The Memory Hole

As an aside in a longer article, Dan Markel writes:

As a matter of blogging ethics, I think the way to handle it is to post an apology and clarification and to remove the inaccurate material, with a followup email that clarified the situation.

This is dangerously wrong. The inaccurate material needs to stay, because other people will link to it, and look like crazy people. If my change is merely grammatical, spelling, or punctuation, and I find it, I’ll slip it in. If someone else finds it, I’ll usually use <strike> to fix clean it up. Longer edits are usually in [brackets], although at times I’ve re-written articles, I now realize that I think it feels dishonest when others do so.

To be clear, I’m not accusing Dan of being dishonest or advocating dishonesty, but stating that I had a pretty strong reaction to his comments that the inaccurate material should be removed.

It’s a blog. We make mistakes. Own up to it, and move on. Don’t try to edit it out of the past.

[Irony of ironies, as Allan Friedman points out in a comment, I neglected to link to the original article. Dan Markel’s article is here, and I’ve added the link in the natural place above.]

5 thoughts on “The Memory Hole

  1. Here here. One of the honorable things to do in any blog is to attribute an idea to its source, and how you find it. It’s not just ego feeding, but a means of introducing accountability in an open broadcast system. The briefest of historical expositions in online behavior shows that, absent some social order structure, entire spaces lose their value as a forum. The greater the accountability for any given meme, the less we have to rely on say, reputation, which punishes newcomers and fringe ideas.

  2. To be clear, my quarrel was with substantive mistakes like the one I linked to, not grammar errors; more importantly, I wasn’t suggesting that the post be erased altogether but that the apology and clarification occur at the place where the post was earlier. That way there’s no likelihood of people who want to track sources looking “crazy.” Anyway, I’d rather have an apology w/the offensive material about me removed from the web rather than have it up there along with the apology. And I suspect most people might feel the same way, but perhaps reasonable people can disagree about that.

  3. There’s been more than one entry I’ve made that I was tempted to delete entirely. I occasionally say stupid things, which is bad enough, but to hang the stupid out for all to see in perpetuity almost seems like bragging about it. But then I think about sites like the Internet Wayback Machine or Google’s cache that archives web pages. Now, not only would my stupid sill out there, but so would the evidence of my trying to hide it, which has the potential to be even more embarrassing.
    I suppose I tend to the classical newspaper approach to my inaccurate, offensive or just stupid material – post a correction with the original material left as is. But I sure think twice before I hit the ‘publish’ button.

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