Unsung Blogger of the Week #7

This week’s featured blogger is Prof. Massimo Pigliucci from SUNY, Stonybrook, New York. He joined the blogosphere only recently with his blog rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com. But he has been publishing his thoughts on skepticism, philosophy and the likes on the web since the Year 2000 on his website www.rationallyspeaking.org. Be sure to read the 2 posts he has pointed to in the interview below. I loved the one about the conversation he had with his 8 year old daughter. Text from the interview conducted via email:

1. Having been on the web for a long time, why did you decide to start a blog?
I decided to move from a regular monthly column to a blog
for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted more immediacy in my posts and more opportunity for feedback from readers. Second, it seemed like a monthly column was a stuffy holdover from the time of the printed press, while a blog better reflects the fast-paced and interactive approach typical of the Internet.

2. How do you publicize your blog?
I started recently, and so far I have simply posted links from my web site, www.rationallyspeaking.org (which over the years has achieved a certain recognition among people interested in pseudoscience, philosophy and politics); I have alerted subscribers to my Yahoo Rationally Speaking list; I also write for a couple of printed magazines (Skeptical Inquirer, Philosophy Now), so I added the URL to my byline; and I have asked the several “mirror” sites of my former monthly column (the one that eventually turned into the current blog) to alert their readers. Oh, I sent an email to my mother too… 🙂

3. Which techniques have worked for you and which ones have not?
Judging from a cursory examination of my logs, some of the mirror sites have been redirecting a lot of traffic to the blog. My monthly column (Rationally Speaking, same title as the blog) was posted for five years (’till August ’05, when I started the blog) on my main web site as well as on about 50 other sites worldwide, which I
refer to as “mirrors.” The idea was to reach a wider audience that way, and it worked!
4. What do you consider as your best post so far?
Ouch, tough question! Do I get to pick only one? OK, that would probably be “The most important question ever”
(http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2005/08/most-important-question-ever.html), where I tell the story of a conversation with my 8-yr old daughter. However, the one that has gotten the most comments (and most heated discussion) is “Abortion and the case of the desperate violinist” (http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2005/08/abortion-and-case-of-desperate.html),
based on a classical thought experiment in philosophy. (OK, that makes two posts…)

5.   What are your Top 5 Unsung Blogs ? (please include only those that are not in any Top 100/500 lists).
Ah, I must admit my ignorance as a newcomer to the blog world here! I have barely enough time to check some of the most popular ones that deal with topics I am particularly interested in! Some of my favorites are: * Humanist Network News (http://humaniststudies.org/), updated weekly, lots of interesting and thought-provoking information about the “culture wars” from a rational, secular, perspective. * The Philosophy Now forum (http://philosophynow.forumsplace.com/), where people can exchange ideas about philosophy and philosophers. It’s maintained by the editors of the printed magazine Philosophy Now, highly recommended if you are curious about philosophy but not a professional.

6.  What are your current book recommendations ? (1 or 2 is
You mean besides mine? 🙂 Let’s see, of those I’ve read most recently, Edmonds & Eidinow’s “Wittgenstein’s Poker” and Richard Nisbett’s “The Geography of Thought.” The first one is the story of the 3-minute encounter and ensuing heated argument between two of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. The book does a marvelous job at presenting the characters (both from
Vienna, different social and economic backgrounds), the atmosphere in Cambridge during the first part of the 20th century, and even the different philosophies of the two men. Nisbett’s book is an interesting look at the different ways of thinking (from the point of view of cognitive science) of Western and Eastern people, and how they may be rooted in their cultural histories.