Pajamas Media

Roger Simon is working out some questions about Pajamas Media in public over on his site – “What is Fair and Balanced?” – a discussion and comment thread which came to the interesting conclusion that a better motto would be “honest and transparent” as well as “How can we be an online Joe Friday?” If you haven’t already, go over and join the conversation.

I’ll comment on the broader meta-issue which I think is important, which is Pajamas’ commitment to take some of the basic questions and exercise them in public. I am and have been a big believer in dialog – both in terms of using this blog as a way of triggering and promoting dialog (as opposed to pronouncements) and in terms of the power of blogs in general as being the power of dialog.

In my day job as a technology manager, I’ve been introducing the concepts of ‘open-ended’ solutions which we can distribute to be developed from the bottom up rather than trying constantly to build them from the top down.

I’ve spread a lot of copies of fellow firearms owner Eric Raymond’s work around – specifically the updated versions of ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar.’

He has a great chapter title in it – “How Many Eyeballs Tame Complexity”. He’s talking about testing and QA specifically, but the same principle, carefully applied, can also help resolve complex business and social issues.

How do you test and grow ideas within a community? How do you keep the community broad and inclusive enough not to become an echo chamber while keeping it cohesive enough to make sure that all points of view are listened to?

I’ll throw those out as my questions about something like Pajamas Media, and I’m obviously interested in what folks have to say.

13 thoughts on “Pajamas Media”

  1. Okay, I’ll start this.

    Clearly the pajama-clad can do some very good work – witness the saga of the 70’s typewriters, or the tracking down of Gannon/Guckert’s “real” job.

    However, even the best determined sleuthing by amateurs has quite a lot of limits.

    My examples (and I’m sure the right wing here on the site will have their own) would be the now banned Paul Lukasiak’s investigation of GW’s national guard service, and more worringly, the exit polling differences, a lot of the research devoted to the poll voter issues in Ohio, and the use of voter software in general, that doesn’t provide a paper trail.

    The paragraph I just wrote I am sure will immediately elicit response – and the responses elicited point up somje of the limits of the pajama class.

    a. Sometimes the best and most true research in the world, will simply get ignored for awhile, if the environment isn’t conducive to it being promulgated.
    b. The vast majority of the pajama class is approaching research from a lawyer’s or sophist’s point of view, and not from a “want the truth and damn the consequences!” view.

    So any information will be condemned/celebrated, not on the intrinsic value of the information revealed, but on the cause or case that the pajama person is commited to.

    The developer of wikipedia has an article that is pertinent, titled “Why Wikipedia Must Jettison It’s Anti-Elitism”:http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/12/30/142458/25.

    A key line is this one:

    _No one I know in academia (at least in the technical fields) bother contributing and I know many people in academia (including Jackson from E&M fame and van Trees from signal processing). Why would an expert bother contributing his valuable time to a project that can be ruined any random idiot on the ‘net? People love to compare Wikipedia to Open Source but guess what: bad, incorrect code doesn’t compile. Bad, incorrect information on the ‘net lives on and non-experts hardly ever notice the mistake._

    This is one of the major issues with the pajama class, and it cuts on both sides of the political spectrum.

    Some famous debater has said that as soon as you are caught in an EXPLANATION in your debate, you’ve lost.

    So in this sense, what is true (which we all intrinsically respect) and winning the argument ABOUT what is true, are different things. (Which I think you and Joe know well, considering the way you employ your rhetorical skills

    Since language is so broad, and the elements of a real life story are so complex, a skilled sophist is able to “deny” something, based on irrelevant detail, pumping up unrelated facts, etc – without EVER actually “lying”.

    I would say this applies to just about everybody who posts or comments on this site to some degree, and this definitely includes the hosts – the person it applies to the least is probably AMac. (AMac, I’ll get back to the questions on that May 17th thread by the way, haven’t forgotten it)

    An aside: And of course it DOESN’T apply to ME – of course not! – however I’m psychologically aware enough to realize that one’s OWN estimation of one’s truthfulness and objectivity is always several degrees less true that the actual objective reality! :)

    Now, there are some promising developments on this front. For example, there is the “eportfolio”:http://www.deskootenays.ca/wilton/eportfolios/whatitis.php.

    What this system does, is takes elements of one’s personal profile, and then develops a service to share one’s profile with other people, and other software (agreed upon data exchange)

    I can envision a mode where one’s online persona has something similar, and like what happens on DailyKos – that you are rated based on the quality of your comments -, you are rated up or down in various qualia as well (honesty, compassion, style of argument, humor, research abilities, etc), based on the quality of your posts and comments.

    And then this personal “rated persona” can be seamlessly transferred to other community management system’s (CMS) such as blogs, forums, etc.

    You started this question with Roger Simon – that’s actually an excellent example of what I mean.

    I experimented with posting there, regarding the UN finding of fault with Kofi Annan. (And his obsession over that one little aspect of this UN Iraq Oil for Food scandal, ignoring stuff like all the U.S. companies involved.) Not only was he personally rude, but he simply went off on tangents unrelated to any of the points I would bring up. Life was too short to deal with such obvious lack of civility by the proprietors of a site, so I haven’t read or posted there in awhile. (And I won’t go see what the deluded gentleman has to say now)

  2. JC, Wow.
    At first I was going to say, just, WOW! that is uniformly danged good!
    I loved the wiki part. ;)

    But then…
    _I can envision a mode where one’s online persona has something similar, and like what happens on DailyKos – that you are rated based on the quality of your comments -, *you are rated up or down in various qualia as well (honesty, compassion, style of argument, humor, research abilities, etc)*, based on the quality of your posts and comments._

    You had to say that.
    I have burned three entire nics to troll rank there, and had ALL my comments deleted, just for disagreeing and asking hard questions. You know me, i never swear, i always argue politely and link source, and sometimes i agree with the other side and even change my mind. In your enumeration of the “various qualia” you obviously forgot the most important– agreeing with the party line. I sure hope Joe never turns Winds into a low class echo chamber like dKos. ;(

  3. Jinn,

    Why let yourself be led off to ko$land? JC said his piece, which really does highlight the fact that ko$landers probably aren’t part of PJM’s market niche, so why waste pixels?

    How do you keep the community broad and inclusive enough not to become an echo chamber while keeping it cohesive enough to make sure that all points of view are listened to?

    It’s difficult to address your question without some explanation on your part as to why “all points of view” need to be “listened to”. As to the “echo chamber” – if you don’t perceive that you have it here at WoC (I don’t think you do) then why worry about it for PJM? The closest thing to an echo chamber occuring in any of the three principals blogs is the comment section in LGF.

    I tend to work better in situations where, at minimum, there is a defined goal. Does one exist for PJM – or is the goal to be ‘group’ determined. If ‘transparency and honesty’ are to become watchwords, perhaps they might be applied to the aspirations of the proprietors.

  4. Rick, i keep hoping. ;)
    My friend Aziz keeps a diary there, and praktike comments sometimes.
    I long for that honorable adversary that i can have a sensible debate with. I thenk we need both sides.

  5. Jinnderella,

    Yes, I remember you mentioning that, and it sucks. From what I understand, pretty much anybody can rate you at DailyKos, and, if get troll rated down, you “disappear” as it were. Pretty much all automatically done by the software.

    Which, for the most part, means the DK mobs are gonna get ya, if you stray too far from orthodoxy! In that sense, it becomes “rule by mob”.

    And I TRULY know that you are the least person to be impolite on a site, so my sympathies there.

    I wasn’t suggesting an EXACT duplicate of dkos profiles, I was just showing how something similar would rate.

    Now, how would your profile not end up getting troll-rated down, by the goons of both sides? good question, and again, it points up the limits of a completely open system – if any idiot can troll you down, because he doesn’t agree with you, how is that useful?

  6. JC –

    That’s a great comment, and first of all thanks.

    We’ve been talking a lot about exactly this for the “news side” of PJ’s for a while, and one idea that keeps popping up is some kind of “circles of trust” thing. The question is how to keep it from being mob rule a la Kos, and conversely how to guard against the reality or appearance of elitism.

    What about weighing the votes on status by the status of the voter?? What if people who’d earned the most trust in the community had more votes?

    Would that be useful or elitist?

    A.L.

  7. Jinn,

    It’s not a matter of hope, it’s a matter of time. Taking a discussion to a point beyond the 2-2.5 standard deviation range in terms of political distance from center is a waste of time. If PJM seeks the undifferentiated muddle – it’s a dead loss. What customer base exists that’s willing to peck through a load of road apples for the seeds? I certainly hope that PJM is shooting for “Independent” as their political stance because “centrist” is, IMO, suicidal.

    I suppose I’m still a bit confused concerning what PJM actually is or hopes to be.

  8. Rick, we’re working on that. I’d say that from my point of view, the goal is to have discussion that matter – both in the sense that the participants want to have them and continue having them, and in the sense that readers find them of value (because eventually they will have some commercial value in that case).

    One side-effect of that is that we ‘route around’ the current channels of discussion – mainstream media and mainstream politics – which are doing a terrible job at creating discussions that matter.

    Are those discussions right/left/centrist?? I see them on another axis altogether – now I just need to define the axis and synch it up.

    A.L.

  9. … keeping it cohesive enough to make sure that all points of view are listened to?

    I think the Internet offers ample opportunities for all points of view to be expressed, but no one can or ought to ensure that they are all listened to.

    Let’s face it – we’re not all perfectly open-minded. We’re a collection of communities, with different intellectual parameters. Remember always that all points of view include things like “The Mossad blew up the WTC” and “The Holocaust never happened”. Extended discussion of such thought-forms (with the pros and cons given equally serious treatment) would be outside of the customary parameters here.

    As for Roger’s question about “fair and balanced” – taking fair to mean plain intellectual honesty, then fair is absolutely necessary. “Balance” is a notion more appropriate to the traditional “single presentation” media, in which the consumer is given a package of facts that he can take or leave – or pick an opinion from column A or column B. He cannot participate in the presentation, his ability to back-talk it is very limited (you can write a letter to the editor, maybe they’ll print it), and his ability to do a counter presentation is very limited (good luck starting your own talk radio show).

    Because MSM journalism is a one-way dispensation, it requires an Ad Verecundiam mystique of trust and credibility, and faith in the Revelations of Anonymous Sources that can’t be examined.

    Since the Net doesn’t labor under such limitations, it doesn’t need all of the absurd trappings that are used to compensate for those limitations.

  10. To All,

    I think the concept of PJM is fascinating. The Internet and the Blogos have matured enough to take on the task.

    I agree with Hugh Hewitt we are witnessing a transformational period as great or greater than Martin Luther’s time and the Protestant Reformation. The printing press (cheap mass communication) wrested away the control, interpretation, and flow of news/info of that day from the Catholic Church and the aristorcratic elite who could afford to purchase the handwritten books.

    Here’s my two cents worth which I posted over at Roger’s site:

    Roger,

    I guess I’m late to this party.

    I attended an annual lecture series at UCR several years ago at which one of the founders of the Committee of Concerned Journalists spoke (Old school type).

    http://www.journalism.org/

    This was a fascinating talk on just these issues re transformational process from the old print media to the new age of communications.

    The answer is simple keep news as news and commentary/opinion on the OP-ED page.

    Educate the readers on how the news is gathered, sourced, provide info as to the credibility of the sources, and in short allow the readers to draw their own opinions and conclusions.

    In so doing building trust with the readers. Viewership and circulation will increase as long as this trust relationship continues.

    […]

    Read More

  11. Yes, ballance as a virtue is a fraud.

    Water is better withoute contaminats, and before that box of RidRat became Rat poison, 98% of it was good food.

    To accede to the leftist demand that objective truth, the discovery thereof, and the self evident virdict therof, be rejected in the name of ballance is a fraud.

    Information facts and data is not political, and the fact that its unerringly against the left does not make it so.

    Socailism = failure is a fact, a repeated experiment ad infinatim with bad results every time. and thats where the lefts angst comes from.

    As for “honest and transparent”, I agree, its a prima facia superior replacement for the fox motto, its merit is self evident, and to the degree its adherrents take it to heart, the product therof will be all the more so.

    What better words to describe the persuit of objective truth ? It would have my vote.

  12. My two cents for what it’s worth: Facts are meaningless outside some sort of framework. Now, we may disagree on what the facts are because there’s some obscurity or because there’s a lack of knowledge on one or both of our parts. But even if we agree on the facts, we may not agree on what they _mean_. Before we met, my ex-wife had had a boyfriend who was rather far left. I am rather far right. He and I had read the same books, watched the same news programs, read the same newspapers and magazines (left and right; know your enemy) but still had diametrically opposed views of philosophy, politics, and life in general. My ex was baffled by that. She shouldn’t have been. We may all agree that 2+2=4 but some of us may conclude that that means mathematics is the way to truth while others believe math is only partial truth. Some of us may think that’s a good thing while others don’t (silly, but bear with me). Of course, if someone says that 2+2=5 or that the sum of 2 and 2 is a matter of opinion, then s/he can safely be dismissed as a moron, a sophist, or a fanatic. But even those of us who affirm that 2+2=4 can have different opinons about what that means. The whole thing becomes even more complicated when you’re dealing with facts less self-evident than a simple math equation. JC is constantly criticizing Joe for refusal to deal with the facts, but a) the facts are not always self-evident and when that’s the case we will assume that the facts fit our framework (as true of JC as of Joe) and b) even when we agree on the facts, rational people can legitimately interpret them differently. The bottom line is that “fair and balanced” really only means, “here’s the case for my interpretation of the facts I can gather. If you disagree that they are facts or that they mean what I think they do, present your case. OK. Here are the flaws that I see in your case.” If that operation is performed with rigorous intellectual discipline and honesty, that’s the best you can expect from fallen creatures inhabiting a fallen world.

  13. Thats easy Fred, he was wrong and you was right.

    Its that simple.

    Untill he accounts for the 100+ Million skulls, and why leftism always means failure, always, test among the full range of Cultures and Geography, with relentlessly repeating results of dcline failure misery famine and holocaust.

    Never has a scientific proof been so complete and so damning.

    Leftism is a mental disorder, simply put, he dont live in your realty, and that dont mean there are two choices of physical realities.

    Yours was real, his was imaginary.

    You really need to learn some objectivist Judgementalism, the inability to make value judgements, or the leftist dysfunction that downgrades factual reality and objective truth to mere opinion and whim, is just that, a dysfunction.

    All you need to do is consider if any of his views would survive scrutiny, or if he would have to evade dodge and duck the evidence.

    leftist do that, proving to the aware, that they are dishonest, forced to focus, they fall apart like an old east german trabant.

    Ideas and opinion that cannot withstand scrutiny is worthless, that which does will endure.

    Im all for ruthless Darwinism in the realm of ideas, the value of untested opinion is almost always negative.

    How would your leftist friend answer for “these”:http://catallarchy.net/blog/archives/2005/05/01/may-day-2005-a-day-of-remembrance Answer, he could not.

    There is no room on the left for the sane after confronted with such hard core reality such as that.

    Perhaps in ignorance, but not after the ignorance is no more.

    Its that simple.

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