Blogs, truth & the enterprise

The Internet, in general, and blogs, in particular, give enterprise architects a vast array of informational resources to blend into their buying decisions. But are all blogs what they appear to be? Is it honest discussion and useful facts that you are getting? Or is it the words of someone with a hidden agenda?

While “ranters” are easy to detect and dismiss, bloggers with a bit of self-control can be very effective at spreading false information and even doing the bidding of hidden others.

My guess is that we’ll all have reason to “filter” what we read in blogs and perhaps my recent experiences will help you catch “the bad ones.”

The unofficially official blogger. Many companies offer their employees a public blogging platform often under the company domain name. The issue here is that you have a writer who appears to speak in the name of the company – even though said company has a “fine print” disclaimer saying “the opinions expressed here are their own...”

But what happens when an anonymous blogger on said site identifies himself as “in the know” about a project involving your company and then proceeds to present false information as “fact”?

When you occasionally find a factual error in Network World you can ask the writer or his editor for a retraction or a correction. It is not as easy in the blogosphere. The problem is compounded when the writer has an air of authority and authenticity that is part and parcel of blogging under the company name. That such blogs should be allowed to remain anonymous is yet another discussion.

In our case, the false statements were retracted but not until the corporation’s general counsel was brought into the discussion.

In most cases, though, there is no “higher authority” to invoke and false and/or misleading information just remains “alive” interminably.

In another instance, a blogger claiming to be an “independent” expert in a particular technology area decided to blog about a different test report that we published.

Any good reporter would conduct a “fact check” before writing and disclose any potential conflict of interest he might have. Not required in the blogosphere.

This writer just decided that whatever information he had gotten through the grapevine was “fact enough.” While the Tolly Group is easy to find, he apparently decided that this would be too much work and just published his analysis. As expected, his “garbage in” led to “garbage out.”

Most interesting to me was how the blogger represented himself as an independent expert on the subject. Some industry folks that know the person claim that he worked extensively as a consultant to one of the vendors whose product did not perform well in the test.

Needless to say, any such connection (if it existed) was not disclosed. But one asks oneself how many “independent” bloggers are merely paid proxies for vendors or special interests?

We know that it happens – as evidenced by the recent revelation that two “independent” political bloggers were paid by the campaign of presidential-hopeful John Edwards to espouse his views to an unknowing public.

The filters, editorial ground rules and code of ethics that are integral to “mainstream” press either do not exist or are “optional” in the blogosphere.

Ironically, rather than making the mainstream press obsolete, some of the more flagrant abuses of blogging are reinforcing the importance of editorial credibility long established and cherished in the mainstream press.

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