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ANDREW MANGAN BLOG

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On Twitter and its lack of standards

I run a relatively decent sized online community based around Arsenal football club. It’s called Arseblog, and it’s been running as a website since 2002.

There is, it would be fair to say, robust discussion of the football team, and the language can, at times, be considered industrial. That’s ok, we’re all grown-ups, and some curse words never really did anyone any harm. We encourage debate and discussion. Football is a game of opinions and all that. It would be boring if everyone agreed, but those who do comment are expected to meet certain standards.

We have a comments policy that people must adhere to, and if they don’t, we can do two things.

1 – We can place all their comments in moderation until such time as they demonstrate their compliance (sometimes some innocent people get caught up in this, and it’s a bit frustrating but it’s unfortunately necessary).

2 – We ban them. No ifs, ands, or buts. They’re banned. Heroes style, forever and ever.

Let me give you a few examples of things that would get you banned:

Let’s say you threatened to rape someone. Banned.

If you used racist language towards someone. Banned.

If you thought espousing your Nazi sympathies was a good idea. Banned.

If you posted someone’s personal information on the site to goad others into bombarding them with hate. Banned.

If you were homophobic. Banned.

If you’re sexist. Banned.

If you post spam or are some kind of bot. Banned.

If you use the site to threaten people with harm, especially me. Banned.

If your hilarious username was something like ‘ifuckkids9845484’. Banned.

If you’re not interested in discussion, but only to wind people up or troll. Banned.

Now, if it sounds like it’s a constant bombardment of these kind of people, it’s not. They are very rare on Arseblog because I don’t think we attract those kind of people in general, but also because we have standards and we implement and maintain them rigorously.

Now, we use Twitter every day too. It’s an important tool for the website, both as a source of a news and a way of getting our own stories out there and engaging with the readers.

Even if football Twitter, and Arsenal Twitter can get a bit mad at times, we don’t get exposed to the worst of the platform, but you don’t have to scratch the surface too far to see what lies underneath. And all of the things listed above that get you banned from Arseblog on a permanent basis go unpunished all the time on Twitter.

People are threatened and abused on a daily basis, and there are countless examples of users reporting obvious racism or other harmful messages and being told the Terms of Service have not been violated. A woman who is fearlessly exposing sexual predators and rapists is suspended, while a man who has openly admitted to sexually assaulting women and has the highest political office can threaten a country with nuclear annihilation with impunity.

The only conclusion we can take from that is that despite what they might say about safety, violations of their TOS and everything else, Twitter has no commitment to maintaining any standards when it comes to their platform.

They pay lip-service to it, because they have to be seen to do that, but they’re not serious about it. If they were, there’s a lot they could do, you know, like banning people forever and ever, but they don’t. Their desperation for active users breeds an increasingly nasty environment, and one that will ultimately be counter-productive.

You wouldn’t choose to go into a bar full of hateful racists and Nazis, so why would you choose to spend your time online in such close proximity to those kind of people? More and more it becomes a beacon for the lowest common denominator online (and that’s pretty fucking low), while I’ve witnessed a rise in previously regular users drifting away or disappearing altogether

If I allowed sexism, racism, homophobia and other prejudiced, bigoted hate on Arseblog, it would be a reflection of my site and who I am as a person.

So, as Twitter continues to willfully and deliberately ignore the problems that people have been openly discussing and flagging to them for a long time now, it tells us a lot about who they are, and the kind of service they’re happy to stand over. There are still great things about it, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore what’s bad.

You reap what you sow, and Twitter’s refusal to apply standards which should be obvious to everyone will be its downfall unless they act quickly and decisively.

Even then it might already be too late.

Second Captains and what is the value of a fiver?

I have been delighted to see the response to Second Captains decision to move away from the sponsorship/advertising model, to content that’s paid for by the people who consume it.

Whether that was their plan all along is another question. Quite why the Irish Times didn’t want to continue with what was clearly the most best and most popular ‘Irish’ podcast begs questions of their digital strategy, but that’s really beside the point.

Full disclosure at this point: I know the Second Captains chaps some, I’ve appeared on the podcast, I enjoy what they do, and they’re all sound blokes.

As someone who started podcasting on arseblog.com in 2006, and who only really started making any money from it in the last 12-18 months, it’s great to see that fans of shows are willing to support that show financially.

Not simply because it allows Second Captains to continue and add to their already excellent work, but because it shows that the line between the money you have in your pocket and the money you spend online is closing.

€5 a month is not very much at all, but the Internet as most of us have known it has been based on an everything for free model. We have become so accustomed to getting everything for nothing that being asked to pay for anything becomes anathema.

In recent years that has changed somewhat. The success of iTunes came at the expense of the free download Napster etc model which many had grown used to. Apple made it simple and easy to buy music, so people did.

Movies and TV shows are still downloaded via Torrents and file-sharing sites, but the advent of Netflix and other streaming services mean that the average person will choose the convenience of that over downloads, RAR files, and all the rest.

When it comes to written content, and podcasts through, we’re still not quite there. Having run Arseblog for 15 years, it’d be fair to say that by any normal standards our business model is pretty rubbish. We make content seven days a week then give it away for free – although it is, of course, ad supported.

That means writing a 1000 word blog seven days a week, 365 days a year (that’s about four novels worth of writing each year from the blog alone). That’s match previews, match reports, stats, player ratings, news, transfer gossip, focus on the youth and ladies teams, columnists, opinion, tactics, analysis, interviews, and everything else distributed via our website, social media or our apps. All free, all the time.

And if we decided tomorrow to go behind a paywall, a lot of our audience would probably not come with us. Not because they don’t like us, but because there’s still so much other free stuff out there to fill the gap. Yet, with the increase in ad-blocking technology – in part fueled by advertisers who resort to more and more nefarious methods to counter ads that are already being blocked – we may have no choice in the future.

We have strict guidelines about the kind of advertising we run on the site, to ensure that readers are not inconvenienced or annoyed. These include:

  • No pop-ups
  • No pop-unders
  • No auto-play videos
  • No interstitials
  • No ads that obscure content in anyway
  • No full site takeovers
  • No native advertising/branded content

That really just leaves us with basic display advertising*, and we do urge readers who use an ad-blocker to whitelist us if they can, but we’re aware that for many the only good ad is an ad you can’t see.

My prediction is that blocking will become more and more commonplace, and ultimately the only way forward will be some kind of subscription based model. That’s why it’s encouraging see to Second Captains get the support their content merits. The challenge for other small/niche publishers, is to ensure that readers/listeners etc can see the value in that support.

I recently gave a talk in DIT about web publishing etc, and when I asked for a show of hands from people who had a favourite website/blog/podcast, it included pretty much everybody in the lecture. When I asked how many people would be willing to pay a monthly subscription of €5 for the same content, I’d estimate there were 15-20% of the hands left in the air.

I then asked how many people had bought a coffee that day. 80% of the hands went up. How many would buy a coffee tomorrow? 70%. How many bought a coffee every day? 50-60%.

So I did some maths for them – let’s say a coffee is €2.50, you’re spending €12.5o a week on that, maybe €30-50 a month in total. You don’t notice that money going out of your pocket on a daily basis because you’re spending small increments, so in that context a fiver for a website you love isn’t outrageous by any means.

Quite a few said they’d never thought about it like that. Spending €5 in the ‘real’ world is easy, but people seem to consider that a lot of online money, even if it’s going towards something they consume every day.

€5

It’s less than a pint of beer. It’s half the price of a packet of cigarettes (for those of you still on 20 a day you’re spending €300+ a month on that, what’s €5 in the grand scheme of things?!). A burrito is more expensive. You can barely get a sandwich. Some bottles of craft beer in the supermarket are almost a fiver. A bus journey in and out of town. A cinema ticket for two hours entertainment costs €10+, so what’s half that for seven days a week of well produced content about a thing you love?

There are countless things that you spend more on every week without even thinking about it, so if more people applied to same standards to what they’re willing to spend online it would change the landscape considerably.

Two final points.

1 -* We do events, publish books etc, so advertising is not the only income source, but it is the primary one.

2 – The most obvious consequence of the Second Captains move to Patreon for me isn’t simply that people are willing to pay, it’s that it has enabled them to produce more interesting and varied content than they did previously. So people are getting value for their money and also enabling talented people to give them more for it.

AM15.03.2017

ps – I know the coffee thing is a bit worn now, but it really is a great example of something people spend money on every day without much consideration.

Recipe: Chilli, cheese and bacon soda bread

So I made this thing and put it on Instagram and then people asked for the recipe. So, here it is.

I should point out I don’t really measure stuff out, I just go by how much is in the bowl etc, but I’ve added approximate amounts. You’ll figure it out.

Ingredients

  • Plain flour – 400g
  • Baking soda – 1.5 teaspoon
  • Salt – 2 teaspoons
  • Bacon bits – some
  • Cheddar cheese – 100g
  • Hot red chilli – 1
  • Buttermilk – 200ml or maybe more or maybe less, I don’t really know

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 180C
  • Lash all the flour in a bowl. Add the baking soda and salt. Mix it like Sir Mixalot.
  • Fry up the bacon bits
  • Chop up the cheese into 1/2cm chunks
  • Chop up the chilli real fine like
  • Add cheese, bacon and chilli to the dry mix
  • Add the buttermilk until it all comes together without being too wet
  • Turn it out onto a floured surface
  • Make a kind of roundy-shaped, but slightly flat ball, you don’t need to knead it. Just shape it.
  • Place it on a baking tray with baking paper or a pizza stone if you have one
  • Score a 1/2 inch deep cross into the top of it
  • Add some thinly sliced cheddar (if you like) to the top of the dough
  • Place in oven, bake for 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove, cool on a wire rack.
  • Eat

You should get something that ends up looking like below – and it’s delicious. Thank me later.

Recipe: Chilli, cheese and bacon soda bread

Recipe: Chilli, cheese and bacon soda bread

A handy guide to modern online terminology

These days, when there is so much online debatediscussiondiscoursedialogue … people calling each other names … it’s hard to know what all the terms and acronyms they use mean.

Some of them are obvious. If a person says they’re part of the alt-right, it means they’re likely to be a stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, ignorant, neo-nazi piece of shit.

Others, however, are not so clear. So, to help you understand what it all means and what the hell people are saying, here’s a handy guide.

Snowflake: If you call somebody this, you are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If somebody calls you this, they are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

SJW (Social Justice Warrior): If you call somebody this, you are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If somebody calls you this, they are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

Virtue signalling: If you accuse somebody of this, you are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If somebody accuses you of this, they are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

Cuck: If you call somebody this, you are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If somebody calls you this, they are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

Libtard: If you call somebody this, you are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If somebody calls you this, they are a stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

White genocide: If you encounter anyone who thinks this is real, they are a racist, stupid, witless, unoriginal twat. If you yourself think this is real, you are a racist, stupid, witless, unoriginal twat.

We hope this clears things up and allows you to mute, block or dismiss anyone who uses these terms because, frankly, they’re not worth wasting your time on.

David Bowie – 1 year on

To mark the one year anniversary of David Bowie’s death, I played his music and waffled a bit for two hours on January 10th 2017.

You can listen to a stream of the show right here. Some people asked me for the track list, so here it is. If you want an MP3 of it, feel free to email me and I can send it via WeTransfer.

David Bowie – 1 year on tracklist

  • Cat People (putting out fire)
  • Somebody up there likes me – Young Americans
  • Always crashing in the same car – Low
  • Lady grinning soul – Aladdin Sane
  • China Girl – Let’s Dance
  • The Stars (are out tonight) – The Next Day
  • Nite Flights – Black Tie, White Noise
  • Black Country Rock – The man who sold the world
  • Blackout – Heroes
  • I’m afraid of Americans – Earthling
  • Soul Love – Ziggy Stardust
  • Absolute Beginners
  • Time will crawl – Never let me down
  • The man who sold the world – The man who sold the world
  • Wild is the wind – Station to Station
  • It’s hard to be a saint in the city
  • Andy Warhol – Hunky Dory
  • In the heat of the morning
  • The London boys – Toy
  • Life on Mars (live)
  • Time – Aladdin Sane
  • Slow Burn – Heathen
  • Moonage daydream – Ziggy Stardust
  • Young Americans – Young Americans
  • Always crashing in the same car – Low (forgot I played it already!)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide – Ziggy Stardust
  • Dollar days – Blackstar

Do you see?

“I’m sorry, but you’ve left me with no choice.”

“Please …”

“It’s too late for begging and pleading now. You’ve made your bed, now it’s time to lie in it.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Oh, I think you’ll find I can, and I will. There’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

“What if-”

“I have made my position abundantly clear. There is no grey area. I have made my mind up and my decision is final.”

“But think about the consequences of your actions. The repercussions.”

“Do you think I, with such force of will and determination, care about consequences?”

“You should-”

“Soon you will be put back in your place. Back where you belong. You are nothing. You are not important.”

“I just try-”

“The world will look upon my works and fear me.”

“I don’t think that-”

“I am not afraid. I will NOT BE SILENCED. My voice will be heard.”

“Nobody is silencing you.”

“SHUT UP. It is time.”

“No. Nooo.”

“This is it.”

“Oh Jesus Christ.”

“Here I go.”

“Arrrrrggghhh.”

“This is going to hurt you so, so much. There, it’s done. I have unfollowed you on Twitter, and not only that, I have told you that I’m unfollowing you because I didn’t agree with something you said. I also did it with a .@ so everyone else knows I’m not following you anymore. My act of incredible defiance will inspire countless others to do the same. The revolution begins here.”

“Oh no, how will I ever cope? The pain is too great.”

“Hahaha, you’ll think twice now about saying things in future I bet.”

“-”

“-”

“-”

“-”

“ANSWER ME AT ONCE YOU IGNORANT CUNT.”

“-”

*Hits follow button again*

 

The Podcast Revolution (in Ireland)

Recently I spoke with Colette Sexton of the Sunday Business Post about podcasts in Ireland, podcasting, monetisation, advertising, the future of the medium and more.

Here’s the article, also featuring Mark Horgan of Second Captains, Roisin Ingle of the Irish Times, and Alan Swan who hosts ‘The Outerview’ on our Castaway network.

If it’s too small to read, hover over the image and at the bottom a menu bar will appear with a zoom function. Use that!

26bn2016-06-26
27bn2016-06-26

 

Past tents

The man stood as dawn broke and looked out over a sea of ramshackle tents. His back ached from sleeping on the hard ground, but what choice did he have? Or any of them for that matter? This was what you had to do. You just got on with it because there would be no sympathy from anyone. You made the choice to come here, to travel, to try and improve your life a little.

The sun, barely over the trees that surrounded this temporary living space, like a nylon village, wasn’t yet warming. He held his arms around his body, like he had last night, and the night before, and felt a rumble in his stomach. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday and even then rations were meagre. How could you think of food when there was so much else going on? Only in this fleeting moment, where he stood alone, temporarily with no responsibility for anyone else, could he embrace his hunger.

Yet in spite of the emptiness his bowels clenched. He’d always been regular, these trying times hadn’t changed that. He tiptoed between tents to the facilities they had provided. He was in no place to complain, but they were barbaric. Cess pits. As the day wore on there would be queues, people and families desperate to use them, doing their best to avoid getting messed in the process.

The stench was unimaginable. The word sanitary might as well have been struck from the dictionary because it had no meaning here. He tried to be as considerate as possible, aware that others would need to follow, but he despaired of others who showed no such consideration. These were not executive bathrooms, but the ability of his fellow man to get shit and piss in places you’d have to almost use a ladder to get to was always an amazement to him.

He did what he had to do in a hurry. There was no way he was going to hang round in that fetid air any longer than he had to. At home – how he longed for that place now – he could find moments of peace in the bathroom. Even for just a few minutes he was spared the pressures of life, demands of work, the needs of his children. Just a book, hands on knees when necessary, and an escape from everything. ‘Escape’, he thought, how that word resonated.

He made his way back to the tent. He passed one where a young woman, clearly very ill, lay half-in and half-out, dried vomit encrusted her open mouth. The journey? The environment? Exhaustion? Hunger? Thirst? Some, or all of the above. She wouldn’t be alone. There would be many like her, rising throughout the morning, feeling desperate, unwell, in a daze from what had come before.

Many would sit outside their tents, shell-shocked, faces free of expression but eyes that told the full story of what they’d been through. Conversations would rise, the noises of a multitude and a shared experience reaching a crescendo, and the next day it would be the same. Pain, illness, the sounds and smells of thousands cramped into such a small space.

The locals had welcomed them as best they could but when thousands, tens of thousands, descend on one place in such a short space of time it’s difficult. They had all come looking for something good, something better than before. The journeys took many paths, some more treacherous than others, but they all converged at this point. A melting-pot of humanity, old and young, fat and thin, adults and kids.

The man stood outside his temporary home once more. He felt as tired as he’d ever felt in his life. Sleep had been fitful, the coursing of blood through his veins in this alien environment, the beating of his heart preventing him from relaxing fully. If he went back inside the others might wake, and he wasn’t ready for them yet. Weary as he was he could cope with it as long as he was solitary, even for a couple of hours.

Birdsong punctuated the silence, as did the occasional groan from a nearby tent. Behind him another man, gaunt and sickly in appearance, emerged from his temporary shelter, using his hand to shield his eyes from the sun. They looked at each other, a nod to denote understanding, empathy. The other man shuffled off towards the shit and the piss and the smell and the flies and he looked aghast at this was what his life had been reduced to.

The man closed his eyes, began to feel the warmth of the sun on his face. He let his mind wander. Maybe it wasn’t all bad. Maybe there was hope, something to look forward to, something to believe in. Like that band he loved. The one with all the banjos. They were on the main stage later.

And next year he was going to save up and get one of those pre-pitched tents in the private fields that had their own toilets and even showers. He smiled and wondered was it too early to drop half a pill.

Just to even him out, like.

David Bowie LPs 1967 – 2016 playlist

On Monday night I did a live Mixlr show, playing a song from almost every David Bowie studio album. I just chose one from Tin Machine, and rather oddly forgot to play the song from Outside that I had prepared, but there’s a favourite or a classic from each album he made, and some info/waffle between songs, as a tribute a man whose music played such a big part in my life.

You can listen back to it here, and the playlist is below.

David Bowie LPs 1967 – 2016 playlist

1967London BoysDavid Bowie

1969Wild eyed boy from Freecloud Space Oddity

1970Black Country RockThe man who sold the world

1971Queen BitchHunky Dory

1972Moonage DaydreamThe rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

1973Lady Grinning Soul Aladdin Sane

1974Rock and Roll with meDiamond Dogs

1975FascinationYoung Americans

1976Wild is the windStation to Station

1977Always crashing in the same carLow

1977HeroesHeroes

1979Look back in angerLodger

1980Ashes to AshesScary monsters (and super creeps)

1983Cat people (putting out fire)Let’s dance

1984Blue JeanTonight

1987Time will crawlNever let me down

1989Under the god Tin Machine

1993Nite flightsBlack tie, white noise

1997I’m afraid of AmericansEarthling

1999Thursday’s childHours

2002SundayHeathen

2003DaysReality

2011In the heat of the morningToy

2011Conversation piece – Toy

2013The stars are out tonightThe next day

2016LazarusBlackstar

And the stars look very different today … farewell Major Tom.

Some predictions for 2016

As I had some time relatively free, I thought I’d try some soothsaying. My predictions for the world in 2016.

1 – Podcasting will continue to grow as a medium. I predict there will be an as-yet unseen technological advancement which will propel podcasts further into the mainstream.

2 – We will see the first Premier League footballer to come out. He will be hailed as a trailblazer, a brave man, and a hero. And the first time he takes a corner at an away ground dozens of grown men will make lewd gestures at him and call him a ‘faggot’.

3 – Ireland’s general election will be an absolute disaster with votes spread across all the parties and independents to the point where it will take a ridiculous hodge-podge coalition to form a government. That government won’t last 18 months.

4 – The annoying nature of web advertising will see more and more people adopt ad-blocking software, particularly on mobile. Revenues will plummet, forcing publishers into ever more desperate short-term options to try and make up for it. Their insistence on using more pop-ups and more auto-play videos will mean more people use ad-blocking software, particularly on mobile … lots of websites will be unable to

5 – Branded content and native advertising will begin to irritate people as it becomes more prevalent. It will cause issues with credibility and editorial voice.

6 – The idea of paying for content won’t be so abhorrent to people. Donations, subscriptions and services like Patreon will become increasingly important – especially for small/medium publishers whose advertising revenue has fallen off a cliff. Readers/fans will be more willing to support content they like.

7 – I will continue to never visit a website with the word ‘bible’ in its name.

8 – Facebook will change their algorithms again so that publishers and websites will have no choice but to pay if they want posts that refer back to them to have any meaningful reach. They will also launch a proprietary audio platform or functionality to get in on the podcast action.

9 – Attention spans will grow shorter, but clickbait headlines, especially via social media, will become less and less effective. The lines between what’s real and what’s not will blur, probably because of politics and the divisiveness of online discourse.

10 – Somebody will invent headphone cables that don’t get wrapped around the goddam wheels of my goddam chair.

CONTACT ME

If you think we can work together, we probably can. Get in touch and let's talk about it. Fill out the form below or just email andrewmangan at gmail dot com.