Yesterday I watched a panel discussion on CSPAN which included some colleagues of mine. The topic was “Civil War Blogging” and the event took place at Gettysburg College as part of the Civil War Institute’s Summer Conference. Each panelist was a respected educator who ran their own blogs. As you may know I have an extensive background in regards to the subject of the American Civil War. I have produced a documentary film and published five of my seven books on the subject. I hosted a Civil War (and later a Revolutionary War) blog for almost 10 years. I love it when I get the chance to incorporate the subjects of Civil War and drumming. Just do a keyword search on this blog for “civil war” and a dozen entries will pop up.
What struck me about the conversation is how much it applies to my current blogging efforts and for that matter, all blogs in general. One issue revolved around the validity of information posted on blogs and the lack of vetting and standardization. In other words the information posted online is only as accurate as the person who posted it. Thanks to Google, the tendency is to become overly dependent on the technology. Internet search engines dictate what is available and the speed at which they produce results enables one to acquire a “quick fix” of information.
Often this data is incomplete or incorrect and the user falls victim to propagating improper facts. The other tendency is to give authority to a source that has not yet earned it. This results in a false sense of security. Hence the risk that one takes when researching information online. It would do one a great service to investigate the information posted online from additional sources to verify their accuracy.
This is not to say that there are not reputable sources on the Internet where one can get truthful and thought-provoking information. Of course there are. It simply means that it is very dangerous to assume everything posted on blogs are accurate or true. Many blogs are based on the opinions of the blogger and often times it is emotions that dictate the material and not logic. These posts must be taken at face value. A quick review of past posts should prove or disprove the focus of the blog.
My blog features three kinds of posts: 1. Informative. 2. Historical. 3. Instructional. Number one consists of interviews and events. Number two includes pieces on the history of drums and drumming. Number three presents practice and playing instructions. Each one serves a different purpose. Although I post about subjects and people that interest me, I do not do so in an emotional way. It is not an opinion that presents the history of drumming or an intimate look at some famous drummer. It is what I believe to be factual information. My background as a historian has taught me to use primary sources whenever possible and to fact check in order to maintain credibility.
Each time I conduct an interview I share the final draft with the interviewee. This is done for two reasons. #1. I want to verify the accuracy of what has been said. I do my best to transcribe the discussion. And #2. To ensure the subject approves how they are being presented to the public. Each time I write a historical piece I strive to use multiple sources to ensure I have not propagated incorrect information. I contribute historical pieces from time to time to a reputable blog titled “Emerging Civil War.” Each time I include the sources at the end as one would do with an academic study. This validates my post and provides a listing of additional information if one chooses to pursue it.
I feel a great responsibility as a blogger and I am grateful for the thousands of hits I receive each month. I am also thankful to bloggers (like this panel) who have blazed the way for newer bloggers to follow. Their examples of how to conduct one-self is invaluable (Civil War Memory, Crossroads of the Civil War). My primary point with this long-winded post is to reinforce the notion that you should never assume that everything posted on blogs are true. Whenever possible do your own follow up until you trust the source. Once the blog has been confirmed you will be able to focus on the material and not the credibility. I hope that you find my blog to be in that category. Your trust in me is what makes me continue to blog.