Monday, December 29, 2008

Just Catching Up With the News*

Have enjoyed breaking the news junky habit this week. Even let the mobile phone battery go dead, which is about as cold turkey as St Stephens’ Day gets. Am today in sole charge of the snot-ridden Fawkes girls, who are coming down from their Christmas highs. Have managed to stuff them full of food by smothering it in ketchup (it goes surprisingly well with corn-on-the-cob). The floor is treacherously littered with Iggle Piggle and his gang of psychedelic mates plus Peppa Pig and family. We should pay the nanny danger money.

Scanning the news once again demonstrates that it is as mad as ever, Middle East is in flames, Western developed economies are sunk. Here in Ireland the government has bailed out the banks when a private sector deal fell through, some taxes are going up, government spending is being slashed. The Irish government is at pains to insist “we won’t repeat the mistakes of the British bail-out”, namely saddling the banks with 12% debt repayments.

Back in Britain the Prime Mentalist seems on form, now entertaining Churchillian as well as super-hero fantasies. The Tories are teasing about tax cuts and William Hague appears to have threatened to quit his day job if he is forced to actually do it full-time. Elsewhere particularly enjoyed reading that “Conservative leader David Cameron was beaten by three girls and a semi-naked man”. Once a Bullingdon boy, always a Bullingdon boy, eh?

*Well, the news you are allowed to read.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Cameroon Nuptials

Douglas Smith, one of the early modernisers behind the scenes at Policy Exchange, who went on to become a Cameron speech writer and now guides political research at CCHQ and Munira Mirza, Boris’ Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries, should today now be Mr and Mrs Smith.

To the surprise of many they were married in a very private small ceremony in front of witnesses. Congratulations.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Things Are Going to Change Around Here…

Nothing too dramatic immediately, just that Guido likes to try to stay ahead of the rest of the blogosphere.

The first change is that Guido will be leaving the tender embrace of Google’s Blogger platform. A lot of geeks and “expert” consultants look down on Blogger, but it is a brilliant (and reliable) place to start blogging at no cost. They have been excellent with technical support, they have weathered days when traffic has spiked to over 100,000 hits in a matter of hours without their backbone even noticing the bandwidth jump.

One reason for leaving is because as the site becomes more commercial it really isn’t appropriate to use free services (as that recent Flickr foul up demonstrated). Secondly as it is the intention that the site will also slowly become more three dimensional, there will be a lot more user interactivity opportunities for you the co-conspirators. This necessitates a shift to a less vulnerable more “distributed” platform, which for legal and practical reasons has to be on infrastructure not owned by enterprises that crumble at the first hint of a writ. Google have until now been very resilient but at the end of the day they are not going to risk their corporate neck for Guido or his co-conspirators. Google UK likes to please governments, that presents a risk to Guido that he can no longer take.

Wikileaks has demonstrated that the British legal system can be thwarted, even as privacy laws become ever more draconian and the government and the EU start thinking about how to suppress blogs, it seems to Guido wise to pre-emptively protect himself from legal threats to freedom of speech. The UK press is nowadays one of the most injuncted, litigated and censored in the West. British ISPs quite understandably don’t want to risk their profits for a principle. The most straight forward way for Guido to frustrate lawyers is to make sure no element of the infrastructure of the site is within the domain of a British judge.

Comment policy is also under review; Guido likes a free wheeling comment section, but the light policing of the comments is necessary otherwise they will become over-run by the BNP, 9/11 Troofers, T** I******, New World Order Jewish Lizard Conspiracists, illiterate Lefties.

The new functionality will start to be introduced early in January. Hopefully the platform change will be little noticed by users at first.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Up Yours Carter-Ruck

Guido is with the in-laws for Christmas and only has internet access via a dial-up or his mobile. So the megabyte size attachment from libel solicitors Carter-Ruck received a few days ago has only this morning been downloaded. Guido emailed Carter-Ruck back at the time to explain he was driving and only had mobile internet access, so what were the contents of the attachment? No reply from Carter-Ruck.

The email contains a Court Order by Mr Justice Tugendhat, threatening Guido with contempt of Court if Guido even reveals the existence of the Order. Guido believes that he is not the only leading blogger to receive the injunction. He is however the only one willing to break it. Unfortunately for Carter-Ruck they seem to have forgotten that since 1922 the orders of British Judges have been happily ignored by us Irish in our own country. So Carter-Ruck have merely tipped Guido off to a case of which he was previously unaware and Guido will, as a consequence, now share what little he knows with with his co-conspirators as a Christmas treat.

Somebody (unknown) hacked into the email accounts of Zac Goldsmith and his wife Sherazade, Jemima Khan also appears to have had her email accessed. They thieves tried to sell the illegally obtained information to the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday. Not really that interesting politically, though Goldsmith is a Conservative candidate and presumably Zac is his father’s son…

This particular case isn’t really a matter of principle and Guido isn’t claiming it as such. As fascinating as Zac’s love life probably is, it isn’t really hypocritical. It does illustrate how Britain is increasingly heading towards the French situation of a politically cowed client media injuncted and restricted by privacy laws from reporting on the rich and powerful. The government has also been making a lot of noise about curtailing online publishers and Stephen Carter is gearing up with legislation to attack bloggers. Freedom of the press is soon going to be even more curtailed in Britain.

So we will have a situation where offshore bloggers broadcast the truth to Britons in much the same way as Radio Free Europe kept the citizens of the Soviet Empire informed. The legislation won’t succeed, only Chinese style internet censorship will prevent the truth getting out. Is that the path politicians want to go down?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Caption Competition (Drapers Edition)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Exclusive : Meanwhile Over at Labour HQ…

Tomorrow morning Derek Draper is convening a “New Media Breakfast” meeting with dozens of Labour bloggers and New Media types to hear from Blue State Digital how Labour can use the internet to win the next election. Blue State Digital are the people that did Obama’s online stuff – rather well. So far Draper’s online efforts haven’t really got anywhere, one of the issues that Labour has is that it does not know what it wants to achieve. Blue State Digital have brought over Thomas Gensemer and Joe Rospars, Barack Obama’s former new media campaign director to basically pitch their services and know-how to the Draper assembled collection of lobbyists, spin-merchants and public affairs leeches* that by and large constitute the Labour blogosphere. Blue State Digital have hired Matthew Macgregor to run a soon to be opened London office. Macgregor worked on Ken Livingstone’s 2008 Mayoral campaign, for War on Want, TULO and Jon Cruddas’ deputy leadership campaign. This is their big sales pitch.

Guido called Draper to wish him luck with the meeting, he cursed Guido’s foreknowledge. Draper denied point blank that he was looking for funding for an Iain Dale style, party-supportive blog with titbits of insider news and his spin on the party line. He has been reportedly moaning that he has been working voluntarily for free for the Party and that if they want to take the fight online they will need a full time paid blogger – what he doesn’t say openly is that it should be him. Sources say that the blog is to be known as the “Daily Draper”.

Hopefully Draper’s blog will be more prescient than his writing for the Guardian. In September 2007 he told us – “Get ready for a short, sharp campaign. Gordon Brown is not a ditherer, and I predict he will announce the election very soon. Today he says the opposite the Tories are doing what they can to promote the idea that there might be an early election, before rubbishing the idea. Does that mean there will be an early election?

“Go 4th” was one working title for a Labour supporting rival to ConservativeHome, LabourList is another name being knocked about. Draper claims he hasn’t finalised the plan and it is still at the talking shop stage. Rumour has it that Mandelson (an Iain Dale fan) is being supportive.

Guido has a suggestion for Derek and the embryonic Labour online-spin crew: find a charismatic, young new leader who can be the change that we need. It won’t matter how good the website is until you do…

*Invitation list to Labour’s digerati: Tom Watson (Guido passim), Colin Byrne (CEO, Weber Shandwick), Sadie Smith (ex-Westmonster), Mark Hanson (spinner), Simon Buckby (Popbitch’s spinner boyfriend), David Clark, Charlie Whelan (Unite, former Gordon bruiser), Chuka Umunna, Sue Macmillan, DJ Collins (Google spinner), Sarah Mulholland, Richard Angell, Ed Owen, Simon Alcock, Wee Dougie Alexander, Patrick Diamond, Sunder Katwala (Fabians), Gavin Hayes (Compass), Jessica Asato, Robert Philpot, Richard Huntington, Tristram Hunt, Ben Wegg-Prosser (Mandy’s protege), Damian McBride (Downing Street spinner for Gordon), Andrew Dodgshon, Theo Blackwell, Tom Miller, Tim Allan (Portland CEO), David Bradshaw, Stuart Bruce (Alan Johnson’s leadership spinner, Labour new media guru), Jag Singh (LabourHome and Hilary online campaign guru), Matt Strong, Paul Simpson, Spencer Livermore (ex Gordon spinner), Ed Owen, Chris McShane, Matthew Taylor (RSA boss, ex-Blair policy unit), Alex Finnegan, John Miles, Adam Dustagheer, Dan Thain (Labour HQ), Mark Lucas (Silverfish), Luke Pollard, James Crabtree, Tim Shand, Alex Hilton (LabourHome), Simon Redfern, William Davies, Howard Dawber, Nick Anstead, Richard Lane, Jon Steinberg, Pete Bowyer, Steve Cowan, Hopi Sen, Luke Bozier, Andy Regan, Toby Flux, David Taylor, Chris McShane, Matthew McGregor, Noel Hatch, Sunny Hundal (the supposedly independent Liberal Conspiracy), Greg Jackson, Dave Prescott (son of), Luke Akehurst (spinner Weber Shandwick), Phil Dilks, Jonathan Upton, Simon Fletcher, Tom Price, John Stolliday, Adrian McMenamin (CBI & HateMyTory.com), Paul Hilder, Paul Miller, Ben Brandzel, Anthony Painter, Ravi Gurumurthy.

The Economics of Blog Comments

Guido is winding down for Christmas and mulling over whether that means he has to put comment moderation on over the holidays or just let anarchy prevail. This graph from this article on the economics of blog comments is thought provoking:

Iain Dale has had enough of window-lickers in his comments and introduced registration, he told Guido he realised he had to when he himself was no longer interested in reading the blog comments. Guido cops a lot of criticism for his laissez faire attitude towards the comments. In some ways it is easier for Guido to take this attitude, it is not as if there is any likelihood of him running for elected office or making a job application where the comments can be held against him.

Anne Spackman of The Times told a seminar organised by the Goldsmith University Media Research Centre that pre-moderation of comments costs The Times six-figures to do. Emily Bell from the Guardian made a similar point, it is expensive to moderate comments. It is certainly expensive in time, every morning Guido deletes a load of comments which have, in his rather arbitrary judgement, just gone too far.

Picture credit : GQ
Some bloggers get very worked up about online comments because they are so often rude and abusive. This blog, in contrast to say the Guardian’s Comment is Free, takes a sticks and stones view to a large extent, particularly with regard to prominent public figures. It is actually pleasing that Ed Balls gets angry about the abuse dished out here, that Hazel Blears loathes the co-conspirators, that self-important politicians hate it so much, that thin-skinned journalists don’t like a taste of their own medicine. The comments and the blog itself perform the role of a cyber stocks, you can say almost whatever you like about leading political figures and it will go unchecked, however say something gynaecological about a lowly intern, it is likely to get deleted (if it is noticed).

Originally when this blog started and had readers numbering only in the tens, rather than the tens of thousands, some of the regular comment makers were very witty and brought gossip. In the last four years 200,000 comments have been made, the signal to noise ratio and average quality of the comments has declined. That is an inevitable consequence of having among the tens of thousands of readers a number of moronic, window licking, certifiable loonies. Mostly it is people just venting about their bugbears and commenting on the character of Geoff Hoon, with a few gems to be found. Guido has no problem with swearing at politicians. That has its place, and that place is for better or worse here.

Things will be changing in the New Year, you will still be able to say what you like (within somewhat arbitrary inconsistent limits) without pre-moderation or registering. However there will be incentives for those who produce better quality commentary based on a new element of co-conspirator community rating. Good comments will be more prominently displayed, disliked comments will be less prominent. The biggest innovation is that it will be possible for readers to set their own tolerance thresholds. Poorly rated comments will be invisible to those who set their preferences accordingly. If you only want to see comments judged by co-conspirators to be witty, amusing or illuminating, set your threshold to “Recommended”. Don’t want to read foul language? Set your threshold to “U”. Want to see all and any comments no matter how foul? Set your threshold to “XXX”. If your commentary is consistently recommended your comments will automatically be more prominent in the future and may even get highlighted on the frontpage. Will it work? That is up to you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fred Explains Bailout Economics

As it is in the U.S. of A. so it is in the U.K., borrowing is how Gordon will save the economy. Our children will be truly in Gordon’s debt.


Seen Elsewhere

Denis MacShane’s Ex is Now Hacked Off Spokesman | Speccie
How the Carswell Story Unfolded | Sky News
How to Defect | Telegraph
Carswell Defection Will Dismay Thoughtful Tories | ConservativeHome
Carswell: Darling of the Tories, Labour and Now UKIP | Speccie
Where is the Love? | Tom Watson
Tory Eurosceptics Weakened | Speccie
Thacker Played Down Scandal | Times
How Clegg Lost the Women of Britain | Sophy Ridge
Multiculturalism: At What Price? | Allison Pearson
Labour Failed Those Victims | Labour Uncut


VOTER-RECALL
Get the book Find out more about PLMR


Douglas Carswell’s side-kick Dan Hannan MEP pours water on the obvious question:

“I won’t be joining UKIP, though I wish Douglas Carswell all the best. He has been a superb MP, and it’s honourable to stand for re-election.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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