What it is
When people ask me about how to create a popular blog, I tell them it is key to focus on a narrow topic. This blog does not do that. Instead, I talk about things that interest me at the moment. As such, it doesn’t seek out any particular audience. Without any plan, it still seems that the things I write about that tend to attract the most interest are:
Teaching: My most linked to and most commented on posting was what some considered a humorous post on plagiarism, with well over two hundred interesting comments. I like to experiment with my teaching, especially using technology and working in new topic areas, and so I try to write a bit about that.
Research: My research is in the area of social computing, especially as it relates to social change. I like to look at the ways new communication technologies are affecting politics, government, education, journalism, and business. Some of the things I write about in this area are obscure and only of interest to other academics, it seems. Some (like monkeying with Wikipedia) attract wider audiences. I try to put down some of my half-baked ideas here, to remind me to do some baking.
Politics: In case it wasn’t obvious, the first two areas are heavily related, as is this one. Sometimes, I just have to speak my mind. It usually annoys people, and that’s a good thing.
Culture: I am a happy urbanite, having moved to New York City in 2006. I often write about things I do in the city or interesting things I see in real life and on the web. I try not to talk about what everyone else is talking about, but sometimes I end up commenting on the current buzz.
Random stuff: Then there’s the kinds of things that just seem to show up on blogs. Family stuff (like when my sister was nearly eaten by a great white shark, or my partner graduated from law school), as well as things related to my career as a professor and… just random odds and ends.
a thaumaturgical compendium?
When I started this site, back in the mid-1990s*, it was my personal home page, and its title was “Alex Halavais.” Sometime in 2003, I added a tagline “a thaumaturgical compendium,” because it was expected at that time that a blog should have a tagline, and in the summer of 2006, dropped my own name in favor of the tagline. Not a lot of deep thought went into it. The blog is a compendium of things I find to be magical; many in fairly superficial ways. Language and technology makes all things magical in some way.
The logo is inspired by a painting by Pedro Berruguete from about 1480 of Saint Dominic checking for heresy by burning books (the holy ones floated). The painting appears in the Prado Museum, and I would have used the book from the painting, but couldn’t find a high enough resolution scan. The logo is constructed from a whole bunch of collected images–the main one being this cover.
If you are using a modern browser, you will note that I make use of fonts from the Fell Types, throughout, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Marini.
Who pays for my bias
I am an employee of Arizona State University, an occasional consultant, and affiliated with a number of other groups as noted in my bio. Nothing I say here (particularly any political opinion) should be construed as an official or unofficial opinion of my employers or clients, but you are free to assume that I have a pronounced bias in favor of the organizations I work with. I try to be transparent about this.
If you send me something to try, eat, drink, read, ride, drive, apply, explode, love, thrash, or worship–and you do not expect me to pay for the privilege–I may very well write about it. In all such cases, I will indicate the gift.
There is a hidden kickback: I occasionally have affiliate links to Amazon. I don’t think I’ve ever made more than $1 a year from that, but there it is. Be warned: if you click on a book link to Amazon and buy it, I might get a few cents back.
I have had Google AdSense up, and they will probably be back on soon. I don’t make a profit from blogging, but I am not averse to offsetting some of my expenses. I won’t allow this to affect my blogging, though Google has tried to say that my blog is too controversial for them. (Too bad.)
Please comment. The only reason I haven’t given up this blog is that people continue to post such thoughtful and interesting comments.
I try to keep as free a hand as possible in terms of limiting comments. However, if you link back to a commercial site, especially if there is no substantial relationship to the post, I’ll delete. Of course, the standard anti-spam measures are taken as well. If you are uncivil, post ad hominem attacks, post material that I consider hate speech, or nonsense (I really mean “nonsense” here, not things I disagree with), I’ll exercise my right to excise.
Copyright / License
All original material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial 2.0 License. What that means is that you are free to make use of this material, as long as you say where it came from, and you don’t make any money from it. If you would like to make commercial use of the material you find on this site, drop me a note. In most cases, I am happy to provide permission. For non-commercial uses, you don’t even have to ask: you just have to cite.
The exception here is the logo, favicon, and other design elements that let the reader know they are at my blog and not somewhere else. You should consider these mine, and not free for your use (except where it is clear you are linking to this site).
Finally, sometimes people ask whether it is OK for them to link to me. Of course! That’s what the web is all about.
Other times people ask me to exchange links so as to help game Google. I don’t do this. But if you have something you think might interest me, be sure to leave a comment or get in touch with me.
Host, backend, etc.
This site is run using the excellent WordPress blogging system, and hosted by QuaHost. If you are looking for a great shared host for a very fair price, QuaHost is definitely a winner. (And speaking of bias–my consulting company is a QuaHost partner.)
* There are entries here dug up from previous diaries, etc., and added after the 2002 move to Moveable Type. Previous versions of the site were hosted on the University of Washington “weber” server, “students” server, and elsewhere.