Pardon the INXS reference, but it seems appropriate.

We've all heard that weblogs are conversations, and we often assume that they are generally productive conversations. Even when someone (like me) posts a bitchy or uninformed entry, there's often some little bit of good to come out of it. That's generally a testament to my readers. Some have an uncanny ability to see what I'm getting at even when I can't quite seem to make my real point.

But it's not always like that.

A couple days ago, I noticed Dave Winer's show up in my hourly referer log summaries. He had linked to my Blinded by Gmail's Gigabyte post (that now has over 50 comments--wow!) in which I react to Tim O'Reilly post on Gmail and the "Internet OS" meme (mostly focusing on that meme rather than his entire post).

Now Tim's a really smart guy and did a good job of blasting folks for going nuts over the Gmail privacy debate. And his company publishes my book. So I clearly don't think he's evil or anything.

I agree with Tim that it's all become way too stupid. And I further agree with Rich Skrenta's post about the Google platform that got a lot of people thinking. In fact, I've been thinking about that off an on for a couple years now--about the fact that Google has a fundamentally more innovative architecture that Yahoo does. And I wonder what that means for Yahoo. (More on that some other day if I can convince myself that I won't get fired for saying what I think on the matter.)

But that's not what this post is really about. When Dave linked to me, I half-jokingly suggested to Kasia that Dave might have some sort of grudge against Tim. (Remember Foo Camp?)

Why? Because he used this quote: "Even Tim O'Reilly seems to be sucked in by Google's reality distortion field now." instead of something like "For god's sake, it's web mail with a really big quota!" which was what I expected someone might use. Either that or "Jeremy's pissing on Google again. Does Yahoo pay him to do that?!" :-)

Then a few folks said the same thing (completely out of the blue) via private e-mail to me. I wondered what his motivation for the link was, but didn't think too much about it. Maybe he just thought it was a good headline, since that's his blog style much of the time.

Then, before I had a chance to notice today, it seems that Dave linked to it again but this time directly to Tim O'Reilly's comment. In that comment, Tim notes that he does in fact own a bit of Google stock (as does my employer--but probably a bit more than Tim does), which he got as the result of an acquisition.

This was pointed out by Kevin Fox (a Google employee with an excellent weblog) in a comment on that same post.

If you're going to potshot, don't do it by manipulating blogs like Jeremy's, or seeking to slander luminaries like Tim. They're both out of your league. If you want to keep slander as your weapon of choice, bring it to me.

Now I'm starting to feel a bit used. And I'm starting to think that my joking suggestion of Tim owning Google stock wasn't such a bright idea.

What am I supposed to think of this, Dave? Is this why Mark Pilgrim blocks referers from your site? Did you also try to use his content against someone else you disklike in the past? Your terse linking style leave a lot of room for interpretation.

Posted by jzawodn at April 20, 2004 08:48 PM

Reader Comments
# Kartik Agaram said:

Personally I think of as a rite of passage to people new to the RSS/weblog world. It's the most visited blog by all accounts, so it was understandably one of the first feeds I added to my aggregator. It had great breadth so that I kept finding references to new and interesting sites through it for a while. Once my reading habits and tastes crystallized, however, I realized I didn't need that breadth anymore, and that Dave's self-interests became more transparent (and distracting) over time.

Then again, there is no evidence that anybody but me ever removes feeds from their aggregator :)

on April 20, 2004 10:46 PM
# Etienne said:

Kartik has it exactly right - was fun for a while, but eventually I realised that the ratio of interesting links to self-obsessed rants was too low to hold my interest. Life's too short to actively keep reading someone you know is going to annoy on a regular basis.

on April 21, 2004 03:00 AM
# Pete Prodoehl said:

Re: "...Dave might have some sort of grudge against Tim"

I seem to remember Dave being upset at Tim years ago for investing in Pyra. Ah yes, here it is...

on April 21, 2004 06:27 AM
# Dave Winer said:

Jeremy, I pointed to Tim's quote because it was new information, as far as I knew it was the first time it had been said in public that he owns Google stock. That's it, hopefully that's the end of the conspiracy theories, mountains out of mole hills. You're too good for this Jeremy. And was it really a joke? Somehow I don't believe that. Whatever.

on April 21, 2004 06:41 AM
# Marc said:

In a networked world, once you post what were otherwise private thoughts in a public forum, it becomes both much more difficult to retain any sense of ownership over them and practically impossible to control how they are used by others. It is especially difficult to correct any mis-use of one's public discourse - by the time this is discovered the damage may have long since been done and propagated across the net - any efforts at recourse may be futile.

Manipulating other people's publicly posted comments to fit/promote one's own world views is hardly unusual - and Mr. Winer is certainly not alone in this type of activity, although perhaps more adept at it than most (some might even view this as a skilled 'art form'). Not believing that this regularly occurs is a bit naive.

on April 21, 2004 09:25 AM
# Chris L said:

Is the fact that Tim O'Reilly owns Google stock relevant when considering his discussion of Gmail? Yes, and it doesn't seem to have been common knowledge. Noting that fact hardly seems conspiratorial. I don't know *any* of you except through your web presence, but nothing strikes me as being wrong with any of the posts in question. I saw them and noted them. I probably would have linked to the same text if I'd bothered to link to something that was already in all the top blogs anyway.

Aren't there enough very real grudges and resentments (most of them insanely petty and ridiculous ala Dave/Mark) out there without seeking to create new ones? Any post by the "big" bloggers can be taken in a negative light because of the natural political force of their words in a small environment. Doesn't mean that it's productive to do so.

on April 21, 2004 09:35 AM
# Tara Calishain said:

I don't want to get too deeply into this, but it's been reported knowledge since 2003 that Tim O'Reilly has an investment in Google.

Citation: .

Relevant quote: "``There are a lot of people who certainly worry about a Google backlash, if it gets too powerful,'' said Tim O'Reilly, a high-tech publisher who has a small investment in Google."

My three disclaimers: I have written books for O'Reilly. I have written books about Google for O'Reilly. I do not own and do not want to own any Google stock.

on April 21, 2004 11:03 AM
# Chris L said:

I have no problem with Tim or his ownership of Google stock. I'm not quibbling that it was published earlier. I'm just saying that it wasn't common knowledge and there's nothing sinister about pointing it out to a wider audience.

on April 21, 2004 12:05 PM
# Scott Johnson said:

I agree with Chris here. I have no problem with Tim's ownership of Google stock. I have no problem with Tim, either. But I do think that it's important to know that Tim owns Google stock when reading an essay written by Tim about the virtues of Gmail.

on April 21, 2004 02:00 PM
# brian said:

[addressing the original post] So someone linked to your post, but quoted a different sentence from what you'd written than the one that you expected people to cite? You still wrote it though, correct?

Then, Dave Winer linked to O'Reilly's disclosure that he owns some Google stock. Ok.

What's the whinging about? DW didn't put words into your mouth or manipulate your writing. He just quoted and linked to your piece, as he did to O'Reilly's words. If you want to backtrack now, why not just retract what you wrote instead of taking shots at Winer?


on April 21, 2004 09:26 PM
# Randy said:

The blogosphere is all so funny. Now there's something wrong w/ quoting a line in your posts? Well, maybe Dave took the line out of context. Ah! Wait, it's the second line in the post. So, there wasn't much context leading up to that quote. Ummm! I love this!

on April 22, 2004 05:29 AM
# Don Park said:

This whole episode reminded me of the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" Monty Python sketch. Actually, it's more like "nudge, dodge, wink, link" but close enough.

on April 22, 2004 06:43 AM
# Rogers Cadenhead said:

I don't see how you can object to a direct quote that links to a weblog entry providing the context for the quote. How is that unfair, exactly? Seems a lot fairer than what takes place in other media, where people misquote and mischaracterize each other all the time with impunity.

on April 22, 2004 08:37 AM
# Danny said:

Hold the front page!

Google is bad. Blogger is bad. Tim O'Reilly is bad. Atom is bad. RSS 1.0 is bad. RSS 2.0 is good. Dave is good.

(source: Scripting News)

on April 22, 2004 10:10 AM
# Ryan Tate said:

I was watching Hardall with Chris Mattews last night. Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter who broke the Watergate story with Carl Bernstein, and who has had nine of his last ten books reach number one on the New York Times bestseller list, knows how to quote selectively. For his current book, "Plan of Attack," he spent many hours -- days, really -- interviewing President Bush, and hours with several of his key advisors. You can bet he whittled that down to the most interesting info for his book.

Here''s an except from the Hardball transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: In other words, you have the president admitting he won‘t say what he knows to be truth because of political strategy. 

BOB WOODWARD:  Yes, that‘s right.  And I finally—we went back and forth.  My mouth went dry at one point during that interchange, because he didn‘t want to get to it.  And...

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t want to give you the headline.  In fact, he said, I going to see this in “The Post”? 

WOODWARD:  That‘s right.  And I said, no, this is for the book.  It will eventually be in “The Washington Post” when we run excerpts.  And, short of that, he said, true, true, true.  We haven‘t found weapons of mass destruction.  He acknowledged it.

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t you find it interesting that he held back on what he knew to be the truth because somebody would say nah-nah-nah—nah— nah on the other side? 

WOODWARD:  It is politics.  Do you know—my sense, there‘s something about him in that kind of setting for hours, hundred of questions, where you get those kinds of acknowledgments which he would never make in a press conference. 

If you read the transcript, you'll also see Woodward spent three and a half hours interviewing Colin Powell. And you can bet that Colin Powell did not focus his comments on how he thinks one of the defense asst. secretaries runs a "gestapo" office, even though he said that. Quoting him saying that, though, is news, and is not a manipulation.

Did Trent Lott's eulogy of Strom Thurmond focus on how America would have been better if Thurmond had won the presidential race? No, it was described as an offhand comment. But webloggers were right to selectively quote it. It was news. When a company lays off hundreds of workers, do they make it the focus of their press release, or comments to analysts? No. But a newspaper report will rightly make that the focus of his story.The essence of journalism is to look past the agendas of others and decide, with an independent mind, what is news. Circumventing agendas, even inoccous ones ("I was defending my Google review ...") is a praiseworthy endeavour, not manipulation -- and I say that even though I very often disagree with the people doing the circumventing.

To call selective quoting -- including when the focus of the quote is different from that of the whole of the source material -- "manipulation" is the height of absurdity. Not only is such selective focus the essence of journalism and weblogging, it is, as Joan Didion and countless others will tell you, the essence of writing itself.

on April 22, 2004 10:50 AM
# pb said:

Seems like another DW attempt at a "gotcha". A yawner to me consdiering that Tim's business is driven by all of these (predominantly non-Microsoft businesses) doing well.

on April 22, 2004 11:27 AM
# Randy Charles Morin said:

Danny, you left out "RDF is bad." :)

on April 22, 2004 11:28 AM
# Danny said:

Ryan - a good find, that material. I agree with your analysis, but disagree with your conclusion: selective quoting *is* manipulation. It's a change of focus, even if it's just to get a news story - manipulating the reader's view of reality. When the writer has their own agenda (as is often the case) then they may change the impression given by taking things out of context. In that case they are very manipulating the words of the original author. As your comment suggests, it's very much a political thing.

Randy, Dave's actual words were "FUCK RDF!", although of course that could be misinterpreted out of context...

on April 23, 2004 12:35 AM
# Randy Charles Morin said:

Sorry Danny. My mistake! :)

Here's the context. Dave was moving RSS along and some guys went and RDFed it. Dave got pissed, drove around that bump and now their Atomizing it :) Fun!

on April 23, 2004 09:11 AM
# Ryan Tate said:

Danny, every writer has his own agenda. Even Google News has its own agenda, and it's just a bunch of robots! If journalists weren't able to change focus, we would be reading lots of news stories about all of the great promise and heroics in Iraq, rather than looking at photos of caskets.

on April 23, 2004 09:27 AM
# Rogers Cadenhead said:

"selective quoting *is* manipulation."

All quoting is selective.

on April 23, 2004 09:44 AM
# Dave Winer said:

You might consider the "FUCK RDF" thing a disclosure, in any case unless you're a school marm, and easily offended by strong language, there's nothing wrong with it.

(On the other hand at the time, on the FoRK list, such language was the norm. It was a list where free flaming was a high art. I wish you had quoted the time I told some jerk to go back into his nutshell. Even he thought it was funny.)

On the other hand, if I were to say "Harvard is the best school in the world," you would have to consider that somewhat biased, and might want to get a second opinion.

This thread is very gratifying. It started off as an invitation for a flamefest with me as the guest of honor, and the community said basically there's nothing to get so angry about. I think that may be a first. Thank you.

on April 23, 2004 01:44 PM
# Don Park said:

Hmm. Is that how the "Nutshell" series at O'Reilly got started? If not, it would make a good online folklore.

Sorry if I seem to be taking a lightened take on the issue rather than an enlightened one. Like a bright lightburb, being englightened takes a lot of energy.

on April 23, 2004 06:33 PM
# Doc Searls said:

Take away the personalities, the flamage, the ad hominem arguments and even the jokes... and what remains is a point about journalistic ethics: journals (and journalists) should disclose financial interests, when they have them, in the companies they cover. Should that have happened in this case, even if everybody who reads the piece believes that the writer's financial interests were not involved? I believe the answer is yes.

This conversation has also made me look at my own disclosures about my interests in various companies (I'm on the advisory boards of three, and have stock in two of those). I've just made the matter clearer on the bio page at my blog.

on April 24, 2004 02:28 PM
# Danny said:

All quoting is selective - yep, ok Rogers...

Ryan - "every writer has his own agenda" yes, I agree, but doesn't it follow that "manipulation" is not the "height of absurdity", but the norm?

Disclosure - I write.

on April 24, 2004 02:35 PM
# Danny said:

Nearly forgot -

Randy, Re. RSS/RDF - I suggest you consider other accounts of the past than Dave's.

Re. Atomizing RSS - don't forget the history there either, you were around! It was mostly people that favoured RSS 2.0 that got Atom rolling - e.g. Sam Ruby and his xhtml:body in RSS 2.0 experiments.

Atomic fusion is the aim, not fission.

on April 24, 2004 02:44 PM
# mcd said:

It begins to feel like the world of politics when the swords are pulled regarding private investments.
Does anyone seriously think that Tim O'Reilly's positive comments on Gmail would swing the stock price of Google.

Doc mentions a regard for journalistic ethics and discloses that he has promptly disclosed his business entanglements... great... but Doc IS a journalist.

I would hate to see everyone held to this standard. Let you private investment portfolio become a matter of public record becuase you want to blog. It's understandable in the world of politics but the polictical intent behind some bloggers attacks are very obvious. Like most political hacks, they expose bias in the issue they feel need highlighting.

As an interested observer of political strategy I find these techniques by the A-List bloggers fascinating. But I also an still seeking the "honest man" that can pull some basic truth out of the hipocrisies of these web wars... or maybe there is no hipocracy in making it very clear that
they just don't like somene and wish them to be exposed as "bad actors" in the web community.

It does make for some interesting reading but I still hope for that clear articulate voice that can cry foul when someone steps over the lines of restraint to sling mud unfairly. Lately, the conversations just seem to run in the same well-worn ruts...

I do a technorati serach for "I'm sorry" and see if anyone is willing to admit that they were being a jerk. Someone must be able to see their OWN flaws and well as others. Wait... Scoble does that
pretty often.

Maybe Scoble is the blog-o-sphere's honest man...
Hmmm... maybe not. He's paid to blog and can't just talk.

Jeremy... thank you for allowing comments. Most A-Listers don't... and with good reason. They generate too much heat and often intentionally.
They like to direct the heat towards their adversaries and not give it a home.

DISCLOSURE(S): I have 5 gmail accounts and no google stock. I have a Yahoo 360 account that I haven't visited in 2 months. I have a yahoo mail account and a account which I absolutely love. I own no Yahoo stock. I once bought a copy of Windows 98 and own 4 Apple computers. I refuse to disclose my party affliation on the grounds that I'm too embarrassed to defend it as an organized political party. Your milage may vary.

on August 24, 2005 08:43 AM
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