Matt Gemmell

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More on ethics

general 4 min read

<strike>Tom Coates</strike> Someone called Tom (not <a href="">Tom Coates</a>, as I originally thought - 
Tom Coates' <a href="">article</a> was one of those 
which started me thinking about all this) 
posted a comment on <a href="">my earlier post</a> 
about blogging ethics, and it was a cracker.
<strike>Tom is apparently an A-list blogger, so even mentioning 
his name here may make me a "hit slut". I think I can live with that. Besides, he seems a nice enough bloke.</strike>

Anyway, Tom said:
Having taken a few days to ponder the topic and the material already stated, I would love to inject points that I feel were hinted at but not addressed, at least to an extent that gives some direction as things are seen (on the web) vs. standardized publishing (which seems the flawed sticky everyone is looking towards in the real world for justification on either side of the argument). However to do so would be a waste of time, as the attention (save a few) just isn't there to dwell on it to the extent it cries for. Growing up on one side of the pond and living on the other, I assume, gives me the ability to abstract what I see in print and globalize it, other than localize, better than the other guy. The ethics of publishers tend too often to localize issues and in doing so sell by enflaming the emotions with preconceived opinions they inspired, or already exist, within their readership with the authors historical stance with issues (already addressed that the more one reads another, opinions result and are *transmitted*) than to tell all in actuality which a worldwide readership would demand (and that can be found here, no where else). It's folly to hold that any event can be seen in only one context; hence several varied opinions are always the result. Depending where read, and the *reader* at question, it's only natural that some impressions can be carried over where other cannot. This glosses over advertisement, but at the same time it doesn't. The brain just isn't as giving in this area at the time. Truth be known, it just makes my head hurt trying to juggle any argument that applies individual loyalty and global politics with a spin that in anyway tries to fuse (or confuse, in this case) that by maintaining one has anything to do with the other (i.e.- I can read, that doesn't mean I have to agree). Of course I'm being both overly complex and simplistic with that statement, but again, it's my opinion. For me, ethics has to do entirely with the history of the person supplying the information and my own opinion as it pertains to the fact/notion/implication/data supplied. In that context ethics are subject to two factors, the author and the reader. This is why localization exists, as the implied but not stated opinions of one (the author) will virtually never hold the same value as the other (the reader). For the former to truly trust, there has to be a historical dialog, and there are no short cuts for that. Then again, I have been known to be wrong. Thoughts?
I think that's the longest comment I've ever received. Thanks to Tom for taking the time to read my 
post, and write that comment.

Before I can respond, I'm going to have the brass to rewrite it in a form I find easier to digest. 
I'm aware I may be violating some Blogging Prime Directive by doing this 
(if anyone can give me a list of the Blogging Prime Directives, I'll try to violate the rest of them this 
week too).

So here goes; my interpretation of Tom's comment above:
I've read people's previous posts on this, and taken some time to reflect. I'd love to add some observations regarding this trend towards comparing blogging with conventional publishing (which seems to be the flawed real-world parallel everyone is looking towards for some kind of precedent with regard to ethics), but frankly I don't think many people would stay attentive for long enough. I grew up on one side of the Atlantic but live on the other, and I think that allows me to read from a global perspective more so than most. Publishers typically treat issues from a local perspective, since people's beliefs and prejudices tend to vary by region, and rousing-up emotional response is a proven way to sell copy. The prejudices and preconceptions of the author will also tend to be inherently local. It's foolish to think that there's only one way to view a given event; there are always many different opinions which result. Depending where you read something, and on the reader, some of the impressions which the author originally intended to convey might be missed. It actually gives me a headache trying to consider any argument that tries to reconcile and somehow aggregate both local and global perspectives with regard to this issue of ethical blogging. In some ways that's admittedly a simplification of this discussion, but it's how I feel. For me, ethics is all about the background and opinions of both parties; the author and the reader. That's why we have to consider locality; because the bedrock of opinions and principles held by the author will almost never match up with that of the reader. Real trust between the two can only come as the result of experience; there are no short-cuts. Then again, I've been wrong before. Any thoughts?
I'm hoping that Tom will set me straight if I've misinterpreted him. For now, based on my own (unverified) 
interpretation above, Tom seems to be more or less saying:
  1. Different people will inevitably interpret the same words differently.
  2. There's always some kind of personal colouring in any piece of writing.
  3. There isn't any "one size fits all" policy of ethics, nor can there be.
  4. Trust only comes through experience.
In which case: yeah, what <strong>he</strong> said.


<span class="footnote">The only remaining question is: who <em>is</em> the mysterious Tom? Get in touch!</span>

<span class="footnote">Update: Tom did indeed get in touch, and essentially confirmed that my interpretation 
was accurate (see the comments on this post for his response). Thanks!</span>