Last Thursday night, I was particularly surprised to see a BBC interview with web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, where it made it sound like he was worried about all the "bad things" the web had allowed
. I wrote up a post wondering when TimBL switched from technology optimist to technology curmudgeon, blaming technology rather than the way people use it. I held the post overnight, in part because it sounded so unlike Tim, and I wanted to see if there was more to the story. The next day, when it was announced that he was really just discussing a new program to study web use
and how it effects people, it became pretty clear that the original quotes had been taken way out of context to turn it into a story about how Tim is worried about the "monster" he created. Of course, that didn't stop plenty of others, including the Guardian from writing up articles suggesting that Tim feared the technology
. I ended up ditching the original post I wrote up, figuring it wasn't worth discussing, but the response to those articles actually is worth discussing.
Tim quickly responded on his own blog to point out that his comments were taken out of context and twisted around
to make a good story, rather than an accurate one. So how do the publications respond? The author of the Guardian piece has put up a blog post basically admitting that he made a mistake -- but that none of the comments were falsified
and that he'll wait for the paper's ombudsman to rule on whether or not the article was fair. In many ways, this highlights (in unexpected ways) exactly TimBL's point: the technology certainly can be used in questionable ways (whether on purpose or not), but the great thing is that the technology is equally available as a way to respond. He probably just didn't expect that it would happen concerning his own story trying to make that point.