Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blogging & Ethics Part I: ELSI

By Chiara

In applied ethics (practical applications of moral and ethical principles) there is a category of issues called ELSI (el-see)—ethical, legal, and social issues. Ethics applied to the blogosphere could be said to involve the same issues. Fortunately this blog has a wonderful community of posters, commentators, contributors, and readers—in part because of moderating practices, and in part due to the excellent ethics of the members of this particular community. Still, the blogosphere being what it is, a human activity, ethics always apply. I would like to elaborate here, in Part I, on blogospheric Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues—ELSI; and, in Part II, give an example from recent activities on another blog with which I was associated.


There are certain general principles of ethics that can be applied in multiple spheres. Among those principles which might apply in the blogosphere, and do apply here are: 1) Respect for persons; 2) do no harm; 3) be beneficent; and, 4) informed consent.

“Respect for persons” extends to all those in the community of the blog: the readers, the commentators, the personal story contributors and the people they mention, the subjects of posts, the contributors, the owner; and, the same groups in the community of interconnected blogs. Respect is shown in a variety of ways, including some that are described here and those based in other overlapping principles, including respect for privacy, informed consent, voluntariness to contribute, and acknowledging contributions; and, in the general quality and tone of the posts and comments.

“Do no harm” means do not be deliberately offensive, hurtful or maligning of post subjects or topics, readers, commentators, contributors, and owners. There are many excuses for abuse, and unfortunately “freedom of speech” can be among them. There are many excuses for getting one’s blog hits or comment numbers up; and, deliberately provocative rather than stimulating, even if ill-informed, posts and comments are among them. These eventually denigrate the quality and ethical character of the blog.

“Be beneficent” refers to being actively kind, compassionate, helpful, elevating, edifying, educational, supportive, discussion friendly, or even amusing—since laughter is the best medicine, even though ridicule is toxic! There are a number of blogs which have some form of beneficence as part of an overtly expressed purpose, for example, Crossroads Arabia, Jeddah Daily Photo Journal, Nzingha’s Soapbox, Saudi Jeans, Sic Itur Ad Astra, and Susie’s Big Adventure.

“Informed consent” is the voluntary, non-coerced, agreement or disagreement of a mentally capable person to a proposed action. The persons who are the subjects of posts, interviews, or part of the community of the blog can all give their consent to participating in the blog based on the information the blog provides about itself and reviewing older posts and comments. In this way they know what to expect as a commentator or topic of a post. Anyone participating in an interview or giving a personal story should have the right to final approval of the post.

Where consent from minors is involved, their parents’ consent is also saught, as was done for Coolred’s children, when their story and pictures were posted here. In these cases the children (teens mainly) approve the post content as well as the parents. Where the children are younger, their assent is sought by the parents who give consent on their behalf, and approve all material to be posted.

Participating in blogs or owning one is of course voluntary.  Reading, commenting, posting and contributing are up to the individual’s choice. It is surprising then that some seem to frequent blogs they hate, or whose owners they denigrate. Most owners welcome respectful debate but I am always amazed when owners are attacked personally, including in a racist, sexist, Islamophobic or other religiously biased manner, as has happened recently to 2 excellent bloggers on their own blogs, Shafiq of The Student View and Jehanzeb on both his blogs, Muslim Reverie and Broken Mystic.


Many of the laws that apply in the real world apply in the blogosphere as well. Those most relevant here include laws regarding: 1) libel; 2) intellectual property; 3) commerce; and, 4) fraud. Since the blogosphere is international, multi-national and international laws in each field apply. Libel in the blogosphere is a written false statement about someone making them identifiable, and that does them harm in the real world. Intellectual property laws apply to copyrighted material online. Commercial blogs, or the commercial component of a blog, are subject to laws of commerce and trade, and business ethics. Fraud, intentionally deceiving someone for personal gain, or to do harm to them, is also relevant in the blogospheric world of heated debate and human foibles.


A blog and the ones it is related to, by theme or affiliation, form a community of readers, commentators, posters, and owners. Most try to be inclusionary allowing all those who are interested and feel like contributing to the discussion to do so. Many cross reference other blogs in their community of interest, link, share ideas and posts.

In order for there to be harmonious interaction certain boundaries of privacy, confidentiality, decorum, and integrity are observed. Certain sensitive posts may be password protected or blogs made private, as Ellen of Steadily Emerging with Grace did recently for a second blog, Steadily Emerging with Grace 2. Bloggers and commentators often use pseudonyms or blogonyms, and remaining anonymous is usually an option. Where a post or comment is made anonymously or pseudo-anonymously and the person is recognizable, those who do so refrain from revealing the person’s identity. Private emails are considered confidential by most, and most are respectful about not asking for too much personal information, or making it clear that a non-response will not be taken as an offence, or slight.

Courteousness is expected and may be imposed by comment moderation or even banning a commentator. Inflammatory or negative personal comments may be deleted after being published so that the discussion is not sullied by their presence. Similarly, what are clearly “computer jinn” induced duplicates may be deleted.
Comments are not tampered with unless the moderator acknowledges editing of what sort and why, either on the blog or privately to the person whose comment was not published or was edited.

One of the most pleasant experiences I have had in the blogosphere was having Qusay of Precognitive/ Qusay use the required email address I left to thank me for the first (rather long!) comment I left there. Others have been very prompt and helpful in reply to my emailed queries, including John Burgess of Crossroads Arabia, Ahmed of Saudi Jeans, Abdullah of NidalM Photography, Murtadha of Saudi Alchemist, Eman of Saudiwoman's Weblog, Coolred of Coolred's Rant, Nzingha of Nzingha's Soapbox, Jehanzeb of Broken Mystic and Muslim Reverie, Susie of Susie's Big Adventure, Maha of  A Saudi Woman's Voice,  and Puça of Sic Itur Ad Astra.

Many of the best bloggers and commentators show integrity by identifying their expertise or personal experience quite openly, as do Eman, Maha, NidalM, Qusay, Sabria, and SGIME, among others. Most of the best bloggers and commentators reference claims or assertions with reliable information; link to sources; and acknowledge their inspiration elsewhere in the blogosphere, or from within their own blog community. They accept respectful disagreement, polite correction, and have a sense of humour about their own and others foibles.

Mutual Trust

Pervading these different dimensions of blogging and ethics is mutual trust among blog owners, contributors, posters, commentators, and readers. Without this mutual trust a blog can rapidly become a hornet’s nest, or snake pit. Of course, since participation is voluntary, and no one is required to read or comment, one wonders how these nests, or pits, form and maintain themselves. Yet, like the proverbial frog in gradually heating water, one can feel uncomfortable though not burned.

The blog administrator is responsible for the ambient temperature and preventing rapid fluctuations or dangerous extremes. Part of how this is done it through mutual trust among commentators that their contributions will be received in the spirit in which they were intended; between moderators and commentators that controversial topics will be handled with extra care; and, among blogs that issues from one will not contaminate the others in the same community, but be handled at their site of origin.

Unfortunately, all is not always harmonious…

However, lest we get too perturbed, here is a little laughter, as the most beneficent of medicines: Monty Python - Philosophers' World Cup (video)

What are your ideas about blogging ethics?
What ethics do you think apply in the blogs you own or frequent?
How important are blogging ethics to the quality of your experience of a blog?
How do personal ethics apply to blogging ethics?
How does blogging etiquette contribute to blogging ethics?
Any other thoughts, comments, ideas?

*Islamic ethics is not featured here, in anticipation of a future post

Coming next…Tall Tales, Truthiness, and Big Hits!


angie nader said...

for me..respect is #1. even if i dont agree with something on a persons blog..i'll just ignore it. because we are all different...and i dont expect others to be exactly like i am.

on my blog i'm pretty much open. sometimes i write personal stuff...sometimes its silly things. but ive never had a problem other than i had to remove a photo i had of my cousin online because i recieved a creepy comment on it.

this blog you have is very interesting and has nice reading!

Chiara said...

Angie Nader--Thank you for your comment. I agree that respect is the most important ultimately. We can respect differences, and respectfully disagree, or even agree to disagree.

I am glad your own blog hasn't suffered much adverse response.

Thank you for your compliments, and I hope you enjoy more reading of older and newer posts.

Maketta said...

I think blogging ethics are very important in the blogosphere. As a blogger myself I expect people to be courteous even when they don't agree with me. That goes for myself included. No one likes to read comments that are rude and crude. We should all try to be respectful of each other as much as possible. A blog is mostly a persons experiences, thoughts, and opinions. If someone wants to express their's they should start one for themselves, but don't come to mine with a bunch of hostility, because frankly I don't want to read it.

I really think that this is a good topic to blog about because people can learn how to behave themselves in the blogosphere. It was well written and I enjoyed reading it.
October 28, 2009 12:48 AM

Save the Women said...

I think it is quite important for the atmosphere on a blog to be clear about what you expect from people who visit your space.
And to enforce your own rules.
I may be strickt on my own blog. But it is my husband who sometimes tells me not to let something bad pass. He is even more strickt than me!
October 28, 2009 1:14 AM

Coolred said...

I believe if your not willing to say what your thinking to someones face...then why feel compelled to say such things in a comment on a blog?

Manners do not fly out the window simply because your typing your reply rather than standing in front of the person your disagreeing with...getting bent out of shape over others opinions and expressing negativity and deplorable manners has to be one of the truly low points in the blogosphere community in an otherwise pleasant and educational experience.

nice post...if my comment makes no sense...mark it down to a mild case of delirium brought on by my continued illness...I may not be sounding quite as brilliant as my brain is insisting I
October 28, 2009 1:44 AM

Saud said...

As thorough and explicit as ever my dear Chiara.
Can’t wait to educate myself with, and enjoy part II.
Thanks a million :)
October 28, 2009 3:39 AM

Ellen said...

This was a wonderful post! I really agree with Coolred here, why say negative things in a comment when you wouldn't say it to someone's face? I think sometimes people forget that whoever is writing the posts is a *person*, not a computer and most of those posts can be really personal.
I think blogging ethics are very important when experiencing other blogs... I know that for me, I will stop reading a blog where the writer says something very offensive against, say, other people based on their culture/religion/whatever. That to me is not so good for a blog.

I really love this post!
October 28, 2009 6:18 AM

Srinivas said...

very very very informative post :)

i don't want comment just like that - will weigh each word, read and then comment

i appreciate the commendable job being done .
October 28, 2009 6:32 AM

John Burgess said...

There's ethics and there's good behavior. Both are frequently found in the same place, but not always.

I have my own ethics as the owner of the blog. The requirements I put on myself is to be as truthful as I know how to be. I don't direct my anger or unhappiness as individuals unless they have really done something to deserve it in my posts.

I am also quick to acknowledge mistakes and correct them as best I can. I'm not perfect (close, but not quite!), so mistakes will happen.

I don't apply the same rules to commenters. They come from different backgrounds, with different language abilities, and frankly, different levels of intelligence. Ignorance about an issue is not stupidity, nor is it an indication of moral failure. I can be patient in arguing over a point, to a point. I have the working assumption that commenters are writing in good faith and treat them accordingly.

I can only think of one commenter that I've had to ban because of expletive-filled comments that were nothing but Saudi-bashing.
October 28, 2009 7:17 AM

NidalM said...

I think it's a sign of maturity of this platform of information sharing that people have started to apply etiquette of real world communication into it.

I believe it comes from more and more people willing to share personal information about themselves online, and internet reputations becoming almost as important as real-life ones.

I'll personally use satire to get my point across if I'm trying to make a quasi-political statement, and sometimes I feel that I might be pushing the boundaries what might be considered respectful.

Common targets of my (politically incorrect) humor are typically religious police, government bureaucracy and desi aunties(!), but I make sure not to make my jibes sound like ridicule. What I hope for is a mixed bittersweet feeling where one is laughing (at themselves too, hopefully :P) but recognizes what was said was all true and makes a mental note to improve themselves.
October 28, 2009 10:46 AM

Sand Gets In My Eyes said...

Nice post and thanks for the link. Ethics is a tough cookie sometimes as a blogger. At least for me. There are things I really want to say, but won't simply because "this" whether my own blog, someone else's space, Saudi or the format itself, is just not the appropriate place, my thoughts won't add much to the discussion or I know it will unleash more than I'm ready to take on at the moment!

I agree with Nidal that blogging ethics is a merit badge for the format, a sign that we're growing up, establishing our own rules, policing ourselves. When I first started, it was hard getting people to respond, to share, even to comment. As time has gone by and more folks become more comfortable with the format, that is changing.

Again, thanks for the link and a worthwhile discussion!
October 28, 2009 2:33 PM

Fiqah said...

Hello, Chiara! Very nicely put. You covered some of the dilemmas and challenges that many blog owners/site moderators (like myself) often face quite thoughtfully. Oh, and "computer jinn" made me chuckle, I love it. I'm always grumbling about "blog gremlins" when something funny happens on Possum Stew. Anyway, I'll be popping back here from time to time to see what you're up to.
October 28, 2009 3:13 PM

Chiara said...

Thank you all for your comments, and I hope you will re-comment and others will add to the discussion, as I do think this is an extremely important topic in what is rapidly becoming a regular part of mainstream real world life, as witnessed by the social impact of bloggers activities, the news items picked up from blogs, and a recommended means of connecting with others from around the globe on a common topic, or finding the 3other people who have the same unusual problem/ concern/ interest as you do and building from there.

Maketta--thank you for your thoughtful comment and the compliment. Indeed, disagreement is one thing, and hostility another. Since it is so much easier to pick your social group in the blogosphere than in the real world, why plague a blogger with your hostility?

STW--Thank you for your comment and welcome. I agree that being clear about expectations and then holding to them is what a responsible blog owner does. I would add that being even-handed and holding everyone to the same standard creates a better environment. When some have licence to be nasty it encourages others to think that is the norm on the blog, or that they can get away with it to, or just forces them to respond in kind when they are attacked personally.

Coolred--Thank you, and you are brilliant even when feeling swine-fluey! You are so right that back-biting and "talking about someone behind their back in front of their face" take on new dimensions in the blogosphere. No one needs another person’s displaced anger. I also think you have made the case eloquently in other places for how the blogosphere can be a welcoming, friendly, supportive, and educational experience for those who are isolated for whatever reason: shame, illness, distance from family and friends, lack of nearby educational institutions, work environment, abusive controlling spouse or parent, etc.

Saud--Thank YOU! and welcome. I look forward to your further comment on Part II.

Ellen--True, people do seem to forget that there are persons at the other end of posts and comments, and readers choose to visit them--or not! Thank you for your kind words and comment.

Srinivas--thank for your always kind words, and I look forward to your adding to them here. Stay tuned for Part II as well...there will be revelations! LOL :)

John--Welcome and thank you for commenting. You raise excellent points: the blog owner's ethics impact the blog greatly; commentators are most often should be treated as if acting in good faith; most add something of value to the discussion even though language skills, knowledge base, life experience, and intelligence vary widely; and, banning is sometimes necessary for the recalcitrant and rude.

NidalM--Thank you for raising the issue of maturity of a community, which is marked in caring about itself and how it conducts itself, which results in self-monitoring. This is in fact how professional ethics boards grow up from within a new group becoming concerned about responsible behaviours and actions in their name.

People seem to have different levels of comfort about how much they reveal of themselves on line in terms of real world identification, and even of their on line persona. However commenting and posting regularly under a consistent blogonym gives people a feel for the personality and moral character of the persona and probably the person behind it.

I have never found your excellent sense of humour to be ridiculing--and it better not be in your comment on Part II! LOL :) be cont'd...
October 28, 2009 5:33 PM

Chiara said...

SGIME--You are welcome and thank you for commenting. I think you are one of many who take on challenging topics and do so in a stimulating, though not gratuitously provocative or inflammatory, way. This allows for intelligent, respectful discussion of delicate topics to the benefit of all, or as your blog states: interactive journalism--and at its best, I might add.

Fiqah--Welcome and thank you for your comment.

Indeed I have a computer jinn, a commenting jinn, a chat jinn, an email jinn, and now a video linking jinn, which has mysteriously cut off my video embedding option--hence the necessity of clicking on the video title above to enjoy the soccer final between the Greek philosophers and the Germans in the post. Not to give anything away but Archimedes is in fine form and can work an angle! LOL :)

Is Possum Stew your blog? Link please!
I do hope you will become a regular reader/ commentator here. We are up to...much! LOL :)
October 28, 2009 5:56 PM

Puça said...

Very interesting post, thank you very much for the link!!

Blogging ethics are important in both ways, on what people posts, and on what people comments.

On what we post, I try to put in mine my own life experiences and thought explained with a little bit of humour, and trying to be respectful with everybody, although sometimes some issues demand another point of view, but always treated as soft as possible. In fact reflects who and how I am.

On what we comment, as I think most of the people do the same in their blogs, even when are thematical ones, explain personal experiences too or give the chance to share them… I try to comment as I’d like someone to comment on mine, respectfully and truthfully, but sometimes doing just that may sound rude as some opinions may be a little bit hard as English is not my mother tongue.

In those cases I try to soften them or say it at the beginning, because I do not want to offend at all, in fact is just all the opposite, is because I care, if I would not, I’d not waste my time commenting.

Hopefully I’ve not experienced in my blog offensive comments, but as I’ve seen in other blogs, blog stalkers exist.

I guess it’s all about education…

Thanks again for the link, I feel very honoured.

October 28, 2009 11:08 PM

Coralbead said...

Great informative post!

I still have yet to experience being harrassed by racist/sexually offending comments, therefore so far, my blog experiences have been ok.

I like the idea of respectful disagreement, and Hning/Alia Makki once agreed with me one time that it's defined as "just put your views on the matter respectfully without bashing the blogger for his ideas, then move on."
October 29, 2009 2:13 AM

Khalid said...

Wow, this is the most thorough post I've come across about Blog ethics. I liked it.
Well said coolred, having multiple personalities, and multiple faces are neither consider ethical nor should it be tolerated at sometimes. Whether face to face, or on a website, people should act courteously -in the same way they like to be dealt with.
John, I agree it's part of having good behavior to have the assumption that commenters are writing in good faith. However as Tara suggested, "gang banging against individuals who oppose the view of the blogger and his/her supporters" shouldn't be allowed because in my opinion this make both the blogger owner, and the commenter lose credibility and follower too. disagreement is always welcome, and is a part of good behavior, but hostility and violence is definitely not.
After reading this post, I'm now waiting for part 2 :).
October 29, 2009 4:41 AM

John Burgess said...


As a general rule, I agree that ganging up on the individual commenter who isn't in synch with the majority isn't good practice.

That doesn't mean that I feel compelled to come to the aid or comfort of some of the loons you see out there. Some opinions aren't worth supporting, even as talking points.

Yes, bloggers need to avoid falling into echo chambers, but they don't need to make room for the truly nasty, the truly rude, or the truly stupid. (Note that I differentiate ignorance from stupidity.)

Personally, I try to keep the fact in mind that I actually don't know everything, that I might be wrong.
October 29, 2009 7:51 AM

Qusay said...

Chiara, do you ever post something that I do not have to read twice so I make sure I did not miss anything and then when I try to comment I forget what I read, what I wanted to comment on, and what I was about to write?

I think, blogging has no boundaries, it is just like the real world and as a pre-islamic poet once said (losely translated by yours truly):

ومهما تكن عند امرئ من خليقة ...وان خالها تخفي علي الناس تعلم ...

whatever virtue or vice is in a man or woman, even if they think is hidden will eventually be known.

google translated it as: "Whatever the man at the creature ... and her uncle hide people to learn" (LOOOOOOOOOL)

so... that about sums up my stance on blogging.... other than it has made me come into contact with very wonderful people.
October 29, 2009 12:47 PM

Shafiq said...

Very loong post but a very interesting one.

For my blog I feel that everyone's voices should be heard, no matter how hideous they are. This view may change if it becomes subject to abuse, but I feel it's working out fine so far. I know from other bloggers who are forced to moderate their comments because of people whose wish it is to just derail the discussion.
October 29, 2009 1:56 PM

Hning/Alia said...

"The blog administrator is responsible for the ambient temperature."
Doesn't it depend more on the temprament of the blog article itself? Controversial topics invite the controversial bunch.

Besides, what could be more interesting than a pissed-off reader debasing himself - completely missing the picture - with a troll-ish comment, or two?

I don't worry about ethics anymore. Maybe because my blog is too personal (aka boring & uncalled for, dude) to be hijacked. Mostly because writing is a place of worship; with good days and bad. Yet solely dependent on the Light that gleams from within.

Darkness (oh that cruel anonymous gasturd) is merely a faithful reminder of the things that we might have become, if we snub the light off.

PS: I'm a very unethical blogger. I steal freely from prophets and holy books. Go ahead and me.
October 29, 2009 5:47 PM

Medina said...

Thank you very much for this blog and especially this post about the blogging ethics. In my point of view, ethics of blogging are very important to follow especially if you want to have a rational, decent and enlightening debate over any topic. Ethics of blogging are of a big challenge when the debate is at the intergroup level, or interpersonal level. Ethics of blogging are usually broken when the blog is based for a particular agenda. For example, most of us when we debate about any topic posted, we always think and then comment on the points raised in the published article. If such an article is provocative or misleading people, then you will start questioning the credibility and the purpose of publishing such an article in such a provocative style. Unfortunately, what happen to you next is that you will find yourself obliged to be defensive and to shift your focus to the blog’s agenda instead of focusing in points raised in the published post. So, it is the responsibility of the blogger to publish an unbiased topic based on solid information and knowledge in order to have a healthy and enlightening debate contributes in solving issues raised in the post, otherwise, the blog will be a compact of provocative words, mistrust, insults, etc. at every level.
October 29, 2009 6:03 PM

Chiara said...

Puça—Thank you for the comment and you are welcome for the link. You have a fine blog on more personal topics but presented in a way as to broaden the themes, and of course your posts on Catalunyan and Spanish culture (and food!) are wonderful. I agree that the blogger models behaviour in the post and the comments s/he makes on his or her own blog and comments elsewhere on related blogs.

It is also true that some people seem to carry their negative attitude and behaviour from blog to blog, and resume old grievances anew and unprovoked.

I certainly appreciate that those whose first language is not English may choose a word or phrase that is more harsh than they intended. These linguistic misfortunes are understandable and forgiveable.

Coralbead—Welcome to Tara’s blog and thank you for your comment. I hope you will also find older and newer posts of interest. Your and Hning/Ali’s idea of respectful disagreement and how to do it is excellent!

Khalid—great to have you comment on this topic! Somehow one comes to think that anyone that nasty, or cynical on a blog must be similar in real life, even if being more cautious about expressing it. As a blog forms a community of readers and commentator, and connects with other blogs it would seem that similar care with one’s own reputation as a commentator would be in order. No one wants to hear anyone else’s displaced anger.
The type of phenomena described where some commentators are allowed ongoing group personal attacks on others does discredit the blog, the blog owner’s moderating capabilities and ultimately the community of commentators on that blog.
I look forward to your comments on Part II!

John—Well-stated. I think the concern is less the loony comment that advances an opinion on the topic best left to oblivion, than the personal attacks that are repeated or resume subsequently, or in which others join in. In those situations where I am a commentator only I do feel a responsibility to look for the worthwhile in the person’s comment, or in a rather Voltairian manner defend their right to say it, and in the best English language skills they can muster, as that seems to be a frequent cheap shot.

In fact, on a different blog, someone who was unhappy with my perspective, said “Your English is always so odd, are you Indonesian?”. To which the blog owner kindly replied that I was pop-culture term challenged (true), and I added that no I wasn’t Indonesian without further explanation. Hey, if you can’t read Canajen, eh?, it’s not my fault. On the same blog, another commentator did leave a comment in Indonesian, which I translated (well, Google translated) to an unmistakable (even in Google language) anti-Arab slur. I put it in a comment, asking if the blog owner knew the meaning because I was surprised she hadn’t deleted it. She pointed out to whomever that her kids are ½ Arab, and that the comment was out of line. Whomever didn’t reply or at least a reply wasn’t published.
October 29, 2009 8:38 PM

Chiara said...

Qusay—LOL :)! You know that complicated, long, and linked are my modus operandi! Indeed, blogging is quite limitless, and yet has the hallmarks of real life which the real beings at the other side of the computers bring to it. Another reason for ethics to apply. Your poet of course stated that much better, thank you. Is the poet’s name known? I appreciate your loose translation, and of course Google translations are often wonderful for comic relief.

Yes, most often blogging puts one in touch with wonderful people one would not have the occasion to meet otherwise—even the ones who forward comments from Google Reader, and rant at extremely patient Saudi men like yourself! LOL :) :P

Shafiq—Welcome and thank you for your comment. Yes, abusiveness is different that just “stupid and racist” as was the theme of your recent post, and which a commentator felt obliged to demonstrate, ie stupidity or at lease ignorance and “I am a happy racist” in the same comment, which included the term “colored people” as a non-historic reference. I ) well. Moderatingthought you handled him (and my reply to him LOL comments can have a salutary effect where the topic has drawn bad behaviour, or bad habits have set in. When applied even handedly ie all comments, and all commentators are no moderation, not just certain ones, I think this is well accepted and tolerated by the regulars, who may even find it a relief. I have been pleasantly surprised that it doesn’t really slow or discourage debate, while effectively taking out the rapid fire volley of personal attacks. I hope you will comment on older and newer posts, that interest you as well. Oh, and definitely on Part II!

Hning/Alia—thank you for commenting in your inimitable style. I hadn’t thought of temperature and temperament as linked in that way but now I think it is true. The blog administrator, who is usually responsible for the posts/articles as well, would seem to set both, and needs to be extra vigilant, in my opinion, when dealing with a controversial topic if that person wishes a true exploration of the topic. Some seem not to realize that they have interjected controversy or been inflammatory in how they handle a topic—or maybe they do and I would just prefer not to believe it.

Medina—Congratulations on conquering the commenting jinn, and thank you for the substantive content of your comment! Your social sciences training shines through appropriately. You capture well how the original post can mislead or provoke and sour the debate from the beginning, and how this might reflect a particular agenda of the blog, or just indicate a blogger who is out of his or her depth. I like your use of the term compact (or family or social compact), as it does seem that at times certain regulars on a blog have formed a common accord to behave collectively to advance one agenda and behave in a negative way towards others whom they decide not to like or disagree with. The insults then do seem to pervade all levels of the blog, and set up a toxic environment. Thanks again, and now that the commenting jinn has disappeared or been tamed I hope you will comment more often, and for sure on Part II.
October 29, 2009 9:31 PM

Chiara said...

All--please keep the discussion on this important topic going, and if you are reading and haven't commented yet, please chime in. I look forward to everyone sharing their thoughts.
October 29, 2009 10:46 PM

Medina said...

Thanks Chiara for your reply. I would like also to add that some bloggers use provocative titles to capture more readers and to spark the debate. They act according to the saying “nobody listens to you unless you say something wrong” LOL.
October 30, 2009 6:06 AM

Chiara said...

Medina--good point. The choice of titles, images, videos, and links can be used to provoke inflammatory responses rather than just stimulate responsible debate. This can be quite subtle or rather blatant. It is one thing to want to capture attention, or add colour and depth to an article, and another to passive aggressively tweak people, or indirectly advance a consistent agenda (rather than just an announced focus) of the blog.
October 30, 2009 3:50 PM

Anthrogeek 10 said...

What are your ideas about blogging ethics?
What ethics do you think apply in the blogs you own or frequent?

Thanks for the post Chiara. As for my own blog, I do not post as often or as deeply as I would like but when I do, I believe I have a responsibility to respect others (those I write about and those who comment about my posts). That said, I don't ever want to feel like I am walking on eggshells in fear of offending someone. We will always offend someone no matter what. There will always be some closed minded people in this world. Following the code of ethics you have outlined will tend to generate positive responses from others.

How important are blogging ethics to the quality of your experience of a blog?

Your ethics list reminded me of the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics list. Not in it's entirety of course but in general. Especially the do no harm clause.

I believe that ethics is of great importance in my own blog and those I visit on occassion. The quality of writing and level of respect the owner has for the topic of choice and others will make it or break it for me. I do nto have time to play games and to read nonsense. I only frequent quality blogs where I find I can learn something new about Islam/ME/NA/culture, meet new women to befriend and maybe enjoy a bit of healthy debate.

In my view, debates are not necessarily bad it is how much respect people have for one another's viewpoint. That said, I admit, I have no tolerance for intolerance and not just related to Islam or the Arab speaking world. I will not apologize for that and will offend someone
for sure by what I will say. I still believe that I am ethical if I shoot down the beliefs of intolerant and ignorant people.

How do personal ethics apply to blogging ethics?

See above....
Always think before posting is what I try and do!

How does blogging etiquette contribute to blogging ethics?

These two go hand and hand I think. Being ethical will naturally lend itself to having etiquette and respecting others.

anthrogeek10 (who has a 5 hour study session ahead of her today!).
Any other thoughts, comments, ideas?
November 1, 2009 7:00 PM

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--Thank you for your thoughtful and substantive comment. Indeed I have always found your blogging and commenting practices highly ethical, including your proper citation and attribution of a quote from me on Saudi Woman's Weblog as the basis of your most recent post:

Great topic and pic btw!

You are right that personal and professional ethics impact on ethics in the blogosphere and people lead by example.

I am glad you are making some time and I look forward to future comments from you. Good studying!
November 3, 2009 2:41 AM

Nzingha said...

people are who they are and often times being online makes them believe they can show their 'truer' selves no matter how ugly because of the anon aspect of it all. Ugliness exists even in people and I know that. Having it out there exposed and known is ok with me.. I'd rather know it than have someone smile in my face all the time cuss me like a dog in private, to others, or even in their mind while I'm right there.

I think many who comment on blogs seem to forget you only get a piece of a person, their view, their life, their world on a blog. Not all of it and often times not the whole story but only pieces a person is willing to share. Sure I've been called a spoiled B on my blog and a few others things :) bother me.. not really because I know who I am. But what I find interesting with such comments is that those who want to insult me with superior attitudes is not something I would consider doing on someones blog. So who is on the short end of the stick in reality?

As for having personal ethics as a blogger, I'm not going to do on my blog what I won't do in real life. I don't say things I don't say to all who listen in real life. I am who I am.. good and bad blog or not :)
November 3, 2009 9:11 PM

Chiara said...

Nzingha--thanks for your comment and usual practical wisdom. What I find interesting is some people just seem to need to vent or attack someone,anyone. Often the attacker will just keep throwing mud until something sticks, or make alternate equally false totally opposite accusations. In fact this happens in real life too, and the strategies and topics are usually the same, with the edge of anonymity. The truly vile should remember that most laws which apply in the real world, apply on the net. Their freedom of speech is not totally free. Thanks again!
November 5, 2009 11:53 PM

Wgaw said...

Good post. You might be interested in joining this group:
November 7, 2009 4:21 PM

Chiara said...

Wgaw--Welcome and thank you for your comment. Nice blog and blog roll you have! I rediscover some long lost favourites! I hope you will comment on older and newer posts!
November 7, 2009 9:21 PM

Shirley Dockerill said...

Glad the link to ethics in blogging was useful ... and also glad you liked my blog :-) Well done on such a great article.
November 8, 2009 9:34 AM

Chiara said...

Shirley--You are welcome, and thanks!
November 8, 2009 11:32 PM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

First of all, I have to apologize for not being able to comment on this great post any earlier.
It's one of the most informative and interesting posts that I've read on the internet and i will definitely read it again and again. I might even give to my students for a class discussion.
I'd also like to thank you Chiara for mentioning my name although I'm still relatively new in the world of blogging.
The definition of ethics at the beginning of the post shows that we - in spite of our different religions and beliefs- share the same ethics. However, the problem remains in how one applies those ethics. Another problem occurs when some practice those ethics only with those whom they think their equal (socially, politically, or economically).

and i have to admit that it is hard for us to be ethical all the time, yet the most important thing is that we thrive to express our opinions in the least offensive manner.

Thanks a lot Chiara.
November 21, 2009 4:36 AM

Chiara said...

Maha--thank you for your thoughtful comment and kind words, and for persisting in making sure it appeared here. I am delighted to know you find this useful enough to discuss with your students. Certainly there is much crossover with academic ethics too.

Indeed, none of us is perfect, but we can hope to do better and to learn ethical behaviours in fields new to us, including blogging.

Your point about choosing differential behaviours depending on the other person's socio-economic status reminded me of 2 texts: the Prophet's Last Sermon,; and, paradoxically, George Orwell's Animal Farm where there is pretense to equality, yet "Some are more equal than others".
November 23, 2009 10:34 PM


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