Saturday, April 21, 2012

The latest PB bully-boy tactic

You might remember that I told Political Betting's Mike Smithson the other day that I had no intention of trying to walk a tightrope - I was simply going to carry on acting the way I had on PB since 2008. He could either ban me or not ban me, but there was no middle option of expecting me to be deferential to him and dance to his every whim. Well, it seems that he and his team of moderators (led, grotesquely, by a long-term Tory poster who achieved notoriety a while back for reasons I'll gloss over for now) are determined to find a middle option if it kills them. In broad terms, it consists of this -

1) Randomly delete a large percentage, but not all, of the posts from ideologically undesirable posters such as myself.

2) Introduce a rule that all discussion of moderation is forbidden (although of course this is implemented on a highly selective basis), so that if anyone queries why on earth a totally innocuous post was deleted, this in itself is grounds for deletion, and indeed for an outright ban. This neatly ensures that the vast majority of posters and lurkers are blissfully unaware of the widespread deletion of perfectly legitimate contributions by certain posters.

3) Constantly drop hints about a large number of 'technical problems' on the site, ensuring that to the very limited extent that knowledge about the deletion of posts does leak through the Great Firewall, it can be conveniently blamed on gremlins.

I've had no fewer than fifteen or so comments deleted over the last 48 hours. I went on PB today to ask for help with the Twitter and Blogger problems I mentioned in the previous post - it was an absolutely genuine query, because it's a large, active forum, and I've had help with internet-related questions there before (albeit a couple of years ago). All I got for my trouble was a snide remark about "name-dropping". That, apparently, was perfectly acceptable, but my own response in kind (pointing out that PB is full of name-droppers and thanking him for his "help") was not. Nor was an appeal to the moderator to release the post. Nor was my question as to whether other posters had seen an unusual number of comments eaten by gremlins recently. Nor was "testing, testing". I tried a silly (but firmly on-topic) post about Francois Hollande and that got through, but my next comment along the lines of "phew, got there at last" did not. Can you see the Tory moderators' train of thought here? But doubtless this pattern can still be innocently explained away by "technical problems".

After the first of my two bannings a few weeks ago, I was initially prepared to give Smithson the benefit of the doubt on his claim that a technical fault was to blame, as implausible as that seemed. While I was unable to post, I had to put up, without any right to reply, with cretinous comments from posters like JackW : "Kelly claims he has been banned and Mike says he hasn't. Let's see now, who to believe..." Well, frankly he should have believed me, because Smithson's credibility with these excuses is now wearing very, very thin. It always seemed an incredible coincidence that an "accidental" banning would occur just a matter of seconds after Smithson spotted and responded to my series of criticisms of him for banning Stuart Dickson earlier in the day, especially given that I'd never had any problems posting before. I'm now 99% certain that Smithson wanted me out of the way for a while, but didn't want to be seen to have banned two SNP posters in one day, so fell back on the all-purpose "technical problems" excuse.

I was contacted this morning by another regular left-wing PB poster who has seen umpteen posts of his deleted, with increasingly ludicrous 'technical' explanations being given whenever he questions what is going on by email (questioning it on PB itself is, of course, Not Allowed). So what's happening to me is not an isolated case. The strategy from Mike or his Tory moderators (it's unclear where the bulk of the blame lies) is plain - make the posting experience for the undesirables so intolerable that we'll either be driven away, or rendered meek and pliant. But do so in such a way that the vast majority of readers will have no idea of just how much work goes into making Britain's leading "non-aligned" political forum look so astonishingly unpolluted by trenchant left-wing or nationalist views.

I said earlier in the week that I had no intention of giving Smithson the satisfaction of driving me away, unless he had the guts to actually ban me and try to justify that. But there comes a point where so many posts are being deleted without justification that the situation is indistinguishable from a ban. The time has at last come, therefore, to move on. I may well run a PB-watch feature on this blog, though - now that we've more or less established that Tom Harris is posting there under the moniker "Devo Max", some of his praise for Cameron and the Tories will still make for fascinating reading.

Twitter - Grrrrrr...

You know, there was a time in the wretched, bygone days of 'Old Twitter' when we would be burdened with antiquated functions such know, Twitter actually letting us know when someone had sent us a message. Thank heavens the service has been 'modernised' since then. I've just discovered that an Argentinian journalist making a documentary about the Falklands sent me a message asking for my email address two weeks ago (presumably in connection with this post), and I was totally oblivious to it. I certainly didn't receive an email alert, and having checked the 'mentions' timeline on Opera's mobile phone service, there's no sign of the message there either - perhaps it only shows mentions from people I actually follow? If so, that's a bit useless. Incidentally, I had to check on my mobile, because as far as I can see there's no "mentions" timeline at all anymore when I go into Twitter on my desktop!

Something very similar happened two or three months ago - a researcher from Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live sent me (and three or four other Scottish bloggers/journalists) a message about the possibility of an interview on the subject of Scottish independence, and if I hadn't happened to check through the list of people who had recently followed me, I would never have seen it in time. As it was, I found myself being 'auditioned' down the phone ten minutes later. Curiously enough, the question that very nearly stumped me was the obvious one - "why are you in favour of Scottish independence?" It wasn't that I didn't know the answer (or answers), but off the top of my head I couldn't think of how to compress it all into a few quick sentences. What would other people have said?

By the way, having just seen Blogger's new interface, I think there may be a post entitled "Blogger - Grrrrrr" before too long.

UPDATE : Those words could hardly have proved more prophetic - having pressed the 'publish' button, it seems that New Blogger doesn't do paragraphs. Oh wonderful. For the avoidance of doubt, this post is supposed to be split into three paragraphs, not including this update.

UPDATE II : Fixed (after a considerable period of head-scratching).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

By popular demand - Part 2 of the political blog poll

OK, as I missed out so many obvious options from the poll on blog readership habits, it seems only fair to add a 'part 2', which will run concurrently, and hopefully produce reasonably comparable results. I've added all the suggestions people left, plus a few others that I realised I'd overlooked. Once again, you'll find the voting form at the top of the sidebar.

Of course it's inevitable that I'll still have missed some out, so feel free to take up Marcia's suggestion and leave a 'write-in' vote in the comments section!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poll : Which political blogs do you read?

Apologies for the relatively light blogging of late. Since Easter, I've had a sort of 'Murphy's law' period in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and my brain has been frazzled trying to work out the consequences of it all. One brief respite was when I went to see Scottish Ballet's new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which I can highly recommend. It's a very dark piece, which somehow suited my frame of mind. But then on the way home, yet another freak calamity befell me!

Anyway, while I'm busy getting my brain unfrazzled, I thought a poll on people's blog readership habits might be quite fun. What put the idea into my head was this misconceived taunt from a member of the ever-delightful Tory Herd over at Political Betting -

"What a whining, posturing, self-dramatising bore you are, James. You come here for one reason only: because if you post your incoherent and commonplace political musings on your own blog you get a readership of two (including you). You need us more than we need you. so stop pretending people are trying to martyr you for your beliefs, because they aren't, they are laughing at you for being an arsehat.

Sorry if that sounds a bit tetchy, but I do dislike being accused of groupthink by a complete twit."

Hmmm. Alas, I actually have access to this blog's stats, and I know that of the tens of thousands of absolute unique visitors who have come here since I installed Google Analytics in July 2010, a negligible percentage have been referrals from PB. Which is a profoundly depressing thought - it would be nice to think the torture I've put myself through over there has at least produced some kind of side-benefit. In reality, the vast majority of visitors come here direct, from search engine queries, from links on Twitter, and from other Scottish political blogs. And of course I know that many of you also use this site as a hopping-off-point to visit blogs listed in the sidebar.

So I thought it might be interesting to know which are the most popular sites with readers of Scot Goes Pop. The voting form is at the top right of the page - this time multiple voting is enabled, so you can include all the blogs you read, no matter how many there are. I know I'm bound to have omitted some people's favourites, so apologies in advance! Looking down the list, I realised I've become slightly ghettoised in the nationalist blogosphere (although my time spent at PB probably makes up for that, and then some). The only non-pro-independence Scottish blogs I visit fairly regularly are Better Nation and Caron's Musings, although of course I pop by to some of the others now and again.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get Over It!

I don't know if anyone saw my exchange of post-banning pleasantries with Mike Smithson at Political Betting yesterday, but given that he finished one of his retorts with the words "Get used to it" (one of his pet phrases), I thought the following suggestion for an advertising campaign on buses might capture the zeitgeist of the site. Click to enlarge...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The turning of the tide?

I started to understand the baffling workings of the EU a little better a few years ago when I realised that the "European Parliament" is misnamed - it's in fact just one 'chamber' of a two-chamber legislature. The other chamber is the Council of Ministers, which itself is elected after a fashion, because it's comprised of national governments, who have voting rights weighted in rough (very rough) proportion to population size. So every time an EU member state goes to the polls, they're in fact helping to elect a 'parliament' that legislates for all of us. The upcoming French presidential and legislative elections will thus reverberate across the continent - they certainly matter more to Scotland than the Ken v Boris show that is being shoved down our throats.

Alas, the balance of power in Europe is not at stake - the right have the upper hand in the European Parliament, and is completely dominant in the Council of Ministers. But this might just be the turning of the tide, after a period of several years in which it appeared that the electorates of Europe were utterly determined to reward the right for economic calamity, again and again and again. The latest polls show a hardening of support for the socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande.

* * *

When I was watching the coverage of the Grand National yesterday, an uncomfortable thought went through my head as I saw a vet give the horse Synchronised a clean bill of health after unseating his rider in the run-up to the race. It occurred to me that there was a significant statistical chance that the green light to race had just sent the horse to its death, whereas if the vet had found something wrong there would have been no danger. It's a bit like the psychologists in America who can effectively condemn an inmate to death by concluding that his IQ is high enough to proceed with execution.

OK, that's an unfair comparison, because most horses get through the Grand National unscathed. But there is a very real risk, as evidenced by the fact that Synchronised suffered a fatal injury just a few minutes after that troubling thought crossed my mind. I'm not unrealistic enough to think that the Grand National will be banned, but it's surely not beyond the wit of man to make it considerably safer than it is now. And even if that detracts slightly from the spectacle, surely that's a price well worth paying?