Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blogger etiquette

Bloggblogg, a Norwegian meta-blog blog, has some quite interesting discussions. Their latest post questions the blogger's responsibility to the journalist. Should we always wear a "I am blogging this" T-shirt? The links from bloggblogg among others lead to an exchange between Mark Cuban and a New York Times journalist. It turns out that the journalist has written a very different story from the one Mark Cuban thought he participated in. So bloggblogg asks: should the journalist be warned?

Personally, I have no qualms about uncovering bad journalism. I do prefer to do it before the story is printed, so I insist on reading articles before printing. When that's said: there is more to this question.

Friday night I entered a discussion with colleagues Erling Sivertsen and Thomas Lewe. They both asked: "Is it ethical to blog somebody's interaction with you, without their permission?"

As you can see, I think so.

However, there is such a thing as etiquette. We learn what it is OK to share, what definitely should be shared, and when we should keep quiet, and we learn this as children. Not all of us are good at it. Some people are gossipmongers, who are so delighted to have something to share that they do it, no matter how "in confidence" your initial interaction was. You and I both know that we really don't want to talk to those. If they are bloggers, you can expect your darkest secret to be online in no time - if you are lucky, slightly rewritten in an attempt to anonymise you.

Some things should be shared. Since this was a serious question, and taking credit for it would have been unethical, it's more correct of me to give credit where I should: To Erling and Thomas, than to not share that particular piece of interaction.

The only thing that changes in the understanding of what is correct and proper communication, is the number of potential people who might learn what the gossiper says. From perhaps 1000 who will share a juicy piece of gossip in Volda, the same piece may be spread to 70 000 in no time, and be available until the other person deletes the archives. The stakes are higher. But if the original rules were applied, common sense and manners should be enough, even online.

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