Key has apologised to Slater

John Key has apologised to Cameron Slater for releasing a personal email. Stuff reports John Key says sorry to Whale Oil.

The prime minister has apologised to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater over the release of an email that forced Justice Minister Judith Collins’ resignation.

An email from Slater, obtained and released by Key, implicated Collins in the smear against her own official, saying she had been “gunning” for SFO director Adam Feeley.

Collins resigned, insisting she would clear her name. Key called an inquiry. Slater countered by lodging a privacy complaint against the prime minister for disclosing a personal email.

The email indicated Feeley may have been the target of a campaign to undermine him involving two bloggers, Cathy Odgers and Slater, and seemingly endorsed by Collins.

Justice Lester Chisholm is due to present his report to the prime minister this week. It is likely to clear Collins of any illegal actions. However, the bloggers may be the subject of criticism.

Despite this, Key has been forced to say sorry to Slater and Key’s office has confirmed: “The Prime Minister recently wrote to Mr Slater to apologise.”

But he stood by his actions. “The Prime Minister believes, however, it was in the public interest to release the email in question publicly,” a spokeswoman said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said it would not release the letter as it related to a privacy issue, but it was up to Slater to decide if he wished to make it public.

Slater yesterday agreed to issue a copy of the letter.

In it, Key says there was “intense media and public interest in matters concerning you and Judith Collins, following the publication of the book Dirty Politics”, creating an “election issue”.

Slater’s email raised serious questions about Collins’ conduct, he says. “In my view the reasons for Ms Collins’ resignation were of real and legitimate public concern, and it was in the public interest that the fullest possible factual background be available.”

But Key acknowledges the release of the email provoked increased media scrutiny of Slater and his family. “I regret any harm that may have been caused to you or your family by the release of the email, and hope that this letter may help to bring this matter to a close.”

The report from an inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against the boss of the Serious Fraud Office is due out soon (by Friday 28th).

Neither Collins nor the bloggers were willing to comment before the report was released.

That’s understandable.

Whale Oil still in message control mode

NZ Herald reported this morning: Len Brown scandal journalist Stephen Cook on P charges

The journalist who broke the story of the Len Brown and Bevan Chuang sex scandal has appeared in court on methamphetamine charges.

Stephen John Cook, 46, came before Manukau District Court this morning on charges of possessing the class A drug and a glass pipe used to smoke it.

Cook gained publicity last year when he teamed up with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater to publish details of the mayor’s high-profile affair.

The alleged offending which brought him before the court today stemmed from an incident in Auckland on Saturday.

Tonight there was a comment on Whale Oil’s Backchat that was presumably related to this. It asked that as Slater was so opposed to drunk driving what he thought of P.

Soon afterwards the comment disappeared.

If the journalist charged was someone like David Fisher it would be likely to feature in at least one prominent scathing post on Whale Oil.

Slater said recently:

I am very happy with where we are placed, and very happy with where we are going.

Big things are going to happen soon, and then you will see why it is that we have headed in this direction.

Going in the direction of suppression of discussion about unfavourable news is not a good lead in to a new media enterprise.

Whale Oil: And yet another medical use for cannabis

The momentum world-wide for allowing legal use of cannabis for medical use keeps building – but not in New Zealand. Whale Oil posts:

And yet another medical use for cannabis

I wonder when politicians will start to realise that they are on the wrong side of the debate when it comes to legalising cannabis.

More and more studies are proving that the plant has more benefits than issues.

This is an issue that I think can and should be be campaigned on across the political spectrum, in social media at least. Whale Oil, Kiwiblog, The Standard, The Daily Blog and Public Address are all sympathetic to relaxing use of cannabis for medical use at least.

Time to start a proper discourse, the only problem is finding a politician with some courage.

Time to put political differences aside and working cross-blog on this? It is difficult finding an MP or a party willing to address this, but a joint effort by blogs could build pressure on them to do the decent thing on this.

Not a right wing blog

This isn’t a right wing blog. Nor is it a left wing blog. It’s an open blog where I can post what interests me, promote what is important to me, and encourage wide ranging discussion – which happens to be one of my interests. A lot of our political discussion seems to be silo-ed into left or right but I think it’s important to debate across the political divide.

On some things I lean right – we need free enterprise and free trade. On some things I lean left – we need social welfare. One of the challenges of politics is getting a good balance. If we have more successful business and more and better paying jobs that reduces the need for welfare – but means we can afford to help those who genuinely need state assistance more.

My first interest in blogs was participation for several years at Aardvark - I just checked, Bruce is still sort of keeping things going there having just revived forums.

Then I found Kiwiblog and jumped in there. I was painted as a leftie but found the challenge there a lot of fun. I’ve been quite prolific in comments there but that has reduced substantially over the last year or two.

After a while I looked around and found The Standard. I was recognised as being “from Kiwiblog” so was immediately painted as a rightie. That made it even more challenging there and it has continued like that, they tend shun anyone deemed to be not one of them, regardless of what you say.

I’ve also dabbled on a number of other blogs including Whale Oil, Public Address, The Daily Blog, red Alert, and have been banned from all of them (and a number of times from The Standard). Criticisms have ranged from being to bland and boring (I’m sure I have been at times) and being to provocative and contrary – DPF’s “fomenting happy mischief” is a practice I sometimes enjoy.

I have generally enjoyed debates on the right more, because people on the right seem more inclined to argue the issues one to one on their merits. Sure it can get very robust, but that’s healthy in debate, especially in politics.

The political left seems more abusive, exclusive and pack orientated, where “if you’re not with us you’re against us” seems a common mentality – but the right isn’t immune from that as Whale Oil is currently demonstrating.

The “Dirty Politics” attempt to swing the election has become a one-sided “right bad, left perfect” campaign.

I have experienced bad abuse from the right, and there’s a few dishonest regulars at Kiwiblog who lie and abuse to try and discredit, with little or no attempt to debate.

But abuse and harassment has been worse from the left, for me at least. They may not be as extreme and direct as Cameron Slater but the intent and the practices are just as dirty in their own way – they also try to discredit and drive away alternate opinions.

And until Whale Oil’s clampdown on dissent and alternative views the left was clearly the worst for censorship.

So I’m sort of in the middle politically but swing either way depending on what makes sense to me. I’ve voted both ways over the years – I think governing competence is more important than election campaign inspired policies.

And this isn’t a left wing or a right wing (or a centrist) blog.

It aims to offer something a bit different – open debate across the spectrum, with an emphasis on robust but respectful debate backed by as many facts as possible (one thing that seems to get up the noses of some blogs is arguing against them with facts).

Many in political blogging want to impose their opinions, their ideals, their favoured parties and politicians. And in doing that they often try to exclude alternate views, frequently through name calling, abusing and making false accusations.

Your NZ is for something different – debate from all sides is welcome and encouraged. We can learn a lot by exploring issues with the other side of the argument.

It’s a well used phrase but right or wrong versus right or left.

And accepting that right or wrong is often not simple or binary. Sometimes it’s looking for the least bad alternative, as in dealing with the ongoing problems in the Middle East.

This is not a right wing blog, but people who consider themselves right wing, or left wing, are welcome to contribute.

Bad language on blogs

Much has been made of a clamp down on bad language being behind the clampdown on comments and commenters at Whale Oil. In his announcement of Travis qutiting Whale Oil yesterday Pete Belt later conceded he over emphasised it. He initially said:

There has been a shift in culture, where we’ve changed a bunch of foul mouthed blokey commenters for (what they see) a knitting circle.

It all comes down to the ability for people to swear in the comments, and old commenters that could not change being resentful that they’ve lost “the only place on the Internet” where they felt at home.

Many pointed out that the issues were far wider and deeper than “the ability for people to swear” so later Pete conceded:

Travis has alluded to it – I deliberately oversimplified things. It isn’t just about swearing.

I’m puzzled by the over-emphasis on swearing.It seems to have been a simplistic approach that ignores a much bigger problem – abuse.

Note: I infrequently swear on blogs but was banned from WO for, apparently, using the phrase ‘man crap’. The word crap is used so obviously allowed on NZ Herald and Stuff online.

Attitudes to swearing have changed markedly in my lifetime. When i grew up swearing at school was severely punished and you just didn’t swear in front of adults. Print media, radio, movies and TV were very particular about what language must be excluded. That has relaxed a bit in print media and radio, and substantially in movies and in TV programs where nearly anything goes at times. It reflects real life.

Younger people in particular swear far more openly than they would have last century.

While I don’t swear much I usually don’t have a problem when people swear, I’m now used to it being common, including on blogs.

I don’t recall much if any criticism of Whale Oil for the swearing. There was a far bigger problem with personal attacks, regardless of whether swearing was involved. Non swear words are commonly used to viciously attack people.

One of Cameron Slater’s biggest moments of infamy was not for swearing – he was quoted without censorship for language in the Greymouth Star:

Blogger puts the boot in

Provocative right-wing internet blogger Cameron Slater was today standing by a headline that described Greymouth car crash victim Judd Hall as “feral”.

Mr Hall, a 26-year-old from Runanga, died when a car in which he was a backseat passenger left the road and crashed into a house about 11 o’clock on Friday night.

At 7.21am on Saturday, Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog site carried a brief story on the crash under the heading, ‘Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour’.

When contacted by the Greymouth Star today, Mr Slater accepted that he did not know Mr Hall or his family, but justified the “feral” description by saying: “It is Greymouth, isn’t it? Didn’t Helen Clark say that you are all feral?”

He said anybody travelling at 140kph in a car in a 50kph area was ‘feral’, whether on the West Coast or in south Auckland.

He did not regret the headline and would not be apologising for it.

Mr Hall wasn’t even responsible for the crash. Many may consider calling the driver a fucking idiot far more appropriate than the language Slater used.

Excessive swearing can detract from blogs, as it can detract from conversations, depending on the context and the company you are in.

But I think are worse than swearing on blogs are abuse, personal attacks, harassment and stalking.  And message control censorship.

Whale Oil didn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it had a bad reputation for attacking people, sometimes viciously. Slater led by example.

The Standard has a bad reputation for one sided abuse and attacks, protected and even promoted by the site moderation, with lprent leading the way.

Kiwiblog doesn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it has a bad reputation for personal attacks. David Farrar isn’t criticised for his occasional swearing, he’s criticised for allowing too much free speech – and his recent moderation improvements have clamped down on abuse, not swearing.

There’s probably more annoyance expressed and complaints on blogs about bad grammar than swearing. I saw someone complaining yesterday about mixing brought with bought. For some people the misuse of apostrophe’s seems to be a major offence (and I deliberately misused one there).

So what’s more important on blogs, having swearing police or grammar police?

I’d prefer that people were allowed to freely express their opinions and feelings, as long as it’s not done to attack and abuse.

I’d prefer less religious or Bain argument on Kiwiblog than less swearing.

I’d prefer an even playing field on The Standard to less swearing.

I’d prefer less silent censorship on The Daily Blog than less swearing.

I’d prefer more honesty on Whale Oil than using swearing as an excuse to ban people to sanitise and propagandise  the comments.

Each blog to their own. Cameron got around his own swearing ban yesterday by using an acronym – FIFO. That means fit in or fuck off. I don’t think it’s the swear word that is cringe in that, it’s the intent. If you’re careful not to speak contrary to the Whale Oil authors or sponsors and you’re lucky not to strike Pete Belt on a bad day (which seem to be frequent) then you can keep commenting there.

Fuck, I’d rather promote free and robust (with respect) expression than be mob controlled with crap like that.

The most damaging language in society and on blogs is not swear words. Bad language isn’t controlled by using banned word filters.

I’d prefer no censorship and more relaxed language dictates – and as I have my own blog I’m free to have that.

Pete Belt explains again

Pete belt has being doing a lot of explaining at Whale Oil lately, and he should know what Cameron Slater thinks of explaining.

In response to feedback on TRAVIS LEAVES WHALEOIL he has posted a follow up comment.

Travis has alluded to it – I deliberately oversimplified things. It isn’t just about swearing. The reason Travis has chucked in the towel is that a lot of the people he enjoyed conversing with have been blocked. I’ve tightened up the rules over time to include things like “do not debate Cam directly in the comments, use email”.

That still oversimplifies things. From what Travis has said it’s not just about “people he enjoyed conversing”. He said:

It is sad to see so many former loyal readers tossed aside like a bag of shit, readers that the blog built it’s base on. Intelligent people, business owners, all sorts of decent people. I have witnessed on several occasions now in recent weeks where people have been banned or severely warned for dissenting views. To be treating adult humans as though they are children that need behavioural control and told what not to say is patently wrong.

Then Pete switches from Travis’ friends to ‘trolls’.

The reasons for this are very good – most trolls will come in and have a go at Cam personally. It’s a net I use to catch a lot of stuff that has no place here. But it also has had the effect of catching people who are genuine commenters who wanted to have a debate with Cam on the blog. Few realised Cam was hardly ON the blog, but that’s another issue.

The banning binge has been far more indiscriminate than that.

Everything has a reason. But in the end, the bolshy types started falling by the wayside as they kept pushing. In the end, there was only one outcome.

Many have said they didn’t push, they were shoved out without warning and without knowing what they had done wrong.

One area where Travis is particularly unfair is that Whaleoil, and it’s ‘staff” have been through hell and back over the last 6 months. We have been under organised and sustained attacks to try and destroy us – as a blog, and as people.

I don’t think he’s been unfair at all there. This sounds like more ‘poor us’ syndrome. Yes, things have been tough for Whale Oil over the last few months, but that’s not sufficient excuse for the draconian reaction.

In a way, Travis leaving is another Dirty Poltics “win”, in my mind. Another man down. But the barrage of trolls and deliberate attempts to start conflict was so intense and sustained, there is no doubt in my mind some of our own got caught in the cross fire.

This has also been tried in comments on Whale Oil – the ‘if you complain or react you are letting “Dirty Politics” win method of squashing dissent.

And Pete is ignoring the fact that the changes and the banning binges started happening well before “Dirty Politics” was launched.

That’s what the amnesty after the election was about. At the time, we were barely holding on. There were times I was doing nothing but read, delete and block for a whole day. It was insane. This was at the time where we all were under scrutiny, and it was hard to know who was a friend being critical and who was a political operative intent on destroying Whaleoil.

That’s nonsense. A number of longstanding commenters and supporters of Whale Oil were purged. Pete must have known and Cameron will have known that the net was being cast far wider than a few new trolls.

Travis told me the amnesties haven’t worked because nobody that got culled wants to come back.

That’s because in effect to be reinstated you were told to grovel and were also told there was little chance of success – according to what Peter has said:

8. can I ask for a review?  are there amnesties?  is that it, forever?

No.  Sometimes.  Probably.

An admission that indiscriminate banning went too far…

Anyway, he alluded to it, and I think he’s earned this addendum – there have been people that have been blocked that probably shouldn’t have been. But then there are also those that never stopped needling – a bit like Travis, in fact. And in the end, enough was enough.

…Travis says he walked, he wasn’t pushed.

At this stage, the people who are blocked are all speaking from how it has affected them,

This isn’t correct. I’ve seen many people speaking about how they think it has affected Whale Oil too.

with little or no regard for the way it is going against what Cameron Slater wants. I may be the poisoned voice that whispers in Cam’s ear, but nothing gets done unless he’s on board.

Cameron wants many old and loyal supporters and commenters banished from his blog? I’d be interested to hear his take on that.

Sadly, Travis, and others, have needs from Whaleoil that Cam is no longer wanting to cater for. And I am the whipping boy because I’m the one that’s actually making a lot of the day to day judgments.

He no longer wants people with independent thoughts and a willingness to express their opinions and to debate?

Whaleoil is more than a place for some blokes to come shoot the breeze. It’s part of a larger plan. It has to provide reliable income for the Slater family. It needs to pay my outrageous fees.

Real reason #1 – money. The cleansing was to keep the advertising necessary to pay the bills and wages. Fair enough.

In closing, Cam Slater, and/or Whaleoil, were in the news every day for a month, and not in a good way. Nobody else has been put under the amount of pressure that we were under. In the mean time, we tried to run a blog. This is while we were subject to commissions of inquiry, we had major privacy breaches, and we were committing to legal action we couldn’t afford to pay. It was insane.

And many thought the draconian and erratic ‘moderation was and is insane – and it began before the pressure piled on.

Against this backdrop, Travis’ needs, and those of his commenting friends…

As already said it’s far wider than Travis and a few friends.

…that are no longer with us, really didn’t register. Some pretty quick and dirty decisions were made to ensure we survived this period, and this included pushing away any negativity, even if it came from within.

But this all still ignores what Cameron posted today:

I am very happy with where we are placed, and very happy with where we are going.

Big things are going to happen soon, and then you will see why it is that we have headed in this direction.

The media landscape in New Zealand is about to change forever.

It might seem mean…bit FIFO applies.

So participation and support don’t matter now, Whale Oil is moving on to new things and those who helped it’s past success don’t matter now.

That’s Cameron’s call. Perhaps he thinks he can build a new audience. He must be confident because he should know that when you kick a loyal audience it’s difficult to win back trust and credibility.

And despite what he claims:

It won;t become an echo chamber, I refuse to allow this site to become like Twitter has become, or like the 3News site where ranty, abusive and shouty leftists just howl down other peoples ideas.

There are other types of echo chambers than ranty howly ones – and Whale Oil has become one – like a well oiled PR machine, with any sign of dissent papered over or pushed aside.

That doesn’t sound like a change to the media landscape. Whale Oil used to be a change. It seems to be becoming something very similar to what they claim they are going to take over from.

It’s going to be a challenge to succeed despite both Dirty Politics and the discarding of a significant audience.

If this proves too difficult Pete Belt might have quite a bit more explaining to do. And Cameron knows what that means in his language.

Whaleoil, sex and dissent in the ranks

From the outside for some many it has been obvious that all is not well at Whale Oil, with many once regular and loyal supporters adding to the list of those saying they have been excommunicated.

It is apparent that all is not well within as well. A difference between blog moderators surfaced today.

It happened on yet another of the increasing number of bizarre posts – IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE: WHALEOIL OR SEX?

WO - Travis 1As has become common it is hard to differentiate the post from the advertising, so that was a normal sort of bizarre. But the opening comments raise eyebrows even more about what is going on at Whale Oil.

WO - Travis 2

Whaleoil or sex? One things for sure, the woman wouldn’t have to worry about being banned from sex, or worry about rules concerning what she could or couldn’t say during said act of intercourse, nor would she be banned from the bed for disagreeing with the method in which the sex takes place.

Wow. Passive aggressive. Why not just send your resignation? I thought we did this sort of thing away from front-of-house?

I think Travis has been a moderator at Whale Oil since Cameron Slater started to build a team to help him, although over the past few months he has been fairly quiet with Pete seeming to virtually take over the blog and lead the purges.

It sounds like Travis is not in full agreement with how things are going.

And it sounds like Pete is not very happy with the problems being brought to the surface – although he has done as much to bring this to attention as anything.

It’s not surprising to see a fall out, it’s pretty obvious to most that annoying and banning your loyal followers is unlikely to turn out well.

What is surprising is that Cam doesn’t see the damage that’s being done – or perhaps he’s over it and doesn’t care.

UPDATE: the comment by Travis has been deleted but Pete’s remains.

WO - Travis 3

On Whale Oil discussion

It’s good to see the ongoing issues at Whale Oil discussed here – Whale Oil now an edited publication, not an open forum

I agree with Greg at least in part. I hope Freed works, more news/political media of any type is good, especially major media. I think it needs to be a lot more than Cam though, he could certainly provide a significant contribution but it needs to be more than Whale Oil re-invented.

Like most here I applaud some of what Cam has achieved with Whale Oil, but I think the change of direction in comments policy could be a major setback. WO did very well being an inclusive blog and then shat on many regular and long standing supporters.

I also condemn illegally obtaining emails and other communications, that has very troubling connotations for democracy, something many of the fans of Hager’s (et al) “Dirty Politics” fail to appreciate.

But what was revealed (or expanded on) has been severely damaging to Cam’s credibility, especially regarding paid for attacks and campaigns.

He has also been isolated from some of his previous strengths, his political connections and tipsters, and his media liaisons. It could be difficult for him to rebuild his credibility there.

If Cam puts a lot of his efforts into Freed then Whale Oil may have passed it’s peak.

Is Pete Belt effectively becoming WO operator with occasional Cam cameos? That’s how it looks at the moment, time will tell if WO is effectively under new management.

Pete is talking about quality over quantity but I think both have dropped substantially. The Beef has diminished substantially, it’s now less a steak and more more like beef flavoured sausage.

News and scoops seem to have just about disappeared, as have many commenters. Many of the posts are dross, some of the posts are revolting dross. It might make for effective click bait and stoke WO statistics but it keeps reducing credibility and serious readability.

Power in politics and in media is a numbers game, but the stature of the numbers matters as much if not more than the raw quantity. Thirty two opposition Caucus members have far less power than twenty Cabinet members and less power even than one Prime Minister.

Ten fungal toenails have a different impact to one firm finger.

The statistics show that WO is still a major player but time will tell whether the changes are setting up for a new era or have tipped the blog down a mud covered slippery slop.

Whale Oil now an edited publication, not an open forum

A fairly typical comment on changes at Whale Oil were posted here yesterday by Sponge (and at Kiwiblog).

WO has been gutted by all the banning and is no longer very interesting. Half of the commenters now are arse lickers like “Wendy”. It is, of course, Cameron’s website to do what he sees fit with but I fear that they have jumped the shark with their own self importance and hubris. The post a while back basically saying that *they decided* to let National win the election was the end for me.”

I go and have a look a few times a day in case there is something interesting but half baked stories about the quality of concrete and sponsored articles about a dam that no one ever comments on or, based on the the number of comments, cares about (talk about flogging a dead horse) mean WO has lost its appeal to me.

Add to that the open contempt shown by the mods for the posters at the site, who are the very people driving ratings and thus revenue, and it is no longer a compelling site to visit.

I wish Cameron all the best as I think he has made a real and positive difference to media in NZ. I have a sad feeling though that WO has had it high tide moment.

The latest cross-blog discussion was initiated by this comment by BM at Whale Oil.

Can’t help but notice that hardly anyone posts here any more.
Has every one been banned or are people too scared to post in case they write the wrong thing and get banned.?

Currently 28 up ticks, 0 down.

A reaction at Kiwiblog from Agent Ballsack:

Pete has come out swinging defending his moderation policy….Which is kind of ironic because I asked the very same question of Cameron Slater the other day and got banned – no warning just terminated after over 6K comments and 6 years supporting him. Looking at all the (very familiar) names here I am in damn good company.

Currently 16 upticks, 0 down.

Whale Oil’s chief ‘moderator Pete Belt responded to BM.

Commenters are getting on board with the concept that we are looking for quality, not quantity. But yeah, if you want to explain it away that we’ve banned everyone and the remainder are too scared, I can’t argue against that. The comments section here is, erm, different. I’m sure it doesn’t suit everyone.

Since the election, we hardly banned anyone. Mostly because the trolls have stopped coming trying to sabotage. At the worst of it, leading up to the election, we were banning dozens a day.

In recognition of the fact that may have caught some of the “good guys”, we’ve run about a dozen amnesties since then, and many have taken the chance to return.

And many haven’t. An amnesty at WO means pleading for forgiveness to Pete or Cam and you remain at there mercy, something WO is not well known for.

The problem with asking “are you too scared”, is that you will always find people who see that as a chance to stick another knife in.

The real explanation is that after the election, we went from 5 million pageviews to just over 3. So it seems a lot quieter. The same happened to other blogs. Our readers have found more daylight after daylight savings came in, and the Backchat (for example) doesn’t even get going until 8-9pm these days.

Someone noted one of Slater’s favourite sayings – explaining is losing.

BM again:

If people are scared to post you’ve got to say the moderation might be a bit on the extreme side.
For me a blog should be like a community, where people feel comfortable enough to voice their opinion within reason without the feeling of imminent doom, if people don’t feel happy or welcome they won’t stick around, which isn’t great for business.

Pete Belt:

And for us, the commenting system is to enhance the reading of the rest of the hundreds of thousands of people that come to the blog.

It’s not a chat room, it is a place to be entertained, informed and engaged.

It’s not about volume. It is about quality.

It’s not about you getting a nice place to chat, it’s about our readers come to a nice place to read.

And:

The way I weigh it up is like this: is what is written of interest to another 100,000 readers, or are they just organising where to meet for lunch?

You can chat with each other – it happens all the time – but it has to add more information about the post topic.

Moderators here act like “editors of the comment section”. We try to make it a good read for others.

So Whale Oil has become an edited publication. The editors control comments so that it says what they want readers to read.

It is not a forum for debate – unless the discussion is what the editors want people to read. A number of people who have been banned (including me) claim that opinions contrary to what the editors prefer have been edited (hammered/censored/banned).

As for being scared to be banned – if you feel that way, you don’t “get it”. Apart from obvious trolls, we haven’t banned a single soul since the election.

It has become common on blogs to use the term ‘troll’ to try and discredit people with unwanted opinions.

We stopped banning as a warning. I didn’t think it was working out well.

It wasn’t working well at all but it seems to have taken months for Pete to have realised the damage he was doing.

Banning someone is not a warning to that person, it is a ban.

Banning people is a warning to other commenters to toe the editorial line or risk being banned. Hence “people are scared to post”.

I wouldn’t call it being scared to post, most people just can’t be bothered commenting in an environment where you have no idea when the whim of a moderator will whack you. They just go somewhere else where there isn’t the same ruthless editing.

Part of Whale Oil’s success has been due to Slater studying and copying how other successful blogs and online publications have succeeded.

I wonder if he is still studying and copying, or if he felt he knew enough and was big and powerful enough to do it his own way.

That seems to be Cam’s way or the highway, and many have been forced into detours and have since chosen to keep on trucking elsewhere.

And many wonder whether Whale Oil’s ice truck roading has irreparably cracked.

Give this a read – it might help: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/trials-tribulations-triumphs-commenting-whaleoil/.

That is interesting reading.

Moderators find themselves explaining this periodically, so now we’ve turned it into a page so we can point people to it.  If you are, or were,  a commenter on our site, and something happened to make you sad, confused or angry, we hope that something on this page will provide the anwers you are looking for.

1. never contact blog staff (that’s Cam too!) about comments

If you have any questions about commenting in general, or comments specifically, then please read all of this page first.  If you are still confused, angry or sad, then go to the Contact page and contact the volunteer help desk.

 2. how commenting on Whaleoil is completely different

Anyone can write a comment on Whaleoil, but it may not stay.  Moderators even delete comments they consider too boring. What Moderators are trying to do is be “editors” of the comments section.  They are trying to make sure the comments are a good read.  So if you have a comment that moderators feel doesn’t add any value, it could be deleted, even if it doesn’t actually violate any of the rules.

That seems to be how it works too, comments they don’t think adds value to what they are trying to say or trying to do with their blog just disappear.

3. can I not know why my comment was deleted?

In a perfect world, yes.  In this one, no.  Just take it on the chin.  If this is too upsetting to you, stop commenting altogether.  Think of yourself and others as submitting comments for consideration.  Some will fail because they fall foul of the rules and standards, and some are just edited out because they are not considered ‘good enough’

So it’s like submitting letters to the editor. Old school media, quite different to open participation internet.

4. but… but… that’s censorship!   what about my freedom of speech?

You can make up any explanation you feel fits the situation.  It isn’t going to change how Whaleoil moderates the comments.  Your only solution is to accept the way it is, or to no longer bother adding comments.

5. my comment got deleted.  does that mean I’ll be banned?

If the moderators cull a comment here and there, then you’re just fine.  Nothing to worry about.  Perhaps, if you find your comments continue to be deleted on a regular basis, have a think back as to why that may be.  If you can figure it out, then your commenting will improve.  If not, the mods will edit your comments out.

Sounds like message control and behaviour control. Become a Whale Oil pup or piss off.

6. oh no… up to 30 days of my comments disappeared all at once.  what does that mean?

If that happens at any time, it is a warning that you are seriously violating the commenting standards.  Moderators haven’t blocked you yet, but that’s a warning to re-read the rules, and make sure you don’t fall foul of them again.  Generally these will be for the more serious problems, like swearing, trying to “fool” the system by deliberately misspelling banned words, attacking other commenters or being personally nasty about people in the public eye by making fun of their personal appearance (for example).  Once you lose 30 days of comments at once, and you can not figure out why, you’re pretty likely to face a permanent ban.

Except that banning without warning seems to have been very common.

7. wrote a comment, but now it says I’m blocked.  tell me why!

First:  calm down.  No, seriously, anyone who comes and tears a strip off the blog staff or volunteers is less likely to receive a good outcome.

Second (and this is important):  MODERATORS MAY NOT HAVE BLOCKED YOU.  The commenting system (Disqus) seems to randomly block people for a period of time.  By all means, contact the help desk, and ask them to look into it, but if you start off aggressive, saying you did nothing wrong, and why the hell are you blocked, mods are power hungry, and so on, you might find you are burning goodwill when it wasn’t even the mods’ doing in the first place.  about 1 in 2 “blocks” are actually Disqus bugs, and not moderators.

Third:  write a polite note to the volunteers that man the help desk.  They will look into the block for you.  If you’re not blocked by mods, they will attempt to help you get back on.  If you are blocked by the mods, you will be given a prognosis.  These days, it tends to be permanent.  Moderators no longer block people as a warning, and being blocked by mods now means they feel you are, on balance, not a positive contributor to Whaleoil.

Still, mistakes get made.  So it pays to check.

8. can I ask for a review?  are there amnesties?  is that it, forever?

No.  Sometimes.  Probably.

Commenting on Whaleoil isn’t a right.  You do so at our pleasure.  There is no free speech.  Whaleoil is a private system and it’s owners and operators decide what gets published, and what does not.  If you feel your free speech is curtailed, go to WordPress or Blogspot and start your own blog.  You now run your own blog and you can say anything at all.  See?  Free speech.  It was there all along.

This suggests that pleading with them in one of their amnesties is likely to be unsuccessful.

9. you just censor everything so it says what you want

You can certainly look at it that way.  We prefer to think of it as “editing” the comments section so good comments are published and bad (empty) ones are not.   There are ways of disagreeing with the blog owner, or the article author without having your comment removed.   You can choose to see it as censorship, but it really comes down to how you go about writing contrary opinions.  Some people have figured out how to constantly disagree and have their comments published.  And, we constantly edit out “I agree”,  and “I was just thinking that too” comments.  Of course, when your comment gets removed, you’ll probably want to personalise it.

Moderators delete for two reasons: it falls foul of the rules, or it simply adds no value.  That’s it.   If you can understand that, your comments will remain, every time, all the time.

But it’s obvious that many have not understood the morphing moods of the moderators, have been banned, and it’s “probably forever”.

10.  hardly got started as a new commenter, and I’m already blocked

Whaleoil isn’t interested in people that are captured by a single issue, sign up, and they spew their thinking all over the place.  Often, because they don’t know the rules, they will troll, swear, go off topic and mock other commenters directly.  This will then result in an instant, irrevocable ban.

Think of it as walking into someone’s home and going off your nut about something before actually getting the feel of the place, getting to know others, and letting them know you.  If you do that here, you’re quite likely to find yourself on the outside and never allowed to come back in.

So if you’re interested in commenting on Whaleoil, why not get started here and there, get the feel for things, and when something comes along that really has you fired up, you will know how to comment and survive as well have the mods give you some elbow room in case you boil over, just this once.

If they don’t know you, there will be no tolerance for any rule breach.

Simple stuff.

But many of those who have been banned, like Agent Ballsack who was quoted above, have been long time participants and contributors to Whale Oil. People well known to ‘they’, the mods who seem to have exercised no tolerance and not just for rule breeches.

Pete in particular has crapped in his own nest and may have noticed the smell too late. Time will tell.

But one thing’s for sure, Whale Oil has changed substantially. Despite being founded on anything goes say anything principles it has been morphed into an edited publication.

That’s their choice, they can do what they like.

But it should be understood that it’s not a free forum, it’s not an open argument of ideas. It’s now an overtly orchestrated orca.

UPDATE: posted today at Whale Oil

“Cameron Slater is a heavyweight in the world of New Media. Like his look a like,
he has been threatened with extinction but continues to dominate the Blogosphere.

A bit of chest beating but I wouldn’t call it domination. The blogosphere is far too vast and varied for that. If one blog gets draconian there are plenty more to choose from.

Kiwiblog on Whale Oil

Friday’s General Debate on Kiwiblog had a typical thread of comments on what is happening at Whale Oil, reinforcing comments here over the last week or two.

Farmerpete:

Anyone else wondering what is going on at Whaleoil? I got slapped with a ban for commenting on a lopsided KiwiBank attack post and questioning the motives for such posts. All expressed in an acceptable way. I must have hit a nerve because the entire comment disappeared later on with no comment about how I had transgressed or how long I was banished for.

Now I see they are using a KiwiBank account to solicit donations. Seems quite ironic to me. I am a big boy and the ban doesn’t phase me but it has left me wondering if I was banned for a quite tame comment, how many others are being drop kicked.

I found some of the last posts suggesting a widespread media conspiracy to drive Cameron Slater to suicide to be quite bizarre. I am I in a minority on this?

Colville:

Famerpete. There are a couple of dozen who comment on here that have been banned from WO in the last few months.
Since Cam was outed as selling his “opinion” to the highest bidder his moderator has been on a ban without warning binge and the quality and quantity of comment over there has plummeted.

alloytoo:

@farmerpete

Welcome to the club, regrettable it’s not that exclusive.

Nostalgia-NZ:

As DPF climbs off the canvas to retake no1 spot as NZ’s most popular blog. I don’t think the media are trying to drive oil anywhere, he’s doing that nicely himself – with consummate ease apparently.

doggone7:

@farmerpete

It seems that paranoia is the latest affliction to be rife in that place.

@alloytoo; “Welcome to the club, regrettable it’s not that exclusive.”

And the ease of gaining membership is bewildering!

Griff:

When you look at the stats whale has not taken a hit in readership. Other than the decline from the peak generated by the election his numbers are steady as she goes at around 5 times KB
A Tabloid for passive readership seems to work when it comes to page views.

Here’s a chart of Whale Oil relative ranking from Alexa:

Alexa Whaleoil traffic

That shows  the ranking holding up after the peak of the election and then dropping substantially, with a slight recovery recently but still well below pre-election levels.

Open Paracute NZ blog sitemetee ranking for the last six months:

  • May visits 1,610,530 page views 2,737,869
  • June visits 1,758,095 page views 2,957,997
  • July visits 2,067,499 page views 3,424,236
  • August visits 3,437,487 page views 4,945,964
  • September visits 3,716,364 page views 5,309,045 (election on the 18th)
  • October visits 2,008,487 page views 3,275,031

So October is back to over June levels. This doesn’t show the number of comments which seem to have dropped significantly.

Tarquin North:

Farmerpete – if it’s any help I got banned for bugger all and as alloy2 says it’s not a very exclusive club to be in. I’m told you can grovel back, I won’t and don’t think many others will. Welcome to a far nicer place populated by good people who don’t mind a robust discussion with respectful people who can take a joke.

Colville:

I really think the WO site is like a big tree that has been ringbarked.
Its dying from the ground up but its too dumb to know its happeneing.

iMP:

FarmerPete re WO, I’ve been banned 4 times for the most minor infringements (any kind of, even mild, critique of Cam’s inconsistencies; once for simply linking). Finally gave up and came to talk to the Adults (well, I’ve always been here…WO was a wayward cavort). WO is not really interested in a free exchange of ideas. Pete’s great; but there is a fragility to The Camo Shooter bordering on ego-tistical or perhaps narcissistic, paranoia and control.

The irony is, that The Camo Shooter’s treatment of others, would get him banned a thousand times from his own site. Most poli.s accept it as toxic. It will eventually beach and start to smell. I think it already is.

Paulus

Farmer Pete and Tarquin

I am banned from Whale on what I consider a trifle comment – Pete is above himself I think.
Like you I will not crawl back.

peterwn:

As others have commented, a few observations on WO blog:
1. Numbers are down – but that is to be expected following the election.
2. Cam is embroiled with legal action on 2-3 fronts and this has temporarily curtailed his involvement – Pete his right hand guy has admitted as much. Because of legal concerns there would be some topics he would dearly love to have a go at but cannot.
3. His using Kiwibank for donations does seem ironic, my theory on this is he perceives Kiwibank less likely to bow to pressure to close the account than the four ‘high street’ banks (he had to stop publicising a solicitor’s trust account he was using). In this regard, years ago, ASB (before it was Australian owned) closed a savings account that Rob Muldoon had since a child because the management did not like his utterances.
4. As far as moderation policies are concerned, the owners of blogs can do what they like. Human frailty being what it is, if a blogger and helpers are under pressure, moderation practices could well become both idiosyncratic and erratic.
5. “May you live in interesting times” – applies both to WO and MSM

Whale surfingPete Belt surfing a whale?

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