Monday, June 06, 2005

Blogrolls, the Origin of Ethics, and Latin Rhymes

You may have noticed that my sidebar lacked a standard feature: the blogroll. I intended to do something about this shortly after launching this blog, but I was initially stymied by two problems. One difficulty was universal: How do I decide who to include? The other was more personal, and considerably more distressing: How can I fit a blogroll into the pattern of using the Latin suffix -alia, exemplified in the terms Marginalia, Practicalia, and Technicalia? In truth it didn't take too long to hit upon solutions to these dilemmas, but I have procrastinated their implementation---until now.

I have seen several bloggers juggle competing exigencies as they wrestle with their blogrolls. On one hand, the proliferation of blogs makes it difficult to maintain a complete and up-to-date list of all blogs devoted to Mormon subjects. Some have made heroic efforts to do just this, but it seems wasteful and unnecessary for this admirable feat to be universally (or even widely) duplicated. On the other hand, leaving people off of blogrolls can lead to disappointment; perceiving themselves as neglected, disregarded, or even slighted, bloggers may occasionally find themselves indulging in hurt feelings. (Such should grow up, and also grow thicker skins; it's not like they're being left out of the Lamb's Book of Life!)

Fortunately, there is an obvious principle that cuts through these difficulties with ease: reciprocity, a principle sufficiently simple and powerful that it constitutes a plausible naturalistic origin underlying all morality and ethics. Its wide applicability shines forth in manifestions banal and sublime, from the incipient "culture" of our lower primate distant cousins (you scratch my back I'll scratch yours) to the Byzantine machinations of sophisticated politicos (who live and die by the quid pro quo). (You, dear reader, must judge which of these examples is sublime, and which banal; if you have difficulty deciding, perhaps a learned friend can aid your exegesis by rendering a judgment on whether the previous sentence constitutes a normal or inverted parallelism. Let me know if you come up with an answer, because I haven't decided myself.) Reciprocity---expressed in the golden rule---is the universally intuited dictum of philosophers and seers ranging from Confucius to Jesus. Truly, upon it hang all the law and the prophets; and verily, those antiquated laws, customs, obligations, expectations, and prohibitions rendered obsolete by the disappearance of the underlying reciprocal basis for their initial invention are inexorably destined for the dustbin of history.

While reciprocity is sufficiently automatic and simple for unthinking implementation by chimpanzees---and therefore also suitable for exploitation by a lazy dumbarse like myself---I feel a need to add a smidgeon of discriminating taste to my blogroll implementation of reciprocity. The thing is, according to strict reciprocity you should return the favor of linking any random blog that happens to link you, for better or worse. But one interpretation of a blogroll is that it says something about you, through its indications of what you think is most worthwhile, who you would like to seem associated with, etc.

Enter the Latin suffix business. I will blogroll any blog that blogrolls me, and only blogs that blogroll me; but I will distinguish blogs that I know from experience to be head-and-shoulders above the rest in the section Inter Alia ("among others"), and put others I don't know so well or have not gotten as much out of in the section Et Alia ("and others"). Now we're getting into hurt feelings again; what can I say, life isn't fair. And it may well be the case that for random historical reasons I may simply have not been able to take the time to get to know your blog well enough yet.

To close, three miscellaneous thoughts. (1) Clark Goble recently put up a section at the bottom of his sidebar entitled "Reciprocity," where he dumps anyone who blogrolls him, but whom he doesn't see fit to put on his main blogroll. I know this looks suspiciously similar to what I've come up with here. But I swear I had come up with my thoughts independently, and felt disappointed to see he'd beat me to it. (I felt like I had to wait until someone actually blogrolled me, you see.) (2) If I've accidentally left anyone off who has me on their blogroll, or if you blogroll me at some point in the future, please let me know. (3) I may well probably contact others about a potential reciprocal blogroll relationship, but my enthusiasm for this has been dampened by Steve Evans' public rejection of me, just hours after instantly gratifying Geoff Johnston's request for a spot on the BCC blogroll. So Steve, if you're reading, kiss my arse; and when you finally do blogroll me, I will reciprocate. On the blogroll, I mean.


Yes, the blog roll is a dificult thing. I haven't touched mine since the archipelago went online (I would also consider putting an MA logo up). I haven't updated or followed any of the links. I'm thinking of pitching it all together, like Dave, as the MA is more and better. 

Comment by J. Stapley | 6/06/2005 11:23:00 PM  

I too have had difficulties deciding who to include in blogrolls. I have completely given up on dividing blogs into catergories, but I think I'll have to resolve that someday. I really like your latin endings, a nice distinction to your blog. And thanks for including me in your Et Alia. Blog on, brother! 

Comment by Dallas Robbins | 6/07/2005 01:00:00 AM  

Blogroll decisions can be a mess. I have a fairly short blogroll that changes from time to time depending on what I've been reading regularly. There aren't that many LDS blogs on there because while I check in on random LDS blogs now and then, that's not where most of my attention goes (for me, it's kind of like why I never check out LDS books from the public library; I have enough of them at home to satisfy me). Also, I feel like if I included LDS blogs, I'd feel obligated to include all the LDS blogs, which wouldn't be too bad, but then any visitor to my site would have to wade through them (most of my visitors, not that there are many, know me from my husband's blog (Begging to Differ, a group blog representing many viewpoints; he's the token Republican) or elsewhere. So then I'd probably ghettoize the LDS blogs by creating a separate category for them...the difficulties go on and on.

Just like I do.

I like your blog, by the way. I may someday add it to a blogroll. 

Comment by Allison | 6/07/2005 10:41:00 AM  

Quit yer whining. 

Comment by Steve Evans | 6/07/2005 11:39:00 AM  

J.,  MA is indeed more and better. You guys are providing a great service. I'm grateful, and am happy to oblige your request.

Dallas, thanks to you too, brother. I'd love to see some reports from those conferences and symposia you've mentioned on your site; that would be a great service to those of us far-flung folks who can't easily get to such things.

Allison, you've reminded me that I might profit from getting outside of the Mormon blog ghetto. I don't particularly like music or movies for Mormon audiences (can anyone take great meaning from, say, Johnny Lingo  or The RM?). But for some reason, when it comes to blogs, I've only explored Mormon ones---except for the political blog Wonkette  (which isn't even from my party, but as a Schwarzenegger/Giuliani Republican I still find it entertaining). Perhaps that's because Mormonism is what I most need to discuss and explore and figure out and express myself about right now.

Steve, my friend, you know I'm kidding around. But there's an easy way to make the whining stop: remember the saying about squeaky wheels, the parable of the unjust judge, etc. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/07/2005 12:27:00 PM  

Christian, when was the last time you checked our blogroll??? Is there a parable of the lame, WRONG importunate widow? 

Comment by Steve Evans | 6/07/2005 12:35:00 PM  

Well I'll be. "Ask, and ye shall receive" sometimes works with the bloggernacle gods, too. I am like the Lamanites who had received divine favor and didn't even know it. And such a clever alias that has been bestowed upon me! I like it!

Having wrestled with the angel and prevailed, it is now incumbent upon me to make the appropriate addition to the Inter Alia  pantheon.

Now, don't all you other little guys and gals go pestering Steve. Now that I'm in, the exclusive club that is the BCC blogroll is closed until further notice. However, by taking suitable steps, you can still get on here at the Spinozist. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/07/2005 01:16:00 PM  

I will blogroll any blog that blogrolls me, and only blogs that blogroll me 

That was fun ;)

I'll note that Steve Evans took The Angry Mormon's blog over mine for linking at BCC ... so you've got me green with envy that he relented for your blog.

On the other hand, I made it up to "Flappy Bird" in the ecosystem.

Anyway, I've blogrolled you, but then I was visiting and reading posts anyway (I've concluded that I will limit my visits to blogs that blogroll me, for the most part, as one method of saving time).

Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) | 6/07/2005 02:03:00 PM  

Stephen,  I thought I had a pretty good chance with Steve because he'd highlighted a couple of my posts in his Weekly Zeitgeist at Bloggernacle Times. 

Anyway, you now have a place on my blogroll. And congratulations, "Flappy Bird" certainly beats "Slimy Mollusc." 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/07/2005 04:15:00 PM  

I was once a flappy bird, but I believe I'm down to a flippery fish. No! I just checked, and I'm suddenly a crawly amphibian! Except it seems to be because I've been linked by an anti-feminist website (a sample quote: "There are good reasons to think women’s suffrage has worked out badly.") So sad.

Christian, there's no conceivable reason your worthy blog should be below mine on the ecosystem. I'm adding you (just don't tell all your mormon friends). 

Comment by Allison | 6/07/2005 07:01:00 PM  

Ouch, some of his friends read the comments section ;)

I expect he will rise quickly. 

Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) | 6/07/2005 10:23:00 PM  

My method for blogrolling is pretty simple. If I read the blog on a regular basis, I link it. If I don't read it, I don't link it.  

Comment by Crystal | 6/07/2005 10:39:00 PM  

Why Allison,  you've made my evening! Enter into your place in my pantheon.

Crystal, that's a simple principle that seems to work for a lot of people. Do you find random people asking you to include them?

It's nice to know to you read here. Thanks. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/07/2005 11:25:00 PM  


I've never had anyone outright ask me to link them, at least not lately. I'm not exactly 'popular,' si it isn't a problem I'm likely to run into.

I think that people do expect reciprocity, however, so if I find that someone is linking me, I read his blog and go from there.

It's a tricky thing, though, because as you mentioned, feelings get involved and if I don't reciprocate, they may get hurt. But I need to stay genuine to who I am.

I think blogs tell the 'world' a lot about who we are--or who we think we are, and I'm not going to link to blogs that don't match my sensibilities. 

Comment by Crystal | 6/07/2005 11:59:00 PM  

Well, I enjoyed Cyrstal's blog, but I suspect she would not enjoy mine. Did convince me to finish the current post I'm working on. Should have it up by Thursday. 

Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) | 6/08/2005 04:34:00 AM  


What is it that leads to your suspicions?

Just intellectually curious. 

Comment by Crystal | 6/08/2005 03:48:00 PM  


You seem so young and happy ...

On the other hand, got the post up. It is on baggage.


Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) | 6/08/2005 08:14:00 PM  

Oh, young I am. However, happiness is but a dream... ;o) 

Comment by Crystal | 6/08/2005 08:27:00 PM  

No, happiness is exchanging links ;)


Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) | 6/09/2005 08:08:00 AM  



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