Sunday, December 31, 2006

Shutters down

After eight enjoyable months, I'm going to mothball this blog.  This is not because Polly Toynbee has suddenly started using real facts that she undertsands -- on the contrary, her sloppiness and inaccuracy continue unabated.

No, rather it is because I want to do other things more than I want to do this.

This blog -- my first serious effort at concerted blogging -- was an experiment that was successful in many ways but also limiting in others.  I'd quite like to write about a broader range of topics than Polly's columns, and would also like to express opinions.  That won't work on this blog, which is after all about Polly Toynbee's misuse of facts.  So, in order to give myself the time to do this, I'm going to stop posting here, and will write elsewhere under a different guise.

I'm glad I've done this.  I don't see this as embarassing  juvenalia to be forgotten, but rather a successful first endeavour which has taught me a lot, introduced me to some humblingly good bloggers, and has given me plenty of food for thought about what I should do next.

There is more below the break, but for those who are stopping here, thank you for reading.


My lowlights

The biggest has to be the two times when I've goofed.  The first was back in June, when bizarrely one could have said "six months ago, Labour were ahead by 10% in the polls" and "six months ago, Labour were behind by 9% in the polls" with equal accuracy, and I thought that quoting the latter was enough to disprove the former -- though it genuinely was an occasion when two contradictory statements were both true.  The second was when I mistook newspaper circulation and readership, and as a result was only as inaccurate as Polly Toynbee.

Another lowlight has been some poor debating on the web, be it the bafflingly thick Neil Harding's argument that I must be right-wing because I criticise Polly Toynbee, Cassilis's characterisation of refuting the statement that "social mobility has come to a halt" by citing academic research that people born into the lowest income quartile have a better than 60% chance of escaping that lowest income quartile as "semantic hair-splitting", or the folks who stumble across the blog, look around for a few minutes, leave a sarcastic comment and then disappear without caring if there is a reply.

And the final lowlight has to be the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column, which does not "correct significant errors as soon as possible", and in fact ignores many errors which are brought to its attention.

My highlights

I fully accept that this is a profoundly unoriginal insight, but the internet is a phenomenal research tool.  I have said in my profile that "I've learned a lot by reading the research that [Polly] skims", and it's true.  There is a wealth of interesting work, research, information and data which is out there which is waiting to be found by anyone with a browser, broadband connection and a familiarity with Google.  And, nota bene Polly, intellectual curiosity.

I've  also been thoroughly impressed by fellow bloggers.  Despite my comment above about poor debtaing on the web, there are enough writers out there who are informative, entertaining and thought-provoking to make it a fascinating medium, as well as some very good writers.

And on a purely personal note, a big highlight was discovering that Ken Livingstone had paid Polly Toynbee £7,000 of taxpayers' money in an non-competitive tender to rehash some of her old Guardian columns.  That money came partly from me; the re-hash including some particularly misleading distortions of some academic research; and Polly Toynbee is quite an overt flatterer of Ken's.  Until discovering that, I was prepared to accept that she might just be careless and sloppy in her use of facts.  After discovering that, I think her morally bankrupt.


Anonymous said...

My first reaction was "Shame!", but I have to say in all honesty you have proved your point and created a bit of a stir with some important bloggers - but it wasn't going any further.

Nobody reads "Comment" sections in newspapers for facts, only attitudes that reinforce their own opinions. Still, you have exposed all those who extol as PT's main virtue her "hard work and tireless research" as being as nrainless as she is.

So, finally, I congratulate you on an excellent body of work and wish you well in your future endeavour. My major concern is whether you will leave just the tiniest hint on this site as to where you will next be found?

John Page said...

It's been an excellent and original blog - well done!

Anonymous said...

You will be missed - always visited you after reading Polly to see if I was right about her misuse of 'facts' and also for the entertainment & education. Good luck in your next blog!

Mr Eugenides said...

Your factchecking will be missed, particularly among those of us whose innate contempt for her sloppiness with facts does not always make us redouble our own efforts to trawl the Internet for the correct statistics.

Looking forward to your next endeavour,

Mr E

Liam Murray said...

Despite the dig you will be missed - looking forward to your next venture...

Anonymous said...

Please don't stop. Or at very least consider handing to someone else who can continue the good work.
Or possibly do a best of compliation that could be stored on another permanent blog.

Anonymous said...

A good job well done.
I'm glad you always stuck to analysing the facts and never stooping to the sort of personal abuse which pt herself so frequently utters. Her disdain of successful people is as monumental as it is revealing.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your next project. If it's as effective as this blog then I'm sure we'll find out about it quickly.

Guido Fawkes said...

Your star shone bright before it burnt out.

Anonymous said...

This has been a valuable resource, a pleasure to read and good luck with your next venture.

Anonymous said...

I am totally dismayed to see you hang up your boots and like John Miller above I do hope that you will provide some hint regarding where we can find you next. Thank you for all of your efforts to date. Good luck and best wishes for the future.

Angry Steve said...

I am shedding a tear here.

I have enjoyed reading your blog a lot, and it will be a shame to see it go.

All the best with whatever you get up to next.

Fidothedog said...

Well done on beating Polly to death with her own inane drivel.

Been fun reading her constant cock up's.

Neil Harding said...

This whole blog has been about splitting hairs and making them seem like significant errors.

There are more errors in one Melanie Phillips article than Polly's entire output. You claim I am thick for calling you right-wing. Have a look at the blogs that have left supportive comments. I think that shows which type of reader you are catering for. Melanie Phillips and the right-wing blogosphere will soprely miss your distortions.

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

Neil --

I do not claim that you are thick for calling me right-wing. If you read the sentence, I describe you as someone who is bafflingly thick who also called me right-wing. There is no causation asserted there at all.

I think you are thick because you seem to have difficulty reading and writing simple English (making hairs seem like errors? WTF?), and you also have a habit of making assertions which you cannot back up with evidence.