Iain Dale: what is it you can’t face?

Posted by Tim Ireland at 16 September 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
at
10:07 am and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

As galling as it is to be included in a rigged game by a crooked referee – against my will and without my knowledge – only then to be labelled a bad sport for objecting, I’ll do my best to keep this on an even keel*, because what’s most important to me here is that you watch the tactics and think about motive.

[*MINI UPDATE – OK, you got me. The headline is a bit much. :o) ]

Let’s start with this extract from the conversation that QT_Ian started and then suddenly grew tired of, which is a response to Iain’s reply to a semi-anonymous web user using the handle ‘Cheesy Monkey’.

‘Cheesy Monkey’ wanted to see if Iain would subject his poll to a wee bit of scrutiny, but Iain wasn’t having any of it. Earlier, he had even refused to provide even a confirmed list of weblogs that sent readers to his poll (when all it would have taken at one stage was a mere nod of approval).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the harm in exposing a poll that’s ‘just for fun’ to a little scrutiny, and if I wanted it to be taken seriously I certainly don’t think that I could afford to refuse scrutiny. Unless the poll was rigged, of course… in which case a refusal to cooperate is the lesser of two evils.

(Everything in italics is a quote from Iain’s earlier comment(s).)

1.

“So many questions! Are you TI in disguise? :). “

Is the smiley there so you can cast the seed of doubt and also poo-poo any suggestion that you’re paranoid?

2.

“I drew up the poll and the rules. I also compiled the spreadsheet.”

All by yourself, with no oversight. Of course, you don’t see that I should have any cause to doubt your ability to handle this responsibility, because you still won’t admit that I have caught you cheating at the perceived popularity game before.

Or are you seriously going to tell me that the stats deception than ran for months-slash-years was all a ‘mistake’ and you had “absolutely no interest in skewing the result”?

3.

So you drew up the poll and the rules and you also compiled the spreadsheet. Is it really so difficult to mention that you also conducted the vote in your own back yard (and only ruled out voting via anonymous comments on your website only after this action was challenged)?

You hosted the event, which received the most positive attention in your neighbourhood. This, after previous polls (also ‘just a bit of a larf’) where whole neighbourhoods of the UK blogosphere were excluded because you’re so far to the right that when you look to your left you can see maybe to agitators in the Labour Party and no further. FFS, even looking beyond left and right gives you a neck-ache.

Add to this that you, the host of this poll, have a lot of control over what does and does not get read in your neighbourhood. And you exercise that power most stringently.

Example: Typically, your readers will know little about the circumstances surrounding the closure of comments on Nadine Dorries’ site. Many of your readers are unaware that she behaved in a manner contrary to what most other bloggers would regard to be reasonable. This would go some way to explaining why she is rated 4th as a blogging MP when she doesn’t even belong on the list, as she is no blogger. And before you start, Miliband (who did not rate) is quite rightly regarded to be a joke as a blogger by everyone in your neighbourhood, mainly because his comments are a joke. Any time he likes he can shut down a good point about Conservative policy and say; “Sorry. No can do. Weblog paid for by taxpayers.” But David Miliband is not a close personal friend of yours, and enjoys no protection. It’s open season on Miliband at your place, while Dorries gets the softest ride you can give her.

I will accept your “I don’t badmouth my friends” mantra without complaint here, but even with that in place you still have to admit that devout readers of your weblog will have a far better impression of Dorries than most people, and a lot of that is your doing.

This situation is only made worse by your insistence that your readers should avoid reading anything that might upset them. So often you tell your readers to simply look away if they don’t like this blog or that (while complaining that the left are ‘insular’).

Are you seriously going to tell me – even if you deny every charge of control-freakery and censorship – that there is no ‘home team’ advantage to be had here?

4.

“There will never be a perfect system for any poll…”
“I could have Mother Teresa herself overseeing it…”
“… no system is perfect…”

Iain, you embarrass yourself when you retreat to your game of extremes. Of course you’re not perfect and your poll’s not perfect, and of course you’re not the most evil man alive. But you are an unapologetic cheat. I know, because I caught you cheating and you were unapologetic about it.

5.

“… and TI would still see a conspiracy, so I have to recognise that at times I just cannot win.”

Iain, there was a way that you could have ‘won’ in the scenario you present here. You could have honoured my request to be removed instead of sticking it to me in your poll and rubbing my nose in it, just to piss me off.

6.

You don’t even mention by name the few weblogs that announced a boycott in your book or on your site, even though you’re a list-junkie from way back and you KNOW this to be a contributing factor to placement, especially with such a low turnout. Your poll is skewed in at least one respect, an act or failure of yours skewed it, and no mention is made of this on your blog or in your book.

[Take note, QT: it was *after* this happened that the requests stopped and demands started. I take this seriously, because Iain took it seriously enough to mess about with his ACPO-sponsored device just so he could mess with me. If this weren’t the case, Iain would have replied to my email requesting that I be left out (he could have said “no”) or responded similarly to the announcement on my blog (he could have pointed out that I was still included, but instead he clearly described the action as a “boycott”, and I will not allow him to wriggle out by pretending not to know what a word means again). Or… he could just have honoured my request for the same reason you left me out of last year’s Who’s Who. I wanted no part in this charade and he knew it. Iain responded with an even more pronounced charade.]

7.

Speaking of boycotts and notes, it is worth looking again at what you went to print with, Iain, as you do mention the boycott… by making a point of misrepresenting it and downplaying it:

“Liberal Conspiracy encouraged a boycott of the whole exercise as they felt that because it was being organized by someone on the right, right wing bloggers would be the only beneficiaries. The boycott was boycotted by most blogs on the left…” (source)

Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy encouraged a boycott, and you know there is a difference. You also know that other editors of Liberal Conspiracy promoted the poll, so please don’t bother waving their placement in my face again.

And Sunny did not say that right wing bloggers would be the only beneficiaries; he raised the same point I do above, that the poll would be skewed to favour the right (and your mates) because of who was hosting it. (Please try to understand that this applies before you even do anything that you would regard to be a deliberate action.)

This is you playing games of extremes again instead of admitting that where and how the vote was conducted would influence the vote.

This is the only mention of boycotts in the publication. It makes no note of who specifically told their readers that they were not taking part, and does not acknowledge the influence this action may have had on the number/nature of votes for that blog or from that neighbourhood. You have made no effort to be fair to any of the people you really need to be working to convince that you are least trying.

This applies even if you are sincere when you sigh and say that you should not bother in my case.

8.

Of course this is about power. The whole machine is powered by big and little bloggers wishing to be more powerful.

Many bloggers took part only because they individually or as a group were afraid of missing out on influence in the future, and said so.

And we have this from the poll’s own Foreword:

“The power of the Internet and the impact of the blogosphere continue to change how
politics is done and seen to be done in the UK and internationally.”
– Darren Murphy, Managing Director, APCO UK (source)

Bloggers placed highly on this list will use that placement to further their impact and increase their power. Of course they will. Only a fool would think otherwise.

9.

This poll of yours is as reliable and representative as one hosted by FOX News or the Socialist Worker. And you cannot deny that you pretend otherwise the moment you put the ‘Total Politics’ label on it.

If I had tried this, there would (quite rightly) have been hell to pay, and I am nowhere near partisan as you are.

(Psst! To prove otherwise, you will need at least to establish a stupefying level of denial to match ‘1234’.)

Open your mind, Iain; imagine for a moment how a poll conducted via Bloggerheads might have worked out… and please don’t insult me by suggesting that I rush out and try it, as I’ve made it clear why I’m not interested. If you still don’t get it, read #10 over and over until it sinks in.

The answer isn’t for someone else from the left to make the same mistake, but for someone above/beyond these differences to conduct a poll like this.

Not just someone who is not you, but someone who is totally unlike you.

And, personally, I’d expect to see some oversight even if there weren’t a proven cheat at the helm.

10.

You, a man whose core interest is politics, ran a poll in which you and your allies were candidates and (shock!) major beneficiaries.

Where are your principles?

Even if you contend that no gain is to be had, why would you set such a bad example?

/epic

This will be the first time that most of you have read this exchange because (watch out; repeated point coming) it was conducted in a neighbourhood that’s very different to the one you’re probably used to.

Have a chew on it and Iain’s complete failure to respond to any of it, unless it’s to have a go at me and misrepresent my position (again) on his website while offering no right of reply.

I’ll be back with more as time allows.








6 Comments

  1. Troushers says

    "Cheesey monkey"'was challenging Dale on the wrong points, I think. Of course there was plenty of scope for Iain Dale to make errors, deliberate or otherwise. But he will hardly admit to it in conversation. No, Dale's poll was flawed from the very start, as he is asking an unrepresentative sample for their top ten. Of course asking the readers of right-of-centre blogs to nominate their favourite blogs is going to return a chart skewed heavily in favour of right of centre blogs, its axiomatic. He (or anybody) could disprove this simply by performing a quick count of those 60-70 linkers to his poll, and breaking it down by a simple right /left /centre category. He has already, I think, categorised blogs in this way in his top lists. The lack of even this simple metric suggests that he's done it already and hasn't liked the results. I'd estimate 60-70% of them are probably right wing blogs.Dale is vague on a couple of further points – how he validated email votes, since accounts are so easily created. How he identified and punished cheaters. These are secondary issues.Of course, he doesn't talk up his poll as meaning anything beyond a minor entertainment. But a bad poll is worse than no poll at all – its sometimes better to have no answer than the wrong answer. There is always the danger of people like journalists attaching more importance to this sort of thing than it deserves, through laziness or a lack of research. Will some future profile, some media diary or some article mention a site as in the top ten of political blogs in Britain, based on this poll?

  2. Cheesy Monkey says

    I was trying to point out in a polite a way as possible (in an attempt to weasel out some useful answers) that the Total Politics poll needed to be squeaky-clean in regards to who voted, the counting of the votes and how the lists were compiled from said votes… otherwise the list is little more than a scam. Scam? Well a potential one at least, because some of the listed bloggers may benefit from their placing. How many of the top blogs carry advertising, particularly for, say, books or business that they're (maybe) involved with? How many might be approached by media or publishing with work in mind? How popular are the top blogs really, compared with their position on the chart? How many votes were cast? Will the poll be used as some sort of barometer of the public's political allegiances by lazy hacks? (If the top 100 was read this way, are there really that many right-wing libertarians in the country, for example?)The trouble with Dale's chart, ultimately for me is that I don't look at the list of results and think that the list is indeed representative of the 'best' or the most 'popular'; the first, second and third thoughts I have is "who benefits". And that's why the Total Politics' Top Whatever of Somesuch is worthless, because you cannot trust the results – even if such potentially skewed results were arrived at more by negligence than by design.

  3. Manic says

    Iain has left me with some data to collect and process (when he could just as easily provide himself with the referral data for his key voting post, which would take him all of two minutes)I'd happily make my own process more transparent by allowing volunteers to (*coughs*) help with the data collection.:o)

  4. Manic says

    BTW, a promising litmus test presents itself:The list of referring sites that Iain refused to OK but had plenty of opportunity to reject:http://tinyurl.com/5yo766Balanced against his stat-porn for the month of August:http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/09/august-statp…For another quick test, compare that Top Ten to this one here for a shock result. The people who send him the most traffic placed highest, almost place-for-place. That looks logical on the surface of things, but I'm sure most people attempting even that simplistic* a view will spot and recognise the significance of the two large anomalies here:http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/09/total-politi…Even if he didn't honour a boycott, Dale should, at the very least, have listed all of the sites that announced a boycott in print. And he didn't.The only hint that something might be astray with the poll is the Wikio data.(*If it's a contest of traffic volume, then let's not be fooling ourselves with any voting nonsense. And, please, let's not leave Iain to do the figures alone.)

  5. Troushers says

    OK, I wasted a coffee break having a quick look at that list. Sure though, it isn't comprehensive since it misses a lot of referrals (ie surely Guido pimped Ian's list).Of the 89 entries, 11 of them were blog sites appearing more than once. The blog site Question That for instance appears three times linking to Iain's post. Of the remaining 78, 34 of them were from outright tory blogs. 6 were libdem, 14 were a loose lot of lefty types, 10 regional and 14 unclassified, neutral or libertarians. Referring tory blogs were about 2.5 times more abundant as anyone else, comprising just under half of all this limited list of referrals.I made the political characterisations based on Dale's own lists btw.It's like asking Italians to rate their favourite type of food, then announcing with a fanfare that *everyone's* favourite food is Italian.

  6. Manic says

    "surely Guido pimped Ian's list"Given the considerable overlap of their audiences, and the amount of traffic he sends Iain's way on a daily basis, I'm sure he didn't need to. Paul is too 'cool' to beg, anyway. He's totally like Teh Fonz. That's why all the chicks dig him."Referring tory blogs were about 2.5 times more abundant as anyone else, comprising just under half of all this limited list of referrals."And that's before one takes into account something as basic as the estimated amount of traffic each weblog would be likely to send.Thanks for taking the time, Troushers.

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