Earlier, Leo Laporte and Rebecca Blood (I love the name), author of The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog, discussed blogging ethics on TWiT Live. The brief discussion primarily focused on what bloggers should do when they need to change their content. Jeff Chandler recently covered part of this story when John C. Dvorak was involved—John frequents the TWiT network—and the conversation has been carried over.
Note: my responses are formatted in italics.
Unless under extreme circumstances (e.g., when personal information about someone is disclosed), content should not be removed from a blog. People should utilize the strike formatting and add the alterations after it.
I completely agree with this! If you are going to be completely transparent with your bloggers, you should never attempt to make something magically disappear. What happens if someone links to your post because something you wrote, and it isn’t in that article anymore? You will have upset your readers, those visiting your blog from the linking site, the author of the linking site, and maybe more than you bargained for if your article receives plenty of attention.
Major media and news outlets have recently promoted this practice with their journalists’ blogs.
As the consumption of information I read from news outlets disintegrates, the amount of respect I had for them goes as well. Thanks to the blogosphere, news organizations are, somewhat, more accountable for their own reporting (or at least people know their jobs are on the line), but who really cares about them anymore? Okay, so, we do need these news organizations, but, I rarely pay attention to them anymore.
Correcting typos is okay, and does not require notification to the user, but this is only true if the meaning of the sentence remains the same.
I agree with this as well. Something as little as using a future-tensed word instead of past-tensed word could seriously change the entire meaning of a statement. There are numerous examples, but you just have to be careful.
If you remove an entire post, make it known that the post was deleted, and, if possible, give a straightforward reason for it.
I am of the opinion that a post should never be deleted. Ever! But if it must be deleted, at least let your users know that it was taken down, and have a great reason for it as well. I’d never want to be subscribed to a blogger who did otherwise.
Instead of creating a new article, update the old one instead.
I wrote about this not so long ago. I am of the opinion that if the content must be changed because of a new important development or something similar, a new post should be assigned to it. The previously written post should have a note at the top and/or end of the post linking to your new article with a teaser of what has changed (this could promote more pageviews). However, if it is an extremely popular article, I’d suggest just updating that instead of taking away from its greatness. That is just a personal thing though.
Rebecca Blood says that BoingBoing mishandled the “Violet Blue” issue. The deletions went against what the readers expected. There weren’t as straightforward as they could have been.
Jeff Chandler previously touched on this issue, and I think it was reason enough for people to discredit BoingBoing. Stuff like that should not go unpunished. Incase you didn’t know, an author of the BoingBoing blog was fired, and all her work written on the BoingBoing blog disappeared. Regardless, it was a stupid move by BoingBoing, and I’m disappointed that the blog has, utimately, benefited from all the publicity.
[Update: Leo Laporte has said that the segment might be placed at the end of the upcoming This Week in Tech podcast (#152). I’ll update this post with a link if/when that happens.]
Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the correction.
I hope you’ll make an appearance on TWiT. Was nice listening to you and Leo talk about the issues.
Thanks for the mention. A correction: Violet Blue was not a member of the BoingBoing team. Xeni Jardin deleted all posts *linking* to Violet Blue (sometimes just a “via” link).
Jeff: those topics are exactly what my book covers. You can read the full excerpt on blog ethics (which does indeed cover more than deletions) on my site. The rest of the book covers the topics you mention.
pholpher: I agree that transparency is important, but that doesn’t always involve (or require) revealing private information – and some people get those things really mixed up. We probably won’t ever know exactly why those posts were removed, and that’s just fine. However by handling the matter quickly and acknowledging that the deletions went contrary to community expectations (whether or not they expected that response), BB probably would have been prevented the whole thing from becoming such a huge deal.
The “Violet Blue” issue was definitely mishandled. What’s sad is that the blogosphere is supposed to be about transparency and yet we still don’t have a clear answer as to why her posts were deleted.
Nice link and points. I think the main takeaway is definitely to be transparent. Let your readers know what you’re doing to your existing content.
Wow, makes me wish I was their to comment in the chatroom. Sounds like a great session and yet another book that I may have to read sometime in the future.
As far as ethics go, editing/correcting is only one aspect of ethics. I’d like to know more about attribution, linking, commenting, and the dos and don’t of blogging. I wonder if the book covers that?
Thoughts, opinions? Let me know about them!