Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Is The Insider "The Insider"?

Council member Michael Craddock may not be living large at the moment. The Nashville Scene, armed with a writing analyst and information from another unnamed Council member, maintains that the backroom deal-maker is "The Insider," the author of an anonymous attack blog called Word on the Street (WOTS), even though Craddock denies it. The Insider promoted school board seat-filler and candidate Kay Brooks, for whom Craddock mustered Council votes, and performed a couple of hatchet jobs on candidate Gracie Porter. So, it would not be too surprising if Craddock was the blogger.

Enclave got drawn into this controversy after Craddock told the Scene that the only blog on which he had taken time to comment was this one. (Scene reporter William Dean Hinton erroneously stated that Craddock "blogged" on Enclave). While I am flattered that Enclave would actually attract various stripes of people, I have got to wander wonder why a conservative would mention a progressive blog as the only one on which he took time to comment (the comment was tame: just that he reads Enclave regularly). The mention seems even more fishy to me in light of the fact that, at the end of May and beginning of June, Enclave conveyed some uncomfortable, unsettling information about Craddock's baby: the lined-up, traded-for votes for the Brooks appointment.

Nonetheless, who am I to question link love from whatever quarter it comes? Thanks to Michael Craddock for sending more readers my way. Don't feel too small if you were outed. You should feel worse about the Council's backroom wheeler-dealer meetings. That's the kind of "Insider" that I don't care for.

And thanks to the Scene for linking Enclave, even though Hinton should learn more about blogging vs. commenting. After all, I have already had to deal with a pro-Kay-Brooks troll who masquerades as the author of Enclave; I do not want readers thinking that Michael Craddock is blogging on Enclave, too, unless of course Michael Craddock is also the Enclave troll, which would make him a very busy Insider who deserves to be outed.

06/28/2006, 10:45 p.m. Update: Catherine McTamaney, the writing analyst interviewed by the Scene, left a thorough explanation in the comments below of the process by which she identified Michael Craddock as the author of WOTS. Here's an exerpt:
What impresses me most about the number of commonalities between Mr. Craddock's writing and the anonymous blogger is that these similarities come from a very small sample of original text. In other words, it just wasn't that hard to find so many exact matches.
Go read her entire comment. It's very enlightening.


  1. Some more information for you, to understand how I came to the conclusion that Craddock is "The Insider." Basically, I used a three-step author identification framework.

    The first step, to identify the number of identical words, here results in multiple overlaps:
    both writers overuse the words "must" "just" and "much."
    both overuse the word "quite"
    both occasionally misspell it as "quiet."
    both overuse the words "evidently," "extremely" and "tremendous."
    both repeatedly use the words "convoluted" and "thereof."

    The second step, to identify common turns-of-phrase, again results in multiple overlaps.
    both writers repeatedly use the phrase "quite frankly."
    both repeatedly use the phrase "I find it."
    both prefer "everybody and their brother."
    both us "from my perspective"
    both us "that is exactly why."
    both use the phrase "is all."
    both use "why oh why"
    both use "really believe."

    The most interesting to me, and the examples which I (and other researchers) find most compelling, though, are those of spelling and grammatical errors. These are the ways in which we mislearn language, and unlike vocabulary which evolves as we are exposed to other speakers, written language mistakes tend to stay put in adulthood. Here are the most distinct commonalities between Craddock's attributed writing and the language of the anonymous blogger, and the ones least likely to be the result of coincidence. or common experience For example:
    both writers drop the apostrophe from the word "that's" and instead write "thats."
    both misspell the word "wonder" and instead use "wander." (This, by the way, is an error that in 12 years of reading student papers, including reading papers of students with a fifth grade reading level, I have never before encountered. Not once. And yet it appears both in Mr. Craddock's writing and on the blog.)
    both frequently switch apostrophes in contractions, writing "should'nt" for example, instead of "shouldn't."
    both often switch letters, for example, writing "empolyees" instead of "employees."
    both often insert an extra space between words when they type.
    both are atrocious spellers.
    both abbreviate the word "avenue" to "Av" instead of the more common and correct "Ave."
    both fail to place a period at the end of abbreviations, for example, writing "Mr" instead of "Mr."
    both fail to use the Oxford comma to separate clauses in nondependent sentences, for example "how we got Adam Dread otherwise known as Mr beer and alcohol and now the laptop dance guru" instead of "how we got Adam Dread, otherwise known as Mr. Beer and Alcohol, and now the laptop dance guru."
    both fail to capitalize the names of proper offices or councils, for example "district 5 school board" instead of "District 5 School Board."
    both write extended run-on sentences, like "And I find it quite disturbing that the commission when faced with a long agenda, first decides to change the time of day to begin and then when thats not enough, decides to reduce the amonut of time a citizen gets to speak."
    both misuse commas when they do use them, as in the sentence above

    What impresses me most about the number of commonalities between Mr. Craddock's writing and the anonymous blogger is that these similarities come from a very small sample of original text. In other words, it just wasn't that hard to find so many exact matches. If you made a list of these particular commonalities, and compared it to say, unedited text from the Nashville Scene, you'd be hard pressed to find an identical "wander" or "thats" or "Av," (even if you were looking at the text before spellcheck!). My gut instinct, by the way, tells me that both Mr. Craddock and the anonymous blogger are likely dyslexic, but that may be a story for another day.

    As I said, what makes this most egregious to me is not that Mr. Craddock is writing anonymously, but that he is writing anonymously about issues of the Council, issues of coming elections, issues which, as a public official in elected office, he should want to speak about publicly. Good policy is the result of candid public debate, not the aftereffect of anonymous online mudslinging. If Mr. Craddock is interested in the former, he has an ethical obligation to wipe himself clean of the latter.

  2. Comment deleted because no trolls are allowed on the one and only Enclave.