Getting off-topic

I thought I might be imagining it, but I don’t think so anymore: Language Log is getting less focused and less good than it used to be.

Bill Poser today wrote an entry about how runners hear the start gun at different times because of the speed of sound in air. The ‘hook’ used to relate this to linguistics is that if people studied acoustic phonetics, they would know this was a problem.

Yes…but if they studied physics, or even general science, they would know this too. I am not impressed with this as a linguistics hook. Sorry, but Language Log is supposed to be about linguistics, not about the fairness of Olympic track racing. Read down the list of recent entries, and then browse through a segment of LL Classic and see what you think about their relative interestingness.

I don’t know if this is an affliction common to blogs, but I’ve seen it happen to several. BoingBoing, which was once what its tagline claims (a directory of wonderful things) has become highly political. I still find it interesting to check out, but the slant on the politics is also high (unclear incidents of civil liberty violations are made to sound highly inflammatory), and that makes it even less interesting than just politics (which after all is also interesting, though perhaps not always wonderful).

Both BB and LL also added comments fairly recently. The comments sections are generally better than average, but they rarely add much to the original entry. I preferred both blogs when you had to email the original poster to comment, even though your words were subject to their whims. (My comments were mentioned or published a couple of times on both BB and LL, which was neat, but that’s neither here nor there.) This has contributed to my current feelings about their decline — which is funny because I can always just skip the comments if I don’t want to read them.

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