Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moving...

Zach's Almanac is moving.
Well, morphing is perhaps a more appropriate term.
Anyone interested can find the stuff I say and go on about at "Foxisms" (click below)
http://foxisms.blogspot.com/
I hope those of you who visit here, will follow on occasion over there.
If it's easier for you, you can get there by clicking the "blurb" on the lower left of this screen.
There's already a link to Foxisms there.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Minnesota Shutdown 2011: State Government Shuts Down


Odd case of incompeten­ce.

Taxes are still paid and collected, from the same people who are to be served with them, and they are told how much to pay, what to pay them on and how often to pay them and so the people must pay and we do...but the long term business plan created and supervised by the very people who are elected to manage and maintain the functionin­g of this (or any) state...or this very country for that matter...h­as once again proved itself to be a failed concept and a les that efficient stewardshi­p of the people's trust and hard earnings.

Yet from the federal to the state levels, "we the people" of the American states keep entrusting the same sort of people, these same representa­tives and chief administra­tors with no proven solutions for the management of our taxes or the operation of our local and federal government­s to continue to uphold a system political and economic that has proven itself unsustaina­ble.

Of course with people being what we are the end result is and will continue to be a steady run of incompeten­cy. Until, that is, we examine and modify the mechanizat­ions tat we fool our selves into thinking have ever, can ever and will ever work for us when they don't.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Intermission


What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? ~ Elvis Costello


video

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'll be here

I decided to forego my own personal series on the HP/AOL merger.
By now it's a yawn inducing redundancy and all across the universe known as the internet, everything that could or need be said, has already been said...and said...and said...
I took it on as a writing assignment and a contribution to another blog that I was courting...but soon found that it too was just another empty well to shout into, albeit a different sort of vacuum entirely than HP... and I can do all that with equal efficiency, right here.
[If any one's interested, you can read more about that futile escapade here ]

...Besides, it's high Spring here abouts'...and there are plenty of more important things to do.
For one, there's tending to this and many more late night camp fires.
Somebody pass me another marshmallow, wouldja'?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I was a Huffington “Poster”child.

Episode 2 in a series of experiences, observations, 'run ins' and general unhappiness with the moderation policies at Huffington Post in particular and posting and commenting to online sites on the web in general.

I was later than some and sooner than others coming into the age of awareness on the whole Huffington Post thing.
I became a member in April of 2008.

My last 'post' being February of 2011, (just a day or so after the $318 million dollar AOL “buy-in” or “sell-out” depending on your point of view) I had a long run that enabled me to successfully have 11,536 comments or posts approved and published on Huff. While I can't validate my “misses” due to deletion by the 'Mods', my number of rejected posts had to be somewhere around...well, a whole bunch... if not equal to my number of hits over the years.

I still have an account there (though I no longer log in) and a modest “following” of “friends” that number 753 other “poster children” out there, just like me and you.

Before anyone might think those stats are exceptional...don't.

There's a small army of people, here and elsewhere (some still there!) who have two, three and four times that amount of posts and “fans” and have spent more, less or equal time than I have in shouting into that empty well several hours a day.

About a hundred or more of these refugees can now be found spread throughout other free speech zones throughout Cybercity. So I think I represent a fairly good example of your average user. Being in said demographic makes me a middle class Huffmerican. And hopefully I can remain fair about some of the sights and scenes I encountered while in that land beyond the rainbow.

Oz or Wonderland?

A quick look at the 'terms of service” for commenting on Huffington could give anyone the impression that they have landed in Wonderland as opposed to Dorothy's Oz. The ambiguities of the conditional terms in conjunction with the “new Badge program” (which you'll learn more about in the course of this series) makes an argument between Tweedledee and Tweedledum look like a debate between professorial intellectuals on this side of the rabbit hole.

I don't know how you feel about it, but the moment I see that a conditional term of service is dependent on nebulous wording such as “appropriate speech” my palms sweat, my throat gets dry and I just know that ideology and not simply civility and courteousness is the tip of an ice berg that will randomly sink any ship's captain attempting to navigate the straits of good posting behavior.

And sure enough, At Huffington Post it repeatedly does.


Working in the lab...

Let me confess to a small social experiment I indulged myself in shortly after the HP-AOL merge.

It was early on reported and speculated upon that the degree of moderation would increase at Huffington in direct proportion to its becoming a major player in the Main Stream Media conglomerate leading to an even more aggressive push to increase the number of “clicks”and “hits” through the manipulation of posts and 'gotcha' headlining.

Let me explain that this way. If you log on to a site, and you can stop by and leave a comment on an article or join a conversational ebb and flow, you may click once or twice, now and again to see if you had any responses or to add to the dialog. On the other hand, if your posts become tied up for a half hour or more in “pending purgatory” before it became posted publicly, you might come back to check on its health or “click” about a half dozen times or more on that same subject for each posting effort you've made. Coincidence? I don't think so.

It was becoming increasingly common to see items with 500 or more posted comments to have a “pending approval” que consisting of sometimes a 4:1 ratio. People would be clicking back like crazy to bitch about it for an hour or more and sending out fresh versions of their comments multiple times before they learned their posts hadn't passed muster and as well, the politically corrected clones sent afterward were ultimately deleted.

Any idea what this does to make a site look exceptionally busy and profit worthy...even if it may not be otherwise? Plenty lucrative ploy just by clogging the pipes.

I had watched over the course of my time on HP that complaints increased exponentially in the comment section regarding these sort of moderation log jams and expulsions and I wanted to somehow measure this from a new perspective other than just living through the limbo called “pending” and deleted posts. So I put my long standing personae (AV) and account to rest and created a new HP account to see how a new member “poster” might fare under these new rules of engagement.

I presented my same ideologies. I was no more literate or less snarky in my replies and originating posts than I'd ever been and my subjects were as random and occasionally off thread as they had ever been under my old account/personae.

Things went par for about three weeks and the accumulation of 47 “friends” and “fans” until I hit an article of above average controversy rife with moderation.

The issue surrounded a video from a police helicopter circling the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11. I was careful not to advance any (“kooky”) theories, either conspiratorial or supporting the establishment's accounts of that day's events. But I stood firm on insisting in “to the point” fashion that there remained in fact, mounds of evidence from that day to this that was never properly investigated or verified. I was fully aware from my HP experience that this sort of speculation was never well tolerated. I suspected that deletions of my posts was bound to follow. Four non confrontational exchanges later, I was informed that I had been banned from commenting. Evidently, a moderator held a different (or corporate) ideology on the subject.

Yes. It was that obvious.

After waiting through three days (of 'crickets') to hear a response from Hufiington Post to my email queries on what exactly my transgressions might have been...even within the broad spectrum of their terms of service, I scrubbed the account completely and bailed.

The punchline is this. Immediately following my canceling of my account I received an email from HP's Admin. They said they were sorry to see me go! Go? For all intent and purposes, I didn't even exist to begin with and it isn't likely that you do either.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dedicated To Free Speech Through Extreme Moderation...A Contradiction In Terms.

Episode 1: The first in a 4 part series of experiences, observations, 'run ins' and general unhappiness with the moderation policies at Huffington Post in particular and posting and commenting to online sites on the web in general.

First, let's come to grip with something that few people will openly admit...or perhaps simply can't accept . (I'm sure, which one or the other varies from person to person, dependent on the situation.) Unencumbered “free speech” is limited to the confines of being a concept and is not the reality we love to imagine it to be.

Ogg

Since the very first time that little Ogg picked up a charred wooly mammoth bone from the previous evening's dinner off the floor of the cave and whacked his sibling for any real or imagined expressed verbal affront leveled in his or her direction, freedom of expression has been a very elusive object of desire and attainment for anyone not a cast away or shielded from the influence of the social human condition. To make matters worse, when Mom or Dad came back from drawing primitive pictures of the hunt or splattered hand prints in the lower section of the cave and found out about what Ogg had done, reprimand and censorship of unbridled self expression was yet again established (at least) as far as one or the other party in any debate or dispute would from then on, ever be concerned.
Since then little (if anything) of this social etiquette has been able to recover entirely from this stipulation enough for it to be considered intrinsically fair in regard to the right of anyone to pure, unabridged self expression.

Onward!

Now, fast forward (if you will) to today's modern society, the complexities that concept and language have under gone and the means of mass internet communications such as texting, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and a multitude of on line information sources run often for far more mercenary motivation than to simply allow people to avenue to express a multi-verse of topics such as The Huffington Post does (or doesn't)...which brings me to the object of my current focus.

“The truth Is Out There!"

Anyone can, if they so choose, easily provide their own search/research on the topic of moderation as it is practiced at the Huffington Post web site. The information, opinions and carefully compiled hard and anecdotal evidence of the short comings on (this loosely termed) "moderation" as presented on HP are plentiful and date back to May of 2005, which is when the site was first launched.
I've waded through sites and postings that covered a wide swath of cut and pasted screen grabs, opinions, complaints, examples, comments and incentives for the scrutiny now being given this subject surrounding HP and the mass publication of said information.

Everybody's got an ax to grind.”

Some (but not many) were less than subtly progressing their own personal, commercial or political agenda -- which to their way of thinking were not being given the attention on the comment boards to the degree that they felt their topic of concern or 'cause du jour' warranted. In this class, of course, some even appeared to be (perhaps paid?) 'activists' who (for want of supplementing their livelihood) wished to be the St. George who would slay the dragon or the Don Quixote who would help vanquish what to many might have amounted to little more in reality than a tattered, old wind mill. Others I found were apparently using this chink in HuffPo's armor (there are, as many are already aware, several) as a commercial tool in an effort to maybe pry away a few "clicks" or pull a few advertisers in their own direction and open or level the readership playing field a bit through their rapier critique.

...but some people have a legitimate need to use that ax sharpener.

For the most part, I came away from it all with an unshakable belief that the bulk of what fruits I had gathered, did not come from these groups. Neither was it limited to simply disgruntled people. But instead, the time and efforts were taken by a majority of those people to publicly express themselves about being rendered utterly disillusioned and more than curious about the genuine intent and dedication of HuffPo to freedom of speech... as the 'pub' and policy (of HP) would like to have everyone believe. {Links will be provided in episode 2}

On a curious note:

The absence of web published material in defense of the moderation found on the Huffington site was notably apparent through out my research, except for the rare and occasional references (noticeably) from Huffington Post staff, co founders or people associated or aligned with that site in some cooperative fashion or another.

All that aside...

...this much is certain, (and a notable portion of the internet blogging population seems to agree) in regard to HP's moderation practices... if nothing is wrong, then something is terribly wrong.

[In episode 2, we'll take a look at some of the comments, replies and stories from others who have either broken away from HP for greener pastures of self expression online and an update on some of the damage control taking place at HuffPo in the wake of the continuing exodus of 'posters' due to their dissatisfaction over having contributed to the rapid rise of this online news empire -- only to find that the rules of the game had changed dramatically over time, without anyone telling them.]

[My thanks to the folks at http://condemnedtorocknroll.blogspot.com...(and "please send bail if needed") for my use of their graphic illustration used above...albeit for this all together different subject of coverage.]

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Egypt Protests: Government Agrees To Major Demands In Talks On Sunday


Every time a US President starts making demands on other heads of state for basically reacting in the very same way our own would in the case of a week of thousands of people protesting wildly in the street for the ouster of their leadership­, I get real nervous.

Making it a point to present the US as the moral compass for the rest of the world, when reactions to this sort of thing from law enforcemen­t and the military would be mirrored to dispel and disrupt dissension here, there or in any country, is how we wind up in places like Iraq.

I don't seem to be hearing about other world leaders throwing their opinions out there as mandates and directives­.

The habit and need of our leadership to do this in any internatio­nal situation (except those where conflict serves our more hidden purposes) is perhaps our greatest reoccurrin­g moment of audacity.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost