“I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers…”

June 2, 2010

…quoted the blogger on his blog.

© Asa Mathat, the Wall Street Journal

At the All Things Digital conference last night, Steve Jobs, asked whether the iPad will be a savior for content creators, said: “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers…I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”

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Civil Comments

May 21, 2010

What are the two worst things about the comments sections in online news outlets for articles and (even worse) for blogs or other opinion pieces?


The first is that contentious topics draw so many comments that you would need a day or two to read them (assuming you would want to). The lead article on The Huffington Post tonight about the Senate finance reform bill has drawn 5,506 comments thus far (more than 500 added since I began this entry), accumulated over thirteen hours. I quickly calculated the average wordcount: about 13.5 words per entry. So there are over 74,000 words in the comments section, longer than many novels. (The article itself clocks in at under 900 words.)

There something very wrong here, and nothing, as far as I can see, that is at all useful.

But there’s an even worse flaw of many comment sections: the pointlessly nasty insult.

Canada’s mainstream Globe and Mail carried a story in yesterday’s edition headlined “Canada blasts Malawi over jailing of gay couple,” with a subtitle explaining why Canada would bother going after little Malawi: “Criticism comes days after Ottawa extended invitation to Malawi for G20 summit.” Got it.

Would you think this even worthy of comment? Four readers did, and inevitably one of them, with the pseudonym “Bromelia”, couldn’t miss the opportunity for YAGI (Yet Another Gay Insult) “Presumably, the men knew the laws and they were able to maintain a relationship as long as they didn’t flaunt it. When they did, they got the book thrown at them. Another histrionic gay martyrdom — yawn.”

Just as inevitably this triggered outrage from other readers. Here comes the nasty insults:

“StewNYT” wrote:

“Bromelia you are a monumentally pathetic and despicable person. Flaunt it? Are you that mentally challenged? A young couple tries to celebrate their commitment to each other and is jailed for over a decade and all you can do is yawn? You’re just an utter failure as a human being. Two adults in a consenting relationship should not be jailed for falling in love.

“How about I flaunt my fist in your face?”

…while “RestOfTheStory” chimed in with the illuminating remark “Bromelia — You are a pompous ass.”

This is not helpful. So kudos to Politics Daily for its upcoming manners enforcement policy:

Coming Soon
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we will soon be requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screennames. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around.

I’d say it’s none too soon.

Now we have to work on getting it through the mind of the average web reader that WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK (unless you think deep original thoughts and can express them in clear language).

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Fun Facts About Blogs

August 11, 2009

According to the Harper’s Index in the August issue of the same magazine, which cannot be seen here unless a subscriber, 94% of blogs have not been updated in the last four months (Harper’s quotes Technorati as the source).


The Secret of Twitter Revealed!

April 1, 2009

Yes, the secret of Twitter’s remarkable success can be found in an article in this morning’s USA Today.

Unemployed Jason Hirshborn states, “I love the idea of telling people what I’m thinking without having to talk to them,” he says. But, as he points out, it’s a two-way street: “I’m able to ingest a lot more than if I was having conversations with them.”

Ah, technology, thy name is social progress! Tweet, tweet.

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Tyson Homosexual Nearly Sets Two Records

July 1, 2008

Many will have read the news that last Sunday Tyson Gay set a new record of 9.68 seconds in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, although the victory was disqualified as a world-record because it was “wind-aided.”

The story making the blog rounds today is a hilarious footnote to his notable performance.

A posting by Amy Gahran at Poynter Online retells the story of OneNewsNow, a site run by the Christian American Family Association. The site’s automated filter substituted “Homosexual” for almost every occurrence of “Gay.”

This lead to some truly remarkable prose, including:

“Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

“His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn’t count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here’s what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he’s certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

“‘It means a lot to me,’ the 25-year-old Homosexual said. ‘I’m glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me.'”

And so this is one record for Tyson Gay that can’t be disqualified because it was wind-aided. It was aided by mere human phenomena.

Gahran provides her primary source for the story, the Sleuth blog on WashingtonPost.com, and admirably commends that blog’s author, Mary Ann Akers: “She includes a rundown of the bloggers who spotted and initially covered this story, with links to the relevant posts. This is not only the ethical thing to do (crediting the people who really broke the story, and sharing their insights) — it also makes the story much more interesting, by allowing readers to dig deeper.

“Plus, when you link to original blog posts, readers also get to see the conversation happening in the comments which in this case are absolutely priceless.”

I’m not sure what the lesson is in all of this for the future of publishing: I’m happy to enjoy it just as is.

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