Bad blogging at WIN

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:

an entry

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

publishing something.

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.)

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3 Responses to Bad blogging at WIN

  1. Jason says:

    I’m looking into it. We hire well, looking for folks who have knowledge and passion about a subject. As you say folks make mistakes, and when you’re running a blog network if you make mistakes people call you out on it (as you are here and others did in the comments).

    The best thing about transparent blogging that if there is an error it gets fixed quick–as I think we’ve seen here (again, I’m still looking into this).

    In terms of contacting folks there should be a tip form on every site. You can reach any exec at Weblogs, Inc. at firstname at

    best j

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