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Blogging Media News Technology

Bring The Girls Back

nigerian girls

The kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls has caused outrage across the world, and thousands of websites have articles about this event. The articles are illustrated by photos of the girls, or of girls anyway, and it is the use of these photos that I want to address today.

If you do a search on the story you find many many photos, and many different stories. But the truth about these photos is that many of them are not photos of the girls in this school. Now we might say oh yes the photos are just to make the post look nice, for effect, an African school child crying to help the cause. But I think we should go further than this, they are real people and they are being exploited, it is misrepresentation.

If we start with this article from the New York Times we read an interview with a photographer who took some of the pictures that have “gone viral” in the publicity surrounding the Nigeria girls. The photographs were used for the Bring Back our Girls twitter campaign, and I am not for any moment suggesting that the campaign has anything but good motives, but the people in the photos have nothing to do with the school, the girls or even Nigeria.

The girls live in Guinea-Bissau, which is like using a school girl from London to show the degradation of inner city Milan. It is misrepresentation. These girls have families and lives of their own, suddenly they represent the horror of kidnapping and possibly slavery or forced marriage, how would you like it if it was your daughter or sister (or mum, the photos could be old)?

And also the misrepresentation goes further. The author of the images did not want to show these horrors, she wanted to show the beauty of the child, or many other aspects of the composition. She finds her photo used to depict something that it was never meant to be, and with the possible addition of a few ‘photoshopped’ tears anything is possible.

If we go to the Facebook page of the same organization we find a series of schoolgirl photos, but they are all very different. In one we see a group of girls in Muslim dress in a poor rural school, but in the next we see a well cared for classroom with a shelf full of DVD’s Christmas decorations and girls dressed in school uniforms. Which one really represents the realities that these girls live in?

If we go to this Nigerian site we see another group of once again differently dressed girls and women in a much less rural setting that that depicted in the only photo from the Facebook page that contains any information at all, a photo of the school sign that the girls were taken from. My understanding of this area of Nigeria leads me to assume that this is a completely false depiction too, just another group of girls (possibly) walking to school somewhere (maybe) in Nigeria.
And I don’t want to go on but the list is endless, hundreds of photos of African schoolgirls.

Now I don’t want to come across as too critical here, I am a blogger and writer myself as you know and I put images into my stories. I am sure NASA would not be too pleased if some jumped up blogger was using on of their images to demonstrate the problem of space junk, but is that the same as using photos of real people doing things that really are not related to the story in question, particularly when the story is as terrible as this one? I am sure that all of the people that have written these stories have done so for the right reasons, we all want to get the girls back, and the Internet is our means, but we must try not to do it at the expense of falsely depicting others.

I have another post here you might like to read about mistaken identity through the circulation of a photo via digital media, the story contains many similarities.

Categories
Blogging

Writing frequency

Today I pose a question: is it possible to blog on a daily basis?

It is easy to ‘scrape’ content on a daily basis, but can you write and publish a really good post every day? Jonny seems to have publishing weekly down to a tee, every week we get something new and thought provoking. 4 to 5 posts each month, every month.

I have a more erratic style of publishing, 2 posts in January, 5 in December, 1 in November, 3 in October, 5 in September, none in August – you get the picture.

I like to spend a lot of time on articles. I usually do a lot of research and background reading to try and put together an interesting, factually sound piece of work. I am a little bit of a perfectionist, which is sometimes really good, but it can be annoying. If I care about something, I like to put a lot of work into it. I care for this blog, so I want every post to be really good. Not every post I publish has or will be really good. I need to face the facts.

So, I as I am writing this I am setting myself a challenge. Write an article at least once a week and hit publish. No faffing around, just write a post and publish it every Monday.

A blog needs posts. I need to be consistent.

See you next Monday.

Over and out.

Categories
Blogging Internet Media News Social Media Technology

How Much Freedom Does the Internet Bring You?

On the surface Internet living seems to bring a great deal of freedom to many different parties. Last month for example I posted from the USA, Italy and the UK, we can work from home, buy direct and have access to all kinds of information.

This might make us feel that the web itself creates freedom, or that it is free to operate as we wish. I am not so sure that this is the whole story however, and others agree.

How much freedom of speech really exists?
How much freedom of speech really exists?

Last week Security technologist Bruce Schneier gave a talk as part of the TEDx Cambridge series. Schneider is very interested in security and perceptions of security as this previous TED video shows, but last week’s talk was different.

He took the problem of Internet freedom as his topic, and raised some very interesting arguments. The following quotes are taken from his speech as reported on our local Boston.com website:

“Which type of power dominates the coming decades? Right now it looks like traditional power. It’s much easier for the NSA to spy on everyone than it is for anyone to maintain privacy. China has an easier time blocking content than its citizens have getting around those blocks.”

We can see that there is some evidence to support this case, if we look at this article that appeared in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. It recounts the tale of Google pulling out of China because they no longer wanted to censor their searches. Google chose to redirect users to their non censored search engine based in Hong Kong. The Chinese government managed to block the results anyway, so users were left in the same position as before, no access to the information.

If we take a broader look though we find that it is not just China but other countries that are making repeated requests for Google to censor their content. CNN report the revelations of the recent Google Transparency report, where Canada, France, the UK and the USA feature strongly in the league of requested censorship. The report is here, easy to follow and a 5 minute thumb through might change your ideas regarding freedom and regulation on the web.

Just yesterday Linkedin announced that they challenging the US government over data requests. US organizations are allowed to publish the total number of data requests, but cannot break the figure down to reveal the number made by security services. Linkedin say this legal situation makes no sense, and many other companies agree. Read about it here.

“Cyber criminals can rob more people more quickly than real-world criminals, digital pirates can make more copies of more movies more quickly than their analog ancestors. And we’ll see it in the future. 3D printers mean control debates are soon going to involve guns and not movies.”

Just this week The Independent ran a story about Europe’s criminal intelligence agency that is fighting unprecedented levels of crime across several fronts as gangs capitalise on new technology. We are not talking about a few individuals hacking into the odd bank account here and there, we are looking at the new form of organized crime. A multi billion dollar industry in Europe alone.

The gun reference is of course to the distribution of plans for a 3D printer manufactured gun. Read about it here.

Caution in cases of political dissent
Caution in cases of political dissent

Much has been written about how Facebook and other interfaces have the power to democratize society, and their potential to promote revolution. The so-called Arab Spring is often given as an example, but as well as dissidents using Facebook to organize protests, the Syrian and other governments also used Facebook to identify and arrest dissidents.

There are plenty of examples. Here is an article about 3 Moroccan activists who were arrested for their comments criticizing governments at that time. One used a Wikileaks type platform, another Facebook and the third Youtube. They were all arrested and charged with various and sometimes unrelated crimes.

I wonder where they are now?

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Blogging Fun WordPress

My First Year as a Technology Blogger

Last week was my blogger birthday, on Friday I was one year old. Once I had decided to start writing I had to look for a place to publish. As always I started with Google.

I wanted to write about innovation and technology but from the particular point of view of ethics and responsibility, so I chose my list of search terms. Technology had to be in there, as did blog or blogger, maybe science too, so in they all went.

Several blogs came out, Technology Blogs being the first, followed by Technology Bloggers, a relatively new website in those days. I had a look at the content and the rules of engagement and decided that I should try with them.

And here was my first lesson. I found this blog because of its name. I had never even been on a blog let alone post a comment, so Tech Crunch, Technocrati and the others were not in my vocabulary, nor my search terms. If you want people to find your blog you should choose the name well.

Author Jonny Hankins
Here I am (without make-up)

As I said I was new to the business, I had never used WordPress and never posted anything. Although I had published on the net I had never done it myself, the Foundation that employs me has a Webmaster so I was never allowed to touch the controls myself.

This factor was not a problem in my first posts. I managed to get the body of the text uploaded and Christopher from Admin did the rest. After a couple of months the very same Christopher asked me if I would like to apply for author status. What this means to the uninitiated is you get your hands on the controls.

It took several attempts I might add to get a grasp of them. One problem is the language, norms and technicalities. Tags, links in the piece, correctly titled and opening in new windows, pictures with the right links, excerpts and categories to decide and formulate.

Fortunately Christopher is a patient and gallant man, so one error at a time and over a period of a couple of months I made less and less mistakes, and now I can do it myself.

I really enjoyed my first posts, I started with the problems created by improvements in prosthetic limb technology, they might actually be better than the natural version.

A rather ironic post followed about US immigration and then I got down to some serious and regular writing.

4 months after my first post Christopher suggested the possibility of writing a series, so I opted for a 6 week long series about the health of the planet. At this point I began to triangulate my blog writing with my work and include links to several articles that were posted on my work site. I also produced an Issuu booklet using both my work and the Technology Bloggers logos.

I have continued to link my different communication forms together as it seems advantageous to all concerned. My work website benefits from readers that follow the links here and likewise in reverse. I have also written a few articles for an innovation blog called Innovation Excellence, and although the topics are different they are related enough to allow links to the other portals, and again all benefit.

The series took a lot of work, but once it was finished I did not want to fall out of the weekly routine so I continued to write every week. My posts have in general got shorter, partly through necessity but also through choice. I can cover a lot of different subject matter and ask questions in a few hundred words that I would have wound into much more complex pieces a few months ago.

Comments are the thing that make blogging so interesting a pastime. I always try to reply to as many as possible. Sometimes though I write something that receives very few comments and this disappoints me. They are often posts that refer to complex debates however and not easy to comment on, given the format of the comment system.

This is my 39th article for technology Bloggers, a fair body of work if put together and an enjoyable project. If anyone reading this is thinking or has ever thought about writing I would personally urge you on. It is very satisfying when someone takes the time to read your production and comment upon it.

Roll on another year and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment, and to Christopher for the patience, encouragement and expertise.

Categories
Blogging

Good blogging practice – publishing reliable information

The web is massive bank of data, which is far too big to be regulated. Because the web can’t be regulated, it is very easy for false information to spread – fast.

If you are a blogger, it is really important that you publish information which is reliable and trustworthy. Don’t copy what the crowd says unless you know they are right, as this is not only misleading to your readers, but can also see you get penalties dished out from search engines. If you get a reputation for publishing unreliable content, the likelyhood is that your readership will fall.

When you publish something that you have found out elsewhere, you need to make sure that it is accurate and reliable, before you publish it.

How to Mythbust Rumours

When you find information, on the web, in order to ensure that it is reliable, it is always a good idea to check that it appears elsewhere. A general rule of thumb is to check that what you are reading is the same on 3 other sites, one of which is a highly reputable site.

So what is a reputable website?

Government Websites

There are a few way so to identify if a site is reputable or not. One way is to see if it is a government website. Any site which is government run is likely to be very reputable. Government websites usually end in their own unique domain name extension. If you live in the USA, government sites end in .gov or .fed.us, in the UK .gov.uk, in France .gouv.fr, .gc.ca for Canada, India’s extension is .gov.in and the list goes on.

Major News Corporations

Government sites won’t always report things that you want to verify though, so there are other ways to tell a reputable sites. Big news websites like BBC.co.uk/News and Guardian.co.uk will usually only publish information that is factual and accurate, so you can usually trust them.

The Guardian's logoThe information they publish is likely to be accurate, however it may not be impartial, so that is something to watch out for. Often news firms will take a political side, and therefore report news in a certain way – and may only publish part of a story.

High PageRank Sites

Google PageRank is calculated largely by the number of backlinks a page or site has. If a website has a very high PageRank (6+) then it is likely that it has a lot of other sites linking to it, most probably because it publishes a lot of high quality content, which people find useful and therefore link back to. High PageRank sites aren’t always trustworthy, but the higher up the spectrum of PageRank you go, the less likely it is that a site is going to be providing false information.

If a website is a PageRank 8, 9 0r 10, unless they have manipulated Google’s algorithm (through black hat SEO, which will only work for a short while, before Google catches them) then the site is likely to be extremely reliable and reputable, therefore you should be able to trust the information, data and facts that they produce.

1,000,000 to 1

If 1 highly reputable site is saying one thing, but 1 million other (not reputable) sites are saying another another, then the chances are that the 1,000,000 sites are just recycling the same false information, creating a massive bank of false information. This is one reason why you should be really careful who you trust on the web, and also make sure that you verify information with at least one reputable site. Be careful who you trust.

Academic Research

Verifying information with at least 3 sources, one of which is reputable is something which is also advised in academic research. Therefore if you use the same standards on your blog, you can’t go wrong! Search engines and readers alike will respect you for providing good quality, highly reputable content.

Technology Bloggers Policy

Every time I write an article and quote information/statistics etc. I always try to follow the 3 and 1 rule: check the information appears on 3 other sites, at least one of which is ‘reputable’. This means that everything I write should be reputable.

The post guidelines ask all writers to ensure they use the 3 and 1 rule, however we cannot guarantee that all writers do. In our Privacy Policy, we state how we try to ensure all content is true and factual, however it is always advisable to independently verify information for yourself.

Do You Verify Your Content?

Do you always try to ensure that you use the 3 and 1 rule when publishing information? That not only applies to blog posts, but also to comments. If not what measures do you use, or don’t you think it really matters?

Categories
Blogging How To Guides

Innovative ideas to spice up your blog posts

Change is inevitable, latest technologies, trends; methods are being introduced in blogging every day. Everyone has their own small tips and tricks to make the blogging experience more enjoyable and successful also. There is a lot of competition in blogging, to match that bloggers need to make more innovative posts, promote them and do many such other thing to be in top in the race.

But there are few things are which are evergreen i.e. fool proof methods to get success in blogging. Here are a few techniques that I believe are evergreen blog posts ideas which never fail:

A hand drawing a light bulb

Spice It Up – Add Some Controversy

Give your readers what they want; yes everyone wants some spice added to their life. So if you are looking for a good response then controversy is the answer. Write an article about hot topics, which people are opinionated about, therefore are likely to get drawn in, read your article, and then comment, hopefully with a fiery response!

Furthermore, if you post something which everyone likes then they are likely to share it with their friends, on their social network profiles. But being a professional blogger one need to know where to draw the line, do not post anything which hurts someones emotions and sentiments.

Be controversial, challenge beliefs and ways of doing things, but do your best not to offend anyone. A good way to do this is to stress that your view, or the perspective you are writing from, is just one view.

Be Honest – Tell a Story With a Moral

If it is a personal blog, share some of your life experiences, good or bad and let your readers know what you have learned from them. Everybody loves to listen to real stories, so your post will engage your readers and also encourage some to share similar life experiences in their comment.

Share Good Resources

Once in a while you can share a list of articles about popular subjects. You do not necessarily need to go in depth; just post a clean list, which will help your readers to find great resources that you too find valuable. In this you will please your visitors, and will surely find many coming back to your site in search of more useful content.

Talk About Others Also

Share with your readers what interest you. Share with them those interesting sites and blogs which you follow or read regularly. This post of your make them appreciate you more. This way you can ask for link back from the sites you have mentioned in your post.

Use Mix of Text, Images and Videos

It’s not advisable only to make text only post on your blog that tends to get boring at sometime. So add interactive images, even videos to make your post interesting. You can also record a video of the topic you want to share with your readers and use as your blog post. Saying your thing personally with your readers adds that personal touch to your post and builds more personal connection between you and your readers.

Happy Blogging!

Categories
Blogging

The top 5 mistakes I have made in blogging

About a year ago, I started blogging on a niche topic, hoping to earn some income from it just like many other bloggers out there today. However, nothing comes easy and I have been through a lot in that one year period. In this entry, I would like to share the pain when I started out, by telling you the five biggest mistakes I made.

1. Meaningless domain name

I started out by naming my blog and want to find a domain name as close as possible to the name of my blog. On top of that, I have the fear as well to have a long domain name because it is difficult to remember. As a result, I ended up creating a totally meaningless domain name which I still have the regret today. People find it hard to determine the niche of my site just by reading the domain name. The lesson learned here is to have a domain name which can represent your niche as close as possible.

2. No keyword research

Wrong!After I had gained some experience in blogging and internet marketing, I begin to realize the importance of keyword research. It does not only help you to define the objective of your blog, but also identify your competitors. Keyword research can be pretty boring and that is why I made a mistake to skip it first, research later. The lesson which I learned here is to research first, write later.

3. A niche topic without focus

My niche is IT security and I know that I am going to write about security. Why is that not good enough? Because it is too general. During my first month, I had been writing everything about IT security such as news, tips and tricks, reviews, network security, computer security, internet security and many more. Readers that come to my blog can’t see the purpose of the existence of my blog and I think I failed terribly there. The lesson which I learned here is to start a topic in a very focused way, even if the target audience size is small and grow slowly from there.

4. Spamming dofollow backlinks

Everyone here knows the importance of “dofollow” links. In order for anyone of us to rank well in Google and other search engines, you have to build a lot of “dofollow” links. I build plenty of them from “dofollow” forums and none of them give me any boost in SEO. The lesson I learnt here is to spend more time writing quality content, which other bloggers will want to link to.

5. Started out with Blogspot

Have any of you tried migrating your blog from Blogspot to self-hosted WordPress? It is not really difficult but can take a lot of time to amend your previous posts to fit into your WordPress theme properly. If you really want to blog seriously, invest into web hosting and a domain name because they are not really that expensive.

What about your blogging mistakes? Have you done anything which you still regret today?

Categories
Blogging

Jonny’s 7 Links Challenge Response

Well first a big thanks to Christopher for nominating me for this 7 links challenge post, and I will get straight into it. I should say that a couple of my choices are more like web articles than blog posts because there is no way of commenting, but as this is how I got into blogging and because the vast majority of my posts have historically been in this format I include them nevertheless (apologies if this is bending the rules). Now at last anyone can comment upon them here and I am all ears.

The Lucky 7 strikes again

Most beautiful

My most beautiful post involved an interview with a member of the US Congress, Michael Capuano. Congressman Capuano represents Boston and Cambridge, home of MIT, Harvard University, Boston University and 30 other research institutions, and the ward once held by President Kennedy. I was interested in the politics that lie behind technological development, and as he represents more scientists and global research organizations than anyone else on the planet I wanted to speak to him.

My wife thought I had lost the plot as I started sending e mails to Congress, but as you can see I did get in touch with him, he granted me an interview and I posted the transcription in its entirety and wholly unedited on the Bassetti Foundation website (with his clearance).

Most popular

Without doubt my most popular posts are within the series I wrote here on Technology Bloggers about the environment. Some of the posts created a lot of discussion and all in all the series got more than 50 comments. Within the series I would have to say that ‘Engineering a Solution to Global Warming’ was the most popular, and it certainly stirred some debate.

Most controversial

Although it passed by relatively unnoticed (a bit off target for Technology Bloggers but posted anyway) I would say that my most controversial post was that about US immigration. The post talked about the fact that technology has allowed US borders to move overseas and many travelers now enter US jurisdiction in a foreign airport before even boarding the aircraft. The ethical and political implications seem to have gone unnoticed however by the general public.

Helpful

The most helpful post is about buying spyware on the net, again on the Bassetti Foundation website. I did not buy anything I might add, but used the post lots of times to provoke debate in the various Italian secondary schools I worked in as an English teacher. Among other more obvious products the post is about mobile phone technology that allows a person to listen in to another person’s conversation and receive copies of their texts. All you need is the box or serial number from your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband’s or anyone else’s phone.  You order the software over the Internet and it is downloaded directly into the phone (any smart phone will do) without the owner’s knowledge when they go online, and you spy. Some even allow you to listen to the surrounding area when the target phone is turned off using the inbuilt microphone. Not legal to use in most countries but legal to buy.

Surprisingly successful

My most surprisingly successful post involves an interview with Marta Milani, one of my ex students, also on the Bassetti Foundation site. Marta took up athletics while at school, and after leaving she became a member of the Italian Army athletics squad. I followed her career until one day I saw that she was competing in an international meeting where Oscar Pistorius (a South African athlete who races with 2 carbon fibre legs) was competing. I have an interest in prosthetics as one of my other posts here shows, one day having a new body part might seem a good idea, harder wearing, does not burn, stronger etc, it’s only like having a crown on a tooth or a new hip or knee after all. I tracked Marta down and interviewed her about the place of technology in sports. A couple of years later Marta managed to qualify for the World Championships and in an incredible result got to the semi-final. She will also be competing in the Olympics this year as current Italian champion over 400mtrs, and as a result my post gets a lot more readers than I ever imagined. Unfortunately the interview was conducted in Italian although the introduction and summary of the conversation is in English.

Underrated

Probably my first foray into blogging was and remains the most underrated post. Posted on the Bassetti Foundation website it did not receive any comments. The post is entitled ‘Drugs for People, Not for Profit’ and is a report on changes in how drugs companies conduct their business, the ethics and marketing involved in the production of new medicines and the falling rates of new patents.  It was is a complex post and took a lot of research (and reading) so I was rather disappointed, but I learnt from the process.

Excellent

Well I would have to say that I think my most excellent article appeared on the Innovation Excellence website in their blog entitled ‘Responsibility in the Processes of Innovation’. Although it didn’t receive any comments it was widely circulated, and I think that it is my best written to date. The article really looks like it could be published anywhere, it doesn’t look like a blog or even an online publication but resembles old school academia, and in fact I took the base from an entry in the Dictionary of Social Sciences about Responsible Innovation that refers to the foundation that employs me. I cannot take all the credit though as the piece is very much a joint effort, I translated the base article from Italian and expanded upon it.

Writing about your own work creates a strange sensation, particularly if you want to talk about it in glowing terms as required by some of the categories above, but it makes you think about your public voice. As I don’t know 5 other bloggers I am open to volunteers for nomination on my part, applications below.

Categories
Business Internet

Should You Create a Mobile Version of Your Website?

Chances are if you walk through your local town centre today, you’ll see somebody accessing the internet on their smart phone. It’s almost become a second nature.

Gone are the days of simple WAP access, people are now using their phones to browse their favourite websites and even shop online. In fact, it’s reported that netbook sales are down 40% so is this a sign that smartphones and tablets are overtaking PC’s as peoples preferred browsing method?

So should you create a mobile version of your website? In short, yes, and here’s some reasons why.

Mobile internet use is growing rapidly

According to some figures mobile internet access is now at 8.09% of all UK website traffic (up from 0.02% in 2009) so whether you like it or not, people are going to access your website from a mobile browser.

It’s not that difficult to create a mobile version

Of course it depends on how your website was built in the first place, but if it’s not archaic then usually incorporating what’s needed to make your website mobile friendly isn’t too difficult and doesn’t require starting from scratch.

Most websites don’t work well on mobiles

The fact is, the majority of websites don’t well on mobiles, in fact some of them are impossible to use, so it’s a great way to steal a competitive advantage and get in early ahead of others in your industry. That said, if you run WordPress or another blogging platform, there are plugins that can make your site ‘mobile friendly’.
Google's mobile website being used on an iPhone

Mobile users have different intent

When people use the internet on their phones, they usually have a different intent to a user sat at a PC. It’s usually on the move, and they don’t have much time, meaning they’re looking for something to solve a problem fast. If you do a quick search on mobile conversion rates for ecommerce you’ll find they’re very high. So if you design your site to cater for those needs you’re onto a winner.

It’s way more important than having an app

Since mobile apps became the latest novelty, many businesses have wasted good time and money on developing their own mobile application, of course these apps have their uses, but for the majority of businesses they are a waste of money and wallow at the bottom of the app store.

A mobile website doesn’t require separate development for Android, iPhone, Blackberry and doesn’t need promoting via an app store so is clearly a better choice for getting a return on investment.

Mobile browsing is still very new

Even though lot’s of people are browsing the internet via mobiles, it’s still a relatively new concept, and one that realistically can only every grow upwards due to how technology is advancing. Historically early adopters are the ones that reap the reward, so why wait till everyone else is a step ahead of you?

What about you?

How many of you have optimised your site for mobiles or considered it? Do you think it’s more important for blogs to or ecommerce sites to opimise for mobile? Or is it equally important for both?

Categories
Blogging Media

The State of the Blogosphere

Technocrati.com have recently published their State of the Bolgosphere 2011 report and it raises some interesting questions. The report is based upon a survey of 4114 bloggers around the world, and presents various statistics in easily readable graph format explaining who blogs and their stated reasons why and purposes.
A chalkboard expression of what a blog might be
I am one of the 30% over 44 year olds, with the majority being considerably younger than me and much more experienced. A small percentage treat blogging as their job, make an income from their posts or run a blog for their own business or employer. The vast majority do it as a hobby, in the main to express their expertise or interests. A major sector say that they just blog in order to speak their mind freely.
I am most interested in the professional category, and I in fact find myself somewhere within that group. I am not however paid to promote something, but to provoke discussion about the ethical implications and responsibility issues brought about by technological development, and one of my tools is blogging. My employer is also a non-profit research foundation, so the aim of making money is out of the equation.

Blogging is generally perceived as a pier to pier action, and the report cited above demonstrates that people trust blogs and bloggers, in many cases more that they trust other publishers. But what if we find people publishing reviews about services or products that they have a vested interest in? If I am paid by a company to review or promote their products can I be really honest in my views? And what about the breech of trust implied?

In the US the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) made a ruling in 2009 determining that bloggers have to state if they are paid for posts by an interested third party. If a blogger in the US does not state that they either receive the product to keep or are paid by someone to write the review they risk an 11000 dollar fine. In the UK the Office of Fair Trading also has extensive blogging disclosure rules. All well and good, but the report above states however that only 60% of people that find themselves in this position actually adhere to the rules, and the statistics are very likely to be skewed, as when a person is asked if they have respected the rules that almost always say yes.

How could this problem be addressed? The Technology Bloggers site refuses to publish anything that may be deemed promotion, the author guidelines are clear. But would it be possible for all blogs make this statement and enforce it, and if it were possible would they do it? The implications for trust and the spreading of reliable information are obvious.

Another issue I wish to raise involves advertising. The report offers various statistics about how many blogs have advertisement placings, before going on to analyze the reasons given either for not carrying or carrying advertising, the issue of control over who advertises and the possible financial rewards.

Here again we step into the issue of trust. If a blog has a reputation as offering reliable and quality information this reflects upon the company advertising. The placing is a two way endorsement. If advertising is not offered (as some may feel that it affects independent status or may not reflect the blogger’s ideals), how can a blog not only make money (if that is the aim) or even cover its expenses? Most bloggers sink their own money into setting up and running their blog, and if you add up the time spent in maintenance (and the administrators are undoubtedly experts in their field) each blog should be seen as a real investment in terms of many different forms of capital. You pay $120 an hour for such expertise in other fields!