Fact Checking My Own Ass

Google alerted me to MarketWatch’s Bloggers won’t keep a secret article where my mis-quote of Dan Gillmor got a mention.

Some bloggers are almost proud of making a mistake. It gives them a chance to make a correction and appear oh, so humble and honest. Garrick Van Buren, who blogged about a showing of “Blogumentary” at the University of Minnesota last week, made a typo in his report of the event. He wrote that Dan Gillmor, author of “We the Media,” said blogs are “an early and still cruel tool,” but that things would change. What the author really said, Gillmor wrote in an e-mail to Van Buren and me, was “crude.” Certainly more in keeping with Gillmor’s view of the future of blogging.

This paragraph brings out the core difference between internet publishing (or weblogs) and traditional newspaper, book, or magazine publishing, or any kind of big media publishing.

Traditional publishing is hard, expensive, and time-consuming. It costs piles of money for press time and distribution. Because of that, publishers need to make sure everything is juuuust right – so, there’s layers of proof-readers, editors, typesetters, and other QA people between the author and the reader. Each layer adding more money to the pile, compounding the problem.

When mistakes are made, typographical or otherwise, it might be found in the ‘Corrections’ section of some future issue. Here in the dub-dub-dub, each story is a living breathing, growing entity with links, comments, corrections, additions, all inline and all published immediately and transparently. Operating under Joy’s Laws states (“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”). Bloggers and readers alike aren’t just fact checking the ass of traditional media, they’re fact checking their own ass.

Pick any post at slashdot or 37 Signals’ Signal vs Noise to see this on a huge scale. This is also why Wikipedia has the most comprehensive coverage of anything in a single site.

In the Dan Gillmore quote, I could have quietly swapped “crude” out for “cruel”. Doing so felt a little too 1984 Memory Hole-esque. Instead, showing both the correction and Dan’s message inline seemed more transparent, and yes, honest to you.

Plus, if I made the change quietly, the section in the MarketWatch article wouldn’t have existed.

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