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Hurdle 23: Blogging ethics

Blog post requested by the awesome
guys 'n; gurls at Crowdbooster
Success at blogging can take months of hard work, with little feedback, dotted with mistakes that can knock your confidence. You have two choices, play the long game or play the short game. Modern culture doesn't lend itself to the long game, but bloggers really need to fight the urge to take short cuts. Playing the long game involves hard work, commitment, and meticulous research, and it turns out a blog that is respected by its readers for its strong ethical principles and reliability. These traditional values struggle to find a place in modern society, but blogging is art, and we all want to be proud of our art work.

I use hundreds of different social media tools. Some of them are designed to build follower numbers, some are designed to refine your content, and some are designed to manage your social networks. It is easy to label some of these tools as unethical. So what are blogging ethics? Rather than reinvent the wheel, journalistic ethics are well established. Remember, as a blogger you are a journalist, and you could consider yourself bound by these principles in order to be considered reliable and respected. From a personal point of view, i would be ashamed of any material that breached my own standards of honesty and integrity, and i would hope any other blogger or journalist would feel the same.

Here are some guiding principles for bloggers.

Seek Truth and Report it as Fully as Possible
  • Inform yourself continuously so you in turn can inform, engage, and educate the public in a clear and compelling way on significant issues.
  • Be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting accurate information.
  • Give voice to the voiceless.
  • Hold the powerful accountable.
Act Independently
  • Guard vigorously the essential stewardship role a free press plays in an open society.
  • Seek out and disseminate competing perspectives without being unduly influenced by those who would use their power or position counter to the public interest.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise your integrity or damage your credibility.
  • Recognize that good ethical decisions require individual responsibility enriched by collaborative efforts.
Minimize Harm
  • Be compassionate for those affected by your actions.
  • Treat sources, subjects, and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect, not merely as means to your journalistic ends.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort, but balance those negatives by choosing alternatives that maximize your goal of truth telling.

Ethics...they are the foundations of justice
as this picture aptly depicts
The big question for bloggers is; how do i actually apply this? Having tested out every tool available, i have come to realise that none of the tools are innately unethical, its the way people use them that makes them unethical. To understand this i want to look at a tool i use, tweetadder.

Tweetadder is a program that automates some areas of twitter. Here are some of the features;
  • Automatically following twitter users from a list generated by automated tweet searches of manual profile searches.
  • Automatically following new followers back
  • Automatically unfollowing anyone who unfollows you
  • Automatic tweets
  • Automated Direct Messages
  • and a few others

Some people would immediately consider you unethical for using a program like this, but i think i have developed some principles that will help you gain followers and share content in a way that is welcomed by readers. Rather than setting particular rules for its use, i tend to ask myself some questions.

Using it ethically; (yes=go ahead and post)
  • Am i seeking out people who genuinely share my interests, and i honestly think they will find my content interesting?
  • Am i responding to feedback, do i regularly review the settings, and am i open and honest about my methods?
I just cant stop myself putting a cat pic
Using it unethically (yes=do not post)
  • Is this tweet/follow/DM indiscriminate and/or unsolicited?
  • Am i sending this message to, or am i following a, large number of people, and objectively they would have no interest in the content of the message or the follow?
  • Would this message be unwanted, or unreasonably irritating or upsetting?
  • Is this message unsolicited advertising..or is it motivated by a 'for profit' enterprise?
  • Is my activity connected to any criminal activity?

You should push the boundaries, take risks, and experiment. To make sure your doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason you just have to consider the journalistic guiding principles, and ask yourself the above questions, and you wont go wrong.