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Management Update 8

Site statistics

Site traffic measures in May were all around 15% up on April, ie back to March levels and above, with more than 14,000 unique visitors to the site. We published 38 new posts in May, down from 52 in April, and 1413 comments, up from 1029 in April. We didn’t publish 35 abusive, content-free or incomprehensible comments: total intended for publication and not published 35/1448=2.4%.

405 people have registered to submit comments, up from 381 at the end of April. One asked to be de-registered and removed: doing this would remove all of their comments from the site, which is against our general view that, once published, we don't delete things - I'd be interested in people's views on this as a practice and principle.


Income in May fell to only $1667 in donations, versus expenditure of $3125. This hasn't picked up in June, so we have terminated the contracts with Project Syndicate for content, and with Westpac WebAdvantage for credit card merchant services. We have also been unable to pay Hamish since mid-May, and this is not likely to change unless donation volume picks up a lot.

Going forward, this leaves us with essentially no ongoing costs, but also with no guaranteed content and only volunteer editors (including Hamish), so the quality of what appears here will be up to you out there writing and submitting stuff, and there will continue to be days and times when publication speed will suffer. To repeat what has been said many times before, we will publish almost any coherent opinion piece that has researched backing for any contentious claims, subject to the Editorial Policy.

PS (P-S): Since drafting this, Project Syndicate have come back with an offer to continue supplying articles at a lower cost than the current US$750 per month. We'd be interested in the views of readers on whether we should take this up ...

David Roffey,
Managing Director,
Webdiary P/L

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For what it's worth

I have thought about advertising recently but the way the ad is charged makes no sense in terms of webvertising. From memory around $100 per day. In terms of webvertising I am more likely to commit that amount per month, premised on an expected number of impressions (people views), with no addition for click-throughs.

I think my business would be a worthwhile advertiser and I would tend to use other businesses that advertise here, as perhaps would others.

To address the issue of the location of the readers, email has nothing to do with it. It's the IP address of your machine/network gateway (if you are posting at work) that is recorded as a visit. A .com means nothing in terms of your attendance at a site, since emails are not recorded, machine/gateway IP addresses are and are then able to be sorted into countries by the IP address, which is country specific.

David R: on the other hand, there is no doubt that whatever Awstats does use to identify origin is broken ... I also run the Friends of the ABC NSW website, and Awstats says that nearly half of our small number of visitors are based in the US - I somehow doubt it ...

A visitor using an anonymiser as a matter of course would be seen to be from anywhere, depending on the software.

If the site were to re-address the online advertising issue there would also need to be a clear demarcation between the expectations of an advertiser vis a vis their right to be published which of course would mean no issue in terms of posting. Editorial policy would apply.

The other point about webvertising, is it is pointless to charge like a newspaper, since it isn't. Ads should be accepted in one format (head banner preferred), managed over the entire site by something like PHPadsnew or one of those other free PHP banner managers, with a group of advertisers, offered and charged  banner ads on a per view basis. If you worry about getting paid, use a debit system, where a person pays into an account say $100 and each view is charged at a set cost or you get a certain number of impressions for your $100. 20,000-40,000 views for $100 seems reasonable.

The fact the cost of advertising is so high makes it prohibitive to advertise here, so we are seeing "Make Poverty History" all alone, which of course is likely to be carried at a substantial discount anyway (If not free). I would bet that reducing the cost to something more appropriate makes a lot of sense in terms of attracting advertisers. I use Google and I am charged on a click through basis, that I bid for. A much better deal than saying $90 for 1 banner for one day.

Lastly, I suspect that 5 advertisers at 20,000 impressions for $100 brings in substantially more than Google Adsense, and more than is brought in from current advertisers. Also, as users beget users, people seeing advertising on the site with its' current membership would go out and bring in others and I would be more than happy to carry banners on my site, to WD with no charge. Also as space increases and views increase prices rise as does the amount of inventory for sale. For example if the current inventory is 14,000 unique visitors, multiplied by the number of pageviews say 10 per visit we are then looking at an inventory of 140,000 available pageviews. Run top and bottom banners, doubles that to over 280,000 per month with each view of the top and bottom of the page being chargeable. You are already at that point looking at $1400 per month.

Divided by 5 or more advertisers, this is affordable for the individual and you now have a reasonable view of the effectiveness of the method. (ie) sales of top and bottom of the page view at 2 views/cent = a lot more than "Make Poverty History" and it would be continuous, well it would be for me, and I suspect others as well. It would also mean MPH would not be sitting there looking like a frog out of the pond. Many of us are in business or know someone who is. Use that power.

David R: happy to look at offers for ads with click-through or per-impression charging, as we can do that too ...

What erudition

Thank you Fiona ... a wordsmith hath joined us.

How wide is the readership?

Peter Hindrup asked about the distribution of the visitors and readers.

Awstats gives a few useful breakdowns (unlike Webalizer, Awstats ignores robots & crawlers and only gives stats on real visitors):

  1. where do they come from? (part 1)
    Direct address / bookmarks 85%
    Search engines 13% - way dominant search term: webdiary!
    Various other blogs/sites 2%
    - no one other blog is the source of more than 0.2%
  2. where do they come from? (part 2)
    Australia around 55%
    USA around 25%
    Singapore & China (inc. HK) around 10% each

I personally find this second breakdown fairly unlikely - the source of the data is suspect ... For example, I suspect that an e-mail address (such as mine) with a .com domain name gets recorded as USA, even though I'm in Australia (and my domain is hosted in the UK).

None of the stats programs currently available to us on the site give a breakdown of the Australian numbers. We are experimenting with other packages ...


David,  thank you.

If 80% are repeat/regular readers this gives a good basis on which to sell advertising space.

I know that the accepted web practice is to take google or such like ads, I just happen to believe that a specialised site with a relatively small readership is not suited to that system. The fact that you list no advertising revenue supports that view.

David R: last month was the first for several months where the Google Adsense revenue fell below US$100, so we didn't get a cheque ...

Moderate moderation ...

Moderation is a difficult balance. Roslyn thinks we should do less of it - though based on workload rather than content, as I read her comment; James Govett thinks we should do more of it - at least in terms of letting through less smart-ass wisecracks at the expense of other commenters. Frankly, a quick look at any unmoderated site (example at (semi-)random here) tells you that if you instantly publish every comment you get, smart-ass wisecracks is what dominates. We've been having this debate on this site and its predecessors for nearly six years now, and we're still on the side that says we'd rather stop altogether than stop moderating comments.

In practice, I lean more towards James'  view that it is important to the quality and information-content of the debate that contributors feel safe from unreasonable attack, and that the balance of the site has (once again) moved to far away from this. I have asked the editors to move more toward the view that any comment that contains unwarranted language directed at another 'diarist should simply not be published - the workload implications of this are minimal!. I think it also time to re-instate the old "no more than five comments per day form the same person" rule, that at least suggests to our more prolific posters that they think about whether what they are about to write is the most important contribution they want to make today ...

The third point on moderation and workload is this: some of you write stream-of-consciousness stuff that needs a spell-check and extensive repunctuation to make it comprehensible: from here on, if it's too much work, we simply don't publish it.

Fair enough

David: think those are fair enough answers although I did stipulate a three strikes and you are out approach which would quickly remove those who post in wisecrack style and deter others.

But you have had more experience of this and at the end of the day it is your call. I agree that personalised comments should remain unpublished. Although sometimes an exchange of constructive personal information, albeit brief, creates an opportunity for greater understanding between posters. As always, it's a fine line.

Stricter adherence to Editorial Policy

David Roffey, “To repeat what has been said many times before, we will publish almost any coherent opinion piece that has researched backing for any contentious claims, subject to the Editorial Policy”.

David, this isn’t always the case. From your editorial policy, “Posts that contain personal abuse of another Webdiarist will not be published”. I left webdiary late last year because I felt I was not being protected from insult and personal abuse. See the last few contributions in this thread.

I returned about a month ago to see if things had improved. They haven’t; they seem worse. Webdiary could be a valuable resource and forum for many people including students. But, as usual, the discussion and exploration of ideas continues to be hijacked and ruined by attention seekers with their so-called “witty insults”, contemptuous attitudes towards those with opinions different to their own, and irrelevant discussion and “witty observations” about themselves and their personal lives.

Webdiary’s focus has always been, and continues to be, on the notion of “freedom of speech”. I think this is a mistake. I think the focus should be on the full exploration of the subject at hand. And I think contributors who continually interfere in and detract from this should not be published. For me, in the context of Webdiary, ideas are more important than individual’s perceived entitlements to the freedom of their speech. I think you’ll get many more contributors when you fully protect them from insult and abuse by doing away with such entirely. What’s the point, the purpose of publishing unprovoked insult? Also, I really like S.Carrington’s idea of a dynamic countdown timer. I’d be happy to donate if I knew how much Webdiary required at any one time during the month. But, I probably won’t be hanging around, let alone donating, unless I am protected from unprovoked insult and abuse. 


I only see two ways for WD to survive:

1. Large donations from people with disposable wealth, of any political persuasion. Counterpunch and Antiwar manage to do this, but only because of the huge population they service.

2. Amalgamation with other sites, such as Crikey. In fact, WD would make quite an interesting partner to Crikey, given the way Crikey leans to the right and WD leans to the left. Both sites exhibit healthy doses of cynicism and I can see each gaining credibility in various quarters by virtue of the marriage.

That's it, really. Other than those two alternatives, I foresee a slow fade to grey...without the passionate personality of MK, WD just doesn’t have much to attract. And I'm a fan.... 

A ps

Some years back there was a very good site -- name long forgotten -- that went to subscriptions.  It died.

Copyright & money

Peter, I have kept out of this: 1; because I look in only spasmodically, and 2; because when Margo left and WD was being restructured we were told quite clearly that the management team knew what they were about.
First issue:  To cancel membership and ask that comments be deleted.
    Webdiary does not own the copyright of comments.  It has the right to publish them in WD, but not to publish them otherwise, for instance, in a book or on a CD.  The copyright remains with the author.
     I don’t believe that the member who contributed the comments has any right to demand that they be removed.    
Finances-   I agree with the generally expressed view that the range of topics is too narrow, and that there are too few commentators.   I am in general agreement with  Ross Chippendale’s comment and with much of what S Carrington writes.
David says that there were 14,000 visits and fourteen hundred odd comments in May.  What we do not know is how widespread that visitor-ship is.   In a rural town/community a good living can be made from a free newspaper being delivered to 3000 households. A specialist magazine would be viable on approximately the same number of subscribers, and be doing well on 5000.

The only thing that WD have to sell is its ‘readership’.  To this end a drive to get ‘visitors’ to register would be a definite plus.
    Then it is necessary to identify a market that can benefit from advertising to your reader/ membership.
    I would approach Gleebooks, Glebe, and Napoleon’s Military Bookshop, separately owned in Sydney and Brisbane, for advertising.  I would offer to make available the total of comments upon each topic, on an ongoing basis.

For instance the recent debates upon Israel generated a lot of interest, though I have no way of knowing how many ‘readers’ of the debate, there were.  If the readership interest was widespread, then the opportunity to advertise books on Israel, by Israeli writers and on Israel related topics is obvious.

Gleebooks quite regularly has book signings, and occasionally lectures by visiting writers, surely worth advertising.    I would also offer them the right to provide book reviews as part of the deal.  

I am advocating selling space, as in the print medium, and including space for display advertising in your page format.   

Specialist interest newspapers/magazines are also potential advertisers.  Educational establishments might be worth approaching, especially those offering writing classes.

All of us who visit WD are using a computer and a net connection. All of us have some interest in politics and public affairs.  While it would take a real effort to produce a clear and compelling presentation setting out the reasons people should spend their advertising dollars with you, I have no doubt that it could be done.

Getting exchange links up with sites touching on the same general interests may well increase your readership.

As a ‘comment on this’ suggestion, what if anybody wanting to read more than the Home page had to register to get access?  If you had 8,000 on your books it would provide you with a potent catch line.

Paying the Way

Here are a few suggestions for keeping the funds rolling in and the readership staying tuned.

1. Make it more compelling to donate. The static "Donate to Webdiary" icon on the home page does nothing for me. Why not make it dynamic. There are sites which have a dynamic count down showing the number of days worth of funding remaining. - "Webdiary can keep the wolves from the door for NN days." where NN is the calculated variable RemainingFunds / DailyRunningCost. Put it right where people can see it.

2. Get some merchandise made up. T Shirts, Coffe mugs etc. Either sell these or give them away with donations over a certain size. A lot of your readership probably attend the odd rally / outside event and would probably be happy to promote the site on a T Shirt etc.

3. Do some deals and partner or cross promote. Partner on issues with others like like Get Up. They seem to be more of an action orientated website. You are more of an intellectual one. There may be some natural synergies there.

4. It amazes me how many people go off to other sites to say what the are not allowed to say on web diary. The moderation is great for keeping the specific discussions on track but causes great frustration with some who feel they are being censored. Why not have a "Lounge" area where un-moderated discussions can take place. It gives people a place to vent without losing readership or detracting from topics. There are plenty of other sites which allow this (or even thrive on it).

5. Have more organised discussions like the Creationism v Evolution week long spectacular a while back. Promote it and have guest speakers i.e.(Answers In Genesis and Australian Sceptics). That was one of your more successful efforts IMO.

6. Have a broader range of topics. Perhaps have one light hearted topic a week. Perhaps some photo essays or something more visual on occasion.

Moderate the moderating

Clearly one of the most time-consuming things is moderating. The strain is showing. When I first came on a couple of months ago a post would come up for editing which was useful. That does not seem to happen anymore.

Is such intensive moderating necessary? The Guardian had a very effective blog some years ago where posts were not monitored before publication but a general moderator kept an eye on posts in general. Those who resorted to abuse were banned.

There was greater freedom but it did not descent into a free-for-all. there are always people who abuse but they can be quickly identified and warned possibly twice and then banned for a third offence.

Richard:  Hi Roslyn.  This might be a good time to mention that, as I've still got my L-plates on and possibly being tentative, there's one post of yours that I've left for Hamish or Craig to check in the morning.  There were a couple of things I thought might be outside the guidelines that I didn't feel capable of making a decision on. Forgive me if I offend, as it's not meant.. just a little beginner's trepidation.

If in doubt do nothing

Richard:    I understand. I think the policy of 'if in doubt do nothing' is a wise one in such circumstances. I am curious as to the 'things' about which you had doubts. Let me know if they don't get through. A personal email is fine. I am only too happy to be advised but would be surprised if I have said anything which is inappropriate according to guidelines.

Richard: I'll give you a "hoy" later today Roslyn

webdiary future & finances

I have no solution to these problems.

But Jenny Hume's suggestion of a publishing fee will result in a swift vanishing. I am a working writer. I do not have $50. The only way I can support Webdiary is to offer a free piece if the editor wants it. If there's a charge for publishing then when I have something to say and literally cannot afford to say it, then Webdiary will have become a force for suppression of view/opinion/dissent/warning, and might as well recommend itself for the Board of the ABC.

Membership fees will make Webdiary a club, reducing the pool of commentary instead of enlarging it. This strategy would only work if Webdiary somehow captured buzz and became something a lot of people felt they could not afford to fail to belong to. I have no idea how to produce that state of mind in anyone.

The only suggestion I can make, having no idea how well it might work, is that Webdiary solicit guest essays/articles from other jouralists who could be persuaded to donate, from actors, lawyers, novelists, playwrights, anyone whose daily work leaves with a wide and disciplined view of current Australian society and reality or whose name would draw attention. John Cusack contributes to the Huffington Post, for example, so do Nora Ephron and Jane Smiley. The Ozwriters might be pleased to have an outlet in the non-mainstream media.

In any case, all the best. I'll keep watching this space.

Paying our way

F M McAuliffe, I would be surprised if most writers could not afford a $50 fee to get their opinion published but if that is the case, then so be it.  I write a bit myself and am not very good at it, but I have turned quite a buck or two when I put my mind to it. And when I send an article to WD I would be prepared to pay a fee, or if no fee is wanted, then at least donate the $50. But that is Ok as I can afford it despite six years of drought reducing the finances to a trickle as it has the creek.

But I would wager that most people would probably not be prepared to pay, even if they could afford it. People and their money are not so easily parted, and I find that is often those with the most who are the meanest. Not suggesting you are that way. I take you at your word.

The responses I see here seem to suggest the way ahead is simply to make the site more active, with more commenters. But without funds that will simply mean a large increase in traffic and more work for unpaid volunteers. If most of the existing commenters are not as Craig says prepared to donate, (which really surprised me I must say) then I do not think doubling, trebling or quadrupling the work with more commenters (all most likely also unwilling to donate) is the answer. It will simply mean a heavier workload for the volunteers who clearly can only give limited as it is. Perhaps we could hear their thoughts on all that. But it seems to me if we cannot get an income, then increasing the workload is not going to solve anything, only make it worse.


Fair suck of the sav, Jenny Hume, I'm a Scot.    I know there are about four people who read my stuff but that's $12.50 a reader.    That's almost a bottle of malt.   We don't want drought in the Duncan keep thanks very much.

Richard: Malcolm, let me know the bottle-oh where you get such a good price and I'll move to Sydney !

Your readership

With little else to occupy me at present, I have indulged in some statistics. The result of my labours:

14 individuals have commented (some more than once) on the Yorick threads.

17 individuals have commented (some more than once) on the Scion threads.

This does not, however, mean that Dr Duncan's total acknowledged readership is 31: there is some overlap. In sum, 26 individuals have commented (some more than...) on either or both of the Yorick and Scion threads.

Which makes $12.50 per "reader" look a little over-generous.


Head hanging in shame, I confess that I omitted to add that the good Doctor seems to have been engaging in litotes rather than hyperbole.

Moonshine I think

Richard: I would stay put if I were you. First Irish, and now it would seem he's down to the local moonshine. Definitely some sort of drought prevails in the Duncan keep.

Malcom B Duncan: Pay to Post? Not even Roslyn? Ah well.  How about a system of fines then? Now that is a thought.

And, you trying to wind me up by any chance? If so, forget it. Last lawyer who tried that came off second best, so be warned!

BTW: The steady soaking rain is on the way this week. Forget about the satellite. The soot is falling in the chimney. Sure sign.  Did you see how it all fell apart at the political gabfest last week on water? Pathetic! Seems we'll just have to rely on Hughy to get it right.


Canny shopping

I did say almost.    4 x $12.50 = your $50.   You can get a reasonable bottle of malt if you look around for about $67.    The very thought that I should try to wind you up - although I'd fancy my chances over yours madam.   I hope you're right about the rain sooty.

Yours aye, 

Webdiary and parliament

I wish to set out here an idea I had recently for Webdiary, which may be of some use.

The Women’s Electoral Lobby (founded in 1972) is as its name suggests a lobby group concerned with issues of specific interest to women. Its biggest impact was in the lead up to the 1972 election (the one won by Gough Whitlam), it sent out a questionnaire to all candidates standing in the various electorates, informing them that their responses, or lack of same, would be published by the organisation.

In the ensuing publications, the politicians were given a ranking on those issues which was from memory on a 1-5 scale (1 = brilliant, 5 = abysmal). This in turn generated wider media coverage.

Webdiary of course, is not a lobby group and has no ‘policy’ as such, because it is not a political organization or party, and should not be one. Its major concern is online discussion of issues in and around current affairs. That is of course, where it impinges on electoral politics, because public discussion and controversy is what political candidates (nominally, ostensibly) want, at least during election campaigns.

It would seem to me therefore that an invitation to leaders, ministers, shadow ministers, independents and other MPs to submit answers to a list of questions drawn from Webdiary readers and commenters would be a worthwhile extension of both electronic and parliamentary democracy. In the view of party leaders, ordinary backbenchers may just be there to serve as ciphers and hand raisers, but the present controversy over Papuan asylum-seekers shows that a number of them are genuinely independent thinkers.

Webdiary has a large and (despite difficulties) growing readership. Involvement of politicians in an online interaction with voters is after all, no different in principle from those ‘meet the candidates’ type meetings that used to be held (and possibly still are) in local halls at election times, where candidates were given an opportunity to show that they were not mere party robots; for some of course, a bit of a challenge. Such meetings were like parliamentary Question Time transported out into the broader arena; the only place, I suggest, where the word ‘democracy’ can have any real meaning.

Politicians are generally busy people, and should not necessarily be expected to get involved in detailed discussion of issues.  However, they (or their staffers) do spend time answering letters from constituents.

This suggestion is not much different, except it would be online. Management Update is an ongoing post series. Perhaps something like Parliamentary Questions could be too.

Craig R: Thank you Ian, a brilliant idea IMHO. I'll discuss it with the others. 'Diarists, we'd like to know what you think about this idea as well, please share your thoughts.

Great idea but more work

It's an excellent idea. But of course there would be work involved in receiving the material, editing the material and placing it. I thought one of the problems WD faced was a shortage of labour given the fact that a lot of the work is done by contributors and is therefore unpaid. Someone would have to request the information and process it. As a journalist I know that such things are often more complex than they may appear to be and more time consuming as well. And politicians and political offices are not the most efficient places at the best of times. They are often needs based and while capable of churning out reams of printed material it is not necessarily of interest or relevant.

Perhaps a variation on this theme would be to ask MP's to provide a list of topics of interest and register their availability to comment or debate such topics. Then it is a matter of getting something written on a particular topic and requesting responses to that thread from one or two MP's. Obviously the responses would come from staffers but would reflect the views of the MP's.

In essence I think it is an excellent idea but thought needs to go into just how it should be done and into how it can be made as manageable and possible without consuming too much time.

A politician's response

It all depends, of course, on the acuity of the questions.   For example, it would be bootless (maybe, David Roffey, even moronic) to ask me, as a candidate for a State election, what I thought about Iraq or asylum seekers or homosexual unions by way of an amendment to the marriage power (all Federal issues) whereas it might not be to ask about water, industrial relations, education or health (all mixed state/federal issues).    It would be highly relevant to ask about State Banking or policing because those are specific state issues.

Until the electorate becomes sufficiently sophisticated to ask the right questions, the answers will be of little utility.

Subject to that, send me the questions and I shall answer to the best of my ability.

Membership? Crikey.....

I am a squatter on Crikey. Totally unabashed about it. I don't like their stuff enough to subscribe, even if you do get a pair of Crikey Socks for the $100. But I read what I can each day and wonder about some of it, but it's unimportant since I don't have a voice there.

On the other hand, I reckon it would be a worthwhile use of funds to be a member here because I can post and interact at an other than cellular level with people who view social justice as something important. I can also swap views with those of the other view vis a vis social justice and responsibility.

In terms of donating on a regular basis or making a one-off payment I am open to direction on that. I don't have much but then I don't pay Party fees either, the wife does. I reckon I will do it next pay and be done with it. I agree with the view that it makes sense to do some expanding of the user base as well. Anyone have web sites we can link from? I can do a banner and will put one up on my site. That's about 50,000 views per month at the moment I think.



I've been a WD follower for a while until recently anyway.

I have felt for quite a time that WD has far too narrow a focus and this is reflected by the small number who provide the majority of comments on most posts. I feel surprise when and if I see a new name as posting. And they rarely do so again, at least that's my experience from watching.

The focus is obviously firstly on money but clearly what funds there have been will dry up real quick if there are really only up to about 10 who do all the posts. There's nothing more discouraging when visiting WD to see half the recent posts by one person and the bulk from another. First reaction is "Private conversation, not even worth reading".

Originally I thought WD's focus was Australia and Australian politics in particular. In recent months that has been abandoned in favour of Iraq, Israel and a couple of other countries. Yes there have been Oz articles but they are often just the same topic rehashed yet again. For instance Immigration, again.

Yes it's in the news and yes most WD patrons think Howard's policies (which are apparently Beasley's also (Clarke/Doyle)) are shameful to our country. But what is the point of rehashing the same line each time? Preaching to the converted, nothing more.

I've really lost interest in visiting here mainly because of the small number of active contributors and the focus on the usual suspects as topics.

There are other things happening in OZ and the world apart from the Iraq and Israel/Palestine quagmires. But it seems those that do contrinbte only want those topics and are fed them given the undying appetitie for repetition those contributors have.

There is clearly one way to allow WD to survive and/or expand. It's simple really isn't it? Try and attract new readers and turn them into posters. I've said this a number of times but have had basically no response and I suspect the long term ownership of WD forces those who have put in so much to simply defend what WD has become rather than look at it critically and devise relevant strategies for the purpose of increasing readership.

Of course if ethics or principles stand in the way or high views of what should be discussed then WD is certainly within it's right to become a small and private blog.

To write on this thread about the lack of money and the hope for others to carry the loads Margo and then Hamish have done is insane in my view. Without a change of focus why bother at all? You might as well revert to an email group and thus save costs and time for yourselves.

On the other hand if you actually want WD to survive and grow then change is needed. What do others think?

I second that, Ross!

Great comment, Ross. I have posted some similar thoughts myself in the last few months including the idea of a moratorium on some issues. Problem is that there are other articles but, unfortunately too often they get few comments.

One way to address both the comment and the financial problem would be to charge for each comment via direct debit from a credit card. Another idea could be a sliding scale charge, one that relates to the length of the comment. That would deter painful, waffling comments the size of a Doctoral Thesis!

The Cross-net tunnel?

"...charge for each comment via direct debit from a credit card. Another idea could be a sliding scale charge, one that relates to the length of the comment. That would deter painful, waffling comments the size of a Doctoral Thesis!"

Not to be thoroughly churlish here but, as has been amply demonstrated in Sydney, people refuse to pay tolls to cross the city. Why in the world would they pay a toll to register a comment?!

I suppose we could arrange a pop-up:

Please note: this is a writer pays blog. Please go to BCA (Blooger's and Commenting Authority) and apply for an approved Web-Tag. Once you've downloaded the neccessary software and attached your Web-Tag to your computer, you will find posting is easily facilitated.

For those using "Firefox East", you will note the "cash-back" option.

Web-Tag is tax deductible if you are a professional blogger.

All good points

Ross, all good points. I am not sure what one can do about attracting a greater number and variety of posters other than varying the themes discussed and that is dependent upon copy contributions.

I think certain issues do inspire people to respond more so than others and not all issues interest everyone. And then there is the time factor. There really is a limit to how much time, and it is time consuming, can be put into such forums.

I still think Webdiary works better than most for the moment but clearly it needs to raise funds if it is to be truly successful. I contributed my donation recently and I guess I did so because WD offers a facility which is worth supporting. If everyone who posts regularly donates then it would surely help.

I also support New Matilda for the same reason and Open Democracy. NM recently opened a blog site but I don't think it attracts as much interest as WD. At least it did not last time I looked.

The band plays on while the ship......

David, I rather get the impression this might be like the Titanic. The band plays on while the ship flounders, with no doubt some faint hope in mind that it may not be as bad as it looks, and that someone will save the ship, somehow. Bit like hanging onto the cattle hoping it will rain soon, only to find out too late, it didn't.

Maybe to get Webdiarists to focus on this issue you need to declare a one week moratorium on all other posts, requesting that they address this issue. Everyone needs to think about what the site means for them, whether they want it to survive, and if so what they can or cannot commit to.  Blindly ignoring the situation will simply soon lead to the day when WD management will say, all over folks.

It is hard to get a handle on how the site can progress from here if people do not engage constructively on this matter. But in order to do that I myself would need a bit more information, and I also set out my impressions.

It would seem to me from the limited number of comments on many posts that people may feel there are far too many. I certainly could never keep up with reading even half of them, and then getting myself informed enough to make some sort of intelligent input. But Ian and I are pretty burdened down with the demands of a drought stricken property to run and others may have a lot more time on their hands than us. But if that were the case, with some 400 registered, one would think more comments would come in.

It is actually very time consuming reading a post, all the comments, the links, and then drafting some sort of meaningful comment or argument. I really think the site is overloaded with too many Article Posts but others might not share that view.

It is not clear what sort of a reduction you have been offered by Project Syndicate and what you would get under that offer.  It would seem to me that a maximum of 3 guest contributor Articles per week, covering a broad range of issues would keep people occupied. What do others feel? What would that cost? The matter of Webdiatists posts is touched on below which would be additional as they are now. 

David R: the Project Syndicate subscription arrangements do not particularly vary according to the number of articles/series subscribed to - it is a monthly fee that covers the membership, and then it is up to us to decide which articles we publish. The other Australian members are The Australian and the Australian Financial Review: they choose to publish surprisingly few of the articles they are entitled to publish. We tend to publish them all unless they are specific to the internal politics of another country a long way away eg Belarus, to name one recent example - though we do tend to think that the internal politics of China and Indonesia are of interest ...

The number of comments total reflects around average 50 comments a day throughout the month to be edited and if they are long then that must be taking a lot of time. I think few of us realise just what time exactly is involved on an average day to deal with the comments that come in. Of course if all 400 registered started commenting the site editors would be overwhelmed I would think.

David R: actually the whole point of moving to the facilities of this site was to get Editor facilities that make it relatively easy. So long as the comments are spell-checked and, frankly, read through by the commenter to see if they make sense, it can take only seconds to check and publish a comment. As noted in the revised How to Comment guidelines, apart from people who can't type or spell, our biggest problem currently is text copied in from other programs that is filled with HTML markups that have to be stripped out: it's likely that we'll add that to the standard reasons for not publishing, thus keeping the work down.

We do miss Hamish's input a lot, but no one can be expected to work the hours that must be involved for nothing, let alone more hours if more commentors came on board and commented. We all have to eat and survive. Obviously Hamish will be considering how he wants to proceed in terms of input to the site on that basis and I for one have no idea what he might prefer to be doing other than working for us lot for nothing.

Relying on donations will always be problematic as they will simply reflect the level of a given person's interest at a given point in time. So they are unreliable to say the least. And advertising is clearly not easy to get for sites like this. I have watched quite a few rural information sites go down, suffering the same problems as WD.

Do the site administrators have any ideas as to how a more definite income stream from contributors and commentors could be obtained. Would a membership fee be feasible and if so how much. Maye this could be canvassed by the site administrators through here and via questionaire to registered commenters. That would give a fixed income stream but of course would require more administration.

David R: a membership fee would be relatively easy to administer. Since the vast majority of those who comment (with significant and honourable exceptions) have not seen fit to donate at all, I also assume that it would reduce the comments editing load to vanishingly small.

Then, we could consider additionally that Webdiarists posting an Article pay a fee for that Piece to be published at a fixed rate of say $50 or whatever. I have a couple of pieces up my sleeve, and would not object to a publishing fee.

Clearly the site cannot continue without editors and moderators, and without funds, it is doomed. So it is time for people to decide whether they want it to continue and how that is going to be achieved. It has to have some sort of income stream, not dependant on the fluctuating generosity of a few.

David R: actually, as I said in the original post, without any staff and without the Project Syndicate membership fee, our ongoing costs are $13 a month in bank fees, so in practice it can continue essentially forever without funds so long as people are prepared to put time into it.

We do not know where the current level of donation support is coming from. Ian and I have committed an amount individually which we saw as a basic membership fee. In addition we would be prepared to pay a fee (I have not asked Ian, but who does the books!!!) for a Post Article.

Just some thoughts, maybe useful, maybe not. But this requires everyone to get involved, otherwise as the Danes say its: Farvel. Would be very sad if that were the case as it is a good site.

As regards deleting comments on deregistration. I would not see that as a problem if it did not invovle much work, but ony after say a fixed period of time. Say when a thread was archived. It may make some threads a bit hard to follow if accessed in the future, but does that really matter. Things move on. I would think it would be unusual for a person deregistering to be also asking for their comments to be deleted. Is this a one off? [David R: yes] If so, maybe oblige him or her this time, but set the rule from here on that things will not be deleted in future and commentors should bear that in mind when they comment.  Cheers.

Deletion of comments and copyright

David, regarding the issue of deleting posts when somebody withdraws - I wonder if it's analogous to a 'letter to the editor' in a newspaper.  I'm not a lawyer, but I would assume that if I write a letter to a newspaper, the paper owns the copyright of that letter and is under no obligation to withdraw it once it's published (except if it's defammatory etc.).  Mind you, how do you withdraw a letter when you've just printed a few hundred thousand copies of a newspaper?!

Does the same sort of copyright law apply to Webdiary comments - any lawyers know the answer? 

I think if Webdiary publishes a comment it should have the right to leave it published, regardless of the views of the poster - except in special circumstances (defamation, other?).  Deleting comments might make some threads nonsensical, given all the replies and branches that develop in an argument. 

Perhaps it should be made clear to people when they register to post comments that Webdiary reserves the right to publish them as it sees fit and that comments may not be withdrawn.  Otherwise, it could get a bit messy, and it's not like editors don't have enough to do already. 

Mark Latham

I have a downbeat anecdote which you should all get a kick out of. Strolling in to Borders in Campbelltown at around 1:30pm today, I came across a familiar face - it was none other than Mark Latham! He was plainly dressed, greying and looking slightly emaciated. Perhaps seeing that I recognised him, with me visibly laughing as I saw him, he quickly shuffled off. I followed him a little way and called out "I'm a big fan!".

"What?" he said, gruffly, turning around.

"I'm a big fan. My name is Solomon Wakeling, you might know me from Webdiary." I said, hopefully. This is of course preposterous but curiousity got the better of me.

"What's Webdiary?" said Mark. What's Webdiary indeed!

"You know, Margo Kingston? I write there." I said. Perhaps he nodded. Perhaps he just stared his deathly stare. Feeling unwelcome I decided to cut this interview short. "Anyway good luck to you. That's all I want to say."

He lifted his finger in thanks and wandered off. Not long after I saw him browsing through the magazine section, absorbed in what he was doing. Deciding, inelegantly, to feed the corporate machine I had lunch at Mcdonalds, upstairs. Eating fast food in Campbelltown is one of the loneliest things you can do and it always makes me feel empty. Afterwards I went down the escalator, back towards Borders and there was Mark, walking out with his Borders bag. I looked down, intending to give him his space. He winked at me and said "See you mate", as I passed. I then went and bought Nabokov's Ada or Ardor  and a cask of red wine to enjoy it with, smiling continually at the day's good fortune.

The fact that this

The fact that this information has been up for almost a day without a single comment appearing is a worry.

How can we go about recruiting new writers? I would've thought that journalism courses, creative writing students etc would be busting to try their hand... should Webdiary become more pro-active in recruitment of authors?

It's sad to see that Hamish is no longer being supported financially in his endeavours. I know we've thrashed this out before, but it feels like an end of an era in that maintaining interactivity between editors and contributors will now be much more difficult to maintain.  (Hopefully things will pick up and Hamish won't need a second career as a ukulele busker.)

The slowdown of comments response in such a situation, while apparently unavoidable, can't be helping as far as momentum goes.  Are there set "shifts" for volunteer editors?  Perhaps if people knew that their comments would be dealt with in shorter timeframes the number of responses might improve.

I guess the thing I'm most disappointed in at the moment is the small number of commentators interested in only a very small scope of topics.  By the look of things only 10% of registered commenters are doing so.  How do we change this?

The Club Chaos of old (beware cheap imitations) is beginning to feel a little exclusive... I'd like to see it become a little more user friendly, and dammit, I miss the encouragement that Margo used to give us all.

Do you think a few Australian writers might donate pieces to help Webdiary get back on its feet?

rain and selling and paying

HI, I don't know if a Soros funded think tank is worth scarce funds, especially when they should be paying you for publicising their group's general message, especially as our public assets are so targeted now as eastern Europe’s were. I read in the herald about 169 billion bucks have been sold so far here in the recent past.


As an outsider who has loved the broadening of understanding that Webdiary has brought to me personally I hope things go well. Just a suggestion, pick a topical topic and ask a topical local to write an essay on it for a fee and share royalties as the syndicate does. Giving them the option to reply to posters would be empowering for them too. Such as the coming nuclear "investigation" maybe do a parallel one here with experts in the field.

Cheers, thanks, for all the hard work. I do miss Hamish, but he is missing the rain I hope and not missing it like Jenny.

Project Syndicate

I think it's deeply misleading to describe P-S as "a Soros-funded think tank": the Open Society Institute is only one of the supporters of a foundation whose primary income source is subscriptions from member papers, and whose business is syndicating articles. The "think tank" bit is the IWM, whose Board of Patrons reads like a who's who of the intelligentsia ...

Our original interest came from them being far and away the best source of economic and scientific commentary in the world. The fact that they are prepared to sell us articles by Jeffrey Sachs, Pete Singer and Joe Stiglitz for around US$50 per article, when, for example, The Guardian quoted us £120 (US$220) to reprint one article by George Monbiot, means that this is just a good business arrangement for us, in terms of cost per thousand words!

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