“Invisible Winks”

Nov 15 2011 @ 5:32pm

Ben Casnocha explains how a writer can nod to insiders without alienating outsiders. He uses me as an example:

Andrew Sullivan wrote a blog post awhile back … in which he ended with a sentence not in quotation marks that was actually a sentence from a Yeats poem. Again, he doesn't quote Yeats with quotation marks, but he closes with Yeats's words, which happened to fit the topic perfectly. Those who didn't know it was Yeats presumably read it and absorbed it normally. Those who did catch the reference found an easter egg and felt smart — and closer to Sullivan as a result. It was the perfect invisible wink: greater bond with insiders, neutral effect on outsiders.

His bottom line:

The best inside references strengthen bonds with those who get it while not being so obviously inside baseball that outsiders feel excluded.

 My own view, apart from being flattered, is that when I'm writing on this blog, I am writing for readers many of whom have followed the blog for years and it's inevitable that in that organic process, in-jokes, somewhat obscure references (Yglesias Award? Hathos Alert?) help build a community. But I try not to get all insidery too much. But if a new reader expects only political analysis and instead comes upon random postings on facial hair, well … that's what happens when actual human beings interact outside an institutional authority. Things get real.