Sophisticated argumentation

New headnote: I’m reverting most of the other changes because the post gets too confusing. I’ll add my caveats at the end. However, it is now clear, thanks to this excellent comment from Phil Bradley, that I misinterpreted the situation based on sketchy reporting. I’m restoring the original post so that the comment stream makes sense [End of new headnote]:

It seems that a big-name speaker in a big-name conference settled the issue of whether terminology matters, at least within one current movement/set of tools/hypefest/truly good idea set, by displaying a slide containing the Answer:”I don’t care.”

Presumably implying that nobody else should either. Where I’ve seen this noted in reports, it’s with considerable enthusiasm.

It strikes me that sophisticated argumentation at this level deserves appropriate response. To wit, those who think that language doesn’t matter are, to some extent, telling us that their words don’t matter. So an appropriate response to their posts, articles, whatever, might well be

“I don’t care.”

Or is it only language that they disagree with that should be dismissed in such a manner?

Actually, I’m charmed by librarians arguing that language and wording don’t matter. It sets such an interesting tone for the future.

OK, that’s the original post. I did not name the speaker, deliberately…in part because I saw this as another example of what I’d seen much earlier from another source (see the comments for links), and thought it was possible that I was misinterpreting the speaker. It is now clear that this was the case. It’s also clear that the misinterpretation was based in part on the reporting of the session, specifically this commentary:

“My favorite slide was Phil Bradley’s, in response to all the discussion about semantics and buzzwords. It simply said:

“I don’t care”

I LOLed”

[The link is in the comments.] Note “in response to all the discussion about semantics and buzzwords.” Note the lack of “After a slide saying ‘So what do I think?’ and a commentary that made it clear that both sides had merit.” At that point, as Bradley says, the slide wasn’t intended as argument; it was a personal comment. And entirely appropriate as such. I probably would have laughed too.

Note that I did not name Phil Bradley, deliberately. It was a blind item because I was noting a problem I’ve seen more than once. This did not happen to be an instance of the problem.

As for the courtesy of always asking someone before commenting on anything they’ve said in public, or that has been reported that they’ve said, or before interpreting what someone says…well, that’s an interesting idea. It’s certainly not a courtesy I’ve been provided. In fact, I’ve seen deliberate rewordings of what I said. For example, the post above does not say “someone at some conference in some speech attempted to preclude discussion of the language/term.” Nor did I “deny the man a slide with his personal opinion”–where above do I say “The speaker should not have been allowed to put up that slide”? Those are both deliberate misstatements, not just misinterpretations.

To sum up: I misinterpreted what went on at the conference based on (a) selective reporting and (b) my own long experience with the person who’d done the selective reporting. It was a reasoned comment that happened to be wrong. I did not mention the speaker by name because it was used as an example (and because I knew I might be wrong). I wrote a short and angry post because I’m tired of the real instances (which this wasn’t) of argument-by-trivialization.
Again, my genuine apologies to Phil Bradley–not for failing to contact him, but for misunderstanding the sketchy report. And my genuine thanks for his clear, calm, lucid commentary. Next time I see reporting on his speeches that seems askew, I will check first.

27 Responses to “Sophisticated argumentation”

  1. Dorothea Salo Says:

    From whose point of view did this slide purport to be? Because if this is meant to indicate a user’s POV, then the slide is right on. Users don’t care. What’s more, we often make them care when they shouldn’t have to, and wouldn’t have to if our tools weren’t so horrible.

  2. walt Says:

    I’m getting it secondhand, but no, I don’t think it was from a patron’s POV. I certainly agree that a patron shouldn’t care or need to know about arcane library terminology, and certainly not about bandwagon/movement names. (What’s “arcane” is a subject for discussion, to be sure. I’d argue that “author” and “title” aren’t, but that “corporate name added entry” and “faced search” are.)

    This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen what I consider a razzberry response to linguistic issues. Indeed, I’ve seen similar razzberry responses to terminology issues that do directly affect patrons (or users, if you prefer)–that is, when it’s pointed out that patrons don’t or aren’t likely to understand certain terms, some library people basically respond “So what?” or offer similar nuanced arguments.

    If we care about the face we present to patrons, we should also care about our own language. I’d be appalled if a public service librarian ever said “So what?” or “I don’t care” in response to an issue raised by a patron; I think it’s reasonable to be appalled when such responses are used regarding professional issues that clearly do matter to the people raising them. There’s a huge difference between “I disagree and here’s why” and “I don’t care.” And, frankly, I think such deliberate dumbing-down of professional discourse leaks into attitudes toward patrons, or into the tools built for patrons.

    Dismissive responses end discussion, but badly. They’re poor excuses for logic, reason, evidence. But they do play well to the crowd. Which seems to be the way to succeed.

  3. Simon Chamberlain Says:

    That was Phil Bradley, who’s someone I have a lot of respect for – his blog is well worth reading and he’s a regular and helpful contributor on Freepint. I took his comment to mean that he wasn’t interested in jargon or buzzwords, just in what services were available to users/librarians.

  4. walt Says:

    I read Bradley’s blog. The way it was reported, at least, it came off as simply dismissing the issue of terminology. A slide or a sentence saying something like “I’m not going to deal with naming conventions, because I’m more interested in the services” wouldn’t bother me a bit; it’s a healthy attitude. A slide in the context of naming issues saying “I don’t care” comes off as dismissing the issue out of hand, and is something quite different. Maybe he was going for a cheap laugh, but it was (as reported) a cheap shot at those who have had legitimate concerns about the effects of terminology

  5. Jenny Levine Says:

    Walt, since you’ve raised the issue, it would be great if you would include specific links to support your assumptions. Since I was at the talk, I can provide a firsthand account that Phil was referring only to himself, saying that he personally does not care what the concept is called, as long as it is useful. That’s very different than the way you have made it sound. Interesting, though, that your default assumption is so negative. I’m surprised you didn’t contact Phil first to confirm before posting this since you weren’t there.

    You could start an interesting discussion on language and wording, but unfortunately this post and its arguments are based on faulty assumptions. I hope your readers realize that Phil was most definitely *not* doing what you at best imply he said, and at worst accuse him of saying. His ten minute presentation was informative and educational. Your readers deserve to know that, and Phil deserves better.

  6. walt Says:

    Ah yes, another strawman charge from Ms. Levine. Here’s the link.

    To quote,

    “My favorite slide was Phil Bradley’s, in response to all the discussion about semantics and buzzwords. It simply said:

    “I don’t care”

    I LOLed”

    If Phil Bradley’s only implication was that he, personally, was not interested in issues of semantics and buzzwords, why bother with a slide at all? As reported by your constant colleague, it certainly sounds to me as though there’s the broader implication “…and neither should anyone else.” And your colleague’s reaction and citing it as his “favorite slide” certainly suggest more than “one person has decided to sit out discussions of wording.”

    My apologies to Phil Bradley if there was no such implication. As to your response. “Presumably implying that nobody else should either.” is not an accusation of saying. It’s an accusation of implying.

    As for contacting someone before commenting about them, sorry, Ms. Levine, but the history is such that I’m not willing to accept that complaint from you.

    I will edit the post itself to note (in case there’s confusion) that I wasn’t there and that I could be misinterpreting the comment.

  7. jessamyn Says:

    As someone who is preparing a “what the heck is 2.0 and why should I care” presentation for some Vermont librarians, I have to say I’m considering an “I don’t care” slide too, with much of the implications that Jenny states were there at Phil’s talk.

    Walt, if you weren’t there and all you read was a very brief blog post, why are you reading so much into it? While I think the overarching issue of language and meaning and paying attention to what we say in order to effectively communicate is a topic that never gets old to me, this seems like a bit of a reach to use as an example. All this snarky subtext doesn’t really help solve problems.

  8. walt Says:

    Jessamyn: So you’re saying that you’d explicitly use a slide saying “I don’t care” about issues like whether “Library 2.0″ is a useful term or gets in the way of the notions themselves–but that in saying so you’d also be saying that this was a purely personal decision and shouldn’t carry any implications for members of the audience? That they should feel free to consider whether the terminology did matter, but that it didn’t to you? You would actually use a slide to convey that?

    Really?

    As noted in the caveat that now leads off what was a “very brief blog post” on my own part, I find that hard to swallow….particularly now that I know it was a ten-minute speech. Spending even 30 seconds out of 10 minutes saying that you, personally, are not concerned with one area (but that’s only personal, there are no broader implications) strikes me as an odd way to use limited speaking time.

    Now, an admission. Although the issue of “dismissive argumentation” is one that concerns me in general, this particular post might not have happened were it not for some other examples that stuck in the back of my mind.

    Take, for example (well, OK, the prime example), this from Stephen Abram in January 2006:

    “There have been plenty of postings and comments that some folks dislike the name. So what. It’s a shallow contribution beng needlessly repeated.”

    “So what” certainly qualifies as a shallow contribution, but I don’t think that’s the “It” Abram was referring to. In this case, there’s no question as to the implications. I lost a lot of my respect for Abram after that post (in its entirety). It struck me that he wanted the discussion to be entirely one-sided, and I’ll admit that I saw his “change resistance wrapped up as commentary” as applying to a certain document that he didn’t choose to name by a certain author named Walt Crawford that he didn’t choose to take on directly. (Steve Oberg’s comment on Abram’s post pretty much says what I would have said.) Of course, I could be wrong there too.

    I don’t think my post was snarky. The problem I was and am addressing, in this particular case, is people trivializing other people’s ideas and issues.

    If I wrongly smeared Mr. Bradley because I’d been sensitized by Mr. Abram (I don’t know any of these folks on a first-name basis), my apology has already been offered.

  9. jessamyn Says:

    I’m clearly walking in in the middle of some sort of discussion already in progress because I don’t have any idea what the Abram piece is that you’re referring to and there’s clearly some nerve involved here that I was unaware of. All I was saying was that I think sometimes people in the audience can feel that someone is trying to selll them something and trying to minimize the hucksterism in a “You don’t need to buy the 2.0 meme, but you should know how to make your library more responsive, transparent and interactive for your patrons” seems like it might be a good idea. Along the lines of whether you need to call the nifty DHTML tricks and code that everyone lately is all enamored with “AJAX.” It’s easy to get reactive to a meme and then not be open to the wider message that it’s trying to convey.

    I do not know the backstory, have no idea what Steve Abram was talking about, and am somewhat sorry to have stepped in here.

  10. Jenny Levine Says:

    I guess we’ll agree to disagree on which one of us is making the strawman charge….

    Why bother with a slide at all? Because it emphasizes his point. It was actually less than 30 seconds (more like 10), and it was *his* personal opinion in *his* presentation. It seems odd that you would deny the man a slide with his personal opinion just because of the way you interpret it. Here the man noted opposition to the term, and you still fault him.

    Some folks engage in religious-fervor wars over what RSS really stands for. I would have zero problem if I went to a presentation where the speaker said, “I personally don’t care what it stands for, as long as it’s useful,” and I’d probably laugh out loud to boot. I would hardly take it as a condemnation of everyone else who thinks it should say something different, and it could quite possibly be my favorite slide.

    I would also have no problem using a slide like that. Really. But you already knew that.

    Clearly your bias is showing here, which is fine. It’s your blog, your opinion, and your desire to start this conversation. My only point is that this was a poor way to do that, which is a shame because it could have been quite interesting.

    Hopefully you can restart this discussion another time without implying someone said something he didn’t.

    On a tangential note, I could have sworn I read somewhere that you refer to people by their first name once you have met them. You and I have met a couple of times (even shaken hands and talked), but I’m still “Ms. Levine.” Has that policy changed or am I remembering it incorrectly?

  11. Bill Drew Says:

    I have to agree with “Ms. Levine” on this issue you are discussing. I think your old curmudgeon hat is on a little too tight today. I have said in several venues the equivalent of “I don’t care” in terms of various types of jargon. It does boil down to the services offered not what we prefer to call it that this brief moment in time. It is a thoughtful piece you wrote and an interesting exchange in the comments.

  12. walt Says:

    Jessamyn,

    Don’t apologize. What you’re saying strikes me as eminently reasonable: Disagreeing with the meme or bandwagon is no reason to ignore the possibilities. Heck, refusing to use the name would be no excuse for ignoring the possibilities for improvement. And if that’s what Phil Bradley was actually trying to say, then I really do owe a mea culpa. And I’ve already apologized so frequently that I won’t do so again.

    The Abram piece is in his blog. I should have linked to it in the earlier comment, but in his archive and on my screen it was difficult to find the permalink. I tried harder this time.

    But you’ve really put another spin on this, one I’m delighted with; so by no means should you apologize. Then again, what you’re saying isn’t “I don’t care about complaints over/discussion of the buzzwords,” you’re saying “It’s the possibilities that matter, not what you call them.” Huzzah for that. I think “RSS” gets in the way of feeds (many of which are Atom anyway), and I think that’s shown by the apparent fact that more people use feeds than admit to knowing about RSS. I love Gmail; I pretty clearly find Bloglines very useful (and that implies that I find feeds worthwhile); that doesn’t mean I buy into Web 2.0 as a meme or a new bubble or whatever.

    Jenny,
    (OK, if you want, Jenny–actually, I’m tending more and more to the use of last names without honorifics, or full names, because people have complained, albeit not so much to me, about the “in crowd” aspect of first-naming), if you’re now saying that Phil Bradley opposed the term Library 2.0 and that Michael Stephens laughed out loud when Bradley punctuated that opposition–well, now, that’s amazing. But if you’re saying he noted opposition to the term and concluded that discussion with “I don’t care”–well, you know, my inner voice still hears an implication that he’s suggesting it’s a pointless opposition. But, as you say, I wasn’t there. And if he’d said “I don’t care about the term; I care about the possibilities,” well, huzzah again.

    There is a big difference between saying “I’m less concerned about what term gets used than about the functionality” and saying “Objections to the term are irrelevant because it’s the functionality that matters.” The first is a personal opinion and one that I would generally agree with. The second is dismissive: It says that those who object are wrong to do so, and precludes discussion of why the term might in fact be slowing down the functionality. That’s not a subtle distinction.

    I saw nothing in your blogging about Bradley’s speech or TTW’s item that would lead me to assume the first meaning. My bad, I guess. For now, particularly since I do like much of the stuff I see from Bradley, I’ll assume that I was wrong.

    I don’t think this particular post (which is, Bill, absolutely a case of my curmudgeon hat being a little tight; I agree) was particularly interesting in terms of discussing linguistic issues; I was addressing the razzberry problem, perhaps using a bad example. I’ve done and will do other posts about specific language issues that are still live.

    I don’t know that I regard “Library 2.0″ as a live naming issue at this point. I recently subscribed to an academic librarian’s blog with a title beginning “Library 2.0.” If I haven’t commented on any of the posts, that may change–but I’m surely not going to object to her use of the term. (Actually, I’ll probably be using her blog in my December ACRL/NY talk within the short segment “Why do New York academic librarians, of all people, need to hear from me?” Bill Drew may be in there as well…)

    I still find “L2″ a bit of an in-crowd term, but I understand its usefulness as an abbreviation. I think “Library 2.0″ as a bandwagon has pretty much lost its wheels, partly because it really got too overreaching when people started including Ranganathan’s Principles as examples of hot new Library 2.0 thinking. I think that some people still feel that wrapping up a whole set of possibilities and techniques into a single package is useful and meaningful, and that others prefer dealing with the individual possibilities–and I think there’s a strong case for both of those attitudes. (Depending on the library, the situation, the person…)

    Personally, I’m focusing on balance, and I believe that better ways of treating library patrons as integral parts of the library community and, indeed, the library are important to maintaining a healthy balance now and in the future. That may mean “Library 2.0″ tools and techniques. It may mean other things. I probably won’t have a snappy term for it all.

    I love it when I’m told I’m biased “but that’s OK.” Biased about what? About the significance of terms? About dismissive arguments? If it’s “against social software in libraries,” that’s nonsense. If it’s “against bandwagons,” I’d call it opinion, not bias.

    “Bias” is a loaded word. But, Jenny, you know that. Or am I inferring an accusation of bias that isn’t actually there?

  13. Jenny Levine Says:

    ” ‘Bias’ is a loaded word. But, Jenny, you know that. Or am I inferring an accusation of bias that isn’t actually there?”

    No, I’ll stick with the accusation of bias. While I’m sure there are others who would have read about Phil’s presentation and interpreted it the same way you did, I think there are just as many people who wouldn’t view the phrase “I don’t care” so negatively and as a sweeping generalization about everyone who disagrees about use of the term. Coming at it from that angle and starting with the assumption that Phil was dismissing critics of the name is clearly a bias, which you admit to based on your feelings about a Stephen Abram post.

    “I saw nothing in your blogging about Bradley’s speech or TTW’s item that would lead me to assume the first meaning.”

    Other people saw nothing in my blogging or TTW’s item that would lead them to assume the second meaning. To leap to the conclusion you did comes from somewhere, in this case a bias that someone at some conference in some speech attempted to preclude discussion of the language/term.

    Sorry if there was any confusion regarding what I was implying you were biased about. Hopefully this clears that up, but let me know if there is still lingering doubt and I’ll try again.

    “…if you’re now saying that Phil Bradley opposed the term Library 2.0 and that Michael Stephens laughed out loud when Bradley punctuated that opposition–well, now, that’s amazing. But if you’re saying he noted opposition to the term and concluded that discussion with ‘I don’t care’–well, you know, my inner voice still hears an implication that he’s suggesting it’s a pointless opposition. But, as you say, I wasn’t there. And if he’d said ‘I don’t care about the term; I care about the possibilities,’ well, huzzah again.”

    I didn’t say or imply that Phil Bradley opposed the term Library 2.0 and that Michael Stephens laughed out loud in dismissal of it (I think you’re inferring too much there). Phil noted some people didn’t like the term but that he personally didn’t care what it’s called as long as the concept is useful. Again, you weren’t there (which you have duly noted), but I’m fascinated that you assumed the worst about what happened. To my mind, that clearly comes from a bias, which I think you’ve admitted to, so I won’t beat a dead horse.

    So I guess you’re giving huzzahs to Phil after all, which are deserved.

    And I’m not saying I prefer “Jenny” over “Ms. Levine.” I was just trying to clear up a potential misunderstanding (especially since you refer to “Ms. West” as “Jessamyn” in the comments) and determine the basis for consistency based on a vague recollection of my own.

  14. walt Says:

    If I ever achieve total consistency in naming conventions, I’ll probably drop over dead from shock. Or old age, since at the current rate it’s likely to take several decades for such consistency to be achieved.

  15. Jenny Levine Says:

    “If I ever achieve total consistency in naming conventions, I’ll probably drop over dead from shock.”

    I thought one of the points of the post, though, was the importance of language and naming!

    “But I’m wrong to attack Bradley for that particular failing when it’s possible that he was really saying Library 2.0 is a silly term for some useful ideas–and the foremost promoter of ‘Library 2.0′ laughed in agreement! Hey, could happen. After all, I wasn’t there.”

    More inference, and I *think* you’re just trying to have some fun there, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    “…this particular post might not have happened were it not for some other examples that stuck in the back of my mind.”

    “…including another claim by Jenny Levine that I’m biased”

    Just so I’m clear, this to me is bias. It’s not right or wrong, but it is the basis for which you made negative assumptions and the reason you jumped to the conclusion that Phil was dismissing critics of the name and precluding discussion. We can disagree about what to call this, but I freely admit my own biases, so I don’t view accusing you of having your own as a negative thing. Again, it’s just an observation.

    Since the discussion has centered around language and intent, I’d be interested in hearing what term you would use for your assumption other than “bias.”

  16. walt Says:

    I’d call it a reasonable inference based on the text I read and the background of the person who wrote it. Perhaps an incorrect inference. At worst, I would call it oversensitivity.

    Bias is “an unreasoned and unfair distortion of judgment” and pretty much synonymous with “prejudice.” I find it a disturbing and somewhat hateful word.

    If you insist on a pejorative (and, sorry, but accusing me of bias is distinctly negative), you could use “predilection.”

    Since I’m apparently not allowed to infer anything whatsoever from anything that was written or said, I think this discussion has devolved to the point of uselessness.

  17. Phil Bradley Says:

    I have to admit, this has been an interesting experience; a lot of people discussing what I may have meant, or may not have meant, and making assumptions about what I did say or didn’t say. What is particularly interesting is that in all this discourse no-one actually took the sensible approach of asking me directly what I did or did not say, mean or imply. Moreover, and I’ll admit that I may be very old fashioned about this, I would have thought it would have been courteous to have been invited to the discussion by someone, without having to find it myself! Perhaps this is Courtesy 2.0?

    Anyway, be that as it may. If I may, I should like to clarify the situation slightly. I was the first speaker in a session that was designed to set the scene for a discussion on the whole concept of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, and I had a very limited amount of time available to me. I had discussed my talk with the moderator and the two other speakers to ensure that we were able to use our time wisely; rather than have 3 entirely different talks that didn’t overlap or lead the audience off into different directions we wanted to ensure that they could be viewed together in a larger context.

    I started my talk by providing some definitions of how some people define Web 2.0. I then went on to provide some quotes from people who held exactly the opposite view, and in fact derided not only the concept, but the people who talk and write about it. I did this in order to show that the discussion is still very much ongoing and that in fact it is a very vibrant discussion with merits on both sides. I knew that delegates would get a lot more discussion during the course of the entire conference, so I wanted to give them a point to consider, my personal viewpoint, and opportunity to settle themselves and catch their breath (in practical presentation terms if nothing else) and most importantly, a touchstone for the rest of the conference. If possible, all in one go!

    My next two slides therefore were ‘So what do I think?’ and then a slide that said ‘I don’t care’. Now, simply reading that cold without any background at all implies a great many different things, many of which are contradictory. So let me set the record straight. My personal viewpoint is that what is important to me, and I suspect to the vast majority of that audience, who are practicing information professionals, is to be able to provide an excellent service as effectively as possible in a timely manner. There are many interesting debates to be had on the nature of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, and I’m keen to be involved with them, but the bottom line, with respect to the vast majority of information professionals is ‘how can I provide the best service possible?’

    I then proceeded to walk through a notional day in the life of an information professional and point out some of the resources and utilities that can be used to do exactly that; some of which can be viewed as being Web 2.0 based and others which are not. The whole thrust of what I wanted to say was no matter what you call it, no matter what the debate is or is not, no matter about the importance *of* that debate, there are lots of resources out there that we, as information professionals need to be embracing to enable us to provide better and more effective services. *THAT* is what I care about. Clearly all that cannot be said in one slide; nor was it, and it was not intended to.

    I was equally aware that other speakers would provide a good, thoughtful and useful counterpoint. To take that one slide from a talk that was part of a session that was part of a stream that was part of an entire conference and to make so many assumptions seems to me to be quite absurd. Had other slides been reported in the same way as that single one was I have no doubt that it would have been possible to assume I thought librarians should be sacked or be paid enormous salaries. One slide, out of context, means virtually nothing at all.

    Now, if I may request a little further indulgence, I would like to respond to some of the other comments made. Clearly I do care about the entire issue and my paradoxical use of ‘I don’t care’ made sense I hope – certainly if you were there.

    I am an enthusiastic speaker; it’s one of the reasons why I’m invited to speak at a lot of different conferences. Whatever you say, I think it is important to be enthusiastic about your subject, particularly for an audience that may feel apprehensive about yet another PowerPoint presentation. I find it equally amusing and sad in turn to have that enthusiasm used in an apparently critical way against me. A slide is merely a backdrop for an audience; the real communication between them and the speaker is more complex and dare I say it – long winded!

    ‘I don’t care’ is not sophisticated argument. I was not arguing, I was presenting an outline, setting a scene and preparing the ground for other speakers and had limited time. A very different situation to that of a sophisticated argument as I would hope most people could see. Equally I was not attempting to shut down discussion on anything at all; rather, I was using ‘I don’t care’ as a way of saying that people should care, and care about a whole range of things. Clearly this would not come out in a brief 2 or 3 line report, and I would have thought it would have made sense to have clarified this before commenting on an assumption.

    I could continue, but I see little value in doing so – suffice to say that if anyone else wants to know what I think, what I don’t think, or what my opinion is they are free to ask me using any form of communication they find appropriate; I will be happy to discuss it with them.

    I would however like to finish with one particular point; I have been offered apologies by the original poster (though I will confess to going rather dizzy trying to work out if they were apologies, or only apologies based on what he either thinks that I said or didn’t say). How much more civilised, accurate and informative this discussion could have been had he the basic courtesy of directly asking me what I meant, or even requesting my input at a later stage. That he took it upon himself to criticise me and made assumptions based on a brief report from a third party is, I feel, rather sad.

  18. walt Says:

    Phil: The apologies are genuine.

    As for the basic courtesy–well, see the revised-and-restored post (which now includes the original post unaltered, preceded and followed by block-quote commentary), which among other things does not name you, deliberately.

    It might be a better world if everyone who blogged or spoke or commented did not do any interpretation of other people’s words (direct or reported) without checking with them first. I’ve certainly rarely (almost never) been afforded that courtesy, whereas I’ve been personally attacked with gusto and no attempt at checking first, so maybe I’ve grown to assume that the courtesy will not take place.

    Your commentary is thoughtful, lucid, and a model of writing that I could well aspire to. I can see why you’re in demand as a speaker.

  19. Simon Chamberlain Says:

    Walt, I apologise for mentioning Phil by name when you were not intending to. I did think once or twice about whether I should have done so, but I guess I came down on the wrong side of that decision. I did figure that if it was a really big deal, you’d have just not approved my comment, but I guess I should have respected your obvious desire not to name names.

  20. walt Says:

    Not to worry. Certainly resulted in an interesting thread!

  21. Jenny Levine Says:

    “Nor did I ‘deny the man a slide with his personal opinion’–where above do I say ‘The speaker should not have been allowed to put up that slide’? Those are both deliberate misstatements, not just misinterpretations.”

    Not deliberate misstatements *or* misinterpretations but rather my reading of your attempts to question the very existence of the slide without having been there or seeing the slides for yourself:

    “If Phil Bradley’s only implication was that he, personally, was not interested in issues of semantics and buzzwords, why bother with a slide at all?”

    Then there was you jumping all over Jessamyn asking if she would really use a slide like that. Really:

    “Jessamyn: So you’re saying that you’d explicitly use a slide saying ‘I don’t care’ about issues like whether ‘Library 2.0′ is a useful term or gets in the way of the notions themselves–but that in saying so you’d also be saying that this was a purely personal decision and shouldn’t carry any implications for members of the audience? That they should feel free to consider whether the terminology did matter, but that it didn’t to you? You would actually use a slide to convey that?

    Really?”

    That kind of adverserial language is just as good at precluding and shutting down discussion as the very rhetoric your original post railed against. That might not have been your intent, but it was still confrontational, which is quite possibly what surprised me the most given your past lamentations about Library 2.0 advocates regarding this issue.

    Also, based on “updates” that are no longer part of this post, I will retract my accusation of bias in favor of your own language for a predilection to oversensitivity on this subject. And I’ll reiterate that I have my own predilections for certain oversensitivities, so I don’t mean it to be as negative as I think you have taken it. I apologize that the term “bias” upset you.

    “For example, the post above does not say ‘someone at some conference in some speech attempted to preclude discussion of the language/term.’ ”

    I think most folks would recognize that as a generous paraphrase, but I’m fine using your original quote so I’ll retract that statement, too, in favor of your own words. Call the “reporting” (my notes for myself about the session) “sketchy” if you want, but I still don’t think it was a fair basis for your original negative attack, even on a “big-name speaker” at a “big-name conference” (adjectives that might indicate a predilection for a wholly different oversensitivity…).

  22. walt Says:

    OK, now I understand: Jenny Levine is perfectly free to “read,” interpret, infer, “generously” paraphrase. Walt Crawford must be taken to task at great and continuing length, full of hostile adjectives, for doing any such things. As long as we’re clear about the rules as they apply.

    I don”t believe I “jumped all over” Jessamyn West–certainly not to the extent that you delight in “jumping all over” me. If Jessamyn thinks so, I apologize to her as well–but I’ve never had a problem carrying on sometimes-vivid conversations with Jessamyn West, who is perfectly capable of defending herself.

    I did not base my misinterpretation on your conference notes; the link and the quote are both to Michael Stephens’ report. [I find it difficult to read bullet-point conference reports, so I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to yours. Your notes would not, in fact, have led me to any such interpretation: Now that I look at them, they’re clear about the sequence, and of course they don’t quote the slide verbatim or make a big thing out of it.

    I believe ILI is a big-name conference. I believe Phil Bradley is a big-name speaker within the library field. I’m not sure how you can read those as negative terms. I’ve been a reasonably big-name speaker (in library terms) in the past, and might be again in the future; I certainly don’t regard it as negative.

    I’m really surprised that you feel the need to keep on posting such lengthy comments. Phil Bradley has made himself clear (in an eloquent post); I’ve apologized to him. I’ve fully agreed that I misunderstood what was going on. At this point, I believe you’re piling on.

    The original 140-word post was mistaken, or rather the first 55 words were mistaken. (I should have based the heart of the post directly on Stephen Abram’s unmistakable dismissal, and I should have written it in January.)

    There’s now been more than 6,000 words of commentary, with more than 1,500 of them coming from you: More than ten times the length of the original post, nearly 30 times the length of the mistaken portion. That goes way beyond fisking.

    Let it be.

  23. Marcy Brown Says:

    This discussion has been fascinating in its own rights, but interestingly it emphasizes a point I like to make while standing on my soapbox: most presentation files (PowerPoint, etc.) are not meant to stand on their own without the accompanying narration or live presentation. Only when we read from Phil how the slide in question fit into the presentation as a whole did the slide and his intent make sense. I rarely create presentations anymore which can serve as standalone materials (I’m a convert to Cliff Atkinson’s _Beyond Bullet Points_), and I hate to think of the inferences one might make after reading some of MY slides…

  24. walt Says:

    Marcy,

    In the hundred (roughly) speeches I’ve done, I’ve used PowerPoint maybe half a dozen times, and only when it’s necessary for the content of the talk (e.g., I’m talking about typography or I’m showing examples of OpenURL resolvers). Even then, I make sure there are notes as part of the PowerPoint presentation.

    I think your point is an excellent one in general–although, frankly, I’d really like to see more speakers making eye contact and doing without the PPT crutch.

    In this case, however, the fault was clearly mine. Phil Bradley did not (as far as I know) make his PowerPoint presentation available to stand on its own (and if he had, I think the sequence would have worked). I misinterpreted three words quoted out of context–not from a set of saved slides, but from a blog post.

  25. Jenny Levine Says:

    “There’s now been more than 6,000 words of commentary, with more than 1,500 of them coming from you: More than ten times the length of the original post, nearly 30 times the length of the mistaken portion. That goes way beyond fisking.”

    Hardly a fisking, but since you’re so concerned about word count (another historical predilection), I will indeed let it be. And here I thought blogs and comments were for conversation. My mistake. Direction duly noted.

  26. walt Says:

    Of course [some] blogs are for conversation. But there are times when enough is enough, when a \\\”conversation\\\” is being run into the ground. And of course it wasn\\\’t \\\”direction,\\\” merely a suggestion. You\\\’re no more likely to take direction from me than I am to expect you to.

    Now that I think about it, one difference between a blog discussion and a real-world conversation is that participants in a real-world conversation can and do walk away when they feel that other participants are beating a dead horse. A person who starts a real-world conversation is not obliged to stand there and wait until everyone with something to say in response says it over, and over, and over again. One can yell at them–\\\”Hey, come back here, I\\\’m not satisfied with your response to my response to your response to my…\\\”–but it generally doesn\\\’t work. For that matter, a blogger can (and some do) control the flow of conversation by judicious use of the Delete key, or by moderating all comments and somehow losing those that are disagreeable (yes, I\\\’ve had that happen–and no, it wasn\\\’t at Shifted Librarian).

    I generally don\\\’t want to do that. I\\\’ve managed to avoid moderation so far. I do still check the spam logs for possible errors. And I generally don\\\’t delete except in cases of bad language, slander, libel, or personal attack where the person being attacked isn\\\’t me.
    [I do make exceptions. I will delete--and have deleted--comments because they appear to come from outside the library field, are irrelevant to the discussion, or are deliberately hurtful/hateful. But I think the record of this blog will indicate that I\\\'m pretty slow on the Delete button.]

    I believe in free speech. (Yes, I belong to the ACLU.) I believe in it even when it\\\’s abusive, although not when it\\\’s harassing. But at some point, this is my forum, not a public forum, and I exercise the right to at least suggest that a particular thread is becoming tired. And as you may notice, I didn\\\’t delete the comment that came after I suggested letting it be…

  27. walt Says:

    Sigh. The mess of backslashes in the above indicates one of WP’s less charming attributes, what it does when you attempt to edit a comment. I should have posted the rest as an additional comment. Live and sometimes learn. (Sometimes not. I’ve made this mistake before and will certainly make it again.)


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