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The sandpit

September 10th, 2010

I’ve been dissatisfied with the way comments threads have been going for a while, in particular because I feel that they rapidly become dialogues (or competing monologues) involving a small group of regulars. That discourages new commenters from joining in. So, I’m establishing this sandpit post, as a venue for any lengthy discussions that arise, particularly if they are off the original topic. The comments policy regarding civil discussion still applies, but I’ll try to be reasonably lighthanded.

So, my request is that commenters avoid lengthy interchanges on the main comments threads, and take these to the sandpit, where they can debate to their heart’s content. I’ll issue requests along these lines, if necessary, but I’d rather not. I may also impose, or reimpose one comment/thread/day limits on individual commenters to keep things under control.

With that said, fire away

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  1. iain
    September 10th, 2010 at 13:37 | #1

    I think the way comments are managed within the blogosphere is a ubiquitous general problem.

    The usual sequential method of comments appearing in chronological linear order is not conducive to productive and deliberative discussion.

    I’ve always thought that clicking on the “view comments” button should bring up some sort of “comments cloud” within which core or productive or worthy comments are highlighted and tangential comments appear as smaller spin offs.

    or something like that.

  2. Michael
    September 10th, 2010 at 13:46 | #2

    Get a blog.

  3. Emma
    September 10th, 2010 at 14:43 | #3

    Is that like “Get a room”? I’ve sometimes thought that’s what some of the debating regulars needed ;-) Now we can say, “Get a sandpit, guys!”.

  4. September 10th, 2010 at 14:50 | #4

    Some forum-like sites have tried various methods of a similar nature, Iain, though I haven’t seen anything like your idea (which does sound nice, though I don’t know how you’d code it). For example, sometimes you can ‘vote’ for or ‘like’ comments, and at some sites down-voted comments fade to grey, eventually disappearing if sufficiently disliked. It’s one way to deal with trolls. Reddit has a ‘best-of’ feature that lists the most up-voted comments and their following threads.

    There’s also the threads-within-threads idea, where responses to an original comment are indented, and responses to them indented again, ad infinitum (and therefore more easily ignored). Now that I think about it, it should be trivial to write a WordPress module that automatically shunts threads-within-threads over a certain limit to a sandpit area.

    Blog comment threads, IMO, should tread a balanced path between being on-topic and letting conversation flow to where people want to go. If someone has an on-topic response whose central argument relies on a false premise, it would be incredibly restrictive to disallow repudiations of that premise. But then the discussion turns into an argument about competing premises, which I’m sure is where a lot of the Professor’s frustration originates.

    I should know – I’m one of those trouble-makers ;-) I’ll certainly try to make this sandpit idea work.

  5. Russell W
    September 10th, 2010 at 16:08 | #5

    I’d agree that feuding commentators,particularly those who write thousand-word OT essays are discouraging, and extremely annoying, to occasional visitors like me.

  6. Alice
    September 10th, 2010 at 20:53 | #6

    @Jarrah
    Im one of the delinquents too. Im with Jarrah – Ill try to make sandpit idea work too!

  7. Alice
    September 10th, 2010 at 20:56 | #7

    But my link does contradict yr post on Woolies % ebit Jarrah – read through those ebit percentages you gave again – then compare to my link…

  8. September 10th, 2010 at 21:13 | #8

    I didn’t give EBIT for both – I gave net for Woolies, EBIT for Coles.

    Woolies made ~$2 billion net off ~$51.7 billion sales. What percentage do you think it should be?

    And Coles, with an EBIT of 3.2%, would have an even LOWER profit margin. Does this look like monopolist profits to you?

    See what fun we can have with numbers instead of hyperbole ;-)

  9. Alice
    September 10th, 2010 at 22:03 | #9

    @Jarrah
    Well 2 bill net profit off 51.7 bill revenue is 3.86 % net profit. However Jarrah – you should be very leery of profit figures – its a moveable world – accounting figures these dayys. We all know what Meredith Hellicar was able to do with the James Hardie compensation fund (basically hive off its assets to a foreign country, retain only the liabailities to asbestos victims and then claim it was broke). This is not unusual. Pfizer has also done the same thing.
    Fortunately the courts gave Meredith a huge thumb (not a nice one) when she then wanted to then claim tax deductions for payouts from the fund.

    Your comments gloss over the surface Jarrah and you simply cannot trust the net profit figures or ebit as “prima facie”evidence. There is lots not to trust about profit figures in the modern world we live in. Pease look at the real accounts (ie profit and loss and details). Neither you nor I are privy to the full details even though they publish their accounts.

    In particular look at financing costs for Woolworths (lin inside my link). Although item 3(b) is listed against financing costs which are quite substantial in terms of their effect on profits – there is no explanation for item 3(b) apart from “property development activities”. There is also I note “intercompany loans” of a subtantial amount repaid from the year ended 2009 to 2010. This would have the effect of reducing current year profits.

    Nothing surprises me Jarrah about Woolworths published profit numbers.

  10. September 11th, 2010 at 01:01 | #10

    I don’t have the the time to read CT as much as I would like, but the site and the comments represent to me the best of academia. Informed, clearly written, and without the pretense of dispassion. Sometimes it’s a fine thing to admire – and not necessarily join in.

  11. September 11th, 2010 at 09:44 | #11

    @Alice
    OK, I can understand your concern about accounting tricks. I don’t think they could hide very much, though. If I were being very generous to your thesis, at a guess they could be hiding a couple of billion. That is, that they actually made $4 billion, for a margin of approx 8%. That would be a huge trick, but I suppose it’s possible.

    So, 8%. Is that “obscene” levels of profit?

    For comparison, here are some numbers from big companies, some of which have dominating market power. The 5-year average net profit margin for Microsoft is 28.1%. For Google, 24.7%. For General Electric, 11.3%. Exxon Mobil, 9.5%. For Walmart, 3.6%, which is the same as Toyota.

    You get the idea, but this last one is interesting – the average over the whole S&P500 over five years is 11.2%.

    What I’m trying to say is, maybe the eeeevil supermarket giants aren’t actually squeezing producers and consumers as much as you’d like to think.

  12. Alice
    September 11th, 2010 at 10:52 | #12

    @Jarrah
    Jarrah
    I do suspect they are squeezing but I admit you would have to go through their accounts with a fine tooth comb and the patience of job to work out exactly how and I havent got the time and you would be most unlikely to be able to get the full picture from an annual report – generally intercompany loans can be one (just one) suspect area.

    I just checked their annual report for 2009 and their EBIT to sales is 5.77% for their supermarket group.
    However it has increased every year since 2005 (thats all the comparison on one downloaded view) when it was 4.16%. Their hotel interests EBITS are higher and rising faster from 12.7 to 19.6% over same period (05 to 09) but that component (hotels) generates much less revenue relative to the supermarket group. In fact their EBIT has consistently risen in all revenue groups except consumer electronics.
    I note they paid more out in dividends than they paid in tax in 2009 – I can see why share investors see Woolworths as a darling.
    (I nearly did the pollie speak thing but I caught myself JIT).

  13. el gordo
    September 11th, 2010 at 21:01 | #13

    I hang out at a blog where the host has gone ‘walkabout’ and kindly left a singular thread for the lads to play.

    There’s half a dozen regulars and the only reason it’s still active is because we have a dialectic, two warmists, three sceptics and a singular member of the Denialati.

    It’s fairly robust.

  14. September 11th, 2010 at 21:08 | #14

    @el gordo
    Can I play? What’s the blog?

  15. jquiggin
    September 11th, 2010 at 21:30 | #15

    I think I know, but I haven’t looked there for a while.

  16. Alice
    September 11th, 2010 at 21:42 | #16

    @Jarrah
    Jarrah – I think Im going to have to go to ALS or CAT to fetch Terje back..

  17. paul walter
    September 12th, 2010 at 04:57 | #17

    Alice#16 – must you?

  18. September 12th, 2010 at 13:23 | #18

    This is more sin-bin than sand-pit. Someone please get me out of here!

  19. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 12th, 2010 at 15:11 | #19

    Jack, is it true that Radio Userland was hosted and supervised by the Central Intelligence Agency?

  20. Alice
    September 12th, 2010 at 16:21 | #20

    @Jack Strocchi
    You and your Strocchiverse (which like the universe has no known limits) definitely belong with us here in the sin bin!

    Dear Paul Walter ….I dont think it was so much the restriction that sent Terje P back to ALS but the strange “tee hee” sound that emanated from your lips. I know you as a man of honour – you fetch Terje P and if you dont come back Ill assume you have been captured by Yobbo who is, as we speak, no doubt plotting with Terje to liberate themselves and have the likes of you and I incarcerated permanently.

  21. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 12th, 2010 at 17:15 | #21

    Don’t be like that Alice for Jack may be attending mass at St Joseph’s Church.

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