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Round Table Talk: Ethics and the Blogger Part 1

I can’t believe it. My blog is celebrating its 3rd anniversary on February 24. What can I say? Blogging brought me a new normal, many friends, reuniting with old friends and a new sense of adventure and more. I feel like I am on top of the world. Look at me, I am having the time of my life. Though my blogger’s journey has been mostly fun and adventure, I receive comments or blog entries that are in disagreement with my views or heavy criticisms on my actions. Oh geesh, the ad hominem attacks too. Now, I am not a perfect person and I also make mistakes but I learn from them.

When the Blog and Soul Movement gathered a few bloggers to attend a round table talk on Blog ethics and other matters, I made sure I would be there to share my experiences and provide inputs to the discussion. Topics were Blog events, Copyright, Code of Ethics. The idea of the round table talk is to gather a list of ideas from bloggers on bloggers’ ethics.

There are two contending schools of thought on the matter. One posits that ethical guidelines are necessary in order that blogging may be practiced responsibility. The other says that such a ““code of ethics” is anathema in the freewheeling blogosphere. I believe in the latter. I once made the mistake of writing on an ethical issues in a past entry and received much flack from a prominent blogger who differed with my point of view. I am jumping ahead of my thoughts on this matter. Today, I no longer believe in establishing code of ethics. The dynamism of the blog is precisely what makes it so compelling and effective as a new medium. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to regulate it. It is improbable that a single code would be right for all bloggers under all circumstances. There are no absolutes in the blogosphere.

I believe that:

1. Market forces are enough to keep bloggers in line. Readership is built on the strength of a blogger’s writing and one should be ready to be constantly and instantly judged by the mouse clicks of fickle readers who vote with their fingers.

2. But this doesn’t mean that bloggers should eschew the idea of a voluntary code of ethics altogether. Adherence to standards of quality and ethical principles give credibility to blogs.

What I do believe is that each blogger sets the standards for their own community of readers, their subscribers.

What standards do I try to set?

I based some of my blogging practices on Respectful Disagreement discussion

1. Transparency. You are who you appear to be. This also includes disclosure .

2. Accountability. If you screw up, say so. Bloggers should do their best to rely on accountable sources. If those sources were/are not accurate, admit it.

3. Creativity. Blogging encourages unique content that gathers together niche audiences (communities) and provides a focal point for conversation. Not all blogging, for example, is journalistic reporting about a particular topic. The quality, tone and style of the writing, in addition to the unique authorial self-expression, creates a unique form of communicating different from previous forms.

5. Disagree without being disagreeable, leaving dignity intact. Sadly, I’ve encountered a few bloggers who get so heated up and emotional that they lose their cool in the argument. I believe in always staying on the higher ground without resulting to name calling.

6. If it is incendiary, don’t post it. If you wouldn’t say it to that person over a cup of coffee, don’t post it.

Every now and then, readers point me to entries written about me in “blind item” fashion. They say Bato-bato sa langit, ang matamaan ‘wag magalit but really, do I burst an artery over it? It doesn’t mean that I don’t get hurt. At the end of the day, I don’t lose focus on my blog goals and I believe that my blog is not my identity. I can stop blogging tomorrow and I am still me.

I would also like to add the privacy issues. Please respect my privacy. Just because I write things in public does not give others the right to display my private conversations. I have a private plurk where I normally rant and it is not supposed to be bloggable. Unfortunately, a certain plurker thought it was alright to mention my private rant and criticize me for it. This is also true for emails and conversations said in confidence.

7. Skillful moderation. Handling trolls, praising intelligent (and dissenting) posts, balancing a discussion with an appropriate amount of blogger’s and reader’s comments.

Though I believe in dissenting views, I enforce a commentary policy where “I reserve the right to remove comments, words or phrases that are defamatory, abusive, incite hatred and advertise an email address or commercial services or just plain spammy. I also reserve the right to remove posts that to my opinion are off-topic, irrelevant, ad-hominem, personal attacks and or just plain rude.”

8. Forgiveness. We all make mistakes. Learn to forgive, especially if someone apologizes sincerely.

Likewise, If I had made mistakes in the past, I hope you have it in your heart to forgive me too.

Lastly, let me talk about blog events

Nowadays, bloggers are often invited to new media events and product launches. I find it great that PR companies are inviting us to their events. These new media events provide content for my niche blogs. Other bloggers don’t believe in attending new media events and we need to respect them for that and vice-versa. We all have our reasons. Aside from content, I also love meeting new friends or just bond with my blogger friends and having the time of my life. No kidding!

Let me share my thoughts on how I handle event invitations, which might not be true for all bloggers. This is what I believe in when I am invited to events.

1. When I am invited, I never ask “can I bring other bloggers?” The invitation was meant for me alone so I do not assume I can invite other bloggers. You have to understand that PR companies already wrote down a list of invitees and there is a limit. Unless indicated, I assume the invite is only for me. There are times when the PR company asks me to refer them to bloggers then that’s the only time I ask bloggers or send them a list of blogs.

2. I never give out cellphone numbers and email address without the bloggers’ permission to PR companies. I just give a list of their blog urls then they look up their contact information in their blog sites. If you are a blogger and wish to be contacted, it’s a good idea to have a contact page in your blog with your name in it. One time, I received an email addressed to “dear owner” and it felt weird not to be addressed as a person. I’ve learned to add my first name at the least in my contact form.

3. Not all of us get invited to new media events. I don’t take it personally if this PR company invited me or not. In fact, I don’t accept all invites if I think it is not worth my time especially if the venue is far and held at night.

4. PR events handler should never assume that I endorse the products/person/service just because of my attendance. I am there there to cover the event and any endorsement or bias is cited in my disclosure.

5. When I am invited, I don’t announce it on plurk or twitter. If I want to have an idea on who are attending, I ask the organizers.

Though the round table does not recommend a set of values, I believe that an acceptance of a common set of values would give the blogosphere added credibility. After all, contrary to what some like to believe, the blogosphere is not a universe unto itself.

Bloggers are, like it or not, part of the world at large. They are not immune from political and societal forces. Neither are they exempt from the norms which govern ordinary human relations. Shouldn’t bloggers abide by the same high standards to which they hold others ?

To be continued– podcast to follow.

Related Blog Entries

Round Table Talk : Ethics and the blogger part 1 by Azrael

4 thoughts on “Round Table Talk: Ethics and the Blogger Part 1”

  1. This is a very good reminder especially to beginners, Noemi. I think one of the major factors that one should learn but is rarely being taught is the ethical part.

    The fact that blogging has no specific control except for the owner himself should be the basis of each blogger, instead of abusing it. Blogging is one’s right but is also a responsibility to handle.

    Can’t wait to see the next of the series.


  2. Hi noemi. Love this post. A lot of it is common sense but it so needs to be put down in writing as a guideline for beginners, as a reminder to all especially those who get carried away or maybe because of anonimity say whatever is one their mind without being accountable for their statements. Great post!
    By the way, I am trying to get more organized in cyperspace and am consolidating all my blogs in hereon. Still studying all the features which is also why your blog was perfect reading material for me today. God bless!

    1. thanks pia. I had to make a stand on this not necessarily imposing my views on others. If bloggers agrees with me, that is their choice.

      I look forward to your blog posts, pia. I will watch out for it.

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