A few lessons from the Paul Graham sexism controversy

I was just tweeting about getting back to blogging in the hopes of finding inspiration when, blammo, the whole Paul Graham thing and his response  on Friday. (Also see Jessica Lessin’s post on behalf of The Information here).

And, as everyone on Twitter knows, nothing makes a blogger move faster than being able to make a point with a previously written post. In my case, I offer this post, in which I propose that interviewees consider “post(ing) the transcripts of their on-the-record interviews once the story comes out — regardless of whether it’s positive, negative or neutral.”

If this had been done last Thursday morning when The Information story came out, any disparity between the printed piece and the transcript would have been readily apparent.

It also would have been a very hacker-y thing to do, no?

Other thoughts:

Record your interviews. Sure, there is the benefit of catching a misquote. But, generally, it’s quite helpful to keep track of what you say and how you say it when talking to the media (or on stage). My tip: Use Evernote on your phone to record the interview. It will automatically sync to your laptop. Send this file to Rev.com or a similar service and get the transcript back within 48 hours.  A great example of the value of this was brilliantly executed by my Pramana partner Brandee Barker when she worked on a Wired feature with Dropbox and was subsequently able to secure what was easily one of the best corrections in memory.

 Interview vs. conversation. But, you say that this wasn’t an interview and was a conversation with a reporter? Rightly or wrongly this is semantics. If a reporter is taking notes or recording the conversation, you just have to assume your words will be used somehow. If you’re having beers with them, you trust them and no notebook/recording device is in sight, then that’s a different story.

Twitter time. It was a holiday week. The Information piece came out on the day after Christmas. People are traveling and spending time with their families. All very reasonable. Still, one would expect that someone active on Twitter on the 26th would have read the interview, caught the discrepancy and either corrected it behind the scenes or have proactively tweeted about it. Instead it just hung out there (see the Twitter search results), and 28 hours after it was originally posted, Valleywag got hold of it. Fire.

I’ve never met him, but I do think that Paul Graham has good intentions and was caught in a hard-to-win situation. His response was solid and also brings up worthy discussion points about contextualization in the Twitter/Reddit age. I just wish he was faster and more direct with it.

However, what would help a whole lot more is if those with bully pulpits in the industry didn’t wait until they were shoehorned into a bad situation before articulating their solutions for more women (or minorities) in tech. If this happened, I would hope that people would start to give them the benefit of the doubt when they’re tongue-tied over tough issues.

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