The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Once again, I am writing in response to Doug's Archaeology monthly blog carnival. The theme this time around is "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." So, without further ado, let's begin.
As usual, I will respond to Doug's questions:

The Good- what has been good about blogging. I know some people in their ‘why blogging’ posts mentioned creating networks and getting asked to talk on a subject. But take this to the next level, anything and everything positive about blogging, share your stories. You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.
The good is pretty simple: I tend to get positive feedback from people who are interested, and,w hen I was writing regularly, I had a number of regular readers who would post interesting comments and questions. Also, an added good, based on comments and emails that I have received int eh last couple of weeks, many of those readers are still around.

Also, it has been common for me to receive feedback providing information of which I had been unaware when I began writing on a topic. For example, when I wrote a post about the origins of acorn consumption, a reader who lived int eh southeastern portion of north America posted a comment letting me know about a species of oak in their neck of the woods that doesn't require the extensive processing for the acorn to become edible. This was a species of which I had been unaware (being based in California), but learning of it provided a bit more information regarding this food than I had previously possessed, which was very nice.
The Bad- lots of people mention it feels like talking to brick wall sometimes when you blog. No one comments on posts or very few people do. What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?
While I have had some regular readers who posted comments, and whose comments I enjoyed reading, there is significantly less feedback than I would have liked. This is, it seems, a function of the venue in which I write. there are thousands upon thousands of blogs, and I feel myself lucky to have gotten the number of readers that I have....but just as I rarely comment on the blogs that I read, my readers often don't comment here. On the one hand, this is fine, as I also like to read blogs but don't necessarily write back to the bloggers. On the other hand, it does make me wonder who is reading my posts, and what they make of them.

But, again, going back to the "good" - those comments I do get tend to be either of high quality, or complimentary, or both, and for that I am grateful

Getting away from the comments, there is another "bad" that I would like to mention, though it is one that is understandable, and unavoidable.  Because I work in cultural resources management (aka heritage management, aka contract archaeology aka environmental consulting archaeology aka etc. etc. etc.), all of the material I produce for a project, including field notes and photographs, are the property of my clients. While I doubt that many would care if I used photographs or information from the notes in blog entries, I am barred from doing so without permission - and very few of my clients are inclined to take the time to answer questions regarding whether or not I can use their materials in blog entries.  So, while I don't think it would be a problem, I never get an answer, and that makes it a bit more difficult to get material for entries.
The Ugly- I know Chris at RAS will mention the time he got fired for blogging about archaeology. It is your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.
I have, on the whole, been pretty lucky in this regard. I have had very few truly negative experiences, and almost no negative comments on my posts that are specifically about archaeology. However, I do occasionally get rather ugly feedback regarding some of my other posts.

For example, back in 2008, when I wrote about Proposition 8 here in California, the proposition that outlawed same-sex marriage in this state, a commentor began to respond in a way that was, rather clearly, just them trying to justify their own bigotries. The point they made that most stuck with me was that, if someone who is opposed to homosexuality for religious reasons is required to treat a homosexual couple as legally married, then this is, in their words "the tyranny of the masses" - though it never seemed to occur to them that the same couple having their rights withheld because of another persons completely arbitrary beliefs is an even bigger imposition on the people having their rights withheld, and therefore, could very definitely be considered "tyranny of the masses" in a much stronger and more meaningful sense. The same commentor would routinely write comments insisting that anyone who was not religious was a "moral free agent" incapable of actually having any sort of moral center.

The odd thing is that this person apparently knew me off-line, but because they commented under a pseudonym, I have no idea who they are.

Still, compared to what other bloggers have dealt with, this isn't all that bad, and I have been pretty fortunate.

The Ehhh...huh?

Although not part of Doug's question, there is one other element that I want to touch on briefly, and this is the stuff that's not really good or bad...just kind of there. I have consistently found these things amusing, but have never considered them to be either a boon or a curse. Unfortunately, after I read what I was sent, I didn't keep the links to these things, so I can't point you in their direction. I wish I had done so, as I did enjoy reading them, and writing this section made me want to go back and look again.

From time to time over the last five or so years is that I have discovered that individual blog entries have become...well, "popular" isn't the word, so much as "well known" in certain online communities, and often with bizarre and hilarious results.

The first time that this occurred, to the best of my knowledge, was when I wrote on the diets and overall health of prehistoric populations. I had tried to provide a decent overview of what we can determine regarding hunter-gatherer diets and health from the archaeological and ethnographic records, as well as discuss how variable diet and health can be across time and geography. A friend of mine sent me an email with a link to a website where some would-be new-age "teacher" was holding up my entry as an example of why lay-people shouldn't write about the human past. This person claimed to have "taught hunting and gathering" for ten years, and "know for a fact that hunters and gatherers are healthier, have longer life spans, and taller stature" than "modern people"...which would certainly be news to most hunter-gatherers. I wasn't sure which was more entertaining, that this lay person was trying to take me to task for being a lay-person, that they were so astoundingly factually wrong while insisting that they were wise and knowledgeable, or that they seemed to think that "teaching hunting-gathering" was a good career choice.

Another occasion saw someone at the Graham Hancock forums taking exception to me characterizing Graham Hancock as a know, which he is. Anyway, a few people on that forum took issue with me and discussed my dubious parentage, and apparently one of my readers pokes around on the forum enough that they spotted it and sent it to me, providing me with an hour or so of enjoyment. I have always figured that, if people who are fooled by Hancock and his ilk dislike me, I must be doing something right.

And the last one of these occasions was when another blogger decided that they disliked this entry.  They produced an entry on their own blog demonstrating that clearly I was ignorant of biblical history, and clearly an atheist (which is true, and also irrelevant), and obviously I was just out to destroy people's faith. It was quite the screed.

Anyway, so there's that entry. I hope to, again, take part int he blog carnival next month, but we will see.