Diversity Voting

Men and women should vote for the same reason

I don’t respond to most of the weblog postings that Halley Suitt writes about women in general. I do think she tends to promote stereotypes as often as not. However, I also think that sometimes she breaks stereotypes by presenting the concept that women can be many things and still be womanly or even girly if that’s what she wants.

But today, I have to write in strong disagreement with her 12 reasons women should vote for Kerry/Edwards. And indirectly, I also disagree with the USA Today story that inspired Halley (link to which will most likely disappear, since it’s to Yahoo News.)


The USA Today article writes:

Women have long tended to shift toward Republicans as they get married, have children, return to regular churchgoing and acquire wealth and mortgages. In 2000, 63% of single women voted for Gore, but only 48% of married women did. As the ranks of female business owners and homeowners grow, fewer may be inclined to lean to the political left.

However, the same can be said for men. Men, if they become business owners, tend to shift to Republican in their voting. That women do so also, just shows this is not a gender-based difference. Also, people of both sexes, as they get older and have kids, especially if they become regular church goers, tend to lean more Republican.

So why are we differentiating between men and women, as if somehow women aren’t of the same species? Why do we focus on the W vote, and totally neglect the M vote?

Instead of disagreeing with USA Today for this differentiation, Halley actually supports it, but thinks the article didn’t go far enough. In this, she was effective, and made good use of arguments and counter-arguments. But she still supports the dichotomy between men and women, as if how we think is so different that we might as well be from different cultures.

She writes:

No woman looking at the pictures of the prisoners of the Abu Ghraib prison can be anything but devastated by this ungodly treatment of humans under Bush’s watch. As a mom I find it disgusting that anyone ever let it happen and then, never took the blame. Those people — despite being our hated enemies — are the sons of some mother somewhere. No person should be treated that way. All mothers know that in their hearts. It makes me cry to imagine it and makes me ashamed to have been a part of it — which as an American I was forced to acknowledge — they did it in my name.

By implication,then, is Halley saying that men, Dads, could look at these photos and not be devestated? That somehow men are immune to feelings of disgust and sadness when seeing another person humiliated? That men can’t see the photos of these men and think of their own sons?

I know that Halley is refuting the Security Mom phenomena, whichs is nothing more than a cold, carefully crafted and fostered necon (yes, I have adopted this word now, I have seen the light) manipulation into making it seem that all women should vote for Bush because all our babies are going to be killed in their schools and in their beds if we don’t. I applaud Halley’s approach, even while I wince at it.

(BTW, yes, your babies are in danger now–if your babies are grown up in and soldiers in Iraq, or if you live in Iraq. Outside of this, your babies are more in danger of being sexually abused, hit by a car, killed by a serial killer, catching a fatal disease, or dying of a bee sting, than killed by terrorism in this country. Frankly the Security Mom agenda–with its images of the frail, semi-sexy, God fearin’ woman holding a German Luger–is a bit of joke.)

Still, returning back to Halley and the USA Today story — is the implication then that there are no Security Dads?

As for voting for Edwards because he’s a ‘babe’ who supports his plump wife — nothing like pointing out how heroic Edwards is because he didn’t dump his wife when she gained weight.

“By gol, that’s a darn brave boy that is. Look at his wife — takes courage, you know that?”

What I don’t understand is why Hilary didn’t dump Bill when he turned into a porker.

Bottom line, we’re more alike than not. If you cut us, do we not all bleed? In fact, can’t we even use each others blood and organs to survive? We are the same species, and though society does enforce subtle behavior differences, we still share the same culture and the same values.

Isn’t it time that we focus more on the candidates and what electing each of them can mean, then our sex, and what it means?


From the Underworld comes the Troll

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

(Insert your favorite mental image of troll here)

Introducing the troll

We all know what a weblogging troll is; it’s the person, man or woman, who writes a comment or comments in post after post trying to pick a fight with one or more members of a comment thread. This is not to confuse the person with the random abuser who comes in through Google and writes, ‘This site sux’ or something to that effect. No the troll is nothing if not persistent.

A troll can appear, day in and day out, and almost become a friend through familiarity. Almost.

Sometimes the troll only appears when you post on a specific topic. Other times they appear after a long absence, write a flurry of nasty comments, and then disappear again.

I know of one troll who is fast gaining somewhat legendary status among many of the weblogs I frequent for the length of his comments; not to mention the vitriolic nature of most of his writing–when you can understand it.

Now, we can all get into little flame fests in comments, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; after all, if this was all sweetness and light it would be extremely dull. In addition, we can all get cranky, passionate, determined, angry, pissy, whatever depending on topic and other people’s responses. But this is not the same as being a troll.

No, a mark of a troll is that their only purpose in commenting in your post is to pull attention away from what you write, and what others write, on to themselves. They want the spotlight, but rather than start their own weblog and maybe dwindle into obscurity (and a troll most likely will, because they primarily only know how to write in an antagonistic style), they’ll come and steal yours. In doing so, they’ll wreck havoc on your space and what could be a good discussion thread.

What’s frustrating about a troll is that they’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong, again and again. If you ask them, then, why they keep coming back, they’ll say something to the effect of, “It’s a freeworld and I’ll go where I want to.”

You can’t appeal to a troll’s better nature to just leave, and it’s illegal to shoot them. So what can you do with a troll?

Bake them, mash them, put them in a pie…

The surest approach is to turn off comments, or require stringent comment registration.

Unfortunately that’s allowing your space to be controlled by another person–a malevant person who wants nothing more than to demonstrate his or her power. In addition, you lose out on the casual passerby who also happens to have something pretty terrific to say; or to the anonymous person who again, has something worthwhile to bring to the topic.

You can keep your space open and delete the troll’s comments, instead.

A good approach. However, this carries with it a risk. For instance, the troll could keep coming back with the same comment, forcing you to spend a lot of time cleaning your comments. In addition, other people will invariably respond to the troll, so you’re left with the dilemma about whether you should delete their comments, too.

You could also block them, by blocking their name or IP address.

This is usually not effective. The troll will just switch providers, or even use a proxy to write their comments; blocking on an IP is not worth the time. Also, anyone can change their name from comment to comment.

In addition, there’s an unsual risk associated with this one. When I blocked that aforementioned troll, who is getting a dubious reputation of troll extraordinaire, he actually went into other people’s weblogs who I read and started writing about me. Some of what he wrote was just odd; others of it was a deliberate attempt to embarrass me. Then I was forced to have to ask the weblogger to remove the comments; not all were happy about having to do this, because they didn’t believe in deleting any comments.

I now have a policy in my comments that you don’t use my space to bash another if the other isn’t around to defend themselves, or if the other isn’t the topic of the post.

Reason with the troll

You’re kidding, right?

Okay, so what can you do.

Don’t feed the troll

Ignore them.

This was the hardest one for me to learn, and is a policy difficult to adhere to at times. However, unless their comment is pretty horrible, letting it slide and not delete it or even acknowledge it exists is a very effective weapon against the troll. It takes away that power they wanted. Nothing deflates the troll more than to just ignore them.

More than that, though, you have to educate your other commenters to just ignore the troll.

There’s a couple of primarily political weblogs I read that have a very persistent troll in them (not the same troll). These are people who write comments almost invariably counter to the general flow of conversation; enough to know that they’re not writing about what interests them, or responding to the thread, as much as they want to pick a fight.

In each of these sites, they get their fight. The other semi-regular or regular commenters almost always fall for the bait and respond and the thread degenerates into an incoherent brawl. Eventually the site owner will come in and say, “If you don’t like what I write, why do you come back?”Of course we know why he or she (mainly he I’ve noticed) keeps coming back — look at the nourishment they suck out from the post and the comment thread each time they come back?

What the site owner should be saying is, “Folks, stop feed the troll.” In other words, educate your other commenters not to respond to the troll.

This isn’t to say that you should ignore people who disagree. Disagreement, even passionate, satirical, biting, snarky disagreement is healthy in this environment. If a person is disagreeing with the topic, you can tell by their writing that they are responding to it.

The troll, on the other hand, is not responding to the topic as much as they are trying to take over both the topic and the thread. Sometimes the difference is subtle; after a while, though, you’ll see a pattern form, and you’ll know if you have a passionate commenter who disagrees, or a troll.

However, even ignoring the troll may not impact on the densest, most obtuse, of the breed. That’s when you have to bring out the big gun…

The big gun in troll defense



Good intentions do not compensate for bad organization

I had volunteered for TechWatch because Missouri is one of the states that had contested election results in 2000 and several of the counties are using the electronic voting system. I heard that they needed experienced tech people, especially people familiar with PHP and MySQL.


One of the emails I received was a call for someone who was an expert database person. I responded, and was sent an Excel sheet with all of Missouri’s counties and asked to find and call the registrar in each and get what voting machine they’re using. Since there is no 800 number that would mean spending about 3 days total in long distance calls on my dime. At the time, extra dollars were scarce.

I declined this ‘expert database’ assignment.

Finally a week or so ago I got my assignment. I was to be the tech support for the EIRS system at a lawyers office in Kansas City. They had me assigned all day, but I informed that I need to vote first, so they put me on afternoon and evening. Okay.

So what is this system, where is the lawyer’s office, and when do I need to be there? Well, this information is forthcoming they say.

I get another email to turn into these phone conference training sessions. Hmmm. Well, okay.

I call into one this afternoon, and get connected to the conference room. I hear a woman trying to instruct people but she’s constantly interrupted with:

“Someone has entered the conference.”

(Person’s name)

“Someone has entered the conference.”

Eventually this was joined by:

“Someone has left the conference.”

(Person’s name)

In the meantime the instructor is having us pull up a Powerpoint slide presentation that is supposed to teach the people how to use the EIRS system. Not mockups of the EIRS system (which is web-based) — a PPT slideshow of it.

I think I said this once before, but this is wrong on so many levels.

I listened and the instructions were for how to take an incident report, nothing on technology. I asked if this was for the tech support people, and was told, no this was tonight.

I call the conference tonight.

“Someone has entered the conference.”


“Someone has entered the conference.”


One of the people connected was from Florida. Another woman cut across the conversation and said she and others were heading down to Florida to monitor these elections — was there a place for them to stay? She wanted to avoid a hotel room. The man paused, and then replied that they were replacing the floor of their home, which was lost during the hurricane, and couldn’t offer a place; but he’d recommend some good places to stay.

(Something all those with good intentions might think on — how much is all of this imposing on a state that’s been badly battered by storms not that long ago, and is now faced with a mass convergence from outsiders, in order to Monitor the Polls. Poor Floridians, yet another hurricane: Hurricane “Oh-hell-we’re-really-screwed-now.”)

Anyway, back to the conference. We were directed to another web page which has a bunch of links. I look for something about technology. There is, but this is for the Poll Monitor people — those monitoring the voting machines. I’m not doing this; my assignment is to provide tech support for the people in the lawyer’s office that are getting incident reports from the field.

And I really don’t want to hear the history of voting machines.

“Someone is leaving the conference.”

In a few days time I have to go somewhere in Kansas City, at sometime during the day, and do something that may or may not be related to technology for something that may or may not have to do with the election. And this is the organization that is monitoring the use of electronic voting machines–to make sure they work right, and that no irregularities occur.

This election is in deep, serious trouble.



Recovered from the Wayback Machine

Excuse me.

The Delta Airlines flight attendant was not fired for blogging. She was fired for posting photos of herself in a rather provocative pose, wearing her uniform, on one of her company’s planes.

She was fired for posting the photo, and that specific photo I have no doubt – not for blogging. If she had posted the photo outside of the weblog, guess what? I have no doubts she would have still been fired.


Following on the theme

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Following on the theme of how we can have a lovely time in London, thanks to RDF and the seman…ooops! Semantic Web, has pointed to another set of RDF data related to travel: OpenGuides .

According to the site, OpenGuides is a network of free, community-maintained “wiki” city guides to which anyone can contribute. More importantly, the organization promises to ensure openness of the data by providing RDF/XML for each travel node.

Now this is both great, and a challenge. You see this is a wiki. By ‘node’, in wiki parlance, this means you get RDF/XML for the pertinent page information. So for London, what you’ll get is:

< ?xml version=”1.0″?>
<rdf :RDF

<rdf :DDescription rdf:about=””>
<dc :title>The Open Guide to London: Home</dc>
<dc :date>2004-10-18T21:51:10</dc>
<dcterms :modified>2004-10-18T21:51:10</dcterms>
<dc :contributor>Earle</dc>
<dc :source rdf:resource=”” />
<wiki :version>70</wiki>
<foaf :topic rdf:resource=”#obj” />

<geo :SpatialThing rdf:ID=”obj” dc:title=”Home”>ies –>
<dc :subject>Wiki Info</dc>

<!– address and geospatial data –>
<city>London</city> <country>United Kingdom</country>

<!– contact information –>


(Sorry for the smiley in the code – an annoying, buggy, piece of clever coding on the part of the WordPress developers inserted it. I don’t use smileys. I detest smileys. No offence FOAF people.)

Of course there is more to London than this. However, you have to access each wiki page, and then access each RDF/XML file to get that pertinent bit of information.

To be effective, one would have to build a bot trained to a wiki architecture (where links may or may not go to something that exists), and that can consume any and all related RDF/XML files. It can then be turned loose at a specific wiki; to return to its owner, engorged with lots of juicy, and fully fleshed, data.


In other words, you would need a wiki-aware Smushbot.