UPDATE: The WIN blog entry in question has now been greatly altered, in a rather disturbing manner. Details here.
If you’re blogging professionally, people are going to hold
you to higher standards than if you’re just another guy in his pyjamas.
Jason Kottke never understood that, I think, and now I wonder if that other
Jason – Calacanis – really cares about it either.
Calacanis, of course, has famously sold
his Weblogs, Inc empire to AOL; he is now rumoured
to be moving on to bigger things. But someone is surely in charge of editorial
content at WIN, and they should be taking their job extremely seriously now
that everybody with a WIN blog is ultimately working for Time Warner. Apparently
WIN has an editorial director named Judith
Meskill, who might be an expert
on "online social and knowledge networking practices and tools," but
she doesn’t have any journalism background, as far as I can tell, and she certainly
can’t write particularly well.
Jason Calacanis and Pete Rojas, of course, both know the media world very well:
it’s not like no one at WIN understands the issues involved in publishing information.
But neither of them is likely to get involved in issues which arise at the level
of individual blog entries.
So what happens when a WIN blogger publishes something which is lazy and wrong?
Stefan Geens, over at Ogle Earth, called
out WIN’s Chris Gilmer yesterday for publishing something completely false:
about Google Earth which (a) displays an obvious lack of familiarity with
the product, and (b) didn’t receive even the most cursory fact-checking. Now
Chris Gilmer is the primary author of The Unofficial Google Weblog, so one might
presume that he knows a little bit about Google Earth. But if he doesn’t, one
might certainly presume that he’d bother to check easily-checkable facts before
Now I’ve been following Jason
Calacanis for long enough that I’m pretty sure what he would do if he found
a false blog entry. In the interests of transparency, he would correct the entry
to the best of his abilities, crediting whomever pointed out the mistake, all
while being very open about the fact that WIN got it wrong to begin with.
But Chris Gilmer, it seems, is no Jason Calacanis. His blog entry was posted
on Thursday evening. Later that night, Geens fisked it. Early the next morning,
Frank Taylor, of Google Earth Blog,
left a comment on Gilmer’s entry pointing out the mistake and leaving a link
to Ogle Earth in case Gilmer needed more information. Since then? Nothing.
Says Geens (who, full disclosure, is a friend and the designer of this site):
There has never been a case, in the US or elsewhere, where existing imagery
has been switched for blurred images. Nor has the US ever asked for areas
to be blurred, something
which Google has confirmed. For a blog to say it has doesn’t make it so.
Nevertheless, expect this meme to do the rounds now that a mainstream blog
has validated it. Who watches the watchers, indeed? This kind of sloppiness
gives blogging a bad name.
The implicit point, here, is that if Gilmer is going to blog professionally
as part of the Time Warner empire, he ought to care about accuracy since he
has something of a bully pulpit. Simply by dint of his blog’s ownership, he
has a high-profile mainstream blog which can and will shape conversations and
Everybody makes mistakes, of course, or has a bad day. But any time that happens
to a blogger, he should embrace the fact that he can easily and transparently
correct the error. The fact that that hasn’t happened at The Unofficial Google
Weblog gives WIN even more of a bad name than the fact that the error was made
in the first place.
(By the way, on the subject of transparency, there seems to be no way of finding
email addresses for WIN bloggers. I had no way of asking Gilmer or Meskill for
their comments about this, because they refuse to publish any email or IM address
by which I might be able to reach them.)