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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The future of Metamagician and the Hellfire Club

Since I started this blog a bit over six years ago, it's been more successful than I'd ever imagined. As far as I can recall or reconstruct, I originally meant it as an online diary, a sandpit to develop some of my philosophical ideas, and a sort of clubhouse on the internet where my little group of close friends could hang out. It never really became the third of those (the friends in question are like cats who can't be herded), but it's done a lot more than the first two in that it's garnered some wider popularity, attracted a bit of attention from larger sites, and made something of a reputation for itself. While Metamagician and the Hellfire is by no means a high traffic site, it does attract quite a lot of views per day.

In any event, I've become fond of this place, and I expect it will continue as my personal blog into the indefinite future.

On the other hand, my life has changed since 2006. I'm now also blogging at Talking Philosophy (which I urge you to follow if you read this blog for the philosophical discussions), I've been writing a fair bit for the ABC Religion and Ethics Portal (where I often feel like I'm a dissenting voice, but that's not necessarily a bad thing ... and some kudos should go to Scott Stephens for publishing people like me with whom he is in fairly deep and pervasive disagreement), and I now have a regular (though not frequent) opinion column for Free Inquiry (the first contribution to my new column appears in the current issue, though I also had a recent article about human enhancement technology). All of these places reach larger audiences than Metamagician and the Hellfire Club (and the ABC even pays some money!), so it makes sense to give them a certain priority when it comes to the kinds of writing that can logically go to them.

There's also the fact that I don't have unlimited time. In addition to all the above, I'm currently working on two books (both of which have deadlines and involve a lot of research), plus trying to get a third book off the ground, plus editing The Journal of Evolution and Technology. And I have a recently-published book to promote. Plus, I'm scrabbling around doing some research towards yet other books that I have in mind for down the track. I also spend time doing other things that I think I should, such as peer reviews of articles that are sent to me by refereed journals - unlike most academics, I actually say Yes to almost all such requests, partly because I do still have some time ... and partly because I think that supporting this process is very important.

The reason I still have some time is that I don't have a paying job - my position at the University of Newcastle is an honorary research-only one, which means I can get slightly involved in the department (or whatever it's called: hmmm, it's actually the discipline of Philosophy and Religious Studies within the School of Humanities and Social Science), but I don't have actual students to teach, lectures to prepare, administration to do, etc. I basically have some colleagues, a free staff parking permit, and a free library card. How I keep afloat financially is another matter as I'm not exactly writing best-sellers (any funding sources that turn up on my doorstep are always welcome) - the point is that I can find some time at a pinch.

On the gripping hand, I do have a life outside all this, including a family that I moved to Newcastle from Melbourne to be closer to (among other reasons).

So in the end, my time is actually pretty limited. (This is also why I have to decline most of the requests that I get from people to advise on their manuscripts, school projects, etc., etc.; I get quite a lot of these requests.)

Sooo, the question that's been on my mind is how much time I can really devote to Metamagician and the Hellfire Club. The answer, for the indefinite future is that it will, indeed, continue as my personal blog. However, there's already been a shift in its mix of posts, as the more concerted philosophical musings tend to find their way to other places. There's been a drift towards making this blog more like an online diary, a place for quick comment on events of interest, and a place to have a bit of fun (as with my brief reaction to seeing The Avengers the other day ... which is actually proving to be a very popular post, by my standards, for, I suppose, fairly obvious reasons).

I think I'll also have to cut down on the sheer number of posts here - it was nothing like this number in the first three years. It really started to take off after 2008, the year when Udo and I completed our work on 50 Voices of Disbelief and I also finished my Ph.D ... these happened about the same time (in fact, 2008 was a busy and difficult year for other reasons as well), and I found myself increasingly drawn into online debates about religion and related issues. In 2010 and 2011, I was writing here very frequently and often at considerable length.

The bottom line is that the mix has gradually changed here just lately, and, as per the previous para, the quantity of posts is going to have to scale back a bit as well.

However, Metamagician and the Hellfire Club is not going away any time soon. It will still be the central place that records my doings (my actual website is fairly up to date at the moment, but it tends to lag well behind this place). It will still have commentary on Australian and world news, popular culture, and even philosophical issues. But it's unlikely to have as many posts as was the case over the last three years or so, and they have already tended less to be long philosophical discussions - for those, Talking Philosophy is increasingly likely to be the place. (I did mention that Talking Philosophy gets more traffic ... not all that much more, though, and it deserves more, so I'm urging you folks to follow it and participate in the debates there.)

Okay, so that's now official. Please don't go away, dear audience, but also please understand why I can't now run this blog quite as I did through 2010 and 2011 in particular.

13 comments:

Cameron Douglas said...

If you turned your blog into a mixture of philosophy and porn you will get more viewers, and maybe you could sell advertising space? Just one way of earning an income?

Russell Blackford said...

Hmmm, I don't think so.

Gerald said...

Ever considered moving your blog to something like freethoughtblogs.com? You'd be in good company and get a bit of cash there...

Russell Blackford said...

Gerald, you raise an interesting point. Unfortunately, I'm going to be circumspect in answering it.

My traffic would definitely increase somewhat there - though not by an order of magnitude or whatever - but I haven't been invited there, and I doubt that I'd be welcome.

To be honest, I'd also have my own misgivings about joining/supporting Freethought Blogs. I'm not at all sure that that place would be right for me - I think Talking Philosophy is a better fit - or even that it's generally a Good Thing (even though I agree that some of the company is good). So at this stage I wouldn't accept an invitation even if I were on better terms with the people who run the place.

I don't really want to go into the reasons for this, though. It would raise some emotion-laden issues, among them interpretations of the series of events involved in Elevatorgate last year, which is a topic I've sworn to keep away from on this blog. But not just that issue.

In any event, there'd not be a lot of point in going to Freethought Blogs - I doubt that it would generate much income or, in the scheme of things, increase my outreach, considering that I'd be unlikely to attract as big an audience there as as I do at either the ABC or in Free Inquiry. I suppose the benefit would be a bit of extra day-to-day visibility, which is certainly something, but that's all.

Alan Baxter said...

Maybe you can just make sure you post a link here whenever a post of yours goes up somewhere else?

Anonymous said...

porn wud b gud.

Russell Blackford said...

Certainly, Alan - I normally do that, and don't plan to stop.

Anthony Paul said...

If it's any consolation (the consolations of philosophy?) I sent a copy of your "recently-published book" to a law professor friend of mine with the express suggestion that it might make good supplementary reading in a Con Law course or perhaps better in a seminar.

Russell Blackford said...

Wow, thank you Anthony!

Just by the way folks, I wasn't meaning to whine about lack of money. Given that I have to live off a mix of rather modest investments and the even more modest income that comes from freelance writing and editing, it is an issue. And yes, I do get annoyed when insouciantly asked to speak at conferences outside of Newcastle or Sydney at my own expense. My work needs funding sources; I am not someone else's funding source. (Even then, there are some conferences that I would obviously want to attend anyway, such as the two GACs in Melbourne, and my annoyance wouldn't extend to them.)

But I do have enough money to live a comfortable life while basically pursuing the projects I want to. I realise that I'm in a very privileged position in that sense (even though, ahem, it was quite a struggle getting into that position, since I'm not from a wealthy family background).

It's just that I couldn't make some points in the original post without mentioning the financial aspect. But that's not the point of the post.

One thing (well, two things) that I'm very strongly against doing is running advertisements here on this blog or asking for donations. The only financial support that I ask for from my readers here is that if you might at least consider buying my books, which gives me royalties ... and if you enjoy them spread the word on your own blog or however you else can.

But I only say "consider" - there's no hard sell beyond that. And hey, lots of people who read this blog come here mainly for "Sunday Supervillainy", not for my views on atheism or secularism or metaethics, or emerging technologies, or whatever. Those people are very welcome, and until such a time as I write my book on villain theory they probably don't have a lot of reason to read my books.

Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog, found it interesting and then purchased your books. Something to think about...

Russell Blackford said...

Sure - so thanks for doing so, and I imagine there are others. But I can't devote equal time to everything I'm doing ... and it's not as if the blog won't exist. I'm just being up-front about how much time and priority I can now give to it, i.e. not as much as in 2010 and 2011.

Anonymous said...

More posts on abortion, please.

Mike said...

I personally _don't_ think kudos should go to Scott Stephens at the ABC Portal, since he doesn't seem to have a very even hand in presenting material. IMHO the "ethics" part of the portal title has been very poorly represented in both content and editorial policy.

I've politely called him out on some of his more obvious anti-atheist stances, but have been moderated into silence while bilious theists rant on.