We’re talking not speech-making

We’ve made various reasonably friendly requests over the months….

….that we all keep our comments brief her on the blog.

The theory goes that when we talk with people in our lives, we don’t speak for a minute and then let the other person reply for a minute. Conversation is made up of lots of short comments, and that’s what we’re looking for on this blog. Nothing new in that, but we’re about to get stricter…

So, if your comments is a long set-piece on a subject, it’s likely not to be published. If it completely ignores what we’re all talking about it may go the same way.

Obviously there are come circumstances where longer comments are necessary, but this blog isn’t an invite to publish an op-ed piece. It’s an invite to take part in a conversation and we hope you’ll take us up on it.

We’ve too much anecdotal evidence that people come looking for a conversation and sometimes find something that seems like a series of long and unconnected polemics. The trouble is those people then go away and we don’t want that.

This of course doesn’t apply to many of you and we’re very grateful to everyone of you who does get involved, converse and share your thoughts.

Does all this sound fair?

108 Responses to “We’re talking not speech-making”

  1. July 25, 2008 at 15:30

    ok ros i get the message. i think it is important to define what type of blog this is. maybe a short blurb at the top of the whys webpage would be helpful.

  2. July 25, 2008 at 15:31

    ok ros i get the message. maybe a short message defining the blog rules at the top of the whys webpage.

  3. 3 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 15:38

    Fair enough. I’m going to go back to your guidelines and rewrite them so they are even clearer. Though what we’re asking for her, isn’t anything new.

  4. July 25, 2008 at 15:53

    It’s very unfair for the WHYS to dectate how much long one is allowed to write in it’s blog!I thought Everybody has a universal right to air his/her viewv irrespective of how long it takes. I myself fell very comfortable reading long articles as they are educative and increases chances of me understanding the subject of the matter.WHYS is all a bout a global conversation not about a global restrictions!….

  5. 5 Chicago
    July 25, 2008 at 15:55

    To be honest I don’t think that’s fair. This is a space for people to view their thoughts and opinions. I agree it is frustrateing to have to wade through personal anicdotes but if you don’t want to read them or spend the time on longer posts, skip them. Scroll down. Please do not curb our freedom of speech.

  6. 6 1430a
    July 25, 2008 at 15:56

    Mr.Ros i loved this quote:
    “….an invite to publish an op-ed piece.”
    Anyways i am always brief and in the future i will try and keep it as brief as i can presenting only the basic points.
    Thank You

  7. 7 ZK
    July 25, 2008 at 16:06

    I disagree, Abdi. This is not an open forum. There are no ‘rights’ to anything; only privileges. Privileges come with conditions, and keeping posts short is a fair precondition.

    I have been increasingly reluctant to visit the blog due to long winded essays. I do not want to see that trend continue.

    This may be harsh, but you want to post here, then stick to the rules. Long posts just dominate conversations and scare away people who would otherwise contribute — established or not. This is not about freedom of speech. You still have that freedom. Just make your point quick and don’t drag it out.

  8. 8 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:06

    Hi Ros & WHYSers!

    For one who is “guilty” of long blogs, so much so that you commented on same to me, I am sure we can all make a greater effort to edit ourselves. The truth, however, is that there are some comments which cannot be had without a context, as I often find that those limitations can be quite restrictive in terms of how to position your contributions to the discussions here. I am nonetheles grateful that all but one of my entries have been published.

    The unpublished comment I attributed to the early days of the Blank Page, or it might have been my computer! Either way, I have had the absolute privilege of being made to feel welcome. Thanks, Ros and the WHYS Team!

  9. 9 Shaun in Halifax
    July 25, 2008 at 16:09

    Hey Ros,

    Would it be possible to have a real-time chat-room type feature included on the blog as well then? That way we can have real-time discussions and it could help remove some of the clutter.

  10. 10 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:12


    I hear you on the matter of “long winded essays”, however, I sometimes feel that enough credit is not given to length. I often find that we can seriously speak past each other when we get into this mode of assuming we know what each other’s meanings are. In that regard, one has to expand a little on some of the comments made. And, here I speak for myself!

    What I find more interesting, though, is how the “radio-ness” of the live, on-air show creeps into the more ‘relaxed’ environment of a blog, which is in many ways similar to how one uses a newspaper. I have found myself thinking about blogs, as the newspaper of the future which even allows audiences and the like to make their own contributions to shaping the news. That is, in my view, an incredible development on the medieval printing press of the Church in the Middle Ages! I can only imagine where the technology will lead us in the “New Age” of “make your own news” – a phenomenon already being pursued by companies like CNN and others which allow viewers to send in footage from their cell phones and cameras as well as to make comments! Awesome!

  11. 11 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:14

    And as one who tries to get a blog going, I am very interested in this technology, notwithstanding the concerns about length…My two cents contributions!

  12. 12 ZK
    July 25, 2008 at 16:16

    I think the problem really manifests itself in talking points and blank pages when two or more people start going at each other and just making long-winded posts of facts or opinions. If we can avoid that, then I think the current general length of posts is fine.

  13. 13 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:18

    @ Shaun in Halifax,

    Totally agree!

    I hand it those who have the time to sit here all day and watch the blog and comment, accordingly. I don’t and therefore, find that I have to condense the most substantive issues and respond accordingly. A chatroom would be a great idea.

    Kudos also, to the editors and the production team! The weekend I worked on the Blank Page, I found myself reading and thinking about all of the comments which were being posted on here. That was both interesting as well as a very ‘mental’ activity, as I also found myself reviewing the themes which came out of the discussions and what implications those would have for how the blogged looked from a non-editing point of view…Okay, now I have said too much!

  14. 14 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 16:21

    First things first, Shaun we’re looking into a chat feature.

    But Chiacgo, Abdi and others I’m sorry I just don’t agree with you. If you were having a conversation about a complex subject you still wouldn’t take turns to make 5 minute mini-speeches. You’d still talk in short bursts and through that conversation the complexities would come out.

    Also, Abdi, I’m afraid we’re not a place where people can write on whatever they want for as long as they want. We’re a news programme and blog where you’re invited to suggest stories and issues and discuss, analyse adn report them. You wouldn’t like it if I just let someone talk and talk and talk on the radio and it’s not different on the blog.

    If you keep coming back to the word conversation you’ll understand best where we’re coming from.

  15. 15 Chicago
    July 25, 2008 at 16:22

    Skip ’em if you don’t want to read ’em. Short enough?

  16. 16 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 16:24

    “Does all this sound fair?”

    It’s fair, but perhaps the name of the blog should then be changed to “World Have Your Chat.”

    I think chatting devalues the blog and too easily lapses into trivia. It’s difficult to develop a coherent argument in a few sentences, conversation style. Also, conversation can’t be seen here in the ordinary sense of the word, since we are not face to face and response is not immediate.

    The more I think about this, the more it seems like a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  17. 17 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:24

    @ ZK,

    I hear you on the Blank Page. I have not been able to follow the goings on there for sometime because my weekends now have become “working weekends”, ever since that first and only time I edited the page. In that regard, I am not sure what really obtains in most of those instances.

    However, I do know that I found myself reading through most of the entries which were posted on the page. Lots of information to process, in truth. So, you are quite correct in suggesting that there is a real need for limits to be placed on the bloggers. Perhaps we can put in an automatic word length cut off point. That way, when the comments become too long one has to enter a new post. This way the entries are kept to a fairly decent limit and bloggers are forced to be concise and to the point in their commentary.

    It will be interesting to see what happens from here on out, as a result!

  18. 18 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 16:25

    Very good Chicago. you can come again. see it’s easier for us to talk and disagree if we do this rather than write long discourses for each other to peruse.

  19. 19 John in Germany
    July 25, 2008 at 16:25

    Hi Ros.
    A fair and instructive comment, which has given me a jolt; to think. ( i plead guilty).

    @ all,
    Fair answers to Rosses input, to read before to write= to listen before talking.

    John in Germany

  20. 20 Will Rhodes
    July 25, 2008 at 16:27

    As a guide what I do is just try to keep the reply no longer than the reply box I am typing into now.

    Sometimes I do go over that but if we could use that as a guideline I think people would get the picture and keep comments a lot shorter.


  21. 21 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 16:28

    it’s seems a good starting point to me.

  22. 22 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:33

    @ Ros,

    The thing with “complex” discussions, I think, is not so much the complexity as the perspectives which are taken. My experience tells me that certain perspectives do not always find purchase among certain key constituents herein. In fact, I would go so far as to say that to the extent that that is so there might even be a blindspot in some respects. By which I mean, there is a wholesale committment almost to either overlooking or ignoring certain positions.

    Here, I think of any discussion that seems to want to critique notions of a sort of Western superiority; whiteness as identity politics, or American trans-nationalism. Whenever those ‘troublesome’ issue crop up, there is no end to the sorts of potentially offensive remarks that are sometimes made. Those, I think require greater room to hear the other perspectives which are also part of the discussion but which can effectively become marginalised with what I sometimes feel is an over emphasis on certain themes in the conversation.

    For example; there are those who feel that the West is the best thing since slice bread, perhaps even before. And, in that regard, are completely unwilling to engage in a conversation outside of the familiar comforts of their position. Those blindspots have to be disrupted! Sadly, that can only meaningfully come through a targetted intervention, albeit sometimes long, as a way of space clearing.

  23. 23 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:35

    Beyond that, all else is fair game, in my view.

  24. July 25, 2008 at 16:35

    The best comment shouldn’t be embedded with too many facts that can be found on the websites. For example, when talking about a conflict, there is no need to state its history and causes, but to directly give views.

    It’s better to write a terse and meaningful comment that makes the reader wants to read more of it than a long comment that “scares” the reader off.

    It’s also better to share a short conversation than to seek to show off one’s knowledge as if the reader were in total dark and needs enlightenment.

  25. 25 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 16:37

    Agreed, Abdelilah, agreed!

  26. 26 ZK
    July 25, 2008 at 16:38

    Abdelilah: Exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks.

  27. 27 nelsoni
    July 25, 2008 at 16:40

    Every Civilized society and organizations have rules. WHYS is no exception. WHYS blog has it’s own house rules and blog courtesy . The presenters on air try to make a conversation flow during the show that’s one of the reasons we all enjoy the show. It will be boring if every guest on air makes long speeches, that is why essays which are mistaken for post s should not be allowed on the blog. There is something called “Summary”. You can make your point in a few short sentences and provide a few links. Before you get involved in any thing find out what the rules are and abide by them.

  28. 28 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 16:51

    Listen folks, I’m afraid the if it ain’t broke don’t fix only applies to a certain agree. We have been told by several people that they haven’t found some debates on the whys blog welcoming because of the big essays that are being exchanged. Of course i’m not suggesting this become a one-liner shouting match. but there’s somewhere in the middle.

    Take the example of rawpolitics just above here. how many of you have read his comment from beginning to end. not many will be the answer, as it’s pretty long. people online just don’t interact like that. it’d take me a minute to read just that one comment. not enough people will be prepared to do that.

  29. 29 selena
    July 25, 2008 at 16:52


    “It’s difficult to develop a coherent argument in a few sentences, conversation style.”

    You are right! But arguments are for debates and designed to win.

    I believe Ros is saying that throughout a conversation our position will always be revealed. But it will be revealed through the style of conversation, where no one expects to win an argument. We are just having a friendly conversation to air our views and listen to other views from around the world.

    Is that what you are saying, Ros?

    Anyway, I suspect most of us love it here, regardless. Thanks Ros and WHYS!

  30. 30 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 16:56

    Abdelilah Boukili July 25, 2008 at 4:35 pm,

    That’s all fine, but it assumes that people have a similar commitment to historical truth when debating the merits of either side in a conflict. Unfortunately that is not always the case. When a person makes a statement that shows he or she is parroting propaganda that denies historical fact, one is obliged to correct it.

    That can sometimes make a comment exceed a reasonable length.

  31. 31 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 17:05

    selena July 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    “We are just having a friendly conversation to air our views and listen to other views from around the world.”

    Some of the time, sure. But our planet is in deep conflict and debate can get quite heated. What to do then?

    Also, I expect to win an argument when I am in the right.

    (There is right and wrong.)

  32. 32 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:10

    @ Ros,

    I hear you! I hear you! Still, I disagree insofar as the points which I raised above.

    However, if there is value to sending that as three different entries, by all means bring it on!

  33. 33 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:12

    @ Selena,

    Great point you raise, however, I have genuinely found some of these perspectives very hostile and, often, flawed. That, more often than not requires meaningul explanation of what is being said.

  34. 34 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:13

    The problem is, as I mentioned before, not that there are “complex” discussions which are being had, necessarilly. Rather, that there are complex attitudes in terms of allowing room for alternate considerations. That is a real problem I have found on this blog.

  35. 35 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:15

    Surel, no one is suggesting that essays be the order of the day, or that Ros’ suggestions are flawed. However, it is to say that there are certain issues which are not also considered. Whereas that may come out in the discussion, for sure, it is likely that it won’t considering that certain “positions” are more or less fixed. No space exists for alternative vantage points, as a result. My question, then, is: how do you address that?

  36. July 25, 2008 at 17:16

    Bryan July 25, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I think even when there is the need to correct facts, it’s better to just give a brief summary and a link to it. It has two advantages. It keeps the comment short and the link gives more credibility to the response.

    As you know there are many facts that remain questionable depending from which side they’re assessed.

  37. 37 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:19

    @ Abdelilah,

    Thanks for your contribution. Very valuable.

    However, I feel like we are having two different discussions, in a way. One about facts and figures and how long those should be; and another about discussions which operate mostly in the realm of ideas where the possibility of using facts and figures for clarification is not always available, or necessarilly helpful.

    What obtains under such circumstances?

  38. 38 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 17:33

    nelsoni July 25, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for the blog courtesy link. A regular on WHYS certainly turned that rule on its head by making a gross personal attack on me on this thread:


    When I responded forcefully, but without the abuse that he had begun, my comment was deleted while his was allowed to remain. So I posted it again with a little note on the top explaining what had happened. That time it went through, but his comment is still on the thread.

    OK, moderation is not perfect but abusive comments should not make it onto the blog in the first place. But if they have been posted, once attention has been drawn to them they should be deleted.

    Abdelilah Boukili July 25, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    First time I tried that on this blog, I was mocked because it was claimed that my link proved my bias.

    But I take your point.

    Brevity rules, OK?

  39. 39 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 17:46

    @ Bryan,

    I like your last point, especially. I think none of us could disagree with the suggestion of brevity. However, offensive and inaccurate remarks do require attention, regardless. I am happy to report that I have been afforded the privilege of explaining my position when this has happened. What I am unsure about, however, is whether the same rules apply in terms of how offensive is read.

    It does not even have to be a direct attack so much as casting aspersions, usually flawed, against certain bloggers, or even certain groups. I try to ignore most of those, unless I feel it is too outrageous. In cases where lies or misrepresentation occurs you are obligated to clarify your position.

  40. 40 selena
    July 25, 2008 at 17:51


    Yes, I am right and you are wrong…

    No, sorry! You are right and I am wrong!


  41. 41 John in Salem
    July 25, 2008 at 17:51

    Great idea, Ros, but it sounds to be only slightly easier than herding cats.
    Good luck.

  42. 42 Count Iblis
    July 25, 2008 at 17:57

    I don’t see how this would help. Just take a look at the polemic content of some previous debates, like the recent Israel/Iran issue. What you see there is that the polemic content actually consists of short postings.

    E.g., I remember Steve saying in two or three sentences that I’m obviously anti Israel and want to see Israel wiped off the map, so why don’t I just admit that? 🙂

    That was his reply to a well reasoned long posting by me in which I addressed some point directly related about the issue under discussion.

    Now, one can have other objections against long postings, like e.g., that they make the blog more difficult to read. But there are other solutions for that, e.g. by showing only the first ten sentences of postings and hiding the full text under a link. You would have to click on the link to see the rest of the posting.

    Restricting the lengths of the postings would only lead to more polemics and would dumb down the level of the discussion.

  43. 43 Jens
    July 25, 2008 at 18:04

    is it not up to each individual if he/she decides to read some of the “peace and war” length contributions?

    i try to write in a conversation style and sometimes this is not that good, since it takes minutes for the contribution to be published.

    ultimatly it is up to the WHYS team to set the guidlines.

    i for one am glad to have this forum.

  44. 44 nelsoni
    July 25, 2008 at 18:07

    @ Brett

    I can safely assume that alot of people have not

    read the house

    rules and blog courtesy for this blog. I think more

    effort shoul be

    put in to enlighthen participants and hope they abide by


  45. 45 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 18:12

    @ Count Ibis,

    Great suggestion. What say you, Ros?

  46. 46 Justin from Iowa
    July 25, 2008 at 18:14

    Short posts cater more to jibing, hostile commentary, kneejerk reactions, and failure to speak intelligently to each other. How does the WHYS run its online broadcast? You give each person 1-2 minutes to speak on a topic/respond, then to the next person. I don’t know about you, but *I* can speak a good 3-4 paragraphs in 1-2 minutes, at the very least.

    So, what are you asking for? Are you trying to dumb down the blog to cater to the knee-jerk reactionists out there, Ros? Because that will kill this blog just as quickly as long posts. Faster even.

    Now, continuing the Analogy to WHYS broadcasts, EVERYONE hates when one longwinded person refuses to be shut up and let the other guests have their speak. Those are the length of posts you need to keep off the blog. But, you rarely see those types of posts on the topics of the day imho.

  47. 47 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 18:26

    @ Justin from Iowa,

    Hear! Hear!

  48. 48 Justin from Iowa
    July 25, 2008 at 18:38

    Honestly, I would go so far to say that you should *require* longer posts, because its a heck of a lot harder to construct a lengthy, well reasoned, hate post than it is to toss off a few sentences to insult and degrade the other person’s integrity and position.

    Why doesn’t the WHYS actually moderate the _Hostility_ that bubbles to the surface in the blog, and clean up the posting Environment, rather than worrying about the length of people’s posts?

    Final note: Count Iblis point on showing the first paragraph or so of a post and then needing to navigate to the rest of the post, sounds like a very good one to me, very middle ground (which is good, imho).

  49. 49 ZK
    July 25, 2008 at 18:40

    The length is as much an issue as hostility, Justin. As Ros has said repeatedly, he has been told that it is a big turn-off for newcomers to the blog. I think we begin to run the risk of becoming a closed community if this continues.

  50. 50 Chicago
    July 25, 2008 at 18:40

    I also agree with Justin (from iowa!). By limiting the allowable response space people have and will “attack” more often than contribute.

    I think Count Ibis’ suggestion would be the best solution. Pick a word max and then anything after that would be linked and you would have to, if you chose to, click the link to read more.

  51. 51 Lubna
    July 25, 2008 at 18:56

    My dearest Ros : Hi… I do totally agree with what you had to say… Too long blog posts which are full of links can (sometimes though, not always !) make your point of view sound smarter, more valid, and more powerful, though in fact it isn’t at all (also sometimes, not always, because it’s always wrong to generalise!).. With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  52. 52 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 18:57

    @ Justin from Iowa, Chicago,

    Great ideas, guys! Believe me! There are some really hostile posts which are entered on here, sometimes. When that happens I have to remind myself not to get upset.

    In fact, I was shocked the very time I encountered some of the hatred that passes for discussion on here. I had thought those would have been disallowed. But then again, some of that stuff is a matter of perspective. Which comes back to my point to Ros, earlier. It is often not the “complexity” of the issue which is the problem; it is extremely narrow points of view that often threaten to stifle the discussion through a dissemination of what, in real terms, could amount to hate speech.

    But that, I am aware, is taking the matter too far. So, I will go with the suggestions of Count Ibis, Chicago and Justin (from Iowa), and leave it at that. Great discussion, guys!

  53. 53 Justin from Iowa
    July 25, 2008 at 18:59

    This is going to sound Elitist… but participating in good discussion SHOULD be a bit intimidating if you’ve never been part of it before.

    People SHOULD be taking into consideration the idea of journalistic integrity, sound reasoning and logic, respect for your fellow speakers, and the construction of a good argument. It is THOSE qualities which most often come forth in a post of moderate length.

    The average joe/jane poster cannot sum up the total scope of their points in two to three sentences. The more you practice, the more concisely you can construct and write down your ideas. But I pose the point, that it is actually MORE intimidating to try to trap a person who is venturing newly into reasoned debate, into very short, consise postings.

    You are far more likely to drive new posters to reactionary, attacking, poorly reasoned reactions rather than reasoned discourse.

    People who really wish to contribute to the WHYS and have a passion for it are not intimidated by longer posts. So who is now the WHYS’ target audience? People who want a quick easy read and who would rather not think so much about the discussion and what is being debated, or just comment on the radio broadcast… or people wanting to participate in reasoned discussion bothe before, during, and after the radio broadcast.

  54. 54 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 19:01

    @ ZK,

    So what about Count Ibis’ point? Could that not work? I mean, the length is a problem only to the extent, I believe, where the arguments are not properly formed or necessarilly the most insightful. I would even say, where long posts do not address the issue or seek to raise unrelated points then there is something to be said in that regard.

    I take Ros’ point about length. Excellent. However, it cannot be denied that alot questionable information is communicated on here, especially when people feel that the discussion is somehow “beneath them”. I think for instance of Steve’s response to my Sex and the City posts on one example.

  55. 55 Ros Atkins
    July 25, 2008 at 19:04

    Count Iblis – nice idea, not sure if word press has the facility. will in canada will probably know.

    justin – i have to disagree with you. if that argument follows if you and i ever meet we won’t be able to have a sensible nad informed discussion unless we talk in 90 second bursts. of course it’s possible to make short and informed comments.

  56. 56 Luz Ma from Mexico
    July 25, 2008 at 19:15

    I´ll try to write shorter comments. I agree that sometimes, especially when we are dealing with complex issues, some of us write long comments. In my case, I think I tend to over explain, since English is not my mother tongue and I want to make my point clear.

    Also, I am a lawyer from Mexico, so I was NOT trained in concise writing. I am well aware of this, since it was an “issue” when I submitted papers and my thesis during my graduate studies in Canada. I was always asked to shorten my work. So, please be patient, it is a work in progress for me.

    Therefore, I´ll follow Will´s guideline. I think is a very good suggestion.

    @ Selena, I agree with you. This is not the place to debate, but a place to make respectful conversation.

  57. 57 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 19:21

    @ Luz Ma from Mexico,

    I think we all must make that effort. For me, I find it is easier to put all related thoughts together rather than edit them as separate pieces. However, I am constrained by the forum in which I am speaking and must adjust, accordingly.

    However, I am not so sure I understand the real differences between a debate and a discussion. For surely, while there is no “prize” to be had here, there is something to be said for sharing perspectives, especially informed ones.

    In my view, whether or not we converse or debate – a question semantics, in many respects, the goal is to communicate and, hopefully, learn. That, I think, cannot always happen with extremely short responses.

  58. 58 victork13
    July 25, 2008 at 19:22

    Justin and Will both had good solutions.

    If the core issue is not length in itself, but encouraging a conversation and not discouraging people from contributing, then there are other things that need to be addressed, probably more urgently.

    Inappropriateness. I’ve fled from Blank Pages with contributors discussing recipes, recounting time locked away in a mental institution, and talking about medical history and medication being taken. Those who write in a foreign language don’t help either. And it takes a lot to put me off. A newcomer entering WHYS to experience an exciting international discussion on current affairs wouldn’t come back again for more of this stuff. Lesser issues, but real ones, are contributors with orthodox opinions who respond to different views not in a conversational style but with horror and condemnation. A newcomer might seek out a less convention-bound site. And tone. Prospective contributors would certainly be scared off on seeing repeated personal attacks on other contributors. These points are just as much in need of being raised as length.

  59. 59 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 19:23

    It goes without saying, of course, that effective learning cannot happen in cases where posts are “waaaay toooo long”!

    After all, there would be no need for this discussion/ debate/ conversation – whatever, if that were the case.

  60. 60 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 19:25

    @ victork13,

    Excellent points! Agreed!

  61. 61 steve b - uk
    July 25, 2008 at 19:29


    Short is beautiful. I think it will also stop some of the unpleasantness that masquerades as ‘argument’ or ‘candid debate’ here and undoubtedly puts people off.

    Was it not Oscar Widle who, enquring about the sales of his latest book. sent a telegram wo his publisher which read

    He got the reply

    Now that is short and excellent.

  62. 62 victork13
    July 25, 2008 at 19:33

    But, I take it, anecdotal evidence suggests that people don’t mind irrelevance, emotional invectives, being addressed in a language they don’t understand, red lines for acceptable opinion, attempts to stifle conversation by bullying, and responses directed against the person rather than the opinion. It’s the effort of scrolling through several sentences that’s the killer? I have no problem with the need for brevity, but this does surprise me.

  63. 63 Justin from Iowa
    July 25, 2008 at 19:38


    I don’t disagree with the fact that you can have reasoned discussion in short bursts. But, that assumes a face to face (or voice to voice, keyboard to keyboard) connection where there isn’t time lag for posting, moderation, review, reading, then response…

    In a blog or forum format, you HAVE to include some “meat” in your post to justify the time committment for it to reach posting. If its going to take 5-10 for my comment to reach other people’s eyes, and I’m not going to be able to respond to their questions and comments immediately, then I need to try to forecast the course of the discussion in my head a bit, so I can prepare my comment in the best way so that it fully shows what I want it to show.

    When you are talking to someone, you can immediately respond to clarify a point you didn’t pose properly the first go around. On a blog or forums, with comments coming in from all directions all the time, if you don’t express yourself well enough the first time, the discussion may have advanced too far by the time you can clarify your original post.

  64. 64 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 19:39

    All I can say is, thanks, Ros! This has been a very useful exercise – a blog about getting to the point. How very entertaining, if not altogether insightful. Very useful suggestions! Count Ibis is to be applauded for his recommendations. Definitely needed!

  65. 65 graceunderfire
    July 25, 2008 at 19:55


  66. 66 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 20:20

    Reading the many fine contributions on this thread, I’ve found myself inclining towards one view or another but I think Justin from Iowa, July 25, 2008 at 6:59 pm, has made the point that really grabbed my attention. There is a very real possibility that the insistence on short posts will negatively affect the quality of the posts.

    Since we are in the age of the short attention span and instant gratification, there is the very real risk that the short post will become the framework for communication that is reactive, not well thought out and even abusive.

    ‘Have Your Say’ usually limits comments to 500 characters. That is a bit too short to present an argument on issues that are often complex and need careful consideration.

    WHYS could go the other way and insist that posts are not too short. That would eliminate some of the chit chat and mutual admiration that is prevalent in some threads and is a bit of a turn off for the newcomer since it’s like watching people hit a table tennis ball back and forth to one another.

    Interesting subject, and highly debatable.

  67. 67 Bryan
    July 25, 2008 at 20:34

    Justin from Iowa July 25, 2008 at 7:38 pm,

    Yes, conversation face to face or the phone is obviously a completely different thing to communication on a blog. We are not glued to our screens and quite a lot of time will usually have passed before a comment is moderated and others have accessed it and posted a response that must also go through moderation and perhaps sit unnoticed for a while in the spam filter if it contains a link. Often we are talking hours here rather than minutes. This makes conversation in the normal sense of the word quite impossible so it is better to have longer posts that people can chew on for a while.

  68. 68 Shirley
    July 25, 2008 at 20:51

    If the linked summaries could be worked out, they might provide a fine solution. Of course, I shouldn’t be submitting books – it’s not like you guys are a gratis publishing house.

    Do you mind putting that in a binding, please? I’d like to get copies to my family… :=D

  69. 69 Ros from WHYS
    July 25, 2008 at 21:28

    @justin. you’re right that waiting for a post to be moderated gets in the way of a conversation. discussions are advanced about shifting to post moderation which would solve that. but we’re not quite there yet. it’s a fair point tho. waiting doesn’t make things easier.

  70. 70 savane, nairobi kenya
    July 25, 2008 at 22:10

    Growing up, I was taught to write like a news broadcast, i.e., give the headlines, then explain the headlines and other news pieces in detail, then summarise the headlines again!

    At university, I was introduced to KISS – Keep It Short and Simple!

    May we KISS and move on please?


  71. 71 Justin from Iowa
    July 25, 2008 at 22:12

    And I just want to point out, I’m not saying that long wordy/windy posts should be the norm. I wordchecked the posts I’ve made so far, and the longest was about 250 words, and each of those has been centered around approximately 1 point and 2-3 short arguments defending that point.

    Now, lets say this was the topic of the day and I had some relevant knowledge to that topic on the air… If I posted 2 points with 2-3 well reasoned, and attributed, arguments for each of those points, I would be in the 500-750 word range if I kept things consise. Any less and you start to throw things like attributing sources/linking to relative sources out the window, and those are important if you are trying to speak from a point of fact and knowledge.

    As you trend from a point of factual knowledge on a topic and more towards the opinion or experiential perspective, generally you have less to express and attribute, and your post size drops (I.e. looking at my posts on this specific topic, are from an opinion and personal experience point of view, and range up to the 250 word app. cap) or is easier to cap off / express over multiple posts.

    I guess.. just take the above as thoughts on my part and why I come from the position of not wanting a very hard cap on or vigorous moderating of post length.

  72. 72 Mohammed Ali
    July 25, 2008 at 22:40

    Perfect Ros. Some bloggers don’t just have the time and patience to read long posts. When that happens, the conversation will not flow freely.

  73. 73 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 23:04

    @ Justin, et al,

    I think that the issue is also the very point which Ros made earlier about a news-type environment. I certainly know I have been turned off from commenting when the posts have not been moderated in synch with the rest of the conversation.

    However, that said I also believe that long posts, though difficult to read, can sometimes zero in on the key issues without being either irrelevant or boring. In those cases, exceptions have to be made to rule.

    Further the overly provocative remarks made by some people, while clearly done in the interests of gimmickry (at times), can sometimes gesture/ pander to issues which require further clarification. In that regard, there is always room for length. The question though is, how long is “too long” and are these considerations always taken into account in the heat of discussion/ debate?

  74. 74 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 25, 2008 at 23:06

    But, I think this is great! An entire discussion about how we discuss issues on here. Thanks much! Very refreshing, I think! It’s almost philosophical, if not ironic!

  75. 75 Jack Hughes
    July 26, 2008 at 01:13

    control freak 😉

  76. 76 Will Rhodes
    July 26, 2008 at 01:28

    All who have asked if there is a way to enable posts to be clicked to read more or carry on reading, etc. There is a way, but you have to be quite proficient with HTML coding and the administrator of this blog will have to add it to the CSS.

    In a OP the author has the option of HTML !–more– (That leaves the post open and you can click to read more etc.)

    There is a lot of work involved and if you really want to write a 500 word essay then I am sure that you could always start your own blog and link people to it – that would be far easier than people reading this blog to learn HTML coding.

    Thank you for the compliments about the guideline on posting – I would just suggest that we use it for now. you answer should be no longer than this reply box, you can write quite a bit in it.


  77. 77 Tom
    July 26, 2008 at 03:00

    @ Bryan regarding abuse

    I agree that posts that label people with personal terms of assault should not be included. These include labelling fellow bloggers as half wit, incoherent, whiners, etc, as though they think their opinions are more superior and forms an authority of the truth that is not open for countering.

  78. 78 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 26, 2008 at 03:42

    @ Will,

    I hear you about the difficulties. However, let us not put it was the ingenuity of the WHYS staff. And I say that with a great deal of sincerity.

    I am not so sure there was any resistance to Ros’ suggestions, other than to highlight that the point does not always hold true in all instances; and that, because it does not, there is room for consideration of an alternative opinion. That is all.

    To somehow suggest that we are in some way trying to be difficult or unreasonable, as implied in your remarks above is a little disingenious, to say the least.

  79. 79 Justin from Iowa
    July 26, 2008 at 04:04

    Obviously I’m not an HTML wizard (otherwise you’d see bolded and italicized words in my posts rather than underscore, asterisk, and all caps used to emphasize things) but isn’t it basically just text preceeding and after what you want it to include? Why can’t we just whip up a template for the “more” command, post it in the guidelines, and if you write more than a window of text just copy and paste the template in where you want it to include and voila!…

    Or is that way too simplistic a look at HTML?

  80. 80 Will Rhodes
    July 26, 2008 at 04:25

    Justin –

    Changing the CSS would take time and if the BBC has someone who could do it, as I said, it can be done. As the template is as is, the ‘more’ command won’t work.

    If you want to use HTML for text as you have suggested – all you need is Firefox browser and BBCode Xtra add-on.

    Again, if anyone should want help or a dummies guide all they have to do is come over to my blog go to contact and mail me – I will write one up. If people don’t want to do that then Google is a great resource. 🙂

    rawpoliticsjamaicastyle –

    To somehow suggest that we are in some way trying to be difficult or unreasonable, as implied in your remarks above is a little disingenious, to say the least.

    I wasn’t – I was trying to make things as simple as possible across the board for all.

  81. 81 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 26, 2008 at 04:58

    @ Will,

    Right! I will take it under advisement!

  82. July 26, 2008 at 07:26

    I have to admit that i feel that limiting post size will limit the effectiveness of the board. Some of the harder concepts take some getting into. for example, you just can’t say, “The Saudis single handedly control the worlds oil prices no matter how much we drill” (please note that this is not a debate topic here. It is just an example.) with out really citing statistics, explanations, and examples. It is a very large onion to peel. Just as many of the topics on WHYS are.

    If you want to see what restricted posts can turn into, observe the comments under political Youtube.com comments section. It routinely turns into people calling each other “dummies.”

    The real problem is that we are trying to marry posters with topics and readers that are interested in them. I feel that if possible, threading will reduce the issue of people getting annoyed with longwinded posts.

  83. 83 John in Germany
    July 26, 2008 at 08:49

    That was enjoyable reading, very good points from all angles. Thank You all for a good lesson.

    Life is like that, some people can describe something in a few words, and others need sentences. My wife says i have verbal diarroea, she is right.

    Have a nice weekend.
    John in Germany.

  84. 84 Pangolin-California
    July 26, 2008 at 08:55

    Well it is your site. On the other hand the conversation will be reduced to the ‘no context’ denunciations of the other sides viewpoint without factual support.

    “Is not” and “Is too” writ large.

  85. 85 Bryan
    July 26, 2008 at 09:03

    Tom July 26, 2008 at 3:00 am,

    Unfortunately this kind of abuse is rife throughout the internet. Not being a moderator here, I don’t know how much abuse people direct at each other here that has to be weeded out by the moderators and deleted before it appears on the site.

    Sometimes it seems that a moderator will tolerate the abuse if he or she has the same political affiliation as the abuser or is otherwise in sympathy with the abuser.

    This is much more evident on ‘Have Your Say’ than on this blog. I have seen comments on ‘HYS’ that are off-topic, vile and insulting and add nothing to the debate and yet are allowed to stand by the moderators even after being complained about.

    As I said, “Play the ball and not the man” is a good rule to apply.

  86. 86 Pangolin-California
    July 26, 2008 at 09:22

    @ Will-One of the things that is nice about this site is that I don’t see much fishing for readers on personal blogs. The world is full of vanity blogs with no readers except the bloggers mum.

  87. 87 Ros from WHYS
    July 26, 2008 at 10:34

    Hi again. Look I’m not trying to get rid of context, and I agree some comment threads on YouTube don’t tell us much. BUT context can be provided by links and can be provided in the course of a discussion. I

    ‘m going to sound like a stuck record but how many times have you heard someone spekaing for 5 minutes without interruption on our show. Never is the answer. and would you say that we don’t have context during our radio show? i hope not.

    there are different ways to discuss issues and intorduce context. one is to write essays, another is to let that context come out during the course of a discussion. i know this is possible as i try and help it happen 4 days a week on the air.

  88. 88 Shakhoor Rehman
    July 26, 2008 at 12:21

    What is and is not expatiation is always a difficult judgement. I think “speech making” is the wrong definition. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with speech making. It shows the passion of the speaker for the subject in question. Correct speech making is disciplined and efficient. Rambling word mongering is not speech making and that is what is being objected to as well as expatiation. My view in general is write and be damned.

  89. 89 Bob in Queensland
    July 26, 2008 at 12:47

    @ Bryan

    Re: the amount of moderation, I can tell you that in my experience (3 or 4 months now) there is very little abuse. In the time I’ve had access to the moderation buttons, I’ve removed 2 words (profanities) and one “abusive” sentence in an otherwise acceptable post (one member called another one an idiot if I remember correctly). So far I’m not had to remove any full posts other than one viagra ad that slipped though the anti-spam filter. I suspect other moderators would tell a similar story.

  90. 90 Bryan
    July 26, 2008 at 13:49

    Well, that’s good news. (Short post.)

  91. 91 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 26, 2008 at 17:32

    @ Ros, et al,

    Most people seem prepared to comply with the request, if for any other reason than it is basically the “house rules”. We get it! We may not always agree, as is evidenced in the discussions above, but I do know that it is clear. Keep posts short and direct – Check!

    I have no personal objections beyond explaining why I think short posts do not always work as effectively. Is that equivalent to not complying? No! Is it the same as saying that we must, by necessity, agree with Ros? No!

    But, in the interests of progress, we will comply. Trust me!

  92. 92 Justin from Iowa
    July 26, 2008 at 18:34

    I think its a bit disingenuous to draw a comparison between someone speaking for 5 minutes straight on whys (which I have heard close to a few times, heh) and someone typing a “long” post.

    If I typed enough to fill up 5 minutes of a reader’s time, I could probably put down 2000+ words. I have *never* seen a 2000+ word post on this blog.

    I guess I just would personally prefer that posting guidelines be posting guidelines that we all try to adhere too, but occasionally let posts of valuable, if long, content slip through.

  93. 93 Will Rhodes
    July 26, 2008 at 18:57

    Pangolin-California –

    I don’t fish for readers from this blog, what I am trying to do is help those who don’t have the basic concept of HTML and what can help them. This is why I do stipulate a certain browser and the add-ons you can use with it.

    I have had over 31,000 people read my blog, no where near as many as this one, but still not a bad number. I ask that people go to my blog so we don’t cross the line that some have said irks them, small talk and not on topic of world politics etc that this blog caters for.

    If that isn’t what you meant then please accept my apology.

    Dwight from Cleveland – Justin from Iowa

    I do believe that all mods do read all posts in full, and they will let the odd one through but for the most part some posts are just way too long.

  94. 94 viola
    July 26, 2008 at 19:24

    One of the reasons I like writing on this blog is because I can have my say without some jerk interrupting me with insults and irrelevant and illogical and biased views.

    If you really want to see the kind of “conversation” a blog with short posts produces, google littlegreenfootballs.

    There must be a happy medium.

    I actually like reading longer, carefully crafted comments or replies to comments, such as those posted by Victor, Bryan, Abdi, and others. I agree completely with Victor that recipes, etc. have no place on this blog. Do your socializing elsewhere, please. I want meat!

    I dislike sneaky attacks. I prefer Steve’s directness to those. No attacks at all is, of course, preferable but if one is attacked one should have the right to counterattack.

  95. 95 Bryan
    July 26, 2008 at 22:09

    Thanks for that comment, viola. I agree with it and appreciate it. People tend to forget about the purpose of whatever blog they are on and start to form small, cohesive groups within the blog and indulge in chit chat about recipes, ailments, family matters, studies, outings and so on. This is seriously off-putting for others. Groups also, of course, clash with other groups and individuals with individuals. That is not necessarily negative and can be productive, as long as the purpose of this blog is kept in mind.

    Uh, hang on. What is the purpose of this blog again? Perhaps the purpose needs to be re-evaluated or spelt out better. Apparently Ros is going to do something about that.

    Here’s a general question for the powers that be here. Do the archives of WHYS only go back as far as October ’97? If so, is anything prior to that lost forever to posterity?

  96. 96 Katharina in Ghent
    July 26, 2008 at 22:28

    Since there have been quite a few comments about recipes etc., I would like to comment on this too: It’s true that the Blank Pages often have a less formal feeling to them, and sometimes they do trail off into how to cook without meat or which car has better mileage, the same may be also applied to the talking points, but I view this more as the creative chaos that you sometimes need to get to the bones of things.

    If you prefer specific discussions, then there are all the other WHYS blogs where one can comment or express his/her opinion to that specific topic. But even on these pages sometimes discussions take a different turn and end up somewhere completely different, as could be observed with the Nelson Mandela debate. This is one thing where the moderators or better the WHYS team could intervene and call the contributors back to order.

    Some really good programs have emerged out of the “messy” Blank Pages and I’m glad that they’re in the format that we have.

  97. 97 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 27, 2008 at 05:02

    How many people actually feel that the long posts are a deterrent to good conversation here? Usually, if a post that has no direct bearing on me or my interests, I move on – long, or short. There has to be a balance. Short posts are especially necessary in the context of the live on-air programme, where brevity is guiding principle. However, having been the author of some long posts, specifically those aimed at clarifying positions falsely attributed to me, I cannot readily agree that short always means better.

    I have had to rebutt, very comprehensively, views attributed to me on religion, for example, which were neither true, nor flattering. The author went as far as to attribute related arguments to me and refuted them, basically, calling me stupid. I had to use a fairly long post to highlight both the error as well as offensiveness of his remarks. Grudgingly, he conceded he may (?) have been wrong about what I said originally. A short post was not ideal to my purposes, then.

  98. 98 Bob in Queensland
    July 27, 2008 at 05:06

    @ rawpolitics

    Well, I’ll stick my neck out and say that I’ve sometimes found over-long posts a “deterrent to good conversation”.

    If I’m being honest, I have to say that, except when moderating and therefore checking for content, I often resort to “skimming” the longer posts and have sometimes missed an important point buried amongst a lot of “facts” and “links”.

  99. 99 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 27, 2008 at 05:24

    There is, without question, merit to writing very concisely, but there is also merit in people listening/ reading clearly what others have said; that is, if we plan to address the comments made.

    The suggestion that bloggers who have highlighted that short does not always mean better should start their own blog is a little offputting. Why is it that we are not able to “Have Our Say” without these types of vieled attacks against our ideas; that is, if we do not agree with the moderator?

    Whether there is alot of work involved or not in writing in HTML, which I confess my ignorance about, is it that we are not able to suggest alternatives? And, what happens when the box is not able to contain all of our ideas on specific issue here? Oh, that’s right – start a blog of our own! Thankfully, I have already done that!

  100. 100 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    July 27, 2008 at 05:35

    @ Bob in Queensland,

    There is, always that danger and that is, without question, something about which I am aware. However, I am not sure what you deem an “overly long post” as compared to a long one.

    I try to write directly to bloggers that are either misrepresenting or an issue, in my view, or are seeking to attribute remarks to me which I did not say. In that regard, I find the responses are always useful, as people are more likely to write directly to the issues which are addressed in your entry.

    I am certainly not making a case for “overly long posts” as much as I am objecting to the principle that that should be the modus operandi in all instances. Some situations are just not ideal for that kind of interaction.

  101. 101 Bryan
    July 27, 2008 at 08:47

    Katharina in Ghent July 26, 2008 at 10:28 pm,

    I take your point. Maybe the Blank Page can be a chat page as well as a place for more serious issues. Too much control is also not productive because it drives people away.

  102. July 27, 2008 at 11:20

    Hi Ros
    Akbar here in Tehran
    Welcome back.
    Superb coverage in Tanzania and South Africa.
    Is it taboo to focus on domestic politcal issues such as National Scottish Party gains in recent by-elections?

  103. July 27, 2008 at 17:35

    The master of the short blog post with direct(and very acerbic) points to make is Aussie conservative satirist Tim Blair.

    Anyone else got a fave pithy poster?

  104. July 27, 2008 at 17:37

    …whoops . . . actually the link is here . . .

  105. 105 Dee in Chicago
    July 28, 2008 at 16:07

    Bravo Ros! Those longwinded bloggers should know that their most of us don’t even read their comments. I’m not interested in every thought they have – just a few brief comments are all that is necessary. Why not cut off comments after 4 or 5 lines?

  106. 106 Jessica in NYC
    July 28, 2008 at 18:00

    Hi Ros,

    It’s hard for me to agree to censoring someone’s thoughts, being an advocate of free speech. However, I am completely supportive of welcoming more open discussions. So if this means pulling out the “ruler” to enforcing the guidelines, so be it.

    PS- You have a point about long-winded comments. I never read them!

  107. July 28, 2008 at 22:06

    hey Ros,

    sounds like what posters need here is a shoutbox that can handle the long-winded comments. I agree that many would lose interest reading people’s post when its several paragraphs times 106 post long ..i myself would read the first 5 and maybe the last 5, lets be straight to the point

  108. July 29, 2008 at 07:59

    Its wise to be precise and concise! I personally drade long messages!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: