The Daily Mail responds at last!

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 6, 2008

Category: Old Media

This entry was posted on
Saturday, September 6th, 2008
1:26 am and is filed
under Old Media.

For those who came in late:
Bloggerheads – Julie Moult is an idiot
Bloggerheads – The Daily Mail: let’s kick arse and take names

Judith Townend – Campaign against Julie Moult ‘smacks of bullying’, says Mail Online: A widespread internet campaign against one of the Daily Mail’s reporters ‘smacks of bullying’, according to the editorial director of its website. Speaking to today, [Martin Clarke, editorial director of Mail Online] said the comments on the article in question were not published, because the story was already a few days old, and this was not an act of censorship. Users should use the feedback button on the site, which sends requests directly to Clarke, to complain about a story, he added. “If you want to complain about a story some days after it’s published you have to take a more traditional view of things and write to the editor, the same as you would as if it was in the paper. We don’t publish all the letters we get,” he said. Clarke confirmed that 60 comments had been made on the article, but these remained unpublished as of Friday afternoon – until Ireland’s original post was set live. ‘[I]n an ideal world we’d get every [non-libellous and inoffensive] comment published’, but ‘it’s a hell of a job moderating 7,100 comments every day’, he said. “We are reviewing our entire moderation policy. This is becoming more and more of an issue for us. We get more comments than we can possibly deal with and our moderation side hasn’t been able to keep up. We’re not into censoring comments – if that comment had been posted on the day or even the day after we would have probably got it up there.”

Thank you, Judith Townend, for finally getting us somewhere with these people. I was beginning to feel like a forgotten member of the great unwashed for a bit there.

Let me just fire off a quick letter to Julie Moult before we proceed, because there are obviously hurt feelings to be nursed and boo-boos to be kissed:

Dear Julie,

I currently have plans for a little music-video victory dance and some prize-giving when the first real image results come in, and that’s it, so you can relax.

I am sorry for being a little bit mean, but I think it is fair to say that you’ve given your fair share of grief in service to your evil overlords, so please understand when the apology section of this letter cuts short rightabouthere.

Don’t expect any sympathy from me over anything reasonable that carries on beyond this without my help, unless it somehow goes Teh Full Kilroy, and you have to change your name and your face and your hair and go to live on a small island somewhere, and even there people are writing “Julie Moult is an idiot!” on walls because they saw it on a nearby island that has internets… in which case I might be inclined to think that maybe you’d had enough.

But even then I’d want to review some of your latest articles first, just in case I was wrong.

See, I did my homework, and you really have been an idiot. If you’re somehow not totally responsible for all the stuff published in your name, then you’ve been an idiot for allowing the people who are truly/equally responsible to continue to put your name to their idiocy.

It is my sincere hope that one day soon you will be able to stop being an idiot, and from that moment you can count on me to defend your honour against all comers.

Everyone makes mistakes, that’s why Nazi racoons have self-destruct mechanisms.


Tim Ireland


Thank you. You’ve been most patient.

And now, for Martin Clarke, editorial director of Mail Online, I have this:

1. Julie Moult is no innocent flower, it could have been far, far worse if I’d so much as pushed the snowball, and I find it delicious to be half-accused* of bullying by the Daily Mail.

[*Next time, fellas, don’t be so shy. It’s important that you stand up to bullies when you can and not show fear when you do.]

2. It is my own personal experience that even reasonable comments made in a timely fashion fail to make it past Mail moderators most of the time. Of course, these could be false memories implanted by magical Googlebomb pixies, so I invite the Daily Mail to share with me records of each and every comment submitted under my name (‘Tim Ireland’), so we can see what’s what.

3. And if they must stop accepting comments after a week, or maybe even “a few days”, they should at least have the decency to do as The Guardian does and deactivate the comments facility when it is no longer in use. Look, here’s another article I submitted a comment to over a year ago. I just captured this image of the page and, as you can clearly see, comments are still officially open and the text actually invites you to make a comment. All of the Mail’s ‘comment-ready’ articles appear to be like this, and it’s simply not good enough:

Try harder.

4. On his lecture about the correct or preferred ways to give feedback, I will remind Mr Clarke that the feedback link he describes is a lot further from the article than any invitation to submit a comment, is tucked up snug as you like in an upper navigation bar giving no indication of its purpose other than the name it was born with, and is such a recent addition to proceedings that it’s still marked ‘beta’:

No... harder.

5. I also wish to hush Mr Clarke mid-word on ‘complaint’. Yes, comments do allow one to make complaints, and the Daily Mail are not expected to publish every complaint, even if one isn’t dealing with the limitations of print. But Mr Clarke is not going to lead me down that path quite so easily. This was more than a mere complaint. This. Was. A. Correction. It contained a complaint of sorts (about the fact that the correction was first issued by Google but someone didn’t listen) but it was, I am sure any reasonable person would agree, a fair attempt to address a major factual error that even contained valuable new information (about the miracle of relevance; one of the “several factors including popularity” that would otherwise have passed without mention).

6. This, too, is what comments are for. At least, it is in the part of the internets where I come from. (I know of at least one influential blogger cheat who differs on that point, and the rules appear to be different in his neighbourhood.) But if the Daily Mail are willing to try doing things my way for a bit, I’m sure I can attempt “a more traditional view of things” from time to time in return.

7. “It’s a hell of a job moderating 7,100 comments every day”

a) It’s a job, isn’t it? And you’re not out in the weather or digging ditches. Be grateful! (beat) That is what I imagine a Daily Mail reader might say to that. But I could be wrong.

b) Oh, boo-hoo. I’ve heard this one before, but it doesn’t hold water. Either the Daily Mail can cope with their commitment to accepting comments on every article or they can’t. They should not have articles live that give the impression that they been subjected to scrutiny and passed without comment when this simply isn’t the case, as this betrays of the trust of readers.

8. OK, so 60 comments were submitted. I’m ready to believe that many of the later ones were along the lines of “Julie Moult is an idiot”, but by the time the later comments were arriving, most web users would have assumed that there was no way anything was going to be published, and probably wished to make their displeasure known to the mods via comments they knew were never going to see the light of day (e.g. comments not unlike “Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood!”, which is a fun phrase to slip into any busy paragraph that’s likely to be read by a lawyer sipping hot coffee). If Mr Clarke does reveal any of these, I’d appreciate him not suggesting that any comments made by people frustrated by selfish moderation are the cause of selfish moderation. Nadine Dorries tried that trick, and it got her more laughs than support.

9. OK, so 60 comments were submitted, but from all of those comments, no-one mentioned anything worthwhile, such as the obvious problem with the practice of Google bombing supposedly starting “in the early 90s” (i.e. 5-6 years before Google existed)? Seriously? Happy to hear otherwise. Over to Mr Clarke on that one, I guess.

[Prepare for facepalm. I repeat: Prepare for facepalm.]

10. OK, so 60 comments were submitted. While I’m happy that they’ve finally published something, I’m really quite astonished and disappointed that this is the ONLY thing they’ve finally published under that article:

Oh, FFS.

One. Comment.


[For regulars only: Does No. 10 seem like the kind of thing Uncle Iain would do before huffing; “Well, that’s what you *wanted*, wasn’t it? Tch. There’s no pleasing you!”.. or is it just me?]

UPDATE – Far be it from me to point out the blindingly obvious, but if the Daily Mail introduced the simple measure of comment registration, the rate of flippant and ill-thought-out comments would drop enormously. Immediately. If the system included user profiles that allowed readers to follow a hyperlink under a comment contributor’s name to a profile, with that profile providing details of how long they’d registered and what other comments they’d contributed, *then* they’d have something approaching a sensible solution. This kind of thing will become more and more important as a general election approaches, as both of the main parties are shameless astro-turfers. (And to be fair, I should point out that The Guardian had registraton in place from the get-go over at CiF, but took ages to introduce profile links/pages.)


  1. Barry Womm says

    On page 75 of his excellent "Bringing Nothing To The Party" book, Paul Carr spends several paragraphs mistakenly defining a Google bomb in precisely the same way that Julie Moult did. Carr is, I presume, an internet expert who shouldn't make this kind of beginner's mistake, especially as he refers to you as "one of the UK's highest profile online political campaigners" on page 12.Will you also be making an example of him? Or is the bullying (nasty word, but it does feel like that) reserved for those who's opinions you disagree with?I'm not defending Moult's output, btw – she's quite clearly a lunatic – but this campaign leaves a pretty nasty taste in the mouth.

  2. Manic says

    Hello Barry, and welcome to Bloggerheads.Having not read the passage you refer to, I couldn't possibly comment on specifics, but:(a) It is possible to describe one *type* of Google bomb as Julie Moult's article describes it and be correct in a way. "Google Bombing, when cyber pranksters create dozens, or even hundreds, of 'fake' sites linked to the targeted webpage to make it seem more popular" as she puts, it is not a fair description of Google bombing generally, as the most effective forms of Google bombing involve(d) real sites and established online IDs, not fake sites and sock-puppets. But it is possible to give a full and accurate description of a goldfish when you are in fact holding an armadillo. Julie's main problem was that she was describing one thing while presenting another.(b) In my experience Paul Carr has always been quick, polite and as accommodating as possible when it comes to the correction of errors, and I've never seen him hesitate to admit fault when a fair call has been made. I doubt there would be any need to 'bully' him or make an example of him, as it is unlikely that he would be anywhere near as arrogant, evasive, or downright full of it as some people I could mention.As for Moult's alleged status as a lunatic, that's for the men in white coats to decide. All I know is that she's an idiot, and very lucky that something like this didn't blow up with a more serious story at its core, because *then* you would have seen some stuff guaranteed to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

  3. Paul Carr says

    Hi Barry,I should start by saying that Tim is wrong on one front and correct on the other.He's wrong in saying I'm not arrogant. I really am. It's infuriating. And as for polite? Hooo-boy. But thanks for covering for me, Tim ;-)However, he's quite correct in saying that I try to correct errors in Bringing Nothing… as quickly as possible. In fact, I even give an email address at the back of the book for that very purpose and I've published a number of corrections already on my blog.In the case of the Nicholas Hellen Google bomb, was I not fair to describe it as such? Is the problem that it was Hellen's name that was the link text and not something like 'evil hack'? And if so, how does it differ from when Operation Clambake 'owned' the term 'Scientology'?Please understand, I'm not saying that I didn't make an error in the book (I even managed at one point to spell a close friend's name wrong!) – I just want to understand the nature of the error so I can correct it properly. Which I certainly will both on the site, and (if I can) in future reprints.It seemed to me that the Hellen thing *was* a linkbomb, if not in the original sense then certainly within the sense it's commonly used today.Perhaps, if you have a sec, you could email me (blog at setting me straight – then I can publish your email as a blog post, with a proper correction? If not, I'll speak to some people more knowledgeable than I (that's a big list to choose from) to get a proper clarification and will write a correction myself next week. Does that work?Meantime – thanks for the nice word about the book. I'm really glad you liked it.Best,Paul

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