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Getting acquainted ...

Paul Grobstein's picture

Welcome. Glad you stopped by. This isn't so much a "blog" as a place for me (and you if you're interested) to keep track of what I'm currently up to on Serendip. In reverse chronological order below are teasers to things I'm thinking about that are relatively well developed. Click on them for more details, and to get to forum areas where you can add thoughts to help both of us think more.

(See also read more, posting responses, other Exchange creations, my Serendip home page)

I do a lot of my most current thinking in response to things that others have posted on Serendip. If you want to get a sense of what sorts of thoughts might later turn up here, see a continually update list of my postings. And if you want a continually updated list of other things I've created on Serendip, click here. See my Serendip home page for a more formal list of things I've been doing, including prior to the summer of 2007 when this space was born.


Paul Grobstein's picture

Serendip: reading and responding

Glad to have Angela and Mathew both reading AND leaving traces for me/others.  

"What's here starts what I am currently thinking that seems useful to me  ... and that I think at least some others might find useful enough to respond to in ways I might in turn find useful. Whether the latter is true or not in any given case, we'll find out (letters "to the world/That never wrote to me" are a risk one cannot avoid if one is interested in serious exchange)" .... From To Blog or Not to Blog  

That said, Serendip does also keep track of how many people visit without leaving their own traces.  Of the order of 20,000 on a typical day, over 100,000 in a typical week (which means people leaving traces are well under 1% of those visiting).  

Matthew Franchise's picture

Google analytics

As Angela said above, many people read and do not respond. In fact, this is my third visit and only my first comment and that is probably a good ratio. If you get 100 visitors to one comment you are doing well. Google analytics is great for knowing how people found you, how many pages they are reading/flicking through and how long they are sticking around. As a stats tool it is awesome and highly recommended by me, and of course it's free.

Angela's picture


I have come to realize that many people DON'T respond. Many people read, but not everyone is cut out to make responses. I believe that this is also "the way of the internet". People are searching for information, they are reading, they are digesting what they've seen. Many people are just here to read.

If you really want to see how well you're doing, place statistics code on your site. ;)

Paul Grobstein's picture

Blogs and exchanges

Laura Blankenship's picture

My description of a blog

My description of a blog versus a forum or asynchronous discussion board is that a blog is a benevolent dictatorship while a discussion board or forum is more like a democracy. Because a blog usually has a single author, it has a different feel from a discussion board. It has a voice while a discussion board has many voices. Discussion boards tend to be centered around a single topic and while blogs may focus on a particular topic, many blogs do not. The author's voice is more of the defining factor.

There is lots of discussion right now about whether the Internet encourages dialogue where people feel like they can say anything without repercussions. I wonder if this will ever change or if there will be ways to counter "flaming" and "trolling" with ways of identifying people so that people will feel accountable for what they say.

Blogs are still in their infancy and still developing. I think they are likely to evolve. And there may be something new that comes along to replace it.

Tablette's picture

Dont think so...

With the Comment function you are able to discuss. And there are Blogs who got "threaded" Comments. I think its better because every discussen has a good starting topic (the post). Sorry for my bad english. Hope you understand what i mean..

Anne Dalke's picture

"My letter to the world...that never wrote to me"

Another interesting question is whether the Internet encourages 'dialogue' (can we even call it dialogue?) where people feel like they can say anything without getting a response. What students often complain about, when I require them to do weekly on-line postings in my courses, is that no one writes back. Who's reading, when one writes to the universe? How does one know if anyone's reading, when the universe doesn't write back? What keeps one writing, without a response? I see shades of Emily Dickinson:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me....

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see...

Ron C. de Weijze's picture

Half a response better than none at all..

Anne Dalke, "How does one know if anyone's reading, when the universe doesn't write back?". -- Indeed, especially when the one who triggered the response does not reply. I tend to believe that my answer must have been below standard. E.g. /exchange/bookshelves/taleb I may be a bit impatient, but in a month's time the author should have noticed the response, even from an internet cafe in the holiday resort.

Ann Dixon's picture

isn't a blog "publishing?"

The discussion about the universe (and the author) not writing back has intrigued me, and prompted me to think more about the nature of blogs.  Blogs are deceptively personal in a somewhat impersonal medium. As a reader of blogs, I begin to believe that I know the writer and can dialogue with the writer, when I don't really know the writer and the writer certainly doesn't know me. If the writer accepts an invitation to dialogue, that's  very pleasing, but if there is silence, what does it mean?

I think one can ascribe many meanings to silence, and any  or none of them may be valid. I don't know the writer, after all.

The Taleb review and comment(s) are an interesting case in point. I looked at Serendip's website stats, and that page has gotten 200 views in the last 2 weeks, and while there are many readers, there are not many writers commenting. I've read that this is typical of the web in general, where less than 1% of people using the web are active participants in an exchange, and the rest are readers only.

We simply don't know what readers are thinking about when they read something on Serendip. Sometimes they tell us in an email comment, or they leave some comments in a forum, but this is a very small percentage of our readership. I could point to myself as an example of a reader who comments infrequently, even though I read almost every page published on Serendip. It's not that I don't find the material provocative and generative of further thoughts! That's why Paul and I founded Serendip, and why I work very hard to keep it running smoothly. I often just don't make the time. I'll think about why that is and (perhaps) get back to this thread on that.

In the meanwhile, about the deceptively personal blog:  a blog is published writing. Isn't "publishing"  an impersonal process? which combined with the impersonal medium of the web results in more oneway  conversations  than  not.  If a web page were a published (paper) article or a book, would we have the expectation of writing the author and receiving a response? if so, under what conditions? 


Ron C. de Weijze's picture

impersonal or 'incorrect'?

Ann Dixon, it may not be the impersonal aspect of the internet or of 'publishing' that prevents people from responding, but the disagreement with the political view that authors or commenters are ventilating. That is how I understand a non-response. As I answered Ann Dalke below, this is not so much my personal opinion in itself, but an attempt to compensate what I feel is too politically one-sided. Compare it to a ship that is not horizontal in the water because the people are all clogging together on one side. Then there is a need for me to stand on the other side. BTW thanks for having created this site. I much appreciate the serendipity idea behind it, since I was told (and I believe this is true) I have a 'synthetic mind'.

Anne Dalke's picture

on trying to balance the ship

"As before, the Pequod steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right." (Moby-Dick, Ch. 73, p. 261)

Ron C. de Weijze's picture


Locke was 1675 not 1775

Ron C. de Weijze's picture

same difference?

Anne Dalke, that is a great reference, especially considering the philosophical overtones. I am not sure I agree with Melville more than with e.g. Kundera, who considers "floating light" not particularly right, but rather unbearable. However, that may be the main difference between living in 1851 or in 1988. Wonder if that would be the same difference as living in Locke's Britain in 1775 or Kant's continent in 1750.

Anne Dalke's picture

free to be...

Your complaint, Ron, that I haven't responded to your earlier response to a review I wrote elsewhere highlights the asynchronous nature of Internet conversation. Seems to me that both the upside and the downside of this kind of talking is that there are none of the compulsions to be responsive--to "synchronize our responses" to those of others--that we have in face-to-face talking. We are free to post, @ whatever length we want, on whatever topic we want, without having to assure ourselves that others in the room are attending. But w/ that freedom comes the risk that they might not be--that what is in one's own brain at any given time isn't ... interesting/useful to any one else.

For instance, I read your comment on Taleb's work as a comment on Taleb's work, not as a request for a response from me. Wasn't that I wasn't attending, wasn't that i wasn't interested--I just didn't hear a request for (or feel moved to give) a response.

And I really, really like that freedom.

Ron C. de Weijze's picture

opposites balance out

Anne, thanks for responding this time, I appreciate it. My intention was not to complain, just to put some weight into the opposite scale. That is also how I use to 'request' a response: to try to balance out opposite opinions. Comparable to Descartes' systematic doubt.

Anne Dalke's picture

Intra-? Inter-? Web Log

When we talked about blogging in the Summer Institute last week, the focus was on open-source methods of judgment, replacing the free exchange of ideas, once done in books, with on-line backing-and-forthing...

So, as Serendip begins to explore the new terrain that is Exchange, I'm puzzled and curious: what's the difference between a blog and "a place for keep track of what I'm currently up to"? Is the former more inter-active (a conversation with others), the latter more intra-active (a conversation w/ oneself)? Does thinking aloud on a blog make one somehow differently responsive to others than one might be in an on-line journal? Is a blog somehow different than the asynchronous exchanges already taking place on Serendip and elsewhere on the web? And do both hold themselves less accountable to those we might meet face to face?