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
thatâ€™s because heâ€™s an old MSM, and sometimes still worries about â€œbalancedâ€ stories. I donâ€™t aim for balance, I just want to be right.
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.
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="http://www.techcrunch.com/xmlrpc.php" />
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?
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. Donâ€™t be afraid to get physical (in a metaphorical kind of way), and call people out. Donâ€™t afraid to be negative. But be prepared to fight for your opinion.