Wednesday, December 08, 2004

2. ROSSIAN Blogs

Philosopher W.D Ross discusses prima facie duties, duties that were not absolute but that had to be negotiated with respect to one another. When making decisions about your blog, do any of the following values or duties cross your mind? If so, which? Can you rank them?

Minimizing Harm to Others
Free Expression
Factual Truth

Are there any values/duties you feel should be weighed in a discussion of Blogging?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Transparency" is not spelled "Transpanrecy." If you can't take the time to spell-check the questions, I'm not going to take the time to answer them seriously.

(Jay Tea,

8:00 PM  
Blogger Martin said...


You have hit on a bad habit of mine. I have made the change and checked all five posts.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Eric Muller said...

Factual truth crosses my mind, mostly when I'm blogging about the Japanese American internment.

Etiquette crosses my mind only when I think some other blogger has been egregiously rude.

I don't think about transparency at all.

As for accountability, when several days go by without my posting, I do notice that I have occasional pangs of something like (but not exactly) guilt. It's not really that I think I *owe* regular readers daily posts. I suppose instead it's that I know that if I don't post regularly my readership will rapidly dissipate.

I don't really think of my blog as posing much of a risk of harm to others, so I don't really think about minimizing it.

"Free expression" *never* crosses my mind. Ever. It's way too abstract a concept.

The main thing that I think about didn't make your list: entertainment. I want a goodly percentage of my posts to be at least modestly entertaining. That's the thing I think about most of all.

10:49 PM  
Blogger John Kalb said...

I try to be as transparent and accountable as possible, which I suppose means being truthful. I've never been in a position to really harm anyone else, but I try hard not to make personal attacks, though I'll call a spade a spade.

With free expression and etiquette, I suppose these are somewhat in conflict. I generally don't view blogging as a social activity where I have my fellow travellers and we fight "the other side." If someone makes a lame point, I'll be fairly direct about pointing it out, regardless of their politics, though again, I try hard to avoid personal attacks.

John A. Kalb

1:52 AM  
Blogger Kin said...

I'm really not a news blog. I don't do any independent news gathering so I don't really have to deal with any of these. When I do bring up news points I only do so when linking to another place, with the assumption that they're accurate (and if I doubt that I make sure mention it). In any event, I'd say accuracy is ranked #1 (and if something is questionable to make mention of that fact). While I'd like to see minimizing harm to others being a major factor, it's a very amorphus statement, since if I minimize harm to party A it may actually be more harmful to party B. I certainlly think etiquette is important, except when talking about Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, Canada or Militant Islam. I'm not sure what Transparency and Accountability mean in context. I'm an anonymous blogger, so I can really say what ever I want without having to be acountable to anyone beyond myself.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

If I send you a link via email to a blog post I wrote that references a second URL, if you choose to acknowledge my email you have two choices: either post with a link directly to the URL I reference in my blog post, or include a link to my post in your response.

I think the ethical thing to do in all instances is to acknowledge the existence of the post in the blog that sent you to the referenced URL.

To make this more concrete: I send you an email in which I reference a website (say, and that I have blogged about it at If you want to create a post that references, the ethical thing to do on your part is to credit, even if you include a link directly to

Hope that makes sense.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My ranking:

Free Expression
Factual Truth
Minimizing Harm to Others

The ability to say whatever I like is part of the reason to have a blog. Accountability and factual truth are vital to backing up any opinion or argument I might make, however. Transparency has some value, I guess, but ultimately accountability takes care of that, doesn't it? Minimizing harm to others is more important than transparency, anyway - I have no desire to ruin anyone's life or self-esteem via my blog. As for etiquette, however - well, screw that. The Internet is no tea party. I say what I think and back it up as best I can. I try not to ruin anyone's life, but it's impossible to be opinionated without stepping on a few toes.

(By the way, I'm the person above who mentioned real-world friends as stakeholders.)


12:16 PM  
Blogger Egg said...

Here's my ranking:

Free Expression
Minimizing Harm to Others
Factual Truth

Transparency. Hmmm. Not sure I understand what that means.

I think a margin of anonymity or perhaps considering what information I'd like to become public always crosses my mind. But those are in relation to myself and not to others.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Fred Stutzman said...

Free expression is most important. The other four elements only hinder free expression.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Etiquette should not even be listed in a discussion on ethics. Etiquette is a social convention while ethics is about morally correct action. Ethics is not etiquette and etiquette is not ethics. Here's an excellent short piece on the subject.

These are important to some degree.

1. Free Expression
2. Factual Truth
3. Transparency

Free expression is what it's all about.

As to factual truth, I'd say that blogs are often the home of satire and hyperbole; those without the intelligence to recognize it or with an agenda that requires ignoring it when it's in front of their face may wrongly complain about lack of "factual truth."

Transparency, by which I assume you mean full disclosure of any conflicts of interest, is important as a corollary of the need to be factually correct.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Bronwyn said...

Factual truth and free expression are most important to me. Of course truth in blogging is often a matter of opinion. It is very important to me to base my claims on factual evidence that I can back myself up with.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Free expression
2. Factual truth (with my spin on it)
3. Minimizing harm to others--the funniest stuff that happens to me happens at work (a library), and I have specific instructions NOT to talk about these interactions.

12:43 AM  
Blogger W. Ray Beaver said...

Accountability - I try to post every day and plan my afternoon around that.
Free expression - I am writing my own thoughts, what I think about the bible, what my imagination brings to the surface, and I try not to worry about what others might think.
Factual truth - most of what I write is my own ideas and imagination.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Shelly said...

Mostly, I blog about my life, post links, and talk about my feelings and opinions. I try to be an ethical person, so I try to blog accordingly. Some people might not like what I say, but that's true offline as well as on. I do censor myself a bit re: profanity, but that doesn't mean I never use profane words. And when I link to things, I leave it up to people to believe what they find on those sites. I just write what I feel like writing based on the theme of each particular blog. I have a few.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Expression is first.

Factual Truth is close behind, though hyperbole, humor, and guesswork may minimize that. But guesswork should be noted as such, not defined as fact.

Accountability is also critical, as it's an adjunct to the truth. Errors should be noted publicly and corrected.

Transparency may vary. I use my real name and disclose any reasons for my biases. Others don't, for various reasons, some valid. It's not as critical an issue as the others.

I'd rank Informative/Entertaining high, as I seek to deliver value to readers.

Etiquette is important to me, though mostly it's in play with proper crediting of sources.

Minimizing Harm To Others is too vague to even be in ths list. If I report something that harms the rep of an elected official, but it benefits voters to know this, it has a harm/benefit ratio. So I'd rather turn this category to a proactive title of "Pursuing a Greater Good for most info-consumers".

I would add to your list my own preference for two-way interaction. Blogs without comments are generally annoying, for cutting off dialogue from readers.

Kevin Hayden
The American Street

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that factual truth is the primary duty in my blogging. This is usually a difficult target in my profession (IT), so I'd really define truth there as concretely provable by code. There is a religious layer above that that is hard to penetrate!

I'd suggest that accountability is not a duty, but rather a built-in attribute of the blog. Really, the attribution built into entering into your own blog is the real differentiating factor that seperates the quality of content from the typical posting on a newsgroup. Etiquette seems to be preserved in blogging because of the direct attribution.

Free Expression usually equates to boring as hell.

Minimizing harm is not a consideration, as long as you make a good effort at factual truth, especially in a professional context.

Mike Conway

6:24 PM  
Blogger ElisaC said...

Value #1: Free Expression (when it comes to my personal blogs of course): Otherwise, why bother?

Value #2: Factual truth: About other people and situations. I'm not horrified by people who create a persona and write fictional stories online. If someone finds the stories compelling, entertaining, touching...then what are they complaining about, simply because it's fiction, not fact?

However, I don't think bloggers should lie about other people or real-life situations...isn't that simply libel or slander, or whichever one applies to written word?

Which leads me to:

Value #3 and 3a: Etiquette. I am constantly amazed at how unnecessarily rude and vicious can be cloaked in the anonymity of the web. I can be snarky, but I honestly try not to write flames, or if i do i really try to veil the identity of the flamee, so they probably wouldn't even recognize themselves! Which I suppose means that I care about Minimizing Harm To Others.

Value #4: I think Transparency has two implications. Some people think it means transparency about one's identity, which I think can never be guaranteed online, and everyone just ought to deal with it and be as suspicious or cynical as they think they need to be in that regard. I don't think people should be obligated to tell you who they "are."

But transparency about one's biases, one's relationships...that seems like an important value to maintain. The reason people are so bent out of shape about both BZZAgent concept and the Marqui blogger concept is that there is no requirement for either the BzzAgent or the Marqui blogger to reveal that connection.

Value #5: Accountability. To be honest I don't feel accountability is something I think about too much. I don't expect many people to even read what I say, so I don't think about catching flak for it.

I guess I do feel accountable when it comes to citing references and authorship. I spend a lot of time making sure I find and cite the post that sparks me to write something, if I can. But that's more back-end accountability, not accountability for the content of what I write.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

1. Minimizing Harm to Others (and to myself) must always be priority #1, online and offline.
2. Factual Truth.
3. Free Expression.
4. Accountability.

I don't know what do you mean with Transparency in this context. And I have no idea what kind of "Etiquette" do you have in mind; I try to blog in the same way I behave in real life when it comes to respect for others and myself.


2:22 PM  
Blogger Felix of Gainesville said...

I present my blog as a quasi-academic medium which seeks to get involved in serious discussion on philosophy, history, and legal issues (as opposed to, say, a personal diary or propaganda phamplets), and so Factual Truth and Accountability are highest in my list of blogging duties.

If Free Expression means the freedom to communicate one's thoughts without regards to value censorship, then yes, I always have it in my blogging consideration. However, if Free Expression means the freedom to write as if you were ee cummings, then no! (Though I imagine this would be top on the list if I were to write a personal diary or poetry journal blog.)

If Etiquette means concentrating on the merit when discussing a topic and not being rude to others without reason, then yes, I think about it all the time. However, if Etiquette means not being allowed to lay a problem squarely where it belongs in case it would offend others, then no, I don't care much for that kind of Etiquette.

Transparency? Never thought about it before and won't do anytime soon either. Wouldn't your blog be a bit dull if you had to commit yourself to being transparent all the time?

Minimizing Harm to Others? I shall consider this in the future when I have had the revelation that my blog could conceivably bring even an iota of harm upon others. Things being what they are after 9/11, I would first think of a possible harm that could befall me from posting something before I would envision harming others with my blog. Fxs

6:01 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

My rankings:

Factual Truth: I deal with the civic discourse of journalism and politics. This must come first in order to make any assertions about how/why the public sphere works, or fails to work, as it does.

Transparency: As an academic, it's important that my readers understand how/why I arrive at my conclusions and opinions.

Accountability: In blogging, this means providing e-mail links or other ways to communicate with me. Further, my blog is open to comments in order to keep me accountable to my readers. Rhetorica is an open forum so that I may serve my readers as they wish to be served as well as so I may serve them as I see fit.

Free Expression: Blogging is nothing without this.

Etiquette: Civic discourse should be civil.

Minimizing Harm to Others: I try to take an academic stance rather than a partisan stance.

11:34 AM  
Blogger The Sandman said...

To be transparent it what one writes, is to be accountable to free expression and factual truth, which in turn minimizes harm to others and adheres to a certain blogging etiquette.

3:38 AM  
Blogger DocRichard said...

My priorities:
Trying not to be nerdish
Avoiding spellos and grammatical infelicities
Putting the Boot into Lying liars and the lies they tell;
Factual Truth
Minimizing Harm to Others
Free Expression

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to speak about:"striving for Factual Truth":under the jewish law there is a very important distinction i think between factual truth and a real truth.Somtimes the mere presenting of brute facts is the greatest enemy of telling the real thing,the true story.That's a philosophical yet practical insight.

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