A week of millibloging
Why did we abandon this format?
I drafted a blog about confidence intervals but figured I’d save us all from weekend headaches. Headaches are for Mondays. Saturdays are for scattered navel gazing.
I’ve been substacking for a week now. It’s been more rewarding than I had anticipated so far. Milliblogging (what we used to just call “blogging” or “live journal”) is undeniably better than tweeting. I certainly get far less engagement on Substack than on Twitter, though our good friend Ol’ Musky has been working to change that. On the other hand, I can write in complete sentences. I can add context. I can follow up with people civilly in the comments thread.
I realize these blogs require a click away from the doomscroll and hence no one will likely see them. That sort of sucks. But the comments here have been awesome, and I hope that more folks will be willing to come and (politely, in a non-twitter way) argue out their counterpoints in the comments section. That said, there are definitely some Twitter characters I wish I could summon by @-ing them.
In terms of time, writing these blogs doesn’t take that much longer than engaging with Twitter. My old morning habit was read Twitter, get mad, compose a reply to someone, and then not send the tweet because I wasn’t in the mood for violence. Some days I’d press send. Some days I’d write a longer thread. Some days I’d just go pet my cat. Most days were fun, especially if I decided to troll Jason Abaluck. But I’m not sure any days were particularly productive or rewarding.
There’s still a place for angry yelling on Twitter as it dies and atrophies. The milliblog doesn’t lend itself to the same poetry as 140-character pithy shitposts. But I’m only going to Twete when it’s fun and frivolous, like when I’m yelling at my Berkeley colleagues for insane AI predictions. Twitter threads are the worst anyway! Why did we decide those were effective means of communication? All these threads will be lost in time like tears in rain. Our writing deserves better.
When I used to blog, I’d obsess about my posts for weeks. I slaved over my blog series on reinforcement in Berlin cafes, trying to make sure each argument was tight and that the demos and supporting evidence were ample. That process was valuable to me, and it resulted in a survey I’m proud of. But I don’t think this needs to be my only process. So on this season of Ben blogging, I’m going to write a diary of half-finished thoughts.
I was inspired after recently reading Cosma Shalizi’s blog. Cosma unabashedly puts his current thoughts out in public and doesn’t edit them particularly tightly. His notebooks are for his own benefit, but he shares them with everyone in case we might fight his unedited thoughts beneficial too. I find them useful!
I wonder whether airing my thoughts on statistics and science in the open will walk me into an argument I have been trying to make since 2020. In the sooty mist of being locked down in California under orange clouds, I set out to write about my philosophical and methodological issues with statistical thinking, superpopulations, and scientific rigor. This aimless intellectual wandering coalesced into a book project, but the book I drafted ended up being about optimization and its role in science, engineering, and society. It’s barely about statistics at all.
What if I can get at that book I had initially envisioned by laying out a diary of half-baked thoughts here? I’m up for experiments. I’m going to try to post every day of July. I’ll revisit that schedule on August 1. For the next few weeks at least, I’m going to write about statistics here in hopes that I can finally focus these thoughts into a cohesive narrative knowing well that I might not be able to. I have a scattered collection of Google Docs and Apple Notes that I’ll clean up and post, and maybe we’ll all tease out the argument in the open here.