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Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 04:09 AM
How many regular commenters have found the last week of diavlogs and threads particularly "wanting"? I'm talking about Stoller-Carroll and the continuing Althouse embarrassment. On at least two occasions I was very excited about the topics of the diavlog only to regret the waste of my time due to the performances of the 'heads. As Uncle Ebeneezer in another context so eloquently put it:

And while I don't have as strong negative feelings for her as some of my compatriots (who shall remain nameless), which place am I more inspired to spend my time in discussions, a site where the focus shifts on any given day from Henry Farrell to John Horgan, to David Frum, to Heather Hurlburt etc.? It's a no-brainer to me...just a complimentary point about the diversity of BHTV. It's one of the best one-stop shopping sites I know of for keeping informed. Between this and Matt Yglesias, not too many interesting columns/stories etc. fall under my radar (if I have time to pursue them all is another story.)

But, we shouldn't stop trying to improve it, or voicing our recommendations, even if it's not our "baby". Just because bhTV is about bloggers (or, should be!), doesn't mean it has to become as "pathetic" as many blogs are, mere vanity sites or cynical traps for bored adolescents. I would suggest these improvements, and I humbly ask commenters to evaluate, and the staff and founders to consider them.

1. A ratings system for both diavlogs and forum threads. I have observed that bad diavlogs often poison the debate. But, sometimes the threads redeem the diavlogs. There should be a transparent mechanism by which the staff and community can ascertain where the breakdown occurred. The Economist Debate Series uses a graphic interface for simultaneous voting (http://www.economist.com/debate/index.cfm?action=hall&debate_id=10&sa_campaign=debateseries/debate10/events/hp/panel/). An evaluation tally should be compiled and posted publicly for each diavlog participant. There could also be, like on DKos, rating of individual posts in threads.

2. It really annoyed me, as I said, that diavlogs with interesting topics were fouled by subpar 'heads. Instead of arranging diavlogs around 'heads, there should be more emphasis on finding the right 'heads for the right discussion.

3. A public calendar of future diavlogs, possibly with the option of offering recommendations.

4. The staff should communicate to the community about its efforts to find new participants, hopefully by following the advice of the community as expressed on this Board.

I hope the community can improve this site, to avoid embarrassing and time-consuming episodes.

Thus Spoke Elvis
07-30-2008, 11:18 AM
I agree with a lot of the points you raise in principle, Baltimoron, but with a few caveats.

Most importantly, a diavlogger rating system would, in my view, very likely be influenced by whether or not a viewer agreed with the participant to a significant degree. Let me give you an example. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions (and in all honestly I personally disagree with him a fair amount of the time), I think it's fair to say that Eli Lake is one of the more knowledgable and useful people to have on bloggingheads, because he raises interesting points and generally instigates serious policy debates. That said, I'm not sure I've ever read a thread that was based on a diavlog he was involved in where more than a few people didn't claim that he should never be invited to appear again. What I suspect will happen, then, is that Eli's rating will be lower than some other diavloggers who are less interesting and knowledgeable, but who also don't challenge the audience's opinions (e.g., Hamsher, Scher, etc.).

AemJeff
07-30-2008, 11:37 AM
I agree with a lot of the points you raise in principle, Baltimoron, but with a few caveats.

Most importantly, a diavlogger rating system would, in my view, very likely be influenced by whether or not a viewer agreed with the participant to a significant degree. Let me give you an example. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions (and in all honestly I personally disagree with him a fair amount of the time), I think it's fair to say that Eli Lake is one of the more knowledgable and useful people to have on bloggingheads, because he raises interesting points and generally instigates serious policy debates. That said, I'm not sure I've ever read a thread that was based on a diavlog he was involved in where more than a few people didn't claim that he should never be invited to appear again. What I suspect will happen, then, is that Eli's rating will be lower than some other diavloggers who are less interesting and knowledgeable, but who also don't challenge the audience's opinions (e.g., Hamsher, Scher, etc.).

I'm afraid that a rating system could, to some extent, become an ideological litmus test; and I'd hate to see BHTV devolve into a popularity contest. In Eli's specific case, though, I'd say that despite a few loud voices, his status as a favorite is hardly in doubt.

bjkeefe
07-30-2008, 01:12 PM
I'll third Elvis and AemJeff: online rating systems usually amount to little more than popularity contests, whether they're about personalities or ideologies. That is, when they're not being just being out-and-out gamed by zealots. (e.g. (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10000650-2.html))

Besides, we already have a way to "rate" diavloggers, one that is potentially much more rich and nuanced than a simple numerical ranking: post comments about them.

On top of that, I'd hate to see a low numerical rating prevent a worthy voice from being invited back. Whether the topic is of less transient interest to the masses (think horserace versus UN Plaza or Science Saturday) or is an unpopular opinion (shoutout to Eli), I don't want any more pressure added to do away with such voices.

To that end, I am even more strongly opposed to the optional part of this:

3. A public calendar of future diavlogs, possibly with the option of offering recommendations and vetoing proposed pairings.

Talk about inviting suppression of speech!

As far as making recommendations goes, we do have a couple of channels available already: this thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=1813) and email (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/sendmessage.php). I agree that it might be nice to get a little more confirmation that the overlords are paying attention to the recommendations, but I guess I just trust that they are already.

==========

I'll point out, at risk of stating the obvious, that there already is a rating system for the threads -- look near the top of any thread page for the drop down menu titled "Rate Thread."

==========

As far as advance notice of upcoming diavlogs goes, I have seen others asking for this, too. I'm not exactly against the idea, although I am a little mystified about why this would be important to anyone. There's no need to plan a specific time to view a diavlog, after all -- check the site (or the RSS feed) when you have the time or inclination. What's the big deal?

Maybe it's the case that you'd like to have a list to choose from, in the interests of budgeting your time. In this case, I'd say, just let a few days go by, to let a backlog of unviewed diavlogs build up.

==========

I agree that it would be nice if we had fewer unqualified people opining on certain topics. I don't see how anyone could be against that goal. In defense of BH.tv, though, this is not usually a problem. I am still frequently amazed at the caliber of the discussions, especially considering the pay scale for diavloggers. So, yeah, let's have a little less pretend-policy-debating on This Week in Blog and maybe not quite so much analysis based solely on what one blogger's mom thinks about something, but I don't see that there's a general problem here. So we had a bad week. (I think, Balt, that you may be weighting that too heavily.)

==========

Sorry to come off as so negative, Balt. I do agree with your general motivation here -- there's nothing wrong with encouraging improvement, no matter how good the status quo is. It's just that I don't much agree with the specific suggestions you've made here.

jh in sd
07-30-2008, 02:30 PM
Balt, Although I understand your frustration, too much of what you propose is based on subjective interpretations.

As far as rating the individual posts, let's just leave that under the jurisdiction of the Though Police.

uncle ebeneezer
07-30-2008, 02:40 PM
I agree. Bob and the staff seem to be pretty good about keeping up with the input from the viewers (both in specific troubleshooting and our quality assesments of the various participants.) Ultimately I have faith in their decisions on who to have on. We raved about people like Glenn Loury and Heather Hurlbert, and they started showing up more frequently. It seems all the feedback the staff needs can be found in the comments section. More importantly in the comments we spell out WHY we feel the way we do.

And finally, i can barely keep up with watching the vlogs and commenting, let alone adding a new dimension. But I appreciate the effort for improvement. keep the ideas coming.

graz
07-30-2008, 03:00 PM
As far as rating the individual posts, let's just leave that under the jurisdiction of the Though Police.

You are employing the tongue and cheek action again, no?
The underlying truth shines through. Too many righties are using the suppression of speech meme lately. They act as if calling it an echo chamber makes it so. You're with me on this right?

graz
07-30-2008, 03:28 PM
All of your points have merit, and I trust that if you were the point man for implementing the plan, the average quality of the episodes would rise. But the trade-off would be predictability. You have eloquently made your case and also tipped your hand. There is no way that all the viewers, especially the lurkers would align their preferences with yours.
One aspect of the "mystery line-up system" enables a more robust comments section. For me, Bob's infrequent mention of funding or failure and global media juggernaut presence add to the intrigue. The switch to forum software was a sure sign for some (wolfgangus) that the end was near. NYT tie-ins and banner ads have also raised concerns. But, the product has remained viable, if far from perfect. Long live bhtv - even with Mickey.

bjkeefe
07-30-2008, 03:39 PM
As far as rating the individual posts, let's just leave that under the jurisdiction of the Though Police.

That plan should suit everyone to a T.

Or not.

Should we pronounce this imaginary gang as the Thaw Police?

I like the concept -- warming relations across the spectrum. But let's keep your proposed spelling -- adds ambiguity.

jh in sd
07-30-2008, 03:41 PM
graz. Please explain the thought process you went through to come up with your response and why you believe I am using it as a meme. We should be able to express, debate, and argue our opinions here. Rating the comments is another thing. What other purpose would it serve other than to drive away unpopular opinion? Also, doesn't it take a hell of alot of arrogance to do it in the first place?

jh in sd
07-30-2008, 03:48 PM
bj, I need to start editing my posts! Glad I could add some levity! j

graz
07-30-2008, 03:52 PM
graz. Please explain the thought process you went through to come up with your response and why you believe I am using it as a meme. We should be able to express, debate, and argue our opinions here. Rating the comments is another thing. What other purpose would it serve other than to drive away unpopular opinion? Also, doesn't it take a hell of alot of arrogance to do it in the first place?

It was an attempt to continue the ongoing joke - always infused with truth - about free speech suppression and lefty domination on these boards.
Balt's suggestions, while serious and sound, veer towards a certain N. Korean leader's appetite for "control."
I'm just funnin', not intending any insult or provocation.

cragger
07-30-2008, 08:13 PM
Commenters may also represent a pretty small slice of the BHTV audience. One hopes more people find the diavlogs interesting and informative than chose to enter the forums, and excessive tailoring to suit a relative handful of fanboys is not necessarily a good thing. Presumably Bob W. has access to such statistics.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:27 PM
You miss the point of the rating system. The purpose is to give feedback about the diavlog, as distinct from the Boards. For instance, I thought Althouse-DePaulo was a trainwreck. But, let's say for the sake of argument, the community on the corresponding thread actually debated the point without Althouse as an impediment. If I wanted to rate the thread highly, it would imply I approved of the diavlog. But, I want to praise the community and damn Althouse.

Also, the rating systems need not be simultaneous. What is important is separate and transparent ratings systems for diavlogs and threads.

Concerning popularity, it's only a matter of making the rating tool more or less thorough. It's the difference between a push poll and a Pew survey. Actually, a social science student could use bhTV for statistics work with a really good poll. it's just a matter of how the rating tool is constructed. But, really, so what if it's all popularity! I'm not saying Wright, or a senior staffer, can't trump the ratings. All I want is transparency and fairness. If Wright said, "well, diavlogger X is despised, but I think he/she deserves another chance", or "It's my site, so fuck off!", that's his prerogative as the boss. But, it will be out there for all to see.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:34 PM
Again, it's all in the construction of the poll.

I'll give you an example. I did off-topic parliamentary debate in college. The highlight of five rounds and two days of beer-soaked and sleepless debating is the session of "Parliament" where the two highest rated teams debate the final topic. At the end, the House divides for a vote.

Yes, those teams that often (but not always) made it to the final round were damn popular. After four years of apprenticeship, their drinking exploits and rhetorical flourishes were legendary. But, popularity made them better. And, their "routines" over the course of debates became models for all of us. "Oh, this novice did a Moctezuma in the first round, and it fell flat!" (a pre-law student from Mexico at Harvard who was a big deal then).

And, again, Wright always has the last word.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:36 PM
I agree that the "veto" idea was crazy. I retract it.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:36 PM
Again, good poll construction and transparency.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:38 PM
I don't trust Congress enough to make a decision without my ability to stick a gun up their asses!

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:41 PM
There's this odd inference that, if the community had more input and access to information, bhTV would go south. More cooks, more recipes, better food. And, it takes better leadership to lead a democracy than a quivering mass of sheep.

Baltimoron
07-30-2008, 08:42 PM
If for no other reason, I would like better polling, to draw out those guests floating around, and to use their votes to some good.

Eastwest
07-31-2008, 01:52 AM
Actually, I think things are just fine the way they are and really are not in need of any particular reform at all. BHTV is decent one-stop shop for in-depth discussions of a wide range of important topics. (It's the only "TV" I ever watch, period.)

I'd suggest self-policing on seven dirty words based ad hominem attacks against Diavlog participants or commenters with whom one doesn't agree.

I'd also like to see both hosts and guests stepping down and participating more in the comments. Even though I hardly ever agree with anything Conn Carroll says and obviously wasn't very impressed by Ann Althouse's display, I do like that they jumped in and joined the discussion. That's why, even though I had a very good basis for giving AA more grief, I just "chilled" after having my say.

Whatever,

EW

PS: On selection of pairings, even though I like to give BW a hard time, I think he mostly does OK, though I'd like to see him become a little more adventurous in wandering beyond the sphere of horse-race partisan politics to cover an ever-wider range of intellectual, spiritual, and life topics (which in fairness, he does blend in already reasonably well).

look
07-31-2008, 03:31 AM
Also, the rating systems need not be simultaneous. What is important is separate and transparent ratings systems for diavlogs and threads.
Respectfully, Balt, Bob has a ratings system, and that would be the hit tallies. I have no doubt that Althouse being a good draw explains her appearances.

I remember a time when complaints would draw a chorus of 'it's free content, what right do you have to complain?' Is it asking too much to simply skip viewing a diavlog?

Also, I'd like to say as far as recent complaints about McArdle appearing frequently, that it's likely she was jumping into the breach during the summer doldrums. I also imagine her diavlogs get plenty of hits; she's a cheerful young woman with a unique perspective, and it's interesting to some to see how the other half lives. Again, you no likey, you no watchy. It's not rocket science, people. Show the common courtesy befitting people old enough to know better.

bjkeefe
07-31-2008, 03:48 AM
Show the common courtesy befitting people old enough to know better.

Ageist.

Baltimoron
07-31-2008, 03:52 AM
Respectfully, "no likey, no watchey" doesn't address poor execution of a topic one wants to watch. It's easy to avoid the horse race crap by reading the topics most of the time. It's off-topic stuff, like the latest energy and social issues, where few could predict the trainwrecks. And, those who did recall Stoller's habits, or Carroll's routine, should have alerted Wright to the possible problem. As far as Althouse is concerned, even Colbert sets up his guest authors and shows more respect than Althouse did to DePaulo. Does Wright want to set a trend for nasty treatment of authors who often have to endure these book tours? I doubt anyone would want to endure Althouse after this? In short, it's an embarrassment for this site.

Secondly, complacency is deadly, and those who stand still get run over. I'm sure Wright has other meters. All I ask is transparency and fairness. Hits are a crude metric, and if this site ever does go premium paid, that crudeness will never hold up as a prognostic tool.

I just don't understand some of the lazy attitudes demonstrated here. Yes, it's free, and that's why it's easier to correct a mistake before it becomes habitual. Unless, that is, one likes to denigrate oneself and one's role.

Baltimoron
07-31-2008, 03:54 AM
Call me , Lt. Saavik!

bjkeefe
07-31-2008, 03:58 AM
I just don't understand some of the lazy attitudes demonstrated here. Yes, it's free, and that's why it's easier to correct a mistake before it becomes habitual. Unless, that is, one likes to denigrate oneself and one's role.

I don't think it's laziness. It sounds more to me like the people weighing in are (a) pretty happy overall, (b) willing to concede that they won't like every diavlog(ger), and (c) not much interested in user-generated ratings.

The one thing some or most would agree with you about is a wish for a broader range of topics. Hang in there -- November will be come and gone before you know it. ;^)

Baltimoron
07-31-2008, 04:15 AM
If this election is any indication, and assuming ever-longer elections, we have about a year after November, 2008 until initial jockeying for 2012 starts. Of course, before then, there's the run-up to the 2010 Congressional midterms. So, I don't know, maybe we'll have a couple Labor Day weekends to fill with non-horse race crap.

look
07-31-2008, 04:35 AM
Respectfully, "no likey, no watchey" doesn't address poor execution of a topic one wants to watch. It's easy to avoid the horse race crap by reading the topics most of the time. It's off-topic stuff, like the latest energy and social issues, where few could predict the trainwrecks. And, those who did recall Stoller's habits, or Carroll's routine, should have alerted Wright to the possible problem. As far as Althouse is concerned, even Colbert sets up his guest authors and shows more respect than Althouse did to DePaulo. Does Wright want to set a trend for nasty treatment of authors who often have to endure these book tours? I doubt anyone would want to endure Althouse after this? In short, it's an embarrassment for this site.I think you're missing the big picture. Althouse is popular precicely because she's _____. Even if Bob secretly wishes to jettison her, he can't currently because she fills a category. Bob reads the comments. People have been bitching about her ever since the Jessica Valenti issue. You don't think Bob knows how the commenters feel? Same with the Stoller issue (whom Carroll baited). These guys aren't experts. Many are tuning in to see blogger interplay, and were given a rather sad show, but how many hits? Maybe a lot due to the drama.
Secondly, complacency is deadly, and those who stand still get run over. I'm sure Wright has other meters. All I ask is transparency and fairness. Hits are a crude metric, and if this site ever does go premium paid, that crudeness will never hold up as a prognostic tool. Premium paid? I don't think so. Just like the Times wall came down, who would pay to see this? I don't think he could ever get it to the quality that any would pay for when there are TED talks and Fora talks out there to be seen for free.
I just don't understand some of the lazy attitudes demonstrated here. Yes, it's free, and that's why it's easier to correct a mistake before it becomes habitual. Unless, that is, one likes to denigrate oneself and one's role.Denigrate oneself? Give me a break. You're talking on the level of Stoller and Carroll now. Respectfully.

AemJeff
07-31-2008, 09:34 AM
Actually, I think things are just fine the way they are and really are not in need of any particular reform at all. BHTV is decent one-stop shop for in-depth discussions of a wide range of important topics. (It's the only "TV" I ever watch, period.)

I'd suggest self-policing on seven dirty words based ad hominem attacks against Diavlog participants or commenters with whom one doesn't agree.

I'd also like to see both hosts and guests stepping down and participating more in the comments. Even though I hardly ever agree with anything Conn Carroll says and obviously wasn't very impressed by Ann Althouse's display, I do like that they jumped in and joined the discussion. That's why, even though I had a very good basis for giving AA more grief, I just "chilled" after having my say.

Whatever,

EW

PS: On selection of pairings, even though I like to give BW a hard time, I think he mostly does OK, though I'd like to see him become a little more adventurous in wandering beyond the sphere of horse-race partisan politics to cover an ever-wider range of intellectual, spiritual, and life topics (which in fairness, he does blend in already reasonably well).

Regarding invective-laced ad hominem, how much do we really see on this site? I can think of a couched "FU" that Wonderment caught, once. It doesn't really seem to be a problem in this community, for the most part.

I was prepared to be impressed, or at least have my long-standing antipathy softened, by AA's appearance. However, her contribution as a commenter is sub-par, really unimpressive. I might disagree with Carroll, but he's stalwart and he plays by the same rules we do in the comment section - his postings are definitely value added.

Thus Spoke Elvis
07-31-2008, 10:03 AM
You miss the point of the rating system. The purpose is to give feedback about the diavlog, as distinct from the Boards.

No, I think I understand your point, and as I said, I agree with it as an abstract principle. But applied to the real world, I think it would very likely make diavlogs into a popularity contest, which isn't good either for contrarian diavloggers or substantive discussions about underreported topics (e.g., Science Saturday, U.N. Plaza).

You suggest that a ratings tool could be tailored to address concerns people have with its usefulness or legitmacy, just like a really good poll does. But really good polls require a lot of time and effort to construct, an adequate sampling size, and (generally) lots of questions to assess the true beliefs of the respondent. I don't think too many people are interested in crafting such a poll, much less answering it -- especially if they had to continually do it for each new diavlog.

bjkeefe
07-31-2008, 02:41 PM
... Fora talks ...

Did you mean fora.tv? If so, thanks. I'd never heard of it before now. It looks good.

Just watched (listened to, actually) a talk by Neal Stephenson (http://fora.tv/2008/05/08/Neal_Stephenson_Science_Fiction_as_a_Literary_Genr e) and geeked out massively.

Eastwest
08-01-2008, 03:30 AM
Regarding invective-laced ad hominem, how much do we really see on this site?

Far less than I used to see. Now, it's often just tongue-in-cheek or somebody passing through trying to get a rise out of folks.

On the whole BHTV is fairly civilized. To whatever extent articulation continues to supplant the low-brow, more and more interesting commenters should start to appear.

I guess my point with that one was that there is a way of refusing to engage the odd miscreants. That right there tends to tone it down.

Wouldn't want folks to think I'm lobbying for curbing the other stock-in-trade techniques of delivering incisive commentary: wry acerbic, even caustic humor, sarcasm, reductio ad absurdum argumentation, etc. Too tame = lame = boring.

EW

AemJeff
08-01-2008, 10:25 AM
Wouldn't want folks to think I'm lobbying for curbing the other stock-in-trade techniques of delivering incisive commentary: wry acerbic, even caustic humor, sarcasm, reductio ad absurdum argumentation, etc. Too tame = lame = boring.

EW

Nope. Not a damn thing wrong with any of that. And we wouldn't want to think you were going soft on us, EW.

Eastwest
08-03-2008, 05:59 AM
The one thing I really can't stand is the damn lime-green color scheme.

EW

bjkeefe
08-03-2008, 02:43 PM
The one thing I really can't stand is the damn lime-green color scheme.

EW

I don't have personal experience here, but I'm of the impression that you could change this, relatively easily, via Greasemonkey.

Ocean
08-03-2008, 04:06 PM
The one thing I really can't stand is the damn lime-green color scheme.

EW

What's wrong with green? GREEN, why not? And it's not lime, it's more like mauve...