Thought Starters

An Epic Saga: The battle between those lifelong foes; fact and opinion.

There has been some interesting commentary this week in the network of web logs that I frequent comparing the realities of fact and opinion in the world of blogging.

It’s funny how things always seem to align.

I was watching a movie last weekend called State of Play where an old school tried-and-true journalist is teamed up with a fresh-faced young blogger to follow a story. There was a scene at the beginning of the movie where the old dog was growling at the young pup about the difference between fact and opinion and that a blog is simply opinion because there was no way that in the time it took to form the article the so called writer, ergo blogger, had time to check sources and gather the…ahem…facts.

That was 2009. Not that long ago.

Has the opinion about bloggers changed?

Someone wrote (blogged) this week about a company that has developed a computer algorithm that can replace a human writer. So soon? A computer program that will be writing articles based on fact and data to allow more information about business or events or whatever to be published in a quicker manner as an opportunity to distribute information that may otherwise go unheard because of the limits of…well…human resources.

That is a mass generalization of the topic but that’s not the point here.

The blog article, at Spin Sucks, is opinion and it prompted a call from the CEO of the company that is at the forefront of developing that product, namely Narrative Science, who took the time to discuss the intentions of the product with the blogger.

Opinion counts. That’s a fact.

Dictionary.com defines blogging like this:

Blog [blawg] noun, verb, blogged, blogging.

noun

a web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other web sites.

Another fact.

I enjoy reading those folks over at Spin Sucks and they are certainly well read. Having a large audience makes their work influential, for sure. We can only assume they take the time to research their work but no matter how much they do the outcome is always opinion. They take the facts, whatever they may be, and form their opinion about them for their readership to respond. The responses are opinion and generate conversation. That’s one reason why I think it’s so successful. The conversation.

Blogging at its finest.

This post, article, piece or whatever you want to call this thing is not based on anything but my opinion and I consider the hours I spend reading various publications, other blogs and books count, in part, as my research. Well, at least I hope they do. I get it though so please don’t think I don’t. If I want to write about a topic and I want to form my opinion about it I need to back that up with facts otherwise who will believe what I have to say?

Mel Lastman knows (sorry world, inside joke for those Ontarians in my midst).

That’s why we write this blog though. Opinion. Opinion on the design industry and opinion on management and leadership is the basis of the work here and just like dictionary dot com indicates we write from experiences, observations and opinion all based on our personal perceptions. Our experiences are what make us all so different and the nuance between opinions on the same subject comes from that individuality.

Now, how about the fact that goes with an RFP response?

There’s is no room for opinion there, is there? Just the facts, ma-am. Just the facts. There is no room for narrative in the RFP. Who wants to read your opinion on why you think your firm is the right one to hire? In fact, who even reads all the writing that goes into the responses anyway?

The facts and data are all that are required.

That’s it! No feeling, no nuance, no style he say facetiously. It certainly seems that way for the most part. The time and the human resources that we need to devote to forming the facts and data in a way to entice the client, the reader, is the real challenge. I suppose that’s why we create templates and repurpose content. Customization, nuance and style take time and the value proposition is not always something that seems as critical as the bottom line.

Right or wrong? Fact or opinion?

Below are some opinions and facts. Have I got them right? Or am I way off base? What’s your take on what’s fact and what’s opinion?

 

  • Opinion: Most of your clients have no idea what the design process is about.
  • Fact: Most design firms don’t spend the time to educate their clients about the design process in their responses.

 

  • Opinion: Repeat clients take less time to reel in.
  • Fact: It takes a lot less time to respond to an RFP from a past client; the effort in preparation is greatly reduced and any effort to stand out is usually forgone.

 

  • Opinion: The RFP is the primary source of how most design firms get work.
  • Fact: The average win rate of a design RFP varies greatly and is not formulaic therefore an unpredictable metric to plan future revenue.

 

  • Opinion: A successful RFP response is devoid of opinion.
  • Fact: A winning response is a nuanced description of ability, relevance, precedent and cost.

 

  • Opinion: Design firms focus more effort on qualifiers to minimize cost than on the content of the submission.
  • Fact: Most RFP submissions are weighted. Cost is rarely weighted as heavily as other elements however cost seems to carry the most weight in the decision process regardless of its intended weighting.

 

So, how did I do?

Hey, I am just having a little fun with the concept of opinion vs fact and I really hope you actually share some of your thoughts in the comments below.

Before you do, think about this.

Is it good to take an altruistic approach to your work when it is clear that the reality of competition bears so heavily on our ability to see the value in creating highly creative responses? If so, and if the response requirements fit a formulaic template time after time should we not outsource the responses to a Narrative Science computer based algorithm to save us time and effort? We could pump out a lot more proposals greatly increasing our chances for success.

Not likely, huh?

It still takes a human to read between the lines and come up with the right approach, nuance or not, regardless of whether the response is purely based on fact and data.

What’s your opinion on that?

About this Author: Ralph Dopping (197 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday: www.designdialog.ca


18 comments
TheJackB
TheJackB like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ah. so many different directions to go in here. i think that I'll choose this particular path to follow- there are places for fact and places for opinion alone but quite often they intersect and intercede in spite of and because of each other.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @TheJackB Very clever sir. I was going to say something like...well, maybe I will just say. Which side of the fence will @TheJackB jump off? I do appreciate that you played both sides nicely and left yourself open to accept anything. Huh.

 

Thanks for stopping in. Appreciate the comments and continued support.

JudyDunn
JudyDunn like.author.displayName 1 Like

Ralph. You have made it easier to comment. Yay! I like your new look. Pretty spiffy.

 

I have much too much to say on this topic, having grown up in the day of responsible journalism (Walter Cronkite, etc.) and now living in the era of Fox News and tabloid journalism. And, in my past lives, I have been a reporter. I have also been a grant writer who has responded to a zillion RFPs and had to engage in great amounts of research. As that former grants specialist, I don't see a lot of difference between your fact and opinion statements above, mainly because the facts aren't supported ("Fact: Most design firms don't spend the time to educate their clients about the design process in their responses.") By the way, having been in the marketing and design business, I agree with that statement. I just don't see the data to back it up—survey results, etc.

 

But I think the uniqueness and beauty of blogging is that we can look at the facts and still have our own opinion. I don't read blogs for facts. I have many other places to get raw information. The best bloggers, in my opinion, tell me what and how they FEEL about things and then encourage a discussion among their readers, staying open and accepting of all points of view (as long as the commenter doesn't get rude or snarky). Interesting topic here, my friend. 

rdopping
rdopping moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @JudyDunn There you go. Some opposition and clarity. I agree wholeheartedly on your point of view. BTW, take a look at @ginidietrich  article on @SpinSucks about the subject that spawned this post (maybe you did click the link - dunno). It was certainly interesting fodder and my subject was really spawned form the comments.

 

I wrote the fact/opinion statements knowing none are really substantiated other than from my experience in the industry. So, no, you are in fact correct, none are backed up with hard data but I am sure if I wanted to find out I could build a fact based case.

 

Blogging is certainly great and a lot of fun, agreed. The ability to generate conversation is tantamount to why I even got going in this realm. That and offering opinion on what my experiences have been. You know, the varied and interesting responses to this post has opened my eyes a bit to the subject matter which is fantastic and I suppose what I was trying to get to. So, this one was a hit and has given me a ton of food for thought. And yes, the best bloggers find a way to make people think about and respond to a subject. 

 

Thanks for your candid comments and I do appreciate you coming by. Oh! And thanks for the compliment.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR like.author.displayName 1 Like

But ALL opinion is based on fact, Ralph! Is your opinion persuasive; do you have an opinion for a purpose or are you just ranting to be heard in your little head-nodding circle? Look at what Gini writes; she reads (like you do) so her opinion is credible. She shares based on facts or other credible opinion. I suppose this could be an argument for opinion = fact; however, we know that not to be true. Did the suicide bomber kill 10 women and children? Yes. Was the suicide bomber a Sunni or Shi-ite and was he working for al-Qaeda? Opinion, yet it litters our facts. Probably a poor example of the influence of opinion in an announcer, blogger, journo and the person on the street corner.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Right you are! So, the risk of trying to weave opinion into a formal proposal submission is all there is left for me to try. Sure, the risk of opinion in a newspaper, article, blog or whatever is that the writer will get criticism if the opinion is not accepted but that's the point now isn't it? 

 

Great comments and I loved the Spock reference in the comments at Gini's place. Thanks for stopping by.

bdorman264
bdorman264 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why is the post not showing up in my reader? 

 

Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one, right? 

 

That is what I like about the blogs, is because they are opinions and that is what spurs the conversations. You can agree or disagree and if facts need to be part of the discussion, then they can be found. 

 

Some people purposefully distort the facts to their advantage or to fit their story, but one thing I can assure you, the talent and credibility level among bloggers cover the entire spectrum. Be prepared to take it for what it's worth.....

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 Re: post not showing up in your reader. Don't know. I checked my feed, it works and i checked my reader and it's there. Hmmm....why not "subscribe"? Then you are certain to not miss anything important. Ha!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 Whew! For a second there I thought you were calling me an asshole. Well, if you were that would be your opinion but not based on any fact. Actually, you could form a pretty good opinion on that just by reading my blog and the comments I litter about the web.

 

I will just have to take that for what it's worth.....;-)

 

That's what I love about blogging and the, so called, blogosphere too. That ability to generate conversation based on opinion. Heck, we've been doing just that for centuries without a PC so why change things now. The question is though, would you respond to a proposal with nothing but facts? Is there a place for opinion there? For example, Billy's insurance is the best because he spends time in the industry researching trends and has an intro to his responses that talks about upcoming trends in said industry that his customers might firm interesting.

 

Thanks for stopping in. Appreciate your insight.

suddenlyjamie
suddenlyjamie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Such an interesting question, Ralph. 

 

I think it's impossible to make blanket statements about either bloggers or journalists. Though the press often draws the frontline of the fact vs. opinion battle between those two groups, there is such diversity amongst the ranks on both sides, that one can easily become confused. There are journalists who fail to do due diligence and bloggers who are sticklers for the details. Hybridization runs amuck. 

 

If I'm writing a post that includes facts, I do my best to be a good-doobie and check my facts (to the best of my and Google's ability). However, like @ginidietrich , I've found that those factual posts are neither the most popular with my readers nor the most fun to write ... making them a lose-lose. 

 

Over the last five years I have followed hundreds of blogs, read tens of thousands of posts, and gotten to know a fabulous and sometimes motley crew of bloggers hailing from every kind of blog you can imagine - mommy blogs, business blogs, lifestyle blogs, design blogs, inspirational blogs, writing blogs, and so on and on. I do not have the cold, hard facts to back this up, but - anecdotally - I will say that I have seen blogger after blogger gain real traction with an audience only after deciding to get really opinionated about something. 

 

Readers who want "just-the-facts-ma'am" can get what they need from a variety of sources, including many blogs. But that's not, in my experience, the kind of content that powers really great blogs. Really great blogs deliver more than just the facts. They deliver opinions that help readers make sense of the facts. They help people filter and analyze. The best blogs serve the same purpose as a friendly debate over a cup of coffee or a mug of beer - to give people the opportunity to step beyond the facts and dig a little deeper, to engage in a dialog that helps them process the information so they can form their own opinions. 

 

Though I call myself a blogger and a content marketer and a few other things besides, I am - at my core - a writer. I recently commented on a post at Deliberate Ink (http://deliberateink.com/beyond-fear-a-closer-look-at-why-youre-writing/) that the reason I write is to spark change - to inspire action. Whether that action is related to a sales funnel, changing someone's life, or simply changing someone's opinion, words are my tool of transformation. On their own, the facts may inspire change eventually, but there's nothing like an injection of no-holds-barred opinion to inspire a reader to more immediate action. So - I'll take the opinion-driven blog and the fiery blogger any day. I can get my facts from lots of places. I like my blogs to deliver something more.

 

 

 

 

rdopping
rdopping moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @suddenlyjamie  @ginidietrich You are certainly a writer. I want to simply say BRAVO! You hit the essence of the post - sort of. Since I was comparing the idea that RFP responses cannot be populated with opinion the more and more I navigate the world of blogging I have come to realize pure fact is, in a word, boring.

 

The real question for me is "Can we infuse opinion into an RFP" or are we heading for trouble? If the same approach is taken with the interest gained by bloggers having an opinion and attracting readership can the same risk betaken in a response to a proposal? The suppose the only way to know is to try.

 

What the heck is a "good-doobie"? Ha, ha! God, I love your comments. I thought i was in for some trouble here when i saw your comment. You out-word-counted my post. Nice work and THANK YOU for taking the time to offer your thoughts - all of them {grin}. 

suddenlyjamie
suddenlyjamie like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @rdopping  :) Yes, I realize I was going off on a blog-centric tangent, but that's because the blog is where I live.

 

I don't have a direct answer to the RFP question. I have written a fair share of RFP responses and even a few grant proposals, but those are all pretty far back in my professional history. My recollections, however, are of a very rigid structure with weighty guidelines and restrictions. 

 

Still ... as I say when talking about copywriting with my B2B clients, though the industry might be business-to-business it's still human beings who make the decisions and - for better or worse - human beings are swayed by more than just the facts. That's why (in my opinion) presentation matters. That's why bringing story in whenever possible helps further your cause - because people relate to and remember story. 

 

I think you're right - you can't know for sure unless you try, and - unfortunately - it'll be a risk each time you submit to a new potential client as some may have more tolerance than others for pitches that stray from the norm. The only additional thought I have is that leaders are typically people who have and express opinions. They are the people willing to take a risk by saying the thing that others only think. 

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @suddenlyjamie There are three great points here:

1. humans make the decisions and are swayed by more than the facts.

2. presentation matters - yes, and maybe that's where the opinion is best expressed.

3. leaders have opinions and are leaders because they express them.

 

Thanks again. Great fodder for the week.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've been relegated to "someone," huh??

 

I really like the delineation of opinion vs. fact here, especially in the RFP/design process. The fun thing about blogging is it is your opinion. It's like being invited into someone's house for dinner. When I started blogging, I thought it had to be about the facts and I spent an inordinate amount of time researching and interviewing and trying to be a fake journalist. It bombed. When I started voicing my opinion, it started to take off. That's what's fun about this space...you can experiment until you find something that suits you.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @ginidietrich Thanks for your insight. Love that "invited to dinner analogy". See, I knew it! Opinion does seem to be the basis of most blogging (you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out). I agree that the fun is the experimentation but also finding your niche and your voice. I suppose you simply rolled all that up in the one comment.

 

Yes, you are now relegated to "someone'. I am still figuring out this linking thing and didn't want to bait anyone. Clearly it worked. Anyway, I do enjoy your content and admire your tenacity in the social spaces.

sophiesignin
sophiesignin like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great post. Agree that we need opinions and no machine will ever replace that. Blogs are about opinions and most often than not support them with facts. If we only had facts that would have been quite boring, right? Thanks for all the links, very useful too. 

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @sophiesignin thanks for stopping by. Yes, if all we did was spout facts we would be very, very boring although fact is important when discussing topics otherwise opinion becomes bulls**t and we know what that does for friendships. Glad you found the links useful. Stick around that Spin Sucks place. Lots to learn there.

 

Have a fabulous weekend.