"So Charlie, why are you doing this given your stack of grading and journal deadlines?" you might be wondering. Well get off my back! You're not my real mom!
I have an abiding interest in the culture of professional philosophy. A lot of that culture is moving online, which is handy for folks like me who know enough about coding to get themselves into trouble and just enough to get themselves out of it (most of the time). LR boasts on his blog that it's the "world's most popular philosophy blog since 2003". (Maybe that's true? IDK if he's got the stats for Daily Nous. But of course "since 2003" might describe the blog's birth year and not how long it's been most popular.) It's influential in our profession; I have no doubt that many people read it. I also know that at least some people have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about LR and BL himself.
Given how popular it is, it's worth getting the big picture of the blog. If we wanted to describe the last year of blogging in a nutshell, we might say that LR is a lot like Slate or National Review: lots of good and important news interspersed with a lot of editorializing. How do we come to this conclusion? There is a lot of news about the profession and academia in general shared; there is also quite a bit of news about stifling academic freedom and rights to free speech; and more info on the PGR and job search advice. But along with all that are opinions expressed about Weinberg, Manne, Jenkins, Ichikawa, and the Twitter Red Guard. (I will note that there are no tags for Christa Peterson or Nathan Oseroff-Spicer, both of whom get mentions in the content of posts. BL tags tenured faculty at institutions with PhD programs, but not grad students. I, for one, can appreciate that. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems a bit more punching sideways than down, at least with respect to tags on LR.)
Leiter's Year in Review doesn't reflect his overall blogging patterns for the year (not that it has to). If I had to speculate, the posts picked are the most sensational ones and not the ones that reflect the blogging practices. You might get a more representative view of the blog by following the "Phil in the News" tag and then skimming some entries at random.
Finally, maybe you're interesting in our three areas of investigation for the whole year? Here ya go.
Go here for methods.
Lot's of blogging happening here -- only 5 days off! On average 2.9 posts per day. Looking at the shape of the plot, it seems a bit like a very sharp and compressed sine wave: days with one or fewer posts are usually followed by an upswing in posting, followed by a sharp decline. Not perfectly, of course, but close enough to suggest that high-posting days are followed by days of little posting until bottoming out in 0 or 1 posts on a day, with the cycle beginning again.
This broadly follows the pattern from previous quarters. "Fascism Alerts" is underrepresented in BL's picks (unusually). Named-philosophers are are slightly over-represented in BL's picks. And the PGR is definitely over-represented in BL's picks.
I mentioned before that "Phil in the News" is a ubiquitous tag on LR. Given that tag, what is it most likely to be paired with?
There's a good deal of pairing with tags about the profession, the academy, and news updates. In fact, those are the top 5 co-occurring tags. After that, we get into the conflict with the "New Infantilists" and more Leiter-centric interests. So given a "Phil in the News" tag, you'll find co-occurring tags dealing with issues in the profession a good deal of the time (around half, I think), and a lot of Leiter-centric tags beyond that. (Though keep in mind that "Issues in the profession" and "Of Cultural Interest" also co-occur with "New Infantilists" etc. A deeper dive would look at posts with three and four tags...maybe that'll come later.)
In case you're just joining us, the methods are here.
Again, lots of blogging and the average for the quarter is 2.13 posts per day. Always good to take a step back during the summer months.
A few interesting things to note: individuals are again over-represented in BL's picks. I found the absence of "wankers" in the BL picks rather interesting. Granted, it doesn't take up a huge proportion of the total number of tags but even so there's more "wankers" than "Justin Weinberg" or "Jonathan Ichikawa". And "Kate Manne" is over-represented in BL's picks; so are "Humor", "Know-nothings", and "Twitter Red Guard".
The ones that stad out here are "Twitter Red Guard", "Justin Weinberg", "Jonathan Ichikawa", and "Kate Manne". They definitely glow a lot brighter in BL's picks than in the whole quarter. In fact, "Twitter Red Guard" and "Jonathan Ichikawa" always co-occur in BL's picks; but while "JI" always occurs with "TRG" in the 3rd quarter, there's more to "TRG" than just "JI".
Conclusions? Again, BL's picks for highlights of the 3rd quarter over-represent beefs he's got with individuals.
In the last post, I gave details on methods, so I'll skip that for the next posts and get right to the data. First, blogging volume.
There's no regression line to show the downward trend, but it's pretty visible. BL posted an average of 2.4 times per day and we can see he took more time off in the summer. Good for him to get some rest!
Now let's compare tag frequency for the whole 2nd quarter versus BL's picks.
"Phil in the News" is top for both and BL's picks reflect how frequently the tag was used in the 2nd quarter. "Fascism Alerts" is under represented in BL's picks and "New Infantilism" over-represented. And again, looking at blogging in the 2nd quarter more broadly, BL is concerned with the profession and its manifestations in the wider world.
What's neat to see is that the "Phil in the News" tag isn't used as widely as it was in the 1st quarter (see below). Rather, the tag is used in a more focused way. It has a lot of co-occurrences with particular names -- Chris Bertram, Justin Weinberg, Jonathan Ichikawa, though not William Vallicella -- relative to the total number of instances of those names.
Something interesting to observe is that, in the 2nd quarter, "Fascism Alerts" co-occurred quite frequently relative to "Cultural Interest" and "Phil in the News" but the former doesn't show up in BL's picks. Instead, "Fascism Alerts" always (or nearly enough) occurred with "Academic Freedom", ""Phil in the News", "The Academy", and "New Infantilism." In fact, looking at the row "New Infantilism", "Academic Freedom" always (or nearly enough) occurs with it. So BL's picks for the 2nd quarter over -represents the co-occurrence of "Academic Freedom" and "New Infantilism". So if you were reading the Year in Review for the 2nd quarter, you'd get a skewed view of what was on LR.
Brian Leiter ("BL") posted his 2019 "Year in Review" on Leiter Reports ("LR"). I looked for criteria about how he picks them and didn't see anything. My guess is that he picks posts that he found compelling throughout the year. So I says to myself I says, "I wonder how that compares with his blogging for the entire year." I'd been working on a project scraping all 300 or so pages of LR and thought I'd start out smaller: scraping his posts for 2019. (The entire LR scraping project will come along sooner or later. I'm off sabbatical now and have substantially less time.)
I used the rvest package created by the great Hadley Wickham. If you're already good with the tidyverse, then web-scraping with rvest is a pretty easy learning curve. Just make sure you read the tutorial on using the SelectorGadget! And thank goodness WordPress is so easy to scrape: pages are individuated by the base URL (http:\\... etc.) and then a sequence of numbers.
The method here is pretty simple. I scraped LR for tags and dates. There are three questions I'm interested in answering:
1. what are blogging patterns like? i.e. how frequently does BL post on LR and how much each day?
2. what tags get used most frequently?
3. what's the frequency for co-occurring tags?
In this post and the next three, I'll answer these three questions. Then I'll attempt a wrap-up.
To me, this is probably the least interesting question, but it's one that can be answered easily.
UPDATE: This was not as easy as I suspected (but it was still a useful exercise). Scraping LR gave me the dates that BL posted but it doesn't fill in the dates he doesn't post. Here's a good set of instructions for how to fill those in.
Here's a line graph showing the volume of blogging from 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2019.
BL is a prolific blogger. He took off from blogging only five days in the 1st quarter! At most, he's posted 6 times in a day and on average he posted 2.7 times a day.
A quick methodological note: I often shortened the tag to something that captured the spirit of the tag but was much more readable on a plot. E.g. "The less they know, the less they know it" was shortened to "know-nothings." Also, all guest bloggers were collapsed into "guest" (but BL hasn't had many guest bloggers on in the last few years, so that's not a worry for right now). What tags got used the most during the 1st quarter? Here's the histogram.
'NA' indicates those days when BL didn't use a tag. So what's to see? BL's go-to tags are about philosophy in the news and stuff of cultural interest. He doesn't use LR for law school updates very much. In fact, the majority of the tagging is about issues related to the profession. BL posts quite a bit more about professional issues that what he colorfully calls the "Twitter Red Guard" and "The New Infantilism." Nonetheless, he has a special place on his blog (and in his heart?) for Justin Weinberg and a handful of other folks (as we'll see in the next few posts).
However! The "Phil in the News" and "The Academy" tags are often paired with "Justin Weinberg" and "The New Infantilism." So at least some of the professional-issue tags are also about the subculture in our discipline that prefers Daily Nous to LR. What can help clear this up is a plot looking at tag co-occurrence.
3. Tag co-occurrence
This plot shows how often pairs of tags so up together. (This is a super helpful set of directions for computing the co-occurrence matrix.)
So what does this tell us? Notice first that the plot isn't symmetrical: what's above the yellow diagonal isn't the mirror of what's below. So for any co-occurrence of two topics, you could have two different values. Look at "Academic Freedom" and "Justin Weinberg" for an example. To interpret the plot: wherever the co-occurrence, it's relative to the total number of occurrences of Topic 1 along that row.
Take "Academic Freedom" and "Justin Weinberg" to start. The plot tells us the co-occurrence of these tags relative to all occurrences of each. To find their frequency relative to "Academic Freedom", find the intersection of both but with "Academic Freedom" appearing as the row value. Their co-occurrence relative to all instances of "Academic Freedom" is rather low (~.07). But the co-occurrence of "Academic Freedom" and "Justin Weinberg" relative to all instances of "Justin Weinberg" is rather large (it's about .67). So Justin is one concern about academic freedom on BL's blog, but he's far from being the only one. But whenever BL is talking about Justin, it's often about academic freedom.
Why do it this way? It doesn't make sense to relativize everything to the topic with the greatest number of tags. It just swamps everything. "Fascism Alerts" and "Cultural Interest" co-occurred 10 times, but that's a blip against the total number of times "Phil in the News" showed up (which is 454). I tried relativizing to whichever of the Topic 1 and Topic 2 was larger. This makes a symmetrical plot but it papers over important info. If A and B have a co-occurrence value of .5, it's not clear whether that's relative to all instances of A or B.
So what does the plot tell us? One thing that stands out is the rather light-colored column for "Phil in the News". This tells us that "Phil in the News" is a rather promiscuous tag, relative to how often other tags are used. This is confirmed by the relative dark shading of "Phil in the News" for Topic 1: no single tag stands out relative to the total number of tokens of "Phil in the News."
A few other bright-colored spots:
Let's compare these last two plots to the posts BL picked out in his year in review. The method here is exactly the same as before. The only difference is in the scraping code: I went to the collection of links for the 1st quarter of the year in review, grabbed those links, and then scraped the tags.
Some stuff to see here: "Phil in the News" is top again, but that's not surprising given how promiscuous the tag is. "PGR" and "Job search advice" occur a lot more often in BL's picks than in the 1st quarter overall.
Let's look at the co-occurrence plot.
And there's the previous one for easy reference:
Co-occurrence of "New Infantilism" and "Academic Freedom" relative to all instances of the former is greater in BL's picks than in the 1st quarter overall; samesies replacing "New Infantilism" with "The Academy". And "What is Philosophy" co-occurring with "PGR" relative to all instances of "What is Philosophy" is also overrepresented in BL's picks.