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.