Behind the Seams has been an innovative project blogging the issues around Coal Seam Gas and the Queensland election. I’ve contributed some text, but the real work has been done by Mark Bahnisch, Pandora Karavan and a few others. They’ve incurred some pretty substantial expenses travelling to areas where farmers are dealing with CSG and spending unpaid time. There’s a final chance to contribute to the costs of the project here.
Blogs have played a significant role in expanding access to public debate on all sorts of issues. But, by the nature of blogging, the contributions have tended to be spasmodic, depending on the time, interest and access to relevant information of individual bloggers. A group of us, kicked off by Mark Bahnisch and others at Larvatus Prodeo, and with hosting from Crikey, have started a project to provide information and a forum for discussion about Coal Seam Gas in the context of the Queensland election, where it’s likely to be a hot issue.
You can get more info, and donate to support the project, here
To try and avoid scatter, I’m not allowing comments on this post. Ideally, wait for the site to go up at Crikey. I’ll foreshadow, though, that I don’t support a position of blanket opposition to CSG, which is likely to be something of a minority view in this context.
Every year, Club Troppo econoblogger Nicholas Gruen organizes a group subscription to Crikey. If you’re interested, check it out here
Because of writing and travel commitments, I’ll be blogging less frequently for the next few months. I’ll try to put up some open threads – please keep discussion on these threads civil and friendly, so that I don’t have to intervene in their management.
I’ve seen this kind of article many times but is it correct? I’d say that I’ve generated several million words in papers, newspaper articles, blog posts and so on since I got my first Mac in 1984 (a bit over 100kw/yr for 25+ years, for something like 3 million), and also attracted maybe 10 million more in blog comments (over 100k of non-spam comments. Of that, I’ve lost
* a fair bit of material I produced before 1990, when hard disk space was v expensive, and stuff had to be stored in various external disk formats. Sadly that includes my first econ theory book and a book of satirical songs I turned out in the 198s0
* The first year or so of comments on my blog in the now-obsolete Haloscan system.
* The blog has also suffered a lot of linkrot, including internal links to its older incarnations
* A lot of my older text is in formats that can now only be read by extracting a text-only format, and some old stuff (eg pre .qif financial records) is in formats that are no longer readable in any way. But again, that’s mostly a problem with pre-1990 stuff.
Compared to my slightly obsessive desire to preserve every revision of every piece I’ve ever written, those are substantial losses. But compared to my paper records, my digital stuff is almost perfectly complete, not to mention instantly accessible and searchable.
I’ve been very gratified by the number of my fellow economists who’ve come to my defence following the attack on me in the Oz. Among the first was Joshua Gans at Core Economics. I wrote to thank him, but haven’t got around to a public mention. Now that I am around to it, it’s a good opportunity to mention that Core Economics is a great blog, where quite a few of Australia’s leading economists (aka my mates) hang out. Go and read some of the posts.
fn1.* With notably rare exceptions * (I’m (ab)using this blogmeme ironically), any members of the profession who agreed with the hit have kept pretty quiet about it
I’m taking a break until after Easter. I hope that, by the time of my return, the performance problems that have been affecting the blog will have been resolved. In the meantime, best wishes to everyone for a happy and safe holiday.
I’ve finally decided to move this blog from its current hosting service (who inherited me from a smaller service they took over) to Jacques Chester’s Ozblogistan which is home to many of the leading Oz political-economic blogs these days. The first attempt at the weekend didn’t go so well, taking the blog offline for a while. But I’m hopeful we’ll manage the transition and that service will be greatly improved in the long run.
I recently banned commenter “Charlie” for the suggestion that Queenslanders deserved to suffer from the floods because we didn’t build enough dams. Immediately, a new commenter “Henry Maltby” sprang to Charlie’s defence claiming, among other things to be a recent arrival in Queensland, considering study at UQ. The behavior patterns were suspicious enough for me to do an IP check that revealed, unsurprisingly, that Charlie and Maltby were the same person, with an address in Adelaide (I have my suspicions, as to who it is, but nothing definite). For any site-owners who don’t like abusive sockpuppeteers, the IP address to look for is 188.8.131.52.
Any sockpuppeteer is, by definition, a liar and fraud. But Charlie/Maltby also told numerous specific lies, and explicitly pretended to be two different people (rather than merely reappearing under a new name). And, as well as being a liar and fraud, s/he/it’s obviously a fool – too dumb even to spoof a fake IP address.
Update While Charlie/Maltby has been trolling here, Tim Curtin has been emailing me in an apparently civil fashion, and he sent me another email shortly after this was posted, admitting to it. It was, in any case, a very simple matter to check that he is using the same IP address as the sock puppets.
Hi everyone, The blog has been down for a few days due to a server failure, but that’s fixed now. I’m currently on the road, so posting will be light for a while.
Anyone who’s spent time in the blogosphere has seen it happen, and most of us have been on the wrong side of it once or twice. A blogger or commenter says something silly, gets called on it and doubles down. Before long, they are engaged in meta-disputes about who said what about whom. As the flame war escalates, all sense of proportion is lost, and innocent remarks produce threats of litigation. Somewhere along the way, Godwin’s Law comes into play. If the process runs its full course, the blog in question is taken down (but of course the Internet never forgets), or the commenter identity is abandoned, leading to suspicions of sockpuppetry when someone with similar style and opinions turns up.
Of course, most of us stop before it gets that far. The wisest and most gracious recognise error, thank those who set them straight and may even emerge with an enhanced reputation. Those of us not quite as sensible stump off in a huff before making complete fools of ourselves.
But some go all the way. That’s sad for a blogger, but disastrous in the case of a national newspaper.
Update It appears that the problem may have been related to the server, and fixed by some emergency maintenance at Joyent. If anyone is still experiencing errors or slow loading, please advise me (assuming you have enough access to read this). Conversely, I’d appreciate confirmation in comments from readers for whom the problems have been fixed.
Problems with access to the blog have re-emerged. I will post via http://johnquiggin.posterous.com until they are resolved. Posts should propagate here in due course, but readers may prefer to visit the posterous blog.
My last post responding to Paul Howes led me to this piece by him in the Daily Telegraph, denouncing anonymous Internet commenters for their unfair attacks on politicians, with specific reference to Joe Tripodi. I don’t want to spend too much time on Tripodi, but my non-anonymous view is that he is a prime representative of the type of cronyism that has ruined the NSW government, and also of the culture of impunity which has led so many members of that government to sail close to (or over) the edge on matters of personal and financial propriety. Moreover, his political views aren’t noticeably different from those of, say, Peter Costello. Howes’ observation that
Tripodi is a nice and fiercely intelligent man, in real life. He loves his family and he loves public policy. He’s been described by another paper as ‘the smartest man’ in NSW politics
doesn’t (for the relevant values of “nice”) contradict this assessment in any way. Tripodi’s resignation is welcome and would have been more so a year ago, when it might at least have saved Labor from a landslide.
Coming to the notion that anonymous comments on blogs and Twitter are making life impossible for politicians, I have a couple of thoughts
First, what’s mostly happening is that things that would have once been said at the pub, and heard only by those present are now out in cyberspace, easily detectable by Google. Some of that stuff is nastier than most people are used to hearing, or seeing in print, about themselves. That’s part of life for bloggers as well as politicians. On the other hand, politicians have long used, and on occasion abused, the privilege of saying what they like about anyone in Parliament.
Second, as regards anonymity, I’d be more impressed by these complaints if journalists and politicians hadn’t long since developed their own self-serving culture of anonymity. I don’t know anything specific about Joe Tripodi’s media contacts, but he’d be an unusual politician if he’d never gone on background to bag out his political opponents or (very likely) his Labor colleagues. This kind of cowardly dirt-dishing, which forms the basis of much political journalism is the opposite of the principled, and personally risky, whistleblowing that journalists like to invoke when they defend their own use of anonymous sources.
See also: Andrew Elder on Howes and a similar whine from Leigh Sales.
I just got an automated message from my hosting service saying my bandwidth limit had been exceeded. I’m not sure what this means, but it’s possible the blog will go off air without warning. In the meantime, please don’t download any big files, and use the RSS feed if you want to check the site regularly. I will see if I can get the comments feed working again.
If the site goes down, I’ll post directly to Posterous
As I’ve mentioned a few times, the Oz is extremely sensitive to blogospheric criticism. In response, its typical MO has been an unsigned editorial, or a piece by a ‘staff writer’, in which unnamed and unlinked (but easily identifiable) bloggers are castigated for their sins. Typically, the piece ends with a flourish of bravado, in which the brave, though anonymous, editorialist, backed only by the multi-billion dollar resources of News Corporation, pledges to carry on in defiance of the powerful, but unnamed, bloggers arrayed against it.
The script has been reversed, however, in the case of Grog’s Gamut, a pseudonymous political blog which made some useful contributions during the election campaign. Apparently acting under the misconception that public servants aren’t allowed to engage in political activity, Oz journalist James Massola took on himself to out the blogger concerned. He works in the film section of what was the Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts, which suggests that the potential for political activity to compromise his public service role is, shall we say, limited.
There are still some decent journalists working for the Oz, but the paper itself is a sad joke. On the other hand, as Steve Hind observes, the downmarket spiral of the Age and SMH (at least in their online versions) means that there is not much competition.
I’m about to close down comments for the duration. Anyone who would like to continue discussions is welcome to start up a blog or maybe some sort of social media site – email me and I will link to it.
I’ve been meaning to give some recommendations for alternative blog reading. Apart from the big group blogs (like Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo and Crooked Timber) you can find interesting reading from some of the smaller ones like David Horton, Tim Lambert and Gary Sauer-Thompson, or just stroll random through the blogroll.
I’ll be doing occasional posts here and there possibly including Crooked Timber, Crikey, The Drum and The Daily Bludge (http://dailybludge.com.au).
See you all in September.
With various commitments, I’ve been finding increasingly difficult to post to the blog, moderate the comments section and so on. Unfortunately, my commitments are only going to increase over the next few months, so I’ve decided to take a three-month hiatus, until early September. According to my current plans, I should have plenty of free time to return, refreshed and ready for more by then. No doubt things will turn up to derail those plans, but hopefully I will still be less busy than I am now.
Possum at Pollytics reports that Andrew Leigh, economist and blogger has won Labor preselection for the seat of Fraser. A great choice by the preselectors.
I’ve just edited several comments from sockpuppets ‘Julia’ and ‘Colin’ posting Liberal Party talking points. Both posted using IP 184.108.40.206, then ‘Julia’ switched to another one, also in the range 114.78.2x.xxx. Spurious email addresses [email protected] and [email protected] Anothe commenter advises ‘Julia’ has been seen at LP.
If anyone can out these pests, I’ll happily publicise the results.
I did a couple of interviews earlier this week on South Australian legislation banning anonymous blog comment on the forthcoming election. The same idea came up at the Commonwealth level after the last election and I testified against it at the Parliamentary inquiry – they decided not to go ahead. This time around, the result has been the same. Facing a storm of protest, the SA government has backed down.
For me the big change that came with the last decade was blogging. I started in 2002, and it’s been a big part of my life (sometimes too big) ever since. So, when it came to review the decade, the obvious place to look was the Wayback Machine, which captured my old blogspot blog on 27 July 2002. Looking at the blog as it was then, two things jump out at me
* Looking at the blogroll, I feel like the last of the Mohicans. The bloggers of those days have nearly all retired, and almost no-one runs a solo blog like this one anymore.
* I’m singing the same song now as I was all those years ago. The top post on the page is about how the financial crisis has discredited the efficient markets hypothesis, trickle down economics, privatisation and so on. Of course that was the dotcom financial crisis of 2000-01. I think a few more people are paying attention this time around, but we will have to wait and see.
The blog has been patchy for some time, and down altogether for several days. I’ve installed the WP Supercache plug in on the advice of my hosting service. I’d appreciate any feedback (+ve or -ve) on whether people are still having problems getting to the page and any suggestions from WordPress experts on other possible measurs.
I’ve started doing occasional posts for a new venture, Asian Correspondent. You can find me here. Only occasional, so RSS is probably the way to go.
Another “Internets makes you stupid story” from the Brisbane Courier-Mail (irony detector overload alert !!).
The original source is something called the Levitt Institute and the Courier-Mail story is a pretty fair summary of the Levitt Institute report, which is here (PDF). I’ll leave the deconstruction as an exercise for readers, with a bonus mark for the question “Which basic concept of classical hypothesis testing is ignored in this study of ‘ability to detect erroneous information'”
Update xxx ????? sex ????? ?? ??????? Sucked in! It turns out the whole thing is in fact a hoax by Andrew Denton’s new show.. Sad to say, with the irony detector already blown, it’s hard to tell the difference between genuine and fake stupid. ??????? ?????????
Here’s my piece from the Fin on Thursday
Gov 2.0* is an interesting exercise in trying to use new communications technology (Web 2.0) to promote the public good. Blogger and economist Nicholas Gruen is running the show (or playing a big role anyway) and is looking for tenders on a variety of issues. Take a look.
* To anticipate the standard joke, I’ll be waiting until the 2.1 release.
A combination of work, travel and my book commitment means that blogging here will be light for the next few months. I plan to post excerpts from the book in progress, and I’ll try to put up open threads from time to time.
BLOGS attack newspapers all the time. It’s rarer for a broadsheet to launch into an ezine.
I’ve had an increase in disruptive troll comments here and at Crooked Timber, and have now discovered that a large number of them appear to be from someone who has posted here and elsewhere in the past as “John/Jack Greenfield”. I discovered it when “Greenfield” put up a comment at Catallaxy identical to one posted by a trollish commenter here posting as “S. Haines”. I challenged Haines on the point and he/she/it promptly disappeared. An IP check has now revealed numerous similar trolls several of whom had already been banned. The list includes:
IP numbers vary, but all begin with 203.171.192 or 203.171.195. If any of the above want to dispute their sock puppet status, they are welcome to email me. Bloggers who don’t wish to encourage trolls, sockpuppets and other such lowlifes are welcome to contact me for further details, and are urged to ban “Greenfield” and associated socks.