Coming up with a “code of ethics” for bloggers makes about as much sense as coming up with a code of ethics for people who say things. The diversity of blogs makes a code of ethics not even a pipe dream but a pipe nightmare.
We in fact do have some ethical expectations for people who say things. We expect you not to lie (without good cause), to let us know if you know you’re unreasonably biased (e.g., “Of course, that company does pay my salary” or “But, I was married to her for six years, so maybe that’s biased me”), and be capable of responding to a well-intentioned question without socking us in the nose. We don’t need a Code of Good Talking to formalize that. Rather, those are the conditions that enable us to converse in the first place.
There are some facts about blogs that pertain pretty generally, and those facts — features of the landscape, if you prefer — give rise to what I think are some reasonable ethical expectations. For example:
|Fact||Ethical rule of thumb|
|Blog posts are persistent||Correct errors because erroneous posts may be around for many years.|
|Blog posts get linked to by others||When you change a post, indicate that you have done so to prevent posts linked to it from becoming incomprehensible.|
|Posts may be read by people who don’t know who you are||Unless there is some reason not to, provide some contextual information about who you are, or who your pseudonym is.|
|Someone may find a single post via a link and have no further context||Be transparent about relationships that may influence you, perhaps by providing a persistent link to a disclosure statement of some sort.|
|The common ground between the author and commenters may be unknown||Respond in a way that tries to find the common ground rather than assuming there is none.|
Nothing too surprising in this list of rules of thumb, of course. It’s the tie back to facts that interests me. Is doesn’t imply Ought, but Is whips Ought into condition.