internet librarian 05: karen schneider on blogging ethics


I've know Karen Schneider for more years than I'm willing to admit in public, and I've never been disappointed in one of her presentations...

She shows off the newly-revamped Librarians' Internet Index, which looks great. "Websites you can trust."

After attending the Berkman symposium on web credibility, she started thinking a lot about blogging ethics. Why do ethics matter?

On a "micro" level, your blog represents you and everything you're connected with, including librarianship. Great quote: "For most readers, you are the last stop between the reader and the truth." From a utilitarian standpoint, being ethical is a strategic approach. Information has a long half-life. Being ethical is a form of self-preservation..."the blogosphere can be cruel. the biblioblogosphere can be crueler."

On a "macro" level, "The harder we work to make the world a moral place, the better it is for everyone." She points out that librarianship is a profession defined by its concern for others--witness librarians' willingness to go to jail rather than provide information about patrons.

She flashes some "rules of blogging," but they're gone before I can look up from my screen. :)

Five things not to say about your blog

  1. It's only a blog
  2. So-and-so does it
  3. Everyone understood what I meant
  4. They can always look up
  5. Nobody trusts the web anyway

Key Rules

Be transparent

Talks about the importance of transparency, quotes wikipedia ("An activity is transparent if all information about it is open and freely available.") and David Weinberger ("For most blogs, we want to know what the writer's starting point is."

Lack of transparency can be dangerous... Talks about Jeff Gannon, a "one-man-astoturf" White House correspondent. Turned out to be, among other things, a male hustler. ($1200 a weekend?! wow...) Being transparent is pre-emptive--you take the wind out of the sails of people wanting to dish dirt on you. (Shows a photo of the real Robert Fisk, namesake of the verb "fisking.")

Cite it (and check your facts!)

Talks about Gorman's infamous "revenge of the blog people" article. (Aside: the best swag I'm bringing home from this conference is my "One of the Blog People" button.) She notes that he complained about blogs, but never cited the ones he talked about. Link to and name your sources and documentation. Avoid anonymous sources. Always check a secondary source (well, I'd argue that this is true only if you're asserting that it's factually true).

"There is nothing more pathetic than a librarian who gets the facts wrong." (She says that's worse than a NYT reporter that does the same, and I agree.)

Lots of good tips for how to ensure accuracy, which I'm not going to repeat here.

Be Fair

WHO has defined fairness as "The attitude of being just to all."

Some good tips: Let a source know when s/he is "on the record." Don't present opinions as fact. If you claim be objective, you really have to present opposing sides of an issue. Let your readers comment (within reason). [I don't know if I agree with the last one...but that debate's been held in enough places that I see no reason to rehash it here.]

Admit Mistakes
(tuned out for a few minutes here...sorry...mostly about how to acknowledge )

Shows Justinland site, "brother of bridezilla" posts. Why? The unreliable narrator can be interesting and fun. April fool's is an exception.

All in all a very good, very clear, very useful presentation for library bloggers. Brava!


just a test. (upgraded mt today)

Web credibility characteristics are defined quite nicely by university libraries. Your blog is once again demonstrating this expertise. I always hearken back to Prof. B.J. Fogg at Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab in association with Consumer Reports WebWatch report.

Immmediate visual impact is also key. Non-credible blogs often look sleazy, amateur, super-hyped.

Sidebar blogrolls featuring reputable sites is also a fairly good way to assess a blog. Ultimately it is the trustworthiness of links and quotes that really counts.

I even started a blog several months ago, called Blog Core Values, to address these issues.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 25, 2005 12:09 PM.

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