On Wednesday, I completed something of a political anorak’s pilgrimage, namely going to see Prime Minister’s Questions. The opportunity to see the Commons (and by extension, our political system) in action tends to have a certain draw, particularly when it involves the most successful politicians debate.

There are only two points to make in this post: firstly, to say how incredibly helpful everyone is there. Secondly, it’s quite odd to see how open our system is. Although there is an inevitable heavy police presence, after one airport-style security check (albeit faster and friendlier) you can wander through to the Central Lobby and, in theory, lobby your MP to vote a particular way should they walk past.

The sheer openness of Parliament is both surprising and very reassuring. While it’s quite easy to get worked up about how politics works and its tendency towards partisanship (something I’ve often done myself), Parliament is a reminder that our democracy is very much alive and well.

iPad Mini Predictions

Today’s the day for Apple’s October press event. The received wisdom is that the major announcement will be an iPad mini to compete with Amazon’s Kindle.

I actually really want this to be false. As useful as it would be for Apple, my own “please release this”-request would have to be an Apple television. This is only partly because I want to see what other industries Apple can change. It’s also because I want to see a genuine surprise announcement. Far too many of Apple’s recent announcements have been ruined by leaks, such as the new iPad and the iPhone 5. It would be good to see some of the famous Apple secrecy pay off again.

Twitter Rumours: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Anyone visiting the Daily Mail website this morning will have been greeted by a headline similar to that of their printed edition:

Daily Mail headline: Newsnight boss quits

Unfortunately, last night the Newsnight Twitter feed begged to differ:

This is becoming something of a problem for news organisations. Twitter seems to have a head-start on every story, so it’s natural for journalists to try and pick-up leads from it. Twitter is also a good source for a vast number of false stories, rumours, gossip, and general mischief.

I have no doubt that separating fact and fiction on Twitter is incredibly difficult, but the error is likely to create new problems. Assuming the official Newsnight tweet is correct, the Mail will almost certainly have to publish a correction – quite possibly a small paragraph at the bottom of a page. Undoing the damage caused by an incorrect headline is considerably more difficult than determining the veracity of a tweet, as many people will assume the statement is true without looking at detailed corrections the following day.

All this assumes that the Newsnight tweet is indeed accurate, but it is worth noting that there is no mention of Peter Rippon’s resignation on the BBC News site, despite their extensive coverage of the Saville complaints. The contradiction suggests that somebody somewhere will have to correct themselves, but it is unclear how they will do so or how clearly the statement could be retracted.

UPDATE: And sure enough, Peter Rippon has now stepped aside, proving the Mail correct. I’ll leave the above intact anyway – I should have given much more credit to the Mail for sourcing things properly. Apologies.

The more general point about Twitter still stands: it is very easy for a story to spin completely out of control. If anything, Newsnight’s own tweet denying the story is evidence of this, as I’m not the only one who presumed the Newsnight denial was the correct version of events.

Version 5

You might have noticed that the layout has changed a bit. Over the last few days I’ve developed a new theme for the site to take advantage of some of WordPress’s more integrated features, in particular the wonderful JetPack plugin.

You’ll notice the comments system has changed a little (I’ve abandoned IntenseDebate for now), and there should be a much wider variety of things posted here. URLs are also much cleaner, and only rely on the post title rather than the category (although the old links should still work).

Let me know what you think. If people like this theme enough, I might well release it as a proper theme on, although the code itself needs some tidying.

(Photo: Stepper Point in Cornwall at sunset)