Not Saussure

April 25, 2007

Commenters anonymous

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 4:15 pm

As people may know, Tim Ireland is conducting a campaign against anonymous comments in political blogs.

I shudder to think what he’ll make of a spat currently going on over in America, where the policy of Jon Swift, the reasonable Conservative, who allows anonymous comments, is letting things get a bit out of hand, starting here, and getting steadily worse as you scroll down.


April 23, 2007

Anonymity and reputation

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 9:32 pm

Chris Dillow takes issue with Brian Appleyard over the latter’s argument that

All western — not just scientific — wisdom is based on identity. Advocates and their critics can be identified and their ideas formally tested. This is nothing to do with the statistics of crowds, and everything to do with the authority of the person. Take that away and truth and judgement become fictions.

Chris gives the example

Take a simple statement, “all swans are white.” The validity (or not) of this has nothing to do with the identity of who utters it. It’s merely a statement about swans, to be tested by looking for a non-white swan.The key test of an idea is not: whose is it? It’s: does it accord with facts and reasoning?

— to which Brian Appleyard ripostes in the comments,

The question you have to ask yourself is: how do you establish that all swans are white? It is the process.

This puzzled me no end. In fact, I’m still a bit puzzled since I’m not sure I haven’t misunderstood what Mr Appleyard is trying to say in his article, but I think he’s missed the point. The obvious answer to his question is precisely that we rely on the wisdom of crowds, since I may advance the proposition that all swans are white, since I’ve never seen one that isn’t, and Chris may agree with me, since he hasn’t either, and then Brian Appleyard says, ‘Hang on a minute, there’s a black one lives on the river near me and I can take you to show it you.’ It’s not Brian Appleyard’s reputation as an ornithologist that helps us here; it’s the fact he can show us a counter-example. (more…)

April 13, 2007

Abandoned Tube Stations

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 8:37 pm

Via Devil’s Kitchen, a fascinating site, Abandoned Tube Stations, which includes not only photos — some very atmospheric — but explanations of how they came to be abandoned.

Thank you, Mr DK.

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April 12, 2007

Bloggers Code of Conduct

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 2:23 pm

Tristan Lewis provides a very helpful fisking of the whole idea, albeit with some American legal references that aren’t perhaps particularly relevant over here. Possibly also worth pointing out that the two options Tim O’Reilly offers us,


are a false dichotomy. As Linton Chiswick suggests in The First Post, most of us don’t think ‘anything goes’ and censor vast amounts of stuff anyway; if we didn’t everyone’s blogs would be awash with posts advertising Russian porn and viagra. Doesn’t mean we buy into the whole idea of a ‘civility enforced’ code, and nor does it mean we take responsibility for all comments that appear.

As so often, Mr Worstall puts it very well:

“This blog is my property and runs to my rules, changeable as they are.”

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April 9, 2007

Political blogging

Filed under: Blogroll, Politics — notsaussure @ 9:54 pm

Renewed comment on Guido and his Newsnight débâcle, from James Higham, Devil’s Kitchen, the Reactionary Snob and others, in the context of Oliver Kamm’s using it as a peg on which to hang his complaints about political blogs.

I very much incline to James’ and Longrider’s view on the matter of Guido and the use Kamm makes of him, but I’ll take the opportunity to say that Guido’s problem is that he’s essentially a humbug, and necessarily so. He strikes attitudes of a courageous libertarian publishing the stuff the despised ‘MSM’ is too frightened or too compromised by their closeness to politicians to publish, but his whole raison d’être, it seems to me, is as a conduit between politicians (or their research assistants) and the mainstream media whom he purports to despise.

Where on earth do his readers think most of his stories must come from? The same sources, by and large, as do political Diary Items in the more traditional media — gossip around Westminster bars, of course, and planted stories. Why, one might ask, would anyone want to plant a story with Guido rather than a more established outlet? Because he’ll run it; there’s no competition for space as there is for newspaper diary items, and he’s arranged his affairs so that there’s little point in suing him.

And what is the advantage of having Guido run a story? That, if you’re lucky and it’s a good enough story, it’ll be picked up by the people whose attention you were trying to attract in the first place — the mainstream political reporters, whose attention he, too, is trying to attract. And, which can be a major consideration, using him as receptacle for your leaks helps to disguise the source; back when, in a previous incarnation, I used sometimes to have to get out stories to make life uncomfortable for someone my then boss didn’t like, it was frequently pointless my just phoning one of my semi-tame journalist contacts with a good bit of gossip. That would have been an obvious tip-off that the chap for whom I worked had his knife into his victim and, while that wouldn’t get published directly, it would have been a bit of background that the man who paid my salary wouldn’t necessarily have wanted known, so sometimes I had to be circumspect. I had my methods of laundering and anonymising such motivated tittle-tattle, obviously; had Guido then been around, he’d have provided a very convenient way of doing it, but he’d have been no more than a means to an end, and I can’t imagine he actually sees his blog as anything much other than a conduit for such stories. Some of his more naive readers might, but I’m sure he doesn’t, any more than do the folks at the central offices of the various political parties who so often visit his blog — they want to see what’s in circulation and what isn’t. (more…)

March 28, 2007

Food for Thought (don’t try these at home)

Filed under: Blogroll, Food — notsaussure @ 8:12 pm

Feeling hungry? Looking to add to your culinary repertoire? Perhaps you had better not use the recipes and photographs to be found at The Gallery of Regrettable Food, an hilarious collection of truly horrid recipes, accompanied by even worse photographs, collected from cookbooks of the 40s, 50s and 60s. As J. Likleks, the anthologist, says,

They’re not really recipe books. They’re ads for food companies, with every recipe using the company’s products, often in unexpected ways. (Hot day? Kids love a frosty Bacon Milkshake!) There’s not a single edible dish in the entire collection. The pictures in the books are ghastly – the Italian dishes look like a surgeon got a sneezing fit during an operation, and the queasy casseroles look like something on which the janitor dumps sawdust. But you have to enjoy the spirit behind the books – cheerful postwar perfect housewifery is taught in every book. Sure, you’ll fall short of the ideal. But what’s an ideal for if not to show up your shortcomings?

Great stuff.
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March 16, 2007

Tagged again

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 10:31 pm

I’m gratified (I think) to have been tagged by Chris Dillow as part of this Thinking Blogger meme, which apparently has the following rules:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post [UPDATE:  the site has now moved, or is in the process of moving, to — see comments]so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote

I must confess I don’t quite understand to what the badge is supposed to link, but here it is, anyway

I’m also mortified to be reminded by this that Matt Murrell, at An Insomniac, was also kind enough to nominate me and I completely forgot either to thank him or to pass the thing on.

Oh, dear. Spoiled for choice, so I’ll avoid nominating people whom I know to have been nominated. I’m also confining it to British-based blogs. Let’s go for

The Tin Drummer
Ms Melancholy (when she gets back from her well-deserved holiday)
The Samovar
That’s So Pants
The Flying Rodent (who, if you can stop laughing at his evil humour, does get you thinking, and not only about what on earth he’s been smoking — and praying that no one ever gives you any of it).

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March 7, 2007

Is that a trick question?

Filed under: Blogroll — notsaussure @ 5:02 pm

Tom Hamilton, in let’s be sensible, has some very wise words about the folly of bloggers rushing into — err, not print; pixels?  Doesn’t sound right — into something or other with what they take to be major news stories.

He then has an update;  Paul Burgin, of Mars Hill,  apparently wants to know

how many of us, late at night, tired, probably a bit drunk, would have immediately blogged such a story sent by a friend?

Mr Hamilton’s answer is a simple one, but worth reading.

Mars Hill, of course, is the chap who recently hit on a novel solution to the problem of how a blogger can break a major news story without risking making any serious errors.

To do today

Filed under: Blogroll, Books, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 11:16 am

Via Chicken Yoghurt, three things to do today:

  • Read this, by Rachel;
  • Sign this (should you think it appropriate (and I suspect you may);
  • Pass on the two suggestions above.

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March 6, 2007

And not before time

Filed under: Blogroll, Foreigners — notsaussure @ 8:57 pm

I am delighted to learn, courtesy of The Thunderdragon, that this blog’s influence in political and diplomatic circles has yet again been demonstrated.

The Chinese have apparently now — rather belatedly — banned Mr Eugenides as part of their campaign to ‘purify the internet environment’.  The unfortunate Chinese will have to make do with Cllr Terry Kelly, who remains unbanned at the time of writing, and long may he remain so.

I hope that, though, that before this hole in the Great Firewall was plugged, the Chinese had a chance to read Mr E’s post yesterday on the Smoking ban, which is a cracker.

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