Archive for the ‘The Political Weblog Movement’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at January 19, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Too much?

UPDATE (00:50) – First threat of the entire exchange just came in… so I guess (*gasp*) we are dealing with bullies here.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 18, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

UPDATE – Well. Said.: Netiquette is, ultimately, about playing fair with your readers and those who comment on your work, and censorship, in blogging terms, includes not only outright suppression of opinions but also breaches of netiquette that restrict or take away from your readers things like the right of reply and also the misuse of your control over your blog, as its owner, to suppress or protect yourself from valid and legitimate criticism.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 18, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

*sigh*

Well, I can’t say I’m surprised….

Guido Fawkes: Guido himself is basically simultaneously bored by, but amused that the blog boycott / de-link call has so spectacularly badly backfired, with hits up again to a new month and year high at 18,463 page views yesterday.

Backfired? ‘Spectacularly badly’, no less? This passage (and the rest of the entry) stinks of spin and ‘perception is reality’ crap to me. Classic games of a politician… and I thought Guido hated politicians.

In the past few days, Guido has tried to rev me, you and his audience up in a way that he knows is detrimental… just so he can save face and maybe have a bit of fun at the same time (or, at the very least, give the impression that he’s having fun… nothing is allowed to dent that Fonz-like exterior, nossir; it’s tougher than Tony Blair’s Teflon):

Ministry of Truth – Celebrity ‘Big’ Blogger? Big Deal: No, as I say, there’s much more fun to be had in watching Tim and Guido go at it – well sort of go at it, as Guido seems to be doing an awful lot of wimping out.

A few people have noticed this but explained it away as ‘Guido being Guido’. Well, they’re right and they’re wrong… I don’t think they quite grasp what Guido is yet:

The big development yesterday was this clumsy attempt to censor the image of Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) that was published in the original post.

Given Guido’s well-established position on people who seek to hide their shenanigans from the public with cowardly, bullying threats of legal action, it doesn’t matter if Guido initiated this wah-wah-cease-and-desist or not (he was CCed on the emails from the ‘owner’ of the photo, BTW), because he still came out of it looking like a bloody fool.

Advantage, Guido? I beg to differ. The ‘bold hero’ was offered the coward’s way out and took it like a shot.

Expanding on the behaviour of the ‘owner’ of the photo; she went on to accuse me of theft and worse on other peoples’ weblogs!

Here’s an exchange at Tim Worstall’s place and here’s Stuart Bruce, wisely nudging the brakes.

Meanwhile, Guido sits back and chuckles quietly to himself on a job well done, and seeks to escalate matters further – no matter what the cost to his web-chums.

If he’s not behind the action, he’s certainly not doing anything to reel it in (and it’s the ‘owner’ of the photo who needs protecting here… from herself).

This leads me to the primary point I wanted to make about what Guido and his comment-policy generates (on his site and others).

There have been many straw-men arguments from the (primarily anonymous) people firmly in Guido’s corner, but mostly there has been a lot of deeply personal abuse. There has also been a repeated attempt – championed by Guido – to misrepresent my arguments and cast me as some sort of blog fascist.

Sorry, but I’m not having it.

The abuse, I can take. But if you’ve been watching and wincing, I’d like you to bear with me on an expanded repeat of this thought:

Put yourself in the position of a minor blogger, councillor or MP who has been libelled by Guido or perhaps bullied by the people who hang out in his comments and are busily becoming bolder by the day. Do you have 5 grand lying around and time to pursue it? (Or, perhaps, are you willing to employ the services of the only outfit who handle libel cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis; Carter Ruck?)

Now put yourself in the position of a minor blogger, councillor or MP who has been almost-libelled by Guido or perhaps bullied by the people who hang out in his comments and are busily becoming bolder by the day (say, if you’re the victim of the repeated hinting smears in comments that Guido is in the habit of not deleting). If you pursue via the means that most bloggers deem fair and acceptable, Guido will delete your comments. Persist, and the anonymongrels will rubbish you far and wide. Try to find out exactly what Guido is up to with his skewed comments policy, and he’ll call you a spammer.

Not a lot of new players could stand up to this kind of attack. Even if they could manage it emotionally, it would be near-to-impossible to manage in a practical sense, as they would not have the network that is required to produce any kind of organic defence (against the type of attack that is usually made up of 100% astro-turf)

The result would be a new branding forever attached to your site; the perception becomes reality… and all because some anonymous bastards have learned that they can gang together and restrict someone’s freedom of speech under the fucking banner of freedom of speech!

Thankfully, I don’t need to go very far for an example of this, as Guido and his comment-crowd have proved my point for me.

There is a distinct difference between presenting a differing point of view and drowning out someone else’s point of view – particularly if you are one person or a small team posing as a crowd.

If you have been bullied in this way will know exactly what I’m talking about, and you will know how readily someone who is trying to censor you in this way will scream ‘censorship’ if you so much as question their ‘right’ to abuse the system and/or treat a fellow human being this way.

Those of you who know what I’ve been up to these past few years will know that I helped make a lot of firsts happen in political blogging, and I am still doing things right now that won’t be done on a widespread basis for at least a few years. Call me self-important if you like, but I’ve learned quite a few things in the process; stuff that even most ‘experts’ don’t know about the long-term political use of weblogs.

[Sidebar: One of these ‘experts’ should be aware that I stopped giving him free advice a long time ago, for two reasons; I was sick of hearing my words coming out of his mouth, and because it became clearer by the day that he didn’t personally believe in any of the values he was parroting, I became quite comfortable with the idea of just watching and waiting for the day when he falls flat on his face. Amusingly, there’s someone who has played a role in this recent drama who should agree with me on this.]

So… let’s get down to it…

I make no excuses for wanting this to reach as wide an audience as possible:

If you value freedom of speech, and the way weblogs currently enable it, you will want to ask yourselves the following questions:

– Have the mainstream players in the political and business arena shown respect for the blogging ethos, or (perhaps wary, often utter) contempt?

– Does a growing culture of anonymity restrict or enable anonymous bullying and astro-turfing? (Keeping in mind that even an anonymous blogger can be bullied or drowned out.)

– Would you voluntarily forgo some measure of your anonymity if you knew it could stem the tide of complete bastards who wish to abuse a culture of anonymity?

Finally, this:

– If any of the above strikes a chord with you, would you include someone like Guido on your blogroll (especially when his website’s format/policy is nothing like that of a genuine weblog)?

Guido may be busy pretending that all is well and refusing any kind of change (not even the minute-long operation of ‘time and date’ timestamps option that would have allowed him to leave the field sidelines with some dignity), but there’s a lot that has changed in the past few days that can’t do a damn thing about… and it was his (in)action that led to these changes.

(Oh, and Guido? I’m particularly enjoying the fresh spin that casts you as the hapless victim of a nefarious scheme to spam/censor you. A bold and inspired move, considering the circumstances.)








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 18, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

The following is the full text from an email I sent this evening to someone from the ‘other’ side after the many developments following this post. A small level of detail has been changed to protect the identity of the recipient, but it’s pretty much unedited.

I’m going to post it as an intro to a peace-offering that I hope will keep the shouting down to a dull roar:

Xxxxxxxx,

I promised a considered reply:

Any escalation following the first post has primarily been the result of Guido playing to the audience instead of addressing the issues I’ve raised (yet somehow I’m the attention-whore) – *and* he knows what they get like when he revs them up in this way . The way he and his audience have reacted proves many of the points I raised.

He’s also a committed political arsonist and has said so himself; he wants to ‘fuck them all’. That’s his mission and he said as much to me directly.

You may think that’s a good thing, but it’s my opinion that the way he is influencing the growth/direction of political weblogs will simply make life easier for the complete and utter bastards of this world. Not just right-wing, or left-wing or corner-ring, but bastards of every shade there is. ‘He who shouts loudest wins the argument’? Fuck that.

Working to dampen his fire is not an attempt at destruction, it’s to attempt to minimise damage… and fixing the overall problem will involve a lot of effort from a lot of people – not just Guido. That’s why the wider debate is so important (see ‘on fucking Guido’ below). If you have a poke around, you’ll see a few comments/posts of mine on the subject of free speech, and you can find the most recent one here:
http://www.eridu.org.uk/blog/2007/01/17/more-on-the-blogwars-freedom-of-speech/#comment-62

I’m not psychic, but I do (and have done) a lot of things in political blogging that no-one has done before, so please excuse me for moments like this when I think I can see just a *bit* further into the future than most (and/or that my paying a lot of attention to the past counts for something):

Rest assured when I tell you that – if we keep down this path (and Guido’s not responsible for it alone; there are plenty of people out there greedily or lazily championing him as the acme of blogging) – the next General Election will involve a compromising mess for all concerned… including any nearby bystanders. Even trolling will lose its appeal, as every fucker will be at it. There will also be a few firsts, things that I refuse to discuss with anyone, as I can only increase the risks of it happening by releasing the ideas (two of them are just waiting to be plucked off the shelf and could be put into action at any time… one of them might even turn up during the upcoming council elections, because it’s That Easy To Do).

Finally, it needs to be recognised that Guido has his way of running my blog, and this is the way that I run my blog. I see stuff that I care about, and I act on it as openly and as honestly as I can. My balls have been on the table for quite some time now. I’ve gotten used to the breeze.

Cheers

Tim

PS – If you want to talk about taking things personally/seriously… if this were really a personal matter and I simply wanted to ‘get’ Guido, I could have fucked him easily with No. 11 alone. Or, if I didn’t believe in all the things I’ve said, I could easily have set up my own sock-puppet(s), infiltrated the regulars and quietly dropped Guido in it at the most opportune moment (there are several ways to do this that I know of).

Now, I’m pretty sure that Guido is not going to take up my ongoing offer of ‘right of reply’ for a number of reasons, not all of which implicate him on any specific charge I’ve laid against him.

I also remain concerned about the effect Guido is having on the blogosphere. Nothing about that has changed. I stand by what I’ve posted, here and elsewhere (not including the elsewheres where you neither know me to be here nor there).

However… I think we have reached a stage where people are talking about the wider issues… and, for now, that is enough for me.

OK, so much for the line I’m trying to draw… now back to you:

A lot depends on what Guido does after he reads this, and lot depends on what you do after you read this:

If you’re keen to address any/all points or claim that I’ve put Guido in an impossible position*, then feel free to do so. If you’re keen to call me names, taunt me with empty jibes about jealousy or ‘out’ my hamster, then I wish you luck (he’s staying right where he is).

[*Sidebar: This is a link to a comment from an anonymous user using the comment features on Paul Linford’s blog. Paul is on the fence, and – unsurprisingly – ends up with one of the few posts on this subject that edged toward mainstream media today… but if I don’t say this, someone else will, and they’ll probably be a dick about it; Paul, please think about setting your comment timestamps to show the time and date of any given comment. The more of us who do it, the better. Ta.]

[MINI-UPDATE: Which is exactly what Paul has done. Top stuff!]

But I would much rather move on and discuss matters like:

– The importance of anonymity on an individual basis balanced with the crippling effect it can have your weblog and blogs in general if anonymity becomes too commonplace.

– The importance of securing and building under your own domain name.

– Our status as a community, the way we conduct ourselves, its impact on our community, and its impacton the communities we live in when we walk away from our computers.

– Erm… now’s not the time for a really, really long list; but there’s a reason for all of this, and if you’ve talked to me recently or if you’ve been reading Bloggerheads within the past few months, you’ll know what that reason is**. There’ll be a lot of this as part of that… if that’s your thing.

[**Sidebar: Sorry it’s late. Beta-testing soon. Promise.]

So… here we go… a peace offering… and because there are wider issues here, I’m going to start off reeeeal gentle-like…

To Guido and all users of Blogger:

If you have a Blogger weblog, I’d like you to seriously consider doing the following (if you haven’t already);

a) Introduce comment timestamps that show both the time and date of a comment
b) Email Blogger Support about this disgraceful state of affairs

To Guido:

Hey, mate… your call. I’d really appreciate you doing the above, and it will be taken as a genuine sign of good faith. If you also introduce trackbacks/backlinks (even on a trial basis) or, alternatively, have a quiet word with Iain Dale to tone it down with the ‘ideal blogger’ bullshit (when you will be the first to admit that what most bloggers consider fair you couldn’t give a tuppeny-stuff about), then you’ll find I’ll become a great deal calmer… but I still don’t buy the concept of letting a tide wash over me***.

[***Sidebar: Private ‘joke’.]

To Guido:

Well, what more can I say? I’d love you to turn comment registration on, but we both know that this is going to cut down on comments. Even then, any old fool can sign up for a Blogger account and use an empty weblog as their base, but there are legal advantages to this extra filter that I’m sure you’re already aware of. Have a ponder on it… and the type of comments currently going live that put your ongoing income at risk no matter what the hell I say about it. Don’t think for a second that they add anything to your blog; just a glance around recent reactions for and against what I’ve said shows how many people find you entertaining, but the comments distasteful.

I’d like to think that that’s pretty open and fair. Depending on how Guido reacts, I’m even open to the idea of moderating the original post in a way that makes it clear that ideas have been exchanged, my position has been moderated and/or an agreement or sorts has been reached***.

[****Sidebar: To everyone saying ‘Who does he think he is?’, I’ll need to remind you that search engines are already playing a role and a lot of people will visit the original post over the coming weeks/months. I think they deserve context.]

Over to you, folks.

Cheers all.

(PS – Sorry, Dennis. It’s too late to goad me, but thanks for taking a belated interest.)








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 17, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

I just received what I am sure is a spontaneous and independent request to remove the image of Paul Staines from this post (the owner took the photo at a party she went to, where Guido was also in attendance).

I sourced the image from this page, where it was published under this clearly-stated Creative Commons License, but she said ‘please’, so I removed her content by inserting a fitting replacement into the finished image.

Anyone else want to complain about a ‘stolen’ image?

UPDATE – Bloody hell! Take a look at this!

UPDATE – Jackie’s on the loose in comments over here, too.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 17, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Guido, the invitation stands; no nitpicking on other people’s weblogs, no straw men, no personal-abuse-by-proxy, just you making use of the fair right of reply that has always been available. Start here. You’re already registered for comments, so it should be a doddle.

I promise to be a good boy and try not to throw it back in your face by asking you how you’re enjoying the right of reply that you yourself don’t offer… much as I’d like to.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 17, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Guido’s belated dance number comes to us a few days after the ‘boycott’ brand was first applied, rinsed and repeated – and the first thing you’ll notice is the cool, unshakeable exterior.

Too bad about the ultra-paranoid level of moderation and the ‘rebuild’ giveaway, then…

A few people have noticed that Guido did a sneaky rebuild of his blog yesterday, and there are few possible reasons for this new format (that forces you to use anchor links instead of links to individual articles, complete with inline comments), but the most likely ones are an attempt to tempt prying eyes with an alternative article or two and and effort to keep the comments one step away from the action. I suspect mostly the latter, as this measure also makes it difficult to link to specific exchanges under comments.

[MINI-UPDATE (10:36am) – Well, that didn’t take long; proper permalinks are back. Moderation is currently switched off, too. After all, it only takes a minute to change such things… just as it only takes a minute to introduce backlinks (Blogger’s version of trackback) and proper timestamps.]

If you run and hide, then bluster at how insignificant your opponent is, you do come off looking a bit silly… especially when you try to throw the resulting traffic figures back in his face, as Guido has done today.

Still, in spite of Guido’s ‘logical’ claim that I’m violating my own ‘boycott’… again, I’m going to ask you to watch, learn and make up your own minds.

And a lot of you appear to be in the process of doing that; take a look at the stats Guido has published and compare the recent ‘page load’ to ‘visitor’ ratio to earlier data and I’m sure you’ll be able to work out what’s going on.

While we’re waiting for Guido to be a big boy and drop by to address maybe one issue that he hasn’t invented or carefully skewed in his favour on other weblogs (see below), I’m happy to entertain any discussion on the subject of self-regulation… and I’ll even lead with an example:

One thing Guido did yesterday was make a series of single (flawed, if not false) counter-claims under comments on other people’s weblogs (on those rare occasions when he didn’t have other people doing his dirty work for him). Examples of this can be seen here, here and here.

I had to address these comments in a limited way, as it’s simply not the done thing for two bloggers to battle it out in the comments of someone else’s weblog.

You may have broken this rule in the past, but I’m sure you’re aware of it. Some people call it ‘etiquette’, but it’s one of the self-regulatory measures that already exist (and basically stop the whole thing from falling apart or descending into farce).

What Guido likes to do is take advantage of these rules while showing little regard for them himself; Guido’s attempt to downplay or rubbish singular points (or invent single issues that he then goes on to rubbish) on other people’s weblogs is one example of this, and the way he manipulates feedback on his site (via a misleading policy, deliberately restricted format and a near-to-fanatical level of moderation) is another.

Another thing Guido likes to do is misrepresent his opponent’s position before charging in with a ready-made rebuttal. Surprise, surprise, this is just was his sock-puppets and anonymongrels are busy doing, too; even if it’s not Guido wearing many clever disguises, it cements the point I raised about Guido being a poor role model for bloggers. (FFS, I’ve touched some nerves before, but this is the first time anyone has ever tried to cast me as a willing tool of New Labour. ‘Peter Hitchens’ has even slipped his chain and started charging around trying to convince people that the now-classic Teens page is a genuine attempt to reach da yoof. It’s not, BTW.)

But Guido’s favourite trick by far is repeated use of the false dichotomy.

If he challenges someone about unknown funding and the untoward changes to agenda that might result and you dare to point out that he himself cannot boast the same level of transparency, he will ask; “Err, who do you think is funding Guido? And why? Lizards? Halliburton? The Illuminati*?” If you try to raise a point about the need for bloggers to look at the way things are going and consider the wisdom of revisiting the subject of self-regulation, he will brand you ‘Blog Brother**’… or perhaps ‘Yog Brother’ (waves).

(*As any fool knows, the Illuminati are lizards. From outer space. I suspect Guido is trying to throw us off the scent.)
(*Please excuse me for being privately amused that it took Paul two days and a long night in the pub to come up with this.)

In short, Paul Staines is the kind of person who will, without hesitation and with stupefying regularity, use your own values as a weapon against you… often in the most dishonest and misleading way possible.

Like it or not, we as bloggers have formed a number of small communities that tie together as one big community, and already share a number of self-regulatory values. Guido has no respect for those values, and has shown – especially in the last few days – how willing he is to exploit them… which is why it is so very, very stupid to herald him as a good example of a blogger, as it’s part of the reason why the existing self-regulatory values continue to decay at an alarming rate.

Perhaps this is why Iain Dale happily chatted about Monday’s post on Fox News Lite after it was raised as the lead ‘blog of the week’, but failed to find the time to mention it on his own weblog.

[Sidebar: Pot, meet kettle.]

After all, the feedback aspect of 18DoughtyStreet is far more tightly controlled than that usually enabled and allowed by the blog format that Iain such is a fearless champion of.

Is he worried that someone will point out that his guide to political blogging highlights Guido as an excellent example of the ‘open and honest’ aspect of blogging when it is anything but open and honest?

“Interact with your readers, respond to their comments, accept their revisions,” that’s what Iain pushed forward using Guido as his ideal model. It’s perfectly clear that Guido does not do this – so, yes, I suspect that Iain is concerned that he’ll come across looking like a hypocrite or a fool.

As for the charge that I take myself (or blogging) far too seriously, I’ll simply raise my hand and say ‘Guilty as charged!’

Somebody has to take things seriously, otherwise nothing gets built… and with this arsonist on the loose (and others praising arson as the ideal), there’s a lot of building to do.

(PS – The left is boring. The right is far more exciting… and they have snazzier uniforms. It would be unseemly of me to point to things I have produced/written that are far more entertaining than this Bit Of Necessary, so instead what I think I’ll do is privately message my supporters so they can invade other weblogs and sing my praises and/or fight my battles for me. That’s the way this whole open networking thing works, right?)

UPDATE (2:40pm) – I’ve just turned down an invitation to debate this with Guido on a podcast. So far Guido has shown no interest in engaging in an actual, honest debate on the level terms provided by most weblogs, so I wasn’t convinced that he would conduct himself fairly in a recorded debate. Amusingly, Guido insisted on going ‘uncut head-to-head’, but refused (again) to engage in a debate via the comments function on my site (there’s ‘no right of reply’ on his) on the basis that he was “not interested in boosting Tim’s traffic.” Pfft! And he calls me big-headed.

UPDATE (2:52pm) – Pardon me for being coy about the people who invited us… no need for that now.

UPDATE (3:05pm) – Tch. Guido’s out mouthing-off on other people’s weblogs again.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 16, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

‘No Comment’ on any single point raised, just an easily-digestible bit of spin (accompanied by a fair degree of personal abuse, mostly from anonymous users). Guido is acting a LOT like the politicians he claims to despise.

UPDATE (11:30): Hmm. The homophobia took longer to kick in than I expected. There are quite a few ‘Why is he wasting his time on this?’ comments popping up around the place, too. Don’t look too closely, boys and girls… you might see the strings.

UPDATE (12:00) – This is all very familiar. When I busted Anne Milton for her use of (print-version) sock-puppets, she replied with a haughty ‘no comment’ apart from a suggestion that I was an angry young man with a personal vendetta… then the virtual sock-puppets came out of the woodwork (and were eventually traced back to her activists as their shenanigans escalated).

Now, it doesn’t really matter if this current state of affairs over at Guido’s blog is the result of him inventing people, encouraging genuine people to fight his fights for him via Instant Messenger, or if this has just grown naturally out of Guido’s selfish and slack attitude to blogging principles… but it’s here and it’s being heralded by some people as the acme of blogging.

This is a gift to astro-turfers everywhere.

An online community of any type that is unregulated by any sense of community leaves itself open to abuse… and when this publishing system is abused it can just as easily be used to restrict free speech as enable it; think about all those government departments and interest groups that send their sock-puppets in to taint or direct online debates, just as an example of this at work.

UPDATE (12:26) – Guido has been popping up making comments on other blogs addressing this (which he knows doesn’t leave me much room to manoeuvre, as I’m unlikely to start hijacking other people’s websites to engage in an carefully-skewed version of an open debate that should be happening at his website or mine… this all goes back to the community aspect of blogging and the self-regulation conversation that some people would rather we didn’t have).

But, there it is, and people who know a thing or two will recognise it for what it is. Speaking of which…

BSSC: Guido can do what he likes of course but his responses to Tim’s post have been informative in their own way.

Back to the skewing; all of the ‘Guido deletes my comments’ spin is total bulldust, as Guido should have worked out by now that – over the past few weeks – I haven’t been needling… but probing (insert homo joke by ‘Peter Hitchens’ here). At the time, the exercise must have seemed awfully futile, as Guido has his blog, comments and comments policy configured in a way that makes any kind of meaningful challenge/input impossible. The funny thing is, he got so frustrated with my identifying and pushing his buttons that he pretty much invited me to do what I planned on doing all along. He also seemed quite happy to allow a variety of anonymongrels to helpfully explain the activity away as ‘New Labour attacks’ when he knew very well that it was me all along.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 16, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

This is being blogged publicly instead of communicated privately for two reasons:

a) I think users of Blogger deserve to know that this loophole has been in place for some time.

b) Blogger Support has let me down badly in the past, and I’m in no mood for yet another generic reply with no follow-up.

If you’re a regular user of weblogs running via Blogger.com, you’re probably already aware of the following:

1. In your comments settings, you have the following choices:
– Only Registered Users (only other registered users of Blogger.com can leave comments)
– Only Members of this Blog (only other registered users of Blogger.com that are part of your group can leave comments)
– Anyone (anyone can post a comment, using any name or nickname that they wish)

Blogger screen capture

2. If your blog is set to allow ‘Anyone’ to comment, this does increase the potential number of comments you receive, but it also allows those posting comments to not only post them anonymously, but also posing as other web users (after all, all they have to do is choose ‘Other’ and enter a name and domain).

Blogger screen capture

In any system that allows for unverified comments, anybody with half a brain can claim to be Fred Nurk from nurkindustries.com – and this is just such a system. So far, nothing new and alarming…

However…

While these types of claims to one identity or another are viewed with healthy scepticism, I fear too much trust is placed in the authenticity of comments apparently posted using a Blogger profile… because the system allows you to pose as any user of Blogger, providing that you know their Blogger name and the location of their profile (information that is easy to come by; all you have to do is copy the details from an authentic comment they’ve made).

Blogger screen capture

I’ve created a special test account where you can go and try this for yourself. Click here and go nuts.

The result is a comment posted under the name of another user of Blogger that will be widely accepted as authentic, as (if profile images aren’t being used) it appears identical to a comment made by an actual user who is logged into the system.

And it will have passed through Blogger’s own system without challenge (and yes, it works on both old and new versions of Blogger).

Try as I might, I can’t think of another major community-based website that allows non-members to pose as members within their own system.

Blogger should fix this. And fast.








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 15, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

[Important Postscript (19 Jan) – Guido and his followers have been moaning since the publication of this post that it is too long-winded and ‘boring’. A repeated suggestion was made that I try to be ‘funny’ and more succinct. I have taken this advice and created the following purpose-built weblog.]

[Note – When first posted, this article was already about a week old, but it was very important that I had a comments/trackback glitch corrected before publishing. I’m sure you’ll understand why when you read it. Oh, and be warned, folks… this is such a big post that it goes up to ’11’….]

If you’ve ever been trolled, you’ll know of the moment when you realise that someone is playing you for a fool, and you should know what I mean when I say this;

Dear Guido,

*plonk*

Cheers,

Tim

This year, there are going to be quite a few changes at Bloggerheads; not necessarily in terms of direction, but in terms of focus and determination. There will be a lot of building, a lot of fixing, and a lot of doing. And, hopefully, quite a bit of fun along the way.

Today, I am going to ask you to help me kick things off by doing something positive for the political blogging community:

– If you currently link to Guido on your blog; I am going to ask you to consider removing him from your blogroll.

– If you’re one of those who are addicted to the gossip and rumours he spreads, then I’m going to ask you to attempt to quit the habit.

– If you’re one of his sources, please read on; there’s a little surprise for you at the end… and you’re not going to like it.

Below I’m going to outline the primary reasons why I think Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) should be sent to Coventry, and why I’ve arrived at the opinion that he is lower than your typical journalist, less trustworthy than your typical politician, and a disgrace and a danger to bloggers everywhere.

Throughout, you’re going to see what a bloody great hypocrite this ‘blogger’ is on almost every front:

1. Guido Fawkes is a dishonest blogger

Weblogs, because of their networking and conversation capability, can empower anybody with an interwebs connection. But there’s a price to pay; any blogger worth their salt knows that everything you publish should be open to challenge, question or context via comments and trackback. However, Guido has made a mockery of the honour system that is designed to keep us honest and set us apart from mainstream publishers:

First, the outright deletion of comments…

Make any comment not in keeping with Guido’s views (or likely to compromise his version of events) and you’re sure to get deleted… pretty much immediately. The only exceptions are moments when anonymous contributors rubbish your input (see below) and/or when Guido feels he can shut you down with a snappy retort.

After all, if he deleted all of the negative comments, people might think that something was up…

No, better to give the impression that there’s a zero-tolerance policy against people who wish to be ‘boring’ and/or have anonymous users (see below) repeatedly telling us that most negative comments are the work of conspiracy nutters or those in the employ of the government. (Psst! Can you spot the paradox here?)

That’s Cheat No. 1… but we’re only getting started:

Guido has stated time and again that if you wish to challenge and/or provide context to an individual item that he publishes (or rather, in his words, be ‘boring’), then you should do it on your own weblog. This is a handy little deception that he uses to justify many comment deletions but, unfortunately, it puts him in the same ‘blogging’ class as David Miliband (who Guido himself likes to mock as a pretend blogger).

Guido uses Blogger.com, and even the old version of this has a rudimentary trackback feature; all you have to do is switch it on. But Guido will not switch his on, presumably because he does not want his readers to be exposed to challenges/context published on other weblogs.

Blogger.com also has a variety of timestamp options, including many options that can tell you not only at which time a comment was made, but on which date. Again, all you have to do is switch it on. Guido refuses to switch it on, most likely because doing so would stop him from playing some of his favourite games with comments.

Guido makes anonymous comments on his own website, and I’ve caught him at it:

Blogger.com does not allow you to edit published comments; you can only delete them. What Guido likes to do is swiftly delete the offending comment and replace it with an edited version. So far, no harm, no foul… but when he reposts the comment it’s under the original name or pseudonym, and there is no indication that the comment has been edited. Every blogger knows that this is a step over the line, and I suspect that it’s only a glimpse of what Guido’s been up to.

Guido has his Blogger comments set at the most unregulated setting, which allows anyone to comment anonymously and (a big problem that Blogger needs to work on) even allows you to pose as another Blogger user. Guido could fix this, too… all he needs to do is set the Blogger.com setting to ‘Only Registered Users’. This would still allow for anonymous comments (any fool can create an ’empty’ Blogger.com account) and it would bring a halt to the majority of the abuse, but Guido is unlikely to do this because…

Typically, when you challenge Guido via a comment (on the rare occasions when that comment is not deleted), you are first shouted down by anonymous users and/or false-face users. A few comments later, Guido will pop in with his own breezy/snappy dismissal. (He has no need to abuse you, as this has already been covered by anonymongrels.)

How often do you think Guido makes anonymous/false-face comments that allow him to step out of his persona to defend himself, let loose with personal abuse, feed the flames or scream ‘conspiracy theorist’ and/or ‘government intervention’? Or perhaps just kick things off or set himself up for a really ‘witty’ joke when things go quiet?

Only Guido knows for sure, but if you’ve watched any live threads recently (I’ve been probing, I have), you will have noticed many odd occurrences and deletions. Nothing too obvious, obviously. If you play these sorts of games when people are constantly refreshing the page, you run the risk of giving yourself away… but dead threads are another matter entirely:

If you wait as little as 24-48 hours, all eyes are on a different thread. If timestamps are set to show time and not date (as Guido’s are) and you’re careful about the time of day you do it, you can submit a comment that appears to have been made during the original debate, but is allowed to pass unchallenged by everyone but the blog owner. And if you’re the blog owner, you could even go so far as to re-play the end of a thread (or even an entire thread) by deleting offending comments and replacing them with your own version of events.

How often do you think Guido does this?

The temptation must be great for this hero of the people, because when it comes to comments he’s a bigger control-freak than Blair – and he has the capacity to close this truck-sized loophole within a minute, but he has refused to do it. (And yes, I’ve challenged him directly on this.)

Of course, apart from the sneaky-fix I caught him at, Guido can deny all of this… but he won’t be able to do it with any credibility until he introduces comment registration, timestamps and trackback. Your move, Guido.

2. Guido Fawkes is a danger to political blogging

Guido likes to big-note himself as the leading political blogger in the country. I plan on expanding on this later, but for the moment let’s just accept that this is the general impression and it is widely accepted.

The result? People are given the impression that bloggers are not credible sources of information, and that political blogs are not about engagement and debate, but rather about an ongoing series of anonymous attacks and snipes.

Take Dennis Paul for example. Guido is such a hero to him that he has published this shining endorsement (and please note how Guido’s blog is falsely classified as a place of ‘discussion and debate’ in this endorsement). Dennis Paul uses strict full-time moderation (which Guido only turns on when he’s feeling cornered), but has his blog set almost identically to Guido’s standards; no trackback, deliberately-deficient timestamps, and a bloody big comments loophole that allows the blog owner to pose as ordinary members of the public that support him 100%.

Also, thanks to the example people like Guido have set, figures of authority can now get away with dismissing all political discourse in weblogs as ‘recycled Westminster gossip’. To put it as simply as possible, Guido’s all-arson approach makes honest politicians afraid to engage via weblogs, and the way in which he erodes our credibility allows dishonest politicians to dismiss any valid challenge to them that emerges via weblogs… and there’s worse to come:

Given that a law that restricts all our freedoms was recently slipped through Parliament on the basis that it would shut one guy up, I don’t think it’s at all alarmist to predict that – one day soon – something will be tabled in Parliament that appears designed to address The Guido Problem but is really designed to cripple us all.

You could argue that his is a worthy fight for freedom blah blah blah… but I’m afraid it’s not. At least, not if we take Guido at his word. (Guido has often claimed that his only mission is to cause trouble for his own amusement.)

3. They call him ‘Mr. Scoop’

I’m sure you’ve all seen this before; it’s happened a number of times.

Guido will stamp his little feet and even ‘jokingly’ insist on payment when information that was leaked to him first (or, more often than not, was leaked everywhere and published by him first) appears in the mainstream media without crediting him as the source.

[Quick tip for Guido; maybe they don’t credit you because they’re afraid that the story will lack credibility as a result. Or maybe – just maybe – they have their own sources.]

But Guido constantly lifts ‘scoops’ from the mainstream media without assigning credit.

Here’s a recent example of this that also includes Guido’s favourite explanation; that it was emailed in (implying that it was the naughty person who emailed it that failed to name the source… funnily enough, this is the same explanation given by baby-boy wank-mags when they steal content without credit/payment).

4. Guido is a turd-magnet and an opportunist

Guido popped up at just the ‘right’ time and did what anyone with a few contacts and fewer scruples could have done; a lot of what gets published (that isn’t lifted from ‘old media’) is the result of leaks by disgruntled grunts in Westminster.

Doesn’t it rankle you that anonymous wonks with no credibility, no accountability and an unclear agenda demand transparency, credibility, accountability and a clearly stated agenda from others? It bugs the hell out of me.

Finally, what Guido and his unknown number of supporters ride upon is a wave of dissatisfaction and distrust that can be summed up in one word; Iraq… but Guido lacks a pedigree going back to March 2003 or before, as do most of his supporters. They’ve simply descended on Blair like a pack of hyenas. I’m also willing to bet that the majority of Guido’s informants – while being unhappy about the status-quo – managed to keep their heads down at this vital time, too.

I think the Iraq/WMD bullshit would have been much harder to slip through Parliament if more people were willing to put their reputation on the line at the time, but do correct me if I’m wrong.

Still, I can understand the motivation of many of his informants and/or comment contributors (I used to be one of the latter) who do have some credibility and to them I can only say this; you are being used.

Read on…

5. Guido’s blog rides lower than a red-top

As much as your typical tabloid owner/editor would like to keep their identity a secret, we have the right to know who these people are (and, to an extent, what they’re political allegiances are) so we may determine for ourselves how much we should trust the information that they print… and not just if we should question the meat of what they print, but the purpose of its release at any given time.

Guido maintains his anonymity as best he can, but will – at the drop of a hat – ridicule you for revealing the ‘open secret’ of his ‘alleged alter-ego’.

But the real killer?

Guido himself has stated quite clearly on his weblog that he offers no right of reply (and, as the first very lonnnng part of this post reveals, he does his best to disable any ‘right of reply’ facilities that are inherent to the blogging format).

He is also largely shielded from many avenues of legal recourse because of the way his blog is hosted. He is often heard to say; “What are you going to do? Call the blog police?” (For an answer to this question, see section #2. They’ll be here soon enough… and Guido will have opened the door for them.)

Finally on this point, Guido manages to distance himself from consequences by allowing the continued drip-drip-drip of carefully-worded/placed rumours on his weblog via anonymous comments (that may or may not come from him) and he often likes to dangle hints and items in front of his readership in the hope that they’ll take the risk for him.

I’ve fallen for this myself… and because the echo-chamber is a primary weapon neo-cons, I really should have known better.

Still, perhaps this admission will mean that I carry a little extra weight when I repeat this warning to his informants and/or comment contributors; you are being used.

And onward we go…

6. Beware the proto-Drudge

One of Guido’s few clearly stated ambitions is to become the British version of Matt Drudge.

Here’s a short, sharp warning for you; Drudge was anti-establishment for as long as it took him to help undermine one administration and become an undercover operative for the new administration. Currently, his role is to dish dirt in a manner that benefits those in power and undermines those who oppose them.

And this is what Guido aspires to? A startling admission. Take heed.

7. Look at my stats! You love me! You really, really love me!

Have a look at one of the rare occasions when Guido recognises the difference between ‘page loads’ and ‘unique visitors’. Here’s another. But Guido will mostly bang on about hits or page loads, because the numbers are bigger. And it’s very important that he keeps stroking his ego and pushing MessageSpace revenue.

Here’s an excellent example of this (that is also is an excellent example of Guido acting just like the politicians he despises whenever he’s put on the spot).

Guido is also fond of using Alexa data to ‘prove’ his case, but for sites that deal with information/opinion/politics, having a higher rank on Alexa than your competitor isn’t necessarily something to brag about. For starters, Alexa data is easily manipulated. Also, because Alexa collects information from users who have installed an Alexa Toolbar and only morons use the Alexa Toolbar, all you’re proving is that you attract more morons than the other guy.

Guido will no doubt say that I’m only pointing this out because I’m jealous, but he’s terribly fond of misrepresenting any opponent’s position as part of his response… just like a politician. As usual, the devil is in the detail (perhaps this is why Guido is so fond of dismissing detailed posts and comments as ‘boring’).

For starters, here are two things to keep in mind whenever Guido gets his stats-wang out:

a. Two of the biggest-selling newspapers in the country are The Sun and News of the World… I would not regard either to be particularly credible or worthy.

b. Imagine yourself standing next to an arsonist who is watching his latest work burn away merrily. He brags about how big the fire is, because he knows his next customer is in the crowd. He also knows that I’m in the crowd, and that I helped to build what he’s burning.

So it is possible for me to be alarmed about the actual size of the fire while questioning the claimed size of the fire… and not be at all jealous.

For the record; If it comes down to a pissing competition, I’m not quite sure how high up the wall I’d go, as my new stats count visits, but not unique visitors… but, if you count Bloggerheads traffic alone, I currently run at somewhere between 60-150K visits per month (a lot depends if I’m away/active) with between 100-340K page loads.

Anyway, now we’ve covered this, there are some other numbers that just don’t add up…

8. Where does the money come from?

As Guido himself has said: An honest democracy can’t have political parties funded by shadowy hidden manipulators. Voters are entitled to know who is financing the party they are considering voting for, they can then judge for themselves their motives and their influence on the party.

I think the same could be said of publishers, don’t you?

Here, my name’s on the door and what I do for a living is pretty bloody obvious. In Guido’s case, he is very keen to hide his name (Paul Staines) and/or mask its importance – and he also uses two primary deceptions to shut down any questions about money:

a. “Blogger is free. Duh.”
b. “There are ads on the blog. Duh.”

I’m sorry, but even if we take Guido’s current claimed stats at face value, the numbers don’t add up. No way is it paying a mortgage, unless he has a record-breaking click-through rate.

And while Blogger may be free, they generally stop short of doing your ‘research’, writing and comment-control-freakery for you.

Time is money, after all… so the question stands (and expands):

Where does the money come from? Who pulls the strings?

Actually, let me rephrase that (in a terribly sexist fashion) that grants Guido the assumption that he is allowed to do as he likes… within limits:

Where does the money come from? Who wears the trousers?

9. Burn them! Burn them all!

Guido Fawkes and the possible source of the voices(Image via Samizdata. Published under Creative Commons. Digitally altered to include Guido’s lovely little leprechaun.)

If we’re to believe Guido’s stated mission, it’s to fuck about with all politicians (because he hates them all) and burn the current system to the ground. To what purpose? Does he have a plan for what comes next?

Even if you trust Guido 100% on his stated intentions, the bet that can be said of him is that he’s a committed political arsonist. In fact, he sounds like he went ‘Ralph Wiggum’ on us a long time ago and only does what his little leprechaun tells him to do.

10. Those filthy, filthy homosexuals

Read this and it becomes pretty clear that Guido hears the word ‘homosexual’ and thinks the word ‘paedo’.

What a nice guy. No wonder his site is full of anonymous comments (that may or may not be from Guido) repeatedly suggesting that one politician or another is a dirty bummer.

And perhaps this goes some way to explaining why Guido loves to stick the knife into all sorts of MPs, councillors and their activists, but has decided to completely ignore this little affair.

Or maybe… just perhaps… one of his informants works closely with Anne Milton.

Mock that last suggestion all you like, because it brings us to the grand whopper…

11. Guido: compromised in the extreme

Press Gazette – Fawkes plots to blow up ‘cosy’ political reporting: “The news is no longer defined by big media.” So claimed political blogger “Guido Fawkes” last week, triumphing in the role bloggers had played in turning up the heat on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. “The ‘news’ is no longer what Paxman says it is,” continued Guido, under which name Paul Staines writes order-order.com, the blog of plots, rumours and conspiracies. “Failing to hold our political class to account is the failing of big media in Britain.” By naming an MP alleged to have had an affair with Prescott on his blog, Staines claims to have not only “lit the fuse” in Westminster, but also to have shot across the bows of the elite club of lobby correspondents that he believes has become too cosy with the politicians to be effective. “If you have lunch with someone on a regular basis, you would feel inhibited going for the jugular,” says Staines, who claims he has no ambition to be a journalist and that his only agenda is that he “hates” all politicians. “A journalist once said to me: ‘It’s very easy for you, because you don’t have to get access to them next week. That’s the way that politicians work, they cut you out.'”

So Guido’s raison d’être (apart from arson, obviously) is to bravely provide an alternative channel for information that would otherwise be compromised by these cosy relationships; to cut through the bull and fearlessly hold our political class to account.

Sorry, but he’s a total hypocrite.

Do you remember the David Taylor affair? While the majority of the media was screaming ‘Brown coup attempt!’ and faithfully parroting Downing Street’s calls for unity, the final figures and connections clearly established that before there was an alleged plot by Brownites to depose Blair, there was an actual plot by Blairites to undermine the Chancellor and push Alan Johnson as the next PM.

Right up Guido’s street, right? Cuts through all the bullshit and lets you know what’s really going on in Westminster. Hell, even one of his regulars was chasing the same story.

But no mention from Guido. Not even a ‘by the way’ link.

Why?

Because David Taylor is (or perhaps was) one of Guido’s informants. Guido could not so much as mention the story without upsetting him.

So those who rely on Guido for their ‘unfiltered’ scuttlebutt only got the Brown-bashing half of the story because of the kind of cosy relationship he spits on.

And there’s more:

Guido couldn’t mention the story… but that didn’t stop him from dishing a little dirt and/or providing a few leads.

Guido was careful to conduct most of this affair by telephone, but he did leave the following email trail that I publish now in full for the benefit of David and any of Guido’s other trusting informants:

—– Original Message —–

From: “Guy Fawkes”

To: “Tim Ireland” tim@bloggerheads.com

Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 4:31 PM

Subject: Re: boom

>

> Have you done fourth term net?
>
> Are you going to point the finger at Benji Wegg Prosser No. 10’s
> Director of Strategic Communications?
>
> Not vis-a-vis Taylor – he is McM’s gofer. – and paid to dig dirt on
> LibDems. But McM is plausibly deniable by BWP.
>
> BWP is very keen on the Online War. He is frustrated with what he
> sees as right-wing ascendancy online.
>
> Check the Google cache for the hastily pulled Gordon is a Moron blog.
>
> On 9/11/06, Tim Ireland wrote:
>> Of course, you’ll have to report this when it goes mainstream
>>
>> —– Original Message —–
>> From: “Guy Fawkes”
>> To: “Tim Ireland”
>> Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 5:14 PM
>> Subject: Re: boom
>>
>>
>> > All yours, am laughing.
>> >
>> > As I said before, he is a source. That buys him some protection.
>> > Doesn’t mean I don’t wish you well…. ;)
>> >
>> > On 9/11/06, Tim Ireland wrote:
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> https://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2006/09/david_taylor_rumbled.asp

Bottom line: Guido betrayed his readers and one of his informants, and did so without hesitation.

Here comes the round-up… and the pitch!

Because this is long, it is ‘boring’, so here’s the executive summary:

1. Guido, through a number of deceits, renders any meaningful interaction with his weblog inert… above all, he’s a comment cheat and a disgrace to blogging.
2. Guido is practically inviting politicians to avoid blogging or work to restrict the activity. It is honest bloggers who will pay the price.
3. Most of Guido’s ‘scoops’ are nothing of the sort
4. Guido is a shameless opportunist and he’s using your own frustration(s) against you.
5. Guido is lower than tabloid scum… and that’s saying something.
6. Watch out for the switch, when Guido secretly starts (or continues) batting for those in power that he favours.
7. Guido is a stat-whore.. and a figure-fiddling one at that.
8. Guido insists on knowing where the funds come from for politicians/interest-groups, but he’s awfully secretive about what funds his activities.
9. Guido is nothing but a smart-arse arsonist… and that’s only if we take his word for it.
10. Guido may not realise it, but he’s a bit of a homophobe… and (surprise, surprise) like attracts like.
11. Guido betrays his readers and his informants.

This is not what blogging is supposed to be about. It’s not even within shouting distance.

Even Iain Dale knows this… or pretends to. In his laughable guide to political blogging in the UK, he pushes Guido forward as his poster-child and states that; “The power of blogging flows from directly connecting with the readers, key to that direct connection is honesty.”

[Psst! Iain! When exactly will you disown Guido? Or are you all mouth and no trousers?]

Guido is an arsonist… at best.

If you have any interest at all in maintaining the integrity of the British political blogosphere, I ask you to join me as I piss on his fire:

– If you currently link to Guido on your blog; remove him from your blogroll.

– If you are addicted to the gossip and rumours he spreads, try to quit.

– If you’re one of his sources, refuse to be used (or at least be ready to count your fingers).

Thanks for your time. If you have anything to add (apart from meaningless abuse and mudslinging), the floor is open.

Cheers all.

[UPDATE: Guido’s finely-honed paranoia serves him well. I’ve been running teasers for this week-old post for… erm… about a week now. Last night Guido laid in with an adorable pre-emptive kidney-punch that opens the way for his supporters (real and otherwise) to lay in with ‘tit for tat’ accusations… and allows him to deny all knowledge – (Just a bit of a clean-up folks. Nothing personal. ) – but if you take a close look at the comments that start at 3:36pm, you’ll see a couple of Guido’s useful idiots making the personal nature of this message clear – by saying what Guido could not say without compromising his Fonz-like demeanour. Cute, huh?]








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