Flipped Out Fans

I see them often, headlines that blare urgently: “Fans Flip Out Over _____” On the flip side, the ones that proclaim giddily: “Fans Are Thrilled About _____” The blanks differ, week to week, but the mood is always vocal eleven; outrage or delight; thumbs up or thumbs down. (As Jerry Seinfeld put it recently, it either “Sucks!” or it’s “Great!” His genius is pointing out they can be the same thing.)

For me that level of involvement in fiction is a bit alien. Even as a young Star Trek fan, I distinguished between Trekkers (the sensible sort of fan that I was) and Trekkies (those goofballs running around with Spock ears and toy phasers). Love versus obsession; appreciation versus Let’s Pretend.

What concerns me sometimes is we’re amusing ourselves to death.

To the extent that fan means fanatic, I’ve never been a fan. It’s that line between loving something or being obsessed by it. Attaching too much to a book, TV series, movie, or whatever, strikes me somewhat like having an imaginary friend.

It’s fine to a point, whatever puts helium in your balloon, but it can go too far.

I worry about blurred lines, for one thing. Not everyone separates reality and fiction effectively. For some those bleed together. In some cases that has disastrous results (RIP John Lenon, Rebecca Schaeffer, Selena, and others).

As always, it’s a question of how much is too much. What constitutes over the line? Clearly gunfire is way over the line; any criminal behavior is. At the other end of the spectrum, fans can certainly express their opinions in a variety of (legal) ways.

One art Yin-Yang question that interests me involves the tension between creators responding (or not) to their fans. (Another involves consumers knowing (or not) the artist and context of their work.)

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What I find a bit weird is that fan opinions are headline news.

Partly my fault, actually. A newsfeed learns what interests the reader. I sometimes read articles about “the industry,” so it calculates I may want to read others.

My gripe is, having read a handful of articles about NCIS (regarding Cote de Pablo returning to the show), now I get tons of articles about NCIS. It’s slow to learn I don’t read most of them.

I don’t want NCIS out completely, but I wish there was a way to have only important articles. The problem is defining what’s “important,” not to mention getting an algorithm to recognize content on that level.

A byproduct is that these headlines (let alone the articles), hoping for clicks, contain spoiler information. Writers are so eager to discuss the latest episode of Doctor Who (or whatever) they spill beans the day after it airs.

When those beans are in the headline, bang, you’ve been spoiled. This has happened to me many times.

The situation is worse when a whole season drops. It might be weeks or months until I get around to watching. By then the season has been thoroughly discussed.

We all seem to suffer crippling FOMO. We don’t savor things anymore. We gulp them down and move on to the next thing. People don’t even realize how crazy it’s all gotten. (Koyaanisqatsi! I’m tellin’ ya.)

[I was fighting off learning about Westworld, season three, because I don’t have HBO and haven’t decided what (if anything) to do about that. I couldn’t resist reading two recently because the headlines implied season three was worse than season two, which it sounds like it was. Unfortunately, now I basically know what happens and almost don’t have to watch. (Maybe that’s actually fortunate.)]

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Devoted fans develop a sense of ownership. That leads to a natural desire to participate, to be heard.

I’m of a school that says, generally when it comes to the art of others, we like or not like, but our opinion shouldn’t steer or sway the art or artist. I try as much as possible to let art wash over me. I try to go with the flow and embrace what the artist has produced.

Sometimes I find it not to my taste, but my taste is on me. Nowhere is it writ all art must appeal. People don’t like every kind of food, every kind of music, or every kind of sport. Why would other art be different?

The simple solution to a food you don’t like is don’t eat that food. (It leaves more for those who do like it.)

That said, we all have our Waterloo. To this day I wish I could have talked with the people making Star Trek (the closest I ever came to fanish, but I was in high school). I desperately wanted a few words with them about transporters and replicators.

Many years later I wanted, even more desperately, a few words with those making Star Trek:The Next Generation about that damn holodeck. (For me, that one went from SMH to D’oh! to Arg!!)

But other than quietly ranting off in my corner to anyone who’d listen, I never expected to be taken seriously. It certainly wasn’t headline worthy. Fan Flips Out Over Holodeck!

Put it on the fridge: It’s just a TV show, keep your pants on.

In The Truth About Cats and Dogs, veterinarian talk show host Abby Barnes (Janeane Garofalo) says, “You should love your pets, but not love your pets.”

Her stress on the second “love” — the overtones of obsession, of crossing a line — are exactly the sort of thing I mean about fans.

It’s fine to love a show. Just don’t love a show.

§

With art, taste can almost entirely define our reaction. We might be captured and enthralled, or we might find it doesn’t grab us. We might even find it annoying or otherwise seriously unlikable. But that, again, is us, not the art.

If anything, it’s a compliment to the artist that we reacted so strongly. Reaction is one of the whole points of art. (Which makes the whole fan thing kinda complicated.)

I think it’s even more complicated when it comes to storytelling art. There is the craft — the beauty or elegance — of the story, but there is also (for lack of a better word) the logic of the story.

I don’t mean a story has to be logical (although that’s often a good strategy). What I mean is that a story says something specific that we react to on top of the craft of the telling. A story has rich content.

Which is where our opinions about things really kick in.

It’s one thing to be touched by a poem or bored by ballet, but when art presents complex ideas that engage with our ideas, we may be confronted with cognitive dissonance. We may find ourselves strongly disagreeing with, even arguing with, what is, in a very real sense, another person — another mind.

§ §

With fiction, the willing suspension of disbelief asks us to accept and try to understand. If the plot seems preposterous, we should ask if things could happen that way. A story isn’t about what should have happened, but what the author says did happen.

It’s a matter of seeing the good and going with the bad… to a point.

(My big ask with stories has always been: Don’t take me out of the moment. Don’t do something so stupid my mind just can’t go along anymore.)

Something to keep in mind: Criticism implies superiority. Especially negative criticism. It suggests the critic would have known better. But it’s like proofreading. It’s easy to spot mistakes in something. It’s a lot harder to create a something that’s even mostly free of mistakes.

(I believe absolutely in the theory that says eliminating all errors requires N+1 proofreads, where N is the actual number performed. This holds regardless of how large you make N.)

((As such, I’ve adopted the Navajo rug-weaver and sand painting idea of deliberately leaving an error, because [a] perfection is for the gods, and [b] the N+1 theory means there will always be at least one error anyway.))

That said, writing, proofreading, and editing, are all quite different skills. More to the point, perhaps, they are skills that require training.

§

The thing about criticism is that sometimes a second look gives one a different take on things. (Which can demand a third look to see which reaction is more true.)

A bad meal at a new restaurant might be the result of a bad night (on their part or yours). One data point doesn’t say much. It certainly doesn’t give you a trend.

On the other hand, fresh eyes sometimes see things. (That’s why having someone else proofread or edit your writing is so valuable.)

Finally, there is that we don’t always know what constraints the author may have labored under. Perhaps there are good reasons for something we think is “wrong” being the way it is.

The point is, informed criticism is more than our gut reactions. There is a world of difference between what is good and what we like.

§ §

The attraction to stars and fanish behavior seem linked to me. Or perhaps it’s that I’ve never understood either.

Liking the actor is a first-level understanding of the story. The actors are puppets for the writer and director. They contribute plenty, but their words and major actions are not their own. (I think science fiction fans may lean more into writers and directors, so props for that.)

I’ve wondered if those with a background in theatre are also more prone to see behind the actors than those who only watch TV and movies. In seeing plays, one often sees the same story played by different actors, which may focus on the stories more.

On the other hand, a diet of TV and movies puts (the same) favorite actors in different stories, so perhaps this leads to a greater focus on the actors? #justathought

§ §

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone down this road, and it probably won’t be the last. As I said, it’s something I’ve noticed since the days of the original Star Trek when I was in high school.

Stay unfannish, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

28 responses to “Flipped Out Fans

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Well said!

    I discovered the fan effect when I criticized (relatively mildly) popular movies and had hard core fans give me a piece of their mind. They acted like I was criticizing their child or something. I can understand that people love a show, movie, or book. And I find the fan behavior annoying. But I can usually shake my head and just move on.

    What really throws me is when people cite fiction as a source for real life points. What they’re really doing is citing the opinion of the writer(s), director, producers, etc, but they often don’t seem to realize it. It speaks to the power of story narratives. People will accept a proposition in story form that they’d be much more skeptical of otherwise.

    In many ways, that’s the power of science fiction. I had a lot of ideas introduced to me through it when I was younger that I probably wouldn’t have sat still for otherwise. But the power of stories also provides an avenue for less savory messaging. (As any propagandist knows.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thanks! (I know some find rants off-putting, and I do appreciate a positive outlook, but I find venting (hopefully harmlessly) improves my mental health. Better out than in! 😉 )

      “I discovered the fan effect when I criticized (relatively mildly) popular movies and had hard core fans give me a piece of their mind.”

      Yep, exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. I do get that there is criticizing and there is slamming, and I know I’ve been guilty of the latter. It kind of goes back to the venting thing and a general flamboyance I learned working in the arts. People are supposed to realize one is venting furiously and flamboyantly, even indulging in a form of performance art, and not take it too seriously.

      But it requires a rather specific cultural background that few share. (Something that’s finally starting to dawn on me. Even at this age I still struggle to unlearn youthful bad habits.)

      That aside, it really bugs me how even even-handed “this is totally just my taste” negative criticism of a beloved whatever sets people against you. I can’t help but think of alcoholics and drug users who insist you share their passion. Saying “no thanks, not for me” is an offense to them. I suspect people take it as an implication they shouldn’t like it, as if taste were universal. (To be blunt, I suspect it comes from insecurity.)

      Good point about the power of narrative. Stories are interesting. I think many people really need to connect with some form of humanity to make information appealing to them. I’ve always be struck by the sheer information content managed by sports fans or gear heads, but those same people feel utterly lost in other information domains they don’t connect with.

      I think you’re right about how it can make the medicine go down easier too. Put another person in a moral quandary they resolve and maybe it gets some readers thinking.

      [As an aside, the modern era makes it really hard to talk about artists and [BLANK]s because “reader” sure doesn’t fit the bill anymore. “Viewer” excludes books, and I’m damned if I can come up with a better all-inclusive term than “consumer” — which I don’t like. A “consumer” of art? Like it’s a Happy Meal? “Audience” doesn’t work for me, either. I need a word!]

      “In many ways, that’s the power of science fiction.”

      Ha. It goes back and forth a lot among experts, but no one will ever convince me that reading good fiction doesn’t make for a more expanded consciousness (which I define as “better” so I’m saying reading good fiction makes people better).

      And science fiction? Oh, hell, yeah, exactly as you say, a great deal of who I am today owes to SF. I loved SF immediately because I was already a geek, but it was like rocket fuel for my brain (an appropriate metaphor under the circumstances).

      And so true about ways of thinking that we might have rejected had they not come packaged the way they did. The power of parable!

      Sadly, indeed, also the power of propaganda.

      Ways of programming the human brain. (It’s why Snow Crash remains a favorite novel of mine. It’s a key theme there.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think rants have their place, and I know what you mean about venting helping. I know I felt better after my kvetch about WP themes. I usually only find it off-putting when someone keeps ranting over and over about the same thing, which usually means they’ve become obsessed about it and, for their own well-being, need to move on. (Hossenfelder’s repeated attacks on proposals for new colliders stands out to me as an example.)

        It is interesting that it bothers people that others don’t think just like them. I can sort of understand it if we’re talking about objective facts (xkcd’s “Someone is wrong on the internet” comes to mind), but with personal tastes, even in my most immature stages it never bothered me that people like stuff I don’t or vice-versa.

        Can’t say I have a good suggestion for a word the covers readers, viewers, etc. I’ve used “audience” before, which sort of works for something like “know your audience”, but “what does the audience know at this stage of the story” feels awkward when discussing a novel.

        Several years ago, I did a rewatch of a lot of the original Star Trek episodes. One of the things that stood out to me is how often it involved characters in some setting learning that the nature of their world isn’t what they thought it was. I suspect, more than anything else, a preparedness for that kind of epiphany is what I got from that show at an early age, and it’s definitely a theme that runs through a lot of science fiction. In many ways, it seems to promote open minded thinking. (Although I guess it’s possible that it just attracts people who are open minded anyway.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That is a question I’ve been pondering since high school. By then I’d been an SF fan for years and had the experience of trying to get my parents, sister, or friends, excited about it and not really getting anywhere. At one point I began to believe that SF was something you either picked up young or not at all. I have yet to convert a non-SF-reading adult to one that reads SF (despite many attempts).

        So I really wonder if it does require a certain mindset in the first place.

        Interesting observation about TOS, I can totally see it. In some regards that was very much Roddenberry’s ethic, that open-minded tolerance. Others were powerful along that vector: Le Guin, for example. I encountered The Left Hand of Darkness at a fairly young age…

        I feel a little better that you don’t instantly have a better word for a consumer of art, either. My aging brain sometimes feels like it’s turning to Swiss Cheese. (I think I mentioned how, at least metaphorically speaking, my “Cameron Diaz neuron” seemed to have died at one point, and it seemed like I could never pull her name out of my memory. (My “Jennifer Aniston neuron” was fine.) That went on for about nine months before my brain seemingly retrained other neurons to the job.)

        “Audience” or “reader” work okay in specific contexts. I just wish I could come up with a good general word. Maybe visual storytelling is just too different from literary.

        That xkcd cartoon is one of those were I uncomfortably recognize a bit of myself. That might be why it’s among my favorites. A good reminder to self.

        I think you’re right on about rants. That’s even the point of the post. Passion is great, but don’t lose yourself in it so badly you can’t see anything else.

        I’ve been following Hossenfelder for years, and… I’m kind of starting to wonder what’s up with her. She doesn’t wear a wedding ring anymore and hasn’t posted about her kids in years. Lately she seems to be conflating her opinion with facts, although not being anywhere near her level in physics, it’s just a sense I get compared to the sense of her from years past.

        I think she’s just flat out wrong about the collider, and her recent post about FTL travel seems to have a lot of people questioning her view. Which appears to be the assertion that the arrow of time would prohibit it. There are many erudite texts saying otherwise, and it seems pretty clear in terms of SR alone, she’s just plain wrong.

        Per her usual behavior, especially lately, she’s hostile to those who disagree. I posted a comment expressing my confusion and asking, if an “ansible” were possible, what would happen instead? She didn’t authorize my comment. Maybe because I included a link to my own FTL Radio post because I was explicitly asking what I’d gotten wrong. But apparently my comment didn’t pass muster. (They usually do, so I was surprised.) I may try again without the link. The thing is, maybe she doesn’t have a good answer to my question about what else would happen?

        But, anyway, yeah, I’ve almost begun to worry about her. My opinion of her has definitely shifted a bit in the last few years.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Apparently it was the link. I tried again:

        I share the confusion of many of your readers. My question is: if instantaneous communication (an “ansible”) were possible, what would happen if communication was attempted with a distant point where relative motion places the distant point’s past in the volume of simultaneity?

        Could instantaneous communication work between distant points that were not in relative motion?

        What would happen instead?

        And it was immediately approved and answered, but the answer isn’t very helpful:

        The same thing that always happens if you try to communicate with your past self.

        Which, at best, is bit brusque. I’m wondering if it’s even worth pursuing. (Someone is wrong on the internet? 😀 )

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think we’re all motivated to some degree by the “someone is wrong” impulse, internet or otherwise. (I have to admit my latest post fits solidly in that pattern.)

        I’ve only been following Hossenfelder somewhat closely for the last couple of years, so I can’t compare before that. But I haven’t found many of her recent posts / videos to be particularly clear or coherent. Often they seem to have the promise of a specific argument, but the details seem to get omitted, she declares the case made, and I’m left wondering what happened. The FTL one definitely fits that pattern.

        I didn’t notice the ring thing, but then I’m more likely to read her posts than watch the videos. Certainly we’re all human, and real life events can affect what we write or express. Maybe she’s burnt out, lost enthusiasm for this form of communication, and is just going through the motions. Having had my own blogging winter, I can understand how it happens.

        I find the full moderation on comment threads a turn off, not to mention the admonition to read the whole thread before contributing, leading me to rarely bother. I do sometimes scan her threads, just to see if others ask the same questions I have. Often they do, but the response is like the one you got.

        Overall, if I disagree with her, I’m more likely to do what I did on the prediction post, just do my own and reference hers. Not as many people see it, but I’m free to say and link to whatever I want.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But I haven’t found many of her recent posts / videos to be particularly clear or coherent.”

        I feel the same way. Her blog used to be one of my favorites, very informative and educational, but the last year or so she mainly seems to rant about things. In this case her assertion of time’s arrow seems to wave away any discussion.

        Totally true that we never know what’s up seeing someone through such a small window. Over the years the data points do build up, but it’s still just a wireframe representation. Who can say.

        I, likewise, do not respond well to having every comment moderated, but given her posts each get hundreds of comments, and that she’s a woman writer, I kinda get it. But it would be nice if regulars were given a pass. (OTOH, that blogging platform may not permit it. It doesn’t seem a very good platform to me.)

        In this particular case, I have a whole series of posts arguing against what she’s saying, but I wish she offered more of an argument than just the assertion.

        She has yet to authorize my followup question. I asked if ansible communication was possible (in her view) between distant points in the same frame of reference.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        One of the bad things about blogging is that our old posts never have the visibility we’d like them to. We can use widgets and menus to a limited degree to make it easy for newcomers to find them, but it requires brutal prioritization. And sometimes they’ll come up in search indexes.

        The only effective solution I’ve seen is to be willing to repeat the arguments, with maybe a link to the old treatment.

        In some ways it’s a good thing. My ability to explain a position usually gets better over time. Although not always. Sometimes I’m impressed with what I knew when I wrote older stuff.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I know what you mean; I have some old posts I’m pretty happy with. I do revisit stuff. Quite a bit, in the sense of ongoing discussion. I use blogging in the web-log sense more as a place to explore my thoughts more than to present finished pieces. There’s both, obviously, but I try to keep it conversational.

        I have a Reading List page, horrifically out of date, and a PITA to maintain anyway. I need to redo my menu structure, and when I do I think I may just take the common tactic of linking to categories. The theme reads okay on mobile, but the sidebar stuff gets pushed to the bottom, and the menu is just a burger icon.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I actually have to make a conscious effort to keep my posts conversational. I succeeded pretty well with it in early 2019, but gradually started to drift back into my old ways. Trying again to keep the posts small and informal.

        I guess the one good thing about blogging is the archives are relatively accessible. Occasionally old posts do get read. (Although I often have to to re-read my own post to respond intelligently to commenters.) The content doesn’t feel nearly as ephemeral as on other social platforms, particularly Twitter.

        My menu has long done the category thing, but I’m not wild about it. It feels like a wasted opportunity, like I should let the category widget handle the categories and use the menus for more directed navigation. In that sense, yours seem pretty good. I started playing around with mine, but I’m undecided on what direction to go with it. But yeah, I’m leery of too much of a maintenance commitment, one I’m unlikely to keep up.

        It looks like your site comes up in the WP mobile UI, which is pretty standard for the older themes. It’s what my old one did. I’m still not sure the responsive approach used in the newer themes is necessarily better.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Post style can be a challenge. I’ve been online since the 1980s, participating in conversations like this, but my technical writing goes back even further (all the way to high school). And I’ve done some teaching. It can be hard to avoid slipping into that dry declaratory style (although sometimes that is what I’m going for). A “primary design goal” (a phrase that next week’s posts are going to make very old (but they’re a week-long eulogy I don’t expect anyone to attend)) of my blog is that it should have as casual a “web log” feel as possible.

        Like you, I’m trying to bring my word-count down. (Comments would probably be a good place to start I suppose. 😀 )

        Very true about the archives. I know some bloggers who use their blog explicitly as a personal repository of stuff they want to memoize. (Very much in the spirit of a “web blog” — that personal diary aspect.) I definitely do some of that.

        I know what you mean about having to re-read an old post if someone comments on it. I’ve got comments closing after 600 days right now (due to spamming), which limits the time span. I vary that time span a lot trying to frustrate spammers. I also (temporarily, if I remember) close comments on posts they fixate on. Spammers are definitely my least favorite thing about any of this.

        I do have that category widget in my sidebar and like it. I kinda like my sidebar in general, although I’ve been meaning to do a new Random Post image for years now (I don’t like the one I made. The contrast of the blue lettering against that background bugs me. But I’m just lazy.)

        There are parts of the menu I like, but I feel it’s too much. I don’t get many hits on those pages. Maybe something simple that leads to a hierarchy of linked pages to replace all that menu structure? I’m kind of waiting for inspiration to strike. I agree, there is something about menu links just being category tags that isn’t quite as satisfying. But, of course, the solution requires more effort. (What’s that thing about: You can have it Fast, Cheap, or Good. Pick two.)

        I’m okay with that WP mobile UI. It did cause me to remove just about everything in my bottom bar (and I’m thinking of moving what’s left to the sidebar). The mobile UI puts the sidebar below and the bottom bar below that, so I stopped seeing any point to the bottom bar. (I used to use it for lists of links to key posts.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On posts, I have to say you make me feel guilty. I rarely write mine in advance. They’d probably be a lot better if I did. I do kick around ideas for a while, sometimes for months or years, before I write about them, but generally my posts happen in a few hours, although they’re sometimes parked overnight if they don’t quite feel right. (If they don’t get published then, they rarely ever do.) But then I generally don’t produce my own visual aids.

        Hah! I’m having a hard enough time just getting the post word count down. Getting comments down would just not making blogging worth it anymore. Besides, sometimes the stuff I leave out of a post ends up in the discussion thread.

        I gave up on spam. I generally don’t even look at the spam folder anymore, unless someone asks me about a comment they left. (Just looked and I currently have 3300, submitted over the last couple of weeks, possibly all on a single post!) Every so often one makes it through the filters, but not enough that it’s a problem.

        I also largely gave up on watching the stats. Once in a while I’ll glance at the overall count, but can’t recall the last time I looked at the ones for particular articles. Maybe I should pay attention to determine if the menus and sidebars are even worth the bother.

        It annoys me that mobile moves the sidebar down like that. (Although I guess it’s better than not having it at all.) I wish they’d do the same thing they do with the menus, just put them in a collapsible section that mobile users can call up on demand. Most readers would overlook it, but most will never see it at the bottom anyway.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But then I generally don’t produce my own visual aids.”

        That definitely slows things down! Some posts I do crank out in a few hours, others I spend more time on. Weird thing is, among the posts I see as my better efforts, the amount of time I spent does not seem a determining factor.

        I think sometimes the writing just flows and comes out mostly right with a bit of polishing, whereas you can then harm it by over-thinking it. You remove something vital from it. Other posts are (in my eyes) very poorly formed at first, not worth reading, but with lots of rehab they can grow into something that works. (Or at least isn’t embarrassing.)

        “Getting comments down would just not making blogging worth it anymore.”

        Heh. Amigo, that kinda says it all, right there. (I, too, let the comment section catch things I left out of the post (or just didn’t think of until after it was published).)

        “I gave up on spam. I generally don’t even look at the spam folder anymore…”

        Whoa. That option,… never occurred to me. Interesting idea. 3300 spam posts, huh?

        (I’m not sure it’s in my nature to be able to ignore it. I’d notice the count on the main admin page, and it would bug me. Like I said, spammers are my least favorite thing here. They’re the assholes pissing in the pool.)

        “I also largely gave up on watching the stats.”

        I don’t obsess over them, but I do find it a bit interesting which old posts people find and read. What’s more interesting to me is what posts continue to get hits over time. My Gary Larson post has always gotten traffic, but since Larson reemerged it’s become one of the most viewed old posts.

        That one I get, but it’s fascinating that My Grandfather’s Axe is giving it a serious run for the money. (In 2019, Larson: 1339 hits; Axe: 1314 hits. Larson’s winning this year, though, 672 to 392 so far. Frankly I’m rooting for Axe.)

        On the mobile UI, I took a look, and my bottom bar isn’t shown at all. One more reason to dump it. All-in-all, one more reason for some blog maintenance.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        3300 (closing in on 3400) all apparently against a post about adding imagination to AI. (I haven’t looked at all 170 pages, but all the ones I randomly selected were against that one post.) Now that I’ve looked at it, it is bugging me a little bit. Part of me wants to just cut off commenting on that one post. But I don’t think I will. Let ’em waste their time.

        Looking at my post stats, I’m mildly surprised that “Damasio’s theory of consciousness” is the all time highest, and “Are there things that are knowable but not measurable?” for the last year. It’s interesting how there is almost no relation between those and which posts spurred the most discussion.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’m quite sure spammers have algorithms that look for key words or phrases in posts to target. At one point I was seeing a lot of cigar-related spam directed at a post in which I’d used the word “cigar”. (You can only imagine the spam I got on the post with the word “bisexual” in it.)

        My all-time stat winners are still the two that WP Freshly Pressed, but the two I mentioned are approaching their hit counts. I get few enough hits in general that there is a strong correlation between page hits and comments. (I’m never sure whether it’s participants refreshing to see if there’s a new comment or people eavesdropping on a juicy debate. But the page counts are significantly higher when there’s a debate going on.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m not sure my hits counts are any better. But it does seem like my highest posts are more the slow and steady kind rather than the spike from heavy discussion days. Strangely enough, the most heavily commented posts are nowhere to be seen in the top traffic counts. Hmmm. Maybe I should add that widget to the sidebar.

        I did used to have a couple of people who never subscribed to comment threads. They just refreshed to see if any responses have hit. I knew who it was because when they’re participating, the hit counts spiked noticeably. But they only come around sporadically these days, and WP moved the traffic graph off the admin bar, so I have to actually go look, which I rarely do.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, overall, it’s probably more the slow and steady posts with the greatest counts. It’s more on the weekly or monthly basis I see those spikes. I usually get seven-eleven hits right off when I publish, maybe up to another ten in the week or so that follows. Anything more than that is a spike.

        I think, at least for me, the Reader has been nice in that it seems to automatically subscribe you to any post you comment on. I used to have to try to remember to check that box, since I usually went to the desktop-displayed post page. More and more, for all its flaws, I just use the Reader.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Hmmm, I didn’t know the Reader did that. I actually flick around between the different commenting UIs. Right now I’m typing this on your site, but sometimes I do use the Reader Conversations tab, other times the notice thingee on the WordPress bar. On my own site, I respond to a lot of comments in the new WP admin UI, particularly once the conversation has become indented, because for some dumb reason the emails to the blog owner include a link to the comment but not a Reply link.

        I really wish Wordpess would just fix the damn commenting system.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Hey, yeah, I hear that. I use the notice widget for really short replies (also for comment likes when I use them). At this point I use the Reader Conversations tab for most replies on other blogs. I’m pretty strictly the old Admin UI; sounds like I should give the new one another try.

        I’m mid-binge on Space Force on Netflix (and loving it). Trying to decide whether to watch it all tonight or savor. Definitely going to go watch episode five now, though! 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I really only use the new admin comment UI because that’s where the “Edit” links on the web UI link to. If I could change those to the old one, I probably would.

        Hmmm. Sounds like I need to check out Space Force.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I ended up staying up to after 3:00 AM watching the whole thing. Now I have to decide whether to write a post about it or spend the day reading, as planned. I’m also feeling I should write something about what’s been going on around here regarding George Floyd. There was an 8:00 PM curfew imposed Friday to last throughout the weekend. (I was technically in violation of it driving home from my friend’s house a bit after 8:30 PM Friday evening.) Very surreal.

        There’s obviously no way (or is there?) that I can combine a Space Force post with something about the situation here, and I have posts lined up for all next week, so it feels like it has to be today for at least one of them. (Maybe I could write about one and just touch on the other somehow. Such a drastic change of subject and tone, though.)

        Drat. I suppose I can read all next week since posts are already done and queued for M-F. (It’s a five-part series commemorating a personal project I’ve been tinkering with for 30 years and finally decided I’m done with.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think that’s one of the reasons I resist planning blog content too much. If it starts to feel like a job, I’m likely to burn out.

        Watched the beginning of Space Force. “Show Bobby tech stuff. -POTUS”

        Hope you’re keeping safe.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The media tends to oversell the burning, looting, and violence (“if it bleeds, it leads”), so it’s not anything like it seems on TV. The surreal part, for me, is in large part due to a perception that we’re supposed to be better than this. But there has been so much rage generated, especially in the last four years, that it’s been a bit of a powder keg.

        Hope you enjoy Space Force. It’s a bit sillier than Upload, which is Greg Daniels’ other recent creation. I get the sense Steve Carell, who is co-creator, is a strong artistic influence here, and his sense of comedy is, perhaps, a bit broader than Daniels’. (They did The Office together, and Space Force can get a little silly the same way The Office could. It has a lot to do with massive stupidity within the story. The potatoes were one example for me (seriously? just potatoes?), although the underlying message of that episode was sweet.)

        I’m going to have a go at throwing out a post about it. I’m not ready to write about George Floyd, yet.

        True about the planning, and I tend to avoid it, too. (That’s what was behind that spring cleaning drive to clear out my notes.) But sometimes I want to put out something bigger and more ambitious.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I know what you mean about the media overselling violence. I live in the Baton Rouge area. A few years ago, with the Alton Sterling killing, followed by protests and weeks later by police officers being shot, the media made it look like the whole place had descended into a John Carpenter film, when in reality the overwhelming majority of people here were just going about their business. Still, be careful.

        Comedy doesn’t have the hold on me it does for a lot of people, so I’ll probably watch the whole thing, but likely not in a binge. I don’t have time for binging right now anyway. But enjoyed the first episode!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        As it happens I stocked up on groceries last week, so my fridge and pantry are full, and I can just hibernate, so no worries. (Plus, I live in an outlying suburb that’s practically rural — the farmland starts bike distance away.)

        It’s a very close contest, but off the top of my head I think I’d say I like comedy just a bit better than drama. What I like best, I guess, is a good smart story with a light touch and humor. The broader the comedy, generally speaking, the less engaging it is to me. Stupid comedy often does nothing for me.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I like a serious story with comedic elements. But as you said, when the comedy crosses into slapstick, my interest doesn’t terminate, but it wanes. I’m no longer as eager to see how things turn out for the characters because it seems less consequential in some sense. It becomes only about the laughs.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Exactly. Who cares what happens to The Three Stooges? (Certainly not me.)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    As an aside, Hossenfelder did approve and answer my reply to her reply to my comment:

    But I don’t have an ansible, so that’s not an experiment I can try.

    Is FTL communication between distant points *not* in relative motion possible?

    To which she replied:

    Is FTL communication between distant points *not* in relative motion possible?

    Possible in the sense that you can buy a device that will do it for you? No, at least not right now. Possible in the sense that nothing prevents it. Yes, see video.

    “But I don’t have an ansible, so that’s not an experiment I can try.”

    The impossibility to send messages into the past has nothing to do with the speed of the signal. It’s impossible because we have an arrow of time.

    So she asserts FTL communication is not forbidden so long as time’s arrow is not violated.

    She approved my reply to that, but did not respond, so I’m very curious what, if anything, she will say.

    Here’s my reply to her reply to my reply to her reply to my original comment:

    If you accept the SR scenario where, because of foreshortening, a too-long train fits entirely inside a too-short tunnel (such that doors at the tunnel’s entrance and exit could briefly close), AND if FTL signaling is possible, then there seems a causality issue WITHOUT violating time’s arrow.

    Imagine Alice at the tunnel’s entrance, Bob at the tunnel’s exit. The tunnel is very long, but Alice and Bob can signal each other with an FTL device capable of 20x (or whatever) speed of light. Importantly, it does take *some* time; it respects time’s arrow.

    Meanwhile, on an even longer train, Carol is at the rear, Dave is at the front. They also have an FTL device that allows them to communicate.

    Call t0 the moment Dave and the front of the train, having passed through the tunnel, reaches Bob. The train continues, Dave passes Bob, and — ON THE TRAIN — at some later time t2, Carol and the train’s end reach Alice at the tunnel mouth.

    But according to Alice and Bob, at t0, Carol’s clock on the train reads t2 while Alice’s reads t0, just like Bob’s.

    Why can’t Carol, at her t2 report to Alice (at her t0) an incident that occurred at Carol’s t1, which Alice can then tell Bob, who can tell Dave, all of whom agree it’s t0, such that Dave can then signal Carol at her t0 about what happens at her (their) t1?

    No one is violating time’s arrow, but with FTL signaling there seems a causal loop. Is the scenario wrong somehow?

    My understanding has always been that:

    1. Causality
    2. Special Relativity
    3. FTL Anything

    Pick two.

    And it has nothing to do, really, with time’s arrow. Time ticks forward in every aspect of the scenario presented above.

And what do you think?

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