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Archive: 26 May 2004

Self-Referential

A week ago, I published an entry that was two parts exploration and one part experimentation.  The experiment was to see how readers commented on a post of that nature, one that was potentially very inflammatory even though was not at all its intent.  The commenting ability is still new for me, and I’m working out how open I want to be about comments.  When I was writing the entry, I had in mind to not permit comments, realizing that it could easily draw a metric ton of flames, accusations, and other sundry ickiness.  At the last minute, I decided that it would be better to open comments and see what happened.  I’m well satisfied with the results, but have now closed comments on the entry (you can still ping it if you want).

I do want to follow up just a bit on some of the comments that were posted.  A few people said or implied that I should have picked a less volatile subject than intimate partner violence (IPV).  That’s just it, though: I didn’t pick the subject with an intent to post.  I was doing my own research, for my own information, and at the end of the process decided I’d share the results rather than just sit on what I’d learned.  Why?  I’ll quote myself:

…I was able to do some in-depth fact checking of my own in less than an hour, using nothing but Google and some well-chosen search terms, and obtain a more accurate picture of the world than I’d had before. I believe that this ability to self-inform is one of the most important and often underappreciated benefits of the Web. If nothing else, I’m glad I went on this particular search because it reminded me that the Web really is something worth fighting for, and that improving the Web is always an effort worth undertaking.

It was an aspect of the Web I’d rediscovered, and thought it was also important to share.  I’ve been doing this stuff for more than a decade now, and when I started my whole goal was to help put information online.  That’s why I wrote the HTML tutorials at CWRU—to make it easier for people to share information about whatever they knew best.  I’ve seen a resurgence of that impulse recently, with people blogging obscure fixes or problems they’ve encountered so Google will pick it up, and it will be there for the next person who needs it.  (See, for example,”Writing For Google” over at Daring Fireball.)  So if I can forget that the Web is an astonishing source of information, and need a reminder, maybe others could use the same reminder.

And why did I share so much detailed information on such a potentially sensitive subject?  I don’t think my points would have had the impact without the details.  That probably sounds like I was trying to use a touchy subject to raise my exposure, but that’s not it at all.  If I’d just posted to say, “I was curious about something and dug up a lot of information about it, and that’s what’s cool about the Web” it wouldn’t have had the same resonance.  Walking through the process and pointing to the sources I quoted established a context for my final points.  It was also the case that I believe I found some useful information about a very important subject, and was able to disseminate it further.

My thanks to everyone who contributed comments, especially those of you who pushed back a bit.  I’ll close with a favorite David Byrne lyric; make of it what you will.

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don’t do what I want them to
—”Crosseyed and Painless”
May 2004
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