The MN Mail Column - what we think, and what we plan to do next...

(1002 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:00:59

Evening all - sorry for general absence today - niece's birthday do, packing for hol etc, etc.

So, thank you to everyone for your input on this particular issue. It's been a thought-provoking debate and clearly strong views prevail about exactly how much of a enhanced security risk publication of this column means to Mumsnetters.

We tend in broad terms to come down on the side of the risk being pretty much as it ever was fence but we also buy the argument that there is certainly an increased risk of identification/embarrassment or worse for the OP of a chosen thread - particularly if it of a very personal nature.

We would say as we always have that you should always bear in mind this is a public forum, searchable by Google, legally quotable by all and linkable to by all and sundry.

Clearly having an open forum brings with it risks but it also brings with it great benefits we've always felt. Openness means volume of users and volume of users means Mumsnet in its many guises is available to anyone who needs advice 24-7. It also means fresh faces, differing points of view and debate, and the wisdom that comes from a very big crowd - wrong or dangerous advice doesn't tend to last very long on MN.

Whether the risks outweigh the rewards for each individual only they can decide. Clearly there are basic things you can and should do to protect yourself (ie not reveal basic contact info, namechange to reveal personal stuff etc etc). And bear in mind we are always happy to delete injudicious posts - just report them if you're worried about having revealed too much.

Putting the general risk stuff to one side however, we recognise that many folk (understandably) have qualms not just about being quoted in general but being quoted by the Daily Mail in particular.

If I could just reiterate that this column was not our idea and neither did we know anything about it until it appeared. Neither the journalist involved nor anyone from the DM contacted us about running it beforehand. (And if those of you who are convinced we're lying to you about that shock keep on impugning our good name, there's nowt for it, we're going to have to sue you for libel wink).

In fact the first contact we had was this week (only after the column was brought to our attention by a Mumsnet thread about it) when I wrote to the author of the item in question - whose name we recognised as a Mumsnetter - to ask whether the Mail were planning on this being a regular thing.

At that point we, wrongly we now think having had a chat with a lawyer, didn't believe that we had any redress anyway (see endless posts about the journalistic defense of fair use) but we were, privately, a little surprised that they'd not consulted us.

Whilst we shared/share some of your misgivings about the idea of a MN-DM collaboration, I was, for sure heartened by the fact that the item was being written by a Mumsnetter who, though I don't know her personally, always seemed to be well respected by lots of Mumsnetters. I am quite sure after a couple of email exchanges with Leah Hardy, that she has/had no wish to sensationalise events on Mumsnet and that she would endeavour to protect people's identities. I'm also sure that she didn't feel she was compromising anyone's identity more than they'd already been compromised by posting on a public forum. We do think some of the comments about her have been overly harsh. After all many on here do that she's done nowt wrong in lifting quotes save perhaps for not consulting with us at HQ. That may be because she wouldn't think we could possibly object to her giving Mumsnet weekly publicity - as I've said before most websites/PRs would be in a frenzy of excitement about the Daily Mail doing a weekly column about them. But I don't know that's why, I'm just speculating. She could equally have meant to and forgotten or the dog could have eaten her email. It would be better if she'd come on to talk for herself than me blathering on - maybe she will at some point.

Whatever, we don't think that her actions deserve the general vilification/ outings/ witchunt she's received - bet there are a fair few MN journalists who would love a crack the same gig - maybe for a different publication, but still.

Anyhoo that's all history - sorry for banging on but wanted to be clear - the real question now is what next?

Well... we tend to agree with the view that it's this is not an ideal collaboration for Mumsnet - particularly as we have no editorial control over what gets chosen/ printed etc. So we plan to contact the daily mail on Monday and let them know have we feel about it. We promise to keep you posted about their response.

That's it really. Tanks again to all for your input - please don't interpret any future periods of silence as us hiding under the bed, swigging from the bottle and hoping things go away. It's much more likely to be because I'm going off on hols tomorrow and we're thin on the ground and the DM may not respond straight way but I'll aim to make some calls as soon as I'm on board ship!

ps a few more answers to some direct questions...

Someone asked about stats in response to the DM column. Our stats for thursday don't seem to show any marked influx of new people either in page impressions or new registrations

MaggieBeauLeo asked about a facility to allow members to delete their own posts - we don't think it works for a board like ours tbh - if you're catching up with a thread and the post that someone's agreeing with/taken issue with has been deleted it essentially makes a nonsense of the boards...

Someone else asked about making search for nicknames available only to those who'd paid a CAT. It's certainly a thought but we'd hate to make MN function less well for the majority unless it was for something really wanted by folk - we would welcome further thoughts.

As said we are working on private boards for particular subject groups - which would not be easily mineable for quotes or indexable by Google - they should be here in a couple of months at the latest. We'll keep you posted about their ETA and how they'll work.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:54:07

KingCanute I'm sorry to be a bit obtuse - the reason is that last thing I (or any sane person) would want to do would be to threaten the Daily Mail. So we would like to enter a dialogue with them during which we explain that the column they're running isn't working for us and we'd like them to stop.

Hope that's clear.

KingCanuteIAmAndTheDMCanFOff Sun 16-Aug-09 00:56:34

grin perfectly, thanks Justine!

1dilemma Sun 16-Aug-09 01:18:19

failing that lets ask them for a six figure sum and give everyne a couple of pence each grin
I was wondering what the mumsnetter in question had said about the matter

be interesting to know whether the DM sales figures went up/go up next week grin

1dilemma Sun 16-Aug-09 01:19:43

loads of journos do mine mumsnet for stuff though don't they?

I'm just assuming they are a bit less brazen or a bit less well known or a bit more brazen about it IYSWIM

oh and have a nice holiday

DailyMailmademechangemyname Sun 16-Aug-09 01:21:04

Thanks Justine. This is probably not what you wanted right before a holiday

BitOfFun Sun 16-Aug-09 01:46:58

Thanks Justine - I'm sure we can find a way to make all of this work, just have a nice break and trust it will come out in the wash, which I'm sure it will! There is a lot of good will here, which you have set the tone for, so regardless of the heightened emotions just now, I feel confident it will all come good. smile

Have a great holiday.

I agree that requiring CAT for nickname searches would not put off anyone who was determined to stalk someone online (it's only a ifver) but would make MN functionality less useful for people on very restricted incomes, or those who for some reason have difficulties accessing debit/credit cards.

Mumcentreplus Sun 16-Aug-09 02:09:10

Who is this Mumsnetter?...spill

BitOfFun Sun 16-Aug-09 02:20:35

Agree with Trillian on the CAt thing.

Can I just say as well, for the cynics who think MN has consciously made a pact with the Devil and decided to sell its soul- bollocks. I have run or been aware of the running of sites with a lot of national exposure, and it actually doesn't translate into many clicks at all when you look at the daily analytics. I for one have never clicked on an ad on the right-hand side of a google page, but companies pay massive amounts for those ads. I suppose what I'm saying is don't imagine MNHQ is daft enough to sell the good will of the site for imagined riches, because they will be well aware that when it comes to exposure, just being a talking point doesn't translate easily into a viable business model.

Hi BoF, what are you doing up?

Everyone who is worried: why not write to the DM PR office, explaining that this will be very bad for their circulation numbers, as everyone on MN will be telling their friends, family, and acquantances that the DM is a pile of crap and encouraging them to read some other rag, lest they be quoted and outed on its pages.

BitOfFun Sun 16-Aug-09 02:33:17

I'm good! On fb just now- come and say hi!

stuffitlllama Sun 16-Aug-09 04:06:19

beanieb is quite right

Like others I think the fact it is a long standing mumsnetter makes it WORSE. Surely she would realise EXACTLY what type of furore this would cause, or she would have told you beforehand what she was going to do.

"before most websites/PRs would be in a frenzy of excitement about the Daily Mail doing a weekly column about them"

the website OWNERs and PRs mighy be in a frenzy but I have posted on many many forums in my time and not one of them would have been pleased with this, forums do tend to see themselves as a closed little world....

I personally don't give 2 shits if I appear in a newspaper but I am thinking it's a little ironic that Leah Hardy is quite happy to use our usernames in a paper but she is not willing to out herself, if she had any balls she would be explaining herself instead of hiding. Is she posting on other threads whilst this is going on?

Leah, if you honestly don't see why some posters might have a problem with this then at least have the courage of your convictions and answer their posts as you.

PaulDacreEatsBabies Sun 16-Aug-09 07:29:33

My take on it is this:

1) I'm not actually, despite my comedy new name in honour of the occasion, that bothered about being quoted or even misquoted in the press. I'm not a "well known" Mner, I don't have an involved back story which is known here, I am fortunate enough not to be in a position where I rely on MN for a lot of support. However, that could easily change in a heartbeat, and I completely get that for some those are big big gripes about all this.

Whilst anyone could theoretically wander onto MN and look around (and people no doubt do - I lurk on lots of fora and none of the regulars have any clue how much I know about them), cutting it up and serving selected quotes to Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells with breakfast is somewhat different. I think it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise, Justine.

2) It definitely makes it worse that this was done by a MNer and not some random Polly Filler type told by her Editor to go and trawl MN for crap to fill a few inches. Bad judgment by you, Ms Hardy.

3) I also object on the grounds that it is just fucking lazy journalism - any fool can cut and paste (you fail exams for doing that) with no context, no interpretation, in fact why even put a journo's name to it?

4) It is also definitely worse that it is the DM. Almost any other paper and all of the above would apply, particularly the lazy journalism. But the DM basically hates women. It encourages its core readership - women of 55+ - to hate young women. It is a vile rag.

5) I am stunned that MN seem to be so clueless about their copywright issues - you'd think after the SWMNBN debacle you'd be shit hot on this stuff (and yes, I am aware there is a difference between copywright and libel, but essentially both issues concern intellectual property) but that is of course your look out. However, be prepared to get thoroughly pillaged repeatedly in this manner if you don't do something about it now. Traditional print media is struggling, and on line is what its all about now.

Jumente Sun 16-Aug-09 07:37:39

Justine a quick note but it is bloody easy to figure out who she is - I saw mentioned some possible deleting of her 'obvious' posts but it doesn't look to have been done...took me 2 minutes this morning.

I was curious and though I'm most annoyed about the stuff she has been doing IRT this, I'm not going to villify her or refuse to speak to her. I think that would be mean spirited.

I do think though that you are wise to avoid the collaboration as it's such a yucky 'newspaper' and doesn't do your image any good.

And don't worry...not about to 'out' anyone publicly. I only wanted to know for my own curiosity.

Jumente Sun 16-Aug-09 07:40:21

I mean any suggested collaboration, not that there is already one, iyswim. I don't think you knew about this, at all.

Though there may be value in converting DM readers to our way of thinking, I suppose...'Jesus Loves You' signs up in a house of ill repute...etc etc grin

Actually Justine it is perfectly possible to prevent the indexing of usernames on Google. <wizened old geek emoticon> and perhaps you could limit searches on usernames to posts made in say the last week (that prevents any but the most enthusiastic searcher give up stalking anyone).

Totally mad would be how I would describe asking the DM you aren't happy about this btw, how much encouragement do you want to give 'em to have a good forage? wink

However I think there is a happy medium here, I'll go namechange and start threads about how I'm concerned about all the foreigners in our local school who are compromising my child's development (possibly by selling them drugs) and would I be out of order as governor to encourage the good English mummies to breed more to sort the problem out long term. AIBU stylee hmm grin The DM get their story, Mumsnetters get to vent their spleen and they'll leave the decent real stuff alone.

mrsjammi Sun 16-Aug-09 08:12:09

does no-one else think it somewhat ironic that they have chosen to filch mumsnet when they have an entire set if femail forums they could quote from,or have they gone?

I'd just like to say in relation to the following:

"bet there are a fair few MN journalists who would love a crack the same gig - maybe for a different publication, but still. "

...that in my view, most wouldn't.

I'm not having a go at LH (hell, that's been done already) but as a journo there are always situations where, say, you're looking for a case study and you realise one of your close friends fits the bill. Frankly, you'd be insane to risk things you value in your personal life to mix the two up. There are always other case studies. And it's better professionally to have that distance anyway.

I thought that was worth saying because journalists are mums too and should be able to mention what they do for a living without everyone assuming they're only on Mumsnet to trawl for stories. That would be sad.

Sometimes you hear things on Mumsnet you do check out (for example, when people were complaining their Health In Pregnancy Grant was taking ages to arrive, I rang HM Revenue and Customs to see whether they were having problems) but I think (hope) you'd consider that a bit different, and no different to doing the same if a couple of people had mentioned the same thing down the pub.

Thanks Justine. For what it's worth, I still hold the view that "the MNer who started it all" acted with very poor judgement, and any ire should not be directed at you and the team at MN Towers as you clearly had no knowledge of it.

You have taken on board everyone's disappointment and irritation and I join the masses in hoping that this "column" will be extremely short lived.

If anything good at all has come out of it, at least people will take care to ensure that they protect themselves as much as they can.

Enjoy your holiday.

Aitchiswaitingforalegalopinion Sun 16-Aug-09 08:42:56

yes, tbh i'd agree with that, ltj. much as i'd love to arse about on MN and get paid for it, it wouldn't occur to me to do it without having been asked to do so by MNHQ and having checked it through with the posters.

and that would be a pest to do and bring me into exactly the sort of personal/work conflict that josie describes, which would be a pita and potentially mess things up for posting here etc.

as it stands, without permission, it does feel like stealing other people's 'work' as well, which is such a monumental no no.

telling not asking (must have coffee before Mumsnetting in the morning) blush

RafiToreTheDMUpForCatLitter Sun 16-Aug-09 08:58:18

If LH genuinely thought it would be ok then she'd have had no reason not to mention it.

And if the DM want to print MN opinions, then surely the polite thing would be to pay £30 & post on the media board?

Enjoy your holiday Justine, thanks for all your hard work.

Jumente Sun 16-Aug-09 08:59:39

Aitch you have the right idea there.

I always have trusted you on this issue anyway

Do youknow if the copyright thing HQ have in place extends to making money out of it? That's the bit I object to most - not the being quoted as such but being quoted to make money for some shite red top. angry

Surely people aren't allowed to profit from our stuff?

Aitchiswaitingforalegalopinion Sun 16-Aug-09 09:09:19

well that's the weird thing. she's freelance, she most likely took the idea to the mail in the first place. it just wouldn't have occured to me at ALL to think that i even could do that without permission.

This thread is not accepting new messages.