Over the weekend, following my coverage of the Supernova conference, Cory Doctorow, a contributor to Boing Boing, picked up on Fast Company‘s Web linking policy. Egged on by a reader, he criticized our out-of-date linking policy, which once requested that people fax in a notification form before they linked to our Web site. That entry catalyzed about 20 similar posts elsewhere on the Web in which writers poked fun at Fast Company‘s “spectacular cluelessness.” And the feedback emails began to trickle in.
Correspondents waxed between constructive criticism and profane inanity in their email reactions. One writer claimed the entire Internet is public domain. Another indicated that our linking policy made his head explode. (Gosh, I hope not!) And one said that they would never link to our Web site again. Those were the less florid ones.
Thankfully, Anil Dash considered the situation — and the resulting exchange — with a slightly more level head. In a blog entry posted Sunday, Anil largely agreed with Cory’s entry criticizing Fast Company — but not the way the wider Web community took up the call for discussion and action. Praising Fast Company for many of our “clueful” practices — online and offline — Anil recommended that people take their criticisms to the source before opening up a flame war in a vacuum.
Regardless of whether that happened — it hasn’t — the Fast Company team has discussed the online dialogue and additional reader feedback, reconsidered our out-of-date linking policy, and amended it. It might not be good enough for Cory yet, but I think it’s an improvement. We’ll continue to refine our Web services and practices.
This is an instructive example of some of the challenges and opportunities that can arise as more organizations — not just individuals — begin blogging. With increased visibility and transparency comes interactivity and responsibility. And if you ever have a question, want to share an idea, or need to clarify something, don’t hesitate to contact me directly.