Jean Dublog

Friday, December 30, 2005

Wine Blog

I've got a new blog up and running. That's where my real energy and passion lies. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogged Survey Results
Just a few weeks ago, I posted a plea here for bloggers to let me know what they thought about ethics in blogging. Twenty of you were kind enough to share your thoughts with me. Another heartfelt thanks to all of you. You really rock. And, as promised, here are the results. This is not my whole paper, too long to make for good blogging; just the results.

Results
Is there a widely embraced code of ethics among bloggers?
• 70 percent No
• 20 percent Yes
• 10 percent Don’t Know

Most of the bloggers who responded elaborated by citing one or two basic tenets that they follow (to be explored at some length in Question #3), but few saw little evidence of uniform ethics at work in the blogosphere. One Connecticut blogger said the lack of a set of rules is part of the appeal of blogging.

“Part of the allure of the blogosphere is the ‘wild wild west’ mentality that seems to permeate it. Some blogs hold themselves to ethical standards, others do not. I try very hard to keep my blog focused on published reports and the facts. I do, of course, inject my own biased opinion because I can,” said the blogger.

Another Connecticut blogger said blogging is “as close to pamphleteering as you can get. The ‘ethos’ of blogging is as varied as the bloggers.” Others remarked similarly that bloggers are an extremely diverse bunch from different backgrounds, ages and points of view who cannot possibly be held to one set of standards. One even stated that blogging is the result of “an individual’s obsession, done without consultation.” Several were adamant that the “blogger owns the site and sets his/her own rules.”

A couple of bloggers do see some minimal ethical standards at work, though one of them said these tepid standards “don’t go much past the etiquette stage at this time.” Several said, however, that they hoped ethical standards would become more widely embraced over time.

How are ethics among bloggers evolving?
The answers to this question were quite varied. If there was any consensus at all it could be seen chiefly among four bloggers who said that over time a code of ethics will emerge for blogging that is inspired by ethical standards applied to journalism.

“As some independently produced blogs gain more and more attention, I do see some ethics standards emerging that are similar to those that journalists follow. Ultimately, it comes down to visitors, and I do believe serious blogs have serious readers who want an information source that is accurate and ethical in its practices,” stated one blogger.

Other comments included:
• “It is becoming more important to those who want to remain credible to double check their info before posting. It is also becoming less ethical not to provide links to sources.”
• “I don’t think bloggers will ever seek independent confirmation or keep a stable of confidential sources.”
• “I’ve seen no meaningful discussion of ethics amongst bloggers, nor do I think there is a coherent community of bloggers. I think a discussion of ethics in blogging is a waste of time.”
• “As new bloggers come forward and as issues are discussed I think there is an evolution – not of the ethics but of the bloggers themselves. They are coming to realize the need for decency, truth, standards.”
• “Locally. People try to live up to the standards they see manifest in the blogs they read and respect. And, people call others out (especially those they otherwise respect) for lapses of judgment on blogs.”
• “I would postulate that there’s going to be a drift to the two extremes on this issue, at least in terms of popularly read blogs…I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see either a normal or a bimodal distribution develop among the blogging community regarding ethics.”
• “Ethical standards can be on a case by case basis, depending on the subject matter. The standards will change depending on the topic.”

Do blogethics vary by region?
• 5 percent Yes
• 40 percent No
• 55 percent No answer or unclear

Do blogethics vary by blog topic?
• 45 percent Yes
• 10 percent No
• 45 percent No answer or unclear

Clearly, there is little support for the idea that blogging ethics currently vary depending on the geographic location of the blogger. Roughly half of the bloggers surveyed, however, do believe that different ethical standards come into play depending on the topic of the blog.

“Since blogs exist for just about every interest and field, generally the code of ethics that govern a particular field will follow into the blogosphere. It’s all about credibility and visitors will leave in droves if they feel the information source is not conducting itself in a manner that leads to the reliable dissemination of information,” said one blogger.

Other comments include:
• “I’ll be cynical and say that as a blog gets more sophisticated, so do its attempts to hide any ethical transgressions.”
• “Based on the type of blog (topic), the adoption of ethical behavior does vary. I think that personal blogs may not be as interested in ethics as a blog that is being written with a public voice.”
• “The science folks and academics seem more hard core about honesty than some of the political folks and the Intelligent Design crowd.”
• “Political/news/current events blogs are much more permissive of foul language and strongly worded sentiments than any other kind (e.g., personal journals, expert blogs, science blogs, tech-nerd blogs, etc). Bashing is a natural aspect of political campaigning, but it is not a natural part of kitchen table chat, or scientific discourse.”
• I do agree with the comment above that political blogs tend to be loud, angry, rude and partisan, but I think that as ethical standards (i.e., in regards to plagiarism, openness, etc.) go, political blogs are developing some of the strictest.”

What are the core ethical standards you subscribe to in blogging?
The standards that were mentioned most often in response to this question were “truth” and “accuracy.” Other standards mentioned by several bloggers included not deleting comments that were not SPAM, crediting sources and linking whenever possible to sources or for more information, and correct errors in a timely fashion.

A couple of bloggers also spoke passionately about the need for a blogosphere ethic to help protect the identity of anonymous bloggers. One said that everyone has the right to blog anonymously if they so choose, and that no one has the right to reveal their identities or “out” them.

Here are some of the bloggers’ concerns in their own words:
• “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?”
• “No full names of friends or family. No deleting/changing the content of posts after, say, 1 hour.”
• “I do vent my frustrations by using some colorful invective at times, but I never attack another blogger, unless he’s a troll.”
• “Honesty, non-plagiarism, keeping it ‘clean’ for every reader.”
• “I very rarely personally insult people, not even Bush.”
• “I am happy to participate and support your project, yet in the spirit of fully participating in it I’ll say that I think this whole discussion is wrong-headed, frankly. The thing about blogging, as with the Internet in general, is that it is completely open…Many to many (sic), self-selecting communities that define themselves and come and go at virtually no marginal cost to the participants. Attempting to bound that space with a set of rules of engagement is irreconcilable with the nature of it.”

Should general blogethics include the following?
All of the following questions were culled from various lists of proposed blogging ethics found on Internet sites. I asked for “yes” or “no” responses to determine what bloggers think of such lists, while minimizing fears about the time required to complete the survey.

Identify and link to sources whenever possible?
• 85 percent Yes
• 5 percent No
• 10 percent No Response or unclear

Never distort content of photos?
• 55 percent Yes
• 30 percent No
• 15 percent No response or unclear

Never publish information you know is inaccurate?
• 80 percent Yes
• 10 percent No
• 10 percent No response or unclear

Show compassion toward those adversely affected by your blog content?
• 55 percent Yes
• 25 percent No
• 20 percent No response or unclear

Show good taste?
• 60 percent Yes
• 15 percent No
• 25 percent No response or unclear

Admit mistakes and correct them promptly?
• 85 percent Yes
• 5 percent No
• 10 percent No response or unclear

Expose unethical practices of other bloggers?
• 50 percent Yes
• 35 percent No
• 15 percent No response or unclear

Never ban a person or delete a comment simply because you disagree?
• 70 percent Yes
• 15 percent No
• 15 percent No response or unclear

Be transparent in all you blog?
• 60 percent Yes
• 20 percent No
• 20 percent No response or unclear

It is clear that this group of bloggers overwhelming supports some basic ethical standards, including identifying and linking to sources, admitting mistakes and correcting them, and never publishing information they know is inaccurate. But it is not clear there is support for anything more than voluntary compliance. And, support for other ethical standards is far from solid. Despite my request for one-word answers, a number of respondents felt the need to elaborate or explain their answers. Some of these comments help shed light on the issues they feel are most important.

For example, 55 percent reported that they believe photo content should not be distorted, but 30 percent opposed such a restriction. Some of those who want the freedom to alter photos do believe in limits of some kind, but they view doctoring photos as akin to satirical writing. As one blogger explained, “I often deal in comedy so distortion is a must. But I make no secret that the distortion is parody and not truth.” Another said, “photoshopping is fun, but it should be either very obvious, or it should be stated that it was retouched.”

Another proposed standard that bloggers were uncomfortable with was the idea of exposing unethical practices of other bloggers. Half said they would, but many others expressed strong reservations. Several said they simply did not have time to “worry” about what other bloggers were doing. “No. I usually leave that to the ‘experts.’ I pick my fights carefully.”

Showing compassion toward those adversely affected by a blog post was another idea that produced mixed reactions. Fifty-five percent were in favor of such a standard, but those who were opposed – those who specifically mentioned that they do political or issues-oriented blogging – objected strongly. “Show compassion to BushCo? I don’t think that’s necessary,” said one blogger. Another said, “Mine is a political blog. Enemies are to be made fun of, destroyed. That is a part of the game. They are free to do the same to me on their blogs.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How Sybilized

I really like the following exchange on a blog called Writing as Jo(e), which is a link off of A Delicate Boy, a Brett blog-find. It's a little long and very serious (they're academics, what do you expect?), but check this out.

Jo(e):
"It seems to me that it's only been in the last few years that composition teachers and literature teachers have recognized blogging as a legitimate activity for their students. I think many resisted at first. But more and more, panels on blogging have crept into conferences. Often now, faculty will refer to their course blogs.

"Yes, of course, blogs are different than books. The nature of blogging is interactive and instantaneous. When I write a poem for a literary journal, it gets published more than a year after I wrote it. Blog posts are published within seconds of when they are written. I like the way a blog written by one person can be a text with multiple voices - sometimes personal, sometimes academic, sometimes political. And of course, anyone can post to a blog. You don't have to wait to get noticed by a publisher. I wonder, as publishers increasingly get taken over and ruled by big corporate interests, as small independent presses go out of business just as many independent bookstores have, if blogging is replacing the free exchange of ideas that writers could once do in books."

Dr. K responds:
"I had a discussion recently in a nature & culture class about what technology does to communication and to information, and we all agreed that it two effects: it broadens them and makes them more superficial. It's easy to see that face-to-face communication, where you have gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, volume, body language, the smell of a person's hair and breath, the sparkle in their eyes, etc., to communicate with, is richer than text messaging. Text messaging on the other hand is efficient and can reach lots of targets quickly--immediately. It's broader and it's trivial. There's a place for that. I think blogs do the same for written communication--it's instantaneous and ephemeral, and archived or not, we rarely go back to it. It can have an effect on us through memory, and that's something for sure. The Internet, in my opinion, has done the same thing to knowledge--it's astonishing what's out there, but the information gets trivialized and made superficial by its instant, easy access."

Couple of ideas here I'd like to chew on. As a class, we've blogged quite a bit about what constitutes a personal blog and the importance of an authentic voice. But Jo(e) really goes for solo blogs that exhibit multiple voices. Impossybil? I have to say, no, yes, maybe (slap). To the extent that we are complex creatures with varied interests and moods, I think our blogs can reflect this and still demonstrate authenticity. Perhaps nothing exhibits better who we are. Brett does this with his literary and personal blogging. Aldon, too. But they walk a fine line. It's blogging with multiple voices that troubles me about Jo(e)'s comments. You can cross all kinds of subject lines, but I think a single, complex, authentic voice needs to shine through as readers are taken from one subject to another. Otherwise, there's no thread. Such a thread makes the blog identifiable and helps us decide if we feel a connection and want to come back. As for Jo(e) and his obnoxious parens, have you noticed in this context that he's Writing as Jo(e)? Is he really Joe? For the moment, presumably. I think I saw a movie about him/her.

That brings me to Dr. K's view of the blogosphere as ephemeral. I largely agree. While some blogs have extensive archives, I seldom use them unless I'm visiting a blog for the first time and want to learn more about the blogger. With millions of blogs posting almost daily, how many will have far-reaching effect and remain memorable? I also agree, no-brainer, with K that there's a place for blogging -- a substantial and very accessible place. I think Dr. K may not quite recognize, or at least address, just how powerful an impact blogs are having, how they are helping to satisfy a widespread hunger for self expression and for connection to new online communities.

Joe, on the other hand, worries that blogs are so powerful they may even replace books. What he doesn't get is that books do not necesarily represent the free exchange of ideas, except among elites and academics. Colonial era pamphleting had far wider impact than the works of John Locke. But what's really important, I think, is to recognize there's room and need for both media. Would Common Sense have happened without Locke? Blogging does not mean social cataclysm, just new forms of social and intellectual interaction for an age populated by overworked, distracted people who need an easier, faster way to freely exchange ideas and connect. The blogosphere is not replacing books so much as the village green. The added benefit is that the blogosphere can accommodate so many more people than a square piece of grass.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Personal Business

I'm of the opinion that the nuances of the word "personal" may be undergoing changes as a result of blogging. My ancient American Heritage dictionary says "personal" means "of or pertaining to a particular person; private." OK on the importance of the individual here, but, private? To some people, especially older, personal will always mean private, but increasingly, it seems, the label of "personal" is meant to indicate a kind of stamp of authenticity.

I'm sure most of us have checked out Brett's Nonsense blog. This Nov. 28 blog entry seems incredibly personal -- I admire his candor and style here and in other posts. But is it private? Obviously not, since it's laid bare in the blogosphere. Are we intrigued and entertained then, almost salaciously, because he has chosen to make public details that should be private? Perhaps some are. But I think Nonsense is personal because it looks and feels authentic, a true expression of the soul. The same details buried in an overly written, rationalized account wouldn't feel nearly as personal, or as authentically bloggy. The personal detail of so many personal blogs may obscure the greater importance of authenticity, but it is there.

It's easier to separate the importance of personal detail and an authentic personal voice in other types of blogs, such as Colin's Courant blog. I don't think I need to go into a lot of detail about this, since I agree with nearly everything Dr. Papoulis said on the subject. In fact, I was on the same track myself (I know it's hard to believe) when I painted myself into a corner while trying to be brief and amusing in a response to this Colin post. I do believe that when you promise certain detail ("I'll post them on my blog") you have to deliver. But this kind of detail is generally of little importance, in the end, when blogging about community issues or about esoteric topics or about interesting odds and ends.

So, effective, resonating blogging does not require the airing out of anyone's personal business, but it is without a doubt a matter of executing personal business. As we've stated before in class, bloggers are in the business of self expression and making connections. I maintain the less personal, or authentic, the blogging voice, the more tenuous and fragile are these connections. We all know what corporations, thanks to their advertising dollars, have to say. With their political and media connections, government policymakers' points of view are well known. What we yearn for in the blogosphere is genuine interaction with people who think and feel. It's not a matter of four-letter words, though they may add to certain discussions, or online shouting, but it is a matter of uncensored, from the gut thought and feeling.

The reasons vary, of course. Some may seek validation; others the spirited interactivity of a verbal joust. But if we seek self expression and connection, the more likely we are to fail if we are met with the bland or the impersonal.

So, I'm going to look at the word "personal" a little bit differently from now on. After all, bloggers take it "personally."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Connecticut Blogger Survey

Of course, you know Colin McEnroe's class has been studying blogs this semester. Many of you stop by now and then. And, you may have guessed it's term-paper time. For my shot at the beast, I want to talk to as many of you as possible. I want to know what you think about blogging ethics. What blogethics do you subscribe to? How are blogethics evolving across the blogosphere?

For my unscientific survey, I've got several open-ended queries and a short list of questions meant to evoke a yes or no response. I would very much appreciate hearing from you -- just leave your responses in the comment field or e-mail me! No anonymous comments, please. I just need to make sure it's one to a customer.

QUESTIONS:
1. Is there a widely embraced code of ethics among bloggers?

2. How are ethics among bloggers evolving?

3. Do blogethics vary by region? By blog topic?

4. What are the core ethical standards you subscribe to in blogging?

Please answer the following with yes or no.

Should general blogethics include the following:
A. Identify and link to sources whenever possible.
B. Never distort content of photos.
C. Never publish information you know is inaccurate.
D. Show compassion toward those adversely affected by your blog content.
E. Show good taste.
F. Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
G. Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
H. Never ban a person or delete a comment simply because you disagree with that person.
I. Be transparent in all you blog.

Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. I pledge to let you know what kind of results I find when I wrap up my project.

John

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is Video Better?

Just a reminder, CM, that I'll be traveling on business and unable to blog the rest of the week. Glad it wasn't last week, or I would have missed all the fun in the church of blog. But, while I feel bad about the time away, I was able to take in a few vlogs before I go.

I'm struggling with my thoughts about some of them, so let me start with the easier to digest. Rocketboom is pretty cool, an entertaining and slick video blog. It's regular as clockwork, five days a week, which almost makes it more of a professional production, but certainly less so than Wonkette. If it is slick, the folks at Rocketboom nonetheless seem proud of the fact that they're doing their thing on the cheap, not the work of dozens. Instead, it is the voice of basically two people, Andrew Baron and Amanda Congdon.

They describe their product as a mix of "information and commentary from top news stories to quirky Internet culture," a description I'd agree with. Sometimes video oddities already on the web seem to inspire a particular vlog; sometimes they do original video of interesting local color like the Brooklyn Brewery. Other times they offer up a creatively written, but flat video work, on an issue like the environment in Sept. 9th's "young republican" piece. In most cases, however, the video seems like the impetus for the piece and the end product is very entertaining. There is a political message behind some pieces, but the messges seem to be delivered with more artistry than we've seen in text-based political blogs.

The other vlogs I visited all seem to be more personal. In fact, I could find little of the polemic stuff that we've read in so many other blogs -- though admittedly I'm pressed for time in this search. It does make me wonder, however, if the availability, or lack thereof, of video around subjects like politics and religion limit the ability of vloggers to overtly tackle some subjects. Exits and Entrances, for example, seems to be consumed by this young woman's quest for a job -- except, jarringly, when a friend has video available from Sudan. Or, perhaps it's just that the quest for an interesting, artistic visual product in many cases takes priority over message development.

In any event, so many other vlogs seem to be the result of the artistic expression of young people consumed by the issues they face in their daily lives. Carl Weaver, for example, seems hellbent on examining the banal. I was tempted at first to describe him as dreadfully dull, but a very dry wit does emerge from time to time.

One mildly interesting piece I found was in Annieisms, specifically Annie's April "video conversation" about why she vlogs. Apparently vlogs are perfect for young people with short attention spans, that's certainly appealing to her. She also is really revved by comments and by the sense of community she enjoys with other vloggers. But, while immediacy seems important to vloggers, as it is to bloggers, it seems as though many have trouble producing enough video to vlog extremely often. So it seems the limits of time and technology trumps ideals in the vlogosphere.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Faithfully

I really like Brett's pick, A Big Jewish Blog. This guy's got a great sense of humor. I was afraid from his tagline that I might be subjected to a little too much poetry when what I wanted was engaging blogspeak, but not so. In fact, the use of poems was nicely done. The poem for Yom Kippur was great.

I'm not able to rave about Renegade Rebbetzin, though I understand why Colin is enchanted -- read Colin's tagline. Nuff said. She's one loud and brash meshugeneh. Great blogging voice, though a little too insular, and at the same time, over the top, for me. But that blog voice works with many, doesn't it? She's got 10 times the number of commenters, and probably readers, as Big Jewish Blog.

My question, however, is, are these really faith, religious blogs? They seem more like cultural blogs to me. Perhaps that's being overly restrictive. They don't really delve into issues at the heart of their faith. But they sure do paint a colorful picture of life among those who closely identify with their faith.

And, for something completely different, I really liked Christian Alliance For Progress. I don't think they are necessarily doing any revolutionary blogging here, but this blog represents a valiant attempt to separate religious identity from right-wing politics. Compelling, rational stuff offering another view on how faith can translate into political action.