One of the things in life I’ve come to be fairly attached to is correctness. When I’m wrong, I love it when people inform me that I’m wrong, as long as I am actually wrong and they can tell me why I am wrong. I mean, just yelling “You’re wrong!” over and over without explanation doesn’t help anyone. But when I post my thoughts here, if I’ve made an error, if I’ve got bad data, I want to know. I tend to do the same with other people. Most times when I post a comment on another blog it’s either to say “I agree!” or to point out somewhere that I feel they’ve made an error. Sometimes, even when I point things out that I think are wrong, it can turn out that I’m wrong.
Tami Baribeau works in the gaming industry, specifically the social gaming arena. I read her blog because I want more insight to that world and she provides it (she’s not the only one I read, to get all my info from one source would be wrongheaded). She posted a list of 10 reasons why Facebook Game wall posts are not spam. Reading her list, I felt that three of her points were in error, based on my experience, and posted a reply. It turns out that two of my points were addressed with changes in Facebook policy I was unaware of and so were not errors. In one case, however, I was correct and Tami acknowledged that. This is the sort of stuff I love.
Of course, on the Internet, this sort of discourse is rare. Well, rare-ish. I see it quite often, but only because I stop reading blogs where the authors just want to spew and don’t care about being correct. But it means I do filter a lot of blogs out. The main reason, I think, for this is many people still believe that the Internet is separate from “Real Life”. Even when they are in a forum where their real identities are well known, they act as if their online persona is different from themselves. It leads to a lot of waving off errors under the belief that “this doesn’t really matter… it’s only the Internet, it’s not Real Life.” And most often it is that they don’t care about the details. If you still agree with their main thrust argument, why should the facts and figures matter?
If a politician were to give a speech and state “We need to bring our troops home from Iraq!” he would probably get a lot of support. It’s an idea that many people can get behind. If he were to follow that up with “We need to bring them home because thousands of our boys are dying every day! And thousands of woman and children are being cut down in the crossfire every day!” … well, both of those things are completely not correct. Yes, soldiers have died and are dying, and yes, civilians have been injured and killed because of the war there, but those numbers are just way way off. Thousands are not dying per day. For me, that politician would lose my support (unless his opponent was a raving loon who was insisting that we needed to leave Iraq now… so we could nuke it into oblivion). If I really wanted to support that politician, I’d write a letter, or even stand up right then and try to get a correction. Because worse than someone making an offhand error is someone fully believing that the error is true and correct. I’d want to know where that politician stood. Was it an honest mistake? or is it more than that?
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong. If I am, I want to know. And I suppose that that is the main thrust of this post… owning mistakes. If I make one and it is pointed out to me, the very first thing I want to do is acknowledge that, and then either explain why this new information doesn’t change the point I am making or adjust my position based on the new data. But the acknowledgement is important to me. And it irks me when people don’t do that, when people just wave it off and don’t admit to having been mistaken.