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July 16, 2009

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I'm not a blogger, but just general gut feelings tell me that I leave the original up and explain afterwards, when the feeling hits me, why it was in error, a mistake, a massive brainfart. An update admitting such shouldn't freak anyone out. Though it will probably, and I apologize for that.

See, it clearly freaked someone out. This is the danger.

I think it's an emergent Philip K. Dick AI.

This is an advantage of having a smaller audience: I can pull a post well after the fact, and still only have a handful of people see it. As a matter of fact, I think I've only ever pulled one post, because it said something snippy and unkind about a person I greatly admire--it took me awhile to realize that it should not have been posted (it helps my conscience that I don't think the target, or any of the target's close friends would have ever read the post). I admit that pulling the post may have been acting poorly, but sometimes there's no way to avoid a second sin after you've committed the first.

As for changes of phrasing, or sentences that are missing a single word, I think they can be changed at any point up until they've been quoted by a commenter or someone linking to you. Even then, I think it would only matter when it affects the content of the point.

I think Eric Burns had a fair amount to say about general principles on Websnark - Channel Markers has a number of pieces of advice, with Sing a Song of Boing Boing: A Cautionary Tale expanding on a particular point. Nothing about time limits, though.

I think the general problem with it, from a reader/comentor perspective, is that you might read the post, respond on the basis of what you read, and end up looking like an idiot to people who read your comment in the context of the amended post. This, whether you comment before or after the change; I don't generally re-read the post before every comment, after all, and I doubt many other people do.

That's why strikeouts are preferable, they make it clear that something has changed, and what it was before.

Just deleting posts, of course, doesn't have this risk, though it can involve people wasting their time responding to posts, and then getting their comments deleted along with the post.

I personally use the 10-15 minute window myself for correcting grammar errors (I don't generally bother with spelling errors unless the misspelling changes the meaning of the post), though that's not any formal rule I've come across.

I've never entirely pulled a post, even if it is stupid. I'll just agree with the commentors who call me on it. We're all stupid sometimes.

I think spelling edits and nonsubstantive edits of any kind should be freely done at any time if no one has quted or misunderstood the content. If there are substantive factual errors, they should be corrected in a way that lets readers know of the change. Other errors can be deleted with explanation.

Publius, I would adopt the FOX strategy:

announce the news of your screw-up, but place an (R) next to your name at the bottom of the post, so everyone knows from whence came the pernicious influence.

New house bill makes private health insurance illegal (but you can keep what you have until it is not offered anymore. Whoop de doo.)

details here

Told ya so.

My current policy is:

Within 10 minutes or so: Typo corrections and wordsmithing allowed, but no substantive changes.

After that: Any correction or change has to be somehow acknowledged (even it's simply by writing "UPDATE: Some typos corrected" at the end of the post).

Posts don't get deleted.

There is also an incentive for employers to terminate their existing plans. The penalty for doing so is that they'll have to pay up to 8% of a person's wages into the public plan. Since most private plans already cost more than 8% of wages there is an incentive to terminate the plans and push employees over to the public plan.

My bookkeeper earns $50,000. I pay $9.600 for her health insurance. That's 19.2%!

Ding! The law kills the private insurance market. Okay, fine. Who cares about insurance companies anyway.

But how can the government plan do it for 8%? Especially when we hear that healthcare is 15% of our economy (I know that comparison is a little 'apples to oranges'). They can't, simple as that.

They say they'll save money by being more efficient and cramming down costs with lower reimbursements. But half? Can they save half? I think that is unlikely.

In the end, after they kill the private alternatives and we're stuck, they'll just increase the tax on the wealthy to pay for it. Yippee. Who cares about the rich anyway?

Unintended consequence. The rich will invest less hence the number of jobs will decrease hence federal revenues will decrease...blah blah blah. But who cares anyway, right?

I want to thank Robin Z. Those were two truly wise, insightful, and correct, essays Robin linked to at Websnark, and I'd never even heard of Websnark before. Great stuff. Everyone who has ever written a word on the internet, or, for that matter, anywhere, should read this one in particular.

The other is also great, but more limited to blogging in particular.

I particularly love the section of "Channel markers" that begins "Support your thesis. It's easy to write 'the webcomic Anime Treacle sucks donkey.'"

Everyone should read the rest. Some folks in particular. Because it explains why they constantly make themselves look stupid. (I'm so tempted to just cut and paste that whole section here, but I think that might be a bit much. So go read it!)

Ok, I cheated, and quoted that relevant small part here, because I'm a blogger, and we can do that! Yay for blogging!

Thanks again, Robin!

i agree with Sapient's 9:01.

in addition, i reserve the right to do anything i want to posts which have neither been commented-on nor linked-to.

I don't suppose it would help, d'd'd'dave, to explain that the owner/editor of "Investor's Business Daily" is quite insane, and this has been perfectly obvious for many years.

I don't think I've ever pulled a post, except for the handful of times when I've inadvertently posted the same post twice, and pulled one of them. So I've never thought about that. I give myself about a ten minute window for modifications, generally minor (major ones get an UPDATE). The one exception is when someone points something out to me in comments that is typo-like and a possible source of confusion, in which case (if it's within a larger window whose exact parameters are unclear to me) change it and then say "thanks -- I fixed it" (or something) in comments. (I can recall having done this when I screwed up someone's name by accident, when I somehow screwed up a negative so that I said the exact opposite of what I meant, etc.)

I have no idea how I came up with these rules, or if they're right.

Also, d'd'd'dave, wtf do your comments have to do with the subject of this thread?

Other than to arguably demonstrate that you are, perhaps, violating blogger ethics by attempting to derail a particular topic.

von: "After that: Any correction or change has to be somehow acknowledged (even it's simply by writing 'UPDATE: Some typos corrected" at the end of the post).'"

I can't strongly enough urge people that I think they should append a time-stamp to any such updates. Time and time again that information is crucial to understanding what's going on. Did you make that change only three minutes later? Or did you make it after six hours of eighty comments beating your head in about it?

It makes a huge difference in what I think of what you've done to know what time you did it at, and how long it took you, and therefore for me to have a clue as to what was involved and what you did and didn't know, and reasonably could and couldn't know.

And when people conceal that information, purely unthinkingly, or not, it drastically lowers both my ability to understand what's happened, and my trust in them.

Unintended consequence. The rich will invest less hence the number of jobs will decrease hence federal revenues will decrease...blah blah blah. But who cares anyway, right?

Sorry, I really do get so sick of this nonsense. If wealth distribution slides so that the rich have less to invest, it just means that more people in the middle class have enough financial resources to pick up the investment (and the entrepreneurial, and the innovative) slack, and there are also more people who have enough money to buy those new innovative products and services to make those new small businesses profitable. At least, that was Adam Smith's vision.

If you think financial problems could be solved if only rich people had more money, why not just argue in favor of straight feudalism and have done with it already?

Hilzoy, if you possibly have a moment, might it be possible for you to find the comment that I made on this thread last night that Typepad ate, and post it: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2009/07/cancel-the-f22.html

If so, thanks! If not, not a big deal; it's just frustrating.

Also, d'd'd'dave, wtf do your comments have to do with the subject of this thread?

I thought publius declared this an open thread on this topic or whatever in his last sentence?

Gary: Also, d'd'd'dave, wtf do your comments have to do with the subject of this thread?

Other than to arguably demonstrate that you are, perhaps, violating blogger ethics by attempting to derail a particular topic.

*****

It's an open thread, topic = "whatev's" (according to Publius, who posted it).

Ah, my comment is back, at July 15, 2009 at 10:18 PM on the "Cancel The F-22" thread. Thanks, Hilzoy, or whomever!

I sure appreciate Gary Farber's contributions.

Gary: done before I saw this. ;) I just came back to add: in my previous comment, I was not thinking of cases in which some post of mine really had to be pulled for non-embarrassment-related reasons. Say I inadvertently gave out information on troop movements, for example, or something. The one time I can think of that I've done something like this was soon after I joined the Monthly, when I wrote a piece on Michele Bachmann that said, at the end: she does not belong in Congress. Some hours later, I got emails from the Monthly saying: yikes! We are a nonprofit! We don't get to endorse or anti-endorse people! So I deleted that sentence.

"It's an open thread, topic = 'whatev's' (according to Publius, who posted it)."

Oh, okay. In that case, here's another of my views on blogger ethics: people should either make posts about a topic, if it's worth discussing, or posts that are open threads, but not try to combine the two.

If the topic is worth discussing, throwing in endless other topics just really gets in the way of the initial topic. (This is not to say I oppose natural thread drift, which is an entirely different beast in my view; I can expand on this argument if asked.)

And if you want an open thread, it's not exactly hard to just post something frivolous and totally not going to start a serious discussion, and declare it an open thread.

Trying to combine a serious topic with "open thread, too!" is like trying to smother your steak with whipped cream. Pick one or the other, please.

Also, always preview, and close your goddamn italics tags.

"The rich will invest less"

No, they won't.

Next topic.

If you post something and then realize it was a blundering exercise in boneheadedness, strike out the dumb part and add an update that says "Never mind".

We will call it the Litella exemption.

I'm lucky. I don't work for anyone, so I can say Michele Bachmann does not belong in congress. Nor should she be allowed around machinery, fireworks, ovens and small children.

hilzoy, i think your bachmann case shows that being a blogger in the sense of "running your own self-publishing on your own web-site" is really a different sort of thing from being a blogger in the sense of "writing a column for an established newspaper/magazine/institute".

it may even be a shame that we use the same words. what dan froomkin, e.g., was doing for the washington post seems to me to fall under very different rules than what susie the anime fan or freddy the dirt-bike enthusiast are doing when they post their thought on their own web-pages.

i just mean, as your bachmann story shows, that the "blogger" who is not a solo enterprise is involved in a much wider web of responsibilities, reputations, agency-law, etc.

so that, ethically, it's a different kettle of fish.

As long as you are writing in good faith, you should never be afraid or embarrassed to be wrong.

i'll get that.

"hilzoy, i think your bachmann case shows that being a blogger in the sense of 'running your own self-publishing on your own web-site' is really a different sort of thing from being a blogger in the sense of 'writing a column for an established newspaper/magazine/institute'."

I think it also shows that the Washington Monthly was lacking in not sending you a style guide pointing out, you know, the elements of their style guide.

This is about as basic a thing as a professional publication has to do. If there are rules you wanted followed, clue one is to tell people about them.

And not just after the fact. That was their screw-up, not yours. You're not a mind-reader. (You have many admirable qualities, but I'm reasonably sure that's not one of them.)

kb: "it may even be a shame that we use the same words."

Blogging is a format; it's not a set of uniform practices, and neither should it be. Blogs vary in type and purpose; film at 11.

I agree kth. Isn't the question here about how to address it, though? Type UPDATE, put a time on it, explain the change and the reasons behind it. Done.

UPDATE: July 16, at 11:52, Althouse said I was a dick, so I renounce my comment.

My general view is that spelling typos and minor grammar errors can be corrected without comment if they don't cause a substantive change. Word rearranging only in the first 10 minutes or so. After that updates.

"Blogging is a format; it's not a set of uniform practices, and neither should it be. Blogs vary in type and purpose; film at 11."

yeah, maybe. but then that would just be an argument that this entire discussion is ill-conceived. there won't be much value in talking about "blogger ethics" if there is no fairly determinate set of practices called "blogging".

i mean, there's really not much you can say about "rules for driving" if you are going to include both hitting a golf-ball and operating a motor vehicle in the scope of "driving".

i assumed we were using "blogger" to mean, roughly, self-published independent. (a.k.a., basement-dwelling cheeto-eater).

in that sense, we can discuss what are good ethical rules for those people to follow.

hilzoy introduced an anecdote from what i take to be an entirely different endeavour, namely writing a column for an established non-profit corporation which has to follow laws related to its status.

was she acting as a "blogger" when she wrote for them? sure, why not; most usage would grant that she was blogging.

but if we extend the word to cover both kinds of cases, when they involve fundamentally different ethical situations (i.e. unfettered personal expression vs. working within legal and institutional constraints), then nothing good is going to result for our discussion of "blogger ethics". just unclarity.

so i guess i'm saying, don't expect your ideas about blogger ethics to be any clearer than your ideas about bloggers are. if you throw in lots of different things into the blogger pot, you'll get mess on the ethics front. if you want to be able to say clear things about the ethics, then start by dividing up the "bloggers" into the ethically relevant subspecies.

I try to never pull a post. The post goes out via RSS the minute you click publish, so a small but influential group of readers can still read the post even after it has been taken down. If you have to take it down, it should be acknowledged somehow.

I'm not sure if you're agree or disagree with my approach in your 10:45 a.m. comment, Gary. It may be that I should have been clearer.

I agree that if you make a substantive change, you've got to acknowledge when and why you did it. Indeed, I'm a big fan of "UPDATES" rather than corrections in that case.

My point is that, after a 10-15 minute or so window, I think that even purely typographical changes should be acknowledged with at least an update (and maybe more, depending on whether folks quoted the typo.) I do that just in case someone quoted the original typo without me noticing it -- there's at least a explanation on the front page re: why the quote might have changed slightly.

It certainly hasn't been my practice that, in every case in which I (say) changed an "its" to an "it's" and added "Update: Some typos fixed" I have also given a date/timestamp. Maybe I should have, but it seems like such a minor issue.

The underlying software could really help with these issues. If blogs were just a tad bit more wiki-like, bloggers could edit their posts sans guilt. Even minor typographical edits would be clearly marked in an article's history. Deleted articles might at first show up as an automated notice "the author has deleted this article because it was dumb, but if you're really curious you can see the original text".

Gary: "I don't suppose it would help, d'd'd'dave, to explain that the owner/editor of "Investor's Business Daily" is quite insane, and this has been perfectly obvious for many years."

Even an insane person can make a quotation from a law and be correct.

Russell re:The rich will invest less: "No, they won't."

Declaring it so does not make it so. First, they will have less to invest. That alone will make it so. Second, the after-tax rate of return on their investments will decrease while the risk will remain constant. This is an incentive to disinvest and wait until all values settle to a point where an acceptable risk to reward ratio reappears. That will occur when businesses cost less in relation to their after-tax profits or when after-tax profits rise in relation to the cost of a business.

Gary Farber: You're welcome!

Actually, I'd probably add to the list of rules one about references:

1. When a reference is to a work available on the Internet (e.g. blog post, NY Times article), a link of the most permanent kind feasible should be included.

2. Whenever a reference is used, the text should describe it in sufficient detail for an average viewer to find it. Even when there is a link - URL formats get changed, articles are taken offline, web hosts get changed, etc.; just because a link works today doesn't mean it will continue working.

"yeah, maybe. but then that would just be an argument that this entire discussion is ill-conceived."

No, not at all. My unstated opinion is that we've largely been talking about how "blogs like Obsidian Wings" should operate, with the usual digressions wherever the conversation might take us.

By "blogs like ObWi," I loosely mean "blogs done independently, by individuals or groups of individuals, for their own pleasure and purposes," rather than, say, a blog representing a company, or a blog by a paid journalist on a professional journalism site, or a blog done primarily to sell a product, or any of the considerable number of other types of blogs that are out there.

Von: "I'm not sure if you're agree or disagree with my approach in your 10:45 a.m. comment, Gary."

Agree; I was just adding an additional point, as usual, in this case as regards the importance of time-stamping updates.

"It certainly hasn't been my practice that, in every case in which I (say) changed an "its" to an 'it's' and added 'Update: Some typos fixed' I have also given a date/timestamp. Maybe I should have, but it seems like such a minor issue."

I agree; if it's just a trivial typo-fixing, there's no need to make a big deal about it in any fashion; there's no need to be fanatical about these issues. The point is, as is always my guideline as regards any issue of writing or publishing, to seek greater clarity wherever it matters, to attempt to avoid confusion wherever it matters, and otherwise not to sweat the small stuff unless you happen to be someone who enjoys such sweat.

In specific here, if you make a change that changes meaning, you should note that in an update (or whatever you like to call it: I go with "ADDENDUM" at my own blog, but it's the same thing, and makes no matter), and timestamp the update. If you're just correcting a typo that didn't change the meaning of what you wrote, just do it. On the other hand, if your typo -- and that includes punctuation in relevant cases -- changes the meaning of what you wrote, than it's worth noting that you made such a change in an Update, and it's worth time-stamping that because, as previously noted, it makes a difference as to how we interpret comments that previously responded to the relevant text.

To attempt to be clear on this specific point, I agree with everything you wrote in your July 16, 2009 at 12:31 PM, kid bitzer.

I also agree with Robin's points at 05:16 PM, and have always attempted to follow those rules.

As a footnote, occasionally I'll relook at an old post again, and note that a link has rotted; if I can, I try to find a new link to the identical material; in such cases, I may or may not note the change, simply because I've never bothered to establish a firm policy in my mind about this, and have probably been a bit inconsistent over eight years of blogging now.

If I note that a link has rotted, and there's no substitute, I do add an update noting that the link is now, regrettably, gone.

This sort of thing is also why, as soon as Blogger made available the capability to host images on your own site, some years ago, I immediately made all images I posted images I hosted on Blogger myself; for the initial years of Blogger, this simply wasn't an option, unless you had yet another site entirely of your own that you could host images on.

For the first four years or so, Blogger had a variety of kinks to work out, though rarely any major ones or ones that lasted very long; I can't remember the last time I've had a complaint, though; I believe it's been at least three years, if not more.

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