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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The curse of the taxpayer-funded blogroach

For years, a certain type of person wrote letters to national newspapers and was frustrated that none would be published. Letter Editors would refer to their submissions as ‘nutter letters’, pinning some to the office noticeboard for the amusement of their colleagues.

Now these letter writers have moved into the age of the blogosphere. They are blogroaches now, but not ordinary ones. They are a type of superbug – the taxpayer-funded blogroach. They have nothing to do all day, except to collect jobseeker’s allowance or, more likely, incapacity benefit (which the government encourages them onto to massage the unemployment figures).

Not having got out much recently, they have lost many of their social skills, and seem less able to interact with others with courtesy and respect. For this reason alone, workfare has a lot going for it.

In having nothing to do all day, they inhabit other people’s blogs writing tediously long essays which tangentially refer to a blog’s point. They write 500 to 1000 words each time, and often get shirty if a proper response is not made by the blog’s author. Fortunately, Samizdata combines big readership with a high level of reader participation, meaning that its writers can sit back and let Paul Coulam beat up such annoying people. These blogroaches do not understand how to make their points graciously, normally regarding the blogs they infest as evil, and depositing their words of ‘wisdom’ on each and every article.

The taxpayer-funded blogroach assumes that everyone has as much time as they do for blogging, and should take their views seriously, and publish proper responses to them – or retract what they have said. In reality, bloggers on popular blogs tend to have real jobs and thus a fraction of the time to write for a blog. Spending hours responding to unemployed blogroaches seems pretty tiresome.

Some blogs solve this problem by just not allowing comments. Others delete blogroaches on sight. But the taxpayer-funded blogroach considers this to be restricting his right to free speech. Newspapers were wrong not to publish his letters and so are blogs. Apparently.

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33 comments to The curse of the taxpayer-funded blogroach

  • Spot on, Alex. We get a fair share of blogroaches but our collective efforts seem to either scare them off or put them in their place. Or get banned.

    The social skills argument applies with full force to most of internet communication. Although I would point out that blogging actually enable for a many-dimensional interaction that isn’t possible using other formats such as forums and message boards.

    The hype about social software and networking is missing the point, it’s not Friendster or Orkut or some such, but blogs and blogosphere that add social aspect to online interactions.

  • Do you also count old age pensioners as being “tax payer funded” ?

  • ilana

    I am really upset by the way many blogs are cutting off comments because of the nuisance element. One thing that occurred to me, I am not a blogger so I don’t know if this is technically feasible, but can you not limit the length of comments? People who have more than a few lines of comment should get their own blog.

  • Uncle Bill

    ilana —

    Some comment systems offer the ability to limit the length of a single comment but even they do not help prevent ‘serial’ comments, i.e., part 1, part 1, etc.

    Since AI (Artifical Inteligence) is still an abject failure after at least 50 years of expending vast sums of money, there seems to be little chance to automate blog roach squashing.

    What is needed is human eyes. A brain helps as well. The problem is that the individual with the eyes and brains to deal with these jerks has much better things to do.

    Unfortunately there is no downside to being a troll or blogroach. If one hole gets plugged up, they just find another one. If crappy comments don’t shut the blog down, they’ll use email. As SDB and other bloggers have discovered, it just gets bloody dispiriting.

  • Julian Taylor

    Maybe Samizdata should introduce a system that prevents people posting to Samizdata during normal working hours, utilizing a clever general knowledge system to diagnose the age of the commentator and thus sparing pensioners from being labelled as ‘tax-funded blogroaches’.

    We could call it “BillyGoat v1.0” although Mac users would have to have “iBillyGoat v1.0, of course.

  • snide

    Do you also count old age pensioners as being “tax payer funded” ?

    Only if they are taxpayer funded.

  • ernest young

    Do holders of academic sinecures, either student or professorial, rate as being ‘ taxpayer funded’? So many of the more verbose and pompous commenters seem to have .org, or university extensions in their URLs.

  • Tedd McHenry

    I have two suggestions for dealing with blogroaches.

    I expect that ignoring them is the best approach. Surely, if nobody rises to their bait, they’ll get bored or frustrated and go elsewhere. Of course, since anyone can reply to a blogroach’s post, this isn’t something the people who run a blog can directly control. But a general attitude of ignoring blogroaches would surely help.

    I also think it might be a good idea to have comments in a two column format. By default, a comment would appear in the left column (sorry if I’m being culturally insensitive), but whoever runs the blog could move a comment to the right column if it failed to meet whatever standard they thought was required. This is how bloggers could deal with posts that were obscene, belligerent, insanely stupid, or whatever. It would also provide a clear signal to other posters that a particular post should probably be ignored. And it would negate any charges of censorship. (It wouldn’t, of course, stop such charges from being made. But it would destroy their credibility.)

  • John Ellis

    Just a quick thought: I imagine tax-payer funded blogroaches particularly incense many of the people here…but what about the Trustafarians and other indolent idlers with more leisure time that sense?

    It strikes me that the “roachiness” is the issue, not how hard the roach works for his money or the organisation from whom he earns it…

    Why not have a 200-word limit, and disallow serial postings from the same IP/username within, say, 5 minutes?

  • Verity

    Ted McHenry – In addition, there’s always someone, not necessarily a habitue of the blog, who starts answering the roach’s arguments at length, to which the roach responds at length and an entire thread which may have contained some interesting thought is deflected and rendered void. Anyone remember the voracious, late, unlamented Kodiak?

  • Jim

    What a shame that the definition of block-worthy ‘blogroaches’ Alex applies at the Adam Smith Insitute blog seems to include those who have the temerity to point out the errors of the ASI’s contributors.

  • ernest young

    To compare the ‘comments’, to ‘Letters to the Editor’, is not a strictly accurate comparison, after all, the Editor always has the last say as to whether the letter was published or not. Likewise, comparing Blogs with newspapers is not entirely valid. The reader of a newspaper makes a conscious decision to read a newspaper when he makes the initial purchase, not so with Blogs, they exist as a vanity of the owner. How many Blogs would survive if they were by subscription only?

    The problem of ‘roaches’, or whatever else you care to call them, is a problem of the internet, or any other freely available forum, not just blogs. If I remember correctly it was the ‘crazies’ that put paid to CB radio, infesting the airwaves with stupidity and crudity. The same goes for most ‘chat rooms’.

    That most blogs like to ‘preach to the choir’ may make life easy for the owner(s), but really makes for very insipid reading if there is no argumenative element. To disable comments makes a blog boring in the extreme, bit like beef, without the mustard. After all, who cares what some individual, – blog owner or no, in Backwater, Hants. or wherever, has to say – and they are just as likely to be some unemployed social misfit as the much criticised commenter in the posting.

    Blogs are a vanity, while else would anyone have one? It cannot be for the income….if a blogowner doesn’t have the time to do a decent ‘editor’ job, or to even read the comments, then close it…

    Comments make a blog what it is, they build on the initial post – and amusement is usually had by all, it should be a two-way experience. That owners tend to the argument that, “I’m paying for the bandwidth, this is my space, behave, or else’, is more than a bit patronising, don’t the readers pay for their bandwidth when they go ‘on-line’?
    Collectively, the readers here probably pay far more for the privilege of reading Samizdata, than the proprietors pay for hosting and posting it.

    If it is such a chore, and is only done out a spirit of ‘public spiritedness’, why does anyone wish to have a blog? I have often wondered why people do it, could it be from some misplaced feeling of superiority?

    p.s. Good point Jim, I have noticed the same tendency.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Verity:

    Kodiak wasn’t unlamented. I found him good for a laugh since he was always so far off the mark.

    Now, Scott Cattanach and Charles Copeland I’ll say good riddance to. 🙂

  • MTFO

    It would be wise to remember that a blog is a privately owned website. As such, the concept of censorship is inapplicable. As for those that complain of “censorship” because of the blogger’s refusal to post long-winded inanities or pointlessly adversarial/belligerent comments: Fuck ’em. They’re not paying for the bandwidth and the ones that DO naturally have the final say as to the content of their site.

    Blogs like this are PRIVATE PROPERTY. If you wouldn’t tolerate certain behavior in your own home then you don’t have to tolerate it on your site. Let ’em whine.

  • John Samuels

    Jim: on your blog you say you had a comment censored in which you accused the ASI bloggers of being “idiots”, and then you wonder why they “censor” you. Maybe if you abused people a little less, you would make more friends.

  • Of course it is up to the owner how to run a blog. That goes without saying.

    But that said, I thought Catanach, Kodiak, Copeland et al livened things up no end and that it was a shame they were banned (if they were). Without diversity amongst commentators, blogs risk becoming stale. I can understand banning for foul language, abuse and threats. But I don’t recall any of these three being guilty on that score.

  • I think the ASI’s comment policy is being misrepresented. Some of the very best comments we’ve had have disagreed with us. Indeed, one of my all-time favourite comments was actually in disagreement. It was in response to blog about ‘wi-fi without the state,’ in which the Leader of Westminster City Council disagreed, adding interesting information and explaining why they were installing wi-fi. It contributed something useful to the debate. Blogroaches do not.

  • ernest young

    MTFO,

    If you want to play in the game, you have to share the ball….after all, what is the point of having a ball and no-one to play with?

    One way to raise a little revenue would be to have a ‘swear box’ for all you ‘potty mouth genius’s’….

  • Jim

    John Samuels, thanks for the advice. I didn’t use the term ‘idiot’ lightly – I was responding to what I felt was a genuinely idiotic thing Eamonn Butler had said about a lawyer who wanted to defend Saddam being “French, of course”. I strongly felt that was xenophobic and, yes, idiotic.

    But I can understand why some people would reasonably not want that kind of language used on their blog. What I cannot understand, however, is why the ASI would be so keen to block perfectly civil but dissenting comments, especially when they claim to welcome open discussion.

    MTFO, this is why I find the ASI censorship annoying – because they say one thing and do the other. Bloggers are indeed entitled to their own comments system if any, but supposedly public discussion shouldn’t be so seriously and secretly constrained.

  • Richard

    Maybe I’ve missed some big event on the samizdata site which has prompted this post, but I’m normally more than impressed at the quality and civility of the comments at Samizdata.

    Nowadays, of course, there are large numbers of people dependent upon state subsidy in one form or another and this extends beyond those on jobseekers allowance or incapacity benefit. I reckon that postgraduate students comprise many of the contributors to blogs. Anyway, look at the rich cultural contributions made by these sorts of people in music, art and so on. Naturally there’s a lot of trash but occasionally there may be a spark of brilliance by these lengthy, sit at home posters. Who knows what benefits may eventually arise.

  • John Samuels

    “Comments will not appear immediately as they are moderated.” – ASI blog, showing that it’s not an open forum

    “…this is why I find the ASI censorship annoying – because they say one thing and do the other. Bloggers are indeed entitled to their own comments system if any, but supposedly public discussion shouldn’t be so seriously and secretly constrained.” – Jim

  • Jim

    You’re not actually answering the point, which is that nowhere do they say that theirs is not a forum for discussion but a forum for agreement only. On another site Alex Singleton has defended their comments policy with the line “We have a moderation system *not* to stop people from people disagreeing with us, but so that we don’t publish libel or comments that are just needlessly offensive … If you want to disagree with us, that’s fine”. Actually, it’s not fine, which makes them hypocrites. Considering their stated aim of influencing public political debate, that’s worth highlighting.

  • Actually, it’s not fine, which makes them hypocrites. Considering their stated aim of influencing public political debate, that’s worth highlighting.

    I suggest you look up what hypocrite actually means before using words you clearly do not understand. They openly state that they moderate comments and so when they, well, moderate comments, they are carrying out their stated policy. To be a hypocrite means saying one thing but doing another.

    Moreover, how is their stated aim of influencing public debate not achieved by screening out blogroaches? I have seen many civil and reasoned dissenting views expressed in the ASI comments, so I suspect what is being filtered are comments not worth providing a platform for because they are noise not signal.

    We have certainly become more aggressive in culling off-topic, excessively uncivil or idiotic comments here because we feel no need to indulge people who are simply being perverse or unconstructive. Unlike the Adam Smith Institute we do not feel the need to pre-publish moderate but that has more to do with the fact we see ourselves as having a somewhat different role in the overall scheme of things rather that an real disagreement with the ASI on the idea of preventing the sort of idiotic culture that pervades most forums and chat rooms.

  • Julius: Catanach, Kodiak, Copeland were all indeed given the heave-ho. In all three cases those particular folks were booted for being endlessly repetetive and refusing to actually respond to conversation. Copeland also was relentlessly off-topic with a talent for introducing the subject of racial intelligence into almost any topic. This became very tiresome.

    Yes, all three could be interesting for very different reasons but all three’s obsessive style of discourse does tend to wear out any welcome eventually.

  • Jim

    To be a hypocrite means saying one thing but doing another

    And as I’ve already pointed out, this is exactly what they do. They say: “If you want to disagree with us, that’s fine”. They do: “If you want to disagree with us, we’ll probably block your comments”. If they stated that as their policy, I would have no complaints whatsoever.

    Oh, there’s some dissenting comments on there, but I’ve had civil, reasoned, and high signal-to-noise comments blocked without explanation, with the only apparent reason being that they directly contradict what the ASI contributor has said.

  • David Stanton

    They moderate comments. They SAY the moderate comments. Other people’s comments disagreeing with them do NOT get deleted. I gotta conclude they nixed your comments because either you were not making sense (even if YOU thought you were) or we acting like a jerk (even if YOU thought you weren’t) or maybe you just started sounding like a broken record that will.not.move.on.

    Or all three.

  • Jim

    You might have a point, if it wasn’t just me saying it and if they didn’t also delete Trackback links they find disagreeable. But yes, I’m sure we all have more important things to worry about.

  • Julian Camembert

    Why shouldn’t they delete trackback comments from people blogroaches? It appears to only be two or three people who don’t get on with the ASI blog.

  • One thing I’ll add about taxpayer funded blogroaches… they’ll write a lengthy comment to a particular post, then ignore everyone else’s counterpoints and respond by posting exactly the same points again further down in the comments section. When they start doing it for the third and fourth time, just reproducing the same points in different language on the same post, completely ignoring what everyone else has said, it just hijacks the conversation and becomes very boring.

  • It appears to only be two or three people who don’t get on with the ASI blog.

    You mean on the basis of the 2-3 negative comments that they show? I think you might have a slight methodological flaw there… 😉

    I think different ASI mods may have very different standards – they’ll always post my agreeing comments, but disagreeing comments will either vanish or appear on a seemingly random basis.

  • ian

    I’ve obviously really annoyed them then because even when I agree with them my post is blocked!

  • if you are a blogroach who loved the sight of his own words, ian, why the hell should they not kick your ass off their blog? Maybe u did annoy them but i kinda doubt they really think about you a whole hell of a lot.

    and john b, i run a group blog too and we leave moderation to who ever wrote the article, so that might be the case for them too. or maybe they just dont figure your stuff is worth it. dunno.