Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blogospheric tactics for beginners

LESSON 7 : Trolls, Clones and Innocent passers-by

Having mastered the first 6 lessons, you should by now be finding your feet, and applying some of those techniques you have recently acquired.

And what is the main point we have stressed repeatedly ?

Yes, it's that PASSIVITY is always perceived as a sign of weakness.

In the Brave New World of the blogosphere, the only thing that counts is ASSERTIVENESS, allied ideally to total TRANSPARENCY.

But sometimes, as we have said, there is no choice but to go over, if not quite to the Dark Side, at least into shady territory.

Today's Lesson, Number 7 in the series, takes the form of a case history, and it's drawn from a recent MSM duel.

It was a Telegraph blog, in which Shane Richmond invited readers to meet him on his own ground (now there's one adventurous soul ! ) . Sadly, that fine gesture on his part brought out both the best and worst in the small blogging community that logs on to his site.

There were 16 comments in all. The entire thread is reproduced below ( I trust that's OK with you Shane: I didn't consider it necessary, or prudent, to consult, maybe for obvious reasons).

Here's what you have to do:

1. Identify the troll
2. Identify the target
3. Identify the clones. How many are there ?

"Hold on a minute", I hear you say." Who or what are "clones" ? Have I missed something ? I don't recall hearing "clones" mentioned before on this course. "

Correct, dear student, but common sense should tell you what that term "clone" refers to in the present context.

Why do you think clones were deployed in this thread. In other words, what was their intended role, and was their intended purpose achieved ?

What are your feelings about the ethics of (a) the trolling (b) the cloning ?

Comments invited, but regrettably by emails only ( a defence against those trolls ....)

Here then are the comments posted to Shane's post:

Look forward to meeting you
Nice one, Shane. I must hand it to you folk at the Telly - when it comes to the human touch you are streets ahead of the competition.I went to a similar hospitality "do" quite recently at the headquarters of Nice Matin, on the outskirts of (not surprsingly) Nice. That was most interesting - I've been meaning to post my video, complete with noisy soundtrack, but with my own modest blog in semi-hibernation mode, I have not got round to doing so yet.Have just this minute booked my flights - in on the 12th, back the next day. I look forward to meeting you and your splendid team. PLEASE don't change your mind .....Colin Berry (Antibes, France) at 14 Mar 2007 15:39

Look forward to meeting you (ii)
I'm definitely up for this.I would have been suggesting it myself 'ere long.
Sally Crawford at 14 Mar 2007 17:05

Look forward to meeting you (iia)
PS: art, art music and art literature would be my choice of blog topic/blogger; I get enough politics with my day job.
Sally Crawford at 14 Mar 2007 17:44

fly them in
At present this looks like being a pretty select party. However, if Daniel Hannan were there to kick-off proceedings and wind us all up with a brief Euro-homily, Catherine Elsworth and Bryony Gordon to bring a bit of chat and charm, Mick Cleary to buy those drinks he's been promising, and Toby Howse to generally raise the tone, I'd be delighted to accept.
Roger Goodacre at 15 Mar 2007 10:08

I wish I could fly them in!
Hi Roger,It won't be all that select - most people are emailing me their response, rather than leaving them in the comments. So far 15 people have said they'll come and eight Telegraph bloggers have confirmed that they will be there.I'll try to get Mr Hannan along - however he's in Brussels most of the time. Likewise Catherine Elsworth - I don't think the foreign desk will take too kindly to me taking one of their correspondents away from their post...I'll ask Bryony and Mick, though. But, as for your last request, are you after Toby Harnden or Christopher Howse?Shane Richmond at 15 Mar 2007 10:46

Christoby Howden
Sorry, a slip of the pen - both would be welcome, Christopher Howse was the intended, and I guess he might come cheaper (from his photo, I have to say he looks like a Toby though).. Disappointed to hear it won't after all be select.
Roger Goodacre at 15 Mar 2007 11:26

I'll see what I can do
Toby is unlikely - for the same reasons as Catherine. Though if this becomes a regular event I'll schedule future ones so that we can catch foreign correspondents on their occasional visits to home base.I'll speak to Christopher.It may be a juggling act to ensure that numbers are small enough for the event to be intimate but large enough that everyone who wants to attend can get in.I may cap the numbers at around 30, plus ten Telegraph staffers. That should be a decent size.Still, we haven't reached 30 yet so perhaps I won't have to cap at all.So can we expect to see you on April 12, Roger?
Shane Richmond at 15 Mar 2007 11:33

I will look in my diary.
Sounds like a better class of party. I am too old for fighting but whilst the youngsters grapple with each other over the hand, and possible other parts, of Bryony, Richard of Orleans and I could prop up the bar (there will be one won't they)and empty Mick's pockets in the process whilst solving the Anglo/French/Irish problems once and for all.It would be interesting to compare the photos with the flesh so to speak and I might find the moderator who objects to my light hearted banter about the Scots. (I love them dearly, I just have an unusual way of expressing it). Can't promise anything but I will see what I can do, unless I get death threats, in that case I will definitely turn up.
ped at 15 Mar 2007 11:41

I am skipping 'Growing tips for plants' at the YWCA for this gig
And Shane, if I may,You will try, won't you, to mix the genders (although please do not feel the need to exert yourself TOO much).But, as I see from the above, males would appear to be preponderant (I use the word advisedly). Fine. Please ask Mr Leith and Mr Toronyi-Lalic to attend.Actually, I could now skip out of the meeting with the 30 readers because I have already had the thought that perhaps the one way that journos can make their blogs different to those of the rest of us is to take the bold step of interacting with their readers.And you're already there.:))But I don't think I could bear not to meet ped, Richard of Orleans et al.
Sally Crawford at 15 Mar 2007 20:41

CO2 neutral
Shane, your meeting is a nice idea. I just have one concern. In these green times I believe this type of meeting should be as CO2 neutral as possible. Excessive and unreasonable travel should be avoided. I suggest you limit your invitation to those people who live in a 1000 km radius of London. People beyond this limit who really want to attend could come on a bicycle or in a rowing boat. Alternatively take a one way ticket only
richard of orléans at 16 Mar 2007 05:57

Health warning
Would it not be a good idea for "Richard of Orleans" to label his posts so we know what is intended, eg "This one is to reveal my ignorance of the facts" or "This one is just anti-Brit" or "This one is meant to be funny" ?
Tony S at 16 Mar 2007 10:56

It's a little bit funny
One has to suppose that the "joke" is at the expense of the guy who's flying in. If that be the case, then its presumably an in-joke between a couple of internet buddies. If it's not, then it's no joking matter at all. It's what we here (USA) call internet stalking.
geejay at 17 Mar 2007 03:02

Helpful Suggestion
As you are aware the lottery will no longer be paying out any prizes since all funds are needed for the financing of the Olympic Games. In Coe and Jowell’s finely tuned budget this hiatus is not expected to have any impact on the revenue generated from the patriotic Brits who are eager to contribute to this prestige project. However just in case some of the more money pinching souls are tempted to reduce outgoings, might I suggest that you offer tickets to Shane’s blog meetings as an alternative reward.
Richard of Orléans at 17 Mar 2007 07:29

It's that man again
Now that's a real brain-teaser you have given us there, "Richard of Orleans", where the filecard index is concerned (see MY helpful suggestion).The first sentence is definitely Category 1 - ignorance of the facts. It's not the Lottery prize fund that's to be raided, it's the grants to good causes, something entirely different. The final sentence is pretty opaque too, except the last bit. Yep, I'm all in favour of free tickets to Shane's shindig. Provided it's restricted to those who can write the Queen's English.
Tony S at 17 Mar 2007 13:14

Take it as read
Why would no one take it (CO2 neutral comment) as a serious relexion that we shouldn't be polluting our surroundings with CO2 and noise for the sake of non essential meetings?Or has environmentalism now become "stalking", to our rather heavily polluting American co-inhabitants of planet earth?
Richard of Orléans at 18 Mar 2007 14:55

"Richard of Orléans"
Anyone still reading this thread, Shane, whose eyes are not completely glazed over by now, may be wondering what on earth "Richard of Orléans" is blathering about (see "CO2 neutral" etc). Well, it's certainly not a genuine concern for the environment, as "geejay" above has correctly surmised, despite Richard's solemn assurances. It is in fact a case of "Richard of Orléans" using your post as an opportunity to snipe at someone he regards as the arch enemy. Now why would he do that, you may ask ? It's for a number of reasons, but mainly for my having had the temerity in the past to challenge his oft-stated anglophobic views - despite his being a UK national himself, a long-term resident in France (although still unnaturalized) - and for my having the effrontery to retire to France, which he considers "sponging".Here's a comment he posted yesterday to Louise's "Chocolates and Cuckoos" blog (see link below) which should leave readers in no doubt as to this man's true agenda:

"Colinb for me is the quintessential Englishman: free speech if you say the right thing, democracy if you vote for him, free trade as long as you buy his goods, fair play provided he wins, justice subject to him writing the laws as well as being judge and jury. There is an island set aside for people like him, he should go there." 3/17/2007 5:12 PM

Note in particular the final sentence, which ties in with his reference above to that "one-way ticket". He expects me, it would seem, to sell up, and return to the UK, because I and fellow retired Brits are deemed to be economically non-productive (despite spending freely on a multitude of French goods and services, and paying an assortment of taxes etc). The fact that I'm legally resident under EU and UK rules appears to cut little ice with this self-appointed defender of the French national interest, as seen through the prism of Orléans. I don't know about you Shane, but Richard of Orléans would appear to me guilty of at least a degree of self-indulgence in his questionable use a Telegraph blog to grind his particular axe. But then, you know this guy's modus operandi: he's almost an institution on Telegraph blogs, but may still have newcomers shaking or scratching their heads. Some might consider this man to have a confounded cheek, obsession even, to be pursuing one particular UK expatriate in particular, especially as he hides behind a pseudonym, while I use my real name. Perhaps we could discuss the issue of problematical posters such as Richard of Orléans when we meet next month.
Colin Berry at 18 Mar 2007 18:35