Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

since 2001, has served as his online home.

Lessons In Being Edited

Today, I learned something useful the hard way. Which is, incidentally, pretty much the way I learn everything.

A couple months back I was invited to post on a web site that specializes in commentary about the future of the Internet. I did an interview with one of the site’s editors. In subsequent weeks, I found it hard to make the time to write a proper editorial-style piece for them. I finally made the time this past weekend, and earlier today my piece was published in an edited form.

I was given the opportunity to see the edits. But I still had my original words so clearly in my head that I glossed over the edited version, checking only for glaring mistakes in grammar. I should have taken more care and this is entirely my fault because portions of my original piece that were essential to a cogent argument were removed. I don’t think the editor had any ill intent, and it was my failed responsibility to ensure that I was happy with what got published.

Presently, the piece is being torn into by commenters, and perhaps rightly so: without some of the material I originally included, it comes off as flimsy troll-bait. I could post the edited-out paragraphs in a comment on the piece, but out of context they don’t offer much.

The experience has been a valuable lesson for me. The next time someone wants to edit my writing, I need to take time and approach the edited version as a new reader would. Had I done so, I wouldn’t have allowed the piece to be published in its final form. It’s not really possible to retract something published on the web, nor is retraction in keeping with the informal ethics of blogging. But like Fred Wilson a few days ago, I just want to take it back.

What I was hoping for was honest answers to an honest question: how much do we have to lose before we consider different strategies for Internet technologies? Because I failed to take care with how my words were published, I’m not going to learn anything. That’s the real loss for me.

An Open Reminder To Myself

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