Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Wishing you the best for the upcoming year.

datePosted on 11:45, January 1st, 2015 by Pablo

Another year has come and gone and KP idles along in its small corner of the blogosphere.  For a year in which social media was touted as emerging as a significant competitor to the corporate press as framers of political discourse and debate in NZ, we had little impact outside of a dedicated core of readers.

KP published 55 posts in 2014. All but ten were written by me. Anita did not contribute this year and Lew wrote the ten that I did not (including all of June’s posts). His posts covered important domestic issues and were, as is always the case, the most read and had the most impact in terms of generating larger debate. I spent a bit more time on domestic related issues than I usually do and started adding links to other commentary that I have done, mostly in the fields of intelligence, security and NZ foreign policy. As has been the trend from the beginning, these received less attention than “purely” domestic or party politics related posts, and my posts on global affairs and international relations received the least amount of hits (and in some cases no comments). Having said that, my posts on the dire state of the NZ Left in January, May and September did generate some interesting responses in the comments and a couple of ripostes from Chris Trotter, and proved to be sadly prophetic in the wake of the election. They also elicited some gleeful coverage among Right leaning blogs, which was unfortunate.

We received around 3500 reads per month, with the high being 12000+ in September. The number of comments varied considerably but consistently averaged between 10-15 per post. No one was banned although one individual was warned off (see below). Other than the latter’s, most commentary was intelligent and civilised.

Most of our referrals came from other social media, especially twitter, although any mention in the Herald or NBR brought a relative flood of readers.  We also received traffic from other NZ political blogs, mostly on the Left. The cross-pollination is regular and welcome.

Traffic came predominantly from NZ, although there is a dedicated group of readers from overseas. I had a problem with trolling on a couple of my posts (primarily about Eastern Europe), including some ad hominum attacks from a NZ based clown who works for a NZ government agency and who used deliberately misdirected email servers to cover his tracks. To say the least he is not welcome here and if he persists I will be forced to out him by name. Let’s just say that we know each other from a past life.

Otherwise it was business as usual. KP is not out to make a splash or turn its authors into notorieties. We do not toe a party line, try not to be hysterical and although very critical of those in power most definitely reject the very concept of “attack” blogging. We leave that for others with darker inclinations. I cannot speak for Anita and Lew, but for me blogging on KP fills a space that is somewhere between academic writing, editorial writing, business analysis and personal reflection. In that measure it serves its purpose.

We shall see how this year goes. Without countervailing input from my other colleagues and with the press of my business commitments growing while I share parenting duties of a toddler (at an age normally associated with grandparenting), I foresee less time to write for KP and consequently a diminished number of posts. But one never knows what the future may bring, so I shall use the theme of embracing uncertainty as my motto for the next 12 months.

All the best to our readers for a healthy and happy 2015.

Trawling the depths and finding trouble.

datePosted on 10:05, December 2nd, 2013 by Pablo

The decision by a district court judge to deny a rightwing blogger the right to protect his sources because he is not a “news medium” under the definition of the Evidence Act has been greeted with glee by many on the Left but is utterly wrong. The judge clearly does not understand what blogging has become, and has failed to distinguish between freedom of the press and defamation.

There are many types of blogging, and some of it is clearly news-focused in nature. The Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Foreign Policy blog and many others of that type are news outlets, sometimes with editorial content. Blogs like The Onion are clearly satirical and should be treated as such. Blogs like David Farrar’s are personal, partisan and cut and paste editorial in nature. Blogs like this one are personal and opinion focused, not news breaking. There are tons of personal, music, cinema, food and other types of blog that are not news mediums but it should be obvious that there are also many news-breaking and news focused blogs that fall well within the definition of “news medium.”

Blogs that are news focused can have a heavy editorial or partisan content. When evaluating stories on such outlets one has to distinguish whether the author wrote in a news breaking capacity or as an editorial or partisan opinion. That really is not that hard.

When considering either capacity, one should focus on whether what is said on a blog is a lie, untrue or otherwise deliberately false in nature. If what is said is injurious to another party, then it can be considered defamatory.

Although I am no fan of sociopathic bullying bigots with partisan agendas and populist delusions, I think that the particular blog in question can be rightly considered to be a news medium with overt editorial content. Much like Fox News or RT and the blogs they operate.

The plaintiff in the defamation case against the blogger in question only need demonstrate what parts of the blogposts authored by the defendant are untrue or deliberately misleading. I have not read the entire opinion but it seems to me that being called a “cocksmoker” may be insulting depending on one’s perspective, but not necessarily defamatory. Ascertaining the source of the leaks to the blogger is immaterial: either what was posted was false and deliberately written to harm the plaintiff or it was not. Seeking to identify the source only serves punitive purposes and does not assist in establishing malicious intent (which is what the plaintiff is claiming is his objective under discovery).

Given who the blogger is, malicious intent is pretty much a given. The question is: was what he wrote a lie or deliberately misleading so as to harm the reputation of the plaintiff?

The district court decision should be appealed and overruled. That is important because it protects the sources of that part of the electronic media, including social media, that has a news-generating orientation. Doing so in no way prevents defamation cases from being brought because the proof of such cases is what was deliberately said or written, not the source for what was said or written.

If the source was consciously involved in deliberately disseminating false and misleading content via the blogger, then the latter has to decide whether to reveal the source or shoulder sole responsibility. That should be enough to make even citizen journalists and news bloggers cautious.

The point is that with news source protection privileges comes the journalistic responsibility to ascertain that the information provided from a source is not deliberately false or malicious. If that responsibility is shirked, then the news outlet, be it a blog, newspaper, radio or television program can be held accountable for disseminating falsehoods that are defamatory or libelous. If the blogger in this case used material that he knew to be false and damaging, then he should be liable. If he did not know the information was false and damaging and published without verifying, he is liable anyway. Whether or not he choses to reveal his source, he ultimately is responsible for what was written on his blog and therefore accountable for what was written. That is how journalism operates.

The bottom line is that the district court judge’s decision is very poorly thought out and wrong. As many have mentioned, it establishes a dangerous precedent with a chilling effect on freedoms of speech and press in electronic media.

The Left should not be so gleeful because the silencing of one opens the door to the silencing of many.

 

Blogging and consulting.

datePosted on 15:52, June 5th, 2013 by Pablo

I am somewhat amused by the attacks on Martyn Bradbury over his consultant relationship with Mana while running a leftwing blog. From what I gather Bomber has been pretty upfront about his association with leftist organizations (without having to go into the particulars), and even if his advertorial work on behalf of a certain medical service provider was on the margins of ethical, he is certainly no different than many other pundits attempting to earn a crust.

The blogging right (and some journalists) seem to be going after Bomber for two reasons. One is that, for rightwing bloggers the Lusk/Slater revelations needed a diversion, or at least a modicum of balance. Bomber has made plenty of enemies on the right (and some on the left), so he is an easy target. That is particularly so for point number two: his consultancy fees for Mana are ultimately paid for by the NZ taxpayer. The right blogosphere has all but choked on that thought and some have suggested a conflict of interest on Bomber’s part.

I really do not see what is the big deal. Some rightwing bloggers undoubtably consult for public agencies and political parties. Some are every open about their arrangements, and some are not. So what? Various people are trotted out in the media to give their opinions as supposed experts about political issues. Some of these people have financial relationships with political entities and some of them blog. This may or may not be known to the produces and interviewers, and the talking heads may or may not reveal their associations. Again, so what? Can their views not be judged on the merits rather than on who they may be shilling for or what they write on blogs? And if they are selling a particular line in the media, is it not the job of the interviewers to call them on it?

Blogging can generate revenue for a fortunate few, but most blog for free. Many blog under their own names, but some, like us here, use pseudonyms (in our case pretty obvious ones). Sponsored blogging obviously toes an editorial line (less so in the case of ad-derived revenues, since ads are placed on blogs more due to a blog’s popularity than its content). Sponsor-free blogging provides a forum for expression unbeholden to client relationships or employer dictates. Even so, bloggers tend to understand the limits to what they can say in their posts. In the KP experience as a sponsor-free blog by design, members of the blogging collective have taken a hiatus or desisted from blogging about topics connected to their work when potential conflicts are discernible. It is simply prudent and common sense to do so.

Consulting is about offering informed advice and opinion for a fee. In my post-academic life I have found that many people seek advice or opinion, but few want to pay for it. Most seem to think that there is no research or work involved in developing the expertise required to give said advice. They think that their areas of interest are naturally those of the prospective advisor.They forget that it is they who are doing the asking for a service they are unable to provide for themselves.

Think of it this way: if you cannot do the electrical work when installing lighting in your home or business, you pay an electrician to do so. So why would you call a “terrorism expert” and ask him to give his views on a given terrorist event for free? Why would you ask a political risk advisor or strategic analyst to provide expert advice or opinion for free?

That is why fee-paying clients are highly valued by consultants, whether the latter blog or not. It also ensures that consultants who blog are keenly attuned to client requirements in and outside the service provision relationship that binds them together.

That advice given to a client may or may not be congruent with what a consultant cum blogger writes on a blog. The client may or may not know of the consultant’s blogging activities, but regardless the relationship is based on something other than the content of the blog. If the client decides that the content of the blog is not acceptable for some reason, the consultancy contract will not be renewed. Since consultancies operate on a retainer, hourly or service project fee basis, there is latitude in the contractual terms, which may or may not include prohibitions or editorial constraints on blogging content that is deemed inimical to the client’s reputation or goals.

People may disagree with Bomber’s views on political matters to the point of questioning his credibility, and many might wonder why anyone would pay for Bomber’s advice. His advice may be intuitive rather than “expert.” In my opinion, his views on politics have been wrong from time to time. So what?

The issue of credibility and paying for advice is between the client and Bomber, and in Mana’s case, the party seems content with the arrangement. There is no conflict of interest. There is no hidden agenda. That is the end of the story.  As a private contractor Bomber does not have to reveal anything about his consulting relationships, much less on his blog or in his other media work. In this he is no different from Brian Edwards, Bill Ralston or others who give privileged (and private) advice to clients in parallel with their public writing and commentating. Again, this is no big deal.

In the end, this episode strikes me as a rightwing beat up that is designed to deflect attention away from National’s internal divisions by targeting a convenient leftwing object of contempt. In other words, it is all about politics rather than professional ethics. That seems natural, because if it were the other way around and the shoe was on the other foot, some of those leading the charge against Bomber would not have a leg to stand on.

 

Blog envy or blog petty? Corrected Version.

datePosted on 17:18, February 15th, 2012 by Pablo

A fellow named Andrew Geddis posted on another NZ blog a post about electoral reform in which he takes a swipe at KP for not having “dirt under its fingernails.” I do not know this fellow, and he certainly does not know me. Nor does he seem to know that KP is a collective, not an individual effort.

I take it that he believes that KP (whether singular or plural) does not practice what it preaches, as if KP was some sort of effete armchair intellectual circle jerk that is not grounded in real life praxis or any experience with real politics. In a word, he appears to think that KP is all bluster and no substance.

I cannot speak for the other KP members but I know them and can say with some confidence that we, collectively and individually have, are and/or will continue to engage in real politics as well as in political discussion and debate. My experience was mainly in US government service of one sort or another as well as academia (teaching aspects of politics), and after I came to NZ, in voluntarilly helping in the defense of Ahmed Zaoui  and the Urewera 18 against scurrilous charges of terrorism, among other things academic and not.

I am therefore somewhat perplexed by Mr. Geddis’s negative mention of KP. Does he have a beef with one of us? Is there some history I am unaware of? Otherwise I am at a loss to explain what in any event appears to be an unprovoked jibe that has no basis in fact.

Can anyone illuminate me as to what might be going on?

Update:  As several readers including Andrew himself have pointed out, the remark that I found untoward was in fact a joke. As I said in the comments, that pretty much confirms that I am humorless, or at least thin-skinned where KP’s integrity and “grounding” is concerned. I apologise to Andrew for misconstruing his words. What is interesting, once again, is that in contrast to more thoughtful posts, this post on a trivial matter enjoyed a strong upward spike in page views. I guess even reasoned people like to read about unreasonable silliness.

Over the past few months my partner has observed that KP has increasingly become a boys club. Part of that, she notes, is that I write about security things and boys like guns and war, so tend to dominate commentary on those themes. I have pointed out that I write about plenty of other things, and that Lew covers a range of subjects that are not exclusively “male” in orientation. And yet 95% of our commentators are male.  And, as my partner also observes, their comments tend to become the intellectual  equivalent of pissing matches or penis length arguments rather than reasonable exchange of views in which the worth of opposing perspectives is acknowledged. She includes me in the pissing match crowd. 

I attribute the apparent masculinisation of KP in large part to the fact that Anita’s long hiatus has deprived the blog of the gender balance it needs, in part because Anita writes from a feminist perspective and about gender issues from a wimin’s point of view. That of itself is interesting because when she does (and Anita does not write exclusively about gender-related themes), the comment threads show a disproportionate number of females in the mix. In effect, there appears to be a self-segregation going on: men read and comment about “boy” topics and wimin read and comment about “girl” themes. This can be seen on a larger scale in the topics covered by political blogs written by wimin versus those (the majority) written by men, which makes me think that the “problem” is not exclusive to KP.

This bothers me. I do like to think of myself as writing about exclusively “male” topics since I believe that subjects such as international relations, foreign policy, labour politics, democratisation and regime change, and security issues are (or should be) matters of universal interest. Likewise, I do not believe that topics such as rape, child-raising or workplace harassment are exclusively female concerns. But until Anita comes back, it appears that KP is becoming the political blog equivalent of a (somewhat polite) rugby clubhouse.

So I guess the question of the day is whether there is a self-segregation of wimin’s versus male topics, and if in fact this blog, for worse in my view, has become masculinised (sic) beyond repair.

A Quarter Million Page Views.

datePosted on 15:50, July 6th, 2010 by Pablo

In the scheme of all blog things, it is a small milestone but still worth a mention. Yesterday we passed 250,000 page views. It has been 18 months since KP started up, and we have built a steady readership base since then. We tend to get between 300-600 page views per day, 200-300 on the weekends. Given that we average around +/- 20 posts a month, that is not too bad. I expect that readership will increase once Anita comes back on line after her hiatus.

I tend to think of KP as a”boutique” blog: non-partisan. non-orthodox and non- doctrinaire Left,  more studied (some would say over-intellectualised) than slanted, as much class-oriented as it is post-modern (especially when it comes to identity, environment and gender), with posts that are considerably longer than the norm. For NZ it is also different in the amount of coverage dedicated to comparative politics, international relations and security affairs. It takes a certain type of reader to enjoy such a mix, and given our rules of decorum, a certain type of commentator to reflect on the posts.

All of which is to say thanks for the reading. We shall endeavour to keep providing informed commentary and critical analysis of contemporary issues, and we hope that you will keep us honest with your thoughtful critiques and points of order.

A Weird Request.

datePosted on 19:56, May 28th, 2010 by Pablo

Some readers may have taken note of the fact that there is an alternative blog awards competition underway, created because the Qantas Media Awards blog category has become a bad joke. In a comment made on my last post about strategic culture, someone from the alternative blog awards organising committee (the so-called NZ Bloggers Union) has urged KP to enter the competition. I want to ask readers whether that is worth doing.

I say this because I am not a fan of awards competitions of any sort outside of sports and military affairs. But that is my prejudice. The criteria for entry is that nominees provide 4 posts from 2009 as material for the judges to consider. The details of the competitition can be found here:

http://airnewzealandbestblogaward.blogspot.com/

I can think of four posts written by Anita that alone could provide could material for the judges, and can say the same thing about Lew’s writing. My personal opinion is that some of the things they have written stand out as among the best NZ socio-political blogging in recent years, with a few of their posts being absolute game-changers when it comes to informed public discourse on given subjects. But, as I have said to them, I am not sure that the submission is worth doing because the deck may be stacked in favour of larger, more rabble-rousing and partisan blogs that prefer polemics and diatribes rather than reasoned debate.

I have two questions for those who may be interested in these awards: 1) should KP enter the competition? 2) If so, what four posts would you select as the most outstanding and representative examples of what KP has to offer?

The deadline for entries is June 1.

No offense will be taken if readers opine that we should not enter. I only put this out to the readership because I am of two minds about the whole thing and could not select four representative posts in any event.

Resuming transmission, slowly.

datePosted on 15:29, January 14th, 2010 by Pablo

Feeling a bit like Rip Van Wrinkle after a good holiday spent in mostly wild areas without full access to news, I am slowly regaining my  “urbane” senses. But I have mixed feelings about my return to the Asian city in which I live. The best part of the trip was breathing real, clean air, feeling the breeze and listening to the night-time silence and bird singing at dawn, swimming in unpolluted open water, seeing wildlife in their natural settings rather than in cages, talking with people wedded to the earth or at least without pretense, and forgetting what day of the week it was. Nothing my wife and I took in the way of pictures can accurately capture the fullness, nuance, and complexities of the trip, which is why the return to the noise, smell and rush of the city is underwhelming.

While away I was struck by how, in virtually all of the places we stayed, other than local stories the majority of what passed for available global news were truncated newswire or US/European newspaper bylines and (mostly) celebrity-focused nonsense. I return to much of the same here, as is the case with the on-line versions of NZ news outlets. So, in a sense, I really did not miss anything by being away (save an aborted terrorist attack on a US-bound  airplane and, much more importantly, a successful suicide bombing attack on a CIA post in Khost, the sequels to which will be very far-reaching). In fact, it was perversely delightful to not have to be up to date on anything other than the tides and  wind, to wake up with the light, and to utterly depend on local knowlege rather than familiarity with world events to make the days interesting and enjoyable.

For their part, while I was away NZ political bloggers who continued to post regularly (unlike us more relaxed folk at KP, who actually have lives and priorities other than blogging) appear to have been obsessed with themselves and their self-importance, led by one particularly sociopathic character with a serious martydom complex (which in turn is a reflection of a deeply narcissistic personality gone into disorder). Some things never do change.

What has changed is my approach to the second year of blogging at KP. I want to be more judicious in my posts, and to sparse them out more evenly relative to my editorial and scholarly work. Last year I found that I was at times blogging just for the sake of it rather than to make a point or critical observation about something of substance. Some of that is due to having too much time on my hands, but some of it is due to getting sucked into what I see as a blogging syndrome: an addiction to the immediate call and response effect of posting, which for someone who likes to argue and debate, is the purest opiate of all. In that sense, blogging is the opposite of “real” scholarship in that the latter is done a solitary pursuit in which feedback, in the form of peer review and critiques, comes infrequently and in highly formalised format (such as via referee manuscript evaluations and comments on conference papers). In fact, original research publication is very much a lonely, lengthy, painful affair in which devastating core critique, rejection and self-doubt are all part of the process for all but the most brilliant of minds. None of that happens on a blog, in which the poster/author is also the censor (should s/he care to be), and in which the commentariat often is unversed (or less informed) on the subject relative to the author. Editorial writing is somewhere in between, in that it is light on original research but retains an element of editorial scrutiny and critical feedback in the form of editorial responses or letters to the editor, some of which can be quite arbitrary and politicised ( for example, I have yet to figure out what the NZ Herald editorial policy is, and on what grounds it publishes op eds).

All of which is to say that I am going to refocus my energies this year on scholarship rather than blogging, which means a diminished output for the latter and hopefully an increase in the former. That certainly does not mean abandonment of blogging altogether–I still expect to post regularly–but simply posting at a slower, more measured rate. I also need to reflect more on my choice of subjects for this particular forum, as I do not want to get trapped into repeatedly posting on subjects that, although of high interest to me, do not necessarily occupy the attention of my colleagues in the KP collective or the readers (who are the audience which I hope to engage). That more narrow focus can be left for the scholarly audiences to which I seek to appeal, with blogging focused on more contemporary and variegated, although no less important subjects. I shall continue, as before, to offer episodic links to the Word From Afar column at Scoop.

When the odious get onerous.

datePosted on 21:40, September 28th, 2009 by Pablo

After a short week overseas I came back to find myself involved over the weekend in another argument about blog etiquette. It started out when I read Not PC’s post on  a troll. The issue basically boils down to the fact that one particularly nasty right wing frother (think Jesse Helms channeling Joe McCarthy and Glen Beck, but without the charm of either; to wit: racist, homophobic, foul-mouthed and pig ignorant)–who in the spirit of things we shall call “ratbuggered–” did enough to get himself banned and named by the blog owner. I weighed in on the side of the owner in the comments section, even while noting that here at KP we have put ratbuggered on auto-moderation so as to see if he has anything reasonable to say (so far he has not), and that as practice we do not “out” people who we have had trouble with (even though we have the ability to identify them). I noted that there are no universal laws or code of ethics preventing the outing of individuals using pseudonyms on blogs, for whatever reasons the blog owners may choose. There was much to and fro in the comments section, including from ratbuggered himself (who apparently lives in Tauranga. I shall leave you to draw conclusions).

The argument got picked up at No Minister, and things got pretty heated in the comments section. I weighed in some more, in further depth, arguing that market logics should determine blog traffic and that the blogosphere was ( come to think of it, like the Hobbesian “state of nature” that realists see to be the basic structure  of international relations) a self-enforcing society with no universal values or ethics (even if some may share implicit ethical constraints and some others may develop mutually binding rules of conduct)). For that I got robustly vilified by ratbuggered and his ideological soulmates (including the No Minister contributor aptly calling himself “Adolf”). I lot of it was name-calling rather than counter-argument.

What did surface as a counter-argument was amusing. Apparently these champions of free speech, liberty, freedom and individualism–the same ones who delighted in the outing of the two beneficiaries by Paula Bennett a few weeks back–believe that it is “unethical” to name an unwanted and repeatedly intrusive troll once all other appeals for him to desist have failed. PC weighed in as well and the entire argument turned into a circus. Rather than try to repeat myself and capture what others said, I urge you to read the entire thread as it is quite entertaining.

What it confirms in my mind, besides the fact that ratbuggered lives in a parallel Strangelovian universe that can only cause one to pity anyone sharing his household (should that even be feasible), is how hypocritical some of the rightwingers are. They love the free market when it suits them, but step on any of their self-righteous beliefs with market arguments and their closet social authoritarian viscerally jumps out. Ratbuggered is clearly an armchair bully and coward of no consequence (and is, indeed, a troll of the first order), but it sure is wild to see  some of the blogging right turn against markets, choice and individual responsibility when these run counter to their preferred view of the world.

All in all it was glimpse into a netherworld of unreason and hatred that, like plane crashes and train wrecks, is morbidly fascinating if intellectually terminal. Although I do not agree with most of Not PC’s political views, at least his is a reasoned discourse, which is precisely why ratbuggered found no haven on his blog. May the same occur here, regardless of the ideological persuasion of the commentariat.