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BloggerCon III: Core Values of the Web

November 11th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Highlights from the Core Values of the Web Session lead by Mary Hodder at BloggerCon III on Saturday November 6.

To summarize the session I would say that the discussion centered around three core issues:

  • Trust. How can we trust each other? What is the effect of anonymity on trust? How do we handle transgressions? How do financial interactions affect trust in blogging?
  • Linking. What is the value of linking? What does linking mean? Should people ask for links?
  • Creating a list of Core Values

    The issue of anonymity/blogging under a pseudonym was on my list of topics to discuss in the Emotional Life session. Since this session spent time on that topic, I chose to examine other angles. I think that the idea of the need or desire to be anonymous in a blog is one that surfaced in nearly every session I attended.

    I have never read the blog that was written by someone who was pretending to be a kid sick with leukemia. I’ve heard about the hoax: someone has mentioned it at each of the two BloggerCons I have attended. What does that indicate? How have these deceptive blogs affected our community? Or perhaps some would argue that people have a right to create a personality and use blogging as a tool for public performance at the expense of trust. I thought that this was an interesting observation I made between both BloggerCons I have attended. (II and III)

    Perhaps the issues of anonymity and trust would be good topics for a separate session themselves.

    I believe that the Web at its core is about community and that those who transgress will be discovered and censored in an organic way, simply through our interactions together. As others pointed out, failure happens in other places, such as the NYTimes. People break each other’s trust. It seems to be human nature. So the idea of other kinds of controls, an external enforcement regime, was not one that interested me at all. I don’t think that is what the Web or blogging should be about. I’m not sure that we could even categorize all blogs well into one centralized directory, as people suggested. Where would this blog fit?!

    Linking too could have been its own session. What do we think links mean? I suspect that bloggers with larger readerships or those who have been blogging longer have different perspectives from newbies. I believe that there are many emotions associated from linking, as Mary and Dave Winer’s interaction revealed. Is linking “love”? It certainly is often an expression of connection and appreciation. Some I met at the conference have linked to me and when I discover these links I do feel happy. However, what do we do when someone deletes a link? The right to link belongs to the blogger but there are emotions around linking that others feel.

    I think I had come expecting that we would make a list of core values, so the part I liked the most was when Mary started writing “good” and “bad” ones on the board. Perhaps another way to do the session would have been to begin with a list, perhaps a provocative or controversial one, and examine various values through discussion. I’m also not sure that we specifically came to a conclusion about what we should do if someone transgresses or breaks one of these core values. We ran out of time while creating the list and could have spent probably a whole session talking about the list. I also suspect that we don’t all subscribe to the same values or prioritize them identically.

    What intrigues me is the idea of what kinds of social cues we will create. The Web and blogging are evolving. At one point I raised my hand (but didn’t get a chance to speak) to say that I believe that our lack of social cues, as discussed earlier in the session, belonged in the “bad” list of core values. Speaking in person is more powerful than text (or voice). How can we compensate for what we are lacking on-line? Many times, I think, arguments and disagreements come due to this lack of cues. Perhaps video blogging, as someone in my session suggested, will be the evolution that helps restore more of the ways we communicate on-line. Or perhaps we will socially change our expectations for on-line relationships and interactions.

    In Emotional Life, following Mary’s, I left the list on the white board and at one point I referred to it. One topic people mentioned in my session was willingness to change and re-examine yourself. I believe that this too is a Core Value of the Web.

    I would have liked to have lead a session together with Mary. I think that our two topics overlapped and worked well together. She did a great job with a large group, trying to help everyone be heard. She listened but also questioned what was shared.

    The session on Core Values highlighted different needs for transparency, different uses for blogs and different values held by those creating the content. Ultimately I don’t think we can force people to make disclosures. I believe that blogging provides freedom and flexibility. Those who have certain values will congregate together, “birds of a feather” so to speak. We can’t force others to have our values. But discussing our values, our experiences, emotions and ideals, helps us see who we are in community, and draws us together through our differences. We need to talk about this and I think it is better to have some of these conversations in person where we can see each other’s social cues. Thank you, Mary, for leading a great session – and one that helped my session a lot too! 🙂

    Mary has posted her summary.

    Partial transcript of session notes follows…


    What I’ve written below is a partial transcript, my own notes from the session. I am publishing them here in case they are helpful to others. Please correct me if I have posted inaccurate quotes. Thanks.

    M = Session Leader Mary Hodder
    ? = Participant in the group (I didn’t catch the name)

    Session (or at least my notes) started with a discussion of transparency of identity.

    Someone suggested “anonymity is the default”. Also someone said .”…when we have ‘nymity’ we cease being anonymous”.

    Mary Hodder (abbreviated to M later):
    what do we need on-line to support that sort of value where he’s suggesting might occur…you can be really anonymous or maybe pseudonym…

    can we have a common set of social cues? a technological solution or say you know what we’re willing to live with this iffy situation

    at some point there is someone I have to trust, be it on-line or off-line….(CA Drivers License)

    Beyond maybe encryption – are there things we can do on our blogs that tell each other who we are….or is that just not possible…

    Ultimately the aggregation of what we write tells people what you are…you can keep up a lie…anyone can keep up a lie…but only with so many people…???

    is that at least enough to have some trust

    Susan Kitchens:
    remember Casey Dikok…high school girl who had leukemia..the whole thing was a hoax…MetaFilter was instrumental in investigating…

    that happens inevitably…the New York Times…there’s always going to be some level of failure..

    I’m someone who definitely wants to be in defense of anonymity…I have posted…my real name is sufficiently unique {Laudenheimer) that I don’t want some yo-yo burning something in my front yard because of something I wrote…if I post under my pseudonym…some people only know me by that pseudonym…you can’t look me up in the phone book by it….

    then you’re not anonymous any more…then

    If people post anonymously does that add any value to a site?’

    is registration the answer?

    ? :
    Registration isn’t the answer….people will do anything and everything in their power….if they are not getting value for their information….maybe another way to frame the conversation we’re having….I tink that’s what you’re hearing….when I post on my blog I absolutely want to know..I may want to be anonymous on-line…the mode of what I’m doing

    John Furrier:
    I don’t think it’s a problem with being anonymous..the authenticity of the content will drive the environment…if youi want to go to the combat zone of the web…you take your own risks….NYT today …is definitely there…

    Is there a way that we can figure out some mechanism…I have issues personally with for example top 100 lists that aggregate the most inbound links…even if someone is blogging anonymously, even if they’re the #1 blog, that doesn’t necessarily tell me whether I want to read that person.

    Greg Wolfe:
    I think the questions you raise about social cues on line are very important. I think we are very impoverished in the on-line world….I think that debate and the debate about anonymity…but the one question I think this is a good forum for this to address….what is the social contract between a blogger and their audience….and the people who comment on a blog…and the people who are distributing those blogs….I think there are a lot of implicit social contracts…all are operating on different< social contracts…that’s where you’ll see people get the most acrimonious…that’s where I’m going to feel betrayed…but if we can have one social contract that will cover the whole blogosphere…I’d really like to know what is the social contract that most people are operating under… M: one thing that I pointed out in the blog post a couple days ago…we have had this situation in the blogosphere…..a few people have had ads on their site…monetization models in some way…so we’ve had this “pure” situation, I think some of the tension In the conflict you’re describing…the social contracts you are describing…. Susan Mernit:
    I think the expectations for the blogosphere….I think that’s part of what’s important is open media and transparency…that you can be connected too…bloggers are not bound by any standard…and yet among what I would call professional bloggers, I’ve had some things happen that really upset me. There’s one guy who was really well known, and I found out that he was getting paid by a lot of the people whose products he was so enthusiastically supported…if he had said you know I’m working for X I would have looked at it completely differently….I’m not sure what to do about them…

    Doc Searls:
    …the notion of where are we doing this? I think that if we’re going to talk about core values, we need to look at what the core context for those values…I think it has to do with the Net itself…if you look at the way we talk about it…one says the content will come from a distribution system from distributers…the other says this is a place, a commons, something that is under construction in some cases….the first is a lot easier to regulate…the entire regime that the RIAA imposed on internet radio making that business almost impossible to occur….it’s about speech…the FCC will not regulate speech, they are regulating the distribution of content…the social contract we make…are the ones society makes…and I think it’s really important to take sides in this..there are peo[ple on the other side that want to regulate it, want to treat it (difference between podcasting and streaming)

    Niall Kennedy:
    how much disclosure do you really need? …or I can strip out that affiliate link and leave the pure product link…Amazon has come to represent the product market place…but there are also affiliate programs there….but it’s tough to know, are we really benefiting from this program….how much of a disclaimer do you need?

    Elisa Camahort:
    On the one hand, on my personal blog, I review….I put Amazon links and I make nothing off of it…and when I see a theater show where I know people I usually put a disclaimer, and I don’t think there’s much of an obligation ….on the other hand I do a blog for a theater….even when I’m talking on it, it’s clear….I think as long as I’m honest and it’s authentically me, I think that’s okay….I get paid for that theater blog but as long as I’m honest about it I don’t see there’s a problem…

    Frank Paynter:
    David Weinberger has a disclosure statement on his blog…a number of people have done that, they’ve put disclosure statements out, the idea of a reputation system really comes from the implicit community that comes from your blogroll and your work…it’s not all that easy…your live next door for someone for 2 to 3 years….

    I think what Larry [Lessig] said about the lawyers hashing away at the rights and freedoms of the web…once the blogosphere becomes a distribution system…you’ll attract people who see value in that…the value here is all about credibility….at some point we need to build into the process …and just agreeing it’s okay….if we debate too long and arrange the deck chairs..establish it now, then let them come….anonymous….I don’t go out and make decisions based on anonymous blogs….

    so today at lunch, Bob acknowledging that early on in new systems that norms get set and standards and it’s really important to think about what we care about in the beginning before things get too set

    Bob [Wyman?}:
    the issue is this: if you compare what’s happening in podcasting, an unsearcahable medium, compared to est, the problem is podcasting is an undemocratic form of information distribution…on the text side you can get searched…on pod casting….we’re stuck only being able to organize by categories….We’re setting up a very hierarchical…and is very undemocratic…we need to address this now…how are we going to bring

    recognize there are different kinds of blogs…so when you talk about what’s ethical…those are different considerations…

    yes, it’s an extremely flexible medium…it covers so much…

    The only thing you might be able to get everyone to agree on is transparency….how this…Google is the enforcement mechanism for what Google thinks is important…

    I think that part of the problem but I think what is the natural evolution is that you have clusters forming…unless you establish those as part of this community…like a blogroll is not enough…it’s not bidirectional…I think if you look at clusters that formed ….within the business community there may be certain kinds of blogs….five types of identity…the type of identity….then I’ll choose which information I want you to have…

    it worries me, the idea of having an enforcement regime….

    Tim (?):
    by enforcement regime…what’s the ….if someone …of if some social balance – how do you stop that transgression….

    the internet and the blogosphere is meant to be free…if someone transgresses they get the weight of someone rejecting their feeds…there’s self-enforcing mechanism…if you offend people, they’ll stop reading you…what are the big problems we’re experiencing that make us want to talk about enforcing things on people….

    It was mentioned that David Weinberger…he did a similar disclaimer…investigate some of these issues between…one of the other interesting things….the example of signing up at a service…and discover that someone is playing a ponzi game…barrage..social spam and then you discover that this particular button ….well, we should collectively provide great…don’t use this junk people….people will change…

    I’m into it, yet I also find it somewhat obtuse…it doesn’t tell me anything…attendant to that, is this issue of will you link to me…there’s a certain amount of pressure there…there’s an obtuse way of looking at blogs…whoever has the most inbound links
    some times people post how many inbound links we’ve got….what is it? is there another way?

    so when you see someone getting

    it seems to me we have 3 layers….highest rank or page link or anonymous versus trackable versus identifiable…second layer is what’s our technology – do we use Google? how do we enforce it? Enforcement should come from the end user. If I want to use page link, friend count, it’s my problem to use it….but I do not want the US government to say, unless you identify yourself

    are there other ways in addition to that….particularly blogs…are there interesting ways we can figure out…

    It’s interesting that everyone introduces themselves….people unsubscribe from a blog or leave a room…the blogosphere loves booing people…

    what does it mean to link to begin with? somebody has asked you to link to them…even if you’re using any and all of those mechanisms…it’s something that comes up…

    Dave Winer:
    a link means that you think the person’s point of view is worth considering from an informed person’s point of view…he said that he feels an obligation…he feels he hasn’t fully processed that information…so that somebody else following his trail will find his information…he points to things…I actually like that so much…is that it’s sort of by living my life I discover things and then I feel like I haven’t dealt with them until I’ve shared them…

    Colin from Brooklyn:
    Globo….[ in Brazil?] they’ve recently changed the terms of service and required a paid subscription…and a lot of bloggers there have said they’ve been found in violoation of their terms of service because they’ve criticized the decision…accountability can mean liability, subject to enforcement regimes

    does it pass my filter? if their stuff passes my criterium then I will link, if not I’ll just drop it on the floor…

    But does it make your uncomfortable if someone asks you to go through that process?

    I don’t know that a link implies consent or support? I think for some of us…it is the context around the link which is the meaning of the link…and that’s what doesn’t get captured in other algorithms…a second comment I made around enforcement…I think it’s very interesting to look at multiplayer games…enforcement takes place by the participants…Is there a similar mechanism..

    is it okay to do that? as long as the expectation is not that naything will happen?

    ? is it evil to want links?

    Niall Kennedy:
    I’d like some conversation…I’m looking for an interaction and some sort of reaction…

    what I’m hearing when you say that, is really what you value is that you have your own editorial independence

    what I value is when my intentions are not questioned….if they could possibly be questioned I am less likely to make the effort…

    Dave Winer:
    what feels really smarmy…then I go look at the page, and it’s worth linking to…and within 20 minutes I see it on everyone else’s blog…when I realized I’ve been part of a marketing campaign…”I want to be on all these blogs”…so the next time it happens I’m probably not going to look…there’s a pr guy who keeps sending me links on that basis…I don’t like the way it makes me feel…

    I often disclose the exact opposite thing that makes me really really happy and… then without doing anything people link to it. I love that.

    because that’s pure love.

    I didn’t ask them for the link at all.

    I find that the people …are brand-new bloggers….don’t ask someone for a link…then they might link to you…it’s very subtle difference…but sometimes things need exposure that aren’t getting linked to…

    seems to me there are two types of links – soft and hard…if I comment on something…I expect when I send it…no requirement just some attention… a hard link is something on the side of the page is something that says this is an exciting site, and that I expect them to just throw it away if they don’t….

    you know, about a year ago, I came across a tool,…if you like the site you can rank it highter…started ranking site on their own….I have my comments from my blog linked directly to my forum which has reputation…they can build up a reputation of a member…

    Top 100 links – are they valuable at all? the rich get richer…the discovery of new blogs….we don’t have a centrailized location that…categorizes into different domains…as a community we can make some kind of decision to start something like this….

    I guess the part that confuses me in a lot of this conversation….this is a “’good” link or a “bad” link…just to hear Dave Winer and Mary…there seems to be an unspoken belief that there’s any better advantage…it’s all on the basis of the individual…

    M:…we’re a lot worse..because the thing that’s missing is face to face contact

    We’re trying to stop people from

    we’re trying to figure out what the core values of the web are


    linking seems to be part of the core values of the web….a core value of the web is linking…forget about what Google does with it…If I don’t link to the DNC, I screwed up…if that reporter doesn’t link to those 15 people, I say that re[porter broke one of the core values of the Web….when I asked for this, there’s something intuitive of the Web that we seem to agree on it…it’d be great if we could come out of this with a list.

    List written
    on board

    transparency – disclosure
    who people are
    democratic forms
    editorial independence

    good leader

    power laws
    lack of attitribution
    wuffie hoarding
    links for money

  • Tags: bloggercon

    2 responses so far ↓

    • 1 pops // Nov 11, 2004 at 8:41 pm

      It was either Aristotle or Joe Strummer who once said, “Should I stay or should I go now.”

      But I forget.

      If I don’t care to “come out” about who I really am does it then discredit those who link to or read my page? Are you saying those 20 or maybe 25 people are fools?

      I value each and every one of them highly – despite the fact I’ve met no more than 6 of them.

      Can you enjoy a thing for its own sake?

      Long story short – do these people truly want me off the Net?

    • 2 Napsterization // Nov 17, 2004 at 11:14 am

      Summary of Core Values of the Web Session at Bloggercon

      (Cross posted at Bloggercon.) Update: Julie Leung has a post on what people said in the session, and Elisa Camahort reviews it as well. Others commented to me in person and in posts, and so this summary includes some of…

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