Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Huh-check revisited

Last week, I had linked to a new blog (Purvi's Through it All, Darkly). The point of that blog, in the blogger's words, is

    Strolling thru the blogworld, I often run into things where I'm like, "Huh? What was that again?" So just to keep bloggers alert - and we should all remember that some of them are journalists - this blog will be a space for occasionally highlighting some of these "Huh?" things.
I found the concept interesting. If we nit-pick MSM everyday what's wrong in doing a huh-check on blogs as well?

Amit Varma has left a comment on my post in which he is of the view that I was being a bit irresponsible in linking to Purvi's blog. Because a claim Purvi has made about India Uncut "is simply untrue. It's a lie."

There's some discussion here about the merits of Purvi's and Amit's cases. For the moment, I have nothing much to say about that.

I have a couple of questions though, which I think concern all of us who blog.

First, if I link to a blog, am I responsible for the content of that blog? Content of all the posts there? Is my linking to a blog, my subscribing to its point of view?

Amit also asks:

    Is clicking on the links in question and reading them for yourself too much fact-checking to expect?
And that's my second question. When you link to a post, do you always go through all the pages that are linked to?

33 Comments:

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Vishnu said...

No, and no. BTW, is the first question rhetorical? :)

And I do not understand this "responsible" thing. Like Annie says here, someone does not have the right to tell me what (not) to write, even if what I write may seem crap to him/her.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger amit varma said...

Anand,

a] I had the impression you linked to that post, not the blog.

b] If I am linking to something that makes allegations against people, especially people whom you know and are a friend of, the responsible thing to do would be to verify if those allegations are true. Anyway, you could argue this point would hold if you had linked to the post, not the blog, so forget it.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Anand, sorry, I entirely missed your earlier post on this (until just now). This is the first I've heard of "Through it all, darkly", but I'm tickled by what I saw of it just now.

But about what you say here, since you drew my attention to it:

1) I saw nothing wrong with Purvi's post. She points out lapses any journalist should catch. Obviously, the guys she has pointed to are annoyed; that annoyance itself doesn't fix or nullify the lapses.

2) You're not responsible for the contents of anything you link to.

3) When I see that you have linked to a blog, I don't presume that you have read every single thing on that post. Nor that you subscribe to its point of view.

4) Finally, I hope she is watching my writing just as closely. We can all use a dose of being kept alert.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger amit varma said...

Dilip, there weren't any lapses. That's the whole point, and the cause of the annoyance. Anyone with basic reading or comprehension skills can see that the fourth to the ninth paras of "When it pours" are talking about what happens when it rains in Mumbai in general, and are not referring to this flood in particular. It is therefore a misrepresentation to state otherwise.

Don't let your personal feelings cloud your judgement here.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Veena said...

Aren't we just making a mountain out of a mole-hill here? Well, what the hell, let me join the fun!

Anand - No, you cannot be expected to read through the entire blog while linking to them. Neither do you have to agree to anything on the blog. And I do think the idea of the blog looks pretty cool and it seems like thats why you linked to it.

As for the post itself, its definitely upto this person as to what she wants to write about. But when she starts pointing out what she considers inconsitencies, its only fair that we get to hear what the other side has to say. And in this case, I am so with Amit. I remember reading his original post, I just re-read it and its pretty clear what he meant to convey. Atleast to me. And I am quite sure that most of you people would agree with me if you read that particular post. I, for one, do not take my blog too seriously but if someone were to point out imaginary lapses on any of my posts, I'd surely be pissed as hell.

I am sure there could be an argument made out for 'its all subjective, so its all fair' but I'm really not sure that particular argument will hold water in this case - Amit's post is out there for anyone to read.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger MadMan said...

Dilip, what lapses are you talking about? Have you checked that these lapses have actually occurred, or are you just taking Purvi's word for it?

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger @mit said...

Anand - Here are my two cents...

I link to some blogs and posts too ... and many times I may not have read the whole blog or even the peice .. I might have read a particular para or part of it which piqued my interest and I linked to it... Am I resposible for it if I have misrepresented? I do not think so .... and so to your question about are you resposible - I would say no.

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger @mit said...

As for the post by Amit Varma's article - I thought the same (as Amit says), that it was not a misrepresentation.

As for the site -
I like the concept though, but it may prove conntreversial every now and then....

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Madman, somebody recently wrote somewhere that anyone who gets a bad review of his/her book invariably reacts by saying the reviewer did not read the book. You didn't write what Purvi picked on, but you're now trying to make out that I didn't read what I did. Whatever else, I do read what I comment on, sometimes more than once. As I'm sure you do. May we proceed on that basis?

Actually I did read at least two of the things Purvi points out before I read about them on Purvi's blog. I was taken aback by them too. I know personally of others who had similar reactions. I see nothing wrong with it being pointed out (and as I said I hope Purvi will point it out in me when I make mistakes).

If they were honest mistakes, a good journalist would say to himself -- hey, is this the impression I gave my readers, even some? I'll go back and correct it/issue a clarification. And at any rate, I'll be more careful with my writing in the future. Above all, I won't go out accusing my readers of dishonesty.

This is basic journalism: you are responsible for what you write.

Of course Veena is right, it's only fair we hear what the other side has to say. But consider that some of what Purvi points out has been out there for a while, giving many readers that impression; and even after Poorvi has pointed them out, those readers will stick with that impression because they haven't read Purvi's post.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger amit varma said...

Veena, MadMan, @mit, thanks.

Dilip, you wrote: "This is basic journalism: you are responsible for what you write."

Exactly. You are responsible for the accusations you make, and the ones you support. If they have no validity, you are being irresponsible. Basic journalism.

I can only presume you are referring to mistakes made by others that Purvi pointed out, because I didn't make any, honest or otherwise. Again, readers are welcome to read my piece
and make up their own minds.

And you didn't actually answer MadMan's question: "what lapses are you talking about?" (My emphasis.)

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger Rahul said...

"If they were honest mistakes, a good journalist would say to himself -- hey, is this the impression I gave my readers, even some? I'll go back and correct it/issue a clarification."

And this comes after Amit has said there were no lapses. Paragraphs four to nine clearly describe Bombay during the rains, with the final paragraph describing the good that people do. The first line of the tenth paragraph brings you back to the present.

If the piece has been misread, and the writer is defending the facts of his work (not his writing, which is open to criticism for every writer), the critics need to do a little more homework. It's written in simple english and, if you've read both pieces, in one Amit writes that the incident happened 'many years ago', while in the WSJ article there is no 'many years ago'. That's the only difference between the two, as far as this argument is concerned.

And even then, where's the confusion? Read these pieces in isolation if you can. They're not contradicting one another.

As far as the clarification is concerned, surely if some of these readers who had got the wrong impression had pointed it out to Amit, he would have said the same thing he's been saying over and over: it was not a lapse. So that is the clarification.

 
At 8:55 PM, Blogger zap said...

I have nothing to say..

; but this.

This is serious journalism, by the way.

Though now this is a lapse, since I have negated my first sentence.

Huh-check is a great descriptive.

And Anand - No and No.

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger Abi said...

Thanks, Anand, for alerting me about this post.

Purvi's blog is gutsy, and it is a great thing. In pointing out problems -- of all kinds -- in other people's writing, she is willing to stick her neck out. More importantly, she has kept the comments open, which means others (including the people at the receiving end of her posts) can respond.

Just look at the comments; Amit, Vulturo and others have had a chance to say their bit. In fact, the responses of Amit and Vulturo try to indicate that Purvi hasn't 'got' the message they tried to get across. Now, the debate seems to hinge on whose fault it is.

At least in Amit's case (I hadn't read either of Amit's posts until now), the discussion here seems to indicate that many people felt the same way Purvi did. So, it is a good thing she is doing; at least, Amit had a chance to clarify matters [except, of course, he has had to do it on Purvi's blog].

IMHO, shining light on things is the best way for people to see them. Bloggers love to do it to MSM; and Purvi has chosen to do it to bloggers. To her credit, Purvi lets other people to shine light on her as well -- in the comments. This is why I think her blog is great. All power to Purvi!

[On a related note: I, as a blogger, would like to be alerted about such problems in private (for example, via e-mail); this would allow me to post a correction, or a clarifying update. But, the reality is that I cannot *demand* that I be alerted through private channels. Is this reality a bad thing? I don't think so ... ;-)]

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

Blogs cant be considered as journalism always. It is reflections of personal thoughts. When you link to a post, you are writing your comments also in your blog. But what ever you said, you are responsible. This is my understanding.

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger MadMan said...

Dilip,

The only way someone could have missed the paragraph in the linked article that *starts* with "Every year (emphasis mine) Bombay is badly hit on at least a couple of days during the monsoons, as the city shuts down because of too much rain." - and then goes on to describe what happens when it rains - is if they just skimmed the piece instead of reading it. And in these days of a million blogs, people do skim articles (I certainly do), especially longer pieces. Some of these people may be left with the same impression that you and the other people you know got.

But to point to the piece and say that the author didn't write clearly... that's more than a little unfair, don't you think?

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul: That's the only difference between the two, as far as this argument is concerned.

I just went back to Purvi's (sorry for mis-spelling earlier -- only Poorvi I have known spelled it that way) post to check: the way I read it, what you point out is the crucial difference.

Read these pieces in isolation if you can. They're not contradicting one another.

Again, that's the point it seems P is making. When read in isolation, no prob. When she read them one after another, she wondered.

Madman, thank you for moving me up the scale from not reading to merely skimming.

Is it so hard to accept that people read (I mean read) and react differently than you might have? To P, the authors of those pieces have been unclear, or mistaken, or whatever. They have given not just P a mistaken impression, but others too. What is unfair in "point[ing] to the piece and say[ing] that the author didn't write clearly"?

I don't get it, is it a horrible crime to write unclearly? And if you've done so, is it some vast taboo thing to simply put up a clarification, now that it's obvious at least some people misunderstood?

What those guys who have gone after P in her comments don't seem to understand is that the more they shout and call her dishonest and say she didn't read and lacks comprehension skills, the more they erode their own credibility.

And by now, I know enough to know that the reactions to this very comment will do the same.

 
At 12:26 AM, Blogger MadMan said...

Is it so hard to accept that people read (I mean read) and react differently than you might have?

To accept it, no.

If Amit's article was verbose, used big words, or was otherwise hard to read, I might even find it reasonable.

But it's not. To me, that piece was as clear as daylight.

Perhaps he should go and mark the first sentence bold so people get it. Like this:

"Every year Bombay is badly hit on at least a couple of days during the monsoons, as the city shuts down because of too much rain."

And then perhaps toss in another sentence after that: "I mean it, I really am talking about the past."

Then maybe everyone will get it. But I wouldn't bet on that either.

 
At 12:41 AM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

I wouldn't bet on that either.

Please don't. Because the mistake is to assume that everyone will read things the same way you do.

But apart from that, here's a thought that may have some relevance here: a writer is best served paying little attention to what her enemies say about her work, less to what her friends say, but most to the people who don't know her at all.

 
At 12:52 AM, Blogger Sonia Faleiro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger Sonia Faleiro said...

Hi Anand, interesting post, and the comments that follow.

To answer your question:

I link to many blogs; an increasing number of which, sadly, I cannot read everyday, and whose posts--in terms of quality or veracity--I'm unwilling to take responsiblity for.

However, if another blogger or a friend would be able, objectively, to point out that certain posts or the entire blog itself was in some manner irresponsible or fallacious, I would take the time to read it, and if necessary, review my judgment of the blog/post.

Perhaps I would delete it entirely, perhaps I wouldn't.

The blogsophere is enjoyable for many reasons. As a mere four-month blogger, my only complaint is how small the Indian sphere actually is. Constructive debates sometimes fall prey to personal opinions, which are judgemental and only seek to constrict style and viewpoints. I find it distasteful that people would read my posts for the sole purpose of finding fault or as in this case, presumed fault.

Lets not turn the blogosphere into some bizzare version of 1984, where self-annointed policemen trawl for the sole purpose of pointing out so called mistakes.

If there is a case of factual mis representation (and please lets not confuse this with difference of opinion), I believe the courteous thing to do is initiate discussion directly with the person you are quoting. On his or her blog, either via comments or email.

Amit's was however, a news article and is legitimately open to discussion. But facts cannot be overruled in favour of a misreading, genuine or otherwise. He makes no misrepresentation of facts, and to continue insisting that he did, appears to me a sad waste of time.

 
At 1:05 AM, Blogger Rahul said...

Dilip, you miss the point. As a writer, I can write as I see fit. The writer chose not to use the words "many years ago" in his Asian Wall Street Journal piece. How does that become a crucial difference? Has he attempted to hide something or subvert facts? Reading his pieces yet again, I think not.

Once again: They're [the two articles] not contradicting one another. Hold them up side by side and read them carefully. And then read them in isolation. They say the same thing.

The piece is not written unclearly. Each following sentence takes it forward. If it's a campaign for better english that you're leading, say so. But in your earlier comments here you remark that it was a lapse on Amit's part ("1. I saw nothing wrong with Purvi's post. She points out lapses any journalist should catch. Obviously, the guys she has pointed to are annoyed; that annoyance itself doesn't fix or nullify the lapses."). The guys, or guy, is annoyed because he hasn't made any mistake.

You later say, "Actually I did read at least two of the things Purvi points out before I read about them on Purvi's blog. I was taken aback by them too. I know personally of others who had similar reactions. I see nothing wrong with it being pointed out."

There is nothing wrong with anyone pointing out anything, but good journalism also involves checking the facts. The facts, in Amit's case, never changed.

And you later follow it up with: "Is it so hard to accept that people read (I mean read) and react differently than you might have? To P, the authors of those pieces have been unclear, or mistaken, or whatever. They have given not just P a mistaken impression, but others too. What is unfair in "point[ing] to the piece and say[ing] that the author didn't write clearly"?"

Besides dragging Purvi back into the argument to back your own opinion - and this argument has gone beyond Purvi, don't you think? - you've not said that the writer did not write clearly until your last comment addressed to Madhu Menon and me. All along you've been saying he's made a mistake.

If the problem is one of interpretation, fine, we're all entitled to an opinion. But you've clearly said he's made a mistake, even after he has refuted the claim. Now you've made the argument one about interpretation.

Stick to the facts, mate. Otherwise it's like sparring with you on jello.

 
At 1:38 AM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

All right Rahul. Then jello it must be.

 
At 2:21 AM, Blogger Sinfully Pinstripe said...

For heavens, protocols for blogs? It's your blog, pal! Do what you want with it.
... why do you care? This is your space, isn't it? If people have a problem, they could comment.

 
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At 3:18 AM, Blogger Purvi A said...

Hey hey hey! What a discussion little old me has generated here! I'm like, WOW!

I dont have much to say.

I loved Amit Verma's articles, as I said in my post! But when I read the second one (Asian WSJ) after reading the first, I went, waaaait a sec. Then I get some of my friends, and I go, what do you think? Many found the same thing.

I am not saying Amit was dishonest! I'm like, how do I know or care? I am just saying, quite a few people who read both also went, lemme see that again! Are we all dishonest?

I'm like, all it takes is a clarification. But also, your article is so out there to be read! If other readers have no issues with it, doo-wop to them! They can come to me little blog and tell me!

 
At 3:34 AM, Blogger chappan said...

Anand
Now, now see what you've started.

Amit
I have been reading your articles for a long long time and needless to say that I greatly appreciate your writing. There were times where I was greatly moved by your description of the tsunami affected people and some recent stories as well.

In this instance, I would say that your article is a bit unclear. Yes the preceeding paragraph talks about previous years in Bombay, yes you are talking about how Bombay typically is when the heavens come calling.

But,in this instance, I was confused because I associate girls stuck in autorickshas for 11 hours, people doling out food, lending cellphones and being pulled out of manholes to the 2006 July deluge. It may have happened in the past, but non-journo readers, such as myself, associate these images with the July rains. Having lived in Bombay for about 20 odd years, except for exceptions, I have never known people helping out in this manner. Hence the confusion.

Only after you clarified your point does one clearly understand that it was from a past experience that these examples were detailed.

It disturbs me to read that you question someones comprehension skills for this misinterpretation and demanding an apology. You write, and write exceptionally well, if I may, but when posted to a public medium, I am free to interpret the way I analyse it. If it happens to be in contrast to what the writer intended, then it could mean that the article is unclear or I am slow. So the only person apologising, in this instance, should be the author, for the ambiguity of the writing, IMHO. Coming from a well-read blogger like you Amit, this kinda reaction, not cool.
Sourin

 
At 5:31 AM, Blogger Yazad Jal said...

I'll ignore all the side talk, but you've raised 2 important questions which I think are worthy of answers.

First, if I link to a blog, am I responsible for the content of that blog? Content of all the posts there? Is my linking to a blog, my subscribing to its point of view?

Simple answer: No. Having said that, it does help to give an explanation why you're linking or a disclaimer. All you said was "interesting." I generally read that as "have a look and decide for yourself." Don't worry about being responsible for every word on a blog you link to as interesting. Otherwise filter blogging will become extinct!

When you link to a post, do you always go through all the pages that are linked to?

Simple answer: Yes. If I don't I generally say so. Something like "I think this is interesting, but I haven't gone through all that she's written." In some way a link to a post is a reccomendation (unless you pointedly critique it). Your reputation is somewhat linked to what you reccomend. It's best to be a little careful here.

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger uma said...

Anand, my response to your two questions:

1. If I link to a blog, I am not responsible for all the content in that blog - it's neither feasible nor necessary. A link is merely a pointer.

2. If I link to a post, I may or may not go through the other pages it points to. Again, it's a pointer.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Anand, your reputation is made by what you write. It has nothing to do with what you point to, whatever that may be. And as many of us will agree, your reputation is perfectly fine, thank you very much.

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Forgive me for being blunt with an old friend.

Yazad, Anand asked this question:

When you link to a post, do you always go through all the pages that are linked to?

You replied:

Simple answer: Yes. If I don't I generally say so. Something like "I think this is interesting, but I haven't gone through all that she's written."

Where do you say something like this?

Because I've just been through the first two pages of AnarCapLib. There are posts dating back to May this year, pointing to your own other posts, the Times, the Economist, MidDay, Ashish's Niti, Richard Posner, me, IndiCubed, blog Melas in different places and the bloggers cited therein, Brad Spangler, Sruthijith in the Express, Waiter Rant, Marginal Revolution, USA Today, CCS. Maybe more.

I haven't seen one mention to the effect of: this is interesting, but I haven't gone through all that she's written.

The one thing that's at all reminiscent of that is this comment you have about Deepak Chopra: I’d never read anything by him before, but going by what he wrote today, I have been converted into a loyal reader.

So please let me know.

 
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