Polite Discourse

So today was the day that I was called a “sack of shit” by one of the UK’s most popular political bloggers.

It was all pretty silly really. I didn’t even really disagree with what he had written. I just pointed out that his blog entry had two completely unattributed quotations.

It’s Iain’s blog, of course, so it’s completely up to him whether or not he wants to publish unattributed quotations. My point was that not to do so might lead people to wonder where they came from. It’s so easy to link to sources on the web that if you don’t you run the risk of arousing suspicion.

I found a reference for one of the quotes (it was a parliamentary Early Day Motion – they aren’t hard to find), but Google came up blank for the other. I had assumed that it came from a blog post, but that no longer looked likely. I asked Iain if he had made it up. I didn’t believe for a second that he had invented it (although, of course, he has previous in this area), I was just demonstrating the conclusions that it was possible to reach from the information he had made available.

And that’s when he might have overreacted just a touch in his reply. A suspicious person might wonder why that touched such a nerve, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt (I’m sure he’d do the same for me). I pointed to his reply on Twitter and he responded:

@davorg Next time don’t make groundless allegations. if you can’t stand the heat, and all that…

I made no allegation, let alone a groundless one.

Bizarrely, even though he took such obvious umbrage at my question, he followed my advice and edited his blog post so that it included a link to the EDM. He also stated in his reply that the other quotation came from a private email. So I got all the answers I wanted. Which was nice.

When you’re blogging you can choose the amount of reference material that you show to your readers. I like to link to any articles that I’m quoting and generally throw in as many links as possible to my sources so that my readers can make up their own minds about my interpretations of what I’m writing about. Other people deal in scurrilous rumour or unsubstantiated gossip. You wouldn’t expect them to link to their sources. That’s their choice. It’s their blog. They can follow their own rules. Whatever makes them comfortable.

In my opinion, showing your sources is treating your readers as adults. It’s trusting them to draw their conclusions about what you’re writing. It’s showing your working for extra credit. Giving your readers no information about your sources is treating them like idiots. It’s a tabloid style of blogging and whenever I come across that style of blogging it makes me wonder what they are hiding.

In my mind, showing your sources equates to quality blogging. Not doing so is suspect.

I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me. I do, however, expect to be able to make these suggestions on one of the UK’s most read political blogs without the blog author calling me a sack of shit.

That’s just rude.

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