I'm anti-censorship! I won't try to silence those who criticize me
A week ago I wrote about my feelings of ennui towards the iPhone 6, asserting that there was just nothing to get excited about. Some people agreed, but many didn't -- it was to be expected really. What was particularly interesting was not just the discussion that started here in the comments on BetaNews but also that the article spread further afield. It was picked up by Macworld whose resident columnist The Macalope, er, disagreed with what I had to say. You'll notice that I've provided a link to the Macworld article which, despite quoting 46 percent of my post, The Macalope failed to do initially.
If you take the time to read the Macworld article you'd be forgiven for thinking that I was hurt at having my work pulled apart. Not a bit of it. No, I'm not concerned about being criticized. I've been writing for approaching 15 years now, and I know I'm going to piss people off from time to time. That's not to say that this is necessarily my intention -- in addition to news, I like to share my opinion and there will, of course, be some collateral damage that follows. Despite The Macalope's suggestions to the contrary, this was not designed to be a "link-baity" piece. Like Joe Wilcox, I've written about the importance of writing for the reader rather than writing for Google, and this is an ideology I firmly subscribe to.
But I'll return to this.
My concern with the article from Macworld was not the criticism it levelled at me, nor the vitriol that emerged in the comments -- I'll happily take all that on the chin. What irritated me was the sheer quantity of my work that was quoted. In all, nearly half of my original article was used by The Macalope in his rigorous dissection of my thoughts. It was nice to have been noticed -- even though it wasn't in the best of circumstances -- but it was more than a little irritating to find that Macworld was benefitting from my work without having linked back to my post.
The Macalope justified this by suggesting that my article was nothing more than link-bait and he therefore refused to bite. The point is, it wasn't a link-bait article. At least no more than any other articles on any website are. Anyone who writes anything which is subsequently posted online wants it to be read -- after all what’s the point of writing it otherwise? As such headlines and titles have to be devised to both attract the eye and convey a sense of what the article is about. It's how people decide if they want to read it or not.
I would have been completely in the dark about the Macworld post had someone not tracked me down via Twitter to ask me about it. Alerted to the existence of the article (by someone who didn't appreciate my reference to "those sucking on Apple’s teat"), and the lack of proper citation, I was a little upset. As I said, I was not in the slightest concerned that The Macalope or the readers of the column hated what I had written, or that I was being ridiculed; as an online writer, it's something I open myself up to. But it did seem, well, rude, not to have the decency to link back to the source that served as the inspiration for an article. So I tweeted:
— Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonWords) August 30, 2014
Replies from other Twitter users informed me that this is just what I should expect from The Macalope. If he deemed an article to be link-bait, he would not link back. I commented on the article and added a link of my own. This was quickly censored, leading me to complain further on Twitter -- with slightly choice language:
This got me thinking about fair usage. When reviewing or critiquing another piece of work, it is acceptable to quote a certain percentage of it without having to ask for permission. The percentages and numbers of words differ depending on whether you're talking about a book, a paper or an article, but 46 percent of anything is too much. Interestingly, The Macalope agreed:
— The Macalope (@TheMacalope) August 31, 2014
A proposal was made. Would I prefer that references to my article be trimmed back, or would I like a link to be added?
— The Macalope (@TheMacalope) August 31, 2014
A friend of mine had previously suggested issuing a DMCA takedown notice, but this seemed excessive to me. You may have noticed from my previous writing that I am opposed to censorship -- the idea of censoring someone is abhorrent to me. I don’t want to stop The Macalope, or anyone else, from disagreeing with me, from criticizing me, from belittling my work. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
This in mind, I asked that a link be added. The Macalope duly obliged, and the column now links back to my article -- albeit it worded with a slight sideswipe ("despite the link-baity-ness of this piece, the Macalope has added the link after the fact because he has pulled so liberally from it").
But that's cool by me. My only aim was proper attribution. Nothing more.
My point is that I practice what I preach. I'm anti-censorship, even if that means people are free to slate me publicly. That's fine. It's a right they have, and I'm happy for them to exercise it. I would rather be disparaged than prevent someone from voicing their opinion.