Friday, September 22, 2006

This blog is still not fact checked

It has been pointed out to me that it might be unwise to follow the precepts of my last post whilst blogging for an organisation of any kind, a library for example. To be honest this is probably quite true. To make rash personal and potentially inaccurate statements on an organisation's official website is obviously both wrong and unwise. This is precisely why, and I alluded to this in my post on the New Republic, blogs on behalf of organisations are in fact not blogs at all. They may look as though they are blogs, appear so in form, but they are not. A blog sponsored by an organisation is no more a blog then an infomercial is a documentary.

In writing this, I'm not suggesting that organisations like libraries shouldn't run blog like web sites, they have and do, occationally with some success. And if organisations are going to run blog like sites it would only be prudent to have a code of some sort for the employee they mislabel a blogger follow. However, to suggest this is not to suggest a code for bloggers, but a code for employees. I am not an employee and as a blogger I thus, for the form to operate as is suggested it does, should not have to follow the ethical code of any particular organisation.

As for future employment, from what I have heard, it's true; employers occasionally do examine the blogs or past blogs of potential hires. Does this mean that bloggers that feel that at some point their blog might influence their job prospects should be ethical, no. What it suggests is that they should be prudent. However, to be prudent is certainly not to be ethical. To be ethical would be to whistle blow on the organisation by which you are employed, to be prudent would be to remain silent. The difference, while in the abstract is quite grey, is stark in reality.

If I might add one additional point to the ethical implications of employment. To suggest that we behave ethically because we fear reprisal from employers, future or current, is to suggest that some how are ethics are a function of this economic relationship. While some might agree, many, I think, would not. I am of the latter. The thought that our employer defines our ethics is a scary thought, it is to suggest that those with money, thus free from the bonds of traditional employment are also free from traditional, or at least conventional, ethical restraint. This may at times seem true in our society, but that certainly does not mean that it is right.


amanda said...

Hi Ian - you raise an interesting point about the definition of a blog - it's still one of those amorphous forms that is difficult to pin down. Is a blog a blog simply because it uses blogging software? Maybe, maybe not. Is a blog a blog if it follows blogging "conventions" (permalinks, date stamps, reverse-chrono display of content, etc.) but is handcoded? Maybe, maybe not. ...

You probably get my point! I would say that for the purposes of this class, a blog is a blog if it either uses blogging software OR follows blogging conventions. And since we're dealing with the business of libraries, then yes, institutions can have blogs. This is just a working definition for us to use as a class, to put us all on the same page, if you will.

(and, as you probably already know, you are welcome to challenge it!)

maximum_access said...

That's fair, both points are quite reasonable. A blog could certainly be defined simply by a few external properties of its form, and I certainly see the need for common definitions, particularly in the disembodied form of a distance class.
Regardless I still think my ethical argument stands.

Perhaps I should have phrased my statement as "institutions should not have blogs" and not "cannot have blogs". Rather then contorting the ethics of the form to meet the needs of institutions, institutions should find some other way of communicating. I don't say this out of malice, but because I don't think that blogs can function as they are purported to while under the thumb of institutional ethical requirements.

Colleen said...

I agree with your statement, that bloggers should be prudent - particularly in respect to future employment. More importanly I believe that they should be true to themselves. Man, that sounds cheesy. But, as long as bloggers are honest with themselves and others, any potential employer that chooses not to hire them based on some past post is probably an employer that they simply wouldn't want to work for anyway.

amanda said...

Perhaps I should have phrased my statement as "institutions should not have blogs" and not "cannot have blogs". Rather then contorting the ethics of the form to meet the needs of institutions, institutions should find some other way of communicating.

I can live with that! While I might not necessarily agree, I can certainly understand why you'd feel this way.