Sellin’ out to the Man

Alright, it’s time to tell you: in a couple of days, Shtetl-Optimized will cease its two-year independent existence, and become a part of MIT Technology Review. Please check out the new shtetl at technologyreview.com and let me know in the comments section, here or there, if anything is amiss. (Note: You have to register at technologyreview.com before you can post a comment there, but that should be pretty quick and painless.) If everything’s OK, then we’ll start redirecting the scottaaronson.com URL’s to point to the new location.

Naturally, selling out to an MIT subsidiary is not a step I took lightly. The following considerations are what finally induced me to say “yes”:

  • I’d already sold my soul to MIT, so why not my blog too?
  • As explained earlier, Bluehost (my current hosting provider) sucks: the sites they host routinely stop working, and when they do it’s always your fault and never theirs. Indeed, every webhosting company I’ve dealt with strikes me as basically a scam operation that does a tiny bit of hosting on the side. So when TR told me that they would be that at which the buck stops — and that if anything went wrong I could walk the two blocks to their East Cambridge office and yell at them in person — their pitch fell on receptive ears.
  • From now on, TR’s expert staff will manage all technical aspects of the blog for me, leaving me free to concentrate on deeper, biting-vagina-related matters. This will be particularly welcome as the demands on my time shift from the “severe” to “ludicrous” range.
  • “The Benjamins.” As explained earlier, as a matter of principle I accept bribes and kickbacks from absolutely anyone, trusting that the money from competing groups will cancel each other out, thereby leaving my overall judgment unbiased. Plus I can actually use the dough, now that I have a mortgage to pay.
  • I’ll now be under contractual obligation to blog “at least twice a week on average.” I actually welcome this change, since it’s the only remedy I can think of for the blog-procrastination (i.e., work) that’s often afflicted me in the past.
  • If this experiment doesn’t work, I’m allowed to back out on two weeks’ notice, retaining all the “rights” to my blog. Of course, I hope and expect that it’ll work.
  • Most importantly, Jason Pontin, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Technology Review, has personally assured me that I will have complete intellectual freedom to blog about anything I want, exactly as I did when the blog was independent. You can rest assured that Jason will come to regret his guarantee in the days and weeks ahead. (TR does have a policy of fact-checking blog entries, but as I explained to them, the very concept of “fact-checking” is not particularly relevant to Shtetl-Optimized.)

Indeed, the only real disadvantage I could see to hosting the blog on TR was the amount of screen space taken up by ads. Sorry about that! Fortunately, the ads look pretty ignorable to me.

49 Responses to “Sellin’ out to the Man”

  1. mollishka Says:

    but that should be pretty quick and painless

    Grr …. making remember my alum password ….

    Also: it’s not so much the space taken up by the ads, but the much smaller text size.

  2. Job Says:

    You know Scotland, you’re pushing it. Now we have to register!! That goes one farthing too far.
    I get slapped around all day and i come here and i get slapped around some more.

  3. Scott Says:

    Also: it’s not so much the space taken up by the ads, but the much smaller text size.

    Everyone: please complain away! List everything you don’t like about the new site. I will get TR to fix as many things as I can.

  4. Rob Says:

    The RSS feed at the new site is content-free, and contains only headings. That’s an instant fail.

    Any chance you could mirror posts you make there back here, which has a working RSS feed?

  5. Shane Says:

    I second the RSS comment, what a drag.

  6. Jim Says:

    Since the RSS no longer has the full text, I know I’ll be less likely to read, or even subscribe at all.

    Of course, if your old hosting provider doesn’t serve the content, then nobody can read it anyway.

  7. Suresh Says:

    I third the RSS comment: It’s a pain to only get headlines. Can you please see if this can be rectified, even if the full content feed has to have ads ?

  8. Matt Hellige Says:

    +1 for improving the RSS.

    Another (tiny) annoyance: I initially subscribed to the RSS feed using the built-in RSS button in Firefox, which subbed me to the main MIT TR RSS feed, rather than the one just for your blog. I had to go back and find the little button in the page that linked the correct feed. It would be nice if the default RSS feed for the page was the right one…

  9. zevans Says:

    That sucks, Scott. Advertisements ftl.
    Oh well, too bad for us I suppose.

  10. John Sidles Says:

    Congratulations Scott! Here’s an closing quote from Samuel Johnson:

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

    Good luck! :)

  11. King Rat Says:

    Yup. With the “headlines only” nature of the new feed, I’ll be unsubscribing with the transition. (I’ll wait a few days and see if the feed changes first though.)

    Full text feed is preferable. I click through when it’s worthwhile to comment, or see the comments.

    A few paragraphs (which seems to be what scienceblogs does) is workable. I click through when the content appears to be something I want to read more of.

    A headline only feed is never enough for me to decide if it’s something I want to read more of.

  12. Kurt Says:

    First the fancy new digs, and now this. You’re becoming so…so…bourgeois! You’re not going to turn into some mature, professorial fuddy-duddy, are you?

  13. Scott Says:

    Guys, I won’t hand over this blog until the RSS feed and everything else has been fixed. (I think it’s already set up so that new entries will appear in full in the RSS feed; will test tomorrow morning.)

  14. Scott Says:

    You’re not going to turn into some mature, professorial fuddy-duddy, are you?

    There is the danger. Biologically I’m 26; mentally I fluctuate between 12 and 85.

  15. Robin Says:

    Good news about the RSS feed! The only other thing that’s really annoying about the new setup is that, if you want to read the comments, you have to click on Every Single Bloody One separately. My clicking finger is aching.

    It looks as though it would be (technically, perhaps not bureaucratically) easy to make a clicky thing that one could click to pop the whole lot of comments open at once.

  16. Benjamin Says:

    I like the new rss feed. When I set it up in Thunderbird, it is formatted just like the website, and all the comments show up.

    Maybe you can ask the TR gurus to add some LaTeX commenting capability? and not choke on the “less than” symbol? That would be cool.

  17. Richard Says:

    Compared to other media web sites, the fraction of screen space devoted to advertizing seems high to me. In my opinion, you didn’t negotiate that well on the balance in that regard. While I understand the magazine’s need for ad revenue (given that they’re paying you), my recommendation is that you renegotiate for an ad column of more reasonable width.

    From what I’ve seen in TR in the past, I’m not crazy about the quality of their journalism. I view them as largely living off the buzz of MIT name.

  18. anonymous Says:

    Another complaint about the new site: No links to commenters’ websites. The lack of such links will severely hinder attempts at procrastination — in addition to inhibiting such less important things as, you know, the easy access to information.

    (I guess there’s an upside, in that if people want to engage in shameless self-promotion, they have to do so explicitly. But I think that’s outweighed by the disadvantages.)

  19. Not even right Says:

    I prefer the present blog site. The words are not squeezed together!

  20. Anon Says:

    The text width in the new blog is much too small for me. It will be much harder to read the long posts from now on…

    I fear change.

  21. Samuel Says:

    What’s the address for the Scott-only rss feed?

  22. Douglas Knight Says:

    It would be nice if the headlines were permalinks, as they are currently.

  23. Tim Says:

    Let me chime in for full-text RSS feeds. I don’t know if this is an independent problem with the site or a reflection of my incompetence, but Bloglines doesn’t appear to like the RSS feed at all. The only RSS feed Bloglines will recognize on the page is the “headlines” feed at the very bottom.

  24. Scott Says:

    The only other thing that’s really annoying about the new setup is that, if you want to read the comments, you have to click on Every Single Bloody One separately.

    Really? I’m seeing all the comments at once. Is anyone else having this problem, and if so can you provide a link? Thanks!

  25. Michael Bacon Says:

    Seeing all of the comments at my end.

  26. Bram Cohen Says:

    Does this mean there are discussions of biting vaginas on technologyreview.com now?

  27. Add-Blocker Says:

    To anyone complaining about ads:
    Please use Firefox with “ad-block” add-on to block annoying banners.

  28. anonymous Says:

    Just go with it. You deserve some money for what you provide here, and everyone who’s complaining about it now will get you used to it really fast.

  29. HN Says:

    There’s a button which says “expand all comments”. If you click on it, it becomes “collapse all comments” or some shit like that.

    Or, as Milton Friedman says, you’re free to click on comments one at a time.

  30. Bobby Says:

    I officially don’t give a crap if you move. I personally ping the site periodically from my “daily” tagged delicious bookmarks, and I’m used to ignoring ads. If the text is too small, I’ll type ctrl-+.

    Congrats on making some extra cash from your blog!

  31. Scott Says:

    Does this mean there are discussions of biting vaginas on technologyreview.com now?

    Right here.

  32. Scott Says:

    Good news: I have word from the editor that they’ll be able to fix almost everything people have been complaining about.

  33. Coin Says:

    The new layout is extremely frustrating– there’s that huge block of dead space for no apparent reason to the right, and the text is all squeezed in. Dunno if that’s counted in the “almost everything people have been complaining about”.

    Also if you’re taking requests, it would be a big improvement if the post titles would link to the permalink for that post, the way they do on your current blog.

    Other than html I’ve nothing to complain about.

  34. Dave Bacon Says:

    “trusting that the money from competing groups will cancel each other out, thereby leaving my overall judgment unbiased.”

    So Caltech is bribing you too? Actually come to think of it, what is the opposite of “MIT”?

  35. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Wow!

    Thanks for tipping me off about ad-blocker. I had been hoping for such a program. I hope I don’t regret installing it. And I hope it works.

    I googled up some debate about the ethics of ad blocking.
    Obviously ads play a major role in supporting the web. I would be happy to have ads, and occasionally read them, if they do not:
    1. have animation,
    2. make noise,
    3. spread over the top of what I am trying to read,
    4. be otherwise beyond annoying.
    Many respected companies, including IBM and Dr. Dobb’s Journal, have ads sufficiently annoying that I just close the window and go without. If you have some time to kill, it is entertaining to read the wackier ads, rather like stumbling onto Rush Limbaugh or the late night UFO guy on AM radio.
    Raoul

  36. Scott Says:

    So Caltech is bribing you too?

    No, but they’re welcome to.

  37. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    Congrats Scott! So finally you are making money off of your blog:)

  38. Luca Says:

    “I accept [contributions] from absolutely anyone, trusting that the money from competing groups will cancel each other out, thereby leaving my overall judgment unbiased.”

    I believe this is the Hillary Clinton doctrine

  39. roland Says:

    Only less than half of the screen width remains for
    the actual blog text. Can you move your links and comments side bar ?

  40. Scott Says:

    Yes, we’re working on how to get the entries some more screen space.

  41. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

    “I accept [contributions] from absolutely anyone, trusting that the money from competing groups will cancel each other out, thereby leaving my overall judgment unbiased.”

    The traditional statement of this is by a Judge:

    “Counsels and members of the Jury: I have received a $6,000 bribe from the Plaintiff, and a $10,000 bribe from the Defendant. Therefore, I am returning the $4,000 difference to the Defendant and judging the case on its merits.”

  42. Chris Stiles Says:

    Text size – please make the text size bigger on the new site.

  43. Not even right Says:

    What is the advantage of moving to the new site? The small word size is what significantly decreases one’s interest in reading the blog in the new site.

  44. Anon Says:

    As regards to the “ctrl- +” suggestion for increasing the text width: This doesn’t change the total width of the text and results in less words per line. For me, the text size I preferred resulted in ~ 3 words per line…

  45. John Quincy Adams Says:

    Will the same RSS feed still work?

  46. cody Says:

    well, ill still read it. though will you forward this address there? because i would much rather only type in this address than have to learn to remember a whole new one.

  47. vipul Says:

    Its ok to move the blog, we will still read. Just dont stop writing !!

  48. S Says:

    Minor issue:
    Each post on this blog has links at the top to the next and previous posts; the new one doesn’t… if for some reason I miss your blog for a few days, it makes it harder to read all the posts I’ve missed, because I have to click on each of them separately :-)

  49. Chris Stiles Says:


    Good news: I have word from the editor that they’ll be able to fix almost everything people have been complaining about.

    The only question is, when? Currently the RSS feed still just shows article previews.