Sunday, 23 November 2014

Second blog birthday



I am aware that a second birthday should be celebrated with two candles, but this photo was taken on my actual birthday, in a restaurant where it is understood that customers come to celebrate survival, not to dwell on the accountancy of age, and where “Happy Birthday” is sung ironically, sotto voce by the head waiter, a discrete rendition intended to honour the celebrant without inconveniencing other diners.

I do not know how long most blogs last, but I am pleased to be able to celebrate the second birthday of “Psychological Comments”. I aim to get readers interested in intelligence research by commenting on published papers without fear or favour, and following arguments wherever they lead.

In the usual spirit of these authorial reflections, I aver that blogging represents an historically unique perspective on the act of writing. Never before has it been possible for an author to know within minutes if he has found any readers, and where they come from. For example, I might write about something, fully aware that my main audiences live in the US and UK, only to find that for several weeks running my second most avid readers were all in the Ukraine. What did I say that attracted attention in that nation, with so many travails to think about at the moment?

United States              148,534

United Kingdom          33,201

Ukraine                        12,753

Germany                       9,944

Canada                          7,930

France                           7,420

Australia                        5,947

Russia                            3,658

Turkey                           3,078

Finland                          2,722

However, it is nothing new to find that authors cannot predict what readers will like. In common with authors since the beginning of scribbling, I can put lots of time into an essay I fondly imagine to be pretty good, and get lukewarm audience figures. On the other hand, a note which I post with slight embarrassment because I believe it is making a slight point only, probably unworthy of attention, but a fancy which crossed my mind, immediately engenders serious attention.

Here are the Top Ten:

1 Skills and demographic changes in the USA.

The United States of Mexico                                         3 Sep 2014,  1569

2 Familial risk factors account for criminality, not poverty per se.

Depraved on account of being deprived?                    25 Aug2014, 1935

3 A measure of the academic climate as regards intelligence research.

Helmuth Nyborg gets Watson’d                                  14 Nov2013, 2038

4 and 5 Two accounts which summarise the current position on intelligence

All you ever wanted to know about intelligence (bu... 14Oct2013, 2630

Intelligence in 2000 words                                           9 Dec 2013, 2097

6 The predictive power of attainments at age 7 on achieved social class at age 42

Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give...  20 May 2013, 3054

7 A detailed review of Nicholas Wade’s book.

“It’s the people, stupid”: a review of Wade’s “A T...  14 May 2014, 3070

8 Elijah Armstrong’s first paper, still riding strong

Flynn effect as a retesting, rule-based gain               2 Nov 2013,  3535

9 A re-working of data from Linda Gottfredson, interspersed with later work on high achievers, though pre-figured by Galton

The 7 tribes of intellect                                                2 Dec 2013,  4329

10 Despite all my efforts, my most read post is a very small item about the best way to depict sex differences in the variance of intelligence, a matter which was old hat in the 1960s but appears to be news today.

Are girls too normal? Sex differences in intellige...   8 Sep 2013, 5781

Of course, the 2013 favourites have had more time to build a readership, so there is some cultural lag, but there are 3 new entries which might flourish further next year.

From the start I used a stratagem to boost readership. I would send my intended posting to the relevant author upon whose work I was commenting, and ask them to correct any errors. I reckoned that this would improve the quality of my work, and recruit one university teacher and perhaps a research assistant to my readership.  I hoped they would encourage other readers to look at my blog. In recent months, when I send out the email I often get a shy admission that the author has been reading the blog for a year, though they have never mentioned the fact in an email to me, nor even left a comment on the blog, not even an anonymous one. To such persons I say: please comment, even if only briefly. Readers really like to hear from authors. They are intrigued by the arguments and clarifications which result from such interventions, and mildly flattered that the author has responded directly. It brings them into the shared tutorial, rather than looking in on an abstruse debate.

If you as an author want to make a long reply to a post, particularly if you want to counter my criticisms, my policy is to post your replies without necessarily making further comment myself. I don’t want battles, simply a fair exchange of perspectives. Incidentally, if I have been very critical, I often hesitate to contact the author. In those cases I think it best not to bother them.

Twitter is a great help. I use it to announce each post, and to abstract some phrases in order to tempt readers to get into the detail. Although the Twittersphere has its own methods and logic, and précis sharpens the mind, and sometimes the wit, my use of it is to bring readers to the blog. One can transmit much in 140 characters, but not everything.

Naturally, I have developed all sorts of ideas about my readers: that they have read a great deal, know their subjects, vary from experts in the field to interested recent voyagers into these cognitive waters, but that they are all signed-up members of the empirical project. I am often led by you into commenting on particular publications, or am sent your recent papers or pre-prints. Great. Keep them coming.

Now a personal comment to Anonymous. I understand you may wish to remain anonymous. Could you please find an anonymous name other than Anonymous? It gets me confused as to which anonymous has said what, and whether they are fighting each other, anonymously.  Use your intelligence, dear Anonymous. Anonymity is preserved by such nomenclature as Reader 127, correspondent M or N, or even slightly jokey names like Random Word, Sharp Insight, and Loose Talk. As far as I know, having just thought them up, none of these names are copyright. Just give me a clue as to which anonymous is saying what. Your name is legion.

Thank you to all of you who have loyally re-tweeted my tweets about each blog post, which is specially kind when done by celebrated bloggers like HBDChick and Jayman and others, all of whom have their own blogs to tend to. Commendations, mentions and re-tweets by figures like Steve Sailer,  Charles Murray and Steven Pinker greatly assist me. 

Twitter generated 18,314 page views; 12,952 and 3,888 so close to Twitter in total; then HBD Chick 3,606; isteve 2,690; marginal revolution 1591; and West Hunter 1429 among others.

Last year I said: Finally, I can claim that in one year 71,701 readers have given my words a look, as opposed to the modal 6 if I had published a paper.

At the end of two years I have written 418 posts, which is 4 a week, come rain or shine. Page views all time history at the end of two years:


That is a big jump for me, and many thanks to all of you. Twitter followers have increased from 199 to 597. If you have any ideas to help me reach out to more researchers and students, please let me know. The people I am after understand the basic rules of evidence based arguments, and prefer focussed discussion to sweeping generalisations. They are doubtful, cautious, helpful and do not respond to traditional inducements to participate in anything. A very stealthy approach will be required.

Now I have to prepare myself for the ISIR conference in Graz, from whence I hope to bring you all the best papers, which will probably take me an entire month. $35 from several of you would help defray my costs of flying there; $25 would defray my costs in staying there; $15 would defray my costs in eating there, and $10 would defray the likely cost of a coffee and an Austrian pastry. Donate $5 each and I will be able get there and back and still have the enthusiasm to make further forays to conferences on your behalf.

There’s a Donate button just below, on the right.


  1. Congrats!

    I check your blog pretty much every day. For some reason, my bookmark takes me to an old post you made on setting clocks back one hour. So, if you noticed an odd bump in attention to that post, that's me...!

    I note that-- at least for me-- if I forget to log in first and hit "publish" my entire post gets wiped out. Is there a fix?

    1. It has happened to me as well, and to others such as yourself. I will see if I can get it repaired.

    2. You may need to "enable cookies" when reading the blog. My main problem, on recollection, has been using the Preview option, which wipes everything. Publish generally works for me.

  2. Congrats on reaching this milestone! Definitely worthy of it, I say.

    I want to say here's to many more years. But then I think that I hope we will reach a point where talking about these topics doesn't have to be so "underground." But then, thinking even further, if and when that happens, I believe this blog will still have value.

    Thanks for the shout-out and compliments. I myself have learned quite a bit from you, and I hope to continue to do so.

  3. Congrats, one of my favorite blogs!

  4. May you hit 1MM views this year, James. You do a great job on several fronts: digesting academic research for the (washed) masses, write engagingly, and most importantly give an adult's view on these tough topics.

    IQ is important, and when we pretend/insist it isn't... things get dark. I would have loved to have read the 7 tribes of intelligence when I was younger; it would have prevented a lot of wasted efforts. I have probably read that one 10 times and shared it 5 (and look forward to an expanded version!)

    I often wonder why western societies seem so afraid to deal with this stuff. Is it the long shadow of the jackbooted ideas, combined with a fear that Marx's ability/need thing could gain political traction?

  5. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I will try to re-write the 7 tribes, but I also have to look at many other topics, as well as reporting on conference proceedings, so it is in the "delay" tray, rather than the "in" tray. As to the general mood about intelligence, I don't pretend to understand why it is so negative, and particularly why so many people feel so confident when they disparage intelligence research. Whole purpose of the blog, I suppose, is to let interested persons keep up with that research, and then judge for themselves.