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Michael Gracie

Fly Rod Warranties: Not Really Open for Discussion

A few weeks back an independent trade magazine for the fly-fishing industry, Angling Trade, published an editorial on fly rod warranties penned by the proprietor of a fly shop. The piece, which you can find via web search using the term “rod warranties anglingtrade”, does not merit linkage1. It is in my opinion muddled diatribe which attempts to foist blame for a struggling business model at the feet of fly rod manufacturers.

That editorial generated a significant amount of commentary, over several days, which as someone interested in the subject I monitored. Opinions were, at the outset, supportive. Then several more saavy consumers, as well as what appeared to be some “industry insiders”, chimed in and the comment thread turned negative. Some retailer/manufacturer economics were exposed; several customer-types even declared outright they simply would not buy a premium fly rod that didn’t have a lifetime warranty.

Uh oh. Disagreement. Discontent. Then the comments were gone. Deleted.

The manufacturer penchant for offering lifetime warranties on fly rods has long been a source of controversy. Some opine that separating warranties from the rods (or eliminating them altogether) would result in lower prices and therefore more sales. Others say that if fly rod warranties go away, so will the finer brands, as the high cost of getting that [inevitably] damaged rod repaired will drive purchasers down to the low-end “disposable” bracket of the market. I’ve yet to see a rigorous analysis, steeped in manufacturer cost structures and supply/demand curves, supporting either point of view. Certainly the above-referenced “editorial” didn’t come close.

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Self-reliance is nobody’s fault but my own

Just over a year ago I installed an OpenID provider on this site, and have been using the URL here ever since to harass and harangue other blogging types (mostly fishy ones).

Unfortunately, several months back I did some behind the scenes changes. They were merely back-office tweaks, since as you all know the theme/style here is already the most artistic, creative…heck downright gorgeous hunk of web design anywhere on the interwebs. Sadly my flair for technicolor wowza does not extend to my left-brain, and OpenID provision went bust.

At first I pointed fingers at Blogger, and took those I regularly denigrate there to task. But after significant amounts of research and tinkering, I now realize that it is the technology within causing the problems.

I make no apologies, primarily because I know certain denizens of the tubes have expressed sighs of relief during this otherwise difficult period. They are undoubtedly thanking me for my ineptitude. But someday near I will make reparations – I vow that the cynical, ill-humored, irritable commentary certain folks have previously accepted while cussing under their breath will resume.

MG signing off (while Alex, Kyle, Jean-Paul and others tremble in their boots)

A comment on Google News comments

Who can comment on stories?:

Right now, Google only posts comments from participants in stories. Participants are people mentioned in a story or related to organizations in a story.

I recall this test being pitched as a way for direct stakeholders in a story to add to it (and/or defend themselves if need be). It’s that second bit, “…or related to organizations in a story”, that makes these comments entirely too subjective. I’ve seen few actual “Comments by People in the News” – it seems a lot more like comments from people who, if they word their comments very carefully, will appease someone just enough to get some very high quality linkage back to their website and just so happen to have some ancillary interest in the news item at hand.

That’s not what quality information, or debate, is supposed to be about. There are plenty of high-profile news resources, including blogs, crossing all matter of subject that do a very good job of filling that role on their own. It would be a heck of a lot clearer (and probably a lot more substantive) if the comments at Google News were restricted specifically to those mentioned in news articles, or the spokepersons on their payroll.

Google News move gives blogs more punch

Google announced this morning that they are going to provide limited commenting capability over at their news page – the limited part means limited to the subjects of the news, and or their agents. When I first read the “news, ” (no pun intended) which came via TechMeme in the form of these three stories….

  • Google News To Newsmakers: Send Us Your Comments
  • Google News Adds (Special) Comments
  • Freedom from the press: Google News lets newsmakers comment on stories
  • …my first inclination was so what! I used to have Google News as my browser home page – then RSS came along. Google was late to party with respect to integrating feeds into their news page, and I’d since found other sources that sliced and diced things more to my fancy.

    My second inclination was…damn, that is going to be a lot of work. Who is going to sort through all those comments, trying to figure out which are legitimate and which are coming from some public relations firm trying to do damage control? Mike Arrington (along with some others) had the same idea.

    Then my third and final thought hit…this is going to be great fodder for bloggers! Just imagine a whole bunch of “interested parties” emailing Google with comments meant primarily to “correct” factually inauspicious information and/or debate the facts as presented. A whole lot of emails are going to come in attempting to “re-spin” every news item. Journalists themselves are likely candidates to join the fun.

    Bloggers are going to pounce on this – they’ll be linking to scurrilous commentary like white on rice. Now, not only are the news folks themselves going to take heat – the subjects of the news (at least those that lack any sense of self-control) will too. As the de-facto editor-in-chief, Google should get used to ducking – it could get very ugly. For the bloggers’ sake, let’s hope there is no comment retraction function!

    Rather than just rain on the parade with gross speculation that will likely wind up completely and utterly wrong, I’ll end with a suggestion for Google – call the guys at Intense Debate and let them help you with the implementation bit. I saw a presentation they did last night and was impressed. While they could use a little polish on the public speaking front, they explained their technology sufficiently and answered a few tough questions to boot. What really hit me, however, was their humbleness. They didn’t have all the answers, but certainly seemed enthusiastic enough to go find them. That I really liked.

    Now if I could only be that way myself.

    UPDATE: More from Mike Masnick, with some alternative thoughts.

    UPDATE 2: And still more from the other Mike…on the crawling restrictions at Google News. That won’t stop people from linking (and berating), will it?

    Comments are forever

    Companies uneasy about online criticism.

    Comment moderation and the quelling of dissent

    There ought to be a mandate that all controversial ultra-biased blogs disable comment moderation. Yes, they would be required to put up with some blog spam, but what the hell. Half the reason I think political blogs are such a waste of drive space is that the individual authors simply delete the comments they don’t like, which is usually when the comment steers contrary to their ultra-right or ultra-left parroting.

    Blogger, a fine amateur journalist’s platform, but the unfortunate haven for red and blue feathers alike, is now providing comment moderation. And without clearly defined trackback linkage, who’s to really know when there is disagreement?

    So much for new media. Then again, at least they won’t have to directly attack any negative reinforcement.

    My solution – when in doubt regarding the authenticity of a blog entry or the grand phenomena of perfect agreement on every count, I just review the “Top Ten Blogger Lies” and my mind is then clear.

    Easy solution in the “who’s liable for comments” debate

    Techdirt points out the foolish arguments over who is liable for website comments – the website owner or the commenter. The catch here is it is very very difficult to figure out who commenters are (despite what some think). Of course, I suspect a lot of the hubbaloo is about what is posted to blogs (and those who would love to know who the comment posters are), so I have a simple (albeit potentially temporary) solution:

    All blog owners turn off all comment capability, and turn on trackback capability (if they haven’t already). Anyone who wants to provide feedback must do so via their own blog (even if they use it only to provide said feedback). That will weed out the trollers anonymous types (at least until some smarty figures out a hack around it). And who knows, those newfangled feedback-only blogs may just generate some revenue for those previously scared of airing their views. They can use AdSense for goodness sake. Sounds like Google might be needing the extra revenue any day now.
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