Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dave Taylor: Blog Quality and Ethics


"prosti-blogging"? Posted by Hello


Here is post #2 in my continuing series of posts related to my current email micro-survey, in which I ask top bloggers the question:

"What do you think is the most pressing Ethics or Quality issue for blogs?"


DAVE TAYLOR brings up a very interesting topic, which I brazenly respond to in my typically strident, bullheaded, and ill-bred fashion...



[DAVE TAYOR states:]


I think that the two are sufficiently intertwined that I can't answer the question you've posed.

Here's how I figure this: one facet of quality is credibility, and a critical part of credibility is whether or not the blogger is ethical or not.

If I get a check from Apple Computer to write good things about the iPod but forget to disclose that to my readership, that's what I would consider a significant ethical lapse, and subsequently would affect the overall quality (though perhaps not the perceived quality) of the article.

Make sense?

Dave Taylor

Intuitive Systems: Online Strategies and Communications

Innovative Business Thinking @ http://www.intuitive.com/blog/



[STEVEN STREIGHT replies:]



Yes sir, you make perfect sense.

First, let's assume that the 9 Blog Core Values that I propose and advocate all over the blogosphere are valid.

Let's assume that a blog should be the genuine, candid, honest, truthful voice of a real person who is not trying to manipulate, hype, or deceive readers.

Keeping the 9 essential values of blogging firmly in mind...

I am opposed to blogstitution, blogwhores.

I will never "blog" for any product or company, at least not in the sense of them buying my opinion, using payment to determine what I say and how I say it.

A "professional blogger" who sluts himself out to the highest bidder is one of the lowest forms of Scumblogger.

Could you legitimately "blog for" a company?

Yes.

If the blogging was on a general area of expertise or interest related to the company's industry, field of endeavor, or social function.

For example, let's say I like Apple Computer, which is true.

[I entered the computer world back in 1984 with an Apple Macintosh, word processing and MacPaint.]

Say they take a liking to me, Steve Jobs notices my blogs or my comments at other blogs.

They offer me a job as an Apple blogger, with a special blog called Gravity Apple at a subdomain of their corporate web site.

I would consider this job, only if I could blog about whatever topics I chose, and did not have to say anything about Apple products. I would say nice things about the company if these things were true, and if these things were sufficiently noteworthy to me. Otherwise, buzz off.

I would focus on blogging about blogology, not about Apple.

But readers would be attracted to my Gravity Apple blog, enjoy reading my outrageously witty and interesting articles, and perhaps even mosey on over to the Apple corporate home page and check out the merchandise.

However, paying me to pervert my values, using money to attempt to influence my opinion, trying to buy my mind...no way.

If Apple was conducting research on some computer thingamajig, and it was interesting to me, I might blog about it a little, just as an information service. But it would be wise for Apple to encourage me to compliment their competitors if I felt impressed by something, say IBM or HP was doing. That would vastly increase the credibility of Gravity Apple blog.

Y'know...maybe I'll propose such a ridiculous idea to Apple. It's so dumb, it should work.

heh

But "blogging for hire", where a blogger will say anything you pay him to say...

...that is "blogstitution" or "whore-blogging" or "blogo-slutting" or "prosti-blogging."


Now, gentle reader, what do you think?

Am I being contradictory?

How can I say I'd blog only about interesting aspects of a company? Am I living in a dream world?

Can you be an internal corporate blogger and refrain from praising a product if you don't really believe in or trust that particular product, or disagree with the marketing spin or sales hype?

Is "blogging for hire" always ethically wrong?

Is "paid blogging" just another way of compromising the integrity of blogging as a profession?

Make a comment and express your opinion.

Thanks!

4 comments:

Dave Taylor said...

Steven, you strident, bullheaded, and ill-bred blogger, you!

Seriously, I don't agree with your 9 Blog Core Values because I don't think that the medium is mature enough that we can pin it down or define what is or isn't a "good" blog article. For example, it seems easy to say "truthful voice of a real person", but what if I write under a pseudonym? Or what if I write as a fictional character (think "Robert X. Cringley" or "Spencer the Kat" or even "Dear Abbey") ?

I don't have a problem with getting checks from companies to blog about them (hint! hint!) but I would be sure to *tell people* that there was a built-in bias or skew to what I was writing about.

And, thinking about it, when I get galleys or review copies of books from publishers, isn't that a wee little bit of what you call "blogstitution"? I'm going to review the book, honestly and candidly, but by getting the book for free rather than having to buy it, aren't I ostensibly "prostituting myself"?

I also think it's outright naive to think that I couldn't use money, or a corporation couldn't use money to "influence your opinion" and succeed. This revolves around a much bigger topic, one that I've been wrestling with for years: the Myth of Objectivity.

But that's a topic for a much longer piece...

steven edward streight said...

See, this is why I ask readers to post comments.

I am not All Knowing.

Yet, I feel I must state my opinions in an aggressive and firm manner...

...to get a strong reaction and hopefully, information or opinion that will improve my thinking, or even cause me to reconsider my position.

I know one thing: if we bloggers band together and attempt to understand and resolve these issues of blog ethics and blog quality...

...we bloggers, our readers, our clients, and the blogosphere itself will be better off.

I am known to be "bullheaded" but also known completely reverse or drastically alter my opinions.

My position on RSS is a good example.

Also, my opinion about the internet has undergone radical change since 1998, at which time I thought it was the province of networking dorks, porn addicts, and chat room addicts exclusively.

I am now pondering your comment here.

You give me a lot to think about.

How dare you flood me with such an enormous philosophical contemplation burden?

:^0

Thanks for your input.

Hope you did NOT take any of my statements as a personal assault on you.

Do you blog for hire? Wasn't aware of it, if so.

Dave Taylor said...

I don't blog-for-hire, per se, but I am, as I said, reviewing a book that a publisher sent me for that specific purpose. Is it "blogging for hire"? :-)

steven edward streight said...

> I don't blog-for-hire, per se, but I am, as I said, reviewing a book that a
> publisher sent me for that specific purpose. Is it "blogging for hire"? :-)

I bow to your wider experience. What do I know? If somebody actually paid me, in a timely and complete manner, for doing something, anything at all, I'd prolly be so stunned, my ethics constellations would seem like Alpha Centauri and I'd have to analyze it in my spare time.

I'm trying to grapple with understanding all these messy things.

I'm afraid to point out to myself, with due regard and extreme reluctance, that it may all pivot on the rusty hinge of inner intent as manifested in outer credibility and consumer protection orientation.

If you truly desire to speak truth, help and not manipulate your audience, and feel the product really is a boon to humanity, then that's better, but what impact of ...

"paid" opinion?
Subsidized thinking?
Sponsored pondering?
fishing for compliments
incentivized hype?
objectivity?
truth?
reality?

Now, free copies of books to review: is the reviewer reviewing just to accumulate free books?

Or is the reviewer due to receive a potlatch economy, or strange ritual of free book, thus be polite, so the free books can continue pouring in.

Yet, why should the reviewer have to buy? If you want me to read it, analyze it, and review it, don't expect the reviewer to have to buy it too. At least provide comp copy. Makes sense.

If reviewer bought the to-review products, and they were bad, he wasted his money.

Chances are, this negative side of buying and reviewing vs. receiving free and reviewing is the largest obstacle to over-simplified idealism scorning free sample as a form of bribery and generator of bias toward company providing the samples.

But the company would be suicidal to demand or imply bias, since then the critical analytic powers of the reviewer are hampered, and the company would be shutting its eyes to follow the inner blind man to eventual evaporation.

The company providing the sample, needs the objective opinion, not the PR, mktg, or sales persuasion of the reviewer.

A reserved, detached, genuinely objective point of view should be easily for the audience to discern true indifferent, blase, thus more rational, realistic, jaded, despairing, cynical...like a typical consumer. On same wavelength.