Archive for This blogging life

It's not about you

I was surprised, yesterday, to get a thoughtful letter of resignation from a LLOG commenter. To preserve the anonymity of his pseudonymity, I'll call him 'X'. Mr. X's stated reason for leaving was that

LL is becoming far too centered on my babblings.  Defending my own crudity is becoming tiresome, time-consuming, and harmful to others – notably yourself and whoever else's good names are behind the board.  I prefer to do whatever is most helpful and appropriate – in this case I've missed that target pretty goddamned impressively.

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Those who feel strongly about the issue of (not?) allowing comments should read Julian Sanchez, "The Psychological Prerequisites of Punditry", 5/3/2012, and Andrew Sullivan's comment, "The Feedback Firehose", 5/4/2012.

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More comments on comments (just between us)

I want to share something with you Language Log readers. But for heaven's sake don't mention it to anyone at The Chronicle of Higher Education or its Lingua Franca blog. This is just between us. There is no telling what would happen over at the Chronicle if they read this, so just keep it dark, OK?

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A contribution

Back in December, a fan of Language Log e-mailed me with a simple query that I answered almost immediately, after checking my answer with a Stanford colleague who's a specialist in the area of the query (as I am not).

My original correspondent thanked the two of us, adding:

As a token of my appreciation for your time and responses, I made a small donation to Stanford. I hope I was successful in seeing that it would be directed to the Linguistics Department.

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Fallows on "Comments and Community"

James Fallows explains why he doesn't allow comments on his blog at The Atlantic ("On Comments and Community: A New Plan?", 12/21/2010):

Unless a comment stream is actively moderated, it inevitably is ruined by bullies, hotheads, and trolls. If you feel otherwise, fine. This is what I think.
Corollary: The comment-communities that flourish, notably the Golden Horde of TN Coates, require real-time, frequent intervention by a moderator not afraid to put his stamp on the discussion.

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One thousand Language Log posts

With this post I reach my thousandth Language Log contribution. I wrote 676 posts for the old series, before the original server died in agony in April 2008. Those were written from Santa Cruz, California (between 2003 and 2005 and in 2006-2007), from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard (2005-2006), and from Edinburgh, Scotland (2007-2008) The old series posts are preserved in read-only mode here, with all their typos and the occasional broken link or missing image; they can be custom Google-searched here. A complete list of links to all of my posts in the old series can be found here.

Since April 2008 I've written another 323 posts in the current series, mostly from Edinburgh (a few from other places while travelling); they are all listed here. This one brings me to the round number of a thousand. It's a convenient point at which to stop and think about whether to write any more.

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Just add "intelligent" and "informed" …

The latest xkcd:

Mouseover title: "And what about all the people who won't be able to join the community because they're terrible at making helpful and constructive co– … oh."

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Us Language Log writers

One of the secrets of Language Log is that because of its lack of any arrangement for revenue (aaaaggghh! how could we have forgotten something as vital as income?) its writers have to moonlight doing other jobs, just to make the rent or mortgage payments. We all have jobs that we do in the odd non-Language-Log moments of the day. Mark Liberman, in addition to being head honcho and contributing writer at Language Log, is a professor of phonetics, a computational linguists researcher, a cognitive scientist, a residential house master, the director of a consortium providing large text and speech corpora for industrial and academic use, and (since five or six jobs is hardly enough) dad to a teenager as well. He tends to blog just about every day, but right now he is en route to Japan for a conference, after which he will go on to Hong Kong to be an external examiner at a PhD defense.

I too (this is my home page) have a day job at a university, as the head of a large department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (for a long time I taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and thus had an American home base like the other Language Log staff, but I moved to Edinburgh in 2007).

You might be interested in the lives in some of the other Language Log personnel too.

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Bloggingheads, home of the "diavlog," is now featuring a discussion that I had with fellow Language Logger John McWhorter about a whole range of linguistic issues, from lexical chunking to pop-Whorfianism to Obama's Indonesian skills to the language of Mad Men. Something for everyone!

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Language Log is on Facebook

Hey, I hadn't realized that Language Log is now on Facebook and you can "like" it (in the old days that was becoming a "fan"). My dear son Morriss, the social media maven in our family, tipped me off! I've linked to it on my own Facebook page, but I expect word will spread faster by mentioning it right here. Someone will have to explain in the comments when and why it happened — I can only say it has happened!

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Volcano refugee blogger seeks things to do

I have begun to accept that air travel across the North Atlantic is a thing of the past, at least for now. Europe is as distant a dream as it was a hundred years ago, a trip accomplishable only by a long sea voyage. I need to accept that I live in Boston now. I have been passing my time learning to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull properly, and rediscovering the pleasures of being back in the USA, and profiting from the kindness of strangers toward the bloggers they read. You Language Log readers in the Boston/Cambridge area and further afield: I really am touched by your generosity, thoughtfulness, and friendship. Elizabeth, Murray, Jan, Kathleen, Michael, Carla, Ryan, James, Steve: this means people like you.

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Have lectures to give, cannot travel

Eyjafjallajoekull: the name says it all, doesn't it? No, of course it doesn't. It looks like a kitten walked across your keyboard. It's the name of the glacier covering the volcano in Iceland that just woke up and remembered that its job description says "Spew hot lava ash across northwestern Europe". I'm at Boston's Logan Airport, where the lights are going out one by one on the board showing international departures to Europe. Airspace is shutting down, flight by flight by flight.

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Don't send me passwords

Keith Allan has bravely outed himself as editor of the journal from which I recently received a thoroughly discourteous message sequence. I thank him for responding to the discussion, and for confirming that it was not about him pressing the buttons in the wrong order. The reason his fine journal (the Australian Journal of Linguistics) sent me a message sequence I found annoying and presumptuous is the design of the stupid ScholarOne Manuscript software. Let me explain a little more about the nature of my life (perhaps my experiences will find an echo in yours), the part that involves those arbitrary strings of letters and digits we are all supposed to carry around in our heads like mental sets of keys.

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