PI no. 3: Assertion-flagging: for less partisan, prejudiced blogging

Most political bloggers are motivated to fight what they see as bigotry, prejudice, and ill-informed, unjustifiable assertion. This is a fine and noble cause, because the spreading of false beliefs - without the evidence to support them – is bad for all of us, as is the displacement of informed argument by mere rhetoric. All the more so when the perpetrator is powerful or influential.

This is a guest cross-post by Andrew Regan, originally posted on Political Innovation

Most political bloggers are motivated to fight what they see as bigotry, prejudice, and ill-informed, unjustifiable assertion. This is a fine and noble cause, because the spreading of false beliefs – without the evidence to support them – is bad for all of us, as is the displacement of informed argument by mere rhetoric. All the more so when the perpetrator is powerful or influential.

However, bloggers – regular journalists too, and political representatives such as MPs – are only human, and frequently counter the prejudices and assertions of their political enemies with those of their political friends.

We need a solution that allows writers to write and thinkers to get their thoughts into print, but that gives the ultimate power of scrutiny over blogs, online newspapers, and think-tanks – whether they like it or not – to their millions of readers.

A service that makes it easy for readers to flag-up the unsubstantiated assertions that bloggers and journalists make – in a seamless, a structured, and a visible way – so that they may be held to account, and asked to back up their claims. Addressing public concerns is good for politics, as well as for one’s reputation. Not responding would give out a less desirable signal…

I believe that a centralised service like this would encourage more thoughtful blogging, reward the best bloggers, and penalise those who are the most shrill, the most partisan, the least constructive, and the least conversational – all without the need for ‘codes of conduct’.

Do you agree?

If you do, you’ll be pleased to hear that a solution is just around the corner. I run a site called Poblish.org that aggregates all kinds of political content, creating a central, searchable hub for the output of 2000 (and growing) of the most popular and influential bloggers and journalists. In other words, it’s the perfect place to find political bigotry, prejudice, and assertion.

Once a reader has identified an article – or just a section – that they feel needs substantiation, Poblish will guide them through a very easy-to-use process describing their request, passing the request to the original author (by email, or via TheyWorkForYou for MPs), handling their response, asking the reader to review it, adding or subtracting Brownie points as necessary, and recording the results so that other readers and authors can learn from what happened.

Most of the work has already been done to create this system. There’s even an API for accessing the results. The next stage is for bloggers and political representatives to commit to being part of this; for their readers to start flagging assertions, confident that their efforts will be rewarded, and that online politics can improve; and for developers and the political data community to help perfect Poblish’s solution.

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6 Responses to “PI no. 3: Assertion-flagging: for less partisan, prejudiced blogging”

  1. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: PI no. 3: Assertion-flagging: for less partisan, prejudiced blogging: http://bit.ly/aLpdTR – @PICamp essay no. 3

  2. Rob Carr

    This blog post seems to be more of a plug for Poblish than anything else. The ultimate power of scrutiny already lies with the readers of my blog and I’m happy for them to hold me to account at any time and there’s a very simple way for them to do so. It’s called the comments box. If a reader wants to question something I’ve published, I’m more than happy for them to do so there. I realise that I could unethically moderate such comments, but then I could just as easily ignore a request from an aggregator.I’m not sure there’s any political innovation in this, but good luck with it nonetheless.

  3. Paul Evans

    Rob – when you read the post, did you get as far as the bit about ‘brownie points’ – the ‘centralised system’? The idea isn’t just to create a new way of commenting – it’s to create a reputation management system where writers can establish something of a metric showing how often the assertions that they make are based upon some kind of evidence. If you ignore requests from the aggregator, then that would be reflected in the reputation system.

  4. Andrew Regan

    Sorry for the slow reply. Rob, the key thing is the openness. Comment boxes are fine for sending a message to the original blogger – who gets an email notification – but they’re not a good way to communicate with other people, many of whom are unlikely to want to read a whole mass of comments in search of the salient point. Plus, it’s rare for bloggers to post updates and corrections to their posts.

    While, on the one hand, it’s a free country, and blogs can be very individual things, we do live in a world of shared and overlapping ideas. I like to think that, in the future, blogs will be less personal, and less parochial, but can instead be used as the basis for a ‘web’ of political knowledge that absolutely anyone can hook into, really use, and learn from. And the plain old comment box just won’t take us there.

  5. Poblish Blog | Blog | Assertion-flagging: for less partisan, prejudiced blogging

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