Linking To Differing Opinion

There is nothing wrong with having strong, even biased opinion about a product or service, as long as you provide a basis for that judgement, clear disclosure of any conflicts, and where possible links to differing opinion.

Links provide balance

Fred disagreed with what was written about 4 services on Techcrunch and VentureBeat, he provided some data to back that up, and clear disclosure.

Techcrunch responded, defending their writers, again fair enough.

Fred Wilson followed up with another post, linking through to the differing opinion, thus giving them equal limelight

Mathew Ingram was following the story closely, and as a professional journalist who I know links out to conflicting opinion on a frequent basis, followed up with “Bloggers Need To Try Harder

Michael Arrington also linked through to Mathew from his post to give some additional balance.

The only negative in all this is that Fred ends up with a reputation management potential problem with a post headline on Techcrunch “Fred Wilson – Hypocritical, Wrong and Conflicted” – probably a bit uncalled for considering how this all eventually worked out.

Sadly This Isn’t Typical

I am going to start with a few choice quotes from Michael Arrington

In reference to Matt Marshall’s post on VentureBeat

that’s because he’s an old MSM, and sometimes still worries about “balanced” stories. I don’t aim for balance, I just want to be right.
Michael Arrington

Controversy in blogging pays

Joe – we’ve found that the “hits” – the blog posts that generate a lot of discussion – are the ones that drive all stats, including, indirectly, monetization. The problem is knowing what’s a hit and what isn’t before it actually happens. Given that we are all rushing into new territory, I think a little leeway is appropriate.
Michael Arrington

Some key points

  • There is a financial incentive to be controversial
  • There is equally a financial incentive for a story to remain controversial – linking to a differing opinion in an update? (extremely rare) or new post that links through to a strongly differing opinion (almost unheard of)

It is my belief as a blogger, the stronger opinion you have on a topic, or the more conflicts you have, the more you should try to highlight differing opinion.

One of the safety nets for a blogger are pingbacks or trackbacks – if you display them, and moderate them without concern for conflicting opinion.

Maybe it is a technical problem with Akismet, that pingbacks and trackbacks on Techcrunch rarely appear from valid blogs.
Maybe Techcrunch aren’t overly concerned with recovering pingbacks and trackbacks from the Akismet sin bin, but I have noticed trackbacks and pingbacks rarely appear on Techcrunch.
I would certainly hope that opinions the Techcrunch editors don’t agree with are in a worse case scenario just being deleted, and not actively flagged as being spam.

Techcrunch Has Pingback Code

The following code is included in each page

<link rel="pingback" href="" />

That means there is no need to include a Trackback link if you are using WordPress and sending ping notifications

So why are so few trackbacks appearing on Techcrunch, especially from what I would look on as trusted commentators such as Mathew Ingram?

No Trackbacks On Post

Akismet relies on collective intelligence, you have to take an active role in removing legitimate trackbacks that have been wrongly detected as spam, otherwise you can silence the voice of other bloggers, not just on your own blog, but on other blogs as well.
Even if you subsequently intend to delete a pingback or trackback, you should still remove it from the spam list.

Why are people having to leave comments to say they have responded in some way to a Techcrunch post?

Cut The Ropes On Your Safety Net

Trackbacks and Pingbacks on a blog are your safety net, allowing others to find differences in opinion.

They are especially important on sites which have a very fast paced editorial process, and a reduced amount of time to followup on commentary elsewhere. I certainly wouldn’t expect Techcrunch to link through to every conflicting blog post, that would be an extreme burden on resources better spent chasing down the next great startup – I even think they are over generous placing trackbacks above the comment area.

However if Techcrunch is to provide strong opinions on various topics, which have significant influence on the opinions of their 600k+ subscribers, and where they have admitted that controversial content has a financial benefit, they should ensure pingbacks and trackbacks are appearing, if only for some level of oversight.

Unfortunately in this regard Fred’s blog has also lost a few points – he has now replaced his comment system with Disqus.

Whilst that shows comments, he no longer has those comments hosted as part of his blog, they are on a separate domain, and the process of adding Discus comments has also removed the ability to display trackbacks.

Hyde Park Corner or a Conversation?

A blog without functioning pingbacks, trackbacks and comments is a bit like shouting your head off on Hyde Park corner. Whilst there is the potential of some limited 2 way conversation, your audience loses a lot of perspective.


Tony Hung’s take on this is a worthwhile read, and I do practice what I preach. Is it all just about controversy?

Engage your community. Don’t be afraid to get physical (in a metaphorical kind of way), and call people out. Don’t afraid to be negative. But be prepared to fight for your opinion.

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  1. says

    This is a great idea Andy. And I can see how linking to a different opinion could be beneficial, so long as the other blogger didn’t take it too personally.

    A while ago I blogged about bloggers stealing work from their employers and one guy got really annoyed with me and decided to blog about it. The trouble was, he didn’t link to me properly – the link just said “this blog”, which didn’t come across as professional at all.

    It was like my opinion had annoyed him so much that he couldn’t even bear to type my name.

  2. says

    Andy, a clarification. you quote one of my comments where i talk about hits, and translate that into a sort of admission by me that controversy sells. that isn’t accurate. “hits” is a popular story – which is based on an interesteing story. that’s generally a new startup, or an acquisition. or possibly an opinion piece. but it doesn’t mean “hit job” or “something, anything, controversial.” I’m talking about a hit, like a hit song.

    • says

      Michael, maybe I should place that statement in a historical context, with quotes such as:-

      The company complains that we write about them only because it drives controversy and traffic. That is, of course, absolutely correct. I freely admit it.

      Unfortunately you deleted that from the original post, but it is still available online from people who syndicate your content.

      Damn splogs are useful sometimes.

      That wasn’t even a unique occurrence, I can recall similar comments in the past, but I would have to invest some time digging them out, and there is always the chance they are no longer present.

      There is nothing wrongwith being controversial, or having a very firm opinion, but the more one sided your opinion is, the more you should try to at least ensure trackbacks make it through for some balance.

      As to the rest of the article, I think I gave you a lot of slack, as the lack of trackbacks appearing these days could well be a major fault of Akismet.

      I can remember times during heated blogging debate where there were 40+ trackbacks appearing on Techcrunch posts. Those days are gone – I don’t know the reason.

      Sure, a good deal of those trackbacks were from the likes of the useful resource I just dug up, but what of the remainder?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment

  3. says

    Andy, great article as always. I am wondering what you mean by “safety net” however. I have my idea what you mean but it’s not crystal clear. To me trackbacks show that you value your sources and you can back up what you say. Am I on the right track?

    • says

      Damien Techcrunch is a very fast paced blog, receiving a lot of links from people with varied opinion.

      I am sure at times Techcrunch can receive upwards of 200 links for a post, though a fair percentage would be from splogs either scraping Techcrunch, or the people linking to Techcrunch.

      I would never expect Michael to link through in updates to everyone who linked to him who had something to say, but it is good practice to have pingbacks/trackbacks displayed.

      Mine appear after the comments box, and I have seen 50+ clicks in my stats through to such links on popular posts.