Earlier this week, I received an email asking that I remove some content from one of my posts in early March regarding a train station project at London’s White City with which UK contractor Costain was involved. I promptly and prominently published a correction immediately underneath the original post, apologising and explaining that the inaccuracy arose from an honest reading of a news release published by extranet vendor Aconex.
That news release has now disappeared from the Aconex website (presumably they had a similar email from Costain) and BuildingTalk.com, and I have had a voice-mail on my mobile from Aconex’s marketing guy in Australia on the same subject (at least, I think it was on this subject – static on the line didn’t help audibility as I boarded my flight from London City Airport to Dublin, and – aaaargh! – my T-Mobile phone has no network coverage in Ireland).
This explanatory preamble puts into context some confusion I am feeling about this blog (and perhaps about blogging, or at least corporate blogging, in general).
I started this blog as something of a personal project to focus my mind (and the minds of any readers who happened to chance upon this blog) on issues related to project extranets – especially the topics I covered in my book. It was also intended to be an aide memoire covering developments since the book was published last September, and, given that I also work for one of the more well-known UK vendors of extranet technologies, it is also something of a corporate blog – a personal column relaying my perceptions on topical issues and developments as I learn of them through my role with that vendor.
My original 7 March post was an honest reflection of my understanding of events at that time. I was (and am), therefore, put in something of a quandary by the Costain request
- should I now, retrospectively, delete my observations and pretend I never made them;
- should I amend them quietly (the power of 20/20 hindsight!); or
- should I retain the original text but highlight the (inadvertent) inaccuracy of my original view?
Clearly, I opted for the latter. The first two options – to me – smacked of re-writing history, of conveniently forgetting that somebody made an inaccurate claim that I regarded as significant (in a similar vein, I know The Guardian newspaper doesn’t retrospectively amend past errors in its articles – where necessary, past articles can be retrieved with notes acknowledging any errors contained in the original pieces – see its Readers Editor’s article on amendments to archived articles). Was this the right approach?
Like most blogs, this one is as fallible as the person writing it (see my earlier post, Bloggers trusted least, 4 May 2006).
And, looking from a corporate perspective, perhaps I should be looking to score some PR points over a competitor company by highlighting what has turned out to be an inaccurate claim? We are competing in the same market, after all. If – God forbid – I made a major cock-up in a BIW news release, would Aconex (or 4Projects, Asite, BuildOnline, etc, etc) turn a blind eye to it? (I suspect not). Or would they be telling their customers that my/BIW’s claims couldn’t be trusted? (More likely).
Finally, I think this episode highlights a key point. I don’t believe Costain detected the original error on Aconex’s website – it only came to light because Costain found my reference to it. I therefore take a (small) crumb of comfort from knowing that this blog has played a tiny role in highlighting an erroneous claim. Across the blogosphere numerous bloggers scrutinise various countries, companies, organisations and individuals’ words and deeds in detail – it is one way in which people and businesses can use the self-publishing power of the web to dig beneath glossy PR and ‘spin’ and expose the real story.