Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ethical Castaways – A Blog Noir Tale of Content, Respect and Responsibility

It was a dark and stormy night at the Castaway Bar and Grill. Mookie the bartender was polishing the beer into the counter top as he bounced to a remix of Baby Got Back and Feelings. You could hear the barflies drink gulps of regret as they caught threads of Twitter static. It gave me the creeps; watching them hope for redemption in the tweets of possibilities. And then she walked through the door.

I chunk my Psycho Berry smoothie as my client swung her swag. You could tell she had been around; the woman had logos on everything. Even her sunglasses had a slogan, “You can’t hide from 3x Intensified Tide! ” I felt a brain freeze coming on as she slid into my booth.

“McGuffin, right?”

“Yeah. How can I be of assistance?”

“I need help with my blog. I've made some mistakes, silly ones you might say. I need help in extricating myself from an unfortunate situation.”

Yeah, I smiled sarcastically. I heard. People are talking. Go on.”

The dame looks around as she leans into the table, “Well, I don't want to be known as "that kind of blogger." I'm just a…”

“Stop right there! I don't want to know any more about you than I have to. Let's cut to the chase sister. I’ve seen your blog. It ain’t horrible, I've seen worse but yeah, you need to get a grip. Your content is all over the place. You’ve been mixing factual and sponsored content like scrambled eggs. From the look of the logos you flash on your blog I’d say you’ve been spending extra bonus time with PR, haven’t you?

“I got caught up with some action, I might have technically crossed a line or two but I’m here, right? I want to do better. I’m ready to listen.”

I suck up some smoothie as I pass her the folder.

“So you say. Let us begin shall we?”

Content – Roll Your Own

“First off, I don't want you sponging content from other people’s blogs or companies. You cut that crap out now, you hear me? It is ok to quote but you’ve lifted whole chunks of stuff, ‘taint Kosher. Plus, others are getting wise to the game. People in the know can punch a phrase into a search engine and surprise, fifty posts show up with the exact same words. Spammy if you ask me.”

“So in the future I would not expect to see canned content on your blog.  My sources tell me that there is new web based application, something called Attributor, that can track wayward post back to the Mothership looking for copyrighted content. It would be unfortunate if you was bit financially by a spider.”

I showed her the print out from FairShare. Her lips trembled a bit.

“I want you to read WashWords 5 Old News Secrets to Make A New Blog Sing to help you write good content and stay on the good foot. You will also read Lisa Braziel's 6 Steps to Develop Content for Social Media Campaigns. only you will exchange the word blog for company. I also want you to soak up some of Copyblogger's post on A Three-Step Approach to Strategic Content Development.”

“Jeeze that’s a lot of reading, but yeah, anything to get the heat off. I’ll do it, sure no problem.”

Respect Your Adversaries and Competition

“Next you will no longer refer to people you disagree with as a rectal hernia waiting to happen. You don’t have to love them or even like them but you do have to come from a place of respect. Now, I do not say this lightly. Notice this dent upside my head. Besides, you need them.”

“I don’t need those heifers. Always popping their chops. They are jealous biddies sticking their nose in other people’s business. What do I need them for?”

“I manage to suppress my nature tendency of wanting re-aligning her bridge work. “I'm hooking you up with Joella at Blog With Wings.  I want you to read her post on studying your competition; what they do well and what you do better. I also want you to read her post on writing in a conversational style because frankly when you do write it sometimes has the taste of three day old toast. You ever try to eat three day toast?”

“Alright, I get your point. Go along to get along, right?”

“Wrong!, I said respect, not self sacrifice. Object to the idea, not the person. Explain why you think it is a bad idea without questioning heritage, birthright or I.Q. Comprende?”

I could see she was shaking, so I asked Mookie to hook her up with a Mango Sunrise. If she was having trouble with this I’m not sure how she was going to take my next suggestion. The dame wrapped her mouth around the straw and indicated I should continue.

Responsibility, Transparency and Ethics, Oh My!

I pulled out the Blog With Integrity printout and slide it across the table. She went internally ballistic. The dame looked past me gazing at the Twitter stream. She started to tear up again. "I'm not leaving cash money on the table!" I had to say this the right way or risk sending a blogger back to the dark side.

“I'm not asking you to; no thinking blogger would say such a thing. Look, behind the monitor you have real people coming to your blog. You have some responsibilities. How much you want to take on is up to you. You need to recognize it ain't all about you. Your are part of multiple communities not just the Land of Me. With blogging comes responsibility. That is why we are here. You want to make positive changes for the long term. You don't want to flame out. Am I right?”

Sniffing, she nodded her head and sighed. “Yeah. it has been challenging being misunderstood.”

“All I'm saying is be true to your blog. You build credibility and credibility leads to trust. Trust can lead to Steady Freddie money. No promises but no bull either. It is a process. A journey, not a sprint.”

“Now back to this thing about integrity and pledges. One size pledge does not fit all. If you had read the About page it says so. For some bloggers it is a one time only statement that you have advertising or promotional content. For other bloggers they have are visual indicators when sponsored content appears. You can choose like Queen of Shake Shake not to have any declaration at all because she doesn't need no stinking badge or pledge to be ethical.”

“I'm just asking you to check in with your ethical compass and make sure it is in alignment with your personal and business belief system. At least look at the site to get a sense of what you might want to consider or reject in constructing your own ethical guidelines. If you don’t want to do that then perhaps you should visit the Responsibility Project and watch videos of BlogHer09 conference attendees talking about Responsible Blogging.”

“This discussion isn’t going away. Read others bloggers like AliJennie and  Kelby Carr have written. Take a look at CyberJournalist.net’s writing from a few years back on blogging ethics. I'm not sure why journalists want to weigh in on what bloggers do when some of their workplaces are kinda skeezy in the ethics department (Travel, accepting packages and presenting content from advertisers without attribution comes to mind.). Like I said, don’t hate, evaluate. Some of the ideas are good, like linking back to original sources, separate factual information from advertising content and admit mistakes and correct them promptly.”

“Mookie, fix me a Passion Power Blueberry smoothie to go. Anyway, it is all here. Read it or not, your choice.”

Disclosure and Transparency in Action

Liz Gumbinner and myself are Contributing Editors at BlogHer. Upon my request, Liz did provide me with information about the Blog With Integrity website and link suggestions. My personal opinion is that I support most of concepts of the pledge but I choose not to display any badge at this time on my personal and informational blogs.

Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer where this post originally appeared.


  1. Oh, how I love this piece.

    It gave me the creeps; watching them hope for redemption in the tweets of possibilities

    Priceless. Looking forward to reading this again in the morning when I'm fresh and can appreciate it even more.

  2. Holy embarrassment. How did I miss the linky love and great article published so many months ago!? I suck! To make it up to you, I'll do the assignments, I swear it and then come back to see what else I've missed in the past umm 6-9 months. hangs head. (I was getting married, and moving and ... and... but anyway, I'm back now. hold me to it!? please?!)