Tag Archives: blogging

CBC #37 worldwide for blog media links

Technorati, the service that monitors blogs and tells them whether they’re cool or not, has released a list of the 50 media websites bloggers link to the most. (Via TechCrunch)

YouTube, unsurprisingly, tops the list, followed by the New York Times, BBC and CNN.

The only Canadian media outlet on the list is CBC.ca, coming in at #37. This is unsurprising since CBC has been investing in its Internet sites longer than the private media, and it has national television, radio and Internet sites to fuel its news-gathering operation. Plus it has dozens of RSS feeds sorted by topic, an iPhone version of its website (and separate mobile version), it’s got Twitter, and it has a news ticker people can add to their blogs.

I also like the fact that news stories (which are all open to comments) use Technorati to link to blogs that link back to those stories, which drives (some) traffic to those blogs and makes them (slightly) more likely to link to CBC than another website with the same story.

If other Canadian online news outlets want to match that, they should start copying some of those features.

Nobody wants to read 1,000 comments

Patrick Lagacé brought up a point about comments on blogs, and how he’s not entirely sure what good they do him. Being a popular blog, it gets a lot of trolls and other pointless and unhelpful commentary. Comments easily reach into the dozens, sometimes hundreds.

That was also the subject of an interview Pat did on CIBL with Michel Dumais (Mario Asselin has the details) in which Pat totally name-drops me (near the end of the audio clip):

Dumais: … Vous êtes très fréquenté, vous générez beaucoup de commentaires. Mais ça serait pas intéressant pour vous peut-être de commencer à fréquenter aussi des autres blogues et à laisser des commentaires? …

Lagacé: Oui, j’essai de faire un peu. En fait le seul blogue ou je le fait, j’estime que c’est le meilleur blogue de couverture médiatique à Montréal, c’est le blogue de Steve Faguaiylle … Faguy… son blogue c’est Fagstein — qui couvre les médias montréalais, surtout anglo, mais un peu québecois… francophone aussi. C’est le seul ou je vais. Les autres, je sais pas. Un peu de manque de temps, un peu de manque d’intérêt.

(If my blog were a movie, that quote would go at the top of the poster.)

Although the number of comments on Pat’s blog causes a bit of professional jealousy on my part (second only to hair jealousy), it’s very rare that I’ll read the comments attached to one of his posts. Not so much because of the trolling (though it is apparent), but because there’s just so darn many of them. I don’t have time to read all the posts on blogs I’m subscribed to as it is. I certainly don’t have time to read 50 comments attached to each post, especially when they don’t have anything interesting to add.

And then there’s situations when the number of comments simply gets out of hand. The decapitation-on-a-bus story I talked about earlier now has 1,700 comments, most of which are repetitive. Has anyone read them all?

One easy solution is to stop approving troll comments. We set minimum limits (usually legal ones) for the types of comments we approve in moderation, but why set the barrier so low? Why not set them to the same level as we do letters to the editor? Just because there is space for more doesn’t mean we should bury any truly interesting comments in a pile of useless junk.

But even then, the number of comments can still be unbearable in very popular blogs or news stories or anywhere else one might have an attached discussion forum. When that happens, it’s time to start removing comments that aren’t really interesting (comments that simply agree, disagree, approve, disapprove, or otherwise give a comment without explaining it or adding anything new, as well as those that repeat things already said by others).

The standard response to that is: That’s censorship. It’s not though, it’s moderation. Nobody’s stopping you from posting your useless comments about my blog post on your blog or on some other forum somewhere. When I disapprove a comment it’s because I find it of no use to my readership.

But some still think that’s too far. So is there another method to get these runaway comments under control?

Well, Slashdot answered that question years ago with its comment system. The website, whose format looks very similar to blogs even though it predates them, has a threaded comment system, so comments can be traced back to their parents and sorted according to thread. This level of organization (and the ability to turn it on or off as needed) helps a big deal when dealing with a large number of comments.

More importantly, though, Slashdot has a peer moderation system that allows users to rate each others’ comments. Positive reviews increase a comment’s rating, and negative reviews decrease it. The result is that each comment is assigned a numerical rating (from -1 to +5), and readers can filter comments based on that rating. Set it to zero to get rid of just the trolls. Set it to +5 to get only the dozen or so truly exceptional or interesting or useful comments you need.

I’m surprised that every large-scale blogging system ever made hasn’t copied this system in some way. Instead, you see unthreaded comments with no rating system. The only judgment made is whether they meet the minimum requirements for posting, and that’s not good enough when our attention is so limited.

My blog, though it gets quite a few comments, doesn’t get near enough to start implementing stricter screening or peer moderation, but if I had 500 comments a day, I would certainly seriously consider it.

TWIM: Blogging for dollars

This week, I talk about a local blogger, Stephen David Wark, who is participating in a Blogathon today (9am Saturday to 9am Sunday) to raise money for the Autism Clinic at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He’s already started blogging, and will continue to post every half hour until 9am tomorrow. (And you better bet he blogged about the article). So show him (and the children) some love.

UPDATE: The article has apparently gotten people interested and donating, and he’s already raised more money than last year. I’ll go ahead and take credit for that.

Another blogger war with the Evil MSM

Associated Press, a wire service I have grown to miss ever since my newspaper’s owner cut it off, has gotten into a kerfuffle with bloggers that’s making headlines everywhere.

The issue, simply put, is over how much bloggers can excerpt from an article before the quoting becomes reproducing. It’s an issue a lot of content producers struggle with because there are no hard-and-fast rules for fair use of other people’s content.

The problem, in this case, is that AP went too far, demanding excerpts as short as 35 words be deleted. That’s about two sentences, and just about any reasonable person would judge that to be an excerpt rather than a reproduction of an AP article (unless that article itself was only 35 words, and even then it would be debatable). From a web form that the AP has been using, it seems even five words from them would be considered infringing if not paid for.

Now AP is meeting with some self-appointed blogging representatives to hammer out some guidelines for bloggers. This is a good idea, but it cannot be used to restrict rights already given under fair use law. It can only provide additional rights of reproduction, and make suggestions to stay out of trouble.

But as much as I think AP’s position is silly in all this, the response from blogs like TechCrunch is ridiculous. A complete ban on referencing AP stories? A boycott? Please. Not only does this give AP exactly what it wants, does anyone seriously expect that a wide range of bloggers is going to not talk about a story just because AP broke it?

UPDATE: I have to admit, this is pretty funny.

Over the top

Being a journalist makes you a quick enemy of a lot of people who take things very personally. They’ll take something you say as evidence of a personal bias against them, and start taking a fine-toothed comb to everything you write, pointing out every mistake and interpreting everything you say in the most negative way possible.

Political journalism is the worst. People take the most minute things in politics very seriously. I got a good taste of that in university covering the Concordia Student Union. National politics is worse because there’s a much larger audience, because it’s professional (people get paid big bucks to be politicians), and because people think that it’s really important.

So you can imagine what happened to The Gazette’s Elizabeth Thompson (an otherwise straight-faced reporter whose copy I have mercilessly slashed to bits lovingly edited with care many times) when she made a few good-natured but insensitively snarky jokes at the expense of the prime minister’s director of communications, Sandra Buckler, who’s having surgery as part of cancer treatment.

Though there was no malice intended, making fun of someone who is being treated for cancer is a bit lacking in taste, the kind of insensitivity I’ve shown myself on many an occasion when I post before I think.

Reading the comments attached to the post, however, you’d think she started cheering for her to die:

  • I’ve called the Managing Editor to bring it to his attention, and will be contacting CanWest advertisers to let them know I will be actively boycotting their products.
  • Liz Thompson of the Montréal Gazette whose lack of common decency and narcissism has lead the Parliament Hill reporter to refuse to take the high road and apologize for her vile blog in which she defamed the Director of Communications of the Prime Minister
  • That is about the worst thing I have ever read.

There are also other (Conservative) blogs that have picked up on the issue and gone so far as to call the paper’s managing editor to express their outrage (another reason I do not covet his job).

To her credit, Thompson apologized to Buckler, and has left (most of) the comments attached to the post, many of which are a bit less hot-headed about her crossing the line.

In the end, hopefully everyone has learned that behind all the politics and professionalism, everyone is human.

UPDATE: Thompson follows up with a heartfelt, honest mea culpa, explaining the lessons she’s learned.

Do bloggers have to fit the stereotype to be accepted?

In October, blogger Mario Asselin asked his readers to evaluate what makes a good journalist blog. He was researching an article that has just been published in Le Trente about Quebec’s journalist-bloggers. In it, he concludes there are only two who fit the proper definition: TVA’s Dominic Arpin (ironic since he’s since stopped blogging) and freelancer Nicolas Langelier.

Now, I’m not upset that he didn’t include yours truly in his über exclusive list (especially now since Michel Leblanc has my back). I’m used to being left out of the Quebec blogosphere as an anglophone (mostly because there’s an assumption that “Quebec” and “francophone Canadian” are one and the same). What bothers me more is the criteria used to distinguish a good blogger from a bad one.

It’s something I see a lot of. Because “blog” doesn’t have a very clear definition other than “website with entries displayed in reverse-chronological order,” people are making up their own definitions, putting additional restrictions on the term.

Among the restrictions Asselin and his readers seem poised to apply:

  1. Must have comments enabled for each post (and respond to those comments)
  2. Must be personal and talk about personal, behind-the-scenes issues
  3. Must produce original content (instead of aggregating the content of others)
  4. Must comment on other people’s blogs and otherwise have a presence outside their blog, like going to YULblog meetings
  5. Must update at regular intervals (at least one post a week)
  6. Must write about other bloggers (and especially competing bloggers)

Though all of these things sound great, are they all absolutely required in order to produce a good blog?

The Kate McDonnell’s Montreal City Weblog doesn’t have comments. Craig Silverman’s Regret the Error doesn’t discuss personal issues. Pierre-Léon Lalonde’s Un Taxi La Nuit has sometimes gone weeks without updates. The Gazette’s Habs Inside/Out is mostly aggregation of other people’s content (including that of The Gazette), and Stony Curtis is almost entirely just reposting stuff he’s found online.

Are these not blogs? Are their authors not bloggers?

Where do you draw the line between a “real” blogger and “fake” one?

How to piss off a blogger 101

  1. Setup a website that purports to be some sort of independent news source.
  2. Take a blog post and put it on your website without asking permission. At the end of the post, include a plea for money.
  3. When the blogger you just stole from err, politely requests that the post be taken down, respond by replacing his byline with your own, removing the link to the blog in question and keeping the plagiarized content pretending it’s your own.

There you go folks. Getting on my shit list in three easy steps.

So to be clear: “The Canadian National Newspaper”, a.k.a. AgoraCosmopolitan.com knowingly plagiarizes content.

UPDATE (Dec. 1): It goes without saying that I’m not the only one they’ve ripped off.

Free speech isn’t a right on blogs, it’s a privilege

There’s a minor crisis happening in the Quebec blogosphere over Richard Martineau’s blog. He and Canoe are being sued for $200,000 over allegedly libelous comments made by visitors to his blog about lawyer Susan Corriveau.

The concern is over what impact that might have on comment policies at mainstream media sites. Traditional media (especially local empires in Quebec) are still trying to figure out what to do with this whole Internet thing, and are entirely clueless about the implications of user-generated content. They think forcing users to click a button that says “I agree not to post libel” is enough to protect them from liability.

Coincidentally, an earlier post this week by La Presse star blogger Patrick Lagacé mentions that he’s asking for tougher moderation of user comments to get rid of the junk and even cap the length of some discussions.

Ironically, both Martineau’s blog and Lagacé’s blog require user registration before people can make comments. This stands in contrast to websites like The Gazette’s which removed the login requirement to encourage more comments. (Then again, even The Gazette is starting to move back — their only popular blog, Habs Inside/Out, has changed its policy to require moderation of anonymous comments.)

As any forum gets more popular, it starts to see problems it couldn’t predict. Spam is the first to show up, in the form of junk sent by computer to advertise some money-making venture. That can be solved by installing a spam filter, requiring registration or manually moderating comments (or a combination of these).

But then comes the problem of real people posting unwanted things. Libel, flame wars, factual mistakes, personal attacks, trolling, copyrighted works, personal information, pornographic images, off-topic comments, the list goes on. The worst ones will get deleted outright. Border cases might get a polite warning from the blogger or moderator.

For some reason, there’s the implication that the goal is to have unedited, unrestricted, free communication in the comments section of blog posts. This innocent-until-proven-guilty mentality means that a lot of useless, mean or uninteresting comments get attached to blogs, comments that are of no use to anyone and are a waste of time and space.

Little by little, big bloggers are starting to restrict that freedom and filter out the noise.


I moderate comments on this blog. I don’t require user registration (because I know how annoying it is), and I tend to let most non-spam through. But nobody but me has the right to say what is published here. I have deleted plenty of personal attacks, unhelpful garbage, trolling comments and other junk that doesn’t belong here, and I will continue to do so. At the end of the day, I’m responsible for all the content published here, and it’s my ass in the courtroom if anything crosses the line.

I welcome criticism (in fact, some of my best comments are those who reject my entire hypothesis and ridicule my interpretation of the facts), but you have to show your work. Comments like “you suck” and “you’re gay” have no place here or on any other blog.

Influential bloggers all look the same

North x East (never heard of them either) has a list of their 50 most influential bloggers in the world. Building these top 50 lists is easy, so we see a lot of it. They’re also heavily subjective. This post, like many others in this category, doesn’t give any criteria for who is selects to its list, so I guess we can just assume they pulled the Technorati Top 50.

That said, it does give an insight into what’s considered an influential blog these days. And looking at the list, a lot of their subjects seem to repeat themselves. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Twelve on the list run technology blogs (web development, electronics, software etc.)
  • Seven run or are heavily involved with celebrity gossip blogs
  • Six run political blogs
  • Five bloggers run blogs that specialize in search engine optimization or search engine marketing
  • Five run marketing, media or social networking analysis blogs
  • Four run or are involved with “life hacking” or personal development blogs.
  • Three make money writing blogs about how to make money writing blogs

That’s 42. Leaving only 8 outside of these six categories. And of them, four aren’t known for their association with one particular blog, but for running blog networks or blog services.

That leaves four bloggers — Heather Armstrong (Dooce) Jason Kottke, Matthew Haughey (MetaFilter) and Mark Fraudenfelder (BoingBoing) who are there because they run general-interest or personal blogs that have gained a huge following.

Are these the only categories of blogs that can be considered influential in this world? Or is it because big-time blogging is still so new that it’s confined to these technology-related and niche subject areas?