The morning of the shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia I wrote a post that I updated during the day briefly chronicling the events as they occurred and my personal perspective as a professional working in Blacksburg. It was not meant to be a major journalistic piece, just a blog post from a citizen. Just for the heck of it, I decided to try posting the link to Netscape to see how the new Digg clone worked. Later that day I noticed significant traffic coming from Netscape and was pleasantly surprised. Maybe this wasn’t as bad as some were making it out. I have no idea why anyone would use Netscape instead of Digg; but hey, who am I to complain when I’m getting some additional traffic that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
After seeing the traffic showing up in my analytics software, I checked out Netscape to see how things were all shaking out (and yes, I was hoping to see massive amounts of votes). I logged into Netscape and started poking around in the account section. But I see nothing. Nada. Zippo. Now how can that be? I know with 100% certainty that traffic was being referred to my post by Netscape, yet there is no record whatsoever that my submission even existed. It’s simply gone from Netscape. So, after a resounding WTF!, I send an email to Netscape asking what the hell happened.
I hear nothing back from them and simply decide to boycott Netscape. Yes, I know a boycott of one person will hardly hurt them, but it’s the principle here. I basically forgot about what happened and figured Netscape just decided to ignore me (they wouldn’t be the first on that account). Recently I happened to go to Netscape and took a peek inside my account to see if they ever managed to respond. To my amazement, I found two things – my submission was listed again and there was a Netscape Anchor Commentary stating:
We’re closing this post, as it’s a dupe of this story.
Hmm, my blog post was a duplicate of an AP story published by the Northwest Florida Daily News. Are you kidding me? So I responded with:
How could it be a duplicate of that story when it was the personal observations of a resident living in Blacksburg that morning? So, by removing this story, is Netscape saying there is only one possible perspective?
And finally, the response:
The post you submitted was reported by a couple of users as a duplicate of another story, which was our main motivation for closing it. Looking at the link you submitted now, though it does come from a personal blog, it doesn’t substantially add information or analysis to the original story. This is not a case of there being, as you suggested in your original message, “only one possible perspective” allowed at Netscape; rather, our users identified your submission as a duplicate, we took a look at it and concluded that the information at the link you submitted was indeed very close to the information that had already been submitted, and closed the story. Hope this helps to clear up any confusion. thanks, Karina
I completely disagree with this logic. If you read my post, the content links to a few different sources with the standard information of the shooting. But the post not only gives a recap of the situation, it also provides a commentary on the event as well as perspective from someone actually there. Yes, if you skim the first paragraph it would appear to be a duplicate. When the whole post is taken into consideration, with comments from others, a different picture emerges.
The whole point of a social networking site is to let the users contribute and regulate the content. Competitors of Netscape do a much better job in this aspect. If a story is a duplicate or of poor quality, its gets voted down. In this situation, the post wasn’t voted down it was actually removed until I sent an email complaining after the fact. Voting down and removal are two very different things to me. Even if some Netscape users marked the post as a duplicate, the amount of traffic my site received from the time it was up would indicate that many found it useful.
From this exchange with Netscape, I’m still forced to conclude the following:
- Netscape is heavily censoring everything that gets submitted by these anchors
- Netscape only allows one perspective of a story to be on its web site
- Netscape places higher weight on “mainstream” media than bloggers
- The Netscape anchors have too much editorial control
- Why even bother submitting anything to Netscape?
It all seems very heavy handed to me. Netscape’s FAQ says the site is
programmed by you–the audience! All of the stories on Netscape are submitted and voted on by users.
That sounds good, but what about these anchors? Their FAQ also restates the argument made to me. From the FAQ,
In order to ensure that there are not multiple duplicates of the same story, it is important that Netscape community members always link to the original source of a story. Whenever the Netscape Anchor team spots a story that is not linked to the original source, we will change the link and leave a note in Anchor Commentary noting the change.
For example, if you have posted an AOL UnCut Video, YouTube or Google Video video to your personal blog and you wish to submit the story to Netscape, unless your blog post presents substantial analysis or discussion of the video, you should link directly to the source video.
This same rule should apply to any storiesâ??regardless of whether they are audio, video, pictures, or textâ??that you submit to Netscape. We want to avoid cluttering the system with rehashed stories, and we appreciate your help in this matter.
So, once again, they explicitly state that the only thing they want on Netscape is one article from the “original” source. What is that? The first one posted to Netscape? Whatever strikes the fancy of one of these anchors? What do you think? Maybe it’s my fault for not reading their FAQ in the first place.
Now honestly, my post was no great feat of journalism, but there was some perspective and commentary on how the situation was handled. This was not really discussed elsewhere at the time. Netscape did post other sites (including blogs) throughout the day in their Anchor Commentary box, but they managed to delete mine. I really don’t see how my post was so much of a duplicate that it deserved to be removed and not just voted down (or something similar).