Are direct quotes better out of context?

It turns out that more AOL employees are blogging now. One of them happens to be Sree Kotay. Sree blogs about our recent AOL All-Hands meeting where Eric Schmidt of Google was present. He quotes a portion of it completely out of context (which gets picked up by Inside Google):

I don’t remember, verbatim, the question, but the gist of it was, “At AOL, we tend to have Programmers that offer our members a very managed experience that comforts them, whereas at Google, its much more automation and technology oriented – can you comment on this philosophy difference?”

And Eric replied, “When you say Programmer and we say Programmer, we mean very different things… Does that answer the question?”

Completely out of context like this, it might sound like Eric’s making a cheap dig at the quality of computer programmers at AOL vs. those at Google. However, the context of the question was one about the differing cultures at AOL, where our content is heavily “programmed” by our editorial staff which we refer to as “programmers” vs. Google’s highly automated and algorithmic presentation of content. In that context, Eric’s response is very clear and not as negative as the quote might sound out of context, as it were.

That isn’t to say that Google’s computer programmers aren’t of a completely different caliber than AOL’s computer programmers, but I don’t think that was necessarily the intent of his response. I could be wrong, but I at least wanted to put forth this attempt at a clarification in case I’m not.

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