Blogger ethics

john ashcroft before he draped justiceIt’s been a long day today, what with the hour it took me to dig out the 4 feet of hardpacked slush between the cars parked at the end of the driveway and the bare road just on the other side. I finally got to the computer tonight to find this cryptic email in my inbox from Susan Harris over at GardenRant:

To redeem your shoes just email and give him this redemption code. Give him your color choice and size. Enjoy!

Your code is: XXXXXX-XXXX GardenRantSusan Harris

My natural reaction, of course, was to fire Susan back a note accusing her of trying to buy my vote in the Mouse and Trowel Awards. I started multiplying the number of garden bloggers out there by the cost of the shoes and figured they must want the trophies really, really bad. I suggest that she go read the Bloggers’ Code of Ethics.

Later on, I finally made it from email to browser and saw the post explaining that the kind GardenRant folks were simply showing their appreciation to their ‘top commentors’ — though they don’t specify the criteria for ‘top’. (I’m betting they’re paying by the pound.)

So I am publicly apologizing to Susan and the rest of the crew for questioning their integrity. (Plus, at first I thought it was a joke to get me to wear pastel garden shoes when I love my old sneakers that put a blooming amorphophallus to shame.)

But seriously, that code of ethics is worth a read. Ethical behavior is a huge (and controversial) issue on the political blogs I frequent. Bloggers in that realm are struggling to gain credibility on par to the MSM (that’s the shorthand for mainstream media), which has some serious ethical challenges of its own. It was bloggers who dug up and stayed with the US attorney scandal that’s about to bring down AG Gonzalez and others when the MSM wouldn’t touch the story.

Reading the ethical guidelines, it challenges me to do a better job. Some examples:

Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

I often plug Cornell resources because I’m familiar with them, but also because I think they’re valuable. But I should always remember to write: Full disclosure. I work there. I wrote or edited this, or the researcher is a friend of mine outside of work.

Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

I try to keep it in the ‘Art’ category. (My brother was disappointed by the content he found in the ‘woodies’ category.) And I have to admit that picture of John Ashcroft up at the top of this post makes ‘my mighty eagle soar, like she’s never soared before.’ (Go ahead and click it, chicken.)

Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.

GardenRant gave me some shoes so I won’t have to garden barefoot any more. In exchange, I promise to continue to post contrarian comments there.

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11 thoughts on “Blogger ethics”

  1. Oh PLEASE don’t make me listen to John Ashcroft sing. Surely that’s a code violation of some kind.

    Seriously, I enjoyed reading the full code of ethics and it got me thinking. Not so much about whether my integrity could be bought by $18 garden clogs but about being careful about details, giving credit, stealing from Google Image, and so forth.

  2. Good post, Craig. I try to make sure that I attribute information to the right source (when I have a single source) but I could probably be better about that, too. Especially when the material is in a book, instead of on a website that I can easily link as I type.

    This is a bit of a tangent, so bear with me for a minute: On the way in to work today, I heard a story on NPR about the idea of working on a code of conduct for all blogs and forums. (An interesting thought in and of itself, as it would mostly have to work on the honor system, etc.) The reason for this idea came in part due to a blogger who wrote what she thought was an innocuous comment on her blog… and received threats of violence, rape and death in return.

    One of the comments in the story was that there are many very nice, supportive and positive communities online but that these are the ones whose members set a good example and try to keep it that way through self-regulation. That you had the class to apologize publicly on your blog, and that Susan had the grace to acknowledge your apology with a positive comment, makes me feel very good about the people in our little community of garden bloggers.

  3. The top commenters on Garden Rant are all great at ranting – so that must have been the criteria for the shoe-sharing, Craig.

    I looked at the code, and hope that when I refer to other bloggers in my answers to the comments, that it’s enough to have them in my sidelinks, rather than going through the carpal-tunnel producing hand -linking process that’s needed to put them in.

    But for photos of my garden flowers, I reserve the right to only let you see what I want you to see, cropping, sharpening edges, and blurring the weeds or junk in the background ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. Annie: No photography is objective in my book. My garden looks so much better on the blog than it does in person because the camera focuses you on what looks good. Cropping and adjusting levels in Photoshop are pretty standard in my book.

    When I give intro imaging workshops, I show pix of troops photoshopped into campaign ads, extra smoke awkwardly clone-tooled into the war in Lebanon, and Katie Couric 20 pounds lighter. Those are the things I don’t think you should do without full disclosure.

  5. Let me just say again that the Ashcroft thing FREAKED ME OUT.

    I’m going to need some kind counseling or therapy or something… not that he’s a bad singer, he’s not bad… just that it freaked me out.

    I blame you. As Susan says, this is certainly a code viloation.

  6. Clerk old buddy: I should have put a warning statement on the link, not a dare. Another ethical violation for which I apologize.

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