Burningbird Weblogging

This is a disclaimer

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

This is the only disclaimer I will issue from this site. It reads:

I will never issue a disclaimer at this site. Again.

The discussion rages around us about how we’re in danger of losing our credibility, or our ethics are in question. However a more serious issue is at stake: we are in danger of becoming bores.

Somewhere, somehow, along the way we began to take ourselves seriously, and now it’s difficult to read original writing that doesn’t have a caveat or a disclaimer attached. Multiple weblogs have popped up with people appearing out of nowhere, demanding that we all conform to a certain set of beliefs and practices, and the rest of us, who at one point in time used to have fun nod our heads and say “Yesir” or “Yesmam”, because no matter what, we want to be seen as ‘credible’.

What is it that we’ve been doing the last several years but establishing the authenticity of our voices? What more credibility do we need than that?

I used to frown at sites where the webloggers would use pseudonyms, not the least because I have a god-awful time spelling that word. Actually, it was because I thought that if our words meant anything, we would attach our name to them.

What I’ve found as I’ve grown up from babe to toddler to fresh young thing, to old and tired woman in these very pages, is that names don’t matter, because it is the words themselves that have to stand out naked in the light. It is our writing by which you know us, or don’t. At this point in time, either you know me or your don’t; you trust me or you don’t, and no disclaimer is going to make my voice more authenticate, or real to you.

I also used to mouth about this standard and that: one shouldn’t delete or edit a writing once posted; or one should note when there is a possible conflict of interest; or, in the case of something like Marqui, one shouldn’t write about a product in our space unless one has an interest in same.

What a pompous prick I was.

Frankly, if another opportunity comes along like Marqui (but not Marqui, itself) I plan on taking it. Why? Because it allows me more dignity than to have to pass the hat, an act that nibbles away at my confidence. And I will most likely write once about how I’m being paid by the company, but I’m not going to circle the entries in red ink and paste on “I’m getting bloody paid for this”, with each entry. Neither will I write anything I wouldn’t normally write, but you’re going to have to take my word for it, because I’m not going to post a notarized notice on my site that I Am Not Lying for Bucks. In fact, you might as well assume that everything I will write is a lie, but it will be an authenticate lie, because I will never write anything that I don’t want to genuinely say.

So if a company wants to pay me for upping their Google rank,rather than sneak it in through my comments, I will. And I’ll do so in my own immutable way, which will probably frighten away all of the right-thinking companies anyway, leaving me the interesting ones, and we’ll proceed to possibly have some fun. Because if I don’t promise not to lie, I do promise to do my best not to bore you, but no guarantees: what I may find interesting may not interest you.

(You don’t like my gnomes?)

I was asked in my post, The Other Shoe on Nofollow, the following:

Really now. Do you have a citation for this conversation with Dave Winer or did you just make it up?

I answered:

I make everything up at this site.

I’m really a haberdasher in New Jersey. My name is Stan, and I’m bald, 85, thin as hunger, sad as regret, but with big black eyes that once twinkled wickedly at saucy ladies who would show too much ankle.

Oh, and I walk with a limp, every other Sunday.

That is my disclaimer: *I make everything up on this site. It will then be up to you to read me, or not; to believe me, or not. You will have to make your own judgment whether to regard what I say about the Google nofollow attribute, or Jeff Jarvis, or the Harvard Conference of the Week, or especially, the existence of Missouri mountain gnomes. Basically, you’ll have to read what I read, and then read what others read, and you’ll have to form your opinion and act accordingly, because I’m not going to do it for you through the use of a bloody disclaimer! Sorry, there is no ‘get out of thinking’ free card at my site.

(By the way, I lie, but I do not lie about gnomes.)

I read something in Rebecca Blood’s weblog that brought me up short this morning and made realize how far we have fallen in our effort to be polite and proper and credible and ethical.

I’ve noticed a slight problem with the Technorati tagging system. For every tag, Technorati is pulling an indentically tagged photograph from photo-sharing site Flickr. Unfortunately, for a few hours this morning the most recent tagged photo under MLK was a picture of a protester’s sign that read “Setting aside our differences to focus on our common goals: peace, love, harmony, killing Jews, and tolerance.” Nice. [more…]

Now, that photo is perfectly appropriate on Flickr as part of an individual’s collection, and as documentation of Sunday’s rally. It’s perfectly appropriate as an illustration for ‘protests’, or even ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’, even though it surely will offend some people wherever it appears. But it is not appropriate to illustrate a category tagged ‘MLK’. I personally was offended–these sentiments reflect the polar opposite to those espoused by Dr. King. More to the point, such an illustration is inappropriate–that poster has as much to do with Dr. King as would a picture of a banana peel.

I called Technorati to register a protest, but was informed that Technorati had no mechanism available for removing the photo other than turning off the entire Flickr feed. Worse, I was met with polite protestations that Technorati is not in the business of editing the Web, just delivering it. I was also given some vague heebee-jeebee about “community standards” and how “the community would decide”.

Well, I’m here to tell you that community standards vary wildly, and in the case of an aggregator mean nothing at all. An aggregator like Technorati only provides a succession of individual posts, it doesn’t summarize or codify the content it serves. Furthermore, “community standards” do not, indeed, can not defend against abuse of the system–only design can do that.

I will write more on Technorati Tags later, because they have very serious consequences to semantic web development, but for now, I read Rebecca’s reference to ‘appropriate’ images and enforcing ‘community standards’ and I wanted to put my head down and cry. What is sadder is that Rebecca has enough power within this community, and hence Technorati, to possibly force her opinion of what is ‘proper’ through, and that scares the bejeesus out of me.

If this is what you want from a ‘credible’ weblog, or an ‘ethical’ one, than I can guarantee you now: I will never be credible, I will never be ethical, and I sure as hell will never be appropriate. And you may stick your ‘community standards’ where the sun don’t shine in my mountain gnome’s gnarly little ass.

*I even stole that phrase from Dave Rogers, who I think is telling us that what’s real is shared spit and cat babysitting. But I have seen a gnome, Dave.

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