Following another link from Matt (I need to get a counter), I stumbled across some weblog ethics by Rebecca Blood over at Rebecca’s Pocket. I have to say that I agree with the points raised in the article, indeed many don’t just relate to weblogs but forums as well.
I have often found myself on forums where someone has answered a question with what sounds like fact, from the tone, sometimes from the words. Then someone else will come along and know the correct answer (or that the one posted is wrong) and they correct it, set the record straight. All is well because at least the person requesting help has the right answer in the end, but what about the times when someone who knows the truth doesn’t come along? Then that person is acting on false information. My general rule is, if I don’t know what I’m saying is fact, I say so, or I don’t say anything at all.
This attitude has come to my blog, I often post articles or blog entries that are long and filled with my emotion on a subject, most contain my views and opinions on a subject, but I always try and find information to back up my accusations. Sometimes I stumble across half-remembered memories of things that will back up a point during the process of writing a post, so I then head off into the ether to find sources that will support me, I try not to just state something as fact without justification, unless it is commonly known. These links also serve the extra purpose of providing greater depths for people who are interested in the topic I’m babbling about.
This also helps me be confident when I stand behind my article, prepared to defend my points unless someone finds an error. I love a good argument, as long as it’s with people that back themselves up with facts and are prepared to concede when they’re proven wrong, as I am. Zealots who won’t listen no matter how many times you back something up, on the other hand, are just a pain in the arse. I’m always prepared to listen and take on board new views and information.
Unfortunately other people don’t always follow these ethics, which means that anyone visiting their sites, seeing statements written down, take it as gospel, for want of a better description. The written word holds a great deal of weight, we’re used to it being used to convey things of importance. Newspapers, books, magazines, academic papers, etc, all are delivered via the written word, and all, because of cost, editorial control and their permanent nature, are of a high standard (normally). This has trained us to take it as an authoritative medium and has been extended to the web as a whole, and weblogs as a sub-category thereof. Writing without thinking and without checking your facts means people mistakenly take that information as the truth. This irks me somewhat (as you may have guessed), to these people I would say: Do the work, check your stuff and try and be as accurate as possible, otherwise, make sure you state your uncertainty.
While on Rebecca’s site I came across Ten Tips for a Better Weblog, they’re simple, but a great read for novice bloggers, certainly gives you something to think about and helps you avoid easy mistakes. Me, well, I started without a clue, still haven’t got one, I found my own way, as I do with most things, I write what I like about what I like, it tickles me that some people may enjoy reading it, but I’m not sure it would stop me writing it if my web stats were showing no one was coming.