Blogging Ethics

I think there are some understood, and yet not understood underground ethics that have been emerging around blogging.  I thought I’d discuss a few of these and get your feedback.  A corporation may want to consider some of these topics in their blogging policy.  I recommend the bloggers code taken from Journalists Code of Ethics as a template for your policy and maybe a bit of copy and paste from these with proper citation… (This will be funnier and make more sense after you’ve read the post.)

1. Plagiarism is the biggest and scariest – There is actually a setup to help define it and is an online resource designed for INTERNET plagiarism.  "Plagiarism is the practice of claiming or implying original authorship." Source: Wikipedia… now there’s a challenge for plagiarism.  There are some excellent resources there, but let me "borrow" 🙂 and repeat their definition with the proper HTTP citation. I quote from the plagiarism site…  "The fact that many of these sites have become profitable ventures (complete with paid advertising!) only attests to the unfortunate truth that plagiarism has become a booming industry."  My recommendation is we should be careful to get permission to repost entire posts, especially when including content in books.  Many of us are happy and willing to share some of our posts with the proper citation.  All we really want is a bit of credit.  Is it ok to repost someone’s entire post without their permission.  Simply.  No.  Is it cool to just include a link to a blog, not these days.  Much cooler to at least tell us why you like it or what’s cool about it.  I see some bloggers with simply just link lists, but that maybe useful for newbies, but once they get a blog reader they can just as easily sift through all the SharePoint bloggers posts, but if someone wants to sift through them for us, please tell us what’s cool or good about it.  If someone lets say wanted to translate my content into some other language, I would totally want to discuss that with them.  I’ve allowed that a couple of times.  (Haven’t turned anyone down for including content in books either…)  SharePoint best practices don’t have anyones names on them, but occasionally I hear things that I came up with and people put it on their blogs as if it were their ideas… It is flattering, and evolution will happen with ideas, the idea of no harm nor foul and as long as it’s honest intentions, I’ll forgive you Bill.  (Just kidding.  I know there’s a hundred SharePoint Bills, and each of them are thinking I’m referring to them.  I’m not.)  We’re all just trying to do what we do best, and not trying to intentionally hurt anyone else.  This post isn’t to rile up anyone, but more to help people thing through stuff.

2. SPAM and Viral Marketing – What is spam outside of email.  SPAM exists nearly everywhere these days.  Is it possible to spam on Facebook?  Did you ever get the "What Microsoft Product are You?" That viral marketing campaign required you to send the "app" to 10 friends before you could find out what product you were.  I was Windows 2008.  It told me I was arrogant, I think I filled out the form too quickly (which I know I did) or was it someone who created an app to make Microsoft look bad?  Why would they force you to send it to 10 people before you can use it?  I definitely have seen that issue a few times.  Forward this image real fast and you’ll see something cool happen.  Yeah, and Bill Gates might give me a million dollars and send me to Disney World if I send it to all my friends really fast too, yeah really.  No he’s sent me to Orlando a few times, like next week, but not because of spamming anyone… well, I guess that’s debatable too 🙂  Just kidding.  I hate comment spam.  If you’ve got a blog, you may have had to wade through that muck.  I hope none of you ever get involved in that, I also hope the SharePoint PMs look at blogs and see the Internet and SPAM as a real reality.  Products have to be designed with SPAMMERS in mind.  Trackbacks as well, who came up with Spam trackbacks needs to be… 

3. Ads (Can you read the content) – I’m still out on this one in terms of details.  I know I am annoyed when there is more ad than content.  Please let me know if you wouldn’t mind if I put up adds or linked anything like a book to an amazon account.  I don’t have a problem with either of these, but I do hate seeing my own posts surrounded by ads.  I think that’s my biggest internet pet peeve is seeing half of a post or even full posts of mine surrounded by ads on some other blog.  It’s really irritating when they are getting better comments.  Specifically Google ads these days, It’s normal to see one column of them, but do we have to see 5 columns top bottom left and right, with a sliver of content somewhere in the middle… maybe?  I’ve heard other MVPs suggest that a blog is "google ad driven" and that the poster is simply trying to make money.  I think that’s sad if it’s true.  I’d hope that all SharePoint bloggers have pure hearts, but I know we’re all still trying to make a living as well.  I know I’ve bought books and the links that referred me were Amazon referrals.  Didn’t make the books more expensive, but adds do sometimes make it harder to read.  So let’s agree it’s cool for one column if you can still distinguish the content and can read it without getting caught in the ads?  Let me hear your thoughts.

4. Changing Content in posts – I’ve read blogs should not be changed or rewritten.  I know I’ve been guilty of updating content, but another blogger suggested that I put <update 1/1/80></update> tags with dates so people can tell that the post changed.  If you look at the Top 100 SharePoint Blogs post for example, I’ve changed that post more than 10 times since my original posting trying to make it more correct and adding additional columns to make it more valuable to my readers.  With the typical blog, you wouldn’t be changing old posts, but I’ve found when readers make suggestions I want to make the post more accurate, and I think that’s got to be ok.  I think the update tags are a decent way of keeping us all honest.  This is an area where I think as long as it wasn’t meant to deceive it’s not as big of deal as the other areas, but there might be some deception in some cases.  Did you realize there were strike out HTML tags?  That should help to show changes.  <strike>No longer truth</strike>

5. Conflict of Interest – With my recent consulting gig with Nintex and the course I’m teaching with Shane Young at the Ted Pattison Group and a Planning and  Governance one I’m developing with Nicola Young and John Ross, it’s important for me to disclose that the posts like the recent Reporting launch announcement is essentially sponsored.  I hope it’s obvious, but often I assume someone reading a post has read the previous ones, and I think I need to be more careful about that assumption.  I ran into a payperpost service where they pay people to post blogs, you’ll find at that link they have been explicit about conflict of interest and citing paid sources.

More Articles on Blog Ethics

Great writeup… quite historical as well Rebecca Blood -Weblog Ethics, 2002

Funny example of a guy who summarized Rebecca’s article into a simple list.  Cool or not cool?  Definitely seen this. Note that he didn’t add his own take on her work or add anything original, but at least he included a link to the source.

An entire blog devoted to the discussion of Blogging Ethics.

WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) Code of Ethics – 10 Principles – they suggest reading the "10-item checklist with which to make sure that they are always appropriate and ethical when communicating with bloggers"

I am a fan of this simple "Bloggers Code" by CyberJournalist and after just reading it realize we agree on a lot of things.

I’d like to take that Bloggers code and have us plagiarize it and make it a SharePoint bloggers code where we all agree to give each other proper credit and all be a big happy family.  I think overall we’re all pretty cool to each other and the newbies that may copy and paste are learning that the internet makes it way to easy to compare and find the original source.

No harm nor foul.

– Joel

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