A Word on Blog Responsibility

Not too long ago, I had a chance to talk to someone about the general topic of the power of the blog to change lives, and it really has me thinking.

I’ve been a Metblogger now for a quite a while. I also have my own blog and a blog about restaurants I contribute to. My general feeling on blogging is that it’s kind of a way to share my thoughts with the world. The thoughts are sometimes poorly formed and poorly conceived, imperfect in a way that reflects me, an imperfect person. And, until that recent conversation, I really didn’t see the difficulty with that.

But there’s a power to the blog, and the blogger, that needs to be understood and, ultimately, respected by the person wielding it. I write about a lot of stuff. Sports, government, restaurants and what-not. Lots of what-not, in fact. And, for some reason, people give me some credence.

These people don’t know me. They don’t have any real reason to trust me. They’ve never sized me up in a personal conversation, or really pressed me hard on where my thoughts come from. That’s bad for them, because if you don’t examine the source that you’re taking these things away from, you may accept ideas that are, on the whole, unacceptable. That’s bad for me, because I end up not fully thinking through what I’m putting out there for public consumption, and I end up sharing thoughts that really don’t merit being shared.

A lot of people call B.S. on me. But not enough of them. And that hurts everyone.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say to you, other than in reading our Metblog posts, consider the source. Don’t take anything we say as authoritative in any way, unless we offer a clear and compelling reason to do so. And even then, question what you read.

For my part, I’m reconsidering what it means to be a blogger, and what thoughts I should (and shouldn’t) share in the process. We bloggers, all of us, need to understand that we aren’t in a vaccuum, and as we throw our words out into the ether, they always land somewhere, sometimes lightly, and sometimes with a thud. For those who’ve been hurt by rocks hurled from my keyboard, I am sorry.

In the end, remember that I, as a blogger, don’t really have any greater authority than you. Take what I say with a grain of salt. And, in exchange, I’ll not to throw anything heavier than one.

10 Comments so far

  1. RAH (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

    Yes, *but*…

    Since you’ve been given this platform on this web site as someone who can post articles, it does confer a bit of authority on you that the rest of the vast unwashed don’t have.

  2. Rusty (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

    A valid *but*. Whether that authority is actually deserved isn’t something that people often think through, and that, I suppose, is a large point of my post. I guess that’s a media-wide issue: people grant authority on those talking to them, by virtue, to a large extent, of the fact that the person is simply willing to share.

    But people listened to Hitler, too, and granted him authority because he was willing to spout off. I don’t think I’m Hitler, or that any of the Metbloggers are Hitler, but I do think that simply accepting what we say without examining it is problematic.

    And my issue isn’t with all readers. A lot of people read what I right and realize that I’m a blow-hard. It’s the people who find something I write while doing random Google searches (like, for instance, on my own blog, where I wrote about Jason Whitlock a couple of weeks ago, which has netted me a TON of traffic, despite the fact that I only know what I know of Jason Whitlock from about 35 minutes worth of reading up on him) and decide to rely on that who I’m most concerned with. Because, for all I know, they think I’m a Jason Whitlock guru. And that isn’t fair to Jason Whitlock, nor to the person who’s using my limited perspective to learn more about him…

  3. no one in particular (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

    Are you the first person to invoke Godwin’s Law on himself?

  4. Rusty (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

    Depends. What is it?

  5. natty (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

    ummmmmm…you write on your blog because you want to share ‘something’ with the world: your audience. your audience should know that whatever blog world they enter that it is at their own discretion. isn’t it known that you, the reader, should KNOW that a blog is nothing more than shared information and to be taken with a grain of salt. was this blog entry created JUST to get a rise out of people? not sure what the point here was. just continue sharing, throwing out hopscotch sitings and stories about where’s the beef, are totally my favorites. ;)

  6. no one in particular (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

    Godwin’s Law says “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one”.


    Usually, though, you’re comparing someone else to Hitler. Yours is the first I’ve seen where the writer compares himself to Hitler. Ha.

  7. Rusty (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

    Nat – I guess part of my point is that, with blogs, “discretion” can be lacking. On the part of the reader and, just as importantly (in fact, maybe more), the writer. Especially when our subject matter isn’t self-selecting. They don’t have the benefit of any discretion except that of the authors. I’m not trying to stir the pot. I’m just attempting to insert some caution in a process which, for me at least, could use it.

    In terms of this Godwin fellow, the law is interesting. I’d dispute it if I hadn’t just provided proof…

  8. warner (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 8:40 am

    Rusty, I think I get your point here, and I appreciate your caution to us readers. I have my regular tour of blogs each day, with this one being the first on my list. So I think I understand what you’re saying. Yes we “should” know we need to take blogs with a grain of salt, but “should” is a concept that is not always obvious. And it doesn’t hurt to remind people. So thanks, and keep on doing what you do. And the same to the rest of the Metrobloggers.

  9. natty (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 9:37 am

    i didn’t mean to come off as if ‘why are you telling us this?’ i guess, i wish we could all just soak in information via whichever blog you read from and just take it for what it is. but this is the idealist in me. the metroblog is one of my top 5 blogs that i check on a daily basis. keep up the good work. natty

  10. extramsg (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 11:54 am

    I’ll always be willing to say you’re full of shit. Feel better?

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