Andrew Sullivan on the toll of blogging

Andrew Sullivan has?written a TL;DR explanation of what it was that drove him from blogging.

There is much in his article that resonates with me.

I was sitting in a large meditation hall in a converted novitiate in central Massachusetts when I reached into my pocket for my iPhone. A woman in the front of the room gamely held a basket in front of her, beaming beneficently, like a priest with a collection plate. I duly surrendered my little device, only to feel a sudden pang of panic on my way back to my seat. If it hadn?t been for everyone staring at me, I might have turned around immediately and asked for it back. But I didn?t. I knew why I?d come here.

A year before, like many addicts, I had sensed a personal crash coming. For a decade and a half, I?d been a web obsessive, publishing blog posts multiple times a day, seven days a week, and ultimately corralling a team that curated the web every 20 minutes during peak hours. Each morning began with a full immersion in the stream of internet consciousness and news, jumping from site to site, tweet to tweet, breaking news story to hottest take, scanning countless images and videos, catching up with multiple memes. Throughout the day, I?d cough up an insight or an argument or a joke about what had just occurred or what was happening right now. And at times, as events took over, I?d spend weeks manically grabbing every tiny scrap of a developing story in order to fuse them into a narrative in real time. I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were caviling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects and in so public a way for so long. ? Read more »

If we lived in Russia, Len Brown and others would have me jailed

Speaking of taking our freedom for granted…

A Russian blogger has been sentenced to five years in jail for encouraging people to protest against high transport fares.

On top of the jail sentence, Vadim Tyumenstev is banned from using the internet for an additional three years.

The 35-year-old, from the Siberian region of Tomsk, angered local authorities by accusing them of incompetence and corruption in a series of online posts, the Daily Mail reports.

He had also urged people to protest a rise in local bus fares by attending an unauthorised meeting, which Tomsk’s regional court described as an attempt to overthrow authorities.

Tyumenstev’s lawyer said as public figures, it was appropriate for the local officials to receive public criticism according to Russian legislation, while the calls to participate in the rally “cannot be deemed extremist”, according to the Daily Mail. Read more »

The power of words, and the danger of a blogger

I’m just some guy, you know?

Why would what I write be anything more (or less) important than the next person? ? Yet it seems so. ?I write on my blog. ?And people just want me to go away. ?Die even.

Attackers armed with machetes killed a blogger in Bangladesh, the fourth such killing of an online critic of religious extremism in six months, prompting calls by human rights groups for a swift and thorough investigation.

Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years, while the government has tried to crack down on hardline Islamist groups seeking to make the majority-Muslim South Asian nation of 160 million people a sharia-based state.

Niloy Chatterjee, 40, who used the pen name Niloy Neel and was an advocate of secularism, was killed in his flat in the capital Dhaka, police official Mustafizur Rahman said.

We live in a world where someone having ideas and a platform to share them is dangerous enough to trigger crime, criminal conspiracy and murder. ? Read more »


Putin’s version of The Standard

Vladimir Putin has his own set of bloggers, trolls and internet warriors pushing out positive propaganda on himself and negative attacks on his enemies. His very own version of The Standard.

Now one of those hired trolls has come clean.

When Lyudmila Savchuk heard about the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov earlier this year she was shocked and saddened.

?I felt the bullets between my own shoulders,? she said, recalling how the Kremlin critic was gunned down near Moscow’s Red Square in February.

Yet within hours of Mr Nemtsov’s death, Ms Savchuk and her colleagues were going online to pour bile on the former deputy prime minister and claim he was killed by his own friends rather than by government hitmen, as many suspect.

?I was so upset that I almost gave myself away,? she said. ?But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.?

The “007” role that Ms Savchuk refers to is her own extroardinary one-woman spying mission, which appears to shed intriguing light on the propaganda machine that props up the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia?s president.

Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of “internet operators” in a secretive ?troll factory? called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia?s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin?s hometown.? Read more »


Islamic blogger gets first 50 of 1000 lashes

Some people think I’m some kind of hero. ?And sure, in the face of some events it may occasionally appear that way. ?But when you see?what this blogger went through for his freedom of expression, and what he still has to go through, unfortunately, it hardly compares.


A Saudi blogger will be publicly flogged [today]?as part of his 10-year jail term for ‘ridiculing Islamic religious figures’.

Raif Badawi, who co-founded the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison for insulting Islam on his online forum.

His corporal punishment will be carried out after … prayers, outside the Al-Juffali mosque in Jiddah, which has earned the grisly nickname ‘Chop Chop Square’ as the site of executions.

I do have to wonder what would have happened had a Labour/Green government got their hands on the Dirty Politics process. ?Would I be in jail now for acting legally, albeit against their interests? ?? Read more »


An idea and a challenge


Yesterday I posted about Josh Forman and his analysis of Martyn Martin Bradbury.

Then late last night I received and email, one with an idea and a challenge:

Hey Cam,

Thanks for running my post about Bradbury ‘The Daily Poison’?on your site today. Generated somewhere around a thousand extra hits and counting.

I have to be honest, during the Dirty Politics saga at the last election I took the media line that you were a feral dog of a man to be true.

Funnily enough, since I have taken my time to read through some of your stuff, I can see that you are actually a pretty reasonable sort of character, most of the time, much like I am, most of the time.

For me, while sensationalist stuff may be exciting, I would much rather have a contest of ideas based on policy and general national direction rather than personality fights, and to do this, the centre left needs to engage with the centre right more, instead of constantly fighting off the deluded bastards the nip at our heals from their hideout slightly to the left of Leningrad.

Long term,?I want to build my site to be the a centrist, though?slightly left force to be reckoned, that can engage in meaningful?debate with?the right, instead of focusing on the small self interested groups that make a lot of noise, but represent a tiny minority of the public.

In my view, The Standard and The Daily Blog should be and be seen to be?representatives?of the tiny minority that they actually espouse the views of.

I would be happy to work with you to build such a blog,?if doing so?meant that you actually had a decent online?adversary to?engage with on a policy level, hailing from?the left. I know it may seem like a counter intuitive suggestion, right working with left, but there isn’t enough of it in NZ and it may do us all some good.

Think about it, and get in touch if you are interested.



Josh Forman

Read more »

New Zealand not the only country to struggle with blogs as media

Russia has a bill before parliament suggesting a 10,000 audience threshold at which point a blog or other “independent” (non-traditional) news source ?automatically becomes eligible to be part of the “mass” (or main stream) media.

The Russian newspaper Izvestia quotes an unnamed parliamentary source as saying that the proposed legislation is part of suggested amendments to Russia?s Law on Mass Media. Izvestia?s source allegedly said that the figure of 10,000 daily visitors already has been fixed in draft proposals, but that it hadn?t yet been specified if this was a single-time threshold or a mean visitor index.

When a blogger registers for media accreditation, he or she will automatically have the obligation?to observe all legal norms applied to registered news media?outlets, which includes the obligation to verify information before distributing it and responsibility for the consequences caused by publications. Izvestia adds, that the bill is based legislation [on] used by Israel.

Makes sense that you can’t have a foot in both camps. ?Once you apply as “media”, you are subject to all the benefits as well as all the responsibilities.

But, this has far reaching consequences

  • Would accreditation enable independent media like?nsnbc?international to protect its sources on equal footing with ?mass? media?
  • Does accreditation imply access to press conferences, access to crime scenes, access to information that is usually reserved for ?mass? media?
  • Does accreditation protect aspiring independent media from unlawful closures of their websites under false pretenses, as it happened with?nsnbc?international at least once within one year?
  • Does this accreditation mean that?remuneration?of contributors from the ?sparse? advertising revenue and ?almost non-existent? donations would become tax deductible?
  • Does it mean that small, independent media enjoy the same protection as mass media when someone sues them for libel?
  • Would independent newspapers, like?nsnbc,?be held accountable for the material of each individual blogger and his/her material?

Oddly enough, we already follow most of the responsibilities without having any of the benefits.

And if Russsia has a 10,000 daily visitor threshold in mind for a population of around 145 million, would that mean that for countries like New Zealand the threshold is going to be proportionally lower? ?Using that figure NZ blogs would only require about 110 daily visitors to meet the mark.

At that point, just about any New Zealand blog would qualify for media accreditation.

But then again, under our laws, media isn’t about audience size. ?It is about what you do.

The law is very clear: ?publish or broadcast to the public anything of public interest that wasn’t in the public domain before.


Blog. I. Am.

Andrew Sullivan collates a few comments from bloggers about why they are what they are…entitled I blog therefore I am it provides some insights into my own thoughts.

When I started, back in 2005, I created a personality, a pseudonym, a character. I did that for a number of reasons. I knew as soon as I started people would want to know who I was, and as soon as they knew that they would hurl about accusations that even as an adult I did my fathers bidding. Intellectual pygmies still hurl that about, even though Dad is essentially retired from national politics, has almost nothing to do with the National party and is 70 years old. I’m 45, but apparently my thoughts are not my own. That of course flowed onto my National party links and somehow it is dishonourable to have friends and acquaintances in the National party but perfectly acceptable if they are Green or Labour politicians, such is the hypocrisy of my opponents.

In any case I created a character, and built a wall for the inevitable public attacks. Each time an attack got through I built my walls higher. I still do this. It takes an effort to get behind my walls, to know the real Cam rather than the online character and personality that is Whaleoil. And?Whaleoil the online character is not Cam the person…people confuse that, only very few know Cam the person and they are true friends. My walls remain high because letting people behind the walls lets people hurt me…and they have.

I have been morphing that though over time, as you read, and learn and develop so must you change…astute observers will have noticed that I comment and write now as Cam Slater not as Whaleoil. Not because I don’t like the brand, just that it is in constant transition. Still the haters and wreckers out there trawl through every utterance of the last 8 years and try to slam things in my face that I have said before. As I have stated repeatedly I can’t hide from my past and I leave it there as a reminder of it. Ever since I have been blogging I have tried to be an open book, not shying from my opinions, hey, at least I have opinions and am not some beige, middle of the road, fence sitting nancy.

I blog and write because I enjoy it. the day I stop enjoying it is the day that I will think about stopping. Right now I have much bigger plans ?to extend what I have learned and to not stop at being number one…there are no challengers out there anymore so I must be my own challenger…rather be the best that there ever was and ever will be in what I do.

Have a read though of some other blogger’s thought…they encapsulate my own. Here is Will Wilkinson:

Every time I?ve been hacked and had to take the blog offline, it felt a little like an amputation. A blog is a sort of history of one?s mind, like a diary or a journal, but it?s public and that makes a huge difference. I think the public existence of my blog stabilizes my sense of self. The idea that the self is an ?illusion? tends to be grounded on the false assumption that if the self is anything at all, it must be a stable inward personal quiddity available to introspection. But of course there is no such thing. The Zen masters are right. There is nothing?in?there, and the deeper you look the less you find. The self is more like a URL. It?s an address in a web of obligation and social expectation. According to my my idiosyncratic adaptionist just-so story, a self is an app of the organism ?designed? to play iterated cooperative games, and we desire a sense of stable identity because a stable identity keeps us in therepeated games that pay. (Also those that don?t. The self can be a trap.) Expectation, reputation, obligation?these are what make the self coalesce, and the more locked in those expectation and obligations become, the more solid the self feels. There?s nothing wrong with blogging for money, but the terms of social exchange are queered a little by the cash nexus. A personal blog, a blog that is really your own, and not a channel of the The Daily Beast or?Forbes?or?The Washington Post?or what have you, is an iterated game with the purity of non-commercial social intercourse. The difference between hanging out and getting paid to hang out. Anyway, in old-school blogging, you put things out there, broadcast bits of your mind. You just give it away and in return maybe you get some attention, which is nice, and some gratitude, which is even nicer. The real return, though, is in the conclusions people draw about you based on what you have said, about what what you have said says about you, about what it means relative to what you used to say. People form expectations about you. They start to imagine a character of you, start to write a little story about you. Some of this is validating, some is irritating, and some is downright hateful. In any case it all contributes to self-definition, helps the blogger locate and comprehend himself as a node in the social world. We all lost something when the first-gen blogs and bloggers got bought up. Or, at any rate, those bloggers lost something. I?m proud of us all, but there?s also something ruinous about our success, such as it is.? Read more »

Right you lot, time for some navel gazing

A Whaleoil reader, we’ll call Paul, writes

I am a Subscriber to your Blog, and as such I appreciate your?comments, fact finding and your opinions.

The whole issue is well put together and informative and sometimes fun?to read.

However, increasingly I find that I am offended by the silly comments?and messages left by some of the readers….most of whom seem to have?personal opinions, but are often expressed in an offensive and?childish manner.

I really feel that they detract from your publication.

Have you ever thought about “reining them in a little” as it were? ? Read more »

Want to be a better Whaleoil commenter next year?

Then consider taking this easy 3-book course:

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