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November 03, 2005
In praise of misunderstandings: How they can jumpstart a discussion
Don't get me wrong. I don't admire errors and I hate to commit them. But sometimes errors or misunderstandings serve a function in blogs. They start conversations that would never happen if we got everything right.
A few days ago, my colleague Bruce Nussbaum teed off in his blog about Ford. He said the company licenced lots of Toyota technology for its hybrids. This indicated that Toyota was innovating in an important technology, and that Ford was not. Bruce quickly got a response from a very upset Mary Ann Wright, who heads up hybrids at Ford. She explained that Ford merely exchanged patent licenses with Toyota, because the technologies were similar enough, and the companies wanted to avoid any accusations of infringement.
If Bruce had heard that explanation in the beginning, he probably wouldn't have written the item. But because he did, we get a look into the complex relations between Ford and Toyota, we meet a Ford exec, and we learn that Ford clearly is monitoring the blogs--and responding quickly.
BusinessWeek, mainstream media
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Steve, this was a fascinating exchange for me. The conventional wisdom was that Ford licensed the technology from Toyota. Mary Ann Wright said it wasn't true. OK, but she was from Ford. The real kicker was hearing from an auto journalist who gave me the inside story of how the misunderstanding started and was spread far and wide. To me, this was blogging at its best.
Posted by: bruce nussbaum at November 3, 2005 05:57 PM
"The real kicker was hearing from an auto journalist who gave me the inside story of how the misunderstanding started and was spread far and wide. To me, this was blogging at its best."
Blogging at its best?? Okay, was it good that the misunderstanding -- also can be called misinformation -- was spread far and wide?
Only if the corrected or clarified information also was spread JUST as far and wide.
As a former journalist and currently in public relations (and blogger), I've seen both sides of how mistakes or the wrong assumptions get a lot of attention. But, the correction gets usually gets buried.
Was this the case for the Ford-Toyota hybrid post? If so, it's not the "best" for Ford.
Posted by: Mike Driehorst at November 3, 2005 10:09 PM
Thank you for defending the blogosphere in this educational manner. We need more explanations like this, especially considering the recent Forbes smear campaign against blogs, the Attack of the Blogs article that I and many others have rallied against.
It's important to point out, as you do, that errors on blogs, even deliberate falsifications, can be corrected, can backfire, can result in good, e.g. a lively discussion.
A single blog is easy to correct. You just post a comment or email the blog author. Very few bloggers will ignore an email or comment post that challenges their accuracy, fairness, or honesty.
If it's your blog, you go into the post and edit it, with a strikethrough and Edit Note attached to let readers know you've changed something.
I refuse to get all guilt trippy and apologetic about the imperfections of the blogosphere.
Think of how newspapers publish "corrections", but bury them on back pages where few will even notice them. This enables them to make a big uproar about the false news item, and a little whimper for the correction, i.e., the truth.
Posted by: steven streight aka vaspers the grate at November 4, 2005 12:48 PM