Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Grow Up, Ireland

Tim Ireland, that is. Could that man possibly get any more pathetic in his vindictiveness against Iain Dale?

Well, possibly. But I hope not. Ireland's latest hissy-fit, regarding the inclusion of his blog Bloggerheads in the Top 100 Left-of-Centre Blogs, takes the biscuit. He really seems to think that the British blogosphere is his; things ought to work according to his rules.

It's only the latest in his string of swipes at right-wing bloggers he is engaged in a seemingly interminable 'blog-war' with. I'm sure once upon a time there was a point, but from where I'm standing that has long since been lost amid the pettiness.


Usually I and others let it pass without comment, perhaps at least in part in an attempt to avoid giving his stunts more attention than they deserve.

This time, however, I am of the opinion he has gone too far for that. Because, believe it or not, Tim has threatened to call in the lawyers on Dale:

"Yes, but you know my views on people compelling someone to use a lawyer when all that's required is a reasonable level of courtesy and cooperation. I may go there if I have no choice" - Tim Ireland*
Over, remember, the inclusion of his blog in a list of top blogs. Utterly ridiculous.


Here is the correct answer to Tim's laughable complaint, provided by one of the commenters at Iain Dale's Diary:
I don't understand all this "I don't want to take part" malarkey.

Utter bally tosh. Your blogs are in the public domain so they can get commented on and voted for without your consent or approval.

Do the bloggers in question ask the subjects of their ire whether or not they "want to take part"? Would they give a blind tinker's cuss either way?


* It's the second comment on the linked post - you can't link directly to comments on Bloggerheads.

-> Note that there are no references to any form of mental illness whatsoever in this post. Not that complaints about same aren't a little odd coming from someone who blogs using the handle 'Manic'.

29 comments:

Iain Dale said...

Well said!

Tim said...

I did not bring up lawyers, and I did not threaten to use one, but thanks for your input.

JuliaM said...

Let me get this straight - he's throwing all his toys out of the pram because people voted for his blog whhen he didn't want to take part in the competition? Really...? That's it..?

Sheesh...

Tim said...

That's not the case at all, JuliaM. I asked to be excluded from the poll.

Iain has no control over who votes for me regardless of this, but he always had the power to treat me as he would treat any other blog that needed to be excluded for any reason.

JuliaM said...

The point being, as the commenter quoted said, you have no choice: your blog is in the public domain - you can no more request that Iain remove it from the poll that Tom Clancy can say 'Err, actually, I don't want my latest opus to be included in Nuts Magazine's poll of '10 Books For Swingin' Dicks', can you...?

You can ask all you want, you have no right to demand. The Internet doesn't belong to you. Much though you may wish it otherwise...

A better, wiser, man would simply have laughed it off or ignored it.

Tim said...

I asked to be excluded. Dale himself described my action as a boycott and he must know what that word means.

At any stage, Iain could have replied by agreeing to my exclusion or saying this wasn't possible. He didn't do this.

Instead, he decided to make the effort and do something that he knew would put me at a disadvantage and not tell me about it until it was too late to do anything sensible about it. It would have been fairier and easier just to discount/ignore any votes for me and leave me out of it.

And now I'm here with you in my face waving your facism tag again and wanting to know why I'm making something of it and - absurdly - suggesting that I'm upset with the people who voted.

QT said...

Huh? I didn't say 'facist' (or even 'fascist'), and I didn't suggest that you were upset with the people that voted.

Nor, as far as I can see, did JuliaM, unless she did so somewhere else, in which case could you please provide a link for the mystified?

As for your first comment, @tim, I think my readers can take a look at the comment of yours that I quoted and make their own minds up.

JuliaM said...

"...he decided to make the effort and do something that he knew would put me at a disadvantage..."

That 'disadvantage' being what, exactly...?

Your supposed 'impartiality' or some idea that you aren't a left of centre blog?

Oh, please! That ship has sailed, honey.

Tim said...

That comment was directed to JuliaM and she knows that she does this. Most recent example here.

But thanks for at least linking to the source of my comment so people can make up their own minds by reading my words in context.

I did not bring up lawyers, and I did not threaten to use one. I even expressed a great reluctance to use one when asked.

JuliaM: I had told my readers that I would not be participating and that I did not want to be associated with the poll at all. While the scale may different, the principle is the same; what Iain did was leave a name on a ballot (i.e. in his TP directory) when he knew that party was boycotting the poll. I did not want to take part, but Iain essentially forced me to take part knowing that I would be getting zero-to-no votes because of my stance, and he did not tell me about it until it was too late. I hope this answers your question.

JuliaM said...

"That comment was directed to JuliaM and she knows that she does this. Most recent example here."

Did you mean to link to something that proved your point? If so: FAIL!

"I had told my readers that I would not be participating and that I did not want to be associated with the poll at all."

You've more than one...?

"I did not want to take part, but Iain essentially forced me to take part knowing that I would be getting zero-to-no votes..."

You don't seem to be grasping the fact that your agreement to it wasn't required.

And you didn't, as it transpired, get 'zero-to-no votes'. Enough people voted for you to put you 33rd! (God only knows why....).

Tim said...

Fail? How so? That's an excellent example of you not just misrepresenting but falsely stating my position and making me out to be authoritarian.

I did not want to participate in the poll. The very least Iain could have done is tell me that he wasn't going to let me (or, if you prefer, that he didn't have to let me).

Mark Wadsworth said...

This is all very fascinating, but I think I'll wait and see what Dirty European Socialist has to say on the matter.

Either Tim Ireland is a child-molesting Commie or Iain Dale is neo-fascist baby-eater.

Once I've seen DES's opinion I'll have another think.

JuliaM said...

"That's an excellent example of you not just misrepresenting but falsely stating my position and making me out to be authoritarian."

Well, I guess anyone who reads it can decide, can't they..?

"The very least Iain could have done is tell me that he wasn't going to let me"

Oh, 'blog ettiquette', again? That's pretty pathetic for a grown man to get worked up over, isn't it?

"I think I'll wait and see what Dirty European Socialist has to say on the matter."

Lol! :)

Cheesey Monkey said...

Now, I don't know how this voting malarkey works as regards this poll, so please inform me, but thus standing on the outside leads me to this question:

Could a participant vote for any blog s/he liked, regardless of it being listed in Total Politics' directory?

If so, then Tim should not have any complaint (correct me if I'm wrong), but if the voting was restricted to directory-listed blogs, then he has every right to be aggrieved, having asked to be removed from consideration.

Tim said...

Ta for noting. BTW, it was my continued inclusion in Dale's directory that made me suspect he was going to ignore my wishes. I asked to be withdrawn from the lot, including the directory.

FFS, you'd think Iain would be glad of a chance to airbrush me out of blogging history.

Cheesy Monkey said...

The problem with such polls as the Total Politics one is how fundamentally honest they are - i.e. are the results truly representative of the "most popular"? If Iain Dale cannot show how the voting worked for this poll and how the results related to the voting, then the poll is simply worthless, even if everything was above board. No wonder a minority of bloggers did not want to be associated with this, as there was no information to show that the poll was open to abuse - not necessarily by Dale, I should add.

An example. Say, for the purposes of this poll I created 500 email accounts under different names and used all these identities to vote for a) Question That 500 times; or b) Bloggerheads 500 times. Unless this fraud was caught (e.g. by checking against the IP addresses of all votes - my 500 theoretical votes would register under a suspiciously small range) and my voted disqualified, then the poll is null and void because I have made either a) or b) seem more popular (perhaps even greatly so) than either actually are.

In short:

If a) and b) were both allowed, then the voting process is systematically flawed.

If a) was allowed and b) was refused, then the entire poll would be fraudulent.

(If a) was refused and b) allowed, that would be bizarre, given Dale's and Tim Ireland's recent history.)

But if a) and b) were both discounted, then the poll results would be considered genuine.

So, all Iain Dale has to do is prove that the voting process was not flawed by design or by implementation. Then this particular spat would be cleared up and more importantly, more blogs would participate next year and Total Politics reputation would be enhanced.

Iain Dale said...

Cheesy Monkey, believe me, there is no voting system that I could suggest that would satisfy Tim Ireland. He would always believe the worst of me, even if I got the Electoral Reform Society to run it, probably.

I took every possible precaution I could to ensure fairness. There were several attempts to skew the voting, but I caught them. At least I hope I did!

There will never be a perfect system for any poll and I have never pretended there can be. All I could do was encourage as wide a range of participation as possible. In the event I am aware of only three or four blogs who urged an outright boycott. Their effect was minimal in the extreme. I'm not pretending the exercise was wholly representative, but it was more representative than last year, with double the number of people voting and 79 blogs actively promoting the poll.

Tim said...

"Cheesy Monkey, believe me, there is no voting system that I could suggest that would satisfy Tim Ireland."

1. If you believe that, why not take the opportunity to simply leave me out of it as requested?

2. Pfft! Like you've never been caught cheating in a way that masssively overstates your 'popularity'.

Cheesy Monkey said...

"I took every possible precaution I could to ensure fairness. There were several attempts to skew the voting, but I caught them. At least I hope I did! [...] There will never be a perfect system for any poll and I have never pretended there can be."

I'm reminded of advise teachers used to give to me before exams many years ago: show your workings for extra marks. An internet poll may not be completely immune from being abused one way or another - in fact it may be harder to verify than most other kinds. Given this, surely it would make sense to be open about how the polling system used worked and how fraudulent behaviour, if any, was dealt with.

Iain, I'll do you a deal: if you post in detail about the ins and outs of the polling and alay my concerns, I'll buy Total Politics for a whole year, credit crunch or no credit crunch: they're selling it in my local WHSmith's now...

Iain Dale said...

As already explained on the original post for the poll, people had to rank their favourite sites from 1-10. The top site got 10 points, and so on down to 1, a la the Eurovision song contest. These were then fed into an Excel spreadsheet. If people voted for fewer than 10 blogs their votes were discounted. People were asked to use the Total Politics directory as a reference, but if they voted for a blog which wasn't already in the directory it was immediately added.

There was no evidence of anyone trying to purposely rig the poll. However, several bloggers did post their own top tens on their blogs, which led to some of their readers voting for those en bloc, sometimes at the behest of the bloggers and sometimes not. If there was evidence that this was a concerted campaign then I took action - but from memory this only happened three times.

Tim said...

"There was no evidence of anyone trying to purposely rig the poll. However, several bloggers did post their own top tens on their blogs, which led to some of their readers voting for those en bloc, sometimes at the behest of the bloggers and sometimes not."

How interesting that you would note this as a skewing factor and not mention the elephant in the room; the fact that voting took place at the website of a blogger who is in the habit of regularly assuring readers that Nadine Dorries is an excellent blogger, Donal Blaney is a fabulous writer, and Grant Shapps' password is '1234'.... oh, and that you should avoid this blogger or that blogger or even whole sections of the blogosphere because certain people just aren't worth reading.

This was a key point that Sunny Hundal tried to raise, but instead of addressing it, you chose to skim over it ("all blogs are partisan!") and later dismiss or misrepresent it.

QT initially answered with "You can vote by e-mail if you don’t want to visit Iain Dale’s blog" which also missed the point by a country mile.

1. Anyone who thinks high placement in this poll doesn't carry some level of influence and/or won't be waved about for this purpose is being a little bit naive. There is power at stake here, despite Iain's assurances that it's all 'just a bit of fun'.

2. Iain has since claimed that my objection is rooted in jealousy; that I am angry that I didn't think of this polling stunt first. He somehow fails to appreciate that some of us with an interest in politics do not think it is right or proper for someone who is a candidate in a poll (or has any other vested interest) to conduct the poll himself.

QT said...

We've gone right back full circle to where this whole fuss started, haven't we?

My POV is that there is no evidence that Iain skewed the results. Looking at the charts, they look 'about right' to me, with blogs that are clearly more popular than any others (like it or not Tim and Cheesy) in the top 5.

There are some oddities in the left-of-centre blogs chart. Tom Harris MP perhaps got to #1 despite only having been running since March because his blog was at the centre of a notable controversy which attracted a lot of attention shortly before the voting opened. Other blogs' positions may have been affected by their 'boycotting' of the poll. I removed Liberal Conspiracy from my top 10 due to Sunny's outburst. However as I said in my original post if you think you have a right to demand that your blog be excluded from the charts you are very much mistaken.

Finally, there isn't real power at stake here. There's maybe a few bragging rights, that's it. Tim, once again, you are taking this far, far too seriously.

Cheesy Monkey said...

Iain - thanks for your reply. As votes could be cast for any blog, that clears up the question poised in my first comment above.

As regards the spotting and elimination of abuse of the vote (is there an online equivalent of the phrase "ballot stuffing"?), I appreciate that you took steps to deal with this, but herein lie more questions:

1) Were you alone responsible for the administration of the poll and the calculation of the results, or were other people involved as well?

2) If other people were involved, who were they? What were their political orientation, if any?

3) Was there any independent oversight into the voting process and/or the determination of the results?

Now, if this were merely a private poll run by you for the use of your blog alone, I wouldn't be asking the above questions as that would be overkill. I ask, however, because these "most popular" political blogs are not only being published under the banner of an apparently non-partisan political magazine, but are also being monetised in book form. As such, the whole voting process must be shown to be wholly above board, as people (including, presumably, you) stand to gain if this book sells. Surely, it is in your personal and your magazine's interest to prove this poll's veracity in order to counter any accusation of bias and ulterior motives.

Another result of this vote may be that the top-listed blogs could see increased traffic. Some of those blogs, I notice, carry advertising - so it could be said that these blogs had good reason to place highly. Again, if the poll could be proved to be genuine, this would not be concern. Same point holds for any highly-placed blogger receiving greater media attention (a guest on a news or current affairs show, a column in a newspaper). I would want to know if they got those opportunities fairly and squarely.

I suppose what it comes down to is verification - all criticism (of what there was) of this year's "top UK political blogs" would have been silenced if you had an independent "auditor" overseeing the process. I'm not suggesting some expensive firm for this (!), just another blogger who would be trusted by all sides to be fair and non-partisan. Unity springs to mind, but there are many others that would fit the bill, I'm sure.

Believe it or not, I personally doubt there was any foul play with this poll! Some may differ, but with verification of process and results, no-one should have any doubts whatsoever. Maybe an idea for next year, then?

Iain Dale said...

So many questions! Are you TI in disguise? :).

I have explained the methodology exhaustively both on the blog, here and in the book and I am not going to go through it all again.

It is quite simple. I drew up the poll and the rules. I also compiled the spreadsheet. I have absolutely no interest in skewing the result, but there will always be people who believe I do who have their own agendas. I could have Mother Teresa herself overseeing it and TI would still see a conspiracy, so I have to recognise that at times I just cannot win.

I have nothing to gain financially from this at all. We are giving the book away at the conferences and sales of the book will be minimal. It washes its face commercially due to the APCO sponsorship.

I will bear your points in mind if we repeat the exercise next year. The poll has become a much bigger exercise anyway, and it may need to be done differently anyway. Apart from the usual suspects I don't seriously believe anyone thinks it has been anything other but as fair as it could be, but no system is perfect and I am happy to look at alternative ways of doing it next year. Indeed, plans are already afoot in that direction.

dizzy said...

Ooo it really kicked off here. I have nothing to say but to quote two comments from the epic because they make me giigle like a schoolgirl.

Tim Ireland
Is the smiley there so you can cast the seed of doubt and also poo-poo any suggestion that you're paranoid?

Tim Ireland said
I take this seriously, because Iain took it seriously enough to mess about with his ACPO-sponsored device just so he could mess with me.

QT said...

Tim, you're clearly putting a lot of time and effort into this. What exactly are you trying to achieve? Isn't there something more constructive you could be doing?

Tim said...

What, like circle from a distance and chant "Fight! Fight! Fight!"...?

You and Iain (ahem) appeared to be confused about what I had done and why, so I took the time to clear a few things up for you. It was obviously important enough for you to blog about and plug in the round-up (you found your own website! well done!) and it's important enough to Iain that he takes his 'just for fun' poll to every party conference personally so I fail to see why I shouldn't take the time to explain who might have their head in the sand and why.

Now, you can be a good host and respond to my points (or simply stand by and enable the conversation while Iain does), or you can have a few cheap digs, take us off the point(s) and/or misrepresent my position further.

What's it to be?

QT said...

Oh for goodness' sake, you are a pompous one, aren't you? If you look up "self-important" in the dictionary you'll find a picture of Tim Ireland next to the definition.

If you want to use my blog comments thread as your wrestling ring, you're just going to have to put up with my snarky comments. If you don't want to read any more of same, you can take your 'epics' elsewhere.

Tim said...

Hm. So it's arrogant to expect basic courtesy these days. My bad.

So long as we're clear that all you have to contribute is snarky comments, then fine, continue as before.

"If you want to use my blog comments thread as your wrestling ring"

Beg pardon? I could have sworn that a post dedicated to misrepresenting my position was an open invitation to comment.

Are you accusing me of going off-topic?