Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Ethics of Blogging

Alice C. Linsley

Blogs are a free publication media, highly personalized, very social, and not likely to go away. Blogs have been used to build resistance to intolerance and political oppression. Writers for these blogs are often put in prison. The cost of blogging for them is indeed high. I often to report on these cases here at Ethics Forum. Here are 4 examples:

Blogging to share information.

Some blogs serve the writer's need to share information that he or she believes in important. My Just Genesis blog is an example. This is where I publish my 28+ years of research on the first book of the Bible. For such a specialized blog it is surprising how much traffic it gets.

Beside Ethics Forum and Just Genesis, I have 5 other blogs so, yes! I am addicted to blogging.

Some bloggers use their sites to keep up with family and friends. They post photos of new babies, swap jokes and chronicle their daily lives. These blogs are read by the owners' closest circle of friends and often friends of their friends, so that the readership becomes like a ripple.

My niece has such a blog where she posts hilarious accounts of raising small children and gets comments from young moms all over the country. She started to run Google ads and now makes about $300. a year in revenue.

Blogs are a means of personal expression, social discourse, and archives. Those who blog testify to the pleasure they can bring, but what ethical concerns do blogs raise?

Some bloggers are not careful in their use of language. They post articles that inflame. If they are censored, they blame the platform for violating their right to free speech. Good blogs reflect responsible and adult behavior, well-considered content, and link to other sources and related reading.

Then there is the problem of porn. Google monitors that pretty well and doesn't permit ads at such sites.

There is a concern that blogs can be used by pedophile predators. That's why I don't post any identifying information at my writing blog when I post children's stories or poems.

There are the brilliant math minds who like puzzles and could care less about the marketing potential of their work. I think of my son-in-law's super cool Sudoku blog.

From the investment and business end there is a concern about a blog bubble bursting. Here's an interesting article for those who may share that concern:

Could a blogging bubble burst? "That's easy," we wrote, answering our own question. "No." The logic was that blogging, a free form of publishing, was anything but a highly capitalized industry. Even blog technology companies such as Six Apart and Technorati were small fry, backed by just a sliver of the venture capital in Silicon Valley. How could an industry built largely on free labor and free software develop a bubble, much less burst? It can't.

But social media sure can. Since our story, major investors and corporations have focused on the profit potential of social sites. Like Baron's Twitter crowd writ large, they promise relationships, millions of them. Such media could be worth a fortune. Strike that: They'd better be. Over the past three years, tech and media companies have been opening up their checkbooks for these properties. Google gobbled up YouTube for $1.65 billion; NewsCorp (NWS) bought MySpace for $588 million; and Microsoft (MSFT) bought a pricey slice of Facebook that put a $15 billion valuation on the company. Venture firms, meanwhile, have been racing to fund socres of social media startups.

For many of them, the business plan remains blurry. Even giants like MySpace are struggling to figure out the financials. And there's no guarantee that Web masses will stay loyal for the long haul. If investors lose faith in these new ventures built on relationships, all hell could break loose. This could convulse Wall Street, deepen the recession, sink pension funds—you name it. But you know what? The next day, we'll be back on the blogs and social networks, checking up on each other, uploading our analyses, and sussing out opportunities in the storm.

Even if the bubble bursts—and we predict it will—the power of social media to transform our businesses and society will only grow. (Read it all here.)

There is no evidence that blogs are going away. I teach my technology students how to set up blogs and how to use them ethically. The younger generation has yet to fully realize the potential of blogs and how to use them to archive information. Information is power.

Related reading: More Bloggers Arrested; Blogging Lawyers and Trial Publicity; Public Debate and Search Engine Politics; Blogging the DOD Way

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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