“Why Do You Publish Articles We Won’t Like to Read?”

FedSmith is continuing to grow and expand. We hope all of our readers enjoy this upcoming holiday weekend to celebrate the birth of our country and the privileges we enjoy. We are using the holiday to increase our computing capacity. Here is the underlying philosophy for our website and why we publish articles we know some in our community may not find agreeable.

A few years ago, we started FedSmith.com as a hobby. It is still a hobby but one that has grown beyond our original expectations. Like any hobby, we do this because we enjoy it and we hope our readers continue to recommend and pass along our website to their friends and colleagues as that is the sole basis for our growth in the federal community.

To manage this growth, we are adding significantly to our computing capacity. A couple of years ago, we moved to one server dedicated to our site alone to handle the growing traffic load. We now have hundreds of millions of hits on the site and are expanding to several servers solely for the use of FedSmith.com.

We are making the move to the new equipment starting on Friday, July 2 to give us time to correct problems we encounter over the coming holiday weekend. Based on past experience, major changes never go as smoothly as planned so if you see a few glitches, please bear with us. We hope to have successfully completed the move and be ready to distribute the regular free daily newsletter on Tuesday, July 6 and be up and running for the traffic load that follows the newsletter distribution.

With the substantial increase in our computer capacity, we intend to gradually expand our site to continue to make the site of interest and value to the federal community.

We hope all of our readers enjoy this July 4th holiday as we take time to celebrate the birth of America and the privilege of living in a country where we are free to make our own decisions, live with the consequences, and voice our own opinions on just about any topic.

Why Do You Publish Articles You Know We Won’t Like?

We have added tens of thousands of new readers since we last expressed the underlying philosophy of this website.

We do receive complaints from readers on a recurring basis about articles or comments on our website.  We also receive numerous requests for assistance. While we do not have a staff to respond to all of the queries we receive, we do read all of the comments we receive. We appreciate any reader taking the time to send us a comment or opinion about our website. The reality is that if we were to eliminate all articles that generate complaints, we would be publishing primarily government documents—although we have also had complaints from readers who did not like us publicizing some of the government documents we have put up on our site.

We also get questions from readers along the lines of “Why do you publish articles you know we won’t like?” Some readers would prefer we assume a role similar to federal employee unions and use the site to advocate issues of interest to the federal community.

Our purpose in running the website is to provide information from our authors and readers using the freedom of speech we enjoy in our country. We do not try to censor information or ideas that some will find inappropriate or offensive. We also do not serve as an advocate or try to usurp the role of federal unions which do not appear to need or want our help in any event.

Having been active in the federal human resources community for a number of years, both as a federal employee and as a contractor, I can usually spot opinions or comments that will be controversial and that will offend some readers. I am also well aware that many in our community strive to avoid being offensive and are quick to voice disapproval with a controversial point of view—or at least a point of view that may be out of step with what we normally see provided to the federal community.

While I often disagree with many of these comments or opinions (many of which are diametrically opposed in any event), we strive to provide a site that is unique, relevant and contains information which is often not reported to the federal community. For example, we often post articles about federal employees that have been indicted or sentenced and we often receive complaints from readers that we are harming the image of the federal workforce by making this information available to a nationwide audience. We also receive complaints from readers who are unhappy with any article or opinion that reflects unfavorably on interest groups, political leaders, or others that impact our broad community. We also receive complaints when we publish articles that take issue with the pay and benefits provided to federal employees.

The primary commonality in the information on our site is that the article be relevant to the federal community.  Some of these articles may not be a topic that is consistent with the views of many of our readers who have their own personal or economic interests at stake. Instead, we look for information that may impact your federal career or your retirement in some way, even if the eventual impact is negative.

Here is an example.

This week, we published an article written by a union official. He has written a number of articles we have published and a number of readers disagree with his point of view. In this article, he wrote: “Classifiers are the last vestige in a long line of plantation management, the divine right of kings, papal infallibility and similar traditions of absolute power. Neither arbitrators nor federal judges have any significant power over them thanks to a 1976 Supreme Court decision and the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act.”

When reading his article, the comment leaped off the page. The hyperbole he employed in his column was undoubtedly intended to arouse emotions to enhance the point he was trying to make.

Not surprisingly, a number of readers took issue with his statement and questioned the propriety of publishing the article. Mr. Ferris is obviously voicing his own opinion and we provide him with the same opportunity to voice his opinion just as we do other authors or readers who will (and often do) vigorously disagree with his point of view.

We know that some readers (perhaps most) will not agree with some opinions of an author or that some readers will find some comments or opinions offensive. We do try to provide a wide variety of articles and some of the articles or comments have probably offended readers in all sectors of the political/social spectrum at one time or another. On the other hand, we also get comments from readers who appreciate reading opinions or receiving information which was not otherwise available.

While I realize that this philosophy is different from other publications that often provide more limited information or only provide opinions that will be generally popular (or, perhaps, offend fewer people), we have an underlying philosophy of allowing our readers to express controversial opinions with the obvious exception that we strive to avoid any information that would constitute inappropriate libel or slander against an individual.

Comments from Readers

One of the most popular features on our site is the comments from readers.

We have found it necessary to disapprove some comments. We try to detect and censor any comments that engage in name calling toward another individual. Some are obviously inappropriate and we eliminate any racial epithets, cursing, or similar language. Terms directed to another reader such as “Nazi,” “racist,” “Repubs,” “Demoncrats,” “radical right (or left wing) nutcase,” or similar terms usually result in disapproval of a comment as any follow-up always leads to a rapid degradation of any useful discussion.

We do often publish comments that we know will be unpopular. In some cases, we even publish comments that we know will make the person making the comment appear to be uneducated, uninformed or illiterate. We do not try to correct spelling or grammatical errors.

And, as we are sometimes slow to detect the meaning of new unusual terms or acronyms that pop up, we sometimes disapprove comments using terms or acronyms based on our negative experience of learning their true meaning after publication.

As we have a very small staff, and sometimes receive hundreds of comments in a day, the comments are reviewed in batches so they are not approved in real time. Also, we do make errors and sometimes go back and delete comments when it comes to our attention some comments that should have been disapproved in the first place.

Articles from Readers

We do publish some of the articles we receive from our readers. We do have a number of talented writers with experience working with or for the federal government and these are popular articles read by our audience throughout the world. If you have a point of view and want to voice your opinion, please feel free to send in your column. We will not guarantee publication but we will read your submission. Please be sure it is likely to be of interest to the federal community, expresses a point of view or explains a program or issue in which you have expertise, and don’t make it too long.

Thanks again to everyone who reads FedSmith and to help us continue in our growth in the federal community.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47