Blogging as Conversation

The reaction to last night’s post Pre Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc has brought into focus something that has occurred to me about this blogging thing once or twice. The author of the post I was commenting on responded here (as well as on her own site) and another commenter chided me here for not fully explaining a tangential point in an argument where I was calling into question someone else’s argument.

A while back, Stephen Green wrote something to the effect that he blogged as a conversation with his readers, working with the assumption that they had read enough of his stuff that he didn’t have to start over from ground zero each time. I do the same thing here, as do most of the more prolific bloggers, I think. Indeed, I’m not sure how else to do it without becoming incredibly tiresome for blogger and reader alike.

But this approach has its drawbacks. We often wind up entering the conversation in the middle, seeing only a particular post that’s being linked to–or just the part of a post that’s being quoted somewhere. (We also often do that with print journalism columns–reacting only to the quoted portion rather than bothering to read the whole thing as Glenn usually instructs.) Irony out of context often looks a lot like a silly argument.

I’m not sure that there’s a solution to this problem–which, if Don Rumsfeld is correct, transforms it from a problem to a mere fact. But it’s at least a fact worth noting.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I suppose how tiresome it gets is dependant on how easily understood the baseline concept is.
    It’s odd you bring this up, because I’ve just used my own blog to respond to Billy Beck. The concept is the reaction to the death of a family pet. Such a discussion and the concepts therein are fairly well universal.

    This method of ‘discussion’ may not work well for other more, shall we say, esoteric topics.

  2. bryan says:

    The most difficult part of the whole thing is keeping up with the comments you make on various blogs, and trying to remember to go back and check if someone has responded to something you wrote. And eventually the post itself will disappear from the main page, leaving you to wonder how the communicatoin might end.

    But to again quote Rumsfeld, ” There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know.
    There are known unkowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know.
    But, there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don’t know we don’t know. “

  3. I think if I tried to keep up with my comments I’d quickly go mad. Every now and again I do check back to see what the reactions were to my reaction. But it’s rare.