Several years ago, Ken Layne famously warned the media that on the Internet, “we can fact-check your ass.” Sadly, many bloggers could use some fact-checking, too:
- A few days ago Valleywag claimed that the recent 365 Main datacenter outage was due to a drunk employee – a claim they’ve since retracted.
- Last week Robert Scoble posted erroneous statements about FeedBurner and the RSS Advisory Board. Robert soon updated his post to correct his misstatements about FeedBurner.
- Read/WriteWeb’s recent claim that “Desktop RSS Readers are (Nearly) Dead” included incorrect assumptions about feed statistics, neglected to consider behind-the-firewall Enterprise customers who can’t use web-based RSS readers, and was based on a survey whose audience is far more likely to use a web-based reader to start with.
- And of course, Engadget’s claim a few months back that Apple was delaying the next version of Mac OS X caused Apple stock to plunge. This claim, too, was later corrected.
Now, I should make it clear that I respect Scoble, Read/WriteWeb and Engadget – I list the posts above solely because they’re high-profile examples of poor fact-checking, not because I dislike these blogs. There are many more examples, and I’m sure I’ve made my share of mistakes, too. But when a blog with a large audience makes a false claim, the potential for harm is great enough that fact-checking should be more of a priority.
Many of us in the geekosphere have a low opinion of the “mainstream media,” but we bloggers suffer from the same faults that we saddle the MSM with. We shoot from the hip without checking our sources, do little research to back up our claims, create sensationalistic titles for our posts, and generally do everything that the MSM does to increase readership.
Now that blogs have clout, perhaps we should spend a little more time fact-checking our own asses before we post?