Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Lady Vanishes

I've been following with interest - and with the certain fascination you have viewing the aftermath of a particularly messy accident - the ongoing story of Boing Boing's "unpublishing" of blogger/columnist Violet Blue. The 411 for those not familiar with the story...

  1. Blue, a self-styled "sex educator," is a fairly well-known Web celebrity. Like most Web celebrities, Blue is also a tireless self-promoter, and has been publicized several times on the pop culture site, Boing Boing.
  2. According to Boing Boing, the group's columnists* decided to remove all past postings concerning Blue from their site "a year ago." They did so without announcement and without notice from the Web at large, until Blue and several of her friends began posting about her disappearance from Boing Boing in late June 2008.
  3. Boing Boing eventually responded on July 1st. Noting that yes they indeed had "unpublished" Blue (their term, without any apparent sense of irony); that it was a private matter between Boing Boing - either individually or collectively - and Blue; and that it was their blog to do with as they wanted.
End of story, or so BB hoped. This being the InterWebs, it, of course, wasn't, and close to 900 comments - including one of mine - have currently been added to in support of, or critical against, or used as a foundation to argue their own agenda, on the Boing Boing statement.

Boing Boing hasn't helped their case any by making several serious errors in the ongoing story. One of the Boingers - one who in fact had been a close friend of Blue's - implied that she was akin to a "piece of shit" that needed to be removed from the Boing Boing virtual household (the comment was later edited to remove the analogy). The BB moderator, while criticizing Blue and her supporters for lying, made several factual errors herself, including claiming that Blue had never written for Boing Boing - even though there is incontrovertible evidence that she did. And Boing Boing refuses to clarify the reason why they "unpublished" Blue, while ominously hinting that Blue "behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her," and that they had no wish to embarrass her.

So enough of the reporting and on to opinion. Like every blogger, I've had to deal with the differences in writing on-line vs. Old School. Back in the day, you couldn't "unpublish," you couldn't edit after publishing. Once out there in print, you owned the words. Me, I deal with the issue of how to correct something I've written while giving notice that it is a correction by strike-through or an UPDATE notice. The only time I change a post without notice is to fix a typo. I've never taken down a post, and hope I never have to consider doing so. I've occasionally left posts in draft for several days - even weeks - and sometimes deleted them without posting. That's what the "Draft" button is for.

fhb doesn't provide the multitude of links of a Boing Boing, of course. I occasionally change my Blog Roll to reflect what I happen to be reading at the time. Blogs disappear - sometimes they reappear. At least one blog fell off my blog roll because I found I didn't like the blogger's writing and attitude anymore. But even with that, I couldn't see going through my blog and purging all references to that blog, of which there are still several, as distasteful as I found some of the blogger's later posts.

"Unpublishing," outside of being a nightmarish term, is a bad idea, imo. You shouldn't have the ability to rewrite history, no matter what the reason. Boing Boing, of all blogs, should know that. As many commentators have said the "Violet Blue thing" would be the natural meat of a Boinger like Cory Doctorow, if it had happened on some other site. Doctorow, by the way, is notable by his absence from the ongoing debate.

So, speculation, which Boing Boing has also made fair game, in my opinion, by their coy references to whatever Blue did to trigger the "unpublishing." Blue herself claims not to know. There is speculation - especially with all the references Boing Boing has made to "embarrassment" and given Blue's avocation - that it may indeed be a personal matter. The Web consensus seems to be that Blue's attempt to trademark the "Violet Blue" name (apparently her legal name, but not the one she was born with), and her 2007 suit against a porn actress also using the same name triggered Boing Boing's group decision, Great Critics of Copyright that they are.

Who knows? As in most of these stories, the cover-up - or in this case the "unpublishing" - has become a bigger story than the original.

*UPDATE:: In an interview with the LA Times, Boing Boing columnist Xeni Jardin (the one who had later made the "piece of shit" analogy) noted she had unilaterally removed the posts/references to Violet Blue, also noting again that her reasons were a prinate matter between her and Blue.

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