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March 29, 2006

On a blog note:

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Blogs may not be having a good week, but they sure are getting a lot of press. It’s only Tuesday and so far they’re housing rants, being subjected to rules, getting people in trouble, getting ripped off and accidentally being deleted. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the sword never got this much action.

It all started on Sunday when Robert Scoble heatedly responded to a Vista Office blog entry that incorrectly reported Windows Vista would need to have 60 percent of its code rewritten before launch. Adding insult to injury, other outlets then began reporting the same false news citing the Vista blog as their source. The blatant disregard for fact was all it took for an irritated Robert Scoble to fly off the handle. Scoble scolded the rising number of non-credible news sources and those that link to them, calling out bloggers who show little regard for the truth when reporting, and even referred to two individuals as ‘jerks’.

Yes, you read that right. Microsoft’s ‘technical evangelist’ did resort to calling people ‘jerks’ on his blog. Tact aside, Scoble’s article was a passionate response to what happens when journalists deem unreliable sources trustworthy and mimic them without doing their own research.

Scoble’s rant ignited of storm backlash (as well as supporters and cartoon strips) from the blogger community, including those demanding his termination. Scoble later apologized for his rant, but still maintained the heart of his post.

On the heels of the public meltdown, business writer Nicholas Carr opted to use Scoble’s rant as a case study for why corporations shouldn’t let their employee’s blog. Carr attempted to portray Scoble as a bully in his post entitled, Seven Rules for Corporate Bloggers. Number one on Carr’s list: Don’t do it.

“If you have no compelling business reason to get involved in the blogosphere, then don’t… If you give bloggers too much freedom, they may “go native” and tarnish your reputation by writing something stupid.”

Based on Carr’s rules, it’s clear he views blog solely as a business tool. Personally, I think he’s missing the point. (You know – a chance to connect with readers, give a sometimes-menacing corporation a human face, etc.)

But the blog drama didn’t end there. Soon after reports came out that popular Washington Post blogger Ben Domenech resigned after ramped speculation that he plagiarized material he authored for various publications. Domenech wasn’t able to aptly defend himself and opted to leave voluntarily before being fired. With the word ‘plagiarism’ floating around the blogosphere, you knew it wouldn’t be long before it found its next victim.

Then came the Huffington Post’s report that the AP stole a story off Rawstory.com and actually admitted they didn’t feel the need to cite it because it was lifted off a blog – once again reinforcing that bloggers are second-hand citizens.

So what is it then? Should bloggers (like Scoble) be accountable for what they say, or are they irrelevant entities that merely serve as a feeding ground for mainstream media looking for an angle?

Larisa Alexandrovna of Huffington Post remarked:

“What we are or are not is frankly irrelevant. What is relevant is that by using a term like blog to somehow excuse plagiarism, the mainstream press continues to lower the bar for acceptable behavior. It need not matter where the AP got the information, research, and actual wording from. What matters is that if they use it in part or in whole, they must attribute properly. A blog or a small press publication or grads students working in the corner of a library all equally deserve credit for their work, period.”

Amen.

Oh, and then there was the news yesterday that Google accidentally deleted their official blog. Blogger Project Manager Jason Goldman promises the deletion was Google’s error and not the result of someone hacking into Google’s system. Whatever the case, not to worry, kind soul Trey Philips noticed the error and reregistered the domain before nefarious spammers could do evil, and politely handed it back to Google. It could have been worse for Google; they could have deleted the whole Internet.





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