25 July 2006

Infantilism in the blogosphere

Soci, the founder of Singabloodypore, loves to go on about how infantile the local blogosphere is. That was last April, I believe. Half a year later, there was a solicitation for co-contributors for SBP. What had me sold was this vision of a non-infantile blogosphere:
I have often contemplated the idea of running a 'socio-political blog' about Singapore that allows contributions from the public, other than just comments and has a group of editors monitoring the content.
It was all it took, really, and I began writing for SBP in October. You'll have to understand it was a time of opportunities. By 2004, SBP had become a news aggregator site where Soci would cut and paste entire news articles without comment or analysis. His call for contributors and fellow editors, could that be a start of a new blog? At that time, anything was possible. Or perhaps at that time, I believed anything was possible.

This was my statement of intent, as well as a sort of acceptance email to his call for co-contributors:
If the blog is run along the lines of crookedtimber.org, obsidianwings.blogs.com, savageminds.org, or long-sunday.net - ie. with group contributors who run/edit the site and with serious and sustained comments by contributors and members of the public, I'm all game for it.

If, on the other hand, you envision a super singaporean sociopolitical news aggregator blog along the lines of boingboing or tomorrow, where the emphasis is more on posting rather than developing a good idea from an original post through replies in the comments section, the site will have my support but I will NOT join in the running of the endeavor.
Yet almost a year later, I am still waiting for my fellow contributors - Soci included - to actually write their own articles instead of cut and pasting articles written by other people. Was there a policy message I missed somewhere down the line? Or did I not get the memo that said "Given the precarious legal position of bloggers, contributors of SBP are advised to write as little of their own opinion or analysis as possible, to protect themselves"?

With every 50-line article SBP contributors cut and paste, a little bit of our collective credibility dies. And we do this, 5 articles a day on average. What SBP has become is indeed a blog with more emphasis on posting, than on developing ideas and discussions. Indiscriminate and voluminous cut-pasting sends out a signal to all readers that the contributors don't respect the blog they run.

And so, SBP gets the readership that it deserves: hordes of anonymouses posting one liners, mostly non sequiturs. Some are spammers, like the commentor who cut/pastes entire falunggong news articles to comment on any blog post, regardless of relevance. Or ranters who just feel great posting their angry denunciations of the gahmen. All done as one-liners, of course. SBP has become a platform for anonymouses to rant and post non sequitors.

You know, once upon a time I thought the sammyboymod forums were pretty wild. Discussions there would start off fine and brilliant, but always degenerate into shouting matches by the third page. Once upon an even longer time, I thought soc.culture.singapore was the gutter of political commentary and discussion in cyberspace. Today, I am forced to change my opinion. Singabloodypore is the new gutter of online political discussion.

Indiscriminate cut/pasting encourages rants and indiscriminate commenting. Neighbourhoods with broken windows, and all that. The failure of SBP members to moderate comments, to guide discussions to a higher ground of analysis and insightful commentary, the wilful policy of benign neglect - all this encourage even more indiscriminate commenting. I have noticed, as have other contributors, the precipitous decline in the tone and quality of comments, coupled with a marked rise in anonymous commentors.

Today, Singabloodypore looks like a slum. The main column is cluttered with miles of cut-and-pasted content that go on and on. We could excerpt just one or two paragraphs, and then use either article truncation or just provide links, if we just want to cut and paste. The side bar is cluttered with too many links. Singabloodypore has not just become a site that I would not personally want to read, it has not just become a site that I do not want to be associated with, it has become the most infantile political site in Singapore's blogosphere. In fact, far more infantile than the sites Soci made fun of last April.

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