I respect the ideas behind this new idea titled Blogging with Integrity.  I’m fans of the four women behind the concept, and met two of them at BlogHer, so I a bit nervous to talk about it, but as most of my long-time readers know, I always have issues with blog badges, and this one is particularly powerful.   It quickly appeared on the blogs of hundreds of women and got media attention just as BlogHer ended.  I would love to talk about it further in a civilized manner, analyzing the pros and cons, and whether this is the correct approach to the problem.

This is the copy on the BLOG with INTEGRITY webpage:

By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

Sounds good and decent.  Who would disagree with that?

What is the real issue here?    Unless I am wrong,  I am guessing this is primarily about the new FTC ethics guidelines, product reviews, and proper disclosure, with the swag-fighting at BlogHer only adding fuel to the fire.   Something must be done to show that bloggers are serious folk!

Are we talking only about mommybloggers?    The press seems to say so —

Now a group of “mommy bloggers” is banding together to promote a group called Blog With Integrity. The self-organised, self-policing group aims to instill a new measure of credibility in the blogosphere by encouraging bloggers to come out and proclaim their incorruptibility. (Financial Times of London)

One of the promoters, Susan Getgood, explains it like this: Blog With Intergity is “a tangible and collective way to express our commitment to a simple code of blogging conduct.”

First off, it would be nice for an issue as big as this one would move beyond the mommyblogging world.    What about daddybloggers?  Are daddybloggers completely honest in their dealings online, while mothers need overseeing?   Why not include a daddy blogger on the “editorial board,” giving a signal to corporations that men will abide by the same rules as women?  This is one of the few issues that I believe should not be segregated by sex.  If we are going to start a blogging union with blogging rules, let’s open it up to everyone.

So, what is the problem?   Everyone wants to create a better relationship between bloggers, the readership of blogs, and the corporations and PR firms who want to sell things.  This badge would be sort of a Blogging Good Housekeeping Seal of approval, announcing to others that this blogger who displays it acts honorably.

Or as my blogging friend Teensygreen says on her blog —

By signing the pledge and putting a button on your blog, you’re aligning yourself with wonderful people who truly care about the content they’re putting out there.

My biggest issue with the words in the pledge are these:

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I’m pretty honest.  I am being honest right now.  But the very IDEA of pledging to be honest goes so against the grain of everything I believe, that I am rather shocked that more of you don’t have a problem signing this pledge.

As much as I respect the sentiments, I hope this badge doesn’t become too popular.  I would hate to see a two tier system on the blogosphere, where one person displays a badge of integrity, like a preacher carrying the Holy Book for all to see, while the rest of us are branded as lying heathens in Sodom, fucking goats.  Isn’t the logical conclusion — the hope of the promoters — that marketers will notice this badge and work with those displaying it?   Do we really want that to happen?   Ask Sophia’s parents about life in the Soviet Union, when people had to take pledges before getting jobs and apartments.

Am I overreacting?  Probably?  Maybe this is all a clever PR campaign to get some buzz.   But I am taking what is given to me — at face value – and see some problems with it.

Think about what this pledge really means.   When you pimp a book, are you going to say that it was written by your blogging buddy and that you never really got past page one?   Will you stop stumbling your friends on Stumbleupon as a “you scratch my back” gesture and only link to posts of high quality?   We all do disingenuous things online.

I think these women have done a great service to get the ball rolling, so we call all discuss the issue of honesty and integrity online.

I understand the FTC issue and the disclosure issue.  The women who created this badge are funny, creative women.  I just want to play devil’s advocate, so we remember that sometimes the best intentions can have negative consequences.

I blog so I can be creative.   Hopefully, I will win your trust with my actions, not with a pledge.