Monday, September 26, 2005

"Censorship" and "Accountability"

I was reading Mark Rittman's blog on "UKOUG, Oaktable and Blogging Confidentiality" as well Niall Litchfield's "Confidentiality and Blogging" and Tom Kyte's Off-Record entries and some of the comments made to those blog entries touched on the issues of "Accountability" and "Censorship" as it relates to publishers and authors.

Do you as a reader have a trust that the publisher will provide quality, correct and factual information on articles that they published? In the event of an opinion piece, that the publishers allows for the pros and cons debate to happen with minimal censorship? Minimal censorship in terms of editing/deleting comments that are personal attacks but keeping the contents relating to the debate intact. For example, the recent Burleson's article on "Undocumented Parameters to Supersize your SGA" led to very heated discussion between various folks including Tom Kyte, Jonathan Lewis, Don Burleson & Mike Ault amongst others. The article itself was edited a couple of times so that it is almost different from the original article but still "useless" (IMHO) BUT with no indications as to what was corrected/edited. Because SearchOracle did not provide a forum for discussing said article, Tom and others facilitate that by creating their own blog entries on the subject. This lead to a number of exchanges between various supporters of Burleson and Kyte which sometimes degenerated into personal attacks. Tom as a result subsequently get anonymous postings questioning his creditials and other childish nonsense.

Another similar incident involved Fabian Pascal (and others) and Curt Monash who writes for ComputerWorld. In this instance, ComputerWorld decided to let Monash's piece stand (although it apparently went through a rewrite ala Burleson) but remove all comments with a note from the editor which states
"This blog post has been edited. Additionally, this comment thread has been closed, in line with Computerworld's Terms of Service. Computerworld wants to foster a civil and respectful debate over important IT issues, but this thread has become too personal and not useful to Computerworld's audience of IT professionals. Certain comments may be reposted at a later date, but new comments will be disabled."
My understanding is that some of the comments have also been edited without the consent of the original posters which begats the question of "If and when comments are reposted, are these the original comments or have they been re-edited"?

Anyhow, do ComputerWorld not have the accountability and responsibility to ensure that a balanced perspective is provided instead of "censoring" the various opinions of folks? This is similar to Robert Freeman (a Burleson consultant) who decided to let a comment by his boss stand whereas a rebuttal to that comment was removed and thereby providing a skewed perspective. NB: If you are interested in taking a look, go to his site and do a search for "Evil".

Personally, there is a fine line and I would support "censorship" when it removes the garbage and keeps the relevant content and if this is identified in the Terms and Policies, there should not be any problems with posters. The other upside is that the removal of the non-relevant garbage will help with potential legal action from folks who are nursing bruised egos. The bottom line is still the need to identify that said article/posts have been edited and why. What bothered me about the approach that ComputerWorld took was that they edited the original article and left a note to that effect but you have no idea what was edited (just like Burleson's article) unless you have saved a copy of the original. The other thing was the censorship done which apparently left a skewered perspective on the debate generated. So much for freedom of speech.

NB: This entry was edited to correct grammar and typos - corrections are shown in non blocked italics and one addition added. *Blocked italics are quotes taken from other public sites or comments.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. The problem with censorship is that it is just that - censorship. I have no quibble with someone deleting posts that contain profanity, personal attacks or spam. But I don't like posts being removed simply because the publisher or blogger or whomever "didn't agree with them". That's plain hooey IMHO.
Computer World (and even Don) has every right to edit articles - what they DON'T have a right to do is mislead people as to what was changed and why.
Peter, you said " The article itself was edited a couple of times so that it is almost different from the original article..." - I would argue that "almost different" isn't correct - it is VASTLY different as that article no longer proposes what it did in the first place even if the title does. Personally, I'd like to see the egos get put aside (along with the rush to publish "cool" new stuff) and be replaced with research and responsibility. That's a win-win situation for all of us.
Oh, and just an aside - since you can blog about this, and I can comment on it, I think that freedom of speech is s

Bill S. said...

That first "anonymous" post is me - don't know what happened, I was logged in at the time I posted. Looks like my post got truncated too.
The last line should read:

Oh, and just an aside - since you can blog about this, and I can comment on it, I think that freedom of speech is still kicking - but we have to keep an eye on it.

:-D

Peter K said...

bill s. said...
Oh, and just an aside - since you can blog about this, and I can comment on it, I think that freedom of speech is still kicking - but we have to keep an eye on it.


Well, yes but that's because you and I do not feel the need to censor :)

I'm not complaining about the right to edit (they do have the right after all, it's their article) but do it properly. I was being polite about the "almost different" component :)

Bill S. said...

I'm not complaining about the right to edit (they do have the right after all, it's their article) but do it properly.

:-p

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Peter

Yes, lets talk about accountability. Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but you are an anonymous entity without any identifiable ACCOUNTABILITY or any background to lend you CREDIBILITY.

I apologise in advance if I missed your last name or anything that indicates that anyone should lend credence to your words.

For all we know, you are some 12 year old girl playing on Mummy's computer.

Peter K said...

Anonymous said...

Peter

Yes, lets talk about accountability. Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but you are an anonymous entity without any identifiable ACCOUNTABILITY or any background to lend you CREDIBILITY.


Thank you for your comment. First using your logic, I should not even give you credibility since you are anonymous so your comment wouldn't make any sense.

I apologise in advance if I missed your last name or anything that indicates that anyone should lend credence to your words.

For all we know, you are some 12 year old girl playing on Mummy's computer.


No, you didn't miss my last name as that's not published but you could take a stab at guessing by perusing this blog's URL but then I don't know how smart you at figuring things out so that might not help either. You can also choose to email me but then that's no guarantee that my email address is real, right? You were on this blog entry for over an hour so I guessed something in the entry must interest you or is it something else?

:D

No, you didn't

DaPi said...

For all we know, you are some 12 year old girl playing on Mummy's computer.

Good for her! More power to her elbow.

Certainly beats a load of hot air from a bunch of middle-aged men with an agenda.

Bill S. said...

Well, will you look at that - another anonymous post by, erm, "someone". Someone should also let "anonymous" here know that, while you can go back a remove a post you've made with a blogger id, you *can't* remove an anonymous post. ;-D
Additionally, even if Peter was "anonymous", so what? If what Peter has to say is relevant and factual what difference does it make? He either has a valid point or not - and being "anonymous" doesn't make the point any more (or less) valid.

Peter K said...

Thanks Dapi & Bill.

Another point that I didn't make was that I can publish under a name and have a picture with my profile BUT that still doesn't prove that I am who I say I am.

Right now, I don't consider myself to be anonymous as I know who I am and so do a bunch of others :D

At least I can distinguish myself from the other "anonymous" posters

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

The censorship story that Pascal and friends have been spreading is largely fabricated. I've addressed it as www.dbms2.com (I no longer blog at Computerworld).

There's also a post in the same blog about the TransRelational(TM) nonsense that you might find interesting.

Curt Monash

Peter K said...

Curt,
Thanks for posting a response. From what I've read regarding your piece on ComputerWorld, I understand that you do not have the authority nor the powers to edit comments and as the note left by one of the editors at ComputerWorld, it was them who made that decision.