Click on the inside

For nearly 16 weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of editing and moderating Click on Wales. As someone who has written for Click, and read it religiously for a number of years (my morning routine has been totally thrown out now I read Click articles in advance), things look and feel really different behind the scenes.

Click is the voice of its daily authors, not the IWA, and is a huge body of content charting public debate in Wales.  Part of the reason I’ve read daily articles from Click on Wales for years is the variety of issues, and angles, it covers. As someone who was previously immersed in a very particular policy field, Click was an easy way to learn something different about issues affecting Wales over my first cup of tea each day. It was a way to broaden my understanding of different issues, and to hear from voices who were new to me.

Now I’m editing Click on Wales, variety is something I’ve started to think about much more closely: from theme, to topic, to author. Click on Wales is a platform for independent debate and comment. Its purpose is to act as a catalyst, generating and further developing intelligent and constructive debate about Wales’ present and future.  Its use and value as a platform is inherently linked to the range and quality of views expressed, whether through articles or comment.

The range of contributions is potentially an easier one to get a handle on. So far this year we have published over 220 articles.  Brexit and the EU has been the headline topic in at least 15 articles, and part of the narrative in many others. Around 35% of the articles published were authored by women, meaning we have more work to do to make sure the platform is appropriately gender-balanced.  We know where we are, and are committed to improving on it.  

There’s much more analysis to do. I’ll be looking at issues including diversity, political affiliation, geographic location (both within and outside Wales), number of individual authors, and the variety of issues discussed, to enable us to hold ourselves to account on ensuring that Click on Wales hosts a wide range of voices. 

Quality is arguably harder to quantify, but equally as important. When making editorial decisions on articles to publish I look immediately for relevance to Wales and its people. I also look for ideas, evidence and scrutiny.  It sounds obvious, but it’s important: I look for things that are intelligible and well-written. Similarly with comments, I’m looking for contributions which are constructive,  further the debate and are coherent.  A bit of a whinge is understandable, but the purpose of the IWA is make change happen, so we want ideas as well.

Click is taking a well-earned break for August, when many people are also taking a rest and content will likely slow down. I’ll be using this time to plan for the year ahead, and further developing policy ideas from our networks.

Click will be back in September: refreshed, revived and ready to host more constructive, influential content that informs public and political debate in Wales and reach places that it hasn’t reached before.  If you haven’t already written for us – why not?   If you’re unsure about how to do it – get in touch.  We have guidance for new voices.  

We are already sought out as a source of informed comment and opinion – we want to leverage this to its full extent on behalf of Wales. The challenges are such that Click on Wales has never been more needed.

 

Rhea Stevens is policy, projects and external affairs manager for the IWA.

17 thoughts on “Click on the inside

  1. “Click” has become increasingly irrelevant, not just because of its anodyne content but because of the too rigid application of its comments policy.

    Within that opening comment it is quite possible that I have furnished you with a reason not to publish my comment on two grounds:-

    “Criticism should be constructive in order to further the debate…”
    My comment is not constructive except in so far as to suggest that you look carefully at what you are doing here.
    “Comments must not be abusive; including deliberately attacking the contributor….”
    I haven’t been abusive…yet. I am saying that you aren’t doing a very good job though and so I am deliberately attacking the contributor.
    One other comment rule has also been used primarily as a form of censorship; ” Language that causes offence to minority groups will not be tolerated.” No prizes for guessing which very powerful and arrogant group consistently made sure that this rule was rigorously applied…in such a way that truth could not get a look in.

    There was a time when comments on an article ran up to 100 from multiple posters. There was a time when genuine worthwhile information came from people who commented and robust opinions, which were mostly justifiable, were aimed at contributors and commenters alike.

    There was a time when “Click” had life and was provocative and interesting. It is now moribund.

  2. @JJones I manage some very busy ‘political’ and news websites and ‘comments’ (and the majority of commentators) are a real plague. Within the rather strict confines imposed on Click by the nature of the organisation they do a good job even though many of the articles are rather too academically sourced for my personal interest. The pool of active and reasonable online ‘commentators’ in and on Wales is miniscule (less than 50). Click provides a ‘channel’ for most of them, including er…you. Click is not moribund nor irrelevant. In an online world dominated by adverts, popups, rss feeds, rants and ‘fake news’, it is (since I’m Welsh) one of my very few bookmarked sites along with mostly US magazine sites like NY Review of Books, Rolling Stone and the Atlantic.
    There is little more that Click can do without starting to ‘infringe’ on the territory of other sites (such as culture, news, sport and lifestyle) so that’s what they should do – stick to the present formula.
    As a ‘Cardi’ I will have to moan about the outrageous expense of IWA membership and the Caerdydd only events they organise attended solely by ‘the usual suspects’. A different ‘tier’ of membership is needed to cater for penny pinchers and hoi polloi like me.

  3. New IWA broom sweeps clean? It’s been tried before, I suspect, but every time the contributors and/or the commenters go ‘off-message’, which is substantially similar to the WG’s failed policies, then things seem to happen. The contributors get ridiculed and/or face ad hominem attacks. The comments policy on Click does not seem to have been applied equitably. People with alternative views stop commenting, or drastically reduce it, because it is pointless spending time and effort putting together a reasoned response to an article only to have it nuked in moderation. For this reason there is no incentive for ‘dissidents’ to write articles for Click. There is little evidence that the IWA really wants alternative views based on past experience.

    And so Click reverts to type – on IWA/WG message and effectively excluding those of us who often, and often from well researched positions and/or from personal experiences, fundamentally disagree with the established IWA/WG policy directions. I have always believed that public policy should be driven by evidence-based research and data not by slavish adherence to political dogma. Clearly this hasn’t happened in Wales for 20+ years.

    There is also a fundamental problem accepting that all of Wales is not the same – the situation in Gwynedd, particularly, is often radically different, and worse, than the bulk of the contributors in South Wales understand or, apparently, want to understand. Yet in so many ways, particularly in education and Welsh language policy, Gwynedd is being used as a failed template for the rest of Wales. Many of us who have seen – perhaps I should say suffered – the outcomes over many years would not wish them on our enemies let alone on an unsuspecting public who seem to be oblivious to the failed ideologies coming to a street near them.

    There are plenty of potentially coherent commentators out there but not if they know they are going to be ignored and not if they are going to suffer endless – let’s call it what much of it is – abuse. We might as well just go for a beer!

  4. It’s been some time since I read anything on this site, I got fed up with too many people going off topic in their comments.
    John Walker’s comment above has been hard for some people to accept, Gwynedd is different from South Wales, why do you think we can’t get private business to move here. Attitudes need to change if we want Wales to stop dropping further behind the rest of the World in Education, Health and inward investment we need to pull together, brain storm ideas but sadly I am seeing that South Wales wants to make the same mistakes as Gwynedd, showing the message that we are closed to outsiders unless you agree to embrace the Welsh Language and don’t give parents the choice of an English education for their children that move here.

  5. @JRW From much ‘actual’ experience I know that there are not ‘plenty of coherent commentators’ out there in the Welsh online world – even those with supposedly dissident views. There are one or two vocal bonkers characters for sure ( I don’t include you in this category!). Most people don’t have the time, the tools or the inclination to ‘write’ stuff online. Even those that do have a ‘comment’ to make or even an article sometimes find it difficult to actually find or fill in a comment or submission form. People don’t live online and the ‘yoof’ (who do) can’t be arsed.
    I rather doubt it is the function of the IWA or Click (or even the WG) to educate or teach people to engage digitally.
    Just thank God we don’t live in the US digital space where the proportion of crazies to normal is astronomically higher.

  6. Sadly while there are coherent commentators in cyberspace they are outnumbered by the crazies and the likes of Glasnost, that particular example seems to have been blocked by every Welsh website and an increasing number of English websites. The crazies have forced a number of blogs to close, the BBC News comments section seems to have gone the way of the dodo, plagued by constant off topic posts and anti-Welsh racism, most of it seeming to come from a few people who used multiple identities. This is one of the few sites left that has not been overrun or closed by online trolls. The rules are clear, stay on topic and don’t insult people. As they say if you can’t do the crime don’t do the crime.

    As an aside I would suggest that sites should adopt the policy of if you comment you should reveal your true identity. Most people have Facebook, LinkedIn or some other profile. If you are scared of people knowing who you really are then you shouldn’t comment.

  7. @PH There is absolutely no way that I would reveal my ‘true identity’ to the online world (except my email to the moderators- a requirement). Yes I am scared of letting people (and governments) know who I am ad libitum and it is a practice I have followed from the dawn of the Internet age. Am I paranoid? Yes I am and so should you be.
    Nevertheless, I agree that moderators should take reasonable steps to prevent abuse and maybe even to communicate directly with commentators if there is concern, however ‘patient or journalistic confidentiality’ should be maintained. The use of pen names and pseudonyms is a tradition which should be honoured especially in this digitally intrusive age.
    Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells!

  8. “…anti Welsh racism…a few individuals…multiple identities…”

    Racism according who Phil? How do you actually KNOW that there are multiple identities of a small number of individuals?
    Aren’t you just trying to denigrate people with a different but,nevertheless valid, opinion?

  9. I have been a regular reader of Click on Wales for several years, seeing it as a pulse measurement of current issues in Wales that may not rise immediately to the surface in the media, or at the Assembly for that matter. Thanks, Rhea Stevens, for maintaining the pace of articles, also for explaining what you expect of us should we contribute an article.

  10. Bellwether

    I understand you concerns but times and technology have moved on since the “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” times.

    If you don’t have strong moderation, and thank God Click still does, then you get situations as you had with the BBC comments section of every topic being hijacked by what can only be described as anti-Welsh fanatics. Whatever the topic it would be hijacked and turned into a rant against 1) The Welsh Assembly. 2) The Welsh language with occasionally 3) Return Monmouthshire to England.

    Sadly one of the posters on this site was one of the worst posters on the BBC comments site and use to lead the campaign against the Assembly and the Welsh language with the occasional sortie on Monmouthshire.

    There is an “empire strikes back” mentally, on most sites, with the objective of assimilating Wales into England as a kind of great Cornwall. They have been emboldened by the result of Brexit and are using the same tactics as they used in the Brexit campaign of loudly parroting the same statements, this time against Wales. 1) That the WAG has failed at everything it’s done, although there is scant evident to support their theory, on health they rely on Wales having a longer waiting list than England to claim we have failed at the health, ignoring the inconvenient fact that all independent reports refute this and England also has problems with its health system 2) The Welsh language is being forced on us, which ignores the evident that parents in Wales want Welsh language education. 3) That Monmouthshire and other regions of Wales should have referendums to decide if they wanted to become part of England and that the people of Monmouthshire were never asked if we wanted to be “dumped” (dumped being their word) into Wales. This ignores the fact that the people of Monmouthshire have always considered themselves as being Welsh, that we were asked and we had a postal vote on this issue. I remember by father putting his vote in the bin in disgust with the statement “I have always been Welsh”. Incidentally the postal vote was a landslide for Monmouthshire being reconfirmed as a Welsh county.

    There is an ongoing online campaign against Wales which relies, as in the Brexit campaign of just loudly parroting slogans and shouting down anyone who disagrees. This campaign uses the tool of having a few poster using multi identities, as was the case in the BBC comments section and sadly resulted in the BBC Wales comments blogs being closed.

    These people will not leave us be, live and let live is not in their nature, rigid conformity is the only thing they understand and crave, they will never stop until they get their way and get Wales assimilated into England and in the absent of moderation of sites then forcing the poster to reveal their true identity is an option that must be used.

  11. Philip; thank you. That is the finest example of irony that I have seen in a long time.
    If I can just parse it a little…many posters disagree with you: they are not “REAL”. These posters criticcise the Assembly’s performance: you don’t want that allowed.
    These “false” commenters question the present policy on WM education: you can affirm that ALL parents are in favour of WM education and think that criticism of Government policy on the Welsh language shouldn’t be allowed on forums.
    Above all you think that anyone opposing your own vewpoint should be censored.
    When “Click” was edited by Plaid member (later a candidate) three regular commenters were blocked: Jacques Protic, Myself and Hywel. We were reinstated by Lee but our postings often delayed for days or weeks to avoid them being read.
    Is that what you want?

  12. Come on, guys, be honest. Our main complaint about ‘Click’ is that it is too addictive. That is why we are all here, some of us after several years and having had no intention to keep coming back.

    It is the only free platform for serious debate in Wales. That means it sometimes attracts the green crayon brigade but it is also the place that the most thoughtful commentators come …because there is nowhere else. That is part of the problem.

    As for its objectivity, there is no denying that the Institute has followed the conventional centre-left devolutionist party line in recent years, because that is the commercial reality of its situation. The business sector in Wales is too underdeveloped to be independent and Welsh Labour are famously intolerant of dissent. Any organisation that speaks out against the Assembly may find itself with funding issues. That is also part of the problem. Despite that, here is one Unionist and libertarian who has never had any difficulty getting articles or comments posted on this website. If one cannot always be as frank as one would sometimes prefer, do not blame the Institute but the whole culture of leftist so-called ‘political correctness’ which is slowly strangling free speech and with it all pretence to democracy.

    Sometimes it is a lonely position, to be speaking truth to power, or, even harder, to be speaking truth against power, like a secular Jeremiah – who got no thanks for it – but it is good that there is at least one medium sufficiently open for this to be done, and where one realises one is not alone in what one has seen because one encounters others who have come to similar conclusions on their own.

    So thank you, Rhea, and keep up the good work in the tradition of your predecessors.

  13. John

    Has a unionist why do you prefer the Yugoslavia over the Switzerland model for the UK

  14. Thank you Rhea for your hard working in making this site run. I can imagine that having to read all the comments is a trying task.

    In terms of the site it would be good to have a quicker turnaround on comments as it seems that the opportunity for discussion is diminished by it sometimes taking several days to get comments approved. Perhaps a more reactive system is needed for authentic accounts.

    In terms of the articles themselves they seem to be more frequent but less interesting. This is obviously a personal view but several of the articles have appeared rather weak on theory lately which is disappointing. There also seems to be more from random people rather than the ‘old days’ (many years ago) when the posters tended to people in positions of influence rather than just what some people in public affairs think.

    I am also sorry to see the podcast go. While it never lived up to its potential (given how it was dominated by the same people all the time for reasons which appeared to be self-promotion), it sill provided an otherwise lacking opportunity for informal discussions. I would be great to see it back to discuss policy issues rather than commentary.

    Yet, regardless of these minor points Click is a much needed space and is able to deliver non-partisan viewpoints in a constructive way (unlike rivals like Nation.Cymru). If it did not exist we would need to invent it. And it’s a delight to see the IWA finally become politically impartial after several years as being used as a self-promotion opportunity for various prospective Assembly Members.

  15. @JWR

    ‘Come on, guys, be honest. Our main complaint about ‘Click’ is that it is too addictive. That is why we are all here, some of us after several years and having had no intention to keep coming back.’

    Actually you’re right, but only in the sense that watching a slow-motion car crash is additive ‘cos that’s what we’ve been watching for the last 20 years! WG and IWA still have their foot on the gas though as Wales spins out of control… Their only solution to failure is more of the same…

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