Self-referential linkage

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A few weeks ago, Seth Roberts visited Penn to give a talk about self-experimentation, and I took advantage of the opportunity to invite him to dinner with 15 or 20 students in Ware College House, where I'm Faculty Master. There was a lively discussion, mostly about Seth's "Shangri-La Diet" ideas.

Seth turned the tables before dinner by interviewing me about blogging. He took notes on his laptop, and sent me a draft the next day, and I promised to look at it and get back to him with corrections — and then I forgot about it until he reminded me yesterday. As it turned out, it didn't really need any changes, but I adjusted a few words here and there, and he's published it on his blog: "Interview with Mark Liberman about Blogging", 4/16/2008.

This reminds me that I had an indirect exchange with Seth (via Andrew Gelman and Steven Johnson) several years ago, which led to a Breakfast Experiment™ on changes in sentence and paragraph lengths in inaugural addresses as a function of time: "Complexity", 9/7/2005.

The conversation in 2005 also involved John McWhorter, in that both Andrew and Seth quoted him.

What's neat about this conversation is that many of the participants in it had never met one another IRL ("in real life"). At least, I knew John McWhorter, but I'd never met Andrew or Steven or Seth. And this example prompts me to make a more meaningful addition to my interview with Seth, where in response to the question "How has blogging affected you?" I began:

First and most important, I've met — mostly digitally — a large number of people that I would never otherwise have met. They send me email. If I look over my email logs, there are probably 5 or 10 people that I correspond with frequently whom I've met that way. Most of them are not linguists; I wouldn't have met them otherwise. Some of them are not even academics.

But really, it's not just email. The best part of blogging is certainly the conversation, but a lot of it is inter-blog conversation.

And it was a pleasure to meet Seth in real life, three years after getting to know him via an exchange of blog posts with Andrew Gelman. Now I just have to meet Andrew!

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