Comment censorship and comment policies V: Selective distortion of debate
One of the main reasons why I object to comment censorship (cf. earlier entries) is selective distortion of debate. This is comparatively common on “image building” blogs—together with censorship for the purpose of not to having ones “wisdom” or “expertise” questioned.
Those who spend a lot of time in the blogosphere have probably noticed that there are many blogs that are more geared at building the image, brand, reputation, whatnot, of the blogger than at anything else. Usually, the individual entries are relatively poorly written, high on over-use of “you”, and consist mostly of information that anyone could get from an introductory book on the topic at hand—or that is so trite that even the educated layman already knows it. This, however, is presented as the supreme knowledge of a leading expert.
(For examples, see e.g. the marketing tage at WordPress; in particular, entries with titles like “10 ways do X”, “5 common errors in Y”, and similar.)
While I have been a victim of censorship comparatively rarely, disproportionally many cases have occurred on this type of blog—probably, because I often question the content, point to errors in reasoning or fact, show an alternate view point, or similar.
A recent poste that I found on the WordPress frontpage provides both a good example of this and an illustration of why it is dangerous. (It should be noted, however, that this blogger is not a perfect match for the profile above. That he actually tries to give some, if specious, justification for his censorship, is what makes his entry a superior illustration.)
The blog entry, author mrl8nite, contains a legitimate discussion of what formats to use for resumes and the like, ending with the conclusion:
Bottom Line – Stick with the Word 2003 “.doc” format for now, as it is still the de facto standard document format.
My first comment (published):
PDF should be the default, unless the prospective employer explicitly requests something else. For some reasons why we should never send (specifically) MS-Office formats without the receivers explicit consent, see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.htmle
As an aside, it is important to differ between application and format (although Microsoft has done its best to obliterate this definition): Even if someone has to send a Word-2003 document this need not be done in MS-Word: OpenOffice can handle that just as well (with reservations for some features that do not belong in a resume in the first place, like complex macros).
Thanks for the remarks. I understand your point, and I mentioned some of this a bit in the posting. However, I want to make sure the readers understand that when it’s about a resume, it’s not their choice, it’s what most of the recruiters and job sites and corporations want to receive. We need to make sure that our preferences for “document storing and sharing” don’t get confused with what needs to be done to have the highest chance of getting an interview. While I don’t disagree with your point about Open docs and I respect your preference of PDF (also a proprietary format), it’s about job search success and not diminishing the opportunity to get to the next step in the job search.
So far, a perfectly acceptable and constructive exchange which could be beneficial to the reader who wants to make an informed choice. The problems begin when mrl8nite decides not to publish my following comment. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected browser crash in the interim, the text is lost to me, but the gist, from memory, was:
PDF is the generally recommended standard for exchange of documents and is the “smallest common denominator” to be preferred as a default. (Assuming that plain-text and HTML are not acceptable in the context.)
Those who require a different format have the opportunity to state so.
MS-Word is actually seen as unprofessional by at least some companies. (Due to problems with viruses, information leaks, compatibility problems with different versions, and poor printability.)
PDF (unlike what mrl8nite implies) is far from my first choice: I would go with LaTeX and PostScript or a more “semantic” approach—if I had the choice. The reason why I go with PDF is that I do not have the choice, and that PDF is the safest bet, with regard to compatibility, courtesy, whatnot.
The problem here: It may be that, specifically for job applications, MS-Word is the better choice (mrl8nite repeatedly emphasizes tracking systems and claimed problems, to which I am skeptical, with information extraction from PDF files). It may be that PDF is the better choice. It may be that it is toss-up. However, by cutting off the discussion we are not given the opportunity to find out. Notably, an uninformed visitor reading this page will likely, by default, be convinced by mrl8nite’s position—not because it is the correct one, not because it is better argued, but merely because it is the only one given free reins.
Importantly, we also have no idea how many other dissenting comments by others, using what arguments, were disallowed. As a result, the page is nearly valueless in the quest for the best format. (Just like a sales pitch for X brings very little value for someone wanting to make an informed decision between X and Y.)
While I, obviously, do not know what the degree of censorship was, others were censored too. I quote a private email (in response to a “reminder” comment from me, wanting to eliminate the risk that my second comment was simply stuck in the spam queue or similar):
> At the time of writing, my comment from “August 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm” remains unpublished. I kindly ask you to correct this.
Thanks. I am working through numerous replies. I am also trying to make sure that the discussions remain beneficial for my core readers and provide a clear guidance on the resume/jobhunt process.
Further, the concluding comment by mrl8nite (my emphasis):
I haven’t approved all of the feedback, as just another “thanks for the article” posting, while appreciated, would deter from the good discussions taking place here. Also, I’m trying to keep the discussions focused on helping job seekers and as such have limited extended discussions where we might confuse the job seeker, avoid commercial advertising, or get us too far away from the key point (yes, I think PDFs are a good alternate choice; yes, I like Open products; yes, Word files have limitations; yes, I like html resumes; yes, update your LinkedIn Profiles; yes…).
For this post, the focus of the article was, based on my research and feedback from many recruiters, that Word 2003 .doc files are still the most accepted, the lowest common denominator [stealing a formulation I used to refer to PDF in my unpublished comment], the most beneficial to recruiters/managers, and thus the best choice (for now) for you to share your resume when a file needs to be sent. […]
From the above, it is clear that mrl8nite had a very clear agenda of pushing his pre-formed opinion—with only marginal room for discussion. This is, obviously, contrary to the spirit of good blogging and the (ideally) productive discussions, back-and-forth, refinement of opinion, etc., that is an integral part of blogging.
In the end, the readers that mrl8nite claims to want to help are the biggest losers from his distortive censorship.