Saw this article linked from /. In it there was an indication that Microsoft paid some bloggers to write up stuff which later became quotes. Bloggers got income, Microsoft got leverage their quotes *and* their names.
But is this ethical?
First off, Scalability.org is not an ad-supported site. We don’t run ads. We have pretty good traffic for a small blog, but this is not anyone’s day job. The only thing it really costs me is time, and it is pretty minimal in the bigger scheme of things. Yes, others are allowed to write here, and I encourge people to sign up and write articles. It has happened once or twice. I have let PR bits be posted here, though I want the person who wants the PR bit up to do the posting. We aren’t interested in posting that for them. We don’t take their money, we don’t do their work.
Hopefully the people from Microsoft’s ad agency will note that. I prefer not to regurgitate PR. I prefer to comment. There are many sites that aspire to being early news sources. This is more of an editorial column.
Now onto ethics.
I see nothing wrong with company X hiring us to write something for them. X has been at various times AMD, RLX, and others that I am not allowed to mention. We won’t hawk what we write as news. Best we will do on that is point to it. In the AMD case, we were hired to write white papers. This doesn’t color my impression of AMD positively or negatively. Other … competitors … to AMD had inquired if we would do similar things for them, but they got caught up in the details. We wanted to do the same thing on all platforms, they wanted optimal compiler settings on their platform only, thats all they were willing to pay for. This one didn’t happen, in large part I believe, due to my insistence in treating all platforms the way customers would.
There is a reason for this.
Its my name on the thing. My reputation. My integrity. My ethics. These are not for sale.
Microsoft is free to hire us to write something for them. I insist that everyone who hires us to do any writing for them give us final approval say over things, so that some remote editor/rewriter doesn’t go putting words into my mouth, or out on paper, that I didn’t say or write. This means that I am often critical of the groups that hire us. Some marketeers and engineers can deal with this, and have no issues. Others do.
I don’t hawk AMD product, I criticize perceived shortcomings. Same with Intel product. And Linux. And Microsoft.
If these so-called “A-list” bloggers (I don’t read any of them, don’t know what defines “A-list”) modified their output to appease their overlords, get an or increase their paycheck, then yes, there is an ethical problem. A point of view for hire is doesn’t do anybody any good. Yes men can be had cheaply. If they were hired to interpret something that they had not commented on before, well, this gets grey. Is their opinion a function of their paycheck? Probably a little.
I write on this blog in the same way I approach other things. I avoid compromising my ethics in order to please friends, or punish foes. The pen is mighty, and with this might comes responsibility to use it ethically. Otherwise we would be no better than a PR copy writer. That I have no interest in.