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    Unclassifiable (rare) Bias at the Cisco Internet Protocol Journal
    posted by michael on Tuesday February 11 2003, @08:01PM

    Suppose you were the editor of a journal that happened to have the chairman of ICANN's Board as the first name on its seven-person Editorial Board, and has two other former ICANN Board members (plus one ICANNWatch editor, but who's counting). When making a decision to review Ruling the Root, a book by Milton Mueller that is dispassionately critical of ICANN, would you try to find a neutral reviewer, or would you reach out [NOTE: see below - the journal says the review was unsolicited] to someone who has a long history of ad hominem attacks against Dr. Mueller on mailing lists? (And of whom Dr. Mueller has sometimes written critically as well.) And if you went for the pit bull approach, would you require some sort of disclosure of the long-time personal animus? Or of that person's joint venture with an ICANN staff member? Apparently not.



    OK, I'm probably not that neutral myself. Milton Mueller is a longtime colleague, a collaborator on this website, and someone I think I'd like if we ever got to spend much time together (other than a few conferences, we know each other primarily by email). That's why I'd be reluctant to write a review of his (IMHO quite wonderful) book, Ruling the Root [buy it here], for an academic journal as opposed to this website, which is clearly one of political commentary. And if I did review it for a journal, I'd make the appropriate disclosures.

    Of course, it may be that the staff of the Cisco Internet Protocol Journal didn't know any of this. Perhaps the author offered them the review unsolicited. In that case, time to publish an editorial note and make a few adjustments to the web site?

    Perhaps a good place to start would be removing the utterly offensive last paragraph of this 'review', which contains a slanderous ethics complaint against Dr. Mueller, one that rings especially hollow given the identity of the reviewer and his failure to acknowledge his substantial conflicts of interest.


    Addendum: I sent a draft of the above to the editor of the Cisco Journal, who responded as follows:

    It should be pretty obvious that ALL book reviews in IPJ represent the personal opinions of the reviewer. I have no idea what you mean by a "neutral reviewer", particularly not of this kind of book.

    Never in the history of the Internet has anything caused as much controversy as ICANN and hardened vastly different OPINIONS on either side.

    The review, as most of them are, was offered unsolicited, yes.

    Having said that, if you (or someone who also thinks this book is "wonderful") would like to submit a review of the SAME book, then I'd be happy to consider such for publication.

    I will share with you that the review went through many drafts and was seen by many people before it went into print.

    He also forwarded my draft to the author of the review, whose main complaint was that I focused on disclosure rather than substance. This caused the editor to reply,
    The review is an *opinion* of a book which is an *opinion* on ICANN and related topics. I see no reason why we cannot publish another opinion on the book if one is offered.

    Having followed the ICANN process myself quite closely, I think this would be a reasonable approach.

    I'm afraid I think both replies pretty seriously miss my point: It's at least as silly to give a book review to someone who has conflicts of interest and an evident personal animus against the author as it would be to give it to a friend or co-worker of the author. If one does either of those things, one has a duty to disclose the fact for the reader's benefit. That failure isn't cured by another review of the book 'for balance' because readers are denied the very relevant fact about the original author's personal circumstances. Book reviewing isn't like mathematical proof: The circumstances and identities of authors do matter, and editors and authors ought to be sensitive to that.

     
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  • Also by michael
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    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Bias at the Cisco Internet Protocol Journal | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 7 comments | Search Discussion
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    IPJ's response
    by tbyfield (reversethis-{moc.xinap} {ta} {dleifybt}) on Wednesday February 12 2003, @09:47AM (#11151)
    User #44 Info
    more than merely missing the point, the IPJ's response is flatly disingenuous. and if, indeed, 'the review went through many drafts and was seen by many people before it went into print,' then the IPJ's editors are either partisans or incompetents, take your pick.

    it's certainly possible to rip mueller's book to shreds on material grounds; this can be done to any book. but that's not what crocker did. on the contrary, he proceeded by decking out his argument by assertion with nano-level nitpicking, and finished it off with something perilously close to slander. as a book review, it's -- to use a term of art -- a worthless piece of shit. (imo, naturally.)

    on the one hand, the IPJer claims that the review 'was seen by many people'; on the other, he dismisses it as a 'personal opinion.' so does the IPJ really rquire 'many' people to approve 'personal opinions'? or is the IPJer assembling a little fortress of cards out of cant and pietisms?

    furthermore, waiting for a complaint before inviting an alternative view would seem to be similarly lazy, at best; and saying s/he'd 'consider' it is downight hilarious -- after crocker squatted on the IPJ's pages, i'd love to see what the journal's criteria are for rejection.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Login problems
    by michael (froomkin@lawUNSPAM.tm) on Wednesday February 12 2003, @04:32AM (#11149)
    User #4 Info | http://www.discourse.net/
    If you drop me an email, describing OS, browser (with cookies on!) and the exact problem, I'll try to help. I suspect, though, that part of your problem is that the mail account you used to login with is no longer functioning (I got a bounce from yahoo). That's where your new passwords go. And of course, you can't create a duplicate userID from a *different* email addreess. But I can reset your email on the existing userID to a new address if you write to me privately. -mf
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Re:IW & IPJ - the pot calling the kettle black
    by tbyfield (reversethis-{moc.xinap} {ta} {dleifybt}) on Wednesday February 12 2003, @11:14PM (#11155)
    User #44 Info
    ignoring for the moment that an unremunerated critical website and a king-making USG-delegated monopolist of a global resource are hardly commensurate, i'd be curious to see some substantive evidence that IW writers 'can't take it.' after all, if you support IPJ in general and crocker's review in particular, you surely can't object to IW writers publishing their 'personal opinions,' now, can you? and this is an open website, where you are, literally, *welcome* to disagree with our own and commentaries: that's the *point*.

    if IPJ had published a *responsible*, substantive, and informative review of mueller's book which was negative, we probably would have written it up. i wish they had. i like milton, and he's a remote colleague in a way; but the fact that i like him and work with him on IW says nothing about the quality of his book. if it were bad, i'd say so -- and poor milton would just have to live with it. but, as it happens, i think his book is excellent. and crocker's 'review' just isn't up to snuff.

    how about this: why don't *you* take all your high-minded values and do a review of crocker's 'icannfacts' site?

    cheers,
    t
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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