Some time in the last 24 hours, this blog had its ten millionth visitor, at least according to the SiteMeter gods. Whatever the precise number, that seems like an awful lot, given my non-existent expectations that I'd have any readers in the beginning. The blog started in August 2003, mostly by accident: the IT folks at the University of Texas created blog software and were looking for faculty to use it. The IT folks in the Law School asked if I was interested, and I said 'no thanks.' But a week later I changed my mind, since I thought it would be a good complement to the on-line ranking material, and would be an easy way to do updates and corrections. So it began. The disgusting behavior of the "Texas Taliban" and the shills at the Discovery [sic] Institute, as well as the criminality of Bush & his bestiary of madmen caught my attention, indeed, occupied a lot of the blog for awhile, resulting in an expansion of the readership. (Especially memorable, I suppose, was the scandal of the Harvard Law Review publishing laudatory nonsense by a confused law student about notorious ID apologist Francis Beckwith, followed by one of Beckwith's students doing a hatchet job on me in The National Review.) Lots of fun, and maybe it even did a bit of good, but it became too time-consuming, and so things migrated back to mostly academic stuff.
Mostly it's been enjoyable working on this blog, though my earliest reflections on the experience still ring true to me. I've certainly enjoyed the privilege of corresponding with a lot of interesting folks (philosophers, other academics, non-academics) thanks to the blog; I've probably recruited a few extra readers for my actual scholarly work; I'm pleased to have provided useful information and help to many students, many of whom have been kind enough to write over the years; and I've had the opportunity to promote good causes, whether it is stamping out anti-gay bigotry in academia, exposing bad behavior by philosophers, or calling attention to egregious actions by administrators that affect philosophy. Many readers have found particularly valuable the many discussion threads we've run about "issues in the profession" over the last couple of years.
There have, of course, been downsides to the blog as well. The biggest shock early on was to discover the amount of insolence conjoined with incompetence that characterizes so much of Cyberspace and the blogosphere in particular. If the empirical evidence left anyone skeptical about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, perusing blogs for a couple of hours should be sufficient to confirm the reality of the phenomenon! (Indeed, I created a whole category on the blog in recognition!) "Decidedly weird" was, I think, the right characterization for much of this stuff--or "blogapathology"! A related phenomenon, of course, is hate e-mail, though I got more of it when I was doing a lot more political blogging. That stuff also startled me at first--could people be this stupid and venal?--until I realized it was meaningless and, in an odd way, amusing. Cyber-encounters with seriously disturbed individuals and random malevolent types was also not something I had anticipated when I started blogging, but even those experiences are instructive about humanity and its sometimes damaged instantiations. Of course, my bad habit of saying what I actually think, and not something else, is no doubt a magnet for cyber-crazies. Writing less about politics has meant that most of the cyber-crazies have gone elsewhere. (If I could only revise upward my opinions of Jacques Derrida, Leo Strauss, and Ayn Rand, I'd probably get rid of the remaining few!)
Will this blog make it to the 20 millionth visitor mark? Maybe. In any case, I plan to keep it going for the foreseeable future. It has found a useful professional niche for itself in Cyberspace, and the rewards continue to outweigh the burdens.
Thanks, as always, for reading.