Meryl’s like, on, man!

I have no idea whatever possessed Meryl to summarize the recent flap between herself, several others, and Aziz Poonawalla in such a bizarre manner, but I’m glad she did. Whether you’re in the mood for a serious debrief on a serious issue, or for a laugh, read it. It has it all!

Blogging for Links

Attention new bloggers & those who just want to get more links: Eugene Volokh has some typically excellent and thorough advice for you on how to promote your weblog.
I agree with basically everything he says, especially the following:
…pitch the blog post (“Here’s a post I just posted:”) not the blog (“Come and read my blog”). If people really like your posts, then they’ll start to regularly read your blog.
Yes! I’d also elaborate on Eugene’s points (go back and read them all) around e-mailing posts to other bloggers. I have made extensive use of this technique myself, and it can be very helpful in gaining the “big guns” attention. But I think it’s critical to calibrate just how much you e-mail any one blogger, and the best way to do that is to ask yourself whether the relationship you are building seems to be a mutually beneficial one.
Because when a big blogger links you, they generally aren’t doing it to do you a favor. They’re doing it because they find your post interesting, and believe their readers will too. At one extreme, if you could send a Big Name blogger only posts that they thought were great and linked every time, you’d be perfect: you wouldn’t be “bothering” them at all, you’d be helping them. But at the other extreme lie the trolls who send me their daily why-Bush-is-Evil newsletters. I doubt they actually expect me to link them, but they certainly provide no value to me, and are simply an annoyance.
One basic way to measure if the relationship is a mutually beneficial one is the obvious: is the other blogger actually linking the posts you send them? I have found that even the biggest-name bloggers generally do make an attempt to read all their e-mail. So if you get no response on one post you e-mail to them: they might have missed it. But if you get no response on three in a row — well, you’re probably just not providing them with material they find intriguing, and you should either stop, or change your approach.
And the logic doesn’t change once they do link you, either: that’s not a sign to go ahead and e-mail every last post you write to them! Keep sending just the very best stuff; aim for a linked-to-ignored ratio of at least above 50%.
If you follow Eugene’s rules and the guidelines I’ve stated here, I won’t guarantee that you’ll achieve blogging success, but I will at least predict that you won’t annoy the hell out of anybody trying.
And one last thought: Don’t always just aim for the very-top tier bloggers. The folks who are a notch or two down (for instance, me) generally get far less mail, and are far more likely to actually take the time to read your weblog. My personal position right now is that I enjoy receiving mail from new bloggers — though I definitely prefer those who follow Eugene’s advice to pitch the post, not the whole blog. It’s not that I mind getting mail that says “Come check out my weblog” — it’s just that it doesn’t give me much to go on, and I may or may not actually get around to doing it.
Anyway, as Eugene doesn’t have comments, I’d welcome fellow blogger’s contributions here. What’s your strategy for promoting your weblog (or do you not bother doing so at all?) What’s your perspective on onsolicited e-mail from other bloggers? (This is an ‘evergreen’ discussion, by the way: I swear I had a post on similar stuff sometime last year, but can’t find it just now.)

Grouchy Bear. Do Not Disturb.

Sorry for the lack of posting. An irritating week last week transformed gracefully into a lousy weekend, which today morphed into a crummy Monday.
More when I’m less grumpy.
-NZB

Cookblogging

Hanah is indoor grilling with some stovetop gadget:
I bought this fascinating little contraption yesterday – a device that transforms your ordinary stovetop into a grill. Okay, so it’s just a large and heavy sheet of grill-textured metal, but it’s really cool anyway.
Hanah, trust me: just buy the George Foreman. Yes, it’s a cheezy celebrity-sponsored product, but it’s great anyway. Turn it on, toss whatever you want to eat onto it, come back in twenty minutes or so, and it’s yummy doneness.
Cleaning it’ is a pain, but nothing’s perfect…

WHO vs. Toronto

Brief random thought #1: How come I haven’t heard any serious outrage from the libertarian crowd in the Blogosphere about the WHO travel advisory warning against travel to Toronto (among other places)? A non-elected, unrepresentative international body has by fiat made a declaration affecting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Canadian citizens. Isn’t that, like, a big deal? (Yes, Samizdatistas, I’m talkin’ to you).
Brief random thought #2: Would Toronto itself, or businesses (or individuals therein) have standing to sue the WHO? In what court — Canadian? Volokhs? Prof Reynolds? Anybody?

A test for pro-war bloggers

Mickey Kaus has been all over the Iraqi looting story, pointing to (among other things) a Washington Times story on the memo from Lt. Gen. Garner’s office requesting troops to guard critical cultural sites, a Washington Post piece on which says widespread looting crystallized much of the anger toward the United States.”
Kaus is in his favorite “I’m just askin'” mode, lobbing these nuggets in the general direction of “pro-war controversialists” (his phrase) like Mark Steyn and pondering whether, you know, perhaps this might actually have been a minor error? (It’s good stuff, read it all).
But he doesn’t go far enough. Following the chain of evidence and logic Kaus himself lays out, it’s clear to me that the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in particular, and the chaos following Baghdad’s fall in general, must unavoidably be chalked up in the “screwup” category for U.S. forces.
Let’s be clear on this. Does this mean all the terrible things about U.S. motives being impure are true? No. Does it mean those who predicted quagmire and awfulness were right? No. Does our failure in this area outweigh the huge success that we’ve had in defeating the true enemy (Saddam’s forces) while at the same time not just sparing, but often protecting the lives of Iraqi civilians? Absolutely, no.
The war is still a tremendous success. But: it is crucial that those of us who supported the war be willing to stand up and actually acknowledge when some things genuinely do go wrong.
This is hard, because for the past month, we’ve been barraged by chicken-little complaints from the anti-war side of the isle. We’ve gotten very used to ignoring criticism — or at least, swatting it away reflexively — because up to this point, criticism of the conduct of the war has been pretty damned weak.
Now, however, we have a clear example of something that U.S. forces did, indeed, screw up. It happens; the failure was not deliberate (to the best of my knowledge), and it’s importance should not be overstated. But it should be acknowledged for what it was: an error.
Thus far, the pro-war side of the Blogosphere isn’t faring too well on this test. Glenn devoted a piece on GlennReynolds.com to the looting story and the idea that critics of U.S. power are now expecting the U.S. to be omnipotent — a valid counter-criticism. But he never actually acknowledges clearly that allowing the looting to occur was in fact a mistake. Jeff Jarvis does only slightly better, at least acknowledging that there’s something to apologize for, but only in the context of minimizing the issue. (“Hey, I’m sorry that antiquities got lifted. I’m sorry Iraqi museums didn’t have better locks. “). And Andrew Sullivan has been completely silent on the issue (although that may be in part to his vacation). To be fair, both Jeff and Glenn’s pieces came out before some of the revelations Kaus points to: but neither (to my knowledge) has come back to the story to update their thoughts given the new information.
It’s crucial for those of us who supported the war to be able to also criticize it, and the peace that is following. Because the anti-war forces (some of ’em) were right about one thing: in many ways, the hardest part lies ahead. And we need to retain all the credibility we can get: both to convince the rest of the world that yes, America is imperfect, as will be the reconstruction of Iraq, but overall we’re pretty darned decent — as well as to keep our own eagle-eyes on those doing the reconstruction, so we can legitimately call ‘foul’ on them if they are going wrong.
That’s the job: now I’d ask my friends in the Blogosphere to rise to the occasion…
Correction: Well, this is what I get for trying to dash off a substantive post in the morning before heading to the paying job. Andrew Sullivan did blog on the looting issue, contrary to my assertion above (as buddy Spoons points out in the comments). I missed it because it was only one paragraph, but it was a very good paragraph:
“I remain an optimist about the Iraqi future – and America’s critical role in it. Yes, there have been some obvious screw-ups – the failure to protect Baghdad’s museums strikes me as damn-near indefensible. But the direction is clear. And if the U.N. is successfully kept at the margins, we can work this out.”
If he ever bothers to read my humble page again now that I’ve been caught out as not just being a jerk to him, but being a careless jerk: Andrew, you have both my kudos for your response, and my apologies. And those two things, plus about two bucks and fifty cents, will get you a nice latte at Starbucks…

Decisions, decisions…

Calpundit asks: “Do we want to be linked, or respected?
Actually, he doesn’t. What he really asked was, “Do we want to be liked or respected?” — proceeding then into a discussion of American policy in Iraq.
Frankly, I liked my misunderstanding of his question better. So which is it, fellow bloggers? Would you rather be linked, or respected?
Yes, it’s a trick question. Answer anyway.

Ecosystem Evolution: Percentages

OK, finally got around to implementing the much-suggested percentage enhancement to the Ecosystem.
Now, the categories are (mostly), determined as a percentage of the total number of blogs. So we will no longer have 60-70% of the list being classed as insignificant microbes.
I kept the top categories fixed, however, because, well, mainly ’cause I felt like it.
Here’s how the new structure works:
Higher Beings: 1 – 10
Mortal Humans: 11 – 30
Playful Primates: 31 – 100
Large Mammals: Next 5 %
Marauding Marsupials: Next 5 %
Adorable Rodents: Next 5 %
Flappy Birds: Next 5 %
Slithering Reptiles: Next 10 %
Crawly Amphibians: Next 10 %
Flippery Fish: Next 10 %
Slimy Molluscs: Next 10 %
Lowly Insects: Next 10 %
Crunchy Crustaceans: Next 10 %
Wiggly Worms: Next 10 %
Multicellular Microorganisms: Next 5 %
Insignificant Microbes: Bottom 5 %
The net effect of this is that most folks have now “evolved” up a bit. Now that the code is implemented, it is a simple matter to tinker with the percentages, so I’m open to suggestions as to different distributions than this.
Discuss amongst yourselves — but remember: no wagering!

Wanted: Ecosystem Icons

OK folks, sending out a call for creative assistance. In the graphical arts area, to be precise.
I’d like to add some flair to the Ecosystem, and would like to have graphical icons to represent each of the evolutionary levels.
Buddy Lair has sent me a great concept sheet, but these are copyrighted, and therefore not kosher for me to use freely. I need either original work that someone is willing to provide, or public-domain images.
Ultimately, I’d like to use these both on the Ecosystem pages themselves, and as banners which folks could put on their pages to link to the Ecosystem. I’m happy to accept either just images, or full concepts for the banners. (Or anything! I’m flexible.) And oh yeah: I’m more than happy to put a credit with link up to anyone providing significant assistance or original work.
Thanks to any who can assist. And by the way: links to this post are appreciated, to help spread my shameless plea far and wide…
-NZB

Baghdad Broadcasting Company

Jeff Jarvis notes a USA Today story suggesting that Iraq be wired for Wi-Fi access, allowing it to leapfrog the wired stage entirely, and also suggests he himself is ready to help build a Baghdad weblog newspaper.
This is excellent stuff, and I’m all in favor. But what I really want to see happen — and, like, soon — is a 24-7, Arabic language news station coming out of Baghdad. I know, I know, television is soooo old media — but teevee is where we’re losing the meme war to the Islamists and Arab nationalists who want to paint America as Evil Oppressor.
Note the approach: I don’t favor shutting down Al Jazeera. I do favor countering its messages with the perspective of an Arab people recently liberated by American military power. It is my hope their perspective will be a positive one towards the U.S. — but that’s up to them.
Does anybody know if there is any money in the reconstruction budget for such a thing? And if not, why in the world not?
And hey, the station name is obvious: Baghdad Broadcasting Company. Heh.

Oslo Accord Question

Assignment Desk: Would some blogger please find the exact section of th e 1993 Oslo Accords which the Palestinian Authority claims gives Abu Abbas immunity from prosecution by the U.S.?
I have a suspicion that:
a) The agreement applied to Israel, not the U.S. (even though Clinton signed it on our behalf)
b) I’m not entirely convinced it even says that about Israel, as I’ve done a quick read of what I think is the right document and can’t find any such clause — this may be an interpretation open to debate, rather than a straightforward and undisputed agreement. But I’m half-expecting to be wrong on this point.
At any rate, I’ve yet to see anybody actually cite the clause, and it would kinda be nice, ya know? (I’d do it myself, but paying work beckons…)
Update: Thanks to those who commented & provided some insight here. But predictably, Eugene Volokh has what seems to be the definitive counter-argument, further fueling my own doubts …

Solution Still Unsatisfactory

If you aren’t a reasonably hardcore science fiction fan, be warned: this post won’t make much sense to you.
Still here? Well, you were warned.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden points out Bill Humphries’ observation that since 9/11, we appear to be living in a world scripted by Ken MacLeod:
“You see, Wolfowitz is our Colonel Volkov. Volkov transforms Nova Babylonya, and Wolfowitz transforms America, in both cases Republics, and both nations into engines to defend the State against external aggressors.”
A debate has taken flight in Patrick’s comment section (complete with a reminder of Godwin’s Law), to which I added my own small contribution, which I’ll expand upon here:
At the risk of tripping over one of the corollaries to Godwin’s Law, for me, life since 9/11 hasn’t so much seemed like one of Ken’s futures (although let me add a brief digressive hat-tip here to Mr. MacLeod for his fine, fine novels).
It’s been a Heinlein future: Solution Unsatisfactory, to be precise. Wolfowitz isn’t Colonel Volkov. He’s Colonel Manning.
For those of you who haven’t read this story, you should: it can be found in The World’s of Robert A. Heinlein, which seems to be available at Powell’s used. It may also be in another collection, though I am not certain. Published in 1940, it describes the discovery of a superweapon that proves vital in the outcome of World War II — and beyond that, I will not say more, other than to note that I have yet to be able to answer the dilemma Heinlein points out.
Which shouldn’t be much of a shock, as humanity as a whole has been trying to do so for the past sixty years, to no avail…

TTLB: Rated a Strong Buy!

So I’m amused to see that The Truth Laid Bear is #58 on the list of Top 100 blogs over at Blogshares. Furthermore, TTLB shares are trading at $11.59, I have a P/E ratio of 3.49, and TTLB is valued at $ 16,594.14.
I have no idea what half of this means! But it’s fun.
I’m also tickled to note that kind folks such as Vicky, Jane, and Matt are now major investors in TTLB!
Thanks for the vote o’ confidence, folks. I’ll let y’all know when the first stockholders meeting is…