Posts about ethics

Little big man

Michael Arrington loses it in the comments on his own blog, attacking his friend Dave Winer, Rafat Ali, and me. This all seems to spring from his odd, fetishistic hate of The New York Times.

The Times introduced a simple little feature allowing/encouraging readers to recommend stories on Digg, Facebook, and Newsvine. It’s not terribly new; Gothamist has a similar feature letting people add links to Del.icio.us or Yahoo. I claim no credit for the feature but I do like it and I did suggest it a few months ago; I’m sure I was not alone. (Disclosures: I’ve been consulting for About.com at the Times Company and The Times Company invested in Daylife, where I am a partner, and where Arrington and Winer also invested.)

A writer on Arrington’s TechCrunch reported the addition of the Times feature under a headline with curiously uncalled-for snarkiness: “New York Times Surrenders To Social News.” In the comments, many TechCrunch readers respectfully called them on the attitude. Winer did likewise. That awoke Arrington from his bear’s hibernation and he growled:

Dave, I’m wondering out loud if your support for the NYT stems primarily from their support for RSS and their occasional links to you. As an occasional (but always unlinked-to) source of breaking news to the NYT, our respect for them doesn’t go quite so far. They are in the middle of a war for their life, and they are doing just about everything wrong.

And then:

Sure. RSS is important. But the NYT is an ethically bankrupt institution. I have first hand evidence, being trashed by them at a conference (which was subsequently mischaracterized), but there are other examples, too: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/24/nytimes_two_point_nought/

You, Jarvis and Rafat Ali are sucking up to them to further your own agendas. I don’t think that’s a good idea in the long run. In the case of Jarvis and Ali, this loyalty has resulted in outright fabrications.

Fabrications? Them’s fighting words, big fella. But I have the DVD and plenty of reliable witnesses to Arrington’s meltown and effort to bully The New York Times, which ended with The Times demanding and getting a sheepish apology from him. As I said here, bullies always back down.

At Arrington’s site, Winer tried to get the discussion back to a civilized track:

Hmmm.

I don’t think this deserves a response other than I doubt it’s true about Jarvis and Rafat, and I know it’s not true about me.

Back off dude, you’re in over your head.

But Dave failed. Arrington continued: “Wow. You are completely lost Dave.”

I would have said all this over at Arrington’s site, but he then cut off the comments, even though they hadn’t turned nasty — except from Arrington himself. Bullies can be wusses, too.

: See also Matthew Ingram’s post and Valleywag’s coverage of the latest Arrington meltown here and here. I’m glad Denton et al drew my attention to Arrington’s snitfit. I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. I stopped reading TechCrunch long ago. My loss, missing scoops like “Talkster Launches Presence-Based Service For The Enterprise” and “Jott to Convert Cell Phone Calls to Text” and “Add Text Bubbles To Videos” and “Wordie Is Like Flickr Without The Photos” and “Web App Provides Virtual Fitness Support.” Web 2.0 is so, well, 1.0.

Twit no more

See Tim Toulmin, head of the U.K. Press Complaints Commission, responding to the dustup created when he was misquoted as wanting to regulate bloggers. I was among those stirring dust but I corrected that when Toulmin properly complained. Says Toulmin:

Last week I read on one of the political websites about some twit who had said that a voluntary code of practice for blogs was needed. How absurd, I thought. Bloggers are hardly a homogenous profession; they operate in a naturally self-regulatory environment where inaccuracies can quickly be corrected by other posters; they have (sometimes) transnational followings, yet different countries have different cultural standards; it would be a bureaucratic nightmare to enforce; there is no proven need for one and so on.

But then – horrors! – I saw that this viewpoint was ascribed to me, with some predictably unflattering remarks. The American blogger Jeff Jarvis took to MediaGuardian’s weekly podcast to fulminate against my stupidity. Thousands of bloggers globally rounded on the suggestion, deploying all manner of exotic language.

I’m thinking about writing my Guardian column this week about the means and rights of response and correction in the internet: what’s working and what’s not. Also: Whether libel laws are outmoded when there is a new means of response (credit: Susan Crawford). And what happens when courts — nevermind regulators — attempt to define and treat blogging as media and thus threaten to put a chill on simple conversation? But on the other hand, if we bristle at subjecting blogs to the restrictions of media then can we still claim press protections for bloggers’ acts of journalism? And are codes of conduct worth the pixels they’re written in? Your thoughts?

Washing your word of mouth out with soap

Last chance to give me advice about facing Richard Edelman over Walmartgate and more at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association confab. I need to tell them yea or nay Tuesday. Right now, I’m leaning against doing it. I don’t think it’s our job to tell flacks how to flack us. And I think my position would be a no-win: I’m either the asshole or the wuss, depending on my performance and where you come in on this. Weigh in. Earlier advice here.

: LATER: My current thought is that I would at least insist on the ability to start by saying why I think their organization should not exist. I’ll outline those reasons later.

: UPDATE: I’ve decided not to do it. More on why later.

Pay Per Soul

Michael Arrington and Scott Karp dissect the absurdity of PayPerPost’s latest effort to slap lipstick on its pig with a disclosure policy that equates advertising and “paid insertions.” That sounds like something you get on the Bunny Ranch.

Your advice, please

Give me your word of mouth, please. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association just emailed me to come to a confab they are having in December to question Richard Edelman about his firm’s Wal-Mart blogging fiasco and more. No holds barred, they say. I’m not sure I want to do it. I don’t much like the fact that there is a Word of Mouth Marketing Association; I don’t want them buying our mouths and thinking that they can rent buzz and our opinions with it, corrupting the space. I have avoided the organization in the past. I also don’t want to be seen as a soft-ball pitcher. Nor do I want to be the convenient snarker. Then again, it is a chance to get warn and scold. I told them that I would ask your advice. With one exception (he/she knows who she/he is), I want to hear from many, not only with advice on whether I should do this but if I do, what my goals should be.

: LATER: Here is the WOMMA questionnaire: Are you cricket?