Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Some people have been critical about the lack of fact checking and vetting I do before I post an article or a link. I've argued that my posts are really the beginning of a discussion and not a definitive assertion or the final word. I really think about my blog as a group effort with the people who comment here.

I was reading Yochai Benkler's paper, "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm", (which I highly recommend) and saw a reference to this from Slashdot's FAQ which I think sums up my feelings as well.

Q: How do you verify the accuracy of Slashdot stories?

A: We don't. You do. :) If something seems outrageous, we might look for some corroboration, but as a rule, we regard this as the responsibility of the submitter and the audience. This is why it's important to read comments. You might find something that refutes, or supports, the story in the main.

Agreed, a blog is a bit different from slashdot, but please. Read the comments. That's where most of the really interesting stuff goes on.


The problem is that too many people rely on other people to think for them. Most of these people spend their time watching tv and surfing the web (ooops. I resemble that remark!).

These days it is easier to believe what you are told rather than to try and form an intelligent opinion based on indipendant research you do yourself. Take for example 99.99% of everyting ever said for or against the US occupation of Iraq.

We seem to have replaced the motto "Question everything" with "Believe whatever makes you feel better about yourself"

I read most posts in outlook with newsgator, maybe I'm too dumb to do it right, but I can't see the comments there.So I would have to go for a lot of posts to the blog which makes newsgator useless. Or so it seems to me.

Ahh good point Hans. Would it help if I did UPDATEs when the comments reflect a significantly different conclusion from the original post? This would trigger the post to appear new in your news reader I think.

I wouldn't hold up Slashdot as a justification for anything. Their philosophy of being a "news" site without the need to do even cursory fact-checking, headline-tweaking, or even checking that they don't post the same story multiple times has led, over time, to a complete collapse in any credibility or meaningful discussion. It seems that on Slashdot now people use story posts as an excuse to talk about any related subject, and generally ignore the substance of the post, since it is so often biased, blatantly untrue, and a duplicate, all at the same time.

All that said, I don't see that problem here. You run a personal site, not a news site. You post interesting stories and things that you find with a bit of your own commentary, often with questions attached. You are using posts as a launching point for discussion, and sometimes you follow up with updates and corrections.

You aren't a full-time journalist dedicated to fact-checking everything you post. You should be allowed to do what you are doing, as long as it doesn't get entirely out of hand. This is your site, and it should reflect what you are thinking and pondering. That's why we come here. If we wanted news, we'd read a newspaper. But please, don't use Slashdot as your justification. It just detracts from your argument.

Joi, you wrote:

>>I've argued that my posts are really the beginning of a discussion and not a definitive assertion or the final word.>Read the comments. That's where most of the really interesting stuff goes final word. Exactly.

Until the discussion might change my mind.


Hmmm .. my comment got severely truncated. Will repost in a moment, hopefully it will come through as intended next time.


Joi, you wrote:

>>I've argued that my posts are really the beginning of a discussion and not a definitive assertion or the final word.

Followed by:

>>Read the comments. That's where most of the really interesting stuff goes on.

Exactly! Er, I mean, uh, not exactly. I mean, well put. Or should I say, well begun?

Exactly though not exactly, well put, to begin.

Language, the common barrier between all who communicate!

Blogs, unlike periodicals or dated new or special interest publications-of-record, remain dynamic and in progress.

SlashDot, The NY Times, WiredNews, any of the news or topic reporting entities, present a factual and often time-delineated post in their offerings. Blogs are constant, the discussions extend the original post. With the exception of closed discussion areas or those which offer no space for comment, blogs remain in group effort mode until interest or participation render the post either suspended, depleted, or completed.

Blogging and blog converation topics tend toward a seemingly organic or natural order, unlike other forms which require bookends or a form of certainty. Blogs expand and extend over time; discussions may rev up, idle, or disspipate.

It is the beauty of ongoing connectivity and interaction.

And as far as I am concerned, on this issue. that is the final word, a definitive assertion. Well, better put, my final word. Exactly.

Until the discussion might change my mind.


Danny, you have a grand total of eleven comments on all the stories on the front page of your blog. Of those eleven comments, four of them are by you, and the remaining seven of them had to be approved by you personally before being posted.

Obviously it's possible to keep a discussion on track with those restrictions. Slashdot got eleven comments in the time it took you to read this comment, and none of them were approved by the editorial staff before being posted. Do you think maybe there's a tiny bit of a scale difference?

Which of your stories did you fact-check, Danny? Did you buy Bill Clinton's book to make sure Slate wasn't lying about it? Did you call Alan Turing in the afterlife and make sure he's really 92? You didn't even spell his name right (you have 'Alan Turning') so why should I trust you to get his age right? Did you personally see the Olsen Twin checking into an eating disorder clinic? If you didn't do these things, why the heck did you post them on your blog?

Real estate information usually has this disclaimer: 'Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.' If you apply this to everything you read or hear, you'll understand the world a lot better.

I agree with you, Joi. I think it is perfectly ok to blog something you believe is correct. If you get information later that shows that it isn't, then you blog that too.

Unlike a newspaper, a blog also has the advantage of a correction being just as big and prominent as the original item.

Oh, and the correction can be as simple as -- Hey, new information in this comment on this post! Turns out X is not quite what I thought it was. Doesn't have to be cumbersome.

Everything's OK! Crazy Truth! Santa Claus! Easter Bunny! Compassionate Conservatives! No New Taxes! WMD! Mission Accomplished! Fair and Balanced! I Love You, Baby!


We learn to trust the reasoned voice, but somewhere at the edge of that trust is faith. We believe what we agree with, and resist what we don't.

The Weather Channel says it's 92 outside. I believe them.

Bill O'Reilly says anything at all I don't believe him. I don't have to, nothing hangs on it either way, and no potential disaster averted is worth the contamination of having to believe an egregious fool.

There are millions of blogs and rising. Providing scent, hint and clue, whispers of what is. They aren't end-points, but as Joi Ito says, beginnings.

Anyone who stops in mid-flight to admit being mistaken gets lots of extra credibility.

Deception has an odor, generally. A tone.

It takes time, but the truth will out.

Joi - I have a similar problem to another commenter. I read your blog with RSS, and the comments don't show up - in fact, when I read the RSS2.0 source, the comments aren't there. This isn't a client, or an update, problem. Even now doesn't show the comments in this thread.

So unfortunately that means that any readers on RSS readers will never see the corrections, and of course I'll never see any response to this comment ....


As pointed out, many people don't ever see the comments. Even fewer slog through a long set of them.

To put in cliche terms, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" shouldn't be justified because it might lead to an interesting discussion of attitudes towards spousal violence.

UPDATEs: not really. Thinking it over it's like: if stuff is interesting enough I'll check the comments.

Seth, I would never post anything that I thought was intentionally deceptive or that I thought was wrong. I guess my point is that I would like to "post early, post often" like the bazaar model instead of the cathedral model. As Hans points out, if people are interested enough, they probably read the comments. I guess I should update if the top item becomes materially wrong based on facts that come up in the comments...

Oh, and I used to have a feed with the comments, but I found it to be really annoying because it would show the item as fresh each time a person posted a comment and it would load the whole thread.

I think posts work in dialetic way. A new post modifies the balance and provokes the auto-organization of all.

The accuracy of the posts goes to appear in the process. Any post initiates a discussion, at least for some person. One voice calls other voices.

hugs from Brazil,


So why not provide an alternative feed with the comments? Although that wouldn't solve the problem of an item being marked new whenever someone commented.

On many readers (e.g. NetNewsLite) there is no indication that comments exists, for example there is no way in NetNewsLite to see that Joi's blog supports comments, while many others don't.

- mitra

I feel I must weigh in here.

The topic is "the accuracy of my posts" and as much as I know you, Joi, want to be professional about it, it remains that this is your weblog. Anyone who uses it as anything more, in a journalistic sense, than a pointer to an issue or topic or event, is silly.

We can converse about it here, discuss until blue in the face, but trying to bend the medium to a usage it is not meant for makes no sense.

IMHO, the only solution here, is not syndication feeds with comments included (we tried that already, it didn't "work") but rather to update the original entry with updated information.

I have two things to point to further underline my position:

1- after a handful of comments, no one reads the previous comments anymore anyways


2- see how Boing Boing does it? They simply update the entry. This is far more effective.

Journalism is not a conversation, it is a narrative. Narrative leads to conversation. In this medium we can combine both, but let us not confuse them.

Agreed with Boris, Seth, et al. Updates are a good thing.

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