Frequently Asked Questions
May 24, 2002
I thought that posting a FAQ might answer some people's questions and cut down on my email load a bit. Anyway, following are answers to some questions that I hear, er, get by email, a lot. If you're a journalist, you may want to read this list of Frequently Asked Questions for journalists.
How do you write so much? Are you some sort of weirdo?
Maybe. At least, for my whole life people have been asking the rhetorical question, "You're not like other people, are you?" No, I'm not. I'm not actually a compulsive writer, as I can take vacations, etc., and not feel any gnawing need to be at the computer. But I'm probably not far from that, which is a good thing in my line of work. Also, with always-on Internet connections at home and office, it's easy for me to take five minutes to post a thought that occurs to me or a link to an interesting article that I run across. Usually I'm multitasking -- writing something longer, like a law review article, dealing with email, talking on the phone, etc. -- as well.
How much should I rely on what I read on InstaPundit?
No more than it deserves -- see above. First, there's very little independent factual reportage on InstaPundit, and when I'm reporting something based on my own experience that will be clear. But normally, information in posts comes from somebody else, and it shouldn't be regarded as any more reliable than the original source (e.g., The New York Times or Pravda), which will normally be linked, is in your judgment. Think of InstaPundit as being like a card catalog in a library -- it steers you to other things, mostly, and the fact that something is in the card catalog doesn't make it true. Second, it's a hobby, offered for free to people who want to read it. Unlike The New York Times, or Pravda for that matter, I don't have a staff of fact-checkers, editors, etc. As with anything else you read on the Internet, you should take what you read here as a starting point for your own research and investigation in the process of arriving at your own informed opinion (again, kind of like a card catalog) not as an ending point. I don't knowingly link to false things without saying so, except in the case of obvious parodies, and I do my best to correct factual errors when I'm made aware of them. But a weblog is more like a rough draft than a finished product, so you should treat this like -- well, like the rough draft of a card catalog, I guess.
Do you have any tips for aspiring bloggers?
Yes. Read these.
If I email you, will you publish it?
Maybe. If you don't want it published, put "Please Don't Publish This" in a conspicuous place. Do that with any email you don't want published -- don't expect me to remember what you said last time, as I get hundreds of emails a day. If you really, really, really don't want it published, don't send the email. That's a good piece of advice anywhere. I don't try to make people look bad, and I'll sometimes hold up on publishing something if it looks like it might get someone into trouble even if they don't say that. But don't count on me -- I'm a professor, and we're noticeably absentminded, and this is a hobby, not a Big Five accounting firm. Er, well, that cuts two ways of course. . . .
Do you speak for the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Bar, or any other organization with which you are affiliated?
No. Faculty members don't speak for their universities, etc. Any overlap or conflict between my opinions and the opinions of anybody else is coincidental, and you shouldn't take anything you read here as an authoritative statement of anyone's position. Perhaps including mine, as people sometimes seem to miss the joke when I engage in sarcasm or dry humor.
Why didn't you reply to my email? Do you have a bozo filter on me?
Hint: the people with "bozo filters" don't usually worry that they're the people with bozo filters. Nobody who's written to ask that is being filtered.
I'm getting several hundred emails a day, I think (I don't actually count, but it has to be close to that). I try to read all of them, except for the ones offering to refinance my house, enlarge my penis, or introduce me to hot teen babes, all services that I find unnecessary. But it's just gotten impossible. When I'm at the computer I can keep up, but even a few hours away puts me hopelessly behind. I do the best I can, and I reply when I can. If I don't it's either because yours was one of twenty and I was in a hurry (if I don't reply on the spot, it quickly becomes lost in the shuffle), or because it contained a virus or other error that makes replying doubtful, or because you seemed, well, a little weird. There aren't many of those -- my tolerance for weirdness is pretty high -- but some people cross the line. I know from experience that you don't want to start an email back-and-forth with them.
Yes. Here they are.
Why do you link to Amazon so much?
Amazon's not just a bookstore, it's a major source of information, with reviews, etc. Plus, since Virginia Postrel browbeat me into it a while back, I started putting my wife's referrer code in the links (when I remember) which makes her a little money. And I like Amazon -- I buy a lot of stuff from them -- so I like to support them.
What does "In the mail" mean?
It's like the "books received" section in an academic journal. While I wouldn't swear that I've never used this for books I've ordered for myself that showed up in the mail, generally these are books that publishers send, and I haven't read when I post them. If I make comments, they're based on a quick look or skim. Real reviews are reserved for books I've read.
How do you get so much traffic?
Beats me. Other than emailing a few journalist-types early on, I've done nothing to promote InstaPundit; it's all been a function of links and word-of-mouth. Well, word-of-email, anyway. It's just the magic of the Internet. The biggest sources of readers are probably Virginia Postrel and James Taranto's "Best of the Web," for which I'm deeply appreciative.
Aren't you biased to the left? Aren't you biased to the right? Aren't you a jingoistic, libertarian, cultural imperialist?
Will you link to my blog?
Probably. Whenever I get around to it.
Can you make it so when I click on the links they open in a new window?
Yes. But you can do that yourself. Just right-click and select "open in new window" on Netscape or Explorer -- or whatever the equivalent is.
While I'm at it, a surprisingly large number of people don't know how to use the "find in page" feature that most browsers have. Control-F, or clicking on "Edit" and selecting "find" will let you search for an individual word on a page. It's very useful, but I'm amazed how many people don't know about it.
Why don't you have lots of other features?
See above. My HTML skills are modest, my Java skills are somewhere between pitiful and nonexistent, and what few other programming skills I possess are woefully obsolete (can you say "FORTRAN?"). Plus, since what attracts people to InstaPundit is its content (it can't be much else, can it?) I try to put my time and effort into, well, content. Other stuff is on the back burner.
Are you as good-looking as your picture?
No. Unlike Rachael Klein, I am not as good looking as my picture. Well, I prefer to think that I look exactly like that picture, and that it's an unfortunate coincidence that most of the other pictures of me make me look like a hopeless geek. But it's possible that I'm wrong about that.
Why don't you say more about your family?
First, I don't really think that people come here to read about my family. This isn't one of those day-in-the-life blogs, and I don't think many people care. Also, since my wife is a forensic psychologist who specializes in murderous loonies, and since I write disrespectful things about Islamic terrorists and Nazis, I prefer to skimp on the personal detail. If you're into personal detail, Caterina Fake and a host of others will take care of that for you, and they probably lead more interesting lives than I do anyway.
What do you think of the new BT release?
I really like Emotional Technology, which I think is probably as good as Movement in Still Life. I also highly recommend the retrospective collection from Rhino, Ten Years in the Life.
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