I was away when that bloggers’ scruff happened, where Mark Pilgrim got so fussed about accountability (check the “3 versions” link) and standing for what you publish that he not only rewrote his own blogging software to show every single revision made to every post he writes but also wrote an app that checked Dave Winer’s blog every five minutes so that it could keep track of, and further disseminate, everything Dave deleted. Luckily Mark’s taken it down now.

This time I’m with Dave. And he wrote a pretty good defense of why he thinks it’s OK to change your own blog posts:

I keep a file of sensitive stuff that I’ve deleted from Scripting News, stuff I found too personal, more vulnerability than I wanted. It helped to do the writing, but once I saw it in public, I got scared, and took it down. Now that people have set up a system to record everything on Scripting that I post within five minute intervals, I don’t think I’ll be writing any more of that stuff here. I guess it’s time for weblogs to become like television. Polished and politically correct. Impersonal. Commercial. That’s what they’re really saying. When there’s no room to change your mind, there’s no way to take a chance. That’s about it. They found a way to stop me from taking chances.

Rebecca Blood also thinks it’s important that once published, it stays. So does Ted Nelson, whose ideal Xanadu includes permanent, unbreakable addresses for every version of every document. So, obviously, do Mark Pilgrim and a lot of other people. It’s a recurring debate.

I think Dave Winer has an important point though. If we require total accountability we require perfection, polish, political correctness. I like that blogs are an in between genre where I don’t have to be as formal and correct as in a serious academic publication. I delete stuff, sometimes. And I rewrite stuff, sometimes. Sometimes I say so, sometimes I don’t. It’s my site, after all.

12 thoughts on “deleting

  1. Thomas

    I think that last sentence said it all! It’s your blog, you can do with it what you want. Why should somebody demand accountability from someone who they have had no influence on, have no consequences from reading, and who they access entirey on their own free will! Accountability is something you can demand from somebody you have elected, paid money to or have a personal relationship to. You cannot demand accountability from every blogger, we all blog for different reasons, many personal, and in that context anybody who claim to have a stake in my blog, better contribute a lot:-)to my life and my blogging.

  2. torill

    I think it depends. I have occasionally added an update if I have discovered that something I wrote was stupid, and I have deleted it if it was really stupid, but that is rare. Dave Winer on the oher hand – I don’t even read his blog other than when people link to him, and I have discovered that links to him lead to posts that have disappeared.

    So what I think is: he can do what he likes on his blog. But he can’t stop others from doing what they like about the material he puts into the public domain. If he doesn’t like it that people write programs that check his blog every five minutes then YES he should start thinking before he posts. If you yell insults at the police in the forest where nobody hears you, you will not be fined, but if you do it in the middle of a busy street, in front of a police car, you will have to pay. It only takes a few seconds, but if you were heard, you have to answer for your words.

  3. Jill

    When it comes down to it I guess I generally only delete stuff that’s really embarrassing and I do it fast. I think I always say so if I change the meaning of something that’s academic or expresses an opinion. I don’t always say so if I deleted something that was rash.

    I haven’t gone into all the details of the discussion about Mark Pilgrim’s DaveWatch thing or whatever he called it but I assume it would be a breach of copyright, among other things. Dave Winer may have published something, but that doesn’t give others the right to republish it, which was what Mark Pilgrim was (automatically) doing.

    And posts disappearing? I don’t mind that much, actually. It’s part of the nature of the web – things aren’t quite permanent.

    Obviously there are different opinions about this and I’m happy to agree to disagree 🙂

  4. i1277

    If blog entrys “has to” stay or changes are expected to be tracked the threshold for posting increases. Good idea, that is if you’re convinced the blogging phenomenom should be for the “elite bloggers” and not for just anyone.

    This seems to be a nice ideal for uberbloggers, who are cocksure about it all. Not for the rest of us who might post half-baked ideas cause we don’t have the energy or the time to spend hours contemplating every word as we write an entry (don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to promote thoughtless writing). Just like a normal dialogue, a blog makes possible communicating and sharing ideas, receiving feedback and revising your original viewpoint if necessary.

    Do these people also think that if you spill something on your dress by acdident right before a funeral or whatever, you shouldn’t be allowed to sneak into a toilet and try to remove it before anyone notices? After all, if you can’t stand behind your clumsy mistake, how much integrity do you have…

    In some ways, it’s about who are to set the rules and where are the fences to be put up to separate the “blog community” from the rest of the world.

  5. chuck

    Some interesting questions here. I still tend to leave stuff out there once I’ve published it, but if it’s something I’m not confident about, I’ll leave it as a draft. But I understand Dave Winer’s reservations about the immediate updates.

    I’m also struck by the use of the metaphor of television, a medium that is almost always criticized by academics and high culture folk as being too low-brow or populist in its appeal, in part because it is too immediate (and therefore resists contemplation). Of course, the television metaphor eventually fails because TV images fade. The show goes off the air…

  6. Liz

    Jonathon Delacour’s back (http://weblog.delacour.net/), and has several posts up on this topic. Worth a read.

  7. Jill

    Oh, I love the comparison of spilling something on your dress to misposting on your blog!

  8. Jill

    Thanks for the link to Jonathan’s new posts, Liz! I love his long post on weblog ethics – I’ll put my name to everything in it. Except I don’t think deleting a post is high treason.

    After all, the likelihood of any current weblog’s archives being accessible in five or ten years time is pretty darn low. And you know once a blog post has been out there for a few weeks it gets sucked up and archived in the Wayback Machine, people can quote it from there if you’re that interested, just as (I think) you can go to the national library and listen to copies of one of the no doubt embarrassing all night radio broadcasts I did a decade ago when I was in the student radio. I’ll keep archives of the work I’m still happy with, that’s plenty.

  9. the chutry experiment

    Self-Indulgent Teaching Resource Post
    I’m polishing off my syllabus for fall semester (yes, I know the new school year starts in ten days!) and blogging will be major component of the course, so I just wanted to list a few useful resources for class…

  10. Planned Obsolescence

    On Rewriting
    For years I’ve nagged my students to adopt a more critical eye toward the work they turn in to me, to refuse to be content with the first draft, to step back, take a breath, and attempt a real re-vision of their writing. Writing is rewriting, was the m…

  11. OleK

    It’s YOUR blog!
    Very interesting discussion inJill Walker’s blog on the right to delete and edit blogs!…

  12. mamamusings

    rules? i don’t need no stinkin’ rules!
    Everywhere you look these days, bloggers are writing policies and rulebooks. For themselves, for others, for everyone. With calls for accountability, integrity, consistency, appropriateness, and ethical behavior, it seems that every blogger I know is p…

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