Rewriting History

City At NightI took down a post yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve ever removed a post from my site. I can’t imagine it’ll be the last time. I’ve tried for literally HOURS to figure out some sort of coherent way to discuss this, but nothing’s coming to mind and I’m wasting time thinking about it.

Let me throw up some random points about the situation and ask you to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts to add to this conversation. I think it’s an important conversation, but there are too many elements and too many tangential discussions for me to bring them all together to some kind of point.

These are numbered in case someone wants to discuss a certain point, not in any order of importance:

  1. It’s my blog. I decide what goes on it and what comes off of it. I also decide whether the reasons are good enough to write about something in the first place (like this topic) or just never mention it at all.
  2. Situations change. The way I feel about something one day has nothing to do with how I feel about it the next day or even later that same day. It certainly has nothing to do with how I feel about it three months after the fact.
  3. What to do when situations change? Some people suggest amending posts with an update. Some people suggest leaving the post as-is and writing a followup post that explains the new situation. I find it funny that some of these same people have taken down entire SITES! Poof! Vanished! Gone! A policy has to work across the board if it’s going to be considered a policy at all.
  4. Some people feel that taking down posts is Rewriting History. To a degree, I agree with that, yet who was it that appointed us in general or me in particular to be an historian? I don’t ask that in a defensive manner. Seriously… What makes something that *you* write so important that it qualifies as history? Who determines that?
  5. What about the people? What about the readers, the lurkers, the subscribers? What about the commenters that contributed their thoughts or endorsements to the post? This is something that used to bother me personally about other people’s sites. It’s annoying when you contribute a comment or link to something and then the post vanishes. I don’t enjoy being on the DOING end of this situation. I haven’t decided / figured out how I’m going to “make it right” to the highest degree possible yet.
  6. What about the people who benefited from the information in the post? I’m glad that they did. Similar to my not being an officially-sanctioned historian, I’m also not in the business of creating Public Service Announcements (PSAs). It’s not my job to help other people handle their businesses. If I accept such a role, it’s going to be because someone’s paying me for my time.
  7. Aren’t you covering up facts, therefore, technically aiding & abetting the perp? Yes. Agreed. However, people cover up facts every single day, merely by not posting them in the first place. People cover up facts by leaving them out of a situation.

    Personally, I cover up facts every single week as I edit and decide which pictures I’m going to post. If people don’t look good in the pictures (well… as good as they NATURALLY look, haha) or the pictures are blurry, or there’s NOBLOG content in them, they don’t go up.

    Once again, this is not my job. Nobody’s paying me to be a paparazzo. Nobody’s paying me to publish every single picture that I take or every single video that I shoot. Therefore, merely by making my own editorial selections, I’m covering up facts. You don’t know about this, because the facts are covered before you see anything. Even this post is technically covering up facts, because there are too many parameters for me to remember them all.

  8. There are real-world issues involved with blogging… Rather, I should say that there are NORMALLY NOT real-world issues involved with blogging, which makes it easy for people to make judgments about situations based entirely on their lack of life experience. For example… Back in the day, when I used to interact on Seesmic before I found out they had no ToS and stopped completely, a regular on the site at the time (as it was initially an invite-only, gated community), vaguely, VAGUELY brought up the concept of having a physical fight with me.

    This behavior only occurs because people expect for nothing to happen. You can look all over the internet and see people trash-talking each other, and nothing ever happens… Except for that one time that someone reportedly spat in Michael Arrington’s face and he voluntarily exited the internet for an entire month. So, there are some things that I just can’t explain to people who experience the internet in a vacuum. I’m not giving up on that concept, it’s just incredibly hard.

  9. I’ve taken material down for reasons that aren’t even my own, including “My agent says I don’t look good in that picture”, “My underwear is showing in that picture”, “I look old in that picture”, “My boyfriend’s in the hospital, and I don’t want him to know that I skipped out on visiting him to come to this party” and “I don’t normally drink that much wine”. The circumstances surrounding this takedown were obviously more intricate than any of those, but, again, if there’s going to be policy considered, it has to work across the board, or it’s useless.
  10. Do you feel like you went back on your word? No. People fail to realize that free will rules MOST situations. Unfortunately, you can’t be prepared for everything. The thinking person checks what their word is NOW, compared to what their word was THEN. The non-thinking person goes “Well… I said X three months ago, so that’s how I’m going to deal with this situation”.

    The dynamic individual checks him or herself and does whatever comes naturally at that time. Some of my pictures aren’t NOBLOG, content-wise, but when I look at them, I decide not to post them for other reasons. That’s a decision I have to make on the fly, crossing that bridge when I get to it, every single time. I do not have one hard & fast rule for posting pictures, or anything else, for that matter. What I want now is different from what I wanted then. That’s Life.

  11. Do you feel like you sold out? Yes, and No. Sometimes, the greater good is served by modifying one’s stance. Not the greater good of “We, The People”, but the greater good for yourself, based upon the new circumstances. Again, the dynamic, THINKING person assesses each situation individually and acts accordingly.

    Also, and this was CRITICAL for me… The THINKING person knows when they’ve run into a brick wall as far as their own ability to see as many options as possible or to see the few options available in the most perspectives possible. This was critical, because I was able to reach out to my friends and receive opinions from the internet side, from the business side, from the ethics side and most importantly, from the STREET side, which helped me to decide what I wanted to do and how and when I wanted to do it. Thanks much to everyone that chipped in to the conversation/debate. Your contributions are greatly appreciated. 🙂

    Some things can’t be “made right” at all. Some things can be made “right enough” for you to consider a new position.

  12. In a time-sensitive situation, there were too many cascading parameters for me to figure out a compromise solution. Ethically, yesterday’s events made it impossible for the post to stand as-is. Suggested modifications were numerous and all made sense to a degree, but they didn’t all work together. Having consulted my “advisory council”, I felt that the takedown was the only quick and satisfactory solution and I rolled with it.
  13. Why didn’t I just leave it? Like I said, some things can be made “right enough” to consider a new position. I wrote the post based on the circumstances at the time. I removed the post based on yesterday’s circumstances. Dynamic Life.

I wrote that long, boring list because I felt like it and because I think this is an interesting and important topic. I’m very into topics such as whether to take down posts or not or whether people should tamper with their comments or how far do you let a thread go off-topic before getting rid of irrelevant comments or whether you’re going to allow ad hoc attacks on your site, etc.

In the short run, nobody cares. I posted something and then I un-posted something. So what? In the long run, it’s sticking points like these that need to be debated if we’re going to avoid situations like the Kmart fiasco in the future.

I received lots of commentary about this in a short period of time yesterday, and again, I’m appreciative. 🙂 If you have anything you’d like to add to this discussion, including “I didn’t read your boring list and I don’t care” or “What does this have to do with chicks looking hawt?”, feel free to comment below.

~ Bill Cammack | @BillCammack

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  1. really bill, what DOES this have to do with chicks looking hot. 😉

    for the record, i think the decisions you made, the thoughtful list you composed, and your general take away from the situation has been arrived at from a position of wisdom. and not to get all AA on your ass, but you know – that all-important wisdom it takes to know the things that you cannot change. and i think it goes without saying that you, as awesome as you are, cannot change an entire industry and its general MO – but that you CAN change the number of ducats in your pocket, that belong there because they were ducats that you EARNED for WORK that you DELIVERED.

    as for revisionist history, to that i say – what isn’t revisionist history? everything that happens after something, changes what happened before – due to context. plain and simple. the question therefore is whether that change is good, or that change is bad. in this particular situation, the change is in your pocket – further into the black as opposed to further towards red, and i’m not sure how that could be bad in this context.

    really i could sum this up in three words: GOOD.FOR.YOU.

    killer crushin’ as always.

    1. Thanks, H. 🙂

      Excellent and accurate points, across the board.

      I wanted to write this post more for other people than for myself. I’m consistently critical of groups and people in the Social Media field that do things I don’t agree with, so I felt it was “necessary” for me to offer an opportunity for people to say what they feel about me doing something that THEY might not like.

      Obviously, nobody took advantage of that opportunity, which means that a) They don’t care about the topic, b) They care, but don’t have anything to say in public about it, or c) They just don’t read my blog at all.

      All I DO know is that I feel better today than I felt yesterday, and I felt better yesterday than I did the day before… And that’s the bottom line, ’cause Stone Cold said so! 😀

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