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Evil or Evil-er? A Question of Post Revision


This post is now it's own example of exactly its own topic! Thanks to Fluterdale, it was brought to my attention that this post might turn... ugly. So I am editing it, right here, above the fold. Is this the best way to do this? You tell me.

This post is about a general practice, not the specific comment or article being used as an example. I will happily add examples if someone has them. I'm leaving the original post as it was as an example of what I think may be a good solution.


What I wrote originally:


Recently some of us saw our beloved Burt's mainpage baptism by fire. Once I finished checking the 97 notifications (only 76% condescending vitriol!) I got on the couple of comments I left on the story, I saw that someone in the Criticizing Burt section of the responses said,

Well it was a badly written article, and she has revised it extensively since. It used to say "sipping an alcoholic beverage", which could be having a taste of someone's beer, and then went to "drinking drinks", plural, but she edited that out. She didn't bother to check the facts about drinking while nursing, she just referred to the Mayo Clinic, but she obviously hadn't read the whole entry she linked to. She used charged words like "dangerous" and flippantly dismissed the statement from the manager saying he had good reasons to fire the waitress, and not just because she called the cops. So yeah... There are good reasons why I and many others are less than impressed.


I use this as a specific example of a general complaint, namely, that writers edit their work post publishing. This is fascinating to me, because I feel that internet publishing is in part sort of wonderful in its impermanence. It's fundamentally different from traditional print media not only because of its vehicle, but because of it's edit-ability. We can fix it, even while it's live.

Just to be clear, I don't think having the opinion that Burt's post was less than great is a bad thing, or that criticism is a bad thing. I think that criticism is a valid mode of expression and a great way to call for improvements. I think the author of the example comment I'm using above has valid concerns, especially regarding the original language of the article to which she's referring.


ETA after original posting: Another example, via BattyMamzelle, is the MoGlo Selfie cluster that happened recently. Per BattyMamzelle's excellent comment:

It depends. The example I'd use would be MoGlo and that selfie piece rather than this, but in general post-publish edits DO MATTER when they change the initial tone or meaning of something. I'm not talking about fixing links or spelling or minor shit like that, but like with the selfie piece, an entire section was added post-publish to insulate the author from criticism she had been receiving. That's highly dishonest. There's a reason that even the NYT online will post a little footer to correct the spelling of someone's name or age after it's changed.


What I want to know is, how do we fall on editing posts once they're up? To keep my example going, I also saw Burt (hi Burt!) respond to a reader criticism by immediately changing an accidentally bold line that changed the tone of the piece. [ETA From Original: I thought this was a very good thing to do.] Is responding to specific reader requests thoughtful and demonstrative of care toward your audience, or is it disingenuous because it doesn't take ownership of possible original errors?

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