Committee to propose blogger ethics guidelines

The "Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation" is to promulgate your new guidelines for blogging. David Carr in The New York Times:

“This is not an anti-aggregation group, we are pro-aggregation,” Mr. Dumenco told me. “We want some simple, common-sense rules. There should be some kind of variation of the Golden Rule here, which is that you should aggregate others as you would wish to be aggregated yourself.”

The motives are honorable, the objectives reasonable, and the timing ... timely. But no-one is going to care about these folks or whatever theses they nail to pastebin's door, except for their entertainment value. The problem isn't that we lack a necessary formal system of crediting and linking to sources. The problem is that people break and exploit social norms and standards, which can't be regulated by committees.


  1. “The problem is that people break and exploit social norms and standards, which can’t be regulated by committees.”

    Wait… what’s wrong with breaking social norms and standards?

    1. Nothing, intrinsically — which is why trying to regulate linking will only end up being gamed by those targeted, or used to hurt honest but idiosyncratic linkers (e.g. Romenesko)

  2. “People break and exploit social norms and standards,” but then sometimes they don’t. And if there *are* social norms and standards that are clearly articulated it can encourage a social climate of what is and what isn’t acceptable, and it’s easier to hold people to standards. I’d suggest not being too quick to knock the emergence of guidelines and ethics.

    1. The ethics already exist. 

      Everyone already understands that it’s good and right to link prominently to those whose work you relied upon, for example. Trying to define the specifics of how you do this is what these folks are about, and that’s what will fail.

      1. Not if it’s used as a guideline!  I wouldn’t say that everyone understands the ethics of linking. Pro and semi-pro bloggers, yes- casual internet users, definitely not. Most of them don’t even consider that the source of the material they repost is in any way important. “I just found this on the internet” is something people have been saying since 1998.

        And if they do realise at some point that a link might be good, they’re not sure how to do it properly. I think a clear and simple guide and list of tips which people can google when in doubt would be very helpful. 

        1. “Pro and semi-pro bloggers understand the ethics of linking – casual internet users, definitely not.”

          This isn’t going to change that. Anyone who isn’t a pro or semi-pro is never going to read a word written by something called the “Council on Ethical Blogging”.

          And isn’t part of the point of blogging as a medium that it retains the traditional one-to-many broadcast relationship while freeing you from many of the constraints of publishing that way?

          Nobody’s going to stop reading your blog because you linked someone the wrong way. If you flagrantly refused to credit sources at all, they might, but not adhering to a standard never hurt anyone.

          I also have a problem with the idea of prescribing standards for that sort of behaviour in an environment where new forms of expression and new artist-consumer relationship models spring up every week, as if they’re not going to go out of date the moment you write them, but I don’t have the words to articulate that well.

          1. In other words, bah, humbug?

            Why the assumption that people are not interested in learning and doing the right thing? Why such low expectations of the internet population? 

            You’re wrong, besides. If information is easily accessible, then people will access it. 
            And the point of blogging is to share information at will. Period. Linking back or not linking back doesn’t defy that point, it’s just a choice we make.

            Your attitude is something I dislike intensely. ‘Eh, it’s not worth it, people don’t care and never will, why bother.’ But that’s okay, someone else is bothering while you don’t. I think their effort will be useful. When I was starting my semi-pro blog, I know I would have welcomed a set of guidelines on how to do it right. 

            As to standards going out of date- of course they do. So what? They’ll get updated as the medium evolves.

  3. Forget standardizing rules, just standardize citation formats for multi-level aggregation… basically make it easy to cite the history so neither the original creator, nor anyone who added value by alteration or merely selection and arrangement along the way gets dropped.

    I think a lot of people would love to give credit, but are too lazy. The “share” links on this site and others are a nice start, in that they format the original citation and title for easy tweeting, but it would be great if that passed along more citation tracking information.

    Eh, this is probably all already standard and I’m just behind the times.

  4.  If that’s what it takes to restore decorum, I’m all for it!

    It’s rude to puncture expert sophistry with an acerbic observation; it makes the expert and his or her friends look foolish and can get you banished from the circle of insiders. And the cocktail weeinie circuit.

    And when some cheap-shot artist pushes his luck too far and leaves himself wide open, as you swing back to administer a well-deserved kicking, someone needs to step in and remind us that this is a gentlemen’s debate.

    And, of course, remember to be balanced. Objectivity can lead to an argument having one side or too many sides, but with balance there are always two, and every proposition has a counter-argument, no matter how noxious, ill-considered or downright insane that counter-argument is.

    David Broder, in his rather bland heaven, smiles indulgently.

  5. Can we finally get some standards in place to display advertising from another service? I’ve been reading gripes about aggregators for well over a decade. I’ve never seen a single service say something like, “Hey, carry an ad that generates revenue for us, and we’ll call it even.”

    I’m positive there are flaws with this approach as with any if one attempted to apply it evenly across the entire terrain, but that I’ve never even seen it once suggests a fundamental lack of good faith on part of the “content creators.” 

  6. Trying to regulate linking is ridiculous.  That said, I always linkback whenever possible.  Mentioning and linking to other prestigious blogs lends more SEO power to smaller, more obscure blogs.

  7. I would like to read their guidelines and do my best to follow them. I am an occasional blogger but I don’t always know what I’m doing, and sometimes when I read documents like the guidelines I see things that never occurred to me but make perfect sense to follow. 

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