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Robert replies to my “rant”

Robert Scoble replies to my “rant” of yesterday in Ian says that bloggers don’t do their “background work”. Robert makes a lot of points, and so I thought I’d reply to them one by one.

“Does Scoble call up people before posting something about them? No, of course not – he doesn’t have the time.”

I TOTALLY disagree here. I have hundreds of key people in the industry on IM and Skype. I have thousands more that I can email.

Obviously, you can call, email and Skype people. But do you? Do you on every story? With multiple sources? As a journalist, that’s what you’re expected to do. Robert, if you really do that on everything you post, then you’re doing journalism, not blogging – and I’m glad that someone has the money to pay you to do it.

Also, you missed my day job: Channel 9. There I go around Microsoft and do an awful lot of “reporting.” What you don’t see on tape is the dozens of hours I spend every month getting around to meet key people. For instance, I just had lunch with a key developer on the MSN Search team. He showed me a bunch of stuff about how they are working to make search better.

Robert, with all due respect: Presenting the opinions of one company is not reporting. It’s PR. It’s exactly the kind of thing that’s done in the magazines that I refered to in my previous post, which are paid for by one company and present only what that company decides to release to the public. Channel 9 is a work of evangelism, not reporting.

But, let’s take Ian’s side for a second. Let’s assume I put something on my blog that’s erroneous. It happens.

What Ian totally misses is that when you write on paper for, say, eWeek, if you make a mistake it’s out there and there’s not much I can do to get it fixed.

Which is, of course, why you take so much care to get it right in the first place when you go to press, and why – when it does happen – you’re so mortified. I once made a minor factual error in a story for print (“Denebian” Linux instead of “Debian”, and didn’t spot it when editing) and lost sleep over it.

And corrections don’t always cut it. Take, for example, the “Tablet PC running Intel Mac OS X” story that was widely blogged (including here) a while ago. How many of the bloggers who linked to it updated their blogs with a correction when that story proved to be false? Once propagated, a story has a life of its own that’s not connected to the original post – and no amount of corrections can fix that. It’s a classic network effect.

But, if I make a mistake I get dozens of emails. Hundreds of comments. And a whole lot of people all around the blogosphere calling me names.

And the same is absolutely true of magazines and newspapers. The golden rule of successful magazines has always been “create a community” – and, from my experience editing one, I can tell you absolutely that readers will email, write letters and – and this you don’t get as a blogger – call you up on the phone to complain if you get it wrong.

What’s more, they will, if you continue getting it wrong, give you the most important feedback of all – they’ll stop buying your magazine. If a blogger makes mistakes, people stop reading his stuff and the consequences are somewhat more limited than losing your job.  

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