawman you like to use, and the way in which you use it is of course not a scientific theory.

I also noted that you left the theory of evolution out of your comparison, and of course you were right to do so, for obvious reasons.
Posted by: creeper at November 27, 2005 03:41 PM

Then we're in agreement again.
Posted by: oj at November 27, 2005 03:47 PM

We're agreed that your strawman is not a scientific theory, but the theory of evolution is?

Fine by me.
Posted by: creeper at November 27, 2005 03:49 PM


This is what remained AFTER Orrin shut off the comments and edited his posts and mine:

"A claim to be scientific doesn't actually make Darwinism scientific. It's just less honest with itself than Creationism for obvious reason."

I didn't say Darwinism claimed to be scientific.
Posted by: creeper at November 27, 2005 03:41 PM

Then we're in agreement again.
Posted by: oj at November 27, 2005 03:47 PM

What a way to win an argument, huh?

I forget during which discussion this surreptitious editing first happened, but I have it saved somewhere.

Bret said...

creeper,
I have emailed the script as requested. Enjoy!

Note, I wasn't talking about "usurping" other blogs commenting areas. I was thinking of providing a commenting service for blogs that didn't have (or enable/allow) comments. For example, the Left2Right bloggers are perfectly happy with what I'm doing (perhaps too happy, since it allows them to be lazy and not moderate their own comment area). But I suppose you could try the usurping approach for ones with comments as well. I wouldn't personally be supportive of that concept, however.

Lastly, I find Orrin's editing of comments, without warning or notice, very, very disconcerting. I've never experienced or heard of anything like it. I think that's well beyond the pale. It seems almost fraudulent.

creeper said...

Bret,

I look forward to the script - thank you very much!

I'm aware of what you're saying about using it on sites with active and healthy comment areas, which would be somewhat unethical. It would be justified, I think, to use it on sites where commenting is highly restricted, preventing any actual exchange (like Uncommon Descent, for example, which only allows one side of the argument to be heard). A parallel forum that allows a full discussion could be useful in such a situation.

Orrin's surreptitious editing is disconcerting, yes, and the worst I have yet run across. Incidentally, some of the first instances of Orrin's editing that I'm aware of are found here:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/2005/05/we_arent_extinct_are_we_1.html#c133083

and http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/2005/05/we_arent_extinct_are_we_1.html#c133411

and http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/2005/05/we_arent_extinct_are_we_1.html#c133554

This thread also contains Orrin's earliest justification:

Orrin, isn't it easier just to add a comment of your own than to append something to mine without proper accreditation?
Posted by: creeper at May 24, 2005 01:26 PM

No. It's easier to make your comments truthful.
Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 02:15 PM

To which I replied that my comments had been truthful as they stood, and he was free to present opposing views and discuss it, but he promptly deleted that.

Bret said...

creeper,
I think I actually saw that exchange between you and oj (on we_arent_extinct_are_we...), and I remember thinking "what is creeper talking about" since it was beyond my ability to believe that oj actually changed your post (even though oj basically admitted it down below). Funny, even though I've been interacting with the Internet (and before that Arpanet) for decades, I was still so naive as to not be able to comprehend the meaning of that exchange. Live and learn I guess.

creeper said...

Bret,
The first time it happened, I was gobsmacked to see that someone would actually stoop to something like that. Basic honesty and integrity just seem like such elementary moral and ethical lessons. It sure put Orrin's trumpeting of however he perceives Judeo-Christian values into perspective. And yes, it is far worse than deleting messages - so I guess Orrin's current policy of just deleting everything he disagrees with is, comparatively speaking, a step up.

Hey Skipper said...

Creeper:

1992, 2002, whatever it takes.

Ali:

You are right. It is annoying to have something I put some serious thought into just pitched into the bit bucket. But is beyond annoying to have something bearing no resemblance to what I wrote appear above my name. The most recent occurrence was just a couple days ago, regarding the evangelical kerfuffle at the AF Academy -- I suggested Article VI of the Constitution was at stake (no religious tests for office), and that by oath, those in the military were pledged to protect and defend the Constitution, not their religion.

He replaced all that with the Constitutions preamble. To the casual reader, it must have appeared my meds were wearing off.

I've probably had more than 20 comments altered to a greater or lesser extent, and occasionally had replies to others who had specifically addressed me deleted.

I hadn't realized my postings were so foul mouthed or ill mannered as to require that kind of treatment.

Live and learn, I guess

Oroborous said...

"1992, 2002, whatever it takes."

Mr. Mom ?

Hey Skipper said...

Oroborous.

No, The Money Pit.

The homeowner is talking to an electrical contractor who is asking whether the outlet should be 220V.

To which the homeowner replies:

"220, 240. Whatever it takes."