The Visibility of Oppinion Changes

During the recent 2 weeks, a heated debate evolved in the blogger community: Mark Pilgrim set up the “Winer Watcher”, a blog that mirrors Dave Winer’s blog entries every 5 minutes using Dave’s RSS feed, makes a diff on the feeds to indicate changes made by Dave to his postings over time, and shows the changes in chronological order. Dave Winer urged Mark Pilgrim to stop his service and Mark (still?) shut out the public from the Winer Watcher with pasword protection. Read more about this debate and some legal implications in the comment by Karl-Friedrich Lenz.

Now, what’s my oppinion? I am very much in favour of transparency, in private as well as in the public. Transparency is one precondition for mutual trust. If you change your oppinion, make it transparent so that everyone can understand what and why you are doing it.

Dave Winer argued that Mark Pilgrim takes away Dave’s right to change his mind by setting up the Winer Watcher. Ok, an application, solely meant to track changes of one individual’s thoughts, must feel awful for the person affected. But Dave is a “prominent” blogger who – from Marks viewpoint – seems to behave badly as far as transparency is concerned. The conflict between both of them emerged because Dave did not cease to change his blog entries and denying things he had written before. At least, this is what the pro-Mark fraction thinks.

I personally do not understand, why Dave acts that aggressively. Writing in the public, especially in a medium like the Internet, means that many people can aggregate and cachy your texts – even before RSS feeds emerged. Searching Google for my name, will bring up many Web sites being more than 7 years old and they show some parts of my personality. And yes, I have changed in those 7 years and my oppinions as well. Clever minds will understand when comparing those old Websites in a chronological order. So what?

People publishing printed articles and books, cannot later take them out of any library in the world just because they published a new version of their document where their oppinions changed. Writers like the philosopher Wittgenstein completely changed their oppinion during their life – and that’s what is so interesting about his thinking.

Webloggers publish tiny articles everyday and up to know, they could change the content without advertising the changes in a diff as Wikis do for example. I am in favour of the visibilty of oppinion changes and it does not matter if they are processed with computational means like a diff between RSS feeds, or in a scholar’s mind comparing Wittgensteins two contrary books. The only thing everyone has to decide on his own is: how much of my thinking do I want to be public and how much do I want to keep private? In any case, you should be transparent in what you are doing, otherwise it is unlikely that people will trust you.

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