Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Posts I Did Not Write

Poor little things.  They never saw the light of day.

I have a few hundred in the draft files on Blogger, and several more died a sudden death like this:  I spot an interesting tweet or article, it rings my writing bell, and I follow the references to the original source, which turns out to be a lot of noise about nothing.  Or a giant exaggeration.  Or a misreading of data.  Then no post.

But is omitting those posts really the best strategy?  Or could it be a bit like the file drawer problem in research?  I'm writing a silly blog, not doing research, which makes the comparison somewhat arrogant.  Still, perhaps I should spend more time explaining why I don't write about certain hot issues of the day, other than the obvious reasons of not going past my competence or of others covering the issues much better.

One story which still bothers me is about Twitter.  I had just been working on a post about rape and I saw a reference to some of the data I had used in a much re-tweeted tweet.  The reference misinterpreted one aspect of the data completely (like taking the gift wrap for the present inside), gave wrong numbers, came to the wrong conclusion, but was still widely disseminated.  And all this took place on my side of the political camp.

What should I have done about that?  I tried to find the source of the tweet, found it, but found no way to comment there and no way to contact the author.  The alternative, of trying to explain the issues in tweets, left me with cold sweat all over my scales, because Twitter is the last place in the world where you want to start explaining statistical tables, especially in the context I describe here.

If you undertake that work you will most likely be viewed as coming from the enemy camp.  The number of characters allowed in each tweet, with no continuity of the explanation also exposes you to many more opportunities of being misunderstood than of being understood.

So I'm a cowardly goddess.  That's not a bad thing to be, because bravery is rather meaningless unless it comes from a coward.  Right?

This post is really about silence.  When should we be silent?  About what?