(1) The quality of discussion and commentary in the blogosphere is neither better nor worse than in the public culture generally. Just as in the public culture, you can locate alternative points of view that have intellectual substance, so too, you can do the same in the blogosphere. The blogosphere has not made any advance on this score over the mere fact of the Internet making it possible, e.g., to get to Znet or TomDispatch, with ease from your home or office computer.
(2) Although I started out posting very little on politics, the temptation to post on political and cultural matters is great, and I have largely succumbed. This seems to have correlated with a spike in readership as well--average weekday visits are topping 1200 per day over the last couple of weeks.
(3) The blog has proved an effective way to circulate ideas in which I'm actually invested intellectually--such as my views on American Legal Realism, or Dworkin, or Marx. I have been able to reach worthy readers whom I otherwise would have missed. I thank them for their interest in my ideas.
(4a) "The less they know the less they know it" (a finding of empirical psychology) and "You can't talk to the ignorant about lies, because they have no criteria" (Ezra Pound) are still the order of the day in the blogosphere generally. I've tried to adopt the policy of no longer linking to the hopeless cases, especially since the blogopaths among them seem to crave the attention.
(4b) It is slightly incredible (but, admittedly, also rather amusing) to be denounced as "irrational" and "stupid" by noxious mediocrities who populate the intellectual backwaters of the blogosphere. In the first few months of blogging, I made the error of acknowledging their existence and responding to their "arguments" [sic], but it became clear quickly this was not a useful expenditure of anyone's time. See (4a), above.
(5) The attention span of the blogosphere is very short. This is why I am still amazed that some folks commit so much time and energy to postings that will, in the flash of an eye, disappear. When I have posted substantive philosophical material, it has always been material prepared originally for other "real" occasions (see (3), above). I still find the ephemeral nature of the blogosphere a disincentive to substantial intellectual investment in original work for this medium.
(6) Two postings that attracted, oddly, very high levels of attention ("hits") from elsewhere were the one on Daniel Drezner's moronic praise of Bush for the "class act" of visiting a US air base in Iraq for 2 hours on Thanksgiving and the posting on Chomsky-haters.
On the former, the clucking derision of a mix of right-wingers and political science students, was directed at my own derisive remarks about the the "discipline" [sic] of political science. No one, unsurprisingly, responded on the merits: i.e., what must the intellectual content of an academic discipline be like such that an apparently competent member of that discipline feels it incumbent upon himself to congratulate a craven political figure for an obvious publicity stunt, one that did nothing to alleviate the grotesque human misery that he caused? It was, to be sure, hyperbole on my part to saddle this pathetic display on the field of political science (some of my "best friends" are political scientists!): whatever the manifest intellectual weaknesses of that "discipline," it has no monopoly on moral depravity (even if one can go farther in political science than any other field almost entirely on the basis of the rhetorical skill and strength one brings to bear on behalf of such depravity: vide Samuel Huntington).
On the latter, two things are particularly memorable. First, though less interestingly, the silence that greeted the revelation that Justice Ginsburg agreed with Chomsky on this issue was striking. Second, and more interestingly, the whole incident made vivid not just the infantile stupidity of so many of those who blog--that is obvious to anyone who spends a half hour perusing blogospheric offerings--but, in particular, the passion with which they read badly.
For those with short memories (or the good sense not to dwell on these trivia), Chomsky was asked in an interview "Is anti-semitism on the increase?" and replied, plausibly enough, that, "In the West, fortunately, it scarcely exists now, though it did in the past." The question was promptly reinterpreted by Chomsky-haters as really being the question, "Are anti-semitic acts by individuals on the increase in the West?" and thus Chomsky's answer was absurd, since evidence of anti-semitic acts by individuals could be adduced. I made the banal observation that one shouldn't interpret the ambiguous remarks of intelligent people in the least charitable way imaginable, and that applying this simple principle of interpretive charity, it was obvious that the sense in which Chomsky's answer was not absurd, but trivially true, was that institutional anti-semitism scarcely existed any longer in the West. Chomsky-hating being what it is, however, this could not suffice. The Chomsky-haters replied that this involved "reading into" Chomsky's answer something that he didn't say (as though their own uncharitable reading did not involve the same kind of supplementation of the actual text). Unable to distinguish, in addition, between de jure and de facto institutional discrimination--notwithstanding Chomsky's own central example of de facto institutional discrimination in housing--the Chomsky-haters clucked that the obvious, charitable reading of the two lines of interview text would entail that racism scarcely exists in the U.S., notwithstanding widespread de facto institutional discrimination against minorities in real estate, sales, and other arenas (apparently the blogosphere is short of, e.g., Africans-Americans who've tried to buy real estate or secure car loans). And so it goes.
From all of which I conclude that (a) it takes great courage and fortitude to be Noam Chomsky, and (b) some people are beyond the reach of reason.
(7) The blogosphere has the virtue and vice of a genuine democracy: everyone can be heard, and distinctions of rank (competence, qualifications, etc.) do not matter.