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About Webdiary

What is Webdiary?

Margo Kingston founded Webdiary for the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2000, took it independent on August 22, 2005, and retired from it in December 2005. She related her view of the saga in a lecture to the South Australian Governor's Leadership Forum in February 2006. More detail is referenced in Webdiary History.

What was once 'an open conversation' between Margo and her readers became an open conversation between the readers, based on articles written by readers (and from time to time by Margo). It isn't really a blog, since there is no single editorial or authorial voice, and it's rare for two entries in a month to come from the same Webdiarist. The mission remains as set out by Margo in the Webdiary Charter:

The mission of the Webdiary is:

- to help meet the unmet demand of some Australians for conversations on our present and our future, and to spark original thought and genuine engagement with important issues which effect us all

- to link thinking Australians whoever they are and wherever they live.

- to insist that thinking Australians outside the political and economic establishment have the capacity to contribute to the national debate

- to provide an outlet for talented writers and thinkers not heard in mainstream media

- to participate in the development of a rapidly growing and increasingly important independent media harnessing the talents of citizen journalists working in collaboration with professional journalists.

Another thing that distinguishes Webdiary from a blog is the ongoing attempt to keep conversations and debates on the site relatively civil at the same time as censoring as little as possible. This ongoing balancing act is maintained by a team of volunteer editors who check each submitted comment before publication. The rules they work by are set out in the following statements:

  1. Webdiary Ethics
  2. Editorial Policy, and
  3. Comment Moderation.

All and any complaints about how we operate the site are treated and responded to seriously, and if anyone is still unsatisfied after the first-line response, then they can appeal to Margo as Webdiary's ombudsman to investigate their complaint. Added Aug 2008 at Margo's request: however, there will be no response to 1) repeated allegations that have already been investigated and ruled upon or 2) complaints from former Webdiarists who have been banned from Webdiary for harassing the editors.

You can Contact Us here.

Articles stay on the front page of the site as long as they are active - which currently means that they either were written within the last four weeks, or have had comments submitted within the last ten days. You can also access the site Archives by date of publication, or search for all current and past articles by author, or select and search content relevant to the issues (denoted by the 'Category' marking under each article):

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USyd - Good, better, best

I'm enjoying the fresh breeze caused by the USyd threads. Two suggestions that (in my opinion) would increase its value further.

  1. Is there a method of spreading the threads as much as possible? Five in a day dilutes their impact - we cannot savour them.
  2. Usyd students should consider posting comments to the site, both before and after their course-required thread. For example, the refugee crisis has been a hot topic on the site for a coupleof weeks, postings could have helped foster and build up the ideas that are explored in depth in the the new thread. Journalism is also about establishing rapport, developing relationships with one's audience.
Richard:  Given the number of near-simultaneous arrivals, to stagger their publication would take a month, and given they're all on the same course I doubt that would be useful to the students Jay.  At the moment they're coming out as fast as poor Fiona, chained to her keyboard in the basement, can manage..


A query: Is it part of the box and dice that thread starters are disallowed from commenting on their own or other students threads, or responses or queries raised as to them?

Has me in mind of other sites where this seems a widespread practice also.

Richard:  A good time to clarify for all, Paul:  Writers of threadstarters are more than welcome to engage in ongoing debate.  I hope they do!

Ah, so that's where they are

Ah, so that's where they are coming from.

I figured a tute exercise.

They are bright people .

The one thing that surprises me is that there has not been a stronger response from WDers. Finally off some the old chestnuts, a breath of fresh air, as Jay says.

Have we become too insular?

Too many one trick ponies?

USyd meeting stakeholder needs

My first point was really aimed at the lecturer, Richard. Where there is a will, there often is a way. After all, Webdiary has become a stakeholder in the course.

 PS We don't thank you, Fiona and the others often enough for what you do.

Having taken a little time

Having taken a little time to send a couple of posts this evening am curious at  their non eventuation  en-blog.

Any reason why neither would have made it online. Ist here something I should have been informed of earlier, that I not then divert time to posts that are not included.

Richard:  Have published two of yours this evening Paul, and there's nothing in the communications queue that hasn't been attended to. If there's something else it hasn't made it to us.

a Homer moment?

Must have been me, Duh!

Ah, a good family dispute

Political and ideological disputes within the now defunct Communist Party of Australia often had the tenor and tone of a famly brawl about them.  Nothing remarkable about that given our collective marginality and the intensity with which we plotted the overthrow of global capitalism and the establishment of a new epoch in which the exploitation of man by man would be replaced by its opposite.

One of the most infamous disputes involved a reading at a Trade Union May Day function of a short story published in the Bulletin's annual collection of Australian short stories.  The story was a very funny account of how at the height of the bombing of Hanoi an attempt to sell Moratorium badges around the Rocks in Sydney ended in an all-in brawl.  So much for the peace movement.  The scene of the stoush was  a pub named "The Bunch of Grapes" but which was known colloquially as "The Bunch of C*nts". 

While the Bulletin editors saw fit to publish the colloquial name of the pub some union representatives thought this language was a bit ripe for a May Day dinner and so began a long cultural dispute between the (wait for it) Worker's Cultural Action Committee and the Central executive of the CPA (among others). 

Even at the time it was funny.  With hindsight it was hilarious.  

The big difference between that dispute and the one currently under way is that thirty years ago we didn't publish our proceedings on the Web! 

Now, are you guys serious?

Eliot, c'est moi

The time has come to out myself.  I wish nothing more than total ideological merger with Eliot.  Il juche.  Kim Il Eliot.  Some faction. More like a political stampede.


Seasons Greetings

A plague on the house of Roffey, may lice infest his bed
Not for what he's done wittingly, but he's surely messed with my head.

Ever since "Copybook Headings", I've poetry stuck in my brain.
And try as I might can't shift it and look for relief in vain.

I hear the cadence always, you wouldn't be in my head for quids.
"The Gods of the Copybook Headings" have left my life on skids.

Still in the spirit of Christmas it's time to forgive and forget,
I'll move on clearminded and not a shred of regret.

I'll drain the cup of kindness for the sake of Old Lang Syne.
Be at peace with your fellow man as I surely will with mine.

Such is the nature of writing, true words writen in jest
And many a meaning taken the author would never suggest.

There gentle reader I'll leave you, tongue planted firmly in cheek
A Kiplingesque Christmas poem I know by comparison weak.

I hope this bypasses Malcolm, he's ever famed for his gripe
And repay the mischief I've caused him by naming it cretinous tripe.

Now wait up, I've never attempted poetry before and it's still a bloody sight better than Geoff's. (As good as his economics.)



Anthony Nolan, in my experience, these things are best solved by liberal applications of humour.

Perhaps we should divide Webdiary into a number of factions. Can't find the script but what was it? The Palestinian Peoples' Liberation Front, the Front for Palestinian Liberation, and then we could add: the Moderators' Faction, the Ex-moderators' Faction the Faction for Ex-moderators and Eliot Ramsey.

Faction - fraction - friction - fiction - but not fission

Hey can I be in the Eliot Ramsey faction or should that be fraction or friction or fiction; he gives good lunch box you know. Also, when we put shit on him it's like water off a duck's back - just the way it should be.

Besides I reckon I can swipe all his back copies of the Green Left Weekly and he'll keep me well supplied with red ones.

Fiona: Dammit, Justin, I wanted to be the first member of that friction. Still, the more the merrier.

Hallo - Fiona

Fiona, you're back, doing your thingy - how wonderful. My beak is grinning all over the show.

I reckon you will make an excellent member of the Eliot Ramsey fiction, and when we all disagree we can separate into sub Eliot Ramsey fractions, which will be lots of fun - I think.

Yep we can have factions and frictions, fictions and fractions but never fissions or fusions because soon enough Fiona we're all gunna be fucked anyway.

PS. I'm not sure whether you will want to share Eliot's Haley Berry lunchbox though. Maybe the George Clooney version would better suit you.

Fiona: Such a wise albatross, especially regarding lunch boxes. Hmmm, George Clooney would be admirable as the main course, perhaps with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom as, um (yum), side dishes.

Flying high with an albatross

Ah, Justin me wise old albatross, fusion with you would be heavenly.

Perhaps we could all go for a spin in your potomac? It's big enough to accommodate all factions. Plenty of Christmas cheer in that well stocked bar of yours, too.

Big Bang MK2 - hehe

That was touching Kath darlin, and yes the Potomac could accommodate many factions, though under the circumstances I reckon we'd be more inclined to be involved in the friction faction or as you suggest the fusion fraction - either way it would possibly result in the beginning of a new universe - hehe.

Fiona: Eeww. Do you provide blindfolds, Justin?

Whatever you desire Fiona

Fiona, if you are into that sort of thing then blindfolds it is.  Funny you should ask, for some reason that has been a common request over the years. It's a mystery to me, but yes we do have blindfolds - unfortunately the handcuffs have gone missing.

Best see Malcolm about that one.

Fiona: Not at all, Justin. I merely have the occasional impulse towards propriety. Besides, I wouldn't dare look at Malcolm in such a situation. One can only endure so much.

The Increasing Attraction of the Eliot Ramsey faction

I reckon we could all meet in the boot.

You heard it here first, folks.


 Malcolm: "I reckon we could all meet in the boot."

 I reckon you could be right, Malcolm. Justin does have a big one.  I can certainly vouch for that!


Are you quite sure about that, Dr Duncan? (The locus, that is.)

Don Juan Declooney

A lovely choice of dishes, Fiona, If I were a lassie or a little cheerful I'd be sharing your lunchboxes.

I thought you may be a little bit partial to the Clooney version. Of course the Depp model was also an excellent choice.

Actually I've been meaning to hire Don Juan Demarco for some time now. I rather liked that movie and what it had to say. At least Marlon got it - in the end.

Anyway Fiona, enjoy the feast and may Le Grande Bouffet of life shine upon all and creatures great and small - even bloody cats - but not politicians - or bankers.

Fiona: Thanks for approving my choices, one of which was, of course, inspired by your perspicacity, Justin. As for Orlando, what would life be without an indulgence or three?

People's Front of Judea

Malcolm, it wasn't this you were thinking of, was it?

REG: The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.


JUDITH: Splitters.

PFJ: Splitters...

FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.

PFJ: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...

LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.

PFJ: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...

REG: What?

LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.

REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!

LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.

REG: People's Front!

FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?

REG: He's over there.

PFJ: Splitter!

Video goodness here.

Somewhere over the thermal

Scott; please hang around (albatrosses don't usually use that term) my favourite fellow wanderer. As our darling Kath stated: "Life's too short, really." Indeed it is.

Take a break, drift upon the thermals and glide the crosswinds then come back and give us hell.


The joys of a thousands Christmases - or a pub with free booze, to you old mate.


Publish if you you like, (snigger snigger)

Richard, so your principles went out the window as I knew they would. Webdiary will stagger on as you suggest but in what form? There's been little of real interest for some time.

What's left to talk about and look at who's talking. Perhaps you regret DNPing my post months ago when I was trying to head this shit off.

Poor Fiona indeed, a kick in the teeth delivered by dint of remarkable acrobatics to herself.

Fiona, congratulations you sweet thing! A bravura performance; perfectly calculated and exquisitely executed.

You were hurt? Poor dear.

Hurt my arse, you were just bloody furious that you had wasted breath blowing in my ear.

Did you think to claim ownership of me? You didn't know me but you do now. I liked you well enough, still do as far as far as the side of you I initially saw.

Ignorance is bliss of course, I'd rather not have seen your true colours. Take a good look at yourself, compare yourself to Margo. You sure know how to make enemies. I'm not one by the way.

David Roffey, sucked in were you? The timing and circumstance suggest it. As ever, lazy, autocratic, arrogant and impetuous.

The only saving grace of the three of you is your embarrassment; keep it hidden but be aware it will be all around the coven in the next few weeks.

Strange bedfellows indeed; the witches and me, still it should make for an interesting night.

Tit for tat and principles

I hope you feel better now that you've said your bit, Scott. Nothing like  spreading around a bit of Christmas cheer, mate.

As there is nothing here for you any more, perhaps it would be a good idea to pack up your bat and ball and head off home, eh?

Nellie Melba

Just who published my last post I don't know but they had better look to their ethics. I would not have published it myself as it is patently abusive so there must have been an ulterior motive. Sure enough I wanted to make my feelings felt but never expected them to be put up in the public domain. (That took some balls.) Now that they are there, good. I stand by everything I said.

Justin, sorry mate but I'm out of here but not hard to find.

Kathy, only too willing to oblige.

Fiona: I published it, Scott, after consultation with Richard. I have never refused to publish material that is critical of me. If you didn't want your comment published you could (as you have done on other occasions) have marked it DNP.

Hard to fathom I must say

Well now that is a turn up for the books Fiona Reynolds. Ian MacDougall gets booted for trying to deal with allegations against him as editor and is told he cannot publish comments that should be or were DNP'd.Yet here you make the very point that he made but which was clearly rejected by David Roffey, ie that if someone does not want his comment published he should mark it NFP.

As Ian said to me, they make the rules up as they go to suit themselves. I think you should reflect on that because it is that that has done all damage around here. Now, I suggest you apprise David Roffey of all the facts because he clearly is operating from half information. If he was not he would not make the ridiculous remarks that he does.

If you are prepared to publish comments like the one you just have, then your refusal to publish that comment by Ian entitled "Allegation of Editorial Bias" beggars belief. Had you published that comment as you agreed to do in a phone call to us both, initiated by you as you will recall, then you would have avoided all this drama. Instead you could not even answer an email explaining your reason for reneging, you simply lapsed into a discourteous total silence.

By the way. I thought you had resigned and it certainly seems to me that you should take some time out. As for Richard Tonkin well he owes me an apology for his serious breach of editorial ethics and if David Roffey had done his job, such would have been forthcoming. But no, keep it all behind the bar if possible. Whatever happens do not let a little bit of accountability get in the way. Shoot the whistleblowers instead.

A little bit of cat

Chill humanes, chill.

Settle down and just purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

OK - if it's good enough for humanes...

purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr hic purrrrrrrrrrrrrr hic purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr hic purr..........

Now that's - hic - easy - even for an albatrossy.


Oh golly, you don’t pay attention for a couple of weeks and all hell breaks lose. I am shocked, shocked to read the latest posts on this thread. I’ve read through them but I don’t think I fully understand what has happened. However, it’s clear many of the people, all of whose contributions I appreciate and am thankful for, feel they have been hard done by. It looks like a major crack up. So may I please appeal for a time out.

Editing/moderating is a difficult business and the rules are always open to interpretation and objection. In the end, operating in real time, decisions have to be made and there will always be some people who will sometimes not be happy with them. If someone feels the decisions are consistently unfair or wrong then it is to be expected they will leave. Yet this does not seem to be the nub of the matter here. The complaint is over a specific set of moderations not the general level of moderation. The moderators felt they were acting in good faith and are upset at the criticism coming at them. Those doing the criticism feel it is justified and that they have insufficient redress.

Meanwhile, and this is quite important, the discussion is taking place in open forums and through the flat medium of text, which has a great capacity, in what is a highly personal interaction, for creating misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and backing people into corners. The upside of a blog like webdiary is its capacity and demands for measured conversation and argument. The downside is that if things get emotional the tone can be misunderstood. Without the body language of face to face conversation, with its power of gestures, tone of voice and the capacity to instantly adjust our responses as people are speaking, to read and be read, disputes can escalate in an unexpected manner. The result can be a fast and even terminal erosion of good faith. Anger and other negative emotions can seize the upper hand. Some of that seems to have happened here.

Yet Webdiary is this thing of ours. It is on one level no more than the series of conversations its contributors choose to have. It is also crucially a fabric melded together by the unpaid efforts of contributors and very importantly the moderators, who police its borders and keep out flaming, trolling and much of the cant that makes many blogs almost unreadable. (Such blogs have a right to exist but I prefer to come to zones like webdiary, and I prefer the conversations of others who do as well.)

I would respectfully suggest that (a) people all just take a step back (b) the disputes be taken temporarily off public posting (c) each person involved tries to set out their point of view to the others in good faith and acknowledges a willingness to listen to and respect the others point of view. In the end this may mean agreeing to disagree but agreeing to try harder to agree in future.

At the same time we must be mindful of this, Webdiary is a moderated site and moderation is a difficult and wearing job, editors are often punching bags. But punching bags because of their efforts to stop the site degenerating into punch-ups. Webdiary has very well developed guidelines for posting and moderation, the moderators can and do try and stick to these. I would suggest the history shows they have done a great job. If one is not happy with the rules you can always raise suggestions for changes and it can be the subject for argument. Now you can argue with a moderator but the watchword, as it always has been at Webdiary, is civility. Webdiarists are people who are proud to be citizens, we must treat each other with respect, the answer to someone who loses it (and we all can) is to be met with a mountain of respect coming back from everyone else. In fact the only people we do not tolerate are those who remain consistently uncivil, and the history shows they are usually just ignored.

And note that in such conditions, if a moderator is making decisions that many people are constantly disagreeing with, I suspect the democratic temper will take over and either the moderation or moderator will change. But on the level of day to day decisions the moderators, right or wrong, have to be given the final say. You don’t take the ball and leave the ground because of what you regard as a bad decision. By all means voice (civilly) your dissent, others should have an opportunity to agree, but also accept that without rules and moderators the site would not be what it is.

So please, suck it in, and calm down. (and no, I don’t think that would be easy, when I lose it I can go on a jag for days or longer) You can say, "I do not take back my grievance or my right to it, I do say I had a right to be angry and to say so. But I do still accord you respect as fellow members of this group, and I shall remain civil and inclusive of your right to be here as you should of me." This can be the basis of a trust that will allow these sorts of arguments and disputes to take place but not split the community wide open. Having read many of the posts over the years of the people involved in this dispute(s) I have no trouble imagining any of you voicing the sentiments I have just listed. It’s Christmas, an auspicious time for turning the other cheek and offering the olive branch. I wish you all well.

PS Perhaps after a bout with the rigours of Christmas, and the sometimes fraught encounters with the extended family associated with it, a far less jaundiced view of this community might prevail in many minds come the new year?

Time out indeed

G'day Tony Phillips,

I have been away for three days and therefore was shocked and concerned at the personal disputes that apparently developed over that time.

Firstly I must say that I have no hang-up with the very fair methods and interpretations of the Charter by the volunteer editors especially Fiona and Richard.

I cannot believe that it has come to the point of Fiona resigning! Surely that can be reversed with a decent apology for offensive personal attacks? These could easily have been ditched in the garbage bin but were nevertheless printed - which only furthers my respect for the editors - especially those who were the targets.

Surely messages of discontent about the treatment of posts should be first looked at in the terms of Margo's Charter?

IF anyone has a gripe that is in any way offensive to the volunteer editors, it should be NFP'd - Not For Publication.  Simple as that.

This removes any personal obligation on the editor to print the article - while at the same time - getting the message across? IF it is genuine.

Why would anyone want to disparage any volunteer editor in open discussion?  For what ultimate reason? 

What happened to the old Aussie "I'll see you outside" (NFP)? Keep it personal between the persons with real or imagined grievances? KISS principle?

I can't believe that this wonderful forum can so easily fall into disarray.

I believe that none of us could have taken sides IF the editors concerned had wished to be as dictatorial or biased as some have suggested.

The wash up seems to be that the honour of some editors has been questioned on a personal basis - then why was it not done under the NFP?

IMHO any decent person would be offended if their honesty is questioned. And add to that their competency.

My Wife and I can only hope that Fiona and any other editor concerned will try to consider the appreciation of the great majority of Webdiarists and act accordingly.

Cheers Ern G.


Vale Scott Dunmore.  I loved your comments.  I loved your world view.  I loved your editing.  I loved your posts.  Missing in action.  Mourned.

All Quiet On The Western Front

I'm touchingly surprised F Kendall. Every war must have it's last casualty and in this one it was me.

My dear Albatross, my sentiments mirror yours and I want all to know I did not publish Ian's last post and in fact counseled against it.

My last post began "This dear reader, is last you'll hear from me in this forum providing it is published. I add the rider because it might well embarass what's left of the editorial staff."  was meant to be the last and turned out to be unsurprisingly prophetic.

To date I have received no reason or communication from the powers that be for my removal from the editorial team.

Tony, you're too late; I gave the same counsel myself at the start of this sorry affair to no avail.

Farewell all, all things must pass and I have grave fears for the future of Webdiary.

Scott Dunmore, mentioned in despatches.

Richard:  Farewell Scott.  Don't worry, though, in spite of previous fears of Webdiary's demise, it's always continued, and probably always will.

Hello Richard

I wonder if the timing of my (meant to be idle) comment has caused the apparent problems with it.

It seemed to me to be quirky and piquant that "guest contributor" was anonymous.  No, I was not wondering who posted them, I have no problem with them, nor was I implying anything.  Lordy, I wish I hadn't.  I certainly had no intention of causing offence.

Re-reading it, I can see that it is heavy handed, and therefore ambiguous in intent. It was not meant as such. 

Your shout

The only problem with this site is that it is three drinks behind.

Auf Wiedersehen

Fiona; good night and good luck to you too - hope you'll be back soon, after a quiet "cuppa" or two.

Many thanks for your good humour and efforts to date. 

Storms and teacups

"Some Webdiarists  have possibly been chewing their fingernails waiting for the next  instalment in the Editorial Saga."

I doubt it Ian, I doubt it very much. Actually I would argue most have forgotten all about it.

"I am reluctant to flog this horse much further...."

Then why do it? You have already made your point.

"Accordingly Jenny and I ask that our donations to Webdiary, totalling around $1000, be drawn from the Webdiary Account and paid as follows:"


One hopes you feel better now old chap; it was always a storm in a teacup (as these things always are); at least to the observers.

Best wishes and a safe new year to you, Jenny and all creatures great and small (especially the ones with wings).

Thank God I'm a country boy

I was not "trying to imply" anything at all, Fiona Reynolds.  I am not devious, or in any way au fait with city whiles or suspicions.

What I was querying was legitimate, straightforward and guileless.

Obviously, your resignation is a cause of deep regret for such as me:  however, I thank you for your tireless work here, and wish you well.


There is no doubt that Webdiary  exist s within a tight membrane that includes a certain limited political outlook, and a certain "politically correct" social outlook, a certain rehashing of old issues, as well as a commitment to a sort of concept of "naiceness" - (and there is nothing wrong with being "naice". )

 There is no doubt that the membrane has and continues to prevent it from growing.

If the moderators could withstand the content of David Tank's post, why can't they trust the  rest of us to  see it, judge it, criticise or ignore it as we choose?  Shades of the 19th century still linger.  Yes, the 19th.

It is a privilege to post, but that post is a greater asset to the site.  A person has their opinions irrespective:  the site does not exist without them.  Or the site can degenerate into a "rudd is a dud" repetitiveness...as it seems in risk of doing.

I deeply regret the loss of such deeply thoughtful and informed contributors as Ian MacDougall

I am unaware of David Roffey's contribution to Webdiary, except for the recent thread headers, which I assumed were reactive.  I do know that he has evidently been uninterested into entering into discussion on ...any threads? during the several years that I have been a member.  Has his name arisen in connection with the loss of others from Webdiary?


I see the author of the piece, but I do not see who has chosen to post the piece.

Webdiary does not allow anonymous posters, right?

I am suggesting that there is a little inconsistency here, in that a topic for discussion can apparently be posted by  anonymous, but that anonymous would be debarred from posting on that topic.  Is that so?


F Kendall, what you are trying to imply is complete and utter codswallop. Margo, Hamish, and all other publishers have published posts under the moniker Guest Contributer because we don't want to claim others' words and ideas as our own.

Anyway, what the hell? I have just submitted my resignation from Webdiary. Goodnight all, and good luck.

Late final extra

I have been away so have had no opportunity to deal with this earlier. Some Webdiarists  have possibly been chewing their fingernails waiting for the next  instalment in the Editorial Saga. To them  I apologise.

The site’s manager David Roffey footnoted my comment Circle the Wagons! with the following:

"[B}rief notes to those bits of the above that involve me: 1) irony is obviously beneath Ian's notice, 2) the "rule" I set out is a (to me) obvious corollary of the original rules - if a comment was deemed inappropriate to be published, then it shouldn't be published vicariously in the body of another comment; 3) if there is no trust between editors and they have to indulge in conspiracies, then the site is better off without their input, 4) Ian presumes my agreement with a comment I have never read and therefore have no opinion on:"

I am reluctant to flog this horse much further, but it involves issues I believe vital to the site, towards which by the way, I have never had anything but the best of good will. So, before I deal with David Roffey’s remarks, I will  briefly refresh his memory and also that of the remaining Webdiary community with the facts behind the unresolved dispute I have with the Management :

As an editor, I had marked four comments by Webdiarist Paul Walter ‘DNP’ (do not publish) in the ‘Henson versus Hanson Land’ thread , all of which were highly abusive of me and/or of my wife, the then-Webdiarist  Jenny HumeRichard Tonkin, another editor, disagreed with the DNP labelling of just one of Paul Walter’s comments,  but chose not to publish it, which he could have done.  Paul Walter accused me of bias in my editorial capacity and that my DNPing of comments by him directed at Jenny showed that I was under undue influence from her, which was simply not true. 

So I wrote, as the reader may remember, an explanatory comment which included the four comments I had rejected on grounds of abuse, some of which was extreme. This I believed would allow the Webdiary community to decide whether I was being fair to Paul Walter or not. Before I formally submitted the comment I copied it to Jenny, since nearly all the abusive material in it was directed at her through me, or at me.  No other Webdiarist was involved.  As editor I considered it proper to ask whether she objected to the abuse of her being published in that form, explaining to her my reasons for wanting to include it, which was to deal with those accusations. She had no objection. I then submitted the comment, and while I could have published it myself I thought it proper to leave it to other editors to rule on.

David Roffey deemed my copying my proposed comment to Jenny as a serious breach of editorial ethics, as it included Paul Walter's DNPed  comments directed at her. He DNPed the comment and for good measure sacked me as an editor. While I accepted his ruling on the comment itself, I found his sacking of me on the grounds he did quite absurd, though it did free up my time remarkably. It would have been most improper of me not to have sought Jenny's consent to that material being submitted for publication in the way I proposed.

While David Roffey took issue with me over all that, he saw no ethical issue in the fact that another editor (Richard Tonkin) had used his editorial privileges to self-publish on the site abuse of another Webidiarist, namely Jenny. I think most would see that as a far more serious matter. To date David Roffey has offered no explanation for such arbitrary editorial policy on his part. I suggest that to be consistent, David Roffey should have also sacked Richard Tonkin.

I was invited to re-write the comment deleting Paul Walter’s DNPed material. This I did, only to then run into a brick wall of silence when I sought to have that published, thus denying me the right to challenge the allegations against me.  That was unacceptable to me. 

Thus I felt I had no choice but to find a way to be heard  and Scott Dunmore agreed to help me by publishing the comment late one night. 

So  I will now examine David Roffey’s  footnotes to it (quoted above)  in reverse order:

Point 4. "Ian presumes my agreement with a comment I have never read and therefore have no opinion on:"

While it may be true that he never read the comment , he replied  to it all the same. In that reply of his, he referred  to his invitation to me to rewrite the original comment he had DNPed  which would then have made the comment publishable. (This I did submitting  a draft, only to be told by editor Fiona Reynolds that if I formally submitted it, it would not be published. Thereafter all communications about it were ignored.   It appears now thanks only to Scott Dunmore, who informed me he was never consulted by the rest of the Editorial Team about it.)  

Point 3: “if there is no trust between editors and they have to indulge in conspiracies, then the site is better off without their input.”

I was no longer an editor at the time of my alleged ‘conspiracy’ with Scott Dunmore.  As the site’s  remaining liberal editor, and given the manifest reluctance of all other editors to have anything to do with it, Scott agreed to look at the re-written comment as well as my proposed threadstarter ‘What Furure for Webdiary?’ (which had also been ignored and he had never seen) and if happy with it all, to publish both. That he did. I did not ask him to publish anything that in his view was in breach of the guidelines, and clearly none of it is.  To say that the site is better off without the input of such people as myself (and by implication, Scott) is to show precisely that political-cleansing mentality that I cited in ‘What Furure for Webdiary?’ as one of the site’s major problems.

Point 2: I accepted David Roffey’s ruling in regard to the DNP material and deleted it from the re-written comment as requested. So why did I have to resort to late night tactics with Scott to get that re-written comment "up there"? Because without Scott, it would still be languishing in the approval queue and the allegations against me would have gone unchallenged. 

Point 1. As to "irony being beneath my notice", I note I am in the good company of F Kendall.  The irony is compounded, because quite frankly I haven’t a clue what David Roffey is talking about. Perhaps he could enlighten us.

Finally, I am no child in a garden of verses, and assume that no apologies will be offered over any of the above, though I consider they are certainly due to me by David Roffey as Team Manager , for the arbitrary and discourteous way I was treated, and by Richard Tonkin to Jenny for his use of his editorial privileges to publish his ad hominem attack on her on the site.  Accordingly Jenny and I ask that our donations to Webdiary, totalling around $1000, be drawn from the Webdiary Account and paid as follows:

50% to Oxfam on my behalf.
50% to Animals Australia (Live Export Campaign; 37 O'Connell St, North Melbourne, Vic 3061) on Jenny's behalf.

That money was contributed to the site in the belief that the management team running it would ensure it abided by its banner claims (“Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent.”) On those points in regard to this whole matter we say that Webdiary Management (with the exception of Scott Dunmore) has failed miserably. We think that we are entitled to our money being sent on to organisations of our choice which in our view will put it to better use.

A delayed reply to Ian (and FK)

I've been in NZ on holiday far from the web and with only occasional mobile access to e-mails, so have only just caught up on all this teacup.


1. "he saw no ethical issue ...": The fact that I (or any other editor) didn't take any action in the public site shouldn't ever be seen as seeing no ethical issue, only that I made no published reaction. This is the same sort of supremely daft implication as that I must have approved of what was said in every comment published by others whether I've read them or not. Sorry, Ian, but you've lost it somewhere along the way and we can only hope you find it sometime soon.

2. "arbitrary and discourteous ...": a: arbitrary - I explained the reasoning for my decision on the original decision, and stand by it. A reasoned decision is by definition not arbitrary. I also explained both in my decision and by e-mail to Ian what of his comment would have been publishable, and he has in the comment to which this is a reply, written pretty much that (not for the first time). It could have been published within an hour or so of the original if Ian hadn't gone off in a huff instead of resubmitting. b: discourteous - sorry, can't see that, even with the guilt-meter set to max. As F Kendall observed so kindly, I haven't actively edited on a day-to-day basis for more than a year (I mainly do accounts and admin in the limited time I currently have available), so I only use the keys to the site when specifically requested to look at something: this probably makes me at least marginally more independent of the decisions I'm reviewing. When asked, I look at whatever it is I've been asked to, and make as reasoned a decision as I can as fast as I can. As far as I know I replied to all communications I received from Ian.

3: "our donations ... be withdrawn":  a: You've only made one donation since 2006, and that was in March 2007, at which point we had less than $1000 in the bank in total. Donations made by other people since then way exceed the contents of the bank account. b: If you (or I) cease our subscription to a magazine because we don't like what we've read lately, do we have much chance of asking for the year before last's subscription back? No. [Though as NSW Chair of Oxfam I otherwise thank you for your kind thought].

4: "sacking": Ian and Scott offered to help out with editing. I had severe reservations of their ability to keep the cool and independence necessary, but Fiona and Richard were willing to give it a try. In my opinion what has transpired well justifies my original view.

I should make it clear right now that I absolutely trust Fiona's instincts as an Editor, and commend the immense amount of unpaid work she has done over the years, and hope she will reconsider her decision.

In the no doubt vain hope that this will mitigate any other feelings of discourtesy, can I point out that the last two hours (4 to 6am here) are the only time I'm going to be able to make any response for the next week at least, and possibly until we get back into Sydney in January, so I'm not ignoring anything said, I'm just out of reach.

Of mice and men

I have little to say that I haven't already said.  I hope Fiona changes her mind.  I doubt I'll be sticking around if she doesn't.  Right about now the main thing (apart from wanting the site to stay alive) that keeps me here is that I wouldn't give Ian the satisfaction of watching the last moderator standing walk out the door.  I suspect he'd enjoy it too much.  

This has been shocking.  Somebody gives a damn enough to spend so much time and effort on a project, and then comes the kick in the teeth. Poor Fiona.

Scott, I've placed your last post on hold. I wish to confer on the matter.  Currently, though, there is nobody to to confer with.

F Kendall, in case you're wondering I was the one who published Bush's speech.  I published it under Guest Contributor for the reasons Fiona outlined.  What's your problem?

How did it come to this?

It makes me sad. It really does. A great bunch of people who were once friends, now estranged.

Life's too short, really.

Now that Christmas is approaching, I think the best present in the world (for me anyway)  would be if you guys could just get past all of this and  extend some olive branches. 


"A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Fiona, I loves ya!

Please don't go. After all, who will pull me into line when I overstep the mark, eh? (As usually happens when I display a little errant dutch courage.)

Setting the record straight

This dear reader, is last you'll hear from me in this forum providing it is published. I add the rider because it might well embarass what's left of the editorial staff.

I say what's left since I am no longer in that number. I was informed in the middle of the night by an email, no body, just a cryptic title that I was out. It might cross your mind that it was discouteous and you'll get no argument from me but it came as no surprise as the arbitrary action would only have been taken by David Roffey; someone who supposedly decries the use of argumentum ad hominem and took the opportunity to take a cheap shot at me to justify his action in his reply to Ian. Based on what I don't know because by his own admission he spends little time on Webdiary and it's doubtful he follows threads.

I alone recognised the potential for damage to WD that the original issue had.

I tried to minimise the harm but was stymied. I've tried to mediate to no avail.

I was not responsible for publishing Ian's latest, in fact I told Ian I wouldn't, my opinion is mirrored by Justin (farewell dear albatross.) That you can put down to Fiona.

I know this because she informed me by email shortly after slamming the phone down in my ear. I can't remember much of the brief conversation except the expletive at the end (and BTW I don't have her number.)
In my opinion an action designed to cause the maximum damage.

So much for Webdiary; everything has its lifespan and my guess is that it is in it's dotage. It was always going to struggle without Margot but it's been a lot of fun, interest and the odd angry shot.

Farewell and merry christmas.

To Circle the Wagons!

I notice a faulty link to 'Circle the Wagons!' ( at /cms/?q=node/2619#comment-87271 ) in my 'Late final extra'. That was a comment I put on Malcolm B. Duncan's thread 'What Webdiary means to you is not necessarily what it means to me' (at /cms/?q=node/2619#comment-87271 ).

I must confess also that I am surprised by Fiona's decision to resign. However I fail to see how she 'obliges' me in any way at all via that choice. But knowing no more, I can say no more.

Out of here

Only too happy to oblige, Ian MacDougall.


I would quite like to know the identity of "guest contributor". 

An anonymous post seems to be quite at odds with the protocol of this site.

 Is "guest contributor" the same person behind each thread so designated?

Why are we "not allowed" to know who guest contributor is? 

Fiona: F Kendall, if you look carefully at each piece that is labelled Guest Contributor you will find that the author of the piece - whether it is Senator Hanson-Young, George W Bush, Michael West etc etc etc - is clearly indicated. There is no suggestion that the same person is "behind" each thread, nor that you are "not allowed" to know who the Guest Contributor is.

Not a funny name

Thanks for clearing that up Fiona. I always thought Guest Contributor was someone with a funny name.

Fiona: Any time, Justin.

The statistics of "terminal decline" ...

Since the beginning, Webdiary has published around one new piece by a Webdiarist each day, with occasional bursts of two or three. For a time, we also published a piece from Project Syndicate most days, and for another (overlapping) time we also published Wayne's Daily Briefing.

When Kerry was actively managing  input, we used to hold non-time-specific contributions over to publish on quieter days so as to maintain that steady rate. With editing being done essentially in Fiona and Richard's spare time, they get a bit more bunched, but the underlying rate hasn't changed - nor do we really want it to. It has been our experience that when multiple new posts are made on the same day, they all suffer in not being read or commented on as much as those where people have time to see them at the top of the page and "take them in".

I'm not sure what period Ian's stats for his "exemplary" site, LastSuperpower, relate to. If it is since the founding in 2004, then Webdiary's stats for the same period are (roughly, because we lived on three different hosts with different stats conventions in that time):

posts/topics: about 1850

comments/replies: about 56,000

views (very much not the same thing as visitors, BTW): about 4 million each year recently, but a great deal more than that while Margo was still writing in 2005, when Webdiary was by some margin the highest traffic blog site in Australia.

However, I strongly disagree with Ian's " The ‘more the better’ is taken for granted. " Very much not true. One of the stats missing from Fiona's list (because the total was spread over 5 or 6 posts) was the interminable Creationism/Origins debate initiated by Phil Uebergang, which totalled 1350 or so comments, incredibly repetitively and with, as far as I could see, no-one at all changing their mind one iota as a result. At almost any time in Webdiary's history we could have had a 500-comment post by starting another debate on the causes of the Iraq war (or the 9/11 conspiracy schtick): but the extra traffic wouldn't move the world on at all.

Also, much of the traffic on post-moderated sites (including Comment is Free) continues to be one-line pieces of witless snidery, which we are all better off for not having to read. Post-moderation? not going to happen: you'll have to get your fixes of witless snidery elsewhere.

Traffic on the site has been pretty constant ever since Margo left. Though it goes up and down from month to month, some of the highest traffic figures ever have been in the last few months. No terminal decline there.

As to the bias of the editors - we've always been a pretty like-minded bunch, pretty much on the same side as Margo. But we've always applied the rules in an unbiased fashion, and continue to publish almost everything that is submitted to publication. Any bias in what is published therefore results only from bias in what is submitted, not in the editorial decisions, and. as ever, the way to redress any bias is to put in comments on the other side, and so long as they are coherent, have content, and aren't personally abusive, they'll be up there ... 

Moderation or censureship?

I have read these most recent comments with great interest. I am a new contributor and not until recently a frequent visitor to this site.

My interest in participation is not predicated by any desire to find a community of doctronaire fellow travellers.I have ideas on many subjects and I seek to test those ideas on this forum. As witless as some ot the witless snidery is, it is a small price to pay if there are still considered responses.

I think back to the days when the Iraq Invasion was a controversial subject (today its nature is more of an ongoing litany of failure, lies, hope, disappointment and death.) Back then many people felt exercised to voice their opinion and did so in many ways, including by posting on Webdiary.

I guess what I'm saying is that if indeed the moderators are practising some cabalistic form of self censureship that they lighten up. Take a few risks. Be controversial.

A point in case is my most recent post. "The Castration Cure". It is a piece I submitted to the courier mail (very politely rejected). at the time of the most recent Denis Ferguson (Convicted Paedophile) faisco. While I did cut it back to the requested 700 words my post is the original 1650. To date (two three days) I have not had so much as an automated acknowledgement of receipt.

Now I do understand that the moderators have lives and run this thing on the smell of an oily rag and do recall that my debut performance A Republic for Remembrance Day was posted a week after receipt and four days after the day for which it had been written.

 But given the very controversial opinion aired by my piece I am left wondering if the accusation of censureship is a fair one. How about a response folks?

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