Comments: Bloggers vs. Journalists Has Just Begun

I think "Nobody cares about the truth" goes too far. In public debates today, being right gives you a 10% advantage. All else (eloquence, debating skills, persistence, size of megaphone) being equal, that's enough to win. When all else isn't equal, you'll still accomplish more than you would have if you were lying.

Posted by Ed Felten at January 28, 2005 06:39 AM

There was a certain amount of poetic license there. The more precise version is "Very, very few people care about the truth".

More deeply, the truth doesn't matter much - as in, the conference transcript is not a fundamental basis for people's determining whether the competing claims are correct. Rather, it's what they feel about blog trumphalism which is driving the debate.

That's a prosaic observation, but I thought it was significant because it's being demonstrated in this example, and it refutes some of the ideas being put forth about what creates credibility.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at January 29, 2005 12:52 AM

I suggest that we can regard this as a kind of litmus test. When a discourse has such little regard for the truth, we immediately know that it's of little value to us. Once the circus has moved on, a more honest and truthful discourse should eventually emerge.

(This can take a very long time indeed in tech debates, where the gnostic belief that more knowledge == truth seems to be axiomatic.)

This isn't to say that what Schafer writes about is entirely without merit. There may be some therapeutic value in blog conferences for the participants, but such events really have more in common with a torchlit rally than rational discourse. There are plenty of examples of this in the irc transcript.

I think Schafer's written a landmark piece. He's pointed out that people care very deeply about the _quality_ of news, much more than how it's delivered. Which is simply a process issue ;-)

Technologists get very hung up on this. If you have good, clean processes (or if the process has magical properties), then what comes out must be good, too, OK?

(There's alos a fascinating parallel with how modern marketing uses process as a mark of authenticity, much as the weblog-evangelists do. In England last year I noticed almost every packaged item of food now uses this technique: the chicken chips are "applewood roasted", the salt is "air-dried". And this paragraph was soaked in blog goodness, before being delivered to you. Remind you of anyone?)

Posted by Andrew at January 30, 2005 09:57 PM