Sunday, March 27, 2005

C.O.B.E. Revised: Form-Based Duties in Blog Ethics

Well, I have revised COBE. While reviewing a number of the comments posted both here and on the Harvard conference site, I discovered a number of bloggers who advocated each blogger posting their own code of ethics and believed that no one code should be adopted by bloggers in general. I get stuck on the fact that this model would be pure relativism.

Pondering why codes proposed in the past really haven’t taken hold, I spent some time reevaluating Jonathan Dube’s Code of Bloggers’ Ethics and the six standards proposed by Rebecca Blood. What I discovered was that these codes were grounded in the function of blogs rather than in their form.

The Blogosphere has a nearly endless variety of bloggers with an endless variety of purposes for blogging or functions for blogs. Dube and Blood base their codes largely on values associated with the journalistic function of blogs. If their codes are used, then bloggers will have more credibility and be trusted to a higher degree by the public, but this view may be too limited.

One thing bloggers have in common is the form of the blog (time-stamped posts, comments, blogrolls, links, etc.). This is the blogosphere’s common denominator and thus any proposed code of ethics should prioritize the values and duties associated with the rhetorical form of blogging. After reviewing the new communication technology ethics scholarship and the comments posted on this study from this perspective, I have come to consider interactivity and the struggle to build human relationships and communities in blogging environments to be core, form-related duties in blogging.

This revised version of COBE reflects this shift of emphasis.

REVISED COBE

Promote Interactivity
● Post to your blog on a regular basis
● Visit and post on other blogs
● Respect blog etiquette
● Attempt to be entertaining, interesting, and/or relevant
Promote Free Expression
● Do not restrict access to your blog by specific individuals or groups
● Do not self censor by removing posts or comments once they are published
● Allow and encourage comments on your blog
Strive for Factual Truth
● Never intentionally deceive others
● Be accountable for what you post
Be as Transparent as Possible
● Reveal you identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.)
● Reveal your personal affiliations and conflicts on interest
● Cite and link to all sources referenced in each post
Promote the Human Element in Blogging
● Minimize harm to others when posting information
● Promote community by linking to other blogs and keeping a blogroll
● Build relationships by responding to e-mails and comments regularly

NOTE: A PDF of a revised version of the paper that resulted from this study will be posted here as soon as possible.


21 Comments:

Blogger rebecca blood said...

actually, I deliberately rejected journalistic standards when composing my code of ethics. first, I think bloggers who want to be accorded the status of "journalist" must adhere to journalistic practice and ethics. second, I was working to define a set of practices that would apply to every type of blog.

my ethics are derived from the best practices I've seen in the last 6 years, and premised on the fact that blogging, as a form of publishing, carries with it a certain amount of responsibility.

with regard to your own set of ethics, you are still confusing best practices, ethics, and practices that are likely to produce a wider readership, three different things.

for example, there's no sense in saying that it's unethical not to update frequently (what is the harm if one doesn't?) or that blogs should not be restricted to private audiences (what if the blog is a family newsletter containing private information?)

11:55 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Good Questions. I don't think the goal of a code of ethics can ever be to "produce a wider readership." Ethics is moral philosophy...a behavioral standard based on values.

Any practice designed soley to increase readership speaks to a particular function...I draw the analogy to the MSM attempting to increase readership to attract ad dollars...but as you noted...not every blog is about attracting readership...thus any code based on that value will be too narrow to apply to the myriad functions of "blogging" This is why I think a code should be based instead on the "form" of blogging.

The problem with rooting ethical standards on the "best practices" you have witnessed begs the question...best in what sense? And again, conceiving of blogging only as a form of publishing rather than as a mode of expression or a rhetorical space..limits the value and duties that might be part of an ethical code.

You might have a point that I am blurring these distinctions myself. I don't want to address "best practices" or "practices the produce a wider readership" at all. Only an ethic derived from the duties and values both prevalent and unique to the blogging "form" (rather than a function of blogging).

You have a great point about the private "family blog." One interpretation might be that a blog is a functoinal option for this purpose, but from the perspective of a blogging ethic, maybe a password protected Website might be the more appropriate form??

12:49 PM  
Blogger Sewmouse said...

Be as Transparent as Possible
● Reveal you identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.)


Martin, I'm afraid I have to disagree here. As a man, perhaps this isn't much of an issue for you - but as a female, and a mother, I think it is a very BAD thing for you to be promoting.

From a purely personal POV, I find the anonymity of the internet allows me to more freely express what I wish to say, without fearing reprisal in my "real life" from co-workers, neighbors or the like. Even so, since I use the same online "nick" that I have used for years, certain family members whom I would rather avoid have found me despite all.

Second - I've made a point of keeping my identity very generic. (There are rather a lot of older women living around Chicago.) Having had several friends "Stalked" by internet predators over the years, I believe it is only sensible for a blogging person to maintain a "distance" from their audience unless/until they become comfortable enough on both sides to contemplate a more candid friendship.

Finally, as a mother, considering the number of children using the internet, and creating blogs, I feel it is the worst possible lack of common sense to suggest that they make themselves easy targets for internet predators.

I can see where deliberately lying could be considered "unethical" as a blogging practice, but other than that, I believe that each person's blog is a reflection of themselves. The part of themselves they are willing to share with the world.

You also make a rather broad-brush-stroke comment "Respect blog etiquette" - I think that would need to be defined. What is one man/woman's "Flamefest" is another person's "lively discussion", for instance.

The thing that I would add to yours is this:

Consider your audience, then read, re-read and spellcheck your work. It reflects poorly on the blogger to post something littered with misspellings and incomplete thoughts.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Sewmouse said...

Be as Transparent as Possible
● Reveal you identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.)


Martin, I'm afraid I have to disagree here. As a man, perhaps this isn't much of an issue for you - but as a female, and a mother, I think it is a very BAD thing for you to be promoting.

From a purely personal POV, I find the anonymity of the internet allows me to more freely express what I wish to say, without fearing reprisal in my "real life" from co-workers, neighbors or the like. Even so, since I use the same online "nick" that I have used for years, certain family members whom I would rather avoid have found me despite all.

Second - I've made a point of keeping my identity very generic. (There are rather a lot of older women living around Chicago.) Having had several friends "Stalked" by internet predators over the years, I believe it is only sensible for a blogging person to maintain a "distance" from their audience unless/until they become comfortable enough on both sides to contemplate a more candid friendship.

Finally, as a mother, considering the number of children using the internet, and creating blogs, I feel it is the worst possible lack of common sense to suggest that they make themselves easy targets for internet predators.

I can see where deliberately lying could be considered "unethical" as a blogging practice, but other than that, I believe that each person's blog is a reflection of themselves. The part of themselves they are willing to share with the world.

You also make a rather broad-brush-stroke comment "Respect blog etiquette" - I think that would need to be defined. What is one man/woman's "Flamefest" is another person's "lively discussion", for instance.

The thing that I would add to yours is this:

Consider your audience, then read, re-read and spellcheck your work. It reflects poorly on the blogger to post something littered with misspellings and incomplete thoughts.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Brenny said...

This is a very interesting discussion and one that I am just starting to enter into. I am wondering if you have had a chance to review Rohit Bhargava's coining of the term 'social media optimization' where he sets forward 5 basic rules. Others have pulled additional rules together and there is much similarity. I suppose I also see this as more a best practices list rather than a codification of ethics. Some more discussion on that would be very interesting.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Aldric said...

I'm adopting this Code for the purpose of my blog. I must commend on the effort that you have placed into coming up with this Code.

I will, however, get back on you about the citation style. As far as your Code is concerned, url follows the code immediately after.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Reveal your identity"


I think the option of anonymity is something valuable.Not just it's derived straightforwardly from freedom of expression it also encourage people to participate and express views they think legitimate although not necessarily represent their own opinion.
Furthermore I think the ideal of community of speaker is to treat the validity and truth of their saying without referring to their identity.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Bobby said...

My name is Bobby Revell and I have a blog based in blogging ethics. I must admit, this is the only blog I've ever looked at on the subject.

I don't need to follow a proposed "code" as I have my own. Personally, I think the ethical conduct of most A-list bloggers is a pathetic example for the many followers on the web.

The truth is, these people could care less if you drop dead as long as they can milk every cent they can from you.

I have made a ton of close friends and currently have 123 posts with
2577 comments. 50% of the comments are mine as I answer all of them individually. I am a new blogger and have been sickened by the heartless conduct of the leading blogs.

I believe that the top bloggers are, for the most part, of poor character. Problogger left me 7 comments after I critiqued his failure to set a good example for newbie bloggers. He wanted to be my blogging "buddy". I haven't seen him since.

He only came to make himself feel better.

I had a friend ask me why I NEVER link to any of the big blogs. I told him, "Only after they link to me first and they better do it now before I become a highly ranked blog!"

Thanks so much, I hope you come visit me and read some of my posts!
It is nice to meet you:)

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