Xeni Jardin Hasn’t Learned A Damn Thing . . . But I Have

Xeni Jardin has a post today about her “unpublishing” of Violet Blue-related posts that caused so much controversy. Go read it now before she decides to take it down.

The post is fairly long but doesn’t really say anything beyond reaffirming that their her posts and she’ll take them down if she wants to. In the comments to the post, Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz weigh in to indicate their agreement with Jardin’s position.

To understand my position on this, which I elaborate on very pointedly in the comments to that post, go read this Boing! Boing! post from 2005 which is Boing! Boing!’s coverage of the London subway bombings including photographs and updates on the status of individual posters like Cory Doctorow who was living in London at the time.

That post was removed from Boing! Boing! because in one of the many updates to it, Violet Blue is credited with pointing to a blog with additional information on the bombing. Violet Blue is extraordinarily tangential to the post, but because the string “Violet Blue” appeared in the post, Jardin deep-sixed it.

Now it is very clear from reading the comments in this post and in the previous Boing! Boing! post about the Violet Blue controversy, that I am in the minority who find it absurd that Boing! Boing! would retcon dozens of posts simply because of incidental mentions of Violet Blue over what turns out to be nothing more than a personal falling out between her and Jardin.

I’ll just sum up my thinking about Boing! Boing! by reproducing a reply I posted there to another user who defended routine removal of materials from the Internet,

Talia wrote:

“Well, if this is orwellian, I guess I’ve participated in Orwellian actions as well, as a person who has deleted things I’ve posted on the internet. And every other single person who has ever deleted anything they put on the internet, ever, has also participated in Orwellian actions.”

BTW, I have to say I find that odd. I don’t generally delete things on the Internet (I can only think of a single occasion where I deleted a single post I made at my blog because I realized it was seriously erroneous and would cause more harm by misinforming than by adding a correction). Believe me, I’ve said a lot of things on the Internet I wish I hadn’t, but coming from a journalism background, I’ve always thought it was important to stand behind your words and own your errors.

I’ve certainly endorsed the views of people, for example, who I later disassociated with. But I can’t ever remember thinking “gee, I should go back and delete all that stuff like it never happened.” And I really don’t remember ever thinking “I should take down this really long post because somewhere in there it mentions this person who I know longer like.”

And I find it bizarre that people do think that way, but that’s probably just my particular hangup.

OTOH, this whole episode was useful in that it showed us a side of BB I think many of us didn’t realize was there. If you had asked me before this if BB would go back and removed posts like that London bombing picture thread, I’d have said no way. Retconning is something only comic book writers and sleazy businesses do.

Now I know better.

By the way, I should add that Jardin and others have argued that it is routine for bloggers to remove and retroactively edited things. Personally, I would only do that under the most extreme circumstances as I mention in my comment on Boing! Boing! But now that I think of it, there is a very well known blogger who is known for frequently deleting and rewriting the things he posts — Dave Winer. At the moment, I think Winer would fit right in with Boing! Boing!’s vision of itself.

The Winer Train Wreck Rolls On

I’ve always been a fan of tech writer/geek Rogers Cadenhead, and not just because he bought me a Salon.Com subscription.

But when he rescued Dave Winer from the Weblogs.Com fiasco and then went to be part of the RSS Advisory Board back in 2003/2004, anyone who has followed the Winer train wreck knew that at some point this would result in Winer pissing all over Cadenhead for trying to help. Winer can’t help it — it’s just who he is. If he’s not irrationally turning on people, he’s just not Dave.

And sure enough, along with fighting an online jihad against Cadenhead and others who *gasp* want to clarify ambiguities in RSS, Winer has sicced his lawyers on Cadenhead.

Its almost like Winer plays nice with people like Cadenhead for awhile just so he has a consistent supply of people to backstab and attack on Scripting News.

Johnstown Flood vs. 9/11

I know that asking Dave Winer to check his facts is a bit like asking a dog not to bark, but . . .

I just finished the history of the Johnstown flood, by David McCullough. I was only peripherally aware of the event, but it was the biggest news in the US since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. More people died in the flood than on 9-11, and it was caused by human arrogance, the very richest Americans, including Andrew Carnegie.

According to the Johnstown Flood Museum, 2,209 people lost their lives in that tragedy.

On September 11, 2001, at least 2,985 people were killed as a result of a series of coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States.

The last time I checked, 2,985 > 2,209.

Weblogs.Com Outage for Many Conversant Sites

According to Seth Dillingham, Weblogs.Com has started ignoring pings from many Conversant sites, including this one.

Seth writes,

I’ve debugged the pings we’re sending, repeatedly. The server always returns the “thanks for the ping” response that indicates the ping was received successfully. Yet, our sites are never listed. The same is true for pings I’ve sent manually. It appears to be accepting the pings and then ignoring or forgetting them.

The service is run by Dave Winer. I wrote to Dave on May 6th to find out if he knew about the problem. No response. I wrote again on May 8th. Still no response. I wrote again this morning. Still no response.

Wow, there’s a shock. Remember how Dave freaked out when he thought Google and de-indexed his sites and how angry he was because he couldn’t get a response from the company? But, hey, the rules don’t apply to Dave. If he wants a problem to go unresolved for weeks at a time, its not a bug, its a feature.

Since I know the pings are going through correctly, and Dave is ignoring my email, I’m concluding that we’re being intentionally ignored. Why, though? I haven’t a clue. Is it something personal against me? Something technical about Conversant that he doesn’t like? (Then why didn’t he inform me?) Is it some business consideration? (I can’t imagine what that could be, since Dave isn’t in business right now.)

. . .

Being ignored by weblogs.com isn’t the end of the world, but there are a number of blog tracking and categorization systems (including Blogshares) that using its changes.xml files in the heart of their applications. Not being listed means we basically fall off the radar.

Yep. Not a major problem; more of an annoyance. A service so widely used by others probably needs to be in the hands of someone a bit more stable and responsive to fixing outages than Dave.

Dave’s great at innovating and coming up with incredible ideas, but he’s not the person you want in charge of implementation and support.

Who Put Together That Moderator Lineup?

The funny thing about the fallout over this blogger conference in Nashville this past weekend is who in their right mind would ask Dave Winer to moderate a panel on “Respectful Disagreement”. That’d be a bit like asking Don Rumsfeld to host a panel on alternatives to force in achieving diplomatic goals.

Anyway, apparently it was classic Dave. According to this report, Dave told those attending this civility panel that if they didn’t like the way he was moderating things, they could leave,

Example. Early on, Winer semi-admonished Robin Burk from Winds of Change when she casually mentioned posters and commentors in the course of her comment. Winer stopped her and said he didn’t believe in dividing people into posters and commentors because he doesn’t believe in hierarchies.

That was a feel-good groaner in and of itself, but he became a hypocrite once disagreement started by playing the speaker card, saying he was the leader today and that if John Cox didn’t like it he could leave. Winer made the classic passive-aggressive mistake of starting out pretending to be incredibly permissive and then being forced to turn into Attila the facilitator to regain control.

And then, of course, he bitches today because Glenn Reynolds and others apparently took him at his word,

Before the conference we should make sure that the most flamey left-wing bloggers are present, the people who posted in the comments on Dean For America, for example; and urge them to hurl insults at our southern brothers and sisters, while we sit back and enjoy the scene (and leave early because we have better things to do).

Winer’s a flamethrower — its both his gift and his curse. Askig him to host a panel on respectful disagreement is just silly (don’t these people read his blog?)

There’s a nice sketch here which I think does a good job of describing the dynamic of conversations involving Winer.

Of Course Dave Can Modify Cory’s Content

Dave Winer has set up a silly straw-man in his ongoing complaints about utilities like Greasemonkey and the Google Toolbar that let the user modify content that appears in their browser. Dave wonders if he can do the same thing with Cory Doctorow’s CC-licensed books.

And the answer is that, of course he can. If Dave wants to download Cory’s books and edit them so he appears as the author, that’s completely within his rights. He could remove words, add words, do whatever he wants to the text in his browser or text editor, just as users can use Autolink or Greasemonkey to make any sort of modifications they want to text appearing in their browser.

But Dave sets up a straw man when he wonders if he then would be able to set up shop and sell said modified novel. Well, of course not, except within the terms of the CC licenses Cory uses. Reproducing and redistributing said modified content is a completely different issue. Neither Autolink nor Greasemonkey, after all, allow the user to hit a button and publish their modified content to a website. There’s nothing there that says take the content you’ve modified and redistribute it to other users.

Whether or not I should be able to create a filter that replaces all instance of “Dave Winer” with some expletive is a completely separate issue from whether or not I should be able to wholesale copy and paste all the content from Scripting.Com onto my blog and pretend that I wrote it.

It is worth noting, however, that Winer regularly reproduces people’s content in the form of screen shots which he then annotates or otherwise modifies, so its a bit odd to see him suddenly attacking the ability to reproduce, modify and republish content that he doesn’t own. Did he receive permission from Yahoo 360, for example, for reproducing, modifying and redistributing this screen shot? But I thought publishers had absolute rights to never have their content modified by others without their permission?