Ad lectorum: Expectation is a prison.

When I first started writing this blog almost five years ago I was happy with the feeling that maybe a handful of people looked in from time to time to find out what I had been scribbling about. I was fairly sure that this would be the case, at least at the beginning, as I already had a slight reputation throughout the, then small, history of science Internet community because of my comments and guest posts on other peoples blogs. I figured if after this initial phase nobody bothered to look in anymore I could give up blogging and take up some other scintillating pastime such as trainspotting.

This turned out not to be the case and rather to my surprise the number of readers grew sort of steadily over the years, encouraging me to carry on polluting cyberspace with my views on the history of science. Occasionally that growth would receive a small boost when somebody, with more Internet clout than I, would, probably out of pity, utter some kind words about my feeble efforts to stem the tide of #histsci ignorance. Despite my best efforts to scare off my readers with kamikaze attacks on other denizens of cyberspace, who in my opinion had committed some horrendous crime against the facts of history or through, with swear words laced, tirades against freshly discovered inanities, my readership has continued to grow slowly but surely. Or at least the growth was steady and sure until yesterday. Suddenly I have a flood of people registering via WordPress to receive notification every time I choose to ventilate over some chosen history of science topic.

At first I was rather perplexed by this sudden surge of interest in my blogging activities then fellow history of science blogger, David Bressan (@David_Bressan), tipped me off on Twitter that somebody at WordPress had decided to promote my humble blog as being worthy of attention, probably an administrative error but it’s too late to correct it now and I have all these potential new readers hanging on my every spelling mistake and misplaced comma. In view of this influx of new hungry eyes I feel somehow obliged to address my readers directly with a post for the first time since I started my scribblings.

I have no idea what you are expecting by coming here but I feel honour bound to point out that the particular post highlighted in the recommendation, although it does represent one major aspect of my blogging is not, so to speak, the whole story. I do write and post other types of articles on a more or less regular basis. The one thing that almost all my posts have in common is that they are about some aspect or other of the history of science. There are, for example, as well as the post correcting others historical errors, post giving thumbnail biographical sketches of scientists you’ve probably never heard of and the reasons why you should have heard of them or general discussion of some aspect of the history or historiography of science and occasionally I write reviews of history of science publications. If you are indeed new here then I suggest you might like to take some time to look around and get the feel of the place. If you click the ‘About’ button at the top there is a very short introduction to our intrepid author with two links to more extensive descriptions of author and blog.  Not so long ago I celebrated my five hundredth post in this hallowed halls and to mark the occasion I posted a list of ten older posts that I think illustrate my endeavours well. This might be a good starting point for somebody trying to get the measure of the place.

By now attentive readers are probably wondering what all of this has to do with somewhat provocative title of this post. The answer is quite simple, whatever reason brought you here and whatever your expectations might be don’t expect me to fulfil them; I don’t write for my readers! In fact on the whole I don’t take my readers in to consideration in anyway what so ever when I sit down in front of my computer to write a post.  You may well ask, who do you write for then, if not for your readers? The answer is very simple, I write solely for myself. I write because some thought provokes me into doing so. I write to clarify what I think about a situation, a topic, a provocation… I do not write with any real awareness of that which I’m writing actually being read by another person. Of course I’m happy that people do read what I write and even happier when they respond to what I have written either here in the comments, on Twitter or on their own blogs. However, and this is the whole point of this post, I do not write to fulfil your expectations, whoever you are. If you come here to read with an open mind you are welcome. If you wish to comment you are welcome. However if you try to tell me what to write or how to write or what language to use or not, as the case may be, you are not welcome. If you don’t like what I do or the way that I do simply move on, I won’t try to detain you. This does not mean that I don’t react to the comments, questions or suggestions of my readers. I have two posts in the pipeline inspired by readers – one by a question the other by a suggestion – but I’m writing those posts because I wanted to not because somebody asked me to, a subtle but important difference. If you come here expecting me in any way to perform according to your expectations you will sooner or later be disappointed trapped in a mental prison of your own making.

As I seem to have acquired a rather large number of new readers it might be apposite to state the house rules. These have never been stated before but have developed as needed over the years and it’s about time that they were sort of codified. First off this is not a public forum, it is my space for thinking about the history of science in which you are cordially invited to participate, as you see fit. However I and I alone determine what is or what is not acceptable behaviour. Put another way: I am the God of this blog and it is my Temple. There is no democracy here. The rules are actually very simple and are based on a concept of common courtesy. Anybody is welcome to read anything on this blog and should the mood take them, to comment. Within limits, in those comments you can insult me, I have a thick skin and have lived through far worse things than a bit of name-calling. However should you do so, expect to be insulted back and I’m rather good at insulting people. You have been warned. Insulting other commentators is absolutely taboo! Anybody who insults another commentator will be warned once and should they repeat the offence banned. End of story. Do not use my comments to advertise your Steam Locomotive Preservations Society, your Astrological Advice Service or any other activity not relevant to the post you are commenting on. Should you do so, if the comment contains material relevant to the discussion it will be censored and the advertising removed, if not it will simply be deleted. Links to other pertinent blog post, articles etc are permitted and even welcomed. However if you include too many links WordPress will declare your comment spam and it will land in the spam filter. Sometimes I don’t notice this for a number of days and by the time I have released the comment from purgatory the discussion has often moved on. Shit happens!

Having now bored you all for a suitably long period I will just say that it’s kind of nice to have readers, both the old established ones and the freshly arrived, and I thank you all for taking the effort to read my meanderings and I hope some of you will stick around for a while because the trip isn’t over yet.

Post scriptum: The title of this post consists of two quotes. There will be a prize for the first person who can correctly name the sources of both quotes.


Filed under Autobiographical

12 responses to “Ad lectorum: Expectation is a prison.

  1. Øystein Bjaanes Lemvik

    Re: God and Temple – I’ve always been fond of this quote from Terry Pratchett: “Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”

    Switch the Patrician for yourself, Ankh-Morpork for your blog and it all makes sense..

  2. vjstracener

    Expectation is a prison is a quote from Robert Fripp. Ad lectorum means “to the reader” from Osiander

    Your post was refreshingly honest. Thank you.

    • You win! You can choose any volume of the Oxford University Press’ A Very Short Introduction series and if you email me you address I’ll have it sent to you ;))

  3. MarylandBill

    I think it might be more than just WordPress. I think quite a few people have come to your Blog after the first episode of the New Cosmos series. I was referred to this blog by another blog following the first episode, and I liked what you wrote. I will stick around and am perfectly fine with you writing for yourself.

  4. Robert E Harris

    I read because, usually, i find something of interest to read. Iam a retired chemist. I have written a lot to clarify my own understanding of something. A couple of times that has produced a published paper.

  5. However if you try to tell me … what language to use … you are not welcome.

    Does that mean RM will be in Latin from now on?

  6. Imnsho, the moment a blogger stops writing to please him/herself is the one wherein the blog dies; and any reader thinking otherwise needs to be popped firmly into a very remote well and the lid replaced.

  7. Pingback: Ad lectorum: Expectation is a prison. | Brain T...

  8. Glen Speering

    I came across this blog, being new to the blogging world, rather than from any recommendations.

    Currently lecturing in Science, but having a background in philosophy, it is a really refreshing read. I have arguments all the time with other scientists who appear not to know the history of their own disciplines. I find that quite disturbing.

    p.s. Expectatio is a particularly problematic word currently in science and economics. Precisely because it is a prison. In the same way the prison was created around the word that preceded it.

    But that’s probably a thesis for another day.


  9. Pingback: Astronomy In The Renaissance | Astronomy News

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