A couple of weeks ago Al Krueger over at Comet Branding posted a short yet insightful blog called "Regurgitator or Originator", in which he wrote:
I want to drive original, relevant and meaningful content and not simply offer some sort of regurgitation of other people’s or outlets’ content.
Krueger was addressing the notion of "copy paste blogging" in which the blog author does one of the following:
- Posts only snippets of another blog with a link to said blog, sometimes posing a question but rarely offering additional ideas
- Using a blog solely for research and referencing that blog without doing the background work on his or her own
(Note: If I wanted to merely "copy paste blog" myself I would stop here, maybe throw out a question or two, but I have points of my own that I want to illustrate.)
Are these approaches lazy? Depends on your perspective. Some blogs merely aim to start conversations among readers (which, if you ask me, is better served with FriendFeed).
Are these approaches unethical? No, but it does highlight the crevasse that still exists between blogger ethics and old school journalist ethics.
Are these approaches flawed? They can be. They can lead to errors or other kinds of embarrassment for both the blogger him- or herself or the subject of the blog.
Are all bloggers guilty of it? Absolutely, at least once. I did a lighter variation of it just the other day but that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea (I will call out that I spoke with Ryan Naraine, the original blog author, before doing so).
Two specific incidents have recently put this issue top of mind. There are lessons here for corporate and independent bloggers alike.
- HD Moore vs. The Blogosphere: HD Moore, creator of Metasploit, gained a lot of attention when he published an attack code for the DNS flaw that's been dominating the news in the security industry over the last month. While many stories were written about this, one in particular by Robert McMillan caused an unnecessary amount of FUD when it misquoted Moore and wrongly claimed this his employer was "owned" by the exploit -- when really the attack was on AT&T Internet Service's servers in Austin. While PC World issued a correction it was too late; those IDG stories spread like wildfire. And while Moore immediately wrote a blog post of his own explaining the truth of the attack, bloggers had already started posting erroneous articles based on the PC World story and using sensationalized headlines, to boot. Though some of the articles have been amended to include pieces of Moore's statement the incorrect headlines -- and in some cases the wrong content -- remain.
- Cuil Coverage Not So Cool: The countdown to the Cuil launch created quite a socialsphere frenzy with some bloggers calling the new search engine a "Google killer". People truly wanted to believe that Cuil would live up to the hype that it created but it just didn't. And many of those first blog posts appeared to be written solely off of the writings of other bloggers (versus actual research or actual use of the tool). My own experience at the time of launch was unsatisfactory and I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't jumped on the pre-Cuil bandwagon. TechCrunch -- which had five headlines about Cuil in three days -- didn't just hit Cuil, it pummeled the company for a perceivably failed launch. But some responsibility lies with the bloggers here. I think, while Cuil deserved criticism, a lot of the bloggers who lashed out at Cuil were embarrassed by letting their own fandom get in the way of research.
While writers who adopt "old school journalism" practices still make their fair share of errors I do think some errors could easily be voided by adhering to those practices:
- Check your own sources -- Sure, find ideas from other blogs, but go to the source yourself. In the HD Moore case going to the source would've saved a lot of trouble.
- Add your own angle to the story -- repeating someone else's news doesn't make it news. When I read a blog it's because I like the voice of the writer(s). I want to read what he or she or they have to say on the matter.
- Don't be oversold by marketing hype -- unless you have experienced it yourself and believe it to be true. Cuil. Need I say more?
Have an answer beyond what is offered in the poll? Be sure to Talk Back.
[Update 8-6-2008 8:38 a.m.] Kyle Flaherty posted a great case study about the importance of social media communities and how those communities pulled together during his company's battle last week to set HD Moore's story straight.