For about a dozen years, one of the political blogs I’ve checked out on almost a daily basis has been Talking Points Memo. Way back then, it had a lot of really good analysis. It was good for a left-of-center political junkie like me, particularly during national elections. Sadly, it has gone the way of most such websites these days. I call it the HuffPo effect. The website has gone from simple to cluttered. Most articles are snarky and insubstantial. Recently, the website has undergone an improvement, which has just made worse all of the things I don’t like about it. So, I decided to write an email:
Seriously? Your lead article today is an article that’s been on your site since January 19, six days ago. Your look is so cluttered, I can only conclude you’re taking lessons from HuffPo. Your articles are filled with typos and frequently your headlines promise far more than the underlying article actually delivers. And then there are the times when the same article is “headlined” two or three times within mere inches of each other on the main page.
Years ago, Talking Points Memo was my first political blog. Years ago. It had high quality analysis of a whole range of political issues — national and international. And it was simple to navigate and find what I was interested in reading. Not anymore. Rather than quality analysis, your articles have become snark-filled, superficial and generally meaningless. Rarely is there the type of thoughtful commentary that once drew me to Talking Points. And the new look is so cluttered it’s impossible to find that thoughtful commentary if it even exists anymore on your site.
Count me out. You’ve lost me. It’s a shame that you had to fall for the modern push for ever greater options and complexity rather than keeping mind a better alternative — keep it simple, stupid.
To which, the blog’s founder and current “Editor and Publisher”, Josh Marshall, responded thusly, almost immediately:
I think this is called an email from an asshole. Maybe not an asshole in real life. But at least one playing one on TV. I’ll start with some advice, using “Huffpo” as a one size fits all morality play about all things in digital journalism tells me your lazy. As for a 6 day old article, we reprise longer features pieces on the weekends when people have more time to read longer pieces and our staff does not work. So this is not shocking and not a sign of moral failure or the fall of the Roman Empire either. With your point about the same article showing up in different places – if you’re really a regular reader you know that we intentionally have different pathways into the site – a news section, a chronological livewire feed, the editor’s blog. Very straightforward; may or may not be your cup of team. This isn’t even a critique. It’s more like a primal scream.
There is just as much penetrating analysis on the site as there ever was. Indeed, quite a bit more. But you’re too focused on silly points to read it apparently. There’s a lengthy post in my series on the Israeli election that apparently you did not notice. In any case, yes, there is other stuff we publish now that you don’t like. That’s fine. Not every publication is for everyone. No need to dress it up with all the puffery.
Well, you know me. Never let a good opportunity like this go to waste:
Wow … that you respond this way to what are legitimate criticisms from a long-time reader is stunning. I didn’t call you names — the keep it simple, stupid reference was not meant to refer to you as stupid, but to refer to a commonly understood design principle in technology — apparently, one you are unfamiliar with. Let me help you learn about the concept … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle
. If you think I was calling you stupid, my apologies.
I pointed out that, from my perspective, the changes you’ve undergone has taken you far from what I’m interested in reading. And, yes, I read your piece on the Israeli elections. It’s good. The problem is that kind of analysis constitutes a tiny fraction of what is on your website these days. And, yes, I am a regular reader … just about every day for the last dozen years. So, I know about the different pathways. But the problem is that all of those pathways just create massive clutter on your main page. And they don’t show up in different places. They show up on your main page right next to each other. Maybe you don’t realize that. I notice it on an almost daily basis. Maybe you like the clutter and the repetitive links to the same articles right next to each other. Good for you. Maybe many of your readers do. It doesn’t work for me. And I get to say that without being called an asshole.
That you equate my criticisms of what your website has become with some kind of morality play suggests you are far too grandiose for your own good. There’s no morality here. It’s kind of simple — in your efforts to become something for everybody, you’ve lost me. Shouldn’t I get to tell you that without you calling me names?
Asshole? Seriously. You need to look in the mirror.
P.S. Instead of wasting time calling a long-time reader an asshole, you should really find an editor for your pieces. The ones you write are frequently the ones with the most typos. See this is the funny part of you accusing me of being lazy — setting up a website where there are redundant links to the same article right next to each other is lazy. Pushing publish on a piece that hasn’t been edited so that the typos have been removed is lazy.
P.P.S. There’s this concept out there called authors behaving badly. It’s used to describe when authors react inappropriately to criticisms of their works. I think there’s now a new branch of the concept. I’ll call it blogger-journalists behaving badly. You’re the charter member. Congratulations.