Yesterday, on the occasion of Persistent Systems‘ IPO, we ran an unabashedly positive post about Persistent and Anand Deshpande’s contributions to the Pune technology community. This resulted in some eyebrows raised about the appropriateness of the article. There were two concerns:
- The timing of the article, while an IPO is in progress, could be inappropriate
- Writing such a positive article about an important/influential personality (especially when we don’t have a history of writing similar articles about other people) might result in a perception that we were trying to suck up.
After asking a few of our friends, we realized that enough people had similar concerns, and we decided that the issue needs to be discussed openly in the interest of transparency.
At the outset, we’d like to make clear that nobody connected to PuneTech has any direct or indirect financial interest, nor any other kind of vested interest in Persistent or its IPO. None of us has any shares/stocks of Persistent, nor do we have any financial dealings of any kind with Persistent. In line with our stated editorial policy, PuneTech never takes any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for any content on PuneTech.
Still, in discussion with our friends, a number of issues of credibility, objectivity, neutrality, and perception management were raised. (Regular PuneTech readers will remember a similar discussion that happened in response to another such positive post from us.) We have listed below some of the issues that were pointed out to us, followed by our current thinking on each.
- “Is PuneTech more like a newspaper or is it more like a blog? Deciding that will drive some of these decisions.” Our view: We don’t necessarily want to label PuneTech as one or the other. It is what it is. But, as is clearly stated in the PuneTech editorial policy, we are not ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’. PuneTech articles will reflect the opinions of the authors, and the selection of what topics and articles to publish reflects our editorial judgement.
- “PuneTech is a blog. It will have opinions. It is not possible to be objective. Why do you care what other people think?” Our view: Although we feel that we are entitled to our opinions, and our opinions have value, we would like to ensure that our readers do not question our motives. We will lose a lot of credibility and readership if people feel that some of our posts are motivated by vested interests. The fact that we publish our editorial policy, our comments policy, posts like these, and we welcome comments that disagree with our views are attempts at bringing some transparency to this process.
- “PuneTech should reflect the true opinions of the authors – that is in fact one of the reasons why readers read PuneTech. Once you start censoring your opinions by worrying about ‘What will others think’, PuneTech will become bland, and lose a lot of its value.” Our view: we completelly agree with this.
- “Since PuneTech comes across as largely neutral in most articles, the occasional article that is highly opinionated does result in some raised eyebrows.” Our view: Agreed. At this stage, we think we would rather risk a few raised eyebrows once in a while, than to ‘neutralize’ all our articles.
- “The timing is suspect. With an IPO in progress, such a one-dimensionally postitive article might be seen as an attempt to curry favor with Persistent or Anand by offering a positive public opinion when it was really needed.” Our view: We stand by the opinions expressed in the article, but we concede that our timing could have been inappropriate. But since this kind of a situation is not likely to recur anytime soon, we are not going to worry too much about trying to formulate a PuneTech policy to govern such things. But we’ll try to be careful in the future.
- “Why only Anand Deshpande? Would have been much better to have a series of articles on all the people who’ve benefitted the tech community in Pune.” Our view: We think this is a great idea, and we’ll try to do that. However, please note that we’re severely limited in the amount of time we can spend on writing PuneTech articles. PuneTech is neither the primary, nor the secondary activity for any of us, so it might be a while before these articles appear. Please bear with us. Anybody willing to help us out by writing any such article please get in touch with us.
In conclusion, we will continue to write opinionated articles, and every once in a while we will have an article where we are being very positive about some person, or initiative, or company. We ask of our readers that if you ever feel unsure of our motives, please let us know either publicly in the comments, or privately via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ll start worrying when this happens to often.
If you have strong opinions about this topic, please let us and other PuneTech readers know in the comments. Thanks.