It's The Conversation That Matters

from the join-it dept

A few weeks ago I ended up having a back and forth email conversation with an IP lawyer who… well… disagrees with me on a lot of things. He seemed particularly upset that I didn’t go around and ask the experts or go into great detail researching minute side points on what I was writing about (even if those side points had nothing to do with the focus of the story). I explained back to him the same thing I recently explained at The State of the Net conference: Techdirt is not a journalistic endeavor. It’s a conversation where I fully expect to get more out of the discussion in the comments and on other sites, than from anything I write personally. That doesn’t mean we don’t take facts seriously. Getting the story right is important, and we do research the key points concerning what we are discussing, but the useful thing about having this community of smart folks around is that if something is incorrect or if someone disagrees with me, they’ll let us know — and we all learn from it. It’s great. The lawyer responded that he was “shocked” and told me that it was my obligation to carefully research every last detail before publishing anything or I had failed to live up to my “obligations.”

That’s why it’s great to see this post by Fred Wilson, discussing the value he gets out of his blog being a giant (brilliant) discussion. In fact, he talks about how he views it as a forum. He even notes how he got trashed in a recent discussion because he didn’t get some of the facts right. But that’s part of the benefit of a conversation. If I’m talking to someone about an interesting topic, I don’t spend hours researching the topic, I bring up what I’ve heard, express my opinion, and expect them to be able to add to the conversation — even if it includes correcting factual inaccuracies. Like Fred, that’s part of what’s so valuable about a community like Fred has built around his site, or that we’ve gathered here on Techdirt.

Yet, there are still people in the world, like the lawyer above, who fail to understand this. And that includes newspaper publishers as well — who are so focused on some artificial standard of publishing, that they forget the community part. You can see it in the comments on this post, where an old school newspaper guy lashes out at bloggers and journalists who blog without living up to some mythological standard. As I’ve said before, it’s the community that’s the most valuable asset of any news organization — and part of engaging with that community is recognizing that they have a lot to add to the conversation — and that means letting them in on the overall thought process. It’s not just about delivering them a final work. Getting things right is important — and I work hard to make sure that what I write is accurate. But I’m confident that if I get something wrong, the community here is quick to step up with a correction (and sometimes an insult) — and we all learn from it. And that’s what makes the conversation worthwhile.

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Comments on “It's The Conversation That Matters”

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38 Comments
Jon says:

Please clarify this statement..

As I’ve said before, it’s the community that’s the most valuable asset of any news organization — and part of engaging with that community is recognizing that they have a lot to add to the conversation — and not that means letting them in on the overall thought process.

Specifically “and not that means letting them in on the overall thought process.”

Zombie Blog is blog zombie says:

Re: Re: Please clarify this statement..

Imagine walking down the Information Superhighway and there’s a zombie blog plunked on a corner. It gazes emptily at the passing traffic, while making strange grunting noises about recording devices, bans on video games, and piracy.

You watch it from across the street and see that occasionally, it will snatch up some users and feed them to another story. Someday, it will come to life, but when it does, it sadly announces that it can’t quite get his head around the news of the day. It sees temptation, and by eating others brains, throws in the towel, and changes the subject with a new article to get more zombies.

Ken says:

2 Way street

The standard has always been a one way street, the media reports and the public reads, politicians pontificate and the voters listen. This community of readers/listeners now have a method for responding to the publishers and politicians and this truly frightens the curmudgeons.

The following is the important thing, without it, you have a tree falling in the forest.

Mr. Isaacson’s micropayment idea is a prime example of a way to kill the follower.
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090217/0248493795.shtml

Democracy is based on a civil discussion, not an oration.

lostalaska says:

It seems to me that a lot of the “official” news agencies out there don’t do the degree of due diligence in the research of their topics that the lawyer was expecting of you.

I use these kinds of sites as a spring board for information. On the topics I’m interested in I’ll usually at a bare minimum scan the comments for any enlightened views, and and then go digging into other sites for more info.

Nitpicking…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Correction

You said it a community process agreed, but when you find any inaccuracy and mistake in you writing and a community member points it out via a comment. Do you go ahead and correct it. If you do, then I will agree with your contention.

Yes, in most cases. In very minor cases, where the correction is incidental to the overall story, we may not make a correction. However, we quite often will update stories with correction.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Techdirt is not a journalistic endeavor. It’s a conversation where I fully expect to get more out of the discussion in the comments and on other sites, than from anything I write personally. That doesn’t mean we don’t take facts seriously. Getting the story right is important,…”

It never seems like much of a discussion to me – usually ou take some extreme point of view and slag off everyone who doesn’t agree. And what about those facts – are you trying to get them right as you would if this was a journalistic endeavor or not ? or are you trying to establish only “facts” that you want to agree with ?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:


It never seems like much of a discussion to me – usually ou take some extreme point of view and slag off everyone who doesn’t agree. And what about those facts – are you trying to get them right as you would if this was a journalistic endeavor or not ? or are you trying to establish only “facts” that you want to agree with ?

Hmm. I find that to be quite a bit unfair. I learn quite a bit in discussions in the comments, with plenty of people raising interesting points and folks here debating them. There are a few folks who like to take anonymous potshots at me, but I don’t “slag off” those who disagree with me.

And I quite often will discuss stories that disagree with my positions on things. Those are the most interesting of all.

As I’ve said in the past, my positions in discussing these things have been heavily impacted by the conversations held here in the comments. My positions have certainly changed over the years as people present counter arguments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Kenneth Chenault went to the same Law School with President Barack Obama. Jamie Dimon understands what’s going on.

Vikram Pandit has to clean up Charles Prince’s mess, but continues to put more faith in computerized models.

See:
http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=vikram+pandit&hl=en&emb=0&aq=f#

Bullshit like this makes me cry:

I especially enjoyed 28:00 mark of the video. It’s quite
interesting though- that they saw a need to start de-leveraging last year. Being an ex-Citibank customer, with a 100k/yr income, Citi stripped away my ability to produce when they sent me to collections. Over the course of two months, I moved to another state to start a new career, had a mother come down with Breast Cancer, had an old friend from College move 1,300 miles from home on the promise that I would allow them to start a new life and move in.

Things were great until I was layed off from AT&T Mobility and Citibank sent me to collections for not making payments on their fancy AT&T Universal card, a card which I requested them to direct-debit from, and they told me “Don’t worry”. But, as things progressed, I was let go as a result of the AT&T BellSouth merger, and little did I know that I needed to worry about my $25.00 payment being posted; as the original request, when my life was already in disarray was never honored.

I had a lot of things going on, too many, actually. But out of it, I expected the company bearing the logo on the credit card I worked for to cut me a little slack. Boy was I wrong. I received none, actually.

The stress from work with trees falling down on my house, inability to have heat, and just life in general precluded.

A week later, I was informed that I was to be let go, and it came out after I left, calls from collections agents representing Citibank called my employer demanding my whereabouts and indicating to my boss that I was in “litigation” and needed to contact them immediately. Their callous calls essentially lost me my job– by making false statements to the HR department and my boss, they had to make a decision.

Understand that when I tried to remedy the problem, Citi flat out refused to talk to me, (I have telephone recordings) and instead referred me to the collections company who wouldn’t accept anything but a “Full Call” on my debt. Sure it was small beans in the whole scope of things- $7,000.00 and something I could have worked out in a few months *IF I had a job*, but Citibank collectors were absolutely fantastic in their ability to intimidate and keep me unemployed.

All the while, I tried to remain positive (with my Mom going through Cancer Treatments and all) and I tried to find a win-win situation that would suit us all. The collection agents at Citibank continued to run a credit report every month in an attempt to find out where I work, (as running credit is standard HR process for most employers) and also contacted 3rd parties which I understand is quite illegal under FDCPA.

The end result was my ability to produce a work product, and my means of production was fully stripped from me. I could have paid the whole thing off in 2 months, but their treatment paths were absolutely astonishing– I was asked to make full payment in 3 days.

At the end of the day, Citibank, a Zombie Bank in 2007, singlehandedly pushed me into Chapter 7.

I enjoy working, and the inability to work, or fear that the collection agency would call my new boss drove me crazy, but I couldn’t stand hiding from the ghost. AMEX and JPMorgan (Whom I had no problems with). Vikram Pandit doesn’t understand, and needs to go. Once I got over the dramatic overtones of Chapter 7 it was liberating.

I suppose there’s a real simple answer to all of this: By putting more value into their computer models, call paths, treatment flows and decision support systems over personal conversation and empowering call agents to make a decision, I could tell when I contacted them that they lacked the ability to amicably remedy the problem.

I’ve shared this same story with the wonderful people at AMEX and JPMorgan, and they helped me out, much more than I could have ever expected. But Citibank… wow.

Simple fact is, as long as Citi continues to downsize and put more value in their decision support systems, they will never be able to be empowered to be a good bank.

Citi is a Zombie Bank.

leva vation says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Finally something Mike and I can agree on....

Raivo Pommer
raimo1@hot.ee

Rumenien ja Lettlands geld

Die Reaktion fiel gelassen aus. Obgleich nach Ungarn und Lettland mit Rumänien nun der dritte osteuropäische EU-Mitgliedstaat die Europäische Kommission in Zahlungsschwierigkeiten geraten ist und um Hilfe gebeten hat, zeigen die Finanzmärkte nur verhaltene Reaktionen.

Die Landeswährung Leu wertet zwar um 0,8 Prozent auf 4,3077 Leu je Euro ab, doch ist sie damit immer noch unter dem Tief von Anfang Februar bei 4,3614 Leu. Die Kurse der rumänischen Staatsanleihen gaben immerhin leicht nach.

R. Miles says:

Despite this conversation being dead now...

and we all learn from it.
Is this before, or after, you criticize someone for voicing a disagreement?

Plenty of times, I see replies to comments trying to convince (educate?) rather than to understand the point of the disagreement.

When you say “we all”, this should include Techdirt authors, but it doesn’t seem this way.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

IP abuse

Total agreement again, Michael (this is getting to be a habit)!
I am a patent attorney/IP attorney, and you are totally right. The idea that everything has to be minutely detailed is the underlying cause of the IP mess we are in now – large companies WANT huge amounts of minutia – it makes IP cases too expensive, and they can get away with bad patents.
I believe in IP, but not the way it is traditionally done in the US today.

Ed says:

Techdirt vs. Journalism

Techdirt is not Journalism. Mike gathers what facts he can, reaches a conclusion, and writes about his conclusion. Sounds like an editorial to me, not news reporting. But then he takes it a step further, he joins the discussion. All he asks is a reasoned argument, and if you disagree with the facts, produce your own citations/facts which dispute his conclusion. Don’t just say “You’re an idiot, go check the facts.”

What is actually much more disheartening, is what passes for Journalism. Most news these days is either opinion pieces masquerading as news, reprinted press releases, or fear mongering to up ratings/readership. On top of it all, is sloppy editing, resulting in many local articles sounding like junior high school English papers. It is increasing hard to find reality in news. Of these problems, I find fear mongering the worst. Watch any prime time show, on a channel with news on later. You are bombarded with “Are local restaurants safe?” “Are we being cheated out of money by…..” “Are local hospitals killing us?” Tune in to the eleven o’clock news. If this is journalism, I will take Techdirt any day.

Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him?

raivo pommer says:

Raivo Pommer
raimo1@hot.ee

Rumenien ja Lettlands geld

Die Reaktion fiel gelassen aus. Obgleich nach Ungarn und Lettland mit Rumänien nun der dritte osteuropäische EU-Mitgliedstaat die Europäische Kommission in Zahlungsschwierigkeiten geraten ist und um Hilfe gebeten hat, zeigen die Finanzmärkte nur verhaltene Reaktionen.

Die Landeswährung Leu wertet zwar um 0,8 Prozent auf 4,3077 Leu je Euro ab, doch ist sie damit immer noch unter dem Tief von Anfang Februar bei 4,3614 Leu. Die Kurse der rumänischen Staatsanleihen gaben immerhin leicht nach.

raivo pommer says:

raivo pommer-www.google.ee
raimo1@hot.ee

BLIND MONEY

The absolutism of the key tenets of neo-liberalism: privatisation, deregulation, balanced budgets have all been rejected by all but the most dogmatic. Apart from one that is: the primacy of free trade.

Its status is basically sacrosanct. While banks are being nationalized, bonuses recalled, and trillions of dollars of debt racked up, while pretty much every other concept, belief or ideal is being interrogated, contorted or just set aside, “Free trade is good” continues to be presented as a totemic truth, ring-fenced from debate or interrogation. Any questioning of this axiom is not even on the G-20’s agenda.

In fact the Free Trade brigade, which encompasses most mainstream politicians, business leaders, and thinkers — outside of France that is — seems to be on evangelical overdrive. “The solution to the crisis is more free trade,” says Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming announces that Beijing is “firmly opposed to trade protectionism,” a sentiment often echoed by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressly warns against abandoning “the gospel of free trade.”

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