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Meet the students

Richard: I hope Heidi's post will serve as a threadstarter for the other online media students lurking around the place to similarly make themselves known in the comments below!

Dear Webdiarists,

First, I would like to formally introduce myself to this community so that you may all know me on a more personal level before I myself begin posting, or commenting on the topics published. Second, and most importantly, I would like to extend a gracious thank you to you all for embracing this project and for accepting me into this community.

I am currently enrolled in an Online Journalism class at the University of Sydney, which is how I became acquainted with this site and the sharing community. Some of you may know Fiona Martin, and may have read the “Media Students & Webdiary?” post on 29 July 2008. If that is the case, than you know exactly the task I have at hand. My hope is to become fully engaged with this community while learning as much as possible about the online blogging sites by the time I am finished with my studies here. However, after I am finished, I hope to remain an integral part of this community and take it with me to wherever I am headed next –the beauty of the web.

About me: prior to moving to Australia, I lived in the United States for 23 years, or better known as my entire life. A year ago, I decided that I need a change. I came to the Land of Oz a little over a month ago in search of something life-altering, or, at least, enlightening. I am a postgraduate student at Sydney Uni., enrolled in the Master of Publishing program. I am passionate about writing and the publishing industry; I am eager to learn more about the Australian and Asia Pacific publishing industry as compared to the American industry.

I completed my Bachelors degree at a university in the United States – Kent State University – known for the deaths of the peaceful student protesters at the hands of National Guardsmen during the Vietnam War. Its history is what drew me there, not to mention the hugely liberal aspect and the thriving arts community. I have always felt at home with the artsy, liberal kids (hippies).

While attending school in the US, I briefly worked as a writer, including online publishing. I have just begun to find my niche, but I am coming closer – I think. I hope this site will help me to discover more of what I am good at and passionate about.

Thank You,

Heidi Cassell


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Have we frightened the students away?

Have we frightened all the budding new journalists away? I was looking forward to their contributions. If Webdiary can scare them how will they cope in the real world?

They would have made an excellent contribution to Webdiary and we could have all learned from them. Is there something for us to learn from the way they have reacted? Perhaps we are not as inclusive as we would like to think.

Richard:  They're still around, John, perhaps doing warm-up exercises.  And one's submitted a piece.  Agreed though, John, it would be great to hear more from them.

What me, worry?

"One of them left in a huff and the rest followed."

Well not exactly. Harry. I remember dropping by regularly to raid the bar and sweep up the dead cockies, water the plants, feed the fish and so on.

I ever so patiently waited for you to return to fly that bloody great big wooden aeroplane parked out the front.

And then the booze ran out.

I did, however, return the other night but it was all quiet; the bar was empty and it was all cold inside. The pub with no beer.

Personally I sort of agree with Harry on the moderation thing but can understand the concerns of those who don't. Harry 's blog was fun and sometimes enlightening and sometimes full of crap just like the real world and for someone like moi no rules was just fine.

Anyway life's too short to get one's nilly in a knot over other people's emotions; as such A .E. Neuman probably has the best philosophy - what me, worry?

BTW what ever happened to that great big wooden aeroplane, Harry, or was it all just a pigment of my imagination?

More scientific illiteracy in journalists

Another choice example of scientific illiteracy amongst media workers last night on the Seven Network.

Reporting on a local study into learned behaviour and problem solving by octopuses, a Seven Network journo reported how a researcher found that an octopus could, when food was put in a closed peanut-butter jar, actually work out how to get the closed lid off the jar to retrieve the food.

Pleased as punch, the researcher showed viewers how the octopus would perform the trick over and over, getting the lid off the jar every time.

"This is important research," said the journalist, "because scientists say it shows how learned behaviour drives evolution."

What the....!!!??

Perhaps not since the days of Lamarck have scientists thought any such thing. Otherwise, you might wonder why plants and viruses and the like evolve so prodigiously.

More likely, the ability of the octopus to problem solve in search of food so effectively shows how evolution drives the ability to learn, not the reverse.

Next week, how natural selection weeds out the scientifically uneducated and sends them to media schools.

Perhaps and maybe

Eliot: "More likely, the ability of the octopus to problem solve in search of food so effectively shows how evolution drives the ability to learn, not the reverse."

There is little doubt that cerebral capacity in animals has generally increased over geological time, in that ancestral types are somewhat less brainy than their modern descendants, particularly among the 'higher' vertebrates. Their environment selects genetically differentiated individual organisms, without a doubt.

However individual animals, with the ability to travel about, can select their environment according to their individually different fitnesses. For example, long-legged grazing animals, such as moose, are best suited to lowland environments. Highland environments and mountains are the natural home of short legged grazers, such as yaks and mountain sheep. It does not take much of a leap of the imagination to postulate an original ancestral grazing population self-selecting over time into different environments according to genetic differences on the principle that the shorter your legs, the higher you can safely climb, and the longer your legs, the deeper you can wade while browsing and  the better you can negotiate boggy ground in all seasons. Their environment selects individuals, and some individuals can select their environment, making evolution a bit of a two-way street.

The pygmies of Africa may have done this, as they are apparently descended from taller people. Their short stature gives them an advantage in moving through their home environment, which is rain forest. As it does for pygmy hippos and deer, and Australia's smallest macropod, the parma wallaby.

When the journalist says "scientists say it shows how learned behaviour drives evolution" you are right to ask: "Which scientists? And where did they publish it?"

Octopii are the monkeys of the sea, no doubt. I have often thought that if some disaster wiped out all terrestrial life, they would be the founding population for future intelligent life on the planet, and would in time come out onto dry land just as their mollusc relatives the marine snails did. In time, their descendants would build spaceships; perhaps ones equipped with therapeutic spa baths. They would be HG Wells' Martians with bells on.

BTW I haven't followed your link to Lamarck. But his modern devotees (chiefly his biological descendants) claim that he has been misrepresented by his Darwinian opponents.  On the pedestal of his statue in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris are the words written by one of his daughters, which (translated) say: "You will be avenged, my father; posterity will admire you."


Jenny, my blog wasn't destroyed by the things you mention at all.  I simply got bored with it.  In the end it was a blog where all I did was post pictures.  Before the last election I attacked the regulars for their Howard hating ways.  One of them left in a huff and the rest followed.  That was a liberating experience.  Something that wavered between boring and irritating had finally died.  For the regulars, they have relocated to another blog and then also started commenting here. No skin off their collective noses and none off mine.  I operated my blog between 2003 and 2007.  The only thing that ever changed about it was my level of engagement.  I'm certainly glad it was open and essentially without rules so I couldn't disagree with you more.

I don't doubt

David Davis, I don't doubt the reasons you give for closing you blog. I was only ever a casual visitor in its last couple of years, and then mostly to see the piccies which were great. I did not even know it existed until I was told I was a bit of a feature there for a day or two.

But I have to confess that the depth of bile dumped there by some who seemed to just drop in for that purpose, or to spam it, made me realise how important moderation is. I guess it all depends on what the objectives of the blog site are whether you have rules and moderation, and also on whether a blog owner is prepared to put up with the spoilsports or not. I would not have the patience.

Anyway, as I said, your piccies were great.


On some other thread,  you posted a link that included a photo of a grotesque woman evidently intent on swallowing a crowded sate stick.  As a joke, I asked you if it was you.

You didn't get the joke, and gave an earnest reply.  I don't think that you get my posts. 

However, I accept your sincerity.

Misapprehensions and jokes

F Kendall: "On some other thread, you posted a link that included a photo of a grotesque woman evidently intent on swallowing a crowded sate stick. As a joke, I asked you if it was you. You didn't get the joke, and gave an earnest reply."

Truth be told, F Kendall, I did get the joke in that instance. My vanity, however, compelled me to comment, lest others may have been under the misapprehension that the "sate stick swallower" was indeed me! Hence my light-hearted "ditzy blonde" reply.

Part of a poem by Patrick Chalmers keeps running through my head:

But all is vanity all the way.
Twilight follows the brightest day.
And every cat in the twilight's gray,
Every possible cat!

I'm sure Claude can relate to that, too.

Everyone has a story

One doesn't need to read the details in order to know that. Life has many travails: it is a fair assumption that each person has had his/her own difficult passage. And to respect them accordingly. Or to know that it is necessary to overcome the limitations of personal experience in order to understand the issues and the society.

Perhaps it is guilt, Jenny Hume, that makes me assume that some of your comments were directed at me. I certainly felt guilty that I had made a passive-aggressive ...(ooh, such a favored female approach)...comment about you on another thread.

So, I would like to say to you directly that I find a huge dissonance between your expressed negative attitudes to the mass of people at large, and your admiration for Henry Lawson, with his constant pity for the ordinary, "the faces in the street." I can't compute that at all.

I have no doubt that you are a good human being, Jenny . Most people are. But, again taking the direct approach, I have a query about your donations (obviously, not knowing your income, I have no idea whether these are particularly generous or not) - but your recounting of them always astonishes me.

What of Matthew 6? "Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in Heaven...When thou dost thy alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee...let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing." ...What does that mean to you?

To me, it certainly means that anything that I might give - and I am not suggesting whether I do or do not - is not something that I would ever pass on to others, let alone broadcast on a website.

Once I was a child, who thought that those who endorsed and echoed my opinions were my friends. Later, I found out that those who engaged with my thoughts, even if at time they challenged, disagreed or derided them, were people who were intimately connected with me. They are the friends that I prefer: but, again, other people make other choices.

It's easy to love your supporters...but, crossing the barriers is what it's all about, is it not? My dearest friends have been at times - and maybe still are now - my opponents: because we've reached the deepest, scratchiest parts of one another...and found the warmth of our humanity simmering there.

Head over heels

F Kendall: "I have a query about your donations (obviously, not knowing your income, I have no idea whether these are particularly generous or not) - but your recounting of them always  astonishes me."

The reason that Jenny mentions that she donates to charities is simply to prick the consciences of those who do not donate a cracker.

It is certainly not  because she wants to blow her own trumpet, F Kendall.

If people care so much about a cause then  they should be prepared to put their money where their mouths are, non?

F. Kendall: "It's easy to love your supporters...but, crossing the barriers is what it's all about, is it not?  My dearest friends have been at times - and maybe still are now- my opponents: because we've reached the deepest, scratchiest parts of one another...and found the warmth of our humanity simmering there."

How do you know that Jen does not feel the same as your good self in that respect, eh?  After all, she is married to an atheist.

And I know for a fact , that good old  Presbyterian Jen, is head over heels  (Youtube link) in love with that Scot!

No big deal

Well now Kath, that is nice of you but don't let you gals fight over my head. As for the Scot, well yes, he is an atheist, and that bothers me a bit, but there is not much I can do about it. Love blinds, one might say.

Now F Kendall, giving is no big deal to me. If Dylan suggests a cause to give to that I did not know about but which I think is very worthy, then I like to let him know that I will respond - by how much is my affair. I also like to spread the word a bit, to encourage people to give by mentioning charities that I support that may not be well known but which do quite unique work, like CBMI. How many here knew that with five dollars they could give a child its sight back in the third world? I also use those examples such as CBMI to remind those here who are so bent on condemning Christians all the time, that they are doing so much good work in such organizations and should be supported, not condemned.

Support by the way does not always need to be by giving money. Marilyn tells us all the time what she does for refugees. Do you have a problem with her talking about that sort of alms giving that she does? Actually I think those who volunteer and give of their time are far more giving of alms than those like me. Writing a cheque is an easy cop out for one's conscience. I feel guilty that I do not volunteer like other people clearly do, from what incidentally they write on this site. Paul Walter as I recall to the Palestinian cause, Roger Fedyk and his wife to gay rights, David Roffey to Oxfam and so on, so I think this is your problem, not mine.

As to your problem computing me. Well I just think you have drawn too much generalisation for yourself from stuff that I have written. I do not condemn people en masse. I have a problem with the greed mentality and all I have said is I have little sympathy for people who go heavily into debt deliberately because of that mentality, but not everyone is in debt because of that, and I more than anyone know the hardship that debt causes in a family. But while I may say I lack sympathy, I am not lacking in compassion. My family (without any argument from me) has probaly taken in more homeless than most, and not just for a day either, sometimes for years - and spanning decades. But I should not talk about that, for fear of censorship for doing so, it seems.

I am not sure you have anything to be guilty about, but if I am honest with you, then I have to say I find you a difficult person to read as well. Sometimes I think to myself, F Kendall just likes to bitch for the sake of it . I know almost nothing about you, and your opinions when expressed here are generally fairly cryptic. I supsect you are a very private person, while I am quite the opposite. I think your barrier is too high for me to try and climb over.

I have in fact crossed barriers more than you think. The people on this site whom I now consider friends, or for whom I have respect, are in some cases people with whom I have had some rather testy initial exchanges with over the past two years. This one however whom I find to be just plain nasty, and I whom I now intend to ignore totally on this site.

As for you my dear, time will tell whether the barrier is too high for either of us.

I note since I wrote this that you have said to Kathy, that she does not get your posts. Well all I can say is that at times I don't either. And I think that is part of the problem. And I don't think you get mine either, or at least I think you read too much into them, but never mind. In the grand scheme of life, it probably does not matter.


Several people here had posted that they found it difficult to make their initial posts.

I extrapolated from that to speculate as to how much more difficult this might be if you had, as the students may well have, a cohort of known associates/rivals, as well as your teachers/judges, seeing one's first  first dog-paddling of the pool.   And thus, to how it may be easier for them to jump in under pseudonyms. 

That's all.

Move over, Jesus

I don't even own any shoes. Only sandals. My sandals are made of rope, because I don't care for plastic and wouldn't want to be mean to an animal by having leather ones. And I've only got one, because I gave the other one to a one-legged fella in Ethiopia or somewhere. Now I have to hop about everywhere in my search for someone poorer than me to patronise. Oh how noble I am.

This hopping I do these days takes me back to my childhood. When my brother and I grew too big to ride on the horse with the other three kids we had to hop to school. We could only afford one pair of shoes between the two of us. We wore one each. We weren't allowed to wear out the soles of our shoes, so we had to hop to school on our bare foot. By the time we got there, school was over for the day; so we had to swap shoes, turn around and hop back home. While we got to be champions at hop-scotch, which is unfortunately not yet an Olympic Sport, we didn't get much schooling. No wonder neither of us grew up to know much more than your average lawyer. Kick a footy a good long way, though.

Having got that off my chest — not as well developed as my legs — I want to endorse what F Kendall said. The value of a thing like this Webdiary lies in the variety of points of view to be found in it, the breadth of opinions expressed on its pages and, let's hope, in its ability to attract and hold the reader's interest. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the identity of its contributors. We get to know the contributors by the nature of what they contribute. And that is the way we should get to know them.

I, for one, couldn't care less about the identities of the owners of the opinions. I am only interested in the opinions themselves. And by this I don't mean posters' inflated opinions of themselves. There is far too much of that sort of thing around here; and it seems to be increasing. Too much promotion of self, and that, interestingly, usually from posters with little in the way of interesting ideas to promote.

Nor do I care to waste my time reading bits of the life stories of people I don't know, and whose lives don't interest me at all. I don't enjoy reading through a post and reaching the end only to wonder So what? Certainly a bit of personal trivia here and there is not out of place; but there are more appropriate places than this for paragraph after paragraph of that sort of thing, and post after post dedicated to little else. If people want to indulge in that, why don't they find a chat-room inhabited by like-minded souls, and indulge themselves there? I think that would be better than wishing they could exclude or censor any who vehemently disagree with them, and trying to subvert this site to just another you stroke my ego and I'll stroke yours chatroom.

The resentment of Harry Heidelberg

Richard, my point is that in some quarters, I received much criticism for using the name Harry Heidelberg. I was relentlessly attacked for using that name and certain people, with an identity fetish sought to unmask me as if there was some deep, dark secret.

That was never the case. As Kathy says, any of my writing ends up revealing a lot about me anyway. The politics, Switzerland, the US etc etc. It's gonzo blogging. It was a translucent mask but one that had to be used for a very practical purpose. It worked for that purpose but I strongly and bitterly resented the attacks for using the name Harry Heidelberg. It was entirely legitimate. In fact that one I openly discussed with my employer at the time in Europe and the US when I was to be published in Not Happy John.

So Richard, I can't say the name set up worked because some got it in their head that there was something sinister in it. It was always absolute nonsense. A person who tries to hide hardly makes a habit of saying they lived in places like Kansas City, Basel, Bern, Jacksonville and Sydney. That sort of weird combination tends to reveal identity. The person in hiding hardly posts pictures of their travel and weave personal anecdotes into every post. That's not bloody hiding and I strongly resented suggestions that it was.

So no, the name didn't work because clearly some people in the darling "community" didn't respect the reasoning behind its use. They didn't care about diversity of views and conflicts of interest.

I'd actually rather be using the name Harry Heidelberg right now. I'm better known under that name online anyway. Even my mother calls me Harry from time to time. She's been doing that ever since I started using the name. The only bloody reason I am using David Davis is because of all the garbage about "hiding" by the identity fetish people.

There may be a policy about using such names but it doesn't stop the identity fetish folk from doing what fetish people do - obsess, obsess and obsess.


David Davis cum Harry Heidelberg, it rather seems like you might be the one obsessing. I cannot see what the problem is over all this. If Webdiary allows people who, for whatever valid reason, want to use a pseudo, then where is the issue for heaven's sake? All the management team require is that they know and it is a trust thing anyway. They do not have the time to go around checking on people.

I have only ever written one comment here under a pseudo, with the clearance of the editors, and that was in order not to protect myself but other people.

I do not however give out my address and having been mistakenly taken for over ten years for another person of the same name, and given the problems that created I think that is wise.

I say get over it David. You write some stuff I like to read when you pop in. I too have some problems with the political lean of this site, but it does not put me off writing about the things that concern me, such as live exports. I see the site as a means to spread the message on such issues.

BTW, I saw how your blog was virtually destroyed by people using multiple pseudos and identities in order to spam your blog and let fly with unbridled abuse. That would happen here without moderation and some attempt to control abuse and stop people adopting many personas and several identities for that purpose. Sad, but it is true. Many blogs have switched on moderation because of the spoilsports who just want to disrupt.

Not quite

Justin Obodie (that name is a pseudonym)

The name is real, the person is a pseudonym.

Funny thing is -  I've never liked suede.

You are real enough for me JO

Justin:  "Funny thing is -  I've never liked suede."

No, but you like a damn good scotch or two, don't'cha my love?

Richard:  So what happens when an albatross is rubbed by a cat? He's Purr-sueded?  Sorry.

Dicky boy

If anyone finks he's going to do cat jokes around here - it'll be this cat thanks very much.

Humanes. Bloody cheek. [He, hee v sbtile cat joke that one.]

Where do I get to mark David Davis? If he's really a Roming Catholkc, I might be able to do him a catachism.

Bloody keyboard playing up agen.

No respect for diversity

Anyone who respects diversity would immediately recoil at the idea of an insistence on the use of real names. It's a repugnant policy that at once kills diversity and open debate. The identity obsession was always totally beyond my comprehension.

The insistence on the use of real names immediately cuts out a good chunk of the population. What you end up with is people who have no concern about their name being associated with vigorous political debate. Of course for lefties this makes perfect sense. To them it is incomprehensible that any possible conflict of interest could exist. That's because they're not commercial and they don't know the first thing about conflicts of interest or being accountable. What you end up with under such a policy is only public servants, the retired, the welfare dependent lefties, the go nowhere types and the self employed in tiny non representative businesses. All these groups are unaccountable so of course they can use their own names.

Since the gathering is like that there is no interest in hearing from people who work from mainstream companies. It's a virtuous circle. It's OK for you so you assume that is the way the world should be.

It's not though. I could be a lawyer in a firm that has an alcohol company as a client. It's not my client but it's in my firm. Clearly it is a conflict of interest for me to come out relentlessly attacking the alcohol industry or say the particular company involved. It is against the interests of my firm. They would quite rightly object to that. This is not the case in my situation but I highlight it as an example. Even if there was such a company and I was in such a firm I would never say that as I am a huge supporter of the industry. You surely see the point though if I was that way inclined (ie a wowser like Rudd)

It is wildly inappropriate for all sorts of people to permanently record all sorts of opinions in a forum that permanently records them to be Googled for centuries from now.

As none of you come from a background where this sort of thing matters, you'd never get it.

Ultimately it comes down to what is important to you. For the majority here it has always been about an obsession with identity. Identity has always been far more important than the expression of diverse views.

I am the reverse. I am interested in the view, I am interested in the diversity, not the identity. The only thing I would request of people is that they use the same name on a consistent basis. I hate it when people use lots of different names on the same day or week. This is a question of utility. If you are going to debate someone you want to know it is the same person you spoke to yesterday.

As for the actual identity, I have long found the fetish surrounding that truly repugnant. It's great for people who want to restrict views but it is demonstrably foolish if you are interested in a diversity of views.

These things become dogma. Identity has been dogma at Webdiary for years. It's assumed to be special. I've always considered it foolish - but hey - my carping about rules is old and boring. I've never had many supporters for the concept. I only contributed again on this as I see it is being debated. Again. The rules are dogma because they never change and are unable to be questioned. Dogma by definition.

Sharing views and getting to know people

As Ian has pointed out David (Harry), one may use a pseudonym, if one wishes, here.

Me, well, I like to know a little bit about the people commenting.

Not for me the "cut and run" commenter.

I am a people person, and would much rather establish a rapport with someone whose opinion on a subject ( of importance) I trust.

For instance, I know enough about Ian and trust him to give a fair and balanced view on climate change, science being his field.

I'll go to the the other end of the spectrum, here and cite Marilyn (whom I often disagree with) as a genuine campaigner and advocate of refugees and human rights. I know enough about her to understand that hers is a genuine committment to a cause close to her heart.

So, whilst she may piss me off from time to time, and I her, I am conversing with a real person who is not afraid to share part of who she is with the Webdiary community.

There are many others too. John Pratt, Jenny Hume, Fiona Reynolds, Malcolm. B. Duncan, Richard Tonkin ... to name a few. Even Justin Obodie (that name is a pseudonym) - I have had heaps of fun with him and his potomac.

For me it's all about sharing views and getting to know people in the process.

Even you Harry, I know so much about you.

Your real name is David Davis. You usually reside in Sydney, a place you love dearly. You have travelled extensively, and Switzerland holds a special place in your heart, as does the USA.

You love beer and socializing.You are a bloody good photographer, and take heaps of pics.You are a staunch liberal supporter. You are a Catholic.

Family and friends mean a lot to you...

I could go on. But, you get the picture.

Whilst I am interested in the view, I am, above all most interested in the person, behind the view.

LIght heartedness v sour grapes

Kathy, what I like about you is your lightheartedness. And I admire you the more for it because of what you have revealed about the difficulties you face with an autistic child.

And I love to hear stories from people like Richard and his pub. Many a good laugh there - let alone the work he does for disadvantaged people. Justin amuses me too. He seems to like, as does Father Park at times, to paint himself as just an old drunk. But the life story of Justin's family was one of the most fascinating things I have yet read here, and the stuff he wrote about the loss of his father - very moving. And Marilyn, though we cross swords, what a life story - certainly helped me understand why she works for child victims.

As for Margo, her moving account of her career, its ups and downs, her personal traumas over it - it helps one understand the person behind the pen, and the opinion.

I would rather the life stories of people like you, and Justin, and Malcolm, of anyone here than to constantly read sour grape stuff by those who like to read only opinion, believing it would seem that opinion is somehow separated from the person, their values, their life experiences - and whose sole attempts at humour rely on sarcasm.  

No the real world is made up of people, not opinion machines.

So keep it coming folks, your stories, your life experiences, your jokes, your little triumphs over adversity, your contributions to society and the world - be yourselves. Don't buy sour grapes.  That will mean you might have to bypass the fresh food people by the way.

Last night, see the pumpkin growers finally forced out by the big two? A mark up from $250 to $2250 a tonne on pumpkins from the farm gate to your fridge. No wonder they chucked in the towel. But of course farmers are only whingers are they not? What would they know about the price of pumpkins? 

And anyway, the smaller greengrocers are often much cheaper, and more fresh. Who has not bought a punnet of blueberries from Woolies, to find them mouldy in the bottom, or the bag of oranges, moudy in the middle. I would like a pumpkin for the number of times in the past I have had to return such, so now I buy from the halal shop across the street. Avocados, half the price of Woolies anyway.

Oh Gawd!!!

David Davis, if you got to Home >About Webdiary> How to register you will read this:

Use of standard name forms lends Webdiary discussions a more substantial and civil tone. It is far easier and more egalitarian for a 'Jack Robertson' to maintain a serious conversation with a 'John Smith' or a 'J. Smith', than with a 'John', a 'Johnny12345', a 'John Howardsucks' or a 'Mickey Mouse'.

If you do not register a real name (or negotiate the use of a pseudonym with the editors) you will not be allowed to post comments...  [My emphasis - IM]

Anyone can apply to use a pseudonym on Webdiary. It's just that the editors like to know when it's happening and who is involved.

Hey Harry!

Just to fill things in for the newbies (umm yeah, "Meet the Students," where does that ring a bell?)  David Davis posted for years here under the name of Harry Heidleburg as this was appropriate to his corporate environment at the time

The name set-up seemed to  work okay for you, David.  Why not for others?

Oh dear

So, we work on a basis of mistrusting our contributors. I see.

And I thought that I was paranoiac.

I am interested in ideas, thoughts, and opinions on the net: whether they are yours, Richard Tonkin, or whether they are those of Richard Tonkin posing as Kilgour Trout. I don't care. I care whether they are interesting and thought provoking and expand my horizons. It's the minds that matter on a talkbboard, not the people, putative or not, behind them.

But, if you point out to me that you are actually Cardinal Richard Tonkin SJ, LBG, HROH, I still want to judge your comments not by who you are, but simply by their reason and argument.

What's wrong with inventing a persona on the net? We all do it in real life. Anonymity on the net means that we don't have to do this.

F Kendall, you're taking me the wrong way

I was trying to talk about promoting trust, not fomenting distrust.  I seem to be accidentally digging a hole for myself.

Actually, according to one set of paperwork I recently received I'm now the insurance manager for the local council. Great money, bugger-all hours.  Even when I confessed I was talking to someone who introduced themselves as being on "my" interview panel!

How did you get suspicion from my approval?  Anyway, have a look back at why Margo instituted this policy, and tell me what you think. I'll find a link...

Malcolm, it was Pete Seeger (and Joe Hickerton,whoever he is).


Never did understand the 60s and 70s the same way the rest of you did. I actually wanted to go to Vietnam. Only gripe I've ever had with Gough. Mind you, I would have gone as a soldier not a fly-boy.

"Sure, it's easier to converse more freely from anonymity"

Why should that be so, Richard?

Because, as you say, with a name you are "putting your Self on the line, so to speak." With anonymity one can investigate the reaches of the mind and consciousness, without "putting yourself on the line" and feeling personally vulnerable.

With anonymity, the ranges of your ideas are on the line, not your vulnerable self. How nice it would be if people were here defending their ideas, not their egos....but, putting yourself on the line demands this.

My point would be that the ideas are ephemeral, unformed and subject to change. Putting your name to them pins them down, and pins you down to defend them. As is seen so often here where defensive debates are so common, rather than questioning and actually discussing issues.

Ok, I'm out of step. No problem.

An unusual site

Webdiary, in its insistence on real names -(and, er, its exception to this rule for several Important, we can presume, people) - is unusual. Most online sites are anonymous, and, to my mind, therefore allow a more free flowing discourse.

Most communication happens through sight: appearance, stature, dress, posture, stance...and then accent, grammar, and then...so on. I don't want to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs, as Huck Finn said, and I'm sure that everyone knows such. Without these externals, words themselves actually matter. Logic matters. Reason matters. Words matter. This is the power, interest and rationale of online forums...(and, don't bother me with the stupid "fora", ok?). Words matter.

A site where people are anonymous allows this. A site that doesn't, inhibits it.

Some contributors on Webdiary try to circumvent this by trying to introduce an online presence of their qualifications, their perceived stature, their claims to distinction. In effect, they are repeatedly showing us the logo on their Prada, Gucci or whatever handbag, and expecting us to be swayed as to the superiority of their arguments because of these extraneous factors.

Because of the lack of anonymity on this site, I would be tentative, were I a student, of putting my views, agreements, hostilities or antagonisms forward, possibly to be judged not only by my peers but by my ultimate course evaluator.

The power of the name

Being in the one business environment for fifteen years, I know a lot of people by face. I recall the conversations when they return after lapses in time, but names are always hard work. "How are you, Miss-Scotch-and-Coke-in-a-tall-glass" just doesn't cut the mustard, though the face-drink association does come much easier. I've tried the memory-trick courses and that sort of thing, but it doesn't help.

On conversing with someone whose name I've lost I prefer the embarrassment of being exposed as having a less-than-perfect memory by saying so and asking for it again. Occasionally I get a reaction of disgust but generally the requests are well received.

As far as I'm concerned, names are an iconic sum of our personal data as well as a label for our consciousnesses. When people use them we know we are being referred to as the individual that we are. Does that make sense, or have I been watching too much Dr Who again?

Sure, it's easier to converse more freely from anonymity. When you do so you're not putting your Self on the line, so to speak. The words have no reflection on the uttering individual. To me this reduces their value considerably. It is the association with, and the perceived input from, a recognisable human being that makes those words a reflection of the inner working of that mind.

In short, I'm all for putting your name on the words you create. The signal is one of integrity, and the fact that Webdiary makes such stipulations gives what transpires here much more integrity than words thrown from behind the shield of untraceability. Unarmed by being named, there is a necessary honour of being true to oneself in what's said. There should be more if it in the world, IMHO.

How do we know it's you?

Not in reference to basic stats, F Kendall, but rather questioning that if we don't know who you are then how do we know the thoughts are truly yours?

Anyone of us can invent a persona, their opinions and beliefs, and play them on the net as avatars. Are those the people whose opinions you'd prefer to hear? If the people aren't real, then are their opinions?

Nomen, ignomen

And, Richard Tonkin and F Kendall, think about Orson Scott Card's Ender series. Who is Demosthenes? More importantly, why?

Not just Ender's Game really. You have to read the whole series (which has now become quite tedious).

My view is, if I have something to say, I say it myself. Now I can't answer for the cat or me sometime friend Alphonse or dead politicians but, you all know who I am.

As for our young friends: timeo; timorus:

Where have all the students gone/Long time pissing?/Got degrees everichon/

When will they ever learn?/When will they ever learn?

With apologies I think to Joni Mitchell - how's that for an old soldier?

Life's illusions..

 Malcolm B. Duncan: "My view is, if I have something to say, I say it myself"

I agree MBD.  (MBD sounds so cool, don't'cha think?)

You and I are similar Malcolm, in that "you all know who I am". I have always been open and forthright here, as has your good self.

Living dangerously but honestly

Kathy Farrelly, I think being prepared to expose who one really is and some of the factors that have influenced one's life, and therefore one's attitudes and values, might be living a bit dangerously on the net, but I feel it is more honest.

Living behind personas, anonymity and secrecy is safe but rather cowardly in my opinion.

I note a tendency in some, but not all, of those who jump to judge and be negative toward me much of the time here are those in fact who reveal the least about themselves. What are they afraid of, one wonders. 

They come at me preaching a concern for their fellow human beings, clearly suggesting that I am somehow lacking in that area, but they are not prepared to say what they do to help those less fortunate than themselves to demonstrate the honesty of their own professed concern.

Well I believe if you preach a concern then you should be prepared to say what you do to put that into practice.

Practice for me means that if I have 100 dollars to spare, then I don't go out and buy a new pair of shoes if the one pair fits all occasions still has some life left in it, but that instead I should send that money to the Christian Blind Mission knowing that $5 will give a child in the third world its sight back and $100 will give 20 such children their sight back. 

And as an example of how that would be greeted here by one of my self appointed constant nitpicking adversaries, I would be picked on for using the word its when I said a give a child its sight back. Well, I don't think those blind kids would give a toss, provided they could see again.

Each year I refuse to buy more toys for the kids in our family. Instead I give them a $3 calendar from CBMI with pictures of and drawings by some of those children whose sight I have helped to restore, and hope in doing that they too will see that restoring the sight of a blind child is more important than another pair of shoes for themselves. 

And yes, I think you are forthright and open. That is what allowed our communications here to shed the initial reservations we had with each other and understand each other's true values. You cannot have open and honest communication wtih those who adopt personas and who preach without saying specifically how they practise what they preach in their own lives.

Not good

If that diabetic feline, Claude, turns up in a Potomac I'll be really pissed.

Funnily enough, I can see it since I wrote it

Ian, yes I can see the contradiction.  It's  supposed to be sarcasm.  It's as silly as all the other contradictions inherent in the comments to this piece. All the faux loving and caring is a joke.  So too is the giving and the sharing.  The topic is politics. Online journalism and politics.  It's a time for clear thinking and plain speaking, not a time for empty, needlessly comforting platitudes.

The students need to toughen up, otherwise they'll never make it in the real world. I am playing my small part in this process and so too are you.  You have directed one of them to savage me like a bulldog.

Gordon Gekko said "if you want a friend, get a dog".  My version of this is "if you want a friend, don't go online".  The students do not come here to make friends. They come here to learn about online journalism and it's not a friendly topic. Let them proceed in a workmanlike manner.  The best way to help them is to confront them (preferably in anger) or at best present a dour appearance.

The dog in the fight

David Davis, don't worry about being savaged by a bulldog. The only ones you'll find today are pussy-cats. If you want a friend, get a bulldog by all means; but be prepared for a one-sided sort of friendship. You will need to do everything for him, and he will be capable of doing almost nothing for you. But each to his own. Ugly as a sackful of scrotums notwithstanding, some people seem to find them decorative.

Churchill probably liked them because he looked like one. Ones of the kind the British originally admired are long extinct. Inbred to extremis, these days they have trouble breathing even when they're not latched onto a bull's nose. They have trouble enough just eating. Back in the days when Britain aspired to being the world's superpower, the original bulldog served as a pretty potent symbol. A small dog which can kill a bull, solo, was bound to impress.

In this day and age, if you want a dog that will make you enemies, and savage them, and be a danger too to your friends and to your children, you had better get an American pit-bull terrier. They don't mean any harm, but are insane. They are purpose-bred to kill each other. There's a subliminal message in there somewhere…

How cynical

How cynical, David Davis. You seemingly do not allow that the young might welcome some encouragement and genuine support to take the risky step of putting themselves forward online.

Journalism was a much safer place before the interent. Journalists could have their say in print with only the letters column to take them to task, moderated, of course, by the all powerful editor or proprietor. 

Online jounalism is a whole different ball game and, yes, it will require a degree of personal toughness and insularity for anyone to want to be part of it as a career. My hat is off to the students for that. 

So you think to toughen them up we must confront them online, preferably with anger and dourness. Well yes, I saw a lot of that on your recent blog and there's plenty elsewhere. Such hardly leads to intelligent discussion of the issues that confront the world and as Margo found, in the end it is just not worth the personal sacrifice. So good journos are lost to us all as a result. Our loss.

I think I would rather be guilty of offering nurturing comforting platitudes to the young and to budding young talent in whatever field of endeavour, rather than present myself as just another online bully in order to supposedly toughen them up, and probably in the process destroy some of them.

I doubt that anger has ever played any positive role in career development, quite the opposite in fact.

"If you want a friend, don't go online". Yet I have made wonderful friends online, in this very forum. I have made enemies too, but they reside mostly in some of those dreadful places where no one would want to go anyway. At least the mouse allows ones to shut them out of one's life.

On the other hand the only dog I ever had now lies in his little grave, but his love/hate marks I will carry to my own. I am not too sure about dogs as friends. Some would make even you look like a lamb.

Actually, I used to be ridiculed on your blog as I recall. No hard feelings though. I was toughened up long before the advent of the internet. Think rural bank managers.

Which country needs Heidi?

Ian, you say of Heidi, "believe me, your country needs you". Which country? Heidi is from the United States. The truth is probably both countries need Heidi, as do other places around the world.

You invite Heidi to savage me like a bulldog. I suppose that is in the context of the loving and the caring, the giving and the sharing that is at the heart of the Webdiary community. I've been savaged for years in this place. Water off a duck's back. It's like yawn, time for my morning coffee etc.

I love this mix of Australia, the United States and Switzerland - my three favourite countries in the world! I was reading this morning of a Swiss journalist, Claudia Spahr, who tries to answer the loaded question of "Where is Home?". More of us are becoming citizens of the world. There is little doubt journalism has no borders.

Here is a nice intro from Claudia on her interpretation of "home"

Claudia Spahr, Spain

I am in the back of a taxi in New York with my Japanese friend, Chiaki. We chat casually with the Pakistani cab driver from Islamabad.

He asks me that loaded question I find increasingly difficult to answer: "Where are you from?"

After a few glasses of Sake, I take a more original approach:

"Well I was born in Yorkshire. My parents are Swiss. I'm now at home in Spain. My heart beats to the rhythm of a Brazilian drum and in a previous life I was probably Chinese."

My Japanese friend sniggers and we head out into the night to meet other equally confused cosmopolitan city dwellers. This is the future of a new world which is becoming increasingly jumbled in terms of nationality, identity and race.

The rest of the article is here.

A citizen of the world

David Davis, I've had my morning porridge (with raisins) and soon it will be time for my cup of Oolong tea. Then I will resume my study of music: the one true international language.

"I suppose that is in the context of the loving and the caring, the giving and the sharing that is at the heart of the Webdiary community.  I've been savaged for years in this place." Those two quoted sentences come from you. I wonder if you can see how neatly the second contradicts the first?

As for Heidi, I'm sure she can do without the caring, sharing, touchy-feely, namby-pamby, politically correct, how's-your-father-is-he-under-control? orthodoxy so rampant in Webdiary. Whatever country she chooses, I'm also sure will choose her as well, be it Switzerland, the US, Australia, or perhaps even Mauretania.

Fresh breath of air

I am joyous to see so many positive comments related to my last post...

My previous was not specifically for me, but rather, for several people who I knew felt too scared to submit another entry.

 I didnt mind sticking my name out there as "the one who thinks everyone is a big bully" haha. I truly dont think that everyone is a bully. I was merely trying to make is easier for my classmates, as well as myself, to get the balls (excuse my language) to post our thoughts on here.

So, thank you for clarifying our welcomeness. Maybe now we can get to that fresh breath of air ~ student-blog-posting-mania!!

 Ready guys?...

Overcoming fear. Journalists need a fire in their belly.

I wonder if students and others who have not placed a comment struggle to overcome their fear. It's not every day that we open ourselves up to public scrutiny. I know my wife thinks I'm crazy for being part of the Webdiary community. I have tried to encourage others to participate in the Webdiary community. Most think it is a waste of time, some think they have nothing of value to say, some think no one will listen. I think most of us who do participate find it to be addictive. I think to overcome the criticism and fear we need a certain fire in our bellies. A need to express our ideas and to bounce our ideas of others. The more diverse our community is the better it will be. I guess if you want to be a journalist it takes courage.

Some may think that blogging is not real journalism. I believe if you have a story to tell it will be bursting to come out and this is a wonderful opportunity to tell your story. In the process we develop our writing skills, broaden our minds, and I believe we strengthen our democracy.

The wooly thinkers guide to rhetoric

Now all the students might find this a bit of fun. It sort of has a ring of truth about it. If the link won't work just google Butterflies and Wheels and search the heading below. I am sure you will on many threads here find excellent examples of all of it:

The Woolly-Thinkers Guide to Rhetoric

As for the flamers, did you see what happened to that pair in Melbourne? They indulged under pseudonymns in the worst form of nastiness and vicious and abusive flaming, then one day someone discovered their identity and outed them. That put the Claudes of this world amongst the pigeons I can tell you. And it made my day.

I can wait

We're not talking about children. These students are grown adults so stop infantalising them.  If they are intimidated by a blog one wonders how they'll cope in the real world.

The original Heidi (if you like) was born in Switzerland a long, long time ago.  She was sent to Frankfurt and didn't like it there.  I don't blame her.  If I was in Frankfurt, I'd be thinking of Switzerland as well.  What did Heidi do?  Did she feel intimidated and frozen?  No.  The original Heidi took matters into her own hands.  She ran away and went back to Switzerland as all smart people eventually do.

Heidi was a little girl full of spunk and grit.  Her tenacity got her back to her alpine homeland.  Eventually, in real life, she ended up marrying Peter, her childhood friend.  See, little girs with tenacity often get what they want.

If the original Heidi was like some of these students she would have sat in the apartment in Frankfurt, thought of Switzerland but have been too intimidated to take action.

I'd be wary of infantilising grown adults.  If they are unable to speak for themselves you'd have to wonder why they are doing journalism.  Are these the tenacious journalists of tomorrow?  I think not.

I'm sure there's a loving, caring, affirming blog somewhere out there but it is unrealistic to expect it on a site that routinely debates politics and other matters of public interest.

Perhaps a prayer group or other charity scenario would be more to the students' liking.  It would have nothing to do with their study but it would be an excellent way to avoid the horror and intimidation of life in the real world.


I understand exactly how Heidi and the other students feel, I've just erased the following three hundred words.  Heidi and the rest of the newcomers, if you ever want to bounce any notions about this place around with somebody, feel free to email me anytime.

It appears that everyone else has forgotten what it's like to be new.  I haven't.  If it wasn't for Margo's encouragement I would've been frightened off years ago, like, I suspect, many, many others.  The lack of empathy being demonstrated on this thread at the minute is fairly typical of what happens when a community begins to become inbred and insular.  

So c'mon new contributors, let's stir these sods up a bit!  They need it.  I'd love to see a student piece up for everyone to bounce around on.  A collaboration between a couple of writers, perhaps, if that would be a less freezing dip into the water?

Taking the plunge

Richard: "It appears that everyone else has forgotten what it's like to be new.  I haven't. "


It's a surprisingly big step to put one's first comment on a thread in a blog, no matter how prestigious or otherwise the site may be. It's like writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper for the first time, made worse by the ease of response available to those who might find something to take issue with.

In my time I've been in internal brawls in the ALP, addressed rowdy student meetings and taken on the roughest hecklers from the top of a 'stump' down at the old Sydney Domain. But the first dive into Webdiary was something else again.

Margo was very supportive to me at the time, even though I was disagreeing with her quite profoundly on the big topic of the day, namely the Iraq War. To boot, my first offering was not a comment, but a whole threadstarter, which took her completely by surprise, as I had not contributed a thing before.

In for a penny, in for a pound. Not exactly the shallow end of the pool, either. But what the hell. You take the plunge and start swimming. Many have come and gone since then, but none to my knowledge has drowned.

Heidi and her colleagues could do worse than just start posting comments, perhaps starting on threads pertaining to journalism, like the Death by 550 Cuts thread. There's plenty here who will back them up against critics, whatever their individual stances may be.

Oh no, not all of us Richard

 "It appears that everyone else has forgotten what it's like to be new".

 Oh no, not all of us Richard, not even the Scot who lay in bed this morning saying that he too was intimidated at first several years back. Mind you he is a big softy, not like this tough old cookie. Though I confess I was near to tears on one occasion. But we've since met and kissed, so he's forgiven. Brought me flowers too he did.  

When are you coming over this way? .

BTW: The Crier thread will be a good place for you to keep us all updated on the November 11 Arms fest. How gross, November 11 of all days.  

Me too, Richard

Oh, I too remember what is was like to be new, Richard.

In fact, it took me years before I made a comment.

I was, at the time, a little daunted by the eruditeness of the contribuors here, fearing that they would show me up for the fool that I am!

Now, I couldn't care less.

To put it another way, I am to Webdiary, what Harpo Marx was to the "Alonquin Round Table." Tee hee.


Heck, we even have a cat contributing here.

You can't get any more foolish than that!

Sorry Claude, I still loves ya honey.You know you are most welcome to come and see my pussy anytime you are in my neck of the woods.

Ian M (Ed): Kathy, I am sure Claude will be on the first available plane: perhaps with a barrister in tow. (You never can be too careful in encounters with strange felines.)

Purr, smooge, criticise

Now, as you all understand I have had THE OPERATION. But, Kathy Farrelly you have a pussy in your neck? Not that I could do much about it of course, having had THE OPERATION. but I’ve joust got to see this.

Maybe that nasty Fat And Rude could bring me up for a geek sometime.

And Puuuurrr. Whose everyone's favourite Webdiary cat then huh?

Love spellcheck.

In your neck eh? Maybe I could curl up on your shoulder. We could invite Fr Fleming ....

Bastard humanes - bounced.


We've come a long way, Kathy

Kathy Farrelly, well we at least have come a long way together. Who says you don't make friends online? If we had not disagreed with each other we may never have gotten to where we are today. May we one day meet.

I doubt Claude could move himself to get out of his own way from my observation - tame, very tame - so Justin, sorry, that excuse won't wash around here.

Sure have Jen!

It is funny how things can turn out sometimes, Jennny.

You know Jen, had it not been for David Davis (You'll always be Harry to me, mate) and his blog, we may never have become friends. It was your comments on his blog that impressed me.

I remember thinking, that old girl has pluck and determination. Not to mention a good sense of humour.  I had you pegged  (wrongly) for a stuffed shirt!

Above all, what I gleaned from your comments over at Harry's, was that you were  a  committed, honest  and caring person with a good heart.

Yes indeedy, Jen: "Who says you don't make friends on line. If we had not disagreed with each other we may never have gotten to where we are today. May we one day meet. "

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