Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Boston.com shenanigans

After posting about what I think is partisan gaming on boston.com's "most popular stories" rankings, I've been keeping an eye on the list. It looks like supporters of both campaigns (or maybe the campaigns themselves) are playing with this list

There are a couple of things that make me think things are not occuring organically:

1. These top stories are listed according to e-mailed recommendations made within the last hour
2. The top stories all ran days earlier

Here's a screenshot of the top rankings at about 10 a.m. this morning:

The top story? It's LaGuer, which originally ran Oct. 4! All of a sudden, 262 people saw this and had to recommend it to their friend? Three weeks later? Same thing with the second story, which is about Patrick donating money towards a DNA test for LaGuer, which ran Oct. 5.

Remember, today's Oct. 24.

It doesn't just go one way, though, as a friend pointed out to me. A lot of recent "top stories" on boston.com have been about women's groups endorsing Patrick, Criminologists hating on Healey, and lawyers defending Patrick.

So you tell me: How do these weeks-old stories all of a sudden become super popular? Is it that hard to imagine both campaigns putting an intern in front of a computer to send out recommendations all day and keep stories up in the mix?

To test my hypothesis further, I just e-mailed a story (Girls Soccer Stars!) to five people at once, and it showed up on the list as one recommendation. So when we talk about 262 recommendations, that's 262 times people looked at the article, clicked on the "e-mail to a friend" link, and sent the article to a buddy. So 262 people in the past hour decided to e-mail out a three-week old story that's dominated the headlines and commercials for nearly a month? C'mon now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No more tolls? It's about time.

Well, no more tolls in theory. Most likely, the proposal to get rid of them dies when Patrick is made governor.

It's about time the tolls were pulled out. I don't understand why transportation (roads, rail, busses, and subway) requires a user-based fee system for its maintenance and repair, rather than paying for it out of the tax rate. We all live in this state, and my tax dollars are being spent to pay for schools, cops, fire depts, etc all across the state. If it weren't for the state's tax dollars, cities like Lawrence and Springfield would have no public services. As a taxpayer, I pay for rape crisis centers all across the state, not just in my area code. And that's how it should be. We are a commonwealth, after all.

But if you insist that there's a good reason to make this a regional issue, try this on for size. My Plan B theory, which I came up with right now: Kill the tolls on the pike and replace them with a gas tax. Use that money to cover the expense of repairs to the pike itself and to funding the Big Dig bonds. What's left over should be used on road projects across the state. That's on top of normal yearly appropriations, of course.

Next split the state into five parts: North Shore, Boston, South Shore/Cape, Central and Western. The tax collected in each region can be used exclusively on projects within that area. So repairs can be made to bridges and roadways across the state evenly and according to road use in each area. And they can finally pave the road to Springfield. That's not ideal, but it could work.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is Healey's camp gaming Boston.com's story rankings?

Here's something odd: I was reading Boston.com at about 11:30 and saw the top five most popular stories (as determined by who e-mailed the story, you know the drill). There was this story about Patrick benefitting from a Big Dig contractor's fundraiser. It seemed oddly familier to me, and when I clicked on the link, I saw that it was the same story that ran on Oct. 12.

What's a five-day old story doing on top of the most e-mailed stories of the day?

So I clicked on the "Full List" link for the most popyular story page. That takes you to a list of the most e-mailed stories in the past hour. The Anti-Patrick story had been sent out 247 times. Here's a screenshot:

When I went to look at the daily list (most e-mailed in the day), I saw the story had been sent 303 times:

And for the past week, the story had only been e-mailed 330 times:

So what's the deal? How did this story all of a sudden go from less than 100 recommendations in five days to 247 in an hour? Did a big blog link to the article? Or is some Healey fan or the Healey campaign itself sitting around e-mailing this article to everyone? Are there Shenanigans afoot? Seems so to me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

T fare rollback. I was almost right!

Well, the T has adjusted the proposed fare increases:

Subway and trolley rides would go from $1.25 to $1.70, bus fares from 90 cents to $1.25, and most commuter rail passes would cost 22 percent more.

Riders who pay cash or use automated fare CharlieTickets instead of CharlieCards, which will become available next month, would have to fork over 25 cents more to ride buses and 30 cents more to ride subways and trolleys. Under the original proposal issued in April, the surcharge would have been 40 cents for bus and 55 cents for subways and trolleys.

I came close to calling it a few months ago:

If I had to make a guess, the T will offer transfer to CharlieTicket riders and keep the increase at $1.70, instead of retreating on the final increase amount itself.

I suppose that's a good impetus to get people using the credit card style Charlie Cards, but still, it soaks the casual T user who has no idea there's a caste system for fares.

I live next to Wonderland. As a terminus, it attacts a lot of casual users coming to Boston from the North Shore every weekend. Now I get to deal with irate dads, confused old people, and stupid teenagers from Swampscott clogging up the Charlie pass machines, trying to figure out why their fare costs more than everyone else's. Awesome.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nancy Pelosi needs to go

Nancy Pelosi drives me crazy, because she can take political slam dunks and turn them into half-court jumpers at the buzzer.

Take the recent case of Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who has resigned after sexually charged e-mails and IMs he sent to minors were uncovered. The Republican leadership apparently knew about this almost a year ago, and squashed it rather than chase Foley out of his position.

The problem couldn't be any clearer: A Republican was sexually
exploiting underage staff members, and the GOP leadership knew all
about it.

Instead of saying just that, though, here's what Nancy Pelosi wrote to
the Ethics Committe, knowing full well it was her money quote:

``It is a nightmare for every child, parent, and grandparent to learn
that a child is being stalked on the Internet by an adult in a
position of authority," House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat
of California, wrote yesterday to the Ethics Committee. ``The fact
that Mr. Foley was engaging in this behavior with underage children,
that the Republican leadership knew about it for six months to a year
and has characterized the inappropriate behavior as `overly friendly'
and `acting as a mentor' and that apparently no action was taken to
protect these underage children is abhorrent."

Instead of saying what everyone else is thinking ("what bastards!"),
she turns it into a treatise on how to say nothing by saying every
damn thing in your head.

She starts with a preamble on why sexual expliotation is bad. That's
followed by one sentence that makes seven different points, some
redundant, all completely clouded by crowding and a passive voice:

1. Foley did what we said was bad in the first sentence
2. The child was underage, which is redundant
3. GOP leaders knew about it for some indeterminate amount of time
4. They pooh-poohed it using awful euphamisms
5. They didn't do anything to stop it.
6. These kids, again, are underage
7. It's abhorrent!

Why not say this instead:
"Mark Foley--a congressman!--exploited and sexually preyed on
children. Republican leaders knew about this, but chose to cover it up
instead. Why? To protect their hold on power in this chamber. They
sacrificed the safety of children for the sake of an election."

The point is clear, language is active, and is a better quote for the
newspapers. And that was after a two minute pass at a rewrite. I'm
sure all of us can come up with better if we had a little more time.

Seriously, who's writing this stuff for her?