25 June 2008

The First Rule of Blogs

Actually there are a number of them! First rules of blogs from the 'there are no rules' to 'never attack Steve Jobs or Apple Computer' to 'only write about blog focus' to 'spelling doesn't matter'.

There are, however a couple of salient ones that are part of the blogging culture, and one is actually the hyperlink set-up of the net and 'pull' interest. So I will hit the second one first, as it is the unstated rule of all hyperlinked articles, paraphrasing from commentary TrentD left at Engadget:

If you are not interested, don't click the link. And you should certainly NOT comment about just how uninterested you are in the article.

That is absolutely red letter for those finding commentary or blog posts about themselves. It is a damned difficult thing to take, that 'misguided blog post' about YOU. It is a two-part rule and the first is the 'pull' part - you are asking for something to be handed to you and are prepared for what follows. As an individual you may not like it, may not enjoy it, and may even find that if you are the subject of the post that the individual has YOU all wrong.

As blogging is a relatively 'flat' media, for all of it having video, audio, pictures and words... lots of words... the Theodore Sturgeon Law comes into play (taken from Everything2, which gets it from The Jargon File by ESR):

Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud.

It is the Law of Information - 90% of it is crud. Sifting through the crud to find anything of interest is damned difficult, and when you click on a link there is a 90% chance that it will be crud. And if you comment about crud there is a 90% chance that your comment will be crud. Lets face it, our minds are not all that well honed and even when they are, the crud is overwhelming when compared to the non-crud content. Even better is that I expect that 90% of everything I WRITE is crud: that is the inherent nature of information production and weeding out the non-crud to deliver it is exceedingly difficult.

And I apply that exact, same rule to EVERYTHING I READ. Even from people I LIKE.

Then I apply my own rules to the what I write, as I consider them to be 'crud-filters':

1) No personal attacks

2) The Mommy Rule

3) Civility

4) Proposed actions must be do-able, conform to laws, treaties and The Law of Nations.

5) Moderation

I also apply my own, very personal rules of research, which includes checking information sources of finding if more than one source conforms to a given piece of information or data. That is difficult and some crud slips through perforce: 0.9 x 0.9 = 0.81.

That is a derivative of Sturgeon's Law by using percentages - 90% of what you read is crud and anyone backing a given piece of information has a likelihood of 90% crud, but the resultant information only has an 81% chance of being crud. Yes, cross-checking yields a 9% reduction in crud level!

Math, you gotta love it.

These rules do have backing, however, as pointed out by Thomas Lifson on 29 DEC 2004, looking at Nick Coleman's personal attack on a blogger at Powerline, and decided that a personal and scurrilous attack was in order on that blogger at Powerline. What then starts, and has now plagued Nick Coleman ever since, is "career suicide by blogger". Like 'death by cop' where a criminal wishes to die so he rushes police officers while attacking them, this sort of attack is personal and the career diminishment permanent.

The next rule is one that I don't stick to, as the media of blogs often leads to blog-to-blog posting about topics in a post/rebuttal or commentary system outside of direct commentary. Bloggers who read other blogs of interest may find that the best place to comment is *not* in the comments section of a blog post but on their own blog. This does, however, leave the blog-less about out of things, and that also means that they have problems actually addressing the international free media of blogs in a coherent fashion. So, as I like the rule, from larimdame's Gene on 20 DEC 2004:

The First Rule Of Blogs Is That You Never Talk About Blogs

Yes, to those who see that it seems asinine, these folks posting stuff that is so wrong-headed that it needs to be addressed. And yet it comes from its own first rule that has been around for far longer than it, coming from George Bernard Shaw:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it.

From that you get the idea that if you wrestle with a blogger, where 90% of everything is crud, you will get cruddy perforce. No two ways about it, which is why a number of bloggers consider themselves to be 'muckrakers', which rakes through the muck to see what crud turns up and see if other crud is similar enough to it to, perhaps, be non-crud. Newspapers as pointed out over at Knox News by Michael Silence, is clueless on how this media actually works, which is more than just 'muckraking' but a concerted effort by people interested in topics actually examining those topics.

Of course most of that is crud.

Even worse is that the MSM and those who think by its past-terms of working don't realize that they are also in the crud production business, but with higher overhead. And one of the foremost clearinghouses for looking at the crud production system is Glenn Harlan Reynolds at Instupundit, the author of Army of Davids. He also had a number of links on the Nick Coleman affair and many others, so I will add in a few links to give an idea of how the crud/blogger internet system works:

Take his post and links on 22 JUL 2007 on how MSM misquoting people is the NORMAL course of affairs because stories are all about 'narrative' not facts. That is, really, too true for words, but words can be spilled on the topic.

Going on a Denial of Service attack against a blogger, like Jeff Goldstein, is extremely counter-productive and gives vindication to his viewpoints by having opponents so petty and puerile that they want to shut him up while attacking him personally. Which Insty documents on 08 JUL 2006. This is the 'never talk about blogs' rule and 'wrestling with pig rule' in force, along with the reason against personal attacks.

Documenting attacks by Glen Greenwald, on 23 MAR 2008, who doesn't realize he is committing career death by blogger.

More pertinent is when the powerful, be they government or otherwise, try to silence a blogger, the pig wrestling and attention garnered are counter-productive to the one who seeks to enforce power over opinion and commentary. On 08 OCT 2006 Insty covers this and this sort of attack has been, more or less, part and parcel of the blogging career of Patterico as soon as he started looking at misdeeds inside and outside of government.

The reason I am talking about this is that a previous post of mine on Nadhmi Auchi has gotten a response from him... well his UK solicitors, actually, wanting me to take it down. They wished for that attack on my freedom of speech to be kept quiet as to the exact contents of the letter, but the overall intent and its contentions of truths is actually something that I have gotten from a few scattered individuals now and again. Twice, maybe. Yes 630 some-odd posts here, another few handfuls at my Party site and a few humorous bits elsewhere and that is my negative feedback: a few calling me misguided, and a couple not understanding that quoting sources via fair use of content without seeking monetary gain is allowable. Hey! 90% of it is crud by Sturgeon's Law, even getting it down to 8!% ain't that hot, and I approach the feedback in the same way.

The request to pull down said post falls into the latter 'unable to recognize an analysis using multiple sources with quotations'. And as I can't talk about the direct points, as they have asked me to, I will talk about general intent and the necessary skills to actually read a post rife with quotations, source links and otherwise complex material. The use of multiple sources, independent of each other, is to get that crud level down, although it will never, ever disappear. It is that cross-analysis from multiple viewpoints that allows an individual to draw conclusions separate from any, single one of them. Further, as many sources have overlapping areas of insight, points self-reinforce even between news organizations from Russia, UK, US, France and international media do in that post. By looking at a broader sweep of a career, across multiple venues and trying to trace back as far as possible and then see how that career coincides with other analysis on related careers and networks, what happens is a consideration of those networks of individuals, the events around them and how those individuals act and interact.

Those individuals and institutions that attempt to stifle such examinations have an extreme problem in the modern world: so much is written and search engines makes indexing and cross-indexing an easily utilized tool for analysis. Not all facts and analyses are equally important, and the job of an analyst is to try to present those things that are considered to be relevant by that analyst and explain why they are important. Trying to disentangle a web of public and private interests that can cross legal bounds usually fell into the categories of 'muckracker', trained criminologist or 'conspiracy theorist' when the tools and availability of sources were low. The last thrived on that, while the first did what they could with limited data and extrapolation. I am not a trained criminologist but a self-taught systems engineer - anything that has a series of inputs, actions, activities, outputs and results is a system that can be examined. I lack specialized tools for things like network analysis of TCP/IP networks beyond the basics of how they work, but for sociological networks the availability of information and tools has changed the very foundation of how one can analyze the actions of people and institutions.

What that does is attempt to create a fact-based analysis, from multiple sources, to examine those patterns as they arise.

I do not seek 'truth' and leave that for theologians. Seeking 'truth' has gotten the rest of the media up to the point where they can no longer report on simple 'facts' and present them, and I detest that in their attempt to make facts fit to 'truthiness', as Jeff Goldberg has put forward. Truth without facts (that being documentary evidence, official records, cross collated interviews with multiple individuals, or simply doing a search on financial/criminal/public records across various sites) turn into this thing known as 'assertions'.

I am always open to factual evidence: point me to it and I will do an analysis on it, and ensure that it has a representation of some semblance of actual facts/events/etc.

When I present analysis and commentary, I move from the examination qualifiers, of how things look to be holding together, to a broader look across all events, connections, interactions and persons to try and derive something that is factually grounded. In doing that I try, desperately, to stay away from conspiracy theorist sites (and they are legion out there), fraudulent reporting (as in ungrounded commentary speaking about personal 'truths' or 'narrative'), and just the crud reporting that abounds. Uh-huh, I have my own internal 'crud list' that has demarcation dates for some areas where they went into 'truths' and 'narrative' and stopped doing factual examination.

As I try to leave some nuggets of useful information for those trying to deal with apparently scurrilous postings on blogs about subjects you know and love, which may happen to be yourself, there is a simple thing to do: ignore them.

They get lost in the noise and takes damned hard research to FIND them, and then, when found, you have the fact that an individual wants to 'pull' information and that 90% of it is crud as an understanding at the start. Giving any credence by trying to silence those putting them out, especially if there is a huge disparity in income or position in government or industry, is a very strange form of elevating said target and making them sympathetic. Even if you *win* you lose by having the worst PR possible: attacking someone who, if left alone, will not harm you.

The number of industrialists, politicians, and criminal figures who have had their reputation sullied by individuals are legion: Carnegie, Rockefeller, Capone, LaGuardia, Daley, Gates, Soros... near endless in its length. Very few of those would ever seek to confront those attackers as they made things worse for themselves if they did. And even those that they did silence had the final word in history, as those attempts to shut them up would cause a deeper examination of events, just as those doing the examination *wanted*. It was those that tried to leave a legacy to rehabilitate their good names that would, even if not particularly liked, would be respected. And at least Capone got the trash picked up on time.

Hire a PR firm if you have worries - they get paid to deal with making reputations shine and do some mud wrestling, although they understand that isn't much of a help. Otherwise your visibility is so low you are living by Brendan Behan's rule and no one wants to be seen as *that* desperate:

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice article. Very interesting to read. Thank you for sharing.