Ethics of the Link Conversation Continues

It has been rewarding to see my original post Linking to Articles That Toot Your Own Horn spark such an interesting conversation among various bloggers who have taken my quick observation to a level that I could not. First, Doc Searls posts a lengthy and thought provoking comment on my blog which I re-posted here, excerpt:

Much of what we’re doing here amounts to teamwork. It’s not formal, or even conscious in many cases, but it does involve lots of “yes, and…” posting. Sometimes praise is involved. More often it isn’t. What matters is that we’re not doing it alone. And that we’re only beginning to understand what that’s about.

Then, Mary Hodder adds solid thoughts of her own, including:

So I would say it’s right to point, for referrals and attribution, and lineage of thought, for community building and transparency. I’d rather know that Doc and Jeff refer to each other explicitly, than have it all happen behind the scenes, as if we all develop every idea in a vacuum, the way old style journalism appears to develop their stories. The people formerly known as the audience still maintain some of the training from big media, where we were led to believe this was true and real. It is not.

Then Jeff Jarvis responds and comments on the ensuing conversation here, including (good summary):

Doc said things that were too nice about me and I chose to ignore that because it would have seemed like tooting my own horn by pointing to it: My linkie Oscar moment (Doc likes me, he really likes me). But then Ben turned around and said that he thought it odd that I was pointing to Doc’s post without acknowledging what seemed to Ben like some psychological conflict of interest (was I linking to get you to see the nice words? … but then, if I really wanted you to see them, I would have mentioned them, no?).

Now, Adam Penenberg, of Shattered Glass fame, comments to Mary Hodder in her follow up post:

I caught your post on digital ethics (Aug. 26) and it brought to mind the old Spy Mag spoof “logrolling in our times,” when the editors would print a complimentary blurb on the back of one author’s book next to that of a book written by the blurber–and you guessed it, he got a nice blurb from the guy he had just blurbed… quid pro quo, I guess.

In the case of Jeff Jarvis and Doc Searles, I think a disclaimer before the link would have been in order — as in, i’m quoted in this piece but I like it a lot, too. In the interest of transparency, a reporter must divulge conflicts of interest, and being quoted in a story that you are pointing to, in my opinion, counts as a conflict of interest. Shouldn’t bloggers subscribe to the same standard??

She then adds insightful comments of her own, including:

This is one of the reasons why digital ethics means author ethics are so important. We want to see where people link, what the relationships are between them, and make our own decisions as readers and conversants about what those author relationships mean, as we take in the work. It’s the author who matters, and the author who must decide how and what to show about their own biases and relationships. Because otherwise the online communities will decide for that author. It’s so much cleaner if authors and creators give it to us up front. Readers like it and we need it to evaluate trust because authors have become uncommodified.

And if you’re really interested, check out the comments and trackbacks on all of these posts.

2 Responses to Ethics of the Link Conversation Continues

  1. Adam says:

    Aren’t you sort of tooting your own horn with this post, too?

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Perhaps. This post was primarily for those readers who saw my original post and wanted to delve in to it more. The others who picked up my post and commented on it went much deeper than I could go (a humbling experience indeed). Finally, I object to “indirectly” tooting your own horn through links to other articles that do so….much different than declaring outright “I am the greatest.”

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