Scanning my referrers today, I came upon a very interesting blog called Hacknot. I don't know who the author is, but he or she posted only ten essays last year. Postings in the previous year were a little more frequent. A quick scan of recent articles shows that they are meaty, well-researched (with footnotes), and well written, and although they are clearly opinion pieces it is equally clear that the author strives very hard to achieve balance. The article that linked to me is a very thorough analysis of the Dan Lyons "Attack Of The Blogs" article and of the the blogosphere's reactions. Two commenters (Alan Bell and Ben Poole) to my own post in reaction to the Lyons article were highlit by the Hacknot author as examples of how the blogosphere reacted to Lyons with "ad hominem attacks and impotent threats", and one commenter (Nathan Freeman) in reaction to Ed's post was highlit as representative of "utopian neo-Marxists who are convinced that blogging is the wave front of the oncoming Cultural Revolution ".
I'm not going to quarrel with the substance of the Hacknot author's assertion that some blogs misrepresented the Forbes article, or that some commenters did in fact go over the top and engage in ad hominems. I do quarrel with the fact that the author spent a lot of time and effort researching and writing about Lyons' treatment of the Kryptonite incident, and did not go into any depth at all on the Halpern or Radicati incidents, but he did not limit his survey of the blogosphere reaction to the Lyons article in the same way. The two quotes that the author pulled from the comment stream of my blog, and the one from Ed's blog both had to do with Lyons' coverage of the Radicati incident, and they came from people who know more about that incident and more about Mr. Lyons' history than the Hacknot author told his (or her) readers. Furthermore, some of the other comments that were quoted by the Hacknot author were clearly made by people whose opinion of Lyons were based on issues entirely extraneous to the "Attack Of The Blogs" essay, notably Mr. Lyons' previous expressions of support for SCO's lawsuit against IBM and of antagonism to Linux and open source.
This all adds up to a very serious flaw in an otherwise very good essay. It's a structural flaw, and it does harm to the article's logic and it weakens the conclusions.
Due to the singular emphasis of the first part of the article on the Kryptonite incident, which arose out of nowhere and quickly erupted into a true firestorm in the blogopsphere, readers are left with the impression that the blogger quotes were reactions to a one-time stimulus, and that's not true. The commenters from my blog and Ed's blog whom the author quoted were aware of a pattern of bias against IBM and Lotus shown by Mr. Lyons for more than seven years. They were also aware of the other side of the story in the Radicati incident, the provable misrepresntations -- misconduct, really -- of a Radicati employee in the comment stream of Ed Brill's blog -- which Mr. Lyons did make a pretense of researching but which he didn't present in his article. There was significant context far beyond what Lyons wrote in the "Attack of the Blogs" article, and that's what raised the temperature of those comments.
There may be a perfect world in which a pattern of personal bias on the part of someone with access to a very large printing press is met only with reasoned argument, no matter how egregious and no matter how long it goes on. We just don't live in that world, and we're unlikely to anytime soon. That's why some of the blog comments about Lyons are over the top. Yes, they were ad hominem, but the quotes from Alan, Ben and Nathan simply don't support the Hacknot author's theory of "Social Hysteria". The bullet points that he (or she) presented to describe sociological hysteria do not fit the IBM/Lotus community's reaction to either Lyons or Radicati.
Despite all that, do go read the essay. It's worth the time. even though it's flawed.
1. Pete Lyons01/11/2006 09:19:14 PM
Hacknot is great. I don't always agree but it's always interesting.
I also wanted to add that Dan Lyons is no relation. No one has ever asked but I cringe whenever I see the last name being mentioned so negatively.
2. Alan Bell01/12/2006 04:40:13 AM
hmm. When I say something I put my name to it. The author of the hacknot article neglected to put their name to the article, which is odd. I would certainly not go to the effort of writing a big article like that and not claiming credit for it. The attribution for my quote was unclear too. It would have been nice to put a name to the quote particularly as it was on a link to rhs.com rather than dominux.co.uk.
The full quote was as follows:
"He has no ethics. He stirs up controversy by writing untrue, unbalanced, and unethical drivel, but then people visit his articles and Forbes gets advertising revenue. It would be great if advertisers such as IBM demand that their adverts are not placed on Lyons articles, or in fact just dump Forbes as an advertising channel."
and I stand by that statement. It was ad hominem because it was about the messenger rather than the message, but just because a statement is ad hominem does not mean that it is false. My point was to explain my view of the motives that Dan Lyons has for writing in the manner that he regularly does.
3. Nathan T. Freeman01/12/2006 06:25:44 AM
Whoa.... did I just get referred to as a "utopian neo-Marxist!???!" WOW!! ahahahahahahahahahahaha. You need, what, 10 seconds of conversation with me about politics to know that you literally couldn't be further from the truth.
The author leaves out the concluding sentence: that the Blogosphere is the grass-roots tool that's gotten congressmen and network news anchors fired. That's a pretty big part of the comment, dontcha think?
Anyway, I'm a bit baffled at the argument that the world of blogs don't tend to be self-correcting. They are at least as strong a feedback mechanism for this kind of information as has ever been produced.
4. Alan Bell01/12/2006 07:37:38 AM
another interesting article on that site, to be read in conjunction with the latest one:
The Art of Flame War http://www.hacknot.info/hacknot/action/showEntry?eid=72
one particularly interesting paragraph:
Argumentum ad hominem: Ad hominem means 'to the man'. Your opponent attacks you rather than your argument. If you choose to insult your opponent in order to provoke an emotional reaction, be sure that your insults are not used as part of your argument, otherwise you will be guilty of argumentum ad hominem yourself.
I fully agree with that. Critisism of the message and messenger are separate, but when the messenger has no ethics, and is repeatedly unreliable then it is only reasonable to point this fact out. It doesn't
5. Richard Schwartz01/12/2006 08:14:51 AM
@3: I shall call you "Comrade Nathan" from here on. It has a nice ring to it
6. Ben Poole01/12/2006 09:40:25 AM
I've posted on this briefly - as discussed with Richard, I think I was the referrer in question!
Anyhow, my comment about Lyons was indeed pretty darn rude. But then the messenger is what we're really taking issue with here, not so much the message (though its expression could have been a whole lot better).
So yes, mine WAS "ad hominem": as I say in my post, a far worse personal attack is to try and get someone fired.
7. Dave Delay01/12/2006 02:27:14 PM
Like Pete (1), I am a big fan of Hacknot. The site went through a redesign in the summer of 2005. Before the redesign, all the articles were attributed to Mr. Ed. From the context, I assume Mr. Ed is a software consultant in the UK. He seems very familiar with J2EE. I don't know why he prefers to remain anonymous.
I remember reading the "Counter-Attack" essay and wishing he had chosen to cover the Radicati incident in more depth. There's a whole section on how the Forbes article misrepresented the Kryptonite case, but the author apparently didn't do as much research on the Radicati incident.
However, as Ben (6) suggests, it probably is fair to characterize his comments on Richard's blog as "juvenile stone-throwing". Mr. Ed doesn't know how long the Notes / Domino community put up with Daniel Lyons before the stone-throwing erupted. I think the moral of the story is this: Blog postings and comments are forever. Not all our readers have the full context. Therefore appearances do matter. We need to choose our words very carefully.
8. Nathan T. Freeman01/16/2006 06:39:11 AM
Fine, but I was A) quoted pretty severely out of context and B) definitely on the receiving end of an ad-hominem attack by Hacknot with that "neo-Marxist" remark.
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