Sense of humour failure as my iPlayer comment is re-written by The Telegraph

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 30 July 2007

Over the last couple of months I've been very impressed with the development of The Telegraph's site, particularly their user engagement and blogging.

I've signed up to the My Telegraph service, and was just actually going to set up my My Telegraph space properly today, when all that good work by the paper so far came to a shuddering halt.

When I logged into my page I saw a list of my recent comments on The Telegraph site.

At the top was a post called 'reverse position' about the BBC iPlayer launch.

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Which would be fine...except that I didn't write a comment called 'reverse position'.

Marcus Warren's post "Oi! Where's my BBC iPlayer?" popped up in my RSS reader, so I went over and left a comment. Marcus was complaining that he hadn't received his login for the BBC iPlayer test yet.

I left a comment called something like "Black-listed?", jokingly suggesting that perhaps the BBC had a black-list of techie journalists they were excluding to avoid criticism, then went on to explain that I was in the reverse position - I had my beta test login, but hadn't actually managed to get my laptop connected to the internet for long enough to download the software yet.

Obviously, despite the presence of a wink-eye smiley, the first bit wasn't taken with the humour that was intended, and so it was moderated out.

Which is where I get really aggravated - just as I did earlier in the year when the Daily Mail twisted my words and then attributed them to me.

Editing user contributions for sense, grammar and brevity is the preserve of the letters page in print.

However, if you are going to start experimenting with user interaction on the internet, then as a newspaper you need to understand that it is a different medium to the letters page.

Why would I ever bother to leave a comment on The Telegraph or the Daily Mail again if I don't know whether my words are actually going to appear - or whether someone is going to pick'n'choose the bits they like, change the meaning, and write new titles for my posts?

I didn't write that incorrectly capitalised title - 'reverse position'. Apart from anything else, it isn't my style, as a quick look at my other contributions to The Telegraph's site will illustrate.

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Moreover, The Telegraph has changed my post from being a bit of bloggy banter about technology, into a post that I would never have bothered to write if it didn't include the joke that originally preceded it. What is left adds nothing to the conversation, and doesn't even particularly make sense anymore in isolation:

"I'm actually in the bizarrely reverse position - I have my login details, but I haven't yet had a stable enough internet connection directly on my laptop in order to download it"

And conversation is the key word here.

The reason that online comments are different from the print of the letters page is that if The Telegraph had done that to me in print, I would have had to write another letter to the editor about it, and hope that they published that from their post-bag in the next couple of days. And that the people reading it could still remember the point I was making in the original letter.

That simply isn't the way it works on the internet - as the fact that I can instantly respond on my own site shows.

If newspapers like The Telegraph are genuine about wanting to engage with their audience, and to build trusted platforms where people can comment and debate, they need to learn some golden rules of web interaction.

Online, if you don't like what I've written, either invite me to re-phrase it, or don't publish it at all.

But don't re-write my words and my meaning, and then put my name next to it when it no longer reflects what I was saying.

ADDED - Top marks to The Telegraph for being pro-active about this, within an hour of me publishing this they had restored the comment in full. Good stuff.

ADDED #2 - Marcus Warren blogs about it all on The Telegraph's site - "If he's angry, I'm spitting".

1 Comment

I wonder if the word "Black" appearing in the subject line brought you into some sort of bizarre moderation situation - what with the Telegraph's former owner being somewhat disgraced now, and everything...

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