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Friday, October 28, 2005

Further re Blogging Ethics

If it is true, as our PrawfsBlawg bloggers noted earlier this month, that female law professors are less likely to blog -- then I come down on the side of Ethan Lieb.   Here’s why: let’s assume for the sake of argument that the reason women law professors are less represented among bloggers has something to do with either reticence (because of R/P/T concerns) or perhaps lack of time (due to childrearing or other family obligations).

If this is true, woman might be more likely to blog (and blog more frequently, openly, and quickly ) if they knew that a mistake or blunder could be corrected by deletion. I tend to spell-check, re-think, and re-edit almost every blog I post. This is because I assume it will be online for all-time. (Full disclosure: this blog is an exception because I have an article deadline coming up but wanted to put in my quick two cents.)

If deletion is considered ethical in the blogging community, professors in general (and woman in particular) might be more likely to show up and express their opinions.

P.S. Can I delete this later if it is too controversial?

Posted by Marcy Peek on October 28, 2005 at 04:59 PM in Blogging | Permalink


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I see nothing wrong with deleting a post or part of a post that you later decide wasn't well put. I generally err on letting things stay up, hoping that I'll be forgiven for not being eloquent or thoughtful all the time because of the norms of the blogosphere. But when I believe I've posted something really silly, then I think that it is fine to delete it -- even if others have commented. I agree that a rule of non-deletion would inhibit some folks from participating in the blogosphere, which would lead to a poorer blogosphere, as it is often those who are measured, balanced, and very thoughtful who also strive to be very careful in what they say and are not eager to shoot from the hip if they can never retrieve their misfires. Of course, the realities with archiving are that what we put online can still be accessed even when we take it down, but taking it down will minimize the exposure and the risk of the information spreading, and I think that this is a perfectly understandable and ok thing to do when one has regrets about a blog post.

Posted by: Daniel Solove | Oct 28, 2005 5:44:11 PM

Yes, I meant to mention in the post that Google's Cache option (as one example) will bring up old material that has been "deleted." Nevertheless, as you say, the delete option provides some protection.

Posted by: Marcy Peek | Oct 28, 2005 5:51:12 PM

It's my blog and I'll delete it if I want to. In my opinion it's not ethics but vanity that leads some bloggers to think that their posts are there for all eternity. The biggest attraction of the Internet to me is that it is amorphous, protean and ephemeral -- a bunch of electrons spinning around which can be made to stop spinning at the click of a button. As for generalities about sex and blogging or aptitude in mathematics ... well, sooner or later Harvard will need a new president.

Posted by: nk | Oct 28, 2005 6:52:00 PM

I used "amorphous" improperly. I wish I could delete it.

Posted by: nk | Oct 28, 2005 6:56:58 PM

At Conglomerate, we don't delete our own posts. We sometimes update posts to clarify or fix errors, and we will sometimes fix typos. I have read Prawfs posts on Bloglines only to click over and find that it was deleted. Our reason for not deleting has nothing to do with vanity. The only reason we would delete something is because we were later proved wrong or someone's argument destroyed ours. Deletion in that sense would be vanity. If commenters can't delete their own comments, then we should not be deleting our own posts.

Posted by: Christine | Oct 28, 2005 10:01:24 PM

Christine -- why can't commenters just ask the blogger to remove their comment? That doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I don't see what the big deal is regarding deleting a post. A person says something foolish and retracts it. What's so wrong or vain about that? People replace their drafts on SSRN all the time with ones that correct typos and that have corrected and better arguments. Is this wrong? Why is putting something on the Internet somehow sacred and cannot be touched?

Posted by: Daniel Solove | Oct 28, 2005 11:56:34 PM

Christine: Fine, commenters ought to be able to delete their coments.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Oct 29, 2005 12:35:24 AM

Deleting posts annoys rigorous readers and discourages other bloggers from linking to and responding to posts that may be here today and gone tomorrow.

Now of course there are tradeoffs, and sometimes it is worth annoying and discouraging one's readers. But the more regularly a blog deletes substance (different than fixing typos) those are the risks it faces.

Posted by: Will Baude | Oct 29, 2005 9:47:07 AM

Shortly after I started my blog I made up an editing policy. I reserved the right to modify it, but it's over two years old now and it still pretty much works for me.

Generally speaking, I decided that I wouldn't change things retrospectively, except with the following articulated exceptions:

* Typos are always fair game for fixing.

* After making a post, I may come back later to rephrase parts of it. It's important for me to articulate myself clearly, and sometimes I find myself lacking the correct words to do it at the time I post. Sometimes it's only on re-reading posts that I finally find the phrasing I was searching for. Depending on the time that has passed since the original post and the scale of the changes I may leave a notation describing the edits. I won't generally do this if I make changes on the same day, but I will be more likely to do this if it's possible that readers might get confused ("Didn't it say something different the last time I was here???").

* Inline URLs can be adjusted at any point, but I will try to leave an editing notation to indicate if there has been a significant change.

* If I really change my mind on something, I will try to follow the protocol of not mutilating or destroying the original post. Rather, I will follow it up with another subsequent post and/or a comment...

In practice I do tend to make some changes but the most major is the deletion of certain paragraphs I later deem extraneous and/or the stylistic revision of sentences. I implicitly differentiate between edits of form and edits of substance. The former I permit myself, but the latter not so much.

Part of my thinking behind this policy is that I purposefully view my blog to be a historical record of my intellectual evolution. Post hoc edits would undermine its value in that regard. For that reason, when I do make changes I tend to be meticulous in noting, if not so much what has changed, at least WHEN it has changed so that it can be placed appropriately in the timeline. (Although for really small fixes I tend to just slip them in unannounced.)

Also, for the record, I tend not to edit my comments because it doesn't seem fair for the visiting commenters who are unable to.

Posted by: Cathy | Oct 29, 2005 1:08:31 PM

Dan -- I've never had a commenter ask me to delete a post. Once a commenter asked me to fix a typo, which I did. I guess the analogy that you make to ssrn leads to the question of whether you see your blog as just a chronicle of working paper thoughts or a part of a dialogue or even as journalism. If it is either of the last two, then I think that deletion undermines its effectiveness.

Posted by: Christine | Oct 30, 2005 9:51:23 AM

I think that deleting content only becomes super-problematic if you make other people look dumb by replying to things you didn't say.

Posted by: Heidi | Oct 31, 2005 10:16:55 AM

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