The moment you know you’ve made a mistake is when there’s a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you suddenly feel the need to get extremely defensive, even if you’re not sure why.
That happened earlier today when I made a tweet, which has since been deleted. The gist is that I pointed people towards what my reporting suggested was the creator of the rather shameless 2048 app on iOS and Android.
The tweet raised the idea of potential harassment by loyal followers of mine in a way that I’ve long since advocated against. A random person who made that tweet does not have to worry about it, but a random person with nearly 53,000 followers has to think long and hard about a tweet like that.
It is often easy to forget you have that kind of megaphone.
The tweet came about because of a discussion on our morning show, in which Alex and I broke down some reflections on the Threes story from earlier this week. I mentioned how much time I’d spent trying to track down this particular designer: Facebook, Twitter, email, phone. I tried everything, and nothing ever came back. It frustrated the hell out of me, and it’s not like I could jump on a flight and knock on his door. But I’d done my due diligence.
Still, it bothered me that I didn’t hear from him. I wanted his side of the story in my piece. It would have made it a better article, and would have rounded out my desire to hear from all sides of this complicated issue.
It kept clawing away at me. But I wrote my story, and that should have been it. If anyone wanted to get up in arms, the evidence was presented to them in the story for them to make their argument. I didn’t need to encourage a little army to do it for me. What this designer did was (in my eyes) unethical but not illegal. I really didn’t need to be banging down the digital door to better make my point. I’d done that with a story that’s been read by more than nearly 50,000 people. A journalist presents his evidence and leaves.
This is all the more important because it’s about Threes, a game that was developed in the same office that I sometimes find myself in. (The game was done when I started working out of there.) Of course, working in that office means I’m never going to write a review of Threes, Samurai Gunn, or anything else that’s produced out of that office. I had no desire to write about Threes, since it seemed like plenty of people were doing that already. But when I realized I could talk to some of the faces behind the “clones,” when I realized the designer was sitting next to me and we could have a long chat about his game, it seemed like a story worth pursuing, even if I’d have to try even harder to make sure my story came across as truth seeking.
The article pulls that off, I think. But the tweet doesn’t—it sounds like someone bitter trying to take advantage of an army.
I’m not just a journalist. Sometimes I’m an advocate. In this case, though, I was trying to be a journalist, and the size of my audience, the tone of my tweet, crossed that line. That’s going to happen, and it probably won’t be the last time. I realize that, and that’s why my stomach felt weird. You tend to feel that way when you make a mistake, since owning up to a mistake is hard. I try to make sure I’m always doing that. Though it can sometimes feel like people have it out for you, sometimes they have a point, too.
I try to listen. Even when we disagree, I always try to listen.
Enjoy your weekend everyone. See you at PAX East.
I think there are a lot of “internet famous” people who could learn a lot from this. One of the many reasons why I hugely value Patrick’s opinion.