A blog by Patrick Crozier

Blogging

December 12, 2004

The End
Patrick Crozier

As with Transport Blog, so with Croziervision. But why? After all, most of the arguments I advanced for "completing production" of Transport Blog don't really apply here, do they?

Yerno, I'm not really quite sure why I didn't choose to call my new blog "Croziervision". I think it was because I wanted to spend at least some time musing on the very nature of blogging itself and that demanded a complete break: new URL, new software, new host, new post and new name.

Anyway, the deed has been done and I for one am glad - I'm enjoying blogging more than I have for ages. Hope you'll log on sometime.

May 07, 2004

The trouble with blogs and a possible solution
Patrick Crozier

"I have met lots of people who have been persuaded by books but I have never met anyone who has been persuaded by a blog."

That remark was made to me about a year ago by a good libertarian friend. It's pretty stinging. It hurts because firstly, I believe that the internet is the obvious place to try to persuade people of the merits of libertarianism and that blogs are (so far) the best way of getting thoughts across and, secondly, because it is true.

Blogs don't persuade. At least not yet they don't. They don't persuade (I think) because the typical blog posting is not deep enough. It doesn't get to the ideological heart of the matter.

Of course, persuasion is a two-way street: you need people who are open-minded, people who want to be persuaded. My guess is that that is a pretty small number, say 1-2% of the population, but even so they matter. They are the people you have to get to.

But if you can get to them you want to persuade them of the ideological case. If there are a lot of convinced libertarians out there, people who are convinced of the general case then you don't (typically) have to persuade them about the specific cases.

The other day I was thinking about writing a blog posting about James Sherwood's remarks on railway closures. But rather than just write another blog posting I wrote down all the separate statements I could make and then listed all the things I could in turn say about those statements (the sub-statements so to speak). I counted 23 statements and sub-statements ranging from core libertarian principles to how one might deal with CO2 pollution. I am pretty sure there are a whole bunch of other things I could say but 23 is quite enough for now.

The problem is that to do justice to all these 23 statements would take an age by which time the original remarks would long cease to have been current.

And, when I've published this posting, people might take an interest in it for a couple of days and then it dies. OK, there may be some committed souls out there beavering away in the archives but generally speaking it just gets forgotten.

And that is why, by and large, blog postings tend only to scratch the surface. Doing anything else just isn't worth the candle.

But what if you could do things differently? What if you could write a separate blog posting for each of these statements and then tie them all together in one posting which would mainly comprise links? OK, it doesn't change the length of time involved - actually it might increase it - but what it would give you would be a whole bunch of statements that could be reused, perhaps in a similar context, but perhaps, also, in quite different contexts at a later stage. That would be useful. If you ground out enough of these you might even succeed in having written down all your thoughts. You might even be able to take a news item and be able to write a blog posting about it using entirely archived statements. My guess is that that would be a lot easier and a lot more effective in the battle of ideas. In the long run that is.

Of course, things are never quite so simple. When I looked at these 23 statements I realised that were many that I would have difficulty in justifying. But maybe that is not so bad. At least you've stated what you believe. At least you know where the gaps are. And you never know, ideological friends might just help you fill those gaps.

But what if your views change, or you want to change the wording, or new information becomes available? Actually, I think this is where the internet and blog management systems come into their own. For minor changes you can add post scripts. New facts, new arguments, even new ways of putting things can all be accommodated this way. For major changes you can create an entirely new blog posting call it Version 2.0 and add a link to the original posting.

I have already had a couple of goes at this. One was in an article about child safety seats and the other was in an article about LA's underground. I think they went pretty well and I would like to take the experiment further and see if I can make it work for, well, everything. In this respect, having a specialist blog ie Transport Blog, is, I feel, a huge advantage, because the number of possible statements is, at least, limited. Obviously, if there are any readers out there who can assist me in this task I would very much appreciate it.

However, before I embark on what would be quite a radical departure from current practice I would like to ask readers what they think. Is there something I have missed? Are there gaps in my reasoning? I won't deny it, I am apprehensive and if there any show stoppers out there I would rather know now than later.

Update 08/05/04

It occurs to me that maybe I don't have to change everything over to this new format. Maybe, if I just do it for the things that get said again and again and again that would be just fine. At least this way I reduce the risk of screwing things up.

January 09, 2004

Mark Holland...
Patrick Crozier

...has his own blog. At last.

December 18, 2003

Micropayments
Patrick Crozier

Not to self: read this sometime.

October 03, 2003

Alice Bachini is back
Patrick Crozier

And very definitely on form.

September 25, 2003

Medworth
Patrick Crozier

I have just come across Medworth which is a new(ish) blog which looks pretty good. For example he says things like this:

The only complaint I have is that the program didn’t say much about the morality of capitalism, suggesting simply that it “works in practice”, lifting people out of poverty and giving them access to a wide variety of goods and services. This is true, of course, but unless the underlying moral case for capitalism is made, one will always be vulnerable to those who think of the good in different ways, such as the environmentalists.

Only drawback is that he uses the words "objectivist" and "objectivism" rather a lot? How can a political philosophy claim that it has a monopoly on objectivism for heaven's sake?

Hat tip: Alex Singleton who seems to be back having wasted the last three years of his life.

July 04, 2003

To the blogrolls!
Patrick Crozier

A hale and hearty (and perhaps belated) welcome to newish bloggers Andy Duncan and the folks at Catallarchy.net whose names shall be added to the blogroll at some point, one day, when I get round to it.

July 02, 2003

To reply or not to reply
Patrick Crozier

I like supportive comments. They give me a warm glow of satisfaction. I also (funnily enough) like good criticism by which I mean comments that correct me on facts, ask pertinent questions or take me to task having first shown that they have understood what I was saying in the first place. (Not, it has to be said, that I get much of this). What I don't like is bad criticism - the stuff that neither agrees with me nor puts up a good counter argument and is often abusive (at least in tone if not content).

The question is should I reply to it or not?

I blog in order to spread libertarian ideas. In doing so I am looking for two sorts of reader. The first is the open-minded reader. The second is the like-minded reader who (hopefully) will read my stuff, be fortified in his beliefs, and then go and spread my ideas around the Blogosphere, where hopefully, they will eventually come into contact with yet more open-minded people.

What I am not looking for is the close-minded anti. There's just no point.

Now, having said that, replying to bad comments could be useful. It could help to convince the open-minded and it could fortify the like-minded. But then again, on the other hand, comments are by their very nature a bit obscure and so not as important in the grand scheme of things as main postings are.

And there are other problems too. Many years ago (about three) before blogging took off I used to regularly participate in newsgroup "discussions" ie slanging matches. What I found was that typically my opponents (when they weren't being abusive) would be illogical, make assertions that couldn't be proved and miss out steps in their logic. And that was when they bothered to answer my points at all. Now, I did find ways of dealing with them which usually involved heavy use of the phrases: "You haven't answered the question" and "So what?" I did find that if I kept on going long enough they would finally start to get discouraged. Indeed, the effects could be quite dramatic. News groups are brutal environments. Once people lost arguments they often disappeared entirely. Now that was all to the good except that it was a lot of hard work and I often found myself wondering just how much good I had actually done.

It must also be said that newsgroups have the massive advantage (over blogs) of having threads - which means that you can reply many times to a comment - each time examining one part of his argument and undermining it in turn. Blogs (generally) don't have these.

Now given that we don't have threads here and given that I am not really prepared to put in the effort to see off my opponents and given that if they are not seen off they have an annoying tendency to reply ad infinitum, I think, as a general policy, that I won't be replying to opposition comments.

June 03, 2003

On blogging
Patrick Crozier

I am a libertarian. I want to live in a libertarian world. I am also a blogger. I started blogging because I wanted to see whether it could help bring about a libertarian world. So now, a year on, what conclusions can I draw?

Let me begin by stating some assumptions.

I believe that political victories begin with intellectual victories. Win the intellectual argument and you are half way there. I also believe that victory goes to the organised. I believe, as Napoleon Hill said, that information is not power: organised information is power. I also believe that an effective political organisation must do three things. It must:

  • convert the unconverted
  • keep them converted
  • and give them something to do

I want to get to a situation where “we”, for want of a better term, are so well organised, have such complete mastery of our arguments, that whenever an opponent so much as dares to put forward an opposing point of view he gets ripped apart, line by line, argument by argument, fact by fact. Many readers will remember how painful it was to be a Conservative in the mid-1990s. I want that same pain to be visited on our opponents.

So, when it comes to winning the intellectual battle, how does blogging measure up?

I think if there is one thing that blogging does par excellence it is that it keeps people converted. Five years ago I met David Carr for the first time. Among the many things he said to me, one really stuck out: “I thought I was the only one.” he said. I am sure he was not alone. Not so any more. Punch in the word “libertarian” into a search engine and very quickly you will come up with sites like Samizdata.

From a situation as recent as two years ago where I had to go two weeks between libertarian “fixes” I can now get them daily and frequently more often than that. And the quality of these fixes has massively improved. With comments we are now able to draw upon the collective wisdom of thousands of like-minded people.

Blogging is also good at giving people something to do. Want something to do? Set up your own blog. Feel that’s too onerous? Fine, become a serial commenter. I believe there has never been a time when there has been a greater amount of libertarian activity. Fantastic.

Doubly fantastic because blogging gives you the freedom to publish what you like when you like. OK, so people don’t have to read it but at least there is the chance that they will. At least they can if they really want to.

But blogging does not seem to be so good at converting people. “I have met many people who have become libertarians through reading a book but none through reading a blog…” is a favourite line of a blogo-sceptic friend of mine.

I am not sure it’s quite as black and white as this. Firstly, it is certainly my perception that Transport Blog is having an influence on the debate even if a very small one. Secondly, the aggressive, bordering on the hysterical, reaction to blogs from some of our opponents in the mainstream media would tend to suggest that they are seriously rattled.

[Incidentally, I never realised, even when I was a leftie, how much lefties hate debate. Their objection to blogs does not appear to stem from the fact that they disagree with them (although they do), but that they exist at all.]

But even so I can see the point. Too many blog postings are preaching to the converted. Too many poke fun at our opponents without ever really getting to grips with what they are actually saying. There is a hell of a difference between writing for the unconverted as opposed to writing for the converted. You have to suspend your prejudices and temporarily adopt the prejudices of your imaginary unconverted but open-minded reader. And then demolish them. Bit by bit. One by one. At all times being fair and objective. In other words, it’s harder.

I think there is also a problem with what happens to blog postings when they fall off the bottom of the page. Most of them are forgotten. The good along with the bad. This is a great shame because, especially in the case of the good stuff, they represent good work that could theoretically, at least, be used again and again.

But what if they could be captured, stored and filed for easy retrieval at some pertinent point in the future? That way effort would not be wasted. It could be used again and again. And the day of our final victory would come that much sooner.

I believe that if blogging is to really make a difference then bloggers have to start paying attention to organising their output. Categories, of the type available from Movable Type, are certainly a great help but a lot of people find MT difficult to set up.

What I believe is necessary is a sort of multi-member links blog. This would be one that picks up on the much good work being done elsewhere, promotes it and categorises it for later use. That way not only does the Good Stuff get publicised when it is first produced but it is easy to reference in the future.

I believe that in the future in addition go generalist links blogs we will also have specialist links blog. This could easily be done for my own speciality, transport. It would be a site bringing together all that’s best on the internet – from blogs, to websites to news stories – and assemble them all in the same place, all neatly categorised for future use.

Here’s a diagram:
on blogging 2.gif

May 25, 2003

Blogging: the race is on
Patrick Crozier

Two bits of news today (or at least news to me today) suggest that there's going to be a hell of a battle between rival blog management systems.

First up is Movable Type who are introducing a new system called TypePad. This will be a sort of Movable Type Lite with the additional features of a template design facility and inclusive hosting. The idea is to appeal to the casual ie not very technical blogger and bearing in mind that the lack of templates and fact you have to find your own host are the very things that put people off switching to Movable Type it would appear that they could be on to something.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Blogger is hitting back with Dano, the Blogger that works ie a Blogger where the archives don't do a runner every five minutes. I assume that they will lick their archives problem which should prevent a haemorraging of customers but that still leaves the problem of lack of flexibility which the introduction of no more than about five new tags will do little to alleviate.

So, to sum up, MT are going to compete on Blogger's ground of being easy to use and Blogger are going to compete on MT's ground of actually working. Things are about to get very interesting in the Blogosphere.

May 18, 2003

How to blog
Patrick Crozier

I'd forgotten this rule:

One burst of concentration: one blog posting
Don't try to write great long screeds - unless you are used to it. Get the thought down and fire away.

February 25, 2003

Back in the saddle
Patrick Crozier

It was a bad week to be both ill and moving house. Not only did we see the introduction of the "Congestion" (in reality and anti-car) Charge to Central London - a truly landmark development - but the BBC also broadcast a Panorama special on transport - something I hope to comment on as soon as they have the on-line transcript up and running.

I thought it would be a case of jumping back into the saddle once the dust had settled but the break and the gearing up brought back to the fore many of my usual blogging traumas.

First of all, there's all the stuff I want to write. A lot of it is about transport - but a lot of it isn't. So, what should I do with all the non-transport stuff? CrozierVision, Samizdata or both? And in what order should I do it? Do I regard TransportBlog as the main deal or should I say "To Hell with it" and do what I like?

And then there's the tyranny of blogging. The whole point of blogging (originally at least) was that it made it easy to maintain a web site. And it made it possible to get things off your chest - those great thoughts that otherwise would die with you. Right, fine, but the problem is the tremendous pressure to to do Something Every Day (SED). Brian Micklethwait openly acknowledges this and tries (successfully so far) to produce at least one new piece every day. But even he admits it can be a strain. Meanwhile many others have found the pressure all too much and had hiatuses or given up blogging altogether.

Not only is SED tough but it has damaging side effects. Because if you are spending a lot of time churning out average stuff you have less time to produce Good Stuff.

I am a great believer in Good Stuff, nuggets of gold and silver bullets. Good Stuff can come in all shapes and sizes: from single lines to whole pamphlets (though rarely books). Sometimes it is as a result of pure inspiration but more often than not it requires hard work. Actually, I suspect the inspirational stuff is usually the result of many hours of quiet contemplation.

Good Stuff matters. It is the stuff that is going to convert the unconverted and inspire the existing believers. [Incidentally, I am a great believer in preaching to the converted - people need the company and support of the like-minded.]

But Good Stuff cannot be written to order. At least it can't by me. It is something that comes out of moments of clarity - moments that by their very nature cannot be timetabled.

Good Stuff also demands a different distribution system. Blogged material is distributed by date. Good, bad or indifferent, the stuff that gets flagged up is the most recent. But Good Stuff isn't like that. The best stuff is literally timeless. It needs to be flagged up by category and personal recommendation.

How we go about that and what I should do in the meantime I simply don't know.

November 12, 2002

Blogging will be light over
Patrick Crozier

Blogging will be light over the next few days.

October 16, 2002

Syonara
Patrick Crozier

After quite a lot of soul searching/complaints I have decided to close down TBHN and re-open CrozierVision. CrozierVision is now going to be just like any other blog so that means that TBHN is redundant. In the end it came down to the name and the look of the site and CrozierVision won on both counts.

Here we go again
Patrick Crozier

After a lot of thought and consultation, and let's face it, orders from on high, I have decided to re-open CrozierVision. It is going to be in a rather different format though. It isn't going to pretend to be a TV channel (except occasionally) and it isn't going to be a digest blog. No, it's just going to be like any other blog - the only difference being that I am writing it.