Andrew Marr is a Tosser

See the Grauniad for the proof. But ZOMG now I’ve proved him right so I must be wrong. <pfft!> – that is me disappearing in a pile of logical smoke.

More seriously: yes, vast numbers of blogs are full of junk, and probably rude aggressive junk (though I don’t know this from personal experience, since I don’t bother read those). Most (measured by volume) of journalism is junk too – it is just that in general it is fairly polite, well-written junk. At least in the UK the most obviously trash stuff gets conveniently dumped in the Sun, Mirror, Mail and so on. But there is plenty of rubbish left over for the Grauniad and Beeb.

Meanwhile, Marr’s successor as political editor, Nick Robinson, has previously criticised the tone and and quality of online debate, saying he had stopped reading most of the comments on his own BBC blog. “It’s a waste of my time,” he said in March this year, adding that the blog’s comments section was frequented by people who had “already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other, or abuse a politician”.

Yes, I’ve noticed that at the Beeb blogs whenever I’ve bothered look (which is infrequently, because they are, as he points out, full of trash). This occurs for the obvious reason: they are high-profile but unmanaged. Blogs are not supposed to be a substitute for leader columns (Dead White Man writes from on high to the Unwashed Massed). They are supposed to be part of a conversation between blogger, readers, and other blogs. Unless AM or NR can be bothered to get their hands dirty and (a) weed out trash in their comments and (b) take the time to respond t the better ones then his blog is, indeed, a waste of time.

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Roberts
    2010/11/10

    (a) weed out trash in their comments

    So a ‘tosser’ is one who fails to toss ….

    Making their slushpile public is what they’re doing.

  2. #2 John Mashey
    2010/11/10

    The common blogging software is inadequate for the task, as:

    1) An unmoderated blog is hopeless.

    2) As it stands, a moderator seems to have 3 choices:
    a) Accept as is. On a busy blog, that guarantees a low S/N ratio, to the point where useful comments are drowned in noise, one of the presumed goals.

    b) Accept, but… (better S/N ratio, but more work)
    b1) Accept, but spend a bunch of editing to identify junk as such (as WMC often does),

    b2)up through and including editing a whole post away and saying “you’ve had your chance, so long”, as Deep Climate does sometimes.

    c) Reject entirely … which gives best S/N ratio, but many people dislike, and also loses the useful record of foolishness, inconsistency and sockpuppetry.

    I’ve proposed on possible mechanism,
    Google: mashey shadow threads
    and ignore the RISC-related hits.
    Ideally, one could have an extra choice:

    d) Send to shadow thread, and optionally tag it
    “Off-topic”, or “sock” or “regurgitation of junk” or “see Skeptical Science #n” and keep the main thread on-topic and sensible, while not losing useful information.

    [Better blogging software would help, I agree. WP (at least the sciblogs version of it) offers very poor comment filtering; and poor comment editing too (I can't see a way to get an editable list of comments-on-a-given-post). Being able to shuffle a comment off to another thread, perhaps with some for of link to it to avoid losing place, would be helpful; I might even use it. The main point, though, is for the blogger to realise that there is more to blogging than just writing stuff for other people to read -W]

  3. #3 Eli Rabett
    2010/11/10

    IEHO the best way of handling disruptive comments is to have a community of readers who basically won’t put up with that on a regular basis, but will simply ignore occasional nonsense. Of course there are exceptions, the truly stoned have to be led gently to the trash heap, but that is a minor problem.

  4. #4 ligne
    2010/11/10

    those of us who read speak You’re branes have known for a long time that any comments thread on a BBC website will instantly be filled with the most retarded kinds of reactionary bum-wank. every kind. more or less instantaneously.

    fair play to Marr for not wasting his life reading the things. the stupid appears to be quite literally unquenchable. leave that task to us stupid schmucks who are willing to dredge through hundreds of badly-spelled, cretinous, racist shit-geysers, in search of the odd gem of hilariously illiterate cuntnuttery. because you have to laugh at these things.

    excuse the spelling and grammar, i may be drunk. the previous couple of paragraphs may go some (but not all the) way to explaining why.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    2010/11/10

    Firefox: killfile (for some sites, including this one)
    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/4107
    (if it breaks follow the links in the discussion thread)

  6. #6 John Mashey
    2010/11/11

    I certainly use killfile, even though it’s nowhere near as useful as the equivalent in the old USENET days.

    But it is orthogonal. For instance, if a normally-useful poster (not to be killfiled) goes too far off-topic, a moderator can send that to a shadow thread. If someone can resist feeding a troll, same thing can be done.

    I saw USENET newsgroups, once useful, degrade for lack of such, to the point that good contributors just quit, Greshamn’s Law of the Internet.

  7. #7 Chris S.
    2010/11/11

    I’ve lobbied in the past for “see Skeptical Science #n” to be a default setting, not just for bloggers but more ‘seasoned’ commenters too.

    I got flamed for tone trolling, perhaps correctly, but it does seem to me that too many see a reheated septic argument as an excuse to display the more prosaic elements of their vocabulary.

  8. #8 J
    2010/11/11

    Interesting to see several people referencing “Skeptical Science” here. Whenever I see someone posting Zombie Skeptic Argument Whatever-It-Is, I direct them over there.

    But I also think that site does a pretty good job with managing comments and keeping threads on track. They seem to moderate the discussion pretty heavily. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for a site with that much traffic the results seem better than most.

  9. #9 John Mashey
    2010/11/11

    I’ve long been a fan of Skeptical Science, for several reasons. I still owe John Cook for creating the fixed number version of SS, absolutely crucial to the Meme categorization in SSWR. It let me easily build on that work and save much work.

    A. Consider:
    repetition of zombie argument #nn

    Response 1: flame
    Response 2: repetition of patient debunk
    Response 3: see SS #nn

    The SS #nn likely has as a good or better explanation, including graphics, as one can do in a blog post, or especially in a word-limited venue like letter-to-editor and some blog setups.

    But even better, compared to response 2, it makes the point to onlookers that this stuff has repeated and debunked so often that it has been cataloged.

    B. Consider Gish Gallup
    I’ve seen relatively short pieces, like OpEds, that managed to cram in 10-15 memes covered in SS. There is no earthly way you can cover them all, or even one thoroughly, but one can simply say:

    These are all standard wrong ideas, here’s the list of numbers. You an even get that into a letter-to-editor.