De Re Commentari

Guido will soon be winding down for Christmas and the team would be faced with the tedious job of comment moderation over the holidays or to decide to just let anarchy prevail. For the last few months we have as an experiment adopted an even more laissez faire attitude to comments. Animated GIFs, YouTube videos, tweets, images and the like were allowed. The result was gay porn, racist videos and it generally getting worse. We have now after ten years tested the “no pre-moderation” model to destruction.

During the run up to the election this site’s readership will probably top-out at some quarter-of-a-million hits per day, comments will be in the thousands daily. The post-moderation system is just not viable, the team would have to spend all day reading the comments instead of doing the writing that provokes them.

This graph from this article on the economics of blog comments summarises the situation:

comment moderation costsGuido has over the last decade copped a lot of criticism for the generally laissez faire attitude towards the comments – remember Derek Draper calling the comments “a sewer” on Andrew Neil’s Daily Politics? In some ways it was easier for Guido to take a laissez faire attitude, counter-intuitively it provides some degree of legal protection to not pre-moderate.

Comment moderation costs a fortune, we occasionally have to spend time with lawyers and the police as a result of comments we have not written or often even read. It is expensive in time, every day the Guido team deletes a load of comments which have, in our rather arbitrary judgement, just gone too far. The software algorithm modbot blocked as much racist, scatological and gynecological nonsense as could be predictable. The truth is that we were happy to tolerate profanity and such like directed at the political class, we were not so keen on the repetitious and tedious stuff about minorities.

Picture credit : GQ

Some get very worked up about online comments because they are so often rude and abusive. We’ve taken 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 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 gynecological 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 actual gossip. In the last decade millions of 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 fair number of moronic, window licking, certifiable loonies for whom this is their preferred outlet. Mostly it is people just venting about their bugbears and commenting on the character and parentage of politicians, with a few gems to be found. Guido has no problem with readers swearing at politicians. That has its place, and that place is for better or worse here.

Things are changing, you will still be able to say what you like (within somewhat arbitrary inconsistent limits) without pre-moderation or registering. That privilege will be removed from people who cross the line, they will be blocked from commenting. We’re not known for political correctness, we believe in freedom of speech, exercise it elsewhere if you want to post porn or abuse people witlessly. Will the obsessive who posts “Vote UKIP” all day be blocked? Maybe. Will we lose traffic? Not as much as those obsessive comment makers think. Will it work? That is up to you.

BBC on #Snoberry: It Was Guido Wot Won It

guido-wot-won-it

Silence of the Spinners

politics

“He doesn’t want to speak to you” Guido has been told many times. We’ve never had a problem being put in the “sin bin” by politicians, we don’t seek to do interviews, so if a politician refuses to speak to us, it doesn’t matter too much, we can still talk about them. In fact we will probably shout about them even more. (Some free advice to any MP in our crosshairs, we don’t go away if you ignore us, we redouble our efforts.) These days however it is usually a party press officer – a professional spinner – who refuses to do his job and comment.

After a string of negative stories the LibDem press office earlier this year decided not to engage with us, did it help their cause? No. Stories on the blog went unchallenged and into print the next day in the national press. To be fair to the LibDem press team, our guess is they usually haven’t been told anything by the Deputy PM’s office in Downing Street, so it is not as if they can say anything of consequence. Amusingly after the Guido Fawkes Tenth Anniversary party they called, hurt, to inquire why press officers from the Tories, Labour and UKIP were all there eating caviar and drinking champagne whilst none from LibDem HQ were invited. “We put you in our sin bin” we told them…

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times this morning analyses Labour’s attitude to the press

They blame the “rightwing press”, particularly the chunk of it owned by Rupert Murdoch, not only for the leadership tremors but for Mr Miliband’s low reputation in the country. If voters disdain Mr Miliband, the party seems to believe, it is because they are brainwashed. The best that can be said for this theory is that it has ideological pedigree; the one morsel of Marxist doctrine still evidently cherished by the British left is false consciousness.

Labour’s view of the press has soured to the point of self-harm. The Sun is read by more than 5 million Britons every day, many of whom vote Labour or entertain the prospect of doing so. Yet the party talks of the Murdoch-owned tabloid as a remote Other. It is just about conceivable that Labour can win power while ignoring anyone who disagrees with it. How it expects to govern a plural nation with such a sectarian cast of mind is harder to understand.

Unhinged by indignation, Labour MPs even joined a hashtag campaign on Twitter to insist that “We back Ed”, like Brezhnev-era Kremlin officials denying rumours of a coup. To repeat: a major political party decided that having to affirm support for its own leader six months before a general election would somehow leave him an enhanced figure.

The idea that being put in the “sin bin” will hurt Guido is bizarre. We’re going to light up those pixels and fill up those column inches regardless whether or not you engage. The pixels on the #1 political website in the country, the inches in the political column in the biggest selling newspaper in Britain…

We want to get the facts right when we run a story, press officers and party apparatchiks may not like the tone or the thrust of an article coming down the line, nevertheless running away won’t help. Look at Sadiq Khan‘s recent 48 hours of bad publicity. Sadiq thought he could tough it out with “no comment”, that didn’t work with us because – unlike the Leveson leery dead tree press – we ran the pictures without a response anyway. In the end ignoring this blog meant the broadcast and print media eventually joined in the mêlée. As Tom Watson once said, if you can’t take a kicking from Guido, then you don’t deserve to be in politics…

What Do You Think of Guido’s Facelift?

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After ten years, things need a little freshening up. Changes are coming. Things will look different round here soon…

Scrapbook Losing Friends Fast Over Cam Kid Hate

Britain’s leading left-wing blog has come under fire for the second time in two weeks for attacking David Cameron over his disabled son Ivan, who passed away in 2009. Earlier this month union-funded Political Scrapbook was universally panned for this story criticising the PM for an emotional section of his conference speech. The response was unanimous:

Today they’re at it again, claiming: “In a corner, Cameron can’t help invoking the memory of his disabled son”. The less than tasteful line of attack is seeing Scrapbook lose friends on the liberal left fast:

You stay classy…

This Is Embarrassing, Help!
Guido Refresh: Avatar Rebrand Design Brief

errol-flynn-guido-montage

Back in June we put out a call for tenders for the Guido Refresh: Avatar Rebrand Design Brief and asked graphic designers to tender ideas. The detailed brief can be found here.

Sure enough we had some high quality ideas put forward to us and one of them was almost exactly what we had in mind – we told the designer we would shortlist them. Then it seems that instead of being saved the email was deleted…

So if you were that designer, please get in touch urgently: Guido.Fawkes@Order-Order.com. We want to do business…

ConHome Calls for Bercow’s Head

John Bercow is facing growing calls to resign, with Conservative Home calling for his head in a blistering criticism of his failings his afternoon. The party’s in house journal argues “the Speaker ought to resign, for the good of the Commons”, that today’s “imitation of a u-turn… isn’t sufficient to save him”, and that following his statement today “Bercow’s position has become untenable”.

“His authority over the House as a whole has evaporated. In his statement this afternoon he was openly heckled by various MPs. His declaration that “a number of colleagues have expressed disquiet” about Ms Mills, when in reality at least 84 MPs are in open revolt on the matter, elicited a loud “Ha!” from Michael Fabricant. His proposal of a “modest pause” has been met by rebel demands for a full debate on his conduct of the affair. It’s no use suggesting this is a group of usual suspects who dislike him personally – the objectors have visibly multiplied in proportion to his misbehaviour. This is an unsustainable state of affairs, and his failure (or refusal) to satisfy his critics now threatens to disrupt the running of parliament.”

The damning piece concludes:

“He ought to go of his own accord or be made to go by MPs. We need a new Speaker who can live up to the job and restore the role to its former standing.”

If this were to snowball…

Guido Commended by Royal Statistical Society

Guido is honoured to have been commended by the Royal Statistical Society at the Statistical Excellence in Journalism Awards today. Commenting on this blog’s data journalism over the last year, specifically our exposé on gender inequality at the patriarchal CLASS think tank and how the Guardian uses the word “scrounger” more than any other paper, the Royal Statistical Society praised our:

“commitment to using statistics to question, analyse and investigate the issues that affect society at large”

Guido looks forward to providing his readers with a similarly high standard of data journalism in the year ahead…

IPPR Roll Call of Labour Cronies

Political Scrapbook tried their hardest to give the Policy Exchange think tank a slap earlier, finding only a pitiful number of connected people in comparison to Labour wonkshop IPPR. Safe to say the list of Labour-linked acolytes over there is […]

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Guido Refresh: Avatar Rebrand Design Brief

The Guido Fawkes Blog avatar is widely recognised and seen by readers millions of times every month, he is a cheeky chappy with a big mischievous smile. After 10 years use by the blog it is time he was updated. […]

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Liberty Online: Live Stream of Guido at #Liberty2014

A post-three bottle lunch Guido has strolled down to the CPS conference. Tune in at 18:30:

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Hic, hic, hic![…]

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Telegraph Brain Drain: Damian Thompson Out

The Telegraph’s combative blogs editor Damian Thompson has announced he is leaving Buckingham Palace Road “in an entirely amicable parting of the ways”. Where next for the proven talent spotter of young male writers? MediaGuido feels he would be […]

+ READ MORE +



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