Mechanical Turk »

  • You say Gaddafi, we say Gadafy, let’s call the whole thing off…

    February 22, 2011 @ 11:11 am | by Hugh Linehan

    With bloody violence continuing in Libya today, it may seem trite to discuss the correct spelling of the name of that country’s dictator. But online readers of The Irish Times have become highly exercised by what they see as our ‘incorrect’ spelling of Muammar Gadafy’s name.

    ‘Gadafy appears on Libyan TV in show of control’ read the headline of our later editions this morning, following the Libyan leader’s brief and Jacques Tati-esque address to his nation last night.

    ‘Please advise those writing headlines about Libya that the correct spelling of the Dictators name is Gadaffi not Gadafy as shown on the front page of your website. Pathetic,’ wrote one correspondent.

    ‘In all my life, and for all the years I have been reading about this guy, I have NEVER seen his name spelled GADAFY. Did you do that so that the dumb Irish people could read it phonetically, or is this the way it should have been printed for all those years? I am dying to know…’ wrote another.

    Our spelling has also prompted a debate thread on, while the good folk at helpfully point out that a Google search reveals that we’re the only news organisation to use this version. ‘It’s a solo run, dude,’ they comment.

    Perhaps so. But, as our Foreign Correspondent Mary Fitzgerald points out in a recent tweet, “transliteration from the Arabic throws up several possible phonetic spellings…so New York Times uses el-Qaddafi, BBC uses Gaddafi, LA Times use Kadafi”

    And, according to this 2009 post from ABC News, there are 112 different English-language spellings of Gadafy’s name on record.

    Having discussed the matter with our Foreign Editor, it appears the Irish Times version is the same as that used by the Guardian up until a couple of years ago (it now prefers Gaddafi). To my eyes, our version looks slightly archaic, perhaps even contrarian, but to describe it as ‘wrong’ would be, er, wrong.

    The Irish Times Stylebook contains several such unusual rulings, some of which cause unease among the editorial staff (acronyms are a particularly thorny issue). But from the point of a view of an organisation like ours which publishes more than 100,000 words a day, the most important thing is consistency and adherence to a clear set of agreed rules. How well we achieve that is a story for another day…

    *Update from our Foreign Policy Editor, Paddy Smyth:

    ‘The paper’s  and the online edition’s house style on his name, used first in 1971  and then from 1981 consistently with some lapses, is Col Muammar Gadafy. This version, one of many acceptable uses, is based on a direct transliteration from the Arabic.’

  • Getting audiovisual content into’s election coverage

    February 15, 2011 @ 10:33 am | by Hugh Linehan

    You may have noticed that we’re using the election campaign as a testing ground for some new developments on As many of our users have pointed out, the site has been behind the curve when it comes to producing audiovisual content, along with exploring the full potential of social media tools such as Twitter and Audioboo. To that end, we’ve been producing daily podcasts and other audio since the start of the campaign, and we’ve been shooting some video, using smartphones and small, low-cost video cameras.

    ‘Where’s the spellcheck?’ Irish Times reporters get to grips with video.

     As we expected, it’s been a learning process for everyone involved, and we have a long way to go. But, as this report by Eanna Ó Caollaí shows, we are getting there… at least, I think so. What do you think?

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  • Who would play our political leaders in #GE11 – The Movie?

    February 8, 2011 @ 5:09 pm | by Hugh Linehan

    We’re all big Meryl Streep fans here in Tara St, so great excitement greeted today’s release of the first official portrait of Meryl as Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming adventure rom-com (it says here) The Iron Lady.

    An uncanny likeness, we’re sure you’ll agree. but it caused us to wonder: who might be the best casting choices for our own current crop of leaders?  Here’s our first suggestion, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

    We nominate:

    What are your suggestions?

  • Song for Enda: ‘A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no-one sittin’ there…’

    February 7, 2011 @ 7:07 pm | by Hugh Linehan

    Any excuse will do for a bit of Burt and Dusty around these parts, but the lyrics of ‘A House Is Not a Home’ do seem particularly apposite to the TV3 debate. Maybe Vincent could give us a few bars… ‘A room is still a room, even when there’s nothing there but gloom.’

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  • New Candidatewatch platform launches today

    February 4, 2011 @ 10:15 am | by Hugh Linehan

    It remains to be seen how much  ’social’ or ‘online’ or ‘new media’ or ‘digital channels’ or whatever you’re having yourself will actually influence the outcome of General Election 2011. But there’s no doubt that the parties and individual candidates are paying a lot more attention to the tools offered by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate directly with voters. In the case of the larger parties, this often seems driven as much by a desire to be seen as down with the kids as by any real understanding of the potential (and the pitfalls) of new media.

    In addition, a number of different online platforms are aiming to act as forums where voters can ask questions of candidates and track their answers over the course of the campaign. Some of these services appear to have been caught on the hop by the bringing forward of the election, and are struggling to get up and running in time to have an impact.

    Today sees the launch of Candidatewatch, perhaps the most ambitious of these services. Originally set up in Germany, it has already operated during elections there and in Austria, Luxembourg and Ireland (the European Parliament elections in 2009). According to its founder, Gregor Hackmack, the objective is not just to facilitate communication over the course of the campaign, but to operate an ongoing service.

    “We are planning to continue running the platform after the election,” says Hackmack. “This will enable voters to check whether the newly-elected TDs keep their campaign promises. Then, the questions of the electorate become yet more powerful.”

    In Germany, since 2005, over 100.000 questions have been submitted by voters to more than 15,000 candidates and elected representatives. More than 80 per cent of these questions received a response. In 2010 the site, which is run by the non-profit ParliamentWatch. had 2.5 million users.

    Check out Candidatewatch here and tell us what you think.

  • Caption Competition: Go Team Go!

    February 3, 2011 @ 2:24 pm | by Hugh Linehan

  • Is there a saboteur at work in Fine Gael?

    February 1, 2011 @ 9:46 pm | by Hugh Linehan

    I ask because it’s hard to think of any other explanation for the video below, from the party’s YouTube channel. If not, then I’d love to get some insight into the thought processes that culminated in this. er, tribute to the late John Barry’s James Bond scores… What were they thinking?
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    Perhaps the boys in blue should try to learn from this rather impressive video from fresh-faced Dublin South-East independent candidate Dylan Haskins, who (going by his website pics) appears to have recently arrived via time machine from the Leaving Cert class of 1981.
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