Post about DN Debatt-betyg on Genius.com

This is something I just wrote on Genius.com. Since you can’t read it if you’re not a Genius.com member, I also post it here.


I’m Stefan Schubert, a Swedish postdoc in philosophy working at London School of Economics. I’d like to tell you about a project of mine that I’m running at the moment, which is very much in the spirit of Genius.com. I would appreciate comments, advice, suggestions for co-operation, etc. I’m not very familiar with Genius.com or it’s culture, having just started using it, and am eager to learn more.

Exasparated by the low standards of the Swedish public debate (which, by the way, is no worse than the debate in English-speaking countries) I started the blog DN Debatt-betyg in September last year. On this blog, I analyze opinion pieces from Sweden’s most influential public forum, DN Debatt. (The articles are typically written by high-ranking politicians, academics, civil servants or writers.) Basically, I aim to point out factual errors,logical fallacies, failures to provide evidence and argument for different claims, failure to consider and rebut obvious counter-arguments, ad hominem-arguments, etc. (I take philosopher Paul Grice’s co-operative principle as a benchmark.) On the basis of these analyses I also grade them on a scale from 0-10. I’ve translated some of my analyses to English here. I should also say that I aim to be objective and to not take a political stance.

In the fall, I criticized 94 such articles in a row, to get an unbiased statistical sample of the mean quality of the articles (it’s disappointingly low). Thereafter, I’ve not had time to do this every day and have therefore concentrated on the articles that are interesting and relatively easy to comment on.

I started out copy-pasting the articles to Word files, commented on them using the word comment function, saved them as PDF-files, and uploaded them on my blog. I soon found out that this was not legal, and therefore switched to just copy-pasting the very sections I wanted to criticize to my blog (typically perhaps 25 % of the entire article). The disadvantage of this is of course that the reader has to go back and forth between my blog post and the article I’m analyzing.

Recently, I’ve started using Genius.com instead. In a sense, I thereby go back to the original solution, though Genius.com is of course more elegant than Word. I’ve yet to see what this does for my reader statistics, however.

I think giving a grade is a major advantage (though I haven’t got any very firm evidence of that, I should add). Some of my analyses are very extensive — even longer than the target article I’m criticizing — and I doubt most of my readers read them very carefully. They do seem to trust my judgement, however, which means that just getting the grade is valuable info. A friend of mine has told me that he doesn’t read any DN Debatt-articles I’ve given a low grade. It would thus seem that such a grading could be a great service to readers.

The reception of my blog has been generally positive, though the interest isn’t huge. Lots of people do complain about the low standards of the debate, which makes people positively inclined to this sort of project. Recently, I got some attention in the media here (concerns Genius.com) and here. However, I plan to do more to get more attention in main stream media shortly (and will then certainly mention Genius.com).

I’m passionate about the use of pedantry to weed out bullshit and errors (being an analytic philosopher) and wrote a blog post about this last June. (Note that this annotation idea popped up among the comments!) I’m convinced that if the right sort of people got engaged in annotating on a big scale, that would do make an enormous difference for the quality of information that we’re being fed with, something which in turn would affect virtually every human activity — not the least politics — in a positive way. The potential is truly enormous.

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