I’ve been in rant mode for the past couple of days after reading the story I’m linking to. The basics are that 5 teens between the ages of 14 and 16 not only watched a man die by drowning, and not only egged him on and made fun of him while it was happening, but shot video of it from their phones and then posted it online.
You read that correctly. They posted the video on YouTube, and not a single one of them thought it was important enough to call 911 or try to help the man to safety. Even if it’s possible that he was trying to commit suicide, I can’t imagine standing around laughing at someone trying to kill themselves even if that was the case. Continue reading →
I don’t talk all that often about ethics on this blog. I’ve talked about being socially responsible here and there, especially when it involves your family. I’ve addressed the topic of being ethical when writing articles, or when borrowing from someone else and representing it as your own. I also covered the topic when asking how far someone would go to recommend a product they knew nothing about just to make money.
I’ve covered the topic often on my business blog, but mostly in the realm of leadership. Years ago I even asked people directly what their ethics were. I would say oddly enough that post didn’t get much traction; it seems people are scared to discuss ethics. Well, I’m certainly not, that’s for sure.
This tale actually begins last weekend with Serena Williams winning Wimbledon. Some “kid” in Germany wrote on his Twitter profile that the only reason she keeps winning is because she’s “manly” and the other ladies on the tour can’t handle her power.
He was profiled in many sports stories, and there was a lot of conversation. I thought I could let it go until I read this Sports Illustrated story on Saturday talking about the reaction to the New York Times story the previous weekend, which I also found insulting to Serena, and this guy’s Twitter link was there.
I decided to check it out and was first stunned that he still had it live (since a lot of these people who say stupid things usually delete their accounts; he must think he’s Donald Trump) and that not only was he still backing up his words but he had some supporters.
Frankly, that didn’t sit well with me; nope, not at all. I thought about it for maybe half an hour, then decided to engage him. However, I didn’t want to be another person calling him an idiot; after all, when you start with name calling there’s nowhere else to go but down. Instead, I decided to call him out on his ethics; thus, I started with this Twitter post:
“It seems xxxxxx doesn’t understand why his words are hateful against Serena. Privilege and youth does that to people; so sad…”
In case you’re wondering why I’m not putting his Twitter handle here, I’ve decided he’s gotten enough publicity from other corners. However, if you want to find him just check the SI story above. And, if you care, you can follow the conversation we had there for almost an hour.
It took about 10 minutes but he responded to the message. He asked me whether I wanted to discuss it on the basis or race or sports… I responded “Ethics. Care to discuss it?”
To his credit he accepted the challenge and rarely backed down. To his detriment he wasn’t prepared to discuss the ethics of his tweet, couldn’t handle other statistics I threw at him (he’d either say he couldn’t discuss other sports, anything about men, or that tennis today is different than tennis in the past, even less than 10 years ago), and his logic wasn’t close to being sound. Often he said “my point was…”, to which I replied “You never made a point; you said what you said without offering anything else”, which is true. I know this because I went back through his stream and he never said it until he was talking to me.
The only time he almost got angry is when I asked him if, because he had his picture with a young lady who’s standing next to him, if she was fair game since he’d now become famous and she’s in the picture with him. He said he thought I was better than that. I responded that I wasn’t going to say anything about her, just asked the question. He then responded that if someone wanted to say something about her it was their opinion. I asked if someone had things to say about his mother, or one day if he had a daughter if it would be okay for people to say things about them and his response was that everyone had a right to their opinion. I asked if that meant that people can pretty much get away with saying anything they want to, no matter how hateful it was… he didn’t answer that one.
I’m leaving out a lot of specifics but I think you get the picture. A couple of things I did ask were:
* what kind of positive response did you expect to get by saying something hurtful like that;
* are you saying that women can only win because they’re more “manly” than other women, rather than because they have more talent, drive and intellect;
* if her apparent manliness is why she wins, then what causes her to lose;
* if you played her in tennis and she beat you, would it be because she was more manly than you or had more talent?
The first question he didn’t answer. On the second question he said it was “implied” that she had talent, to which I said one can’t imply anything without saying it because we’re not mind readers. The third question he didn’t answer; same for the last.
After an hour I knew he wasn’t going to figure it out and I was getting hungry, as I realized I hadn’t eaten in over 10 hours at that point, so I left with two things:
* “I think you’re going to look back on this incident in 5-10 years and hate what you said last week”;
* “In any case we’ve been at this an hour and now it’s 6PM and I need to be going. I think you’re wrong but wish you the best.”
I gave all that backstory, not to make myself look good but to give me a platform to talk about this concept of ethics as it applies to social media, as well as life.
Ethics isn’t important because it changes everything about how you speak. Ethics is around because it changes your behavior towards more positive action. Ethics is what keeps us from robbing and beating people. It’s what keeps up from thinking the world revolves around us, our thoughts and our wishes. It’s what keeps us from intentionally hurting people’s feelings and, many times, from saying something absurdly stupid in public.
Ethics is what makes you decide to verify negative information before repeating it to others. It’s what helps to keep you from being intentionally mean and hateful on social media just because you have an agenda to push. It’s what helps you not ruin your reputation, especially if you have people you hope to work with who might see what you’ve said to someone. It’s what helps you realize that freedom of speech comes with consequences and isn’t a right to say whatever stupid thing pops in your head “just because”.
You know what? I think a lot of stuff, and not all of it is good or nice. I either keep it to myself or find a way to say what I have to say without being hateful… that is unless someone else said something hateful first (did I already mention Trump?). True, not every bit of discourse with others has to have a positive reason behind it. However, if one’s only purpose for spouting off at the mouth is to hurt someone else, or make themselves feel better by trying to put someone else down, especially someone who doesn’t deserve it, not only does that person’s ethics come into play but their self esteem is probably lacking as well (or they’re a total narcissist or psychopath; just sayin’…).
You know where my ethics are showing in the above situation? I thought about posting the conversation here or on another blog, word for word… but figured that wasn’t necessary. His supporters stayed away from the conversation and mine (which turned out to be no one I already knew; that was interesting…) stayed out of the conversation until it was over and then had their say.
At that point I was done with it. On my business blog I wrote a post titled Sometimes people don’t want to be motivated. Turns out that something not only don’t people want to be ethical, they don’t even know what it means.
One of the best things about advertising and working online is that if something isn’t working, you can change it pretty easily. Testing can take some time, but it’s less expensive than printing $10,000 worth of material, mailing it out to thousands of people, getting nothing in return and having to do it all again.
One of the worst things about advertising and working online is when you get things so screwed up that you lose any business credibility you might have had. Sure, many times you’ll get another shot at making a go of things, but you’ll probably never get any of those people back that stopped by, disapproved of what you did, left and talked about it later on.
One Sunday last year I did a Google Hangout with my Hot Blog Tips crew on the topic of writing paid posts and blogging credibility, which I’m sharing below. It’s my position that if people do things that are unethical just to make money that eventually it will kill them and their business prospects. There are a lot of bloggers who write paid posts, or put up posts with someone else’s words, and say a lot of glowing stuff about something they’re not familiar with. Some will be promoting a product using an affiliate link that they know nothing about and writing something overly positive without knowing if it is or not.
When it comes to your business and advertising it online, I feel that what you don’t want to do is say you can do things that you can’t do. At the same time, overstating your capabilities doesn’t do you many favors either. I remember having a conversation with someone a couple of years ago where he said that if you’re asked if you can do something or provide something you always answer “yes”, then you go out and find the person who can really do it. To me, it might be true that you can find someone who can do the work, but if you don’t know that person and they do the work badly, you’re the one who’s going to suffer.
There’s nothing wrong with self promotion. There’s really nothing wrong with a bit of hyperbole, although if you say you’re the #1 whatever in your market I tend to believe you’d better be ready to prove it by showing me something, since I might not even allow you to work with me unless I get testimonials. These days people are more savvy than ever, and they can check everything online. Try to fool someone and it will come back at you eventually. Nothing disappears online; remember that.
By the way, you need to know that if you happen to use words that aren’t your own, sent to you by a marketer that they believe will help you sell their product, that it’s a violation of FCC rules and it could result in both fines and losing your domain; just thought I’d mention that.
Check out the video below, as it addresses this topic with a few more ideas on the subject than just mine:
I just finished reading the book below, Twitter Marketing, and found that I had some things I wanted to talk about as it concerns using Twitter as a marketing tool as opposed to just a conversation piece. This isn’t a book review as much as it is a look at the ethics and possibilities of using Twitter to market oneself and their business.
The book pointed out some very interesting things, some I knew, some I didn’t. One, it seems that the majority of people using Twitter are between 35 and 44. that’s somewhat surprising because I’d have thought more young people would be using the technology because my mindset has always been that it’s younger people who are drawn to it. What I hadn’t taken into account is that this is the age group that was really the first group that grew up with the technology as close to the technology of today. In my very early 20’s, we had Space Invaders and Asteroids, which were relatively simple (I was my college’s Asteroids champ in 1980), and only 5 years later there was this more interactive game of the guy who dressed like a knight and had his adventures (Dragon’s Lair), and my mind couldn’t deal with it, yet the younger kids took to it like walking.
The second thing I knew was that, overall, less than 10% of everyone who signs up for Twitter could be considered an active user. What I didn’t know was that around 37% of those who are considered active users are actually bot accounts, which means that no actual person is ever tweeting a single thing. I’ve always wondered about that one, and now we have a figure.
The third thing I knew, but didn’t have any figures for, was just how fast bad customer service might bring you down, and some of the lingering effects. The writer, Hollis Thomases, pointed out the big Motrin fiasco, which I’d heard about but never knew what it was, and a potential Crocs episode that was nipped in the bud, but had the CEO so rattled by this weird attempt at extortion that he went to his blog, then to Twitter, to state his case before this woman, who apparently ended up with great fear that something bad could happen to her, followed through on a threat that was unwarranted.
All that said, it brings back these interesting questions about marketing on Twitter; is it ethical, and just how does one decide to do it.
On the first one, I believe it is ethical to market on Twitter, as long as it’s done properly. I don’t know a single person who enjoys immediately receiving an automated private message about buying something or signing up for something once you’ve decided to follow someone. Even the messages offering me something for free irk me because I don’t trust them. I immediately stop following those people, figuring I haven’t invested anything in them, and they really haven’t invested anything in getting to know me first.
But what about other marketing? If I have all my blog posts immediately go to Twitter, that’s marketing, and I believe it’s ethical, but is it? I think so because I’m really advertising my opinions and rarely advertising a product. I’m looking for readers for my blog; if money ends up coming in some fashion later on, I won’t be depressed by that.
The how of this question is a different matter. The only other marketing I ever do, which is rare, is when I announce my office hours. It’s rare that I do it because I’ve only ever had one person take me up on it, which tells me it’s probably a major waste of time, but I still pop it out there from time to time.
But other marketing? Truthfully, even though I see how some people do it, I can’t figure out if it really works for them or not. Yeah, they might get clicks, but are they irritating people? For instance, if you see a headline that looks intriguing enough to click the link, and you’re taken to one of those pages where you have to put in your name and email address to get any information about it, how do you feel? Or if the topic looks like you’re going to get information, and instead it takes you to a product; how do you feel?
I guess overall I don’t have a problem with marketing if two things occur. One, I know it’s a marketing message instead of a set up. Two, if that’s not the only thing a person’s doing with Twitter. Because when all is said and done, at least in my mind, they call it “social media” for a reason. It might not be everyone’s primary motivation, but they should at least try. Am I wrong?
Last summer, Peter and I noticed that one of our blogging friends seemed to be posting things that were lifted from another source. They were word for word what was on another website; we considered that a serious breach of ethics.
I finally had the opportunity to ask him about these posts, telling him that I had noticed that they were the exact same thing is on some other websites. He told me that he had purchased some PLR (private label rights) articles and was using them because he didn’t have time to write anymore but wanted to keep new content on his website. I pointed out that it didn’t look right, and that when people usually use PLR articles that the idea was to modify them so that they would become one’s personal articles.
As some of you know I now offer writing and blog writing services as part of my business. With one of my blogging clients, I knew his industry really well, so I didn’t have to do much research with it. With most of the other writing that I’ve been doing, there has been a fair amount of research. What you start to find out is that as you read on the subject enough times, you start to get the feeling that you know it fairly well and can pretty much write totally original content more than half of the time without having to do any research at all.
But there are those times when you have to do some kind of research. On most topics, what I will do is think of what I want to write about, pull up four or five resources, read them all, and then start writing. If the majority of the resources quoted exact same information, then I would use that exact same information, but will alter the words if it’s possible.
Sometimes it’s not; if you have a list of things that have to go in a particular order, you’re pretty much stuck using what’s there. For instance, I once wrote an article regarding something called “revenue codes“, which is a health care term. I listed a whole bunch of numbers and descriptions, and no matter what resource I might have had to look at, those numbers and descriptions would have been the exact same everywhere.
I think when it comes to writing there has to be some kind of ethical standard that a writer has to have. It doesn’t do a writer any good to copy blocks of words from someone else’s articles without giving them attribution. One of the gripes I’ve written about often on this blog is seeing people on other blogs saying the same thing over and over that they got from another blog.
True, there may not be many new ways to say “create great content” when talking about ways to improve one’s blog or to encourage visitors to stop by, but that’s part of the essence of what writing is supposed to be about, that being creativity. I’m sure that someone else has probably written about ethical writing in the past, but I’m also betting that no one is ever written about it in quite the same way that I’m writing about it right now. That’s the kind of thing that makes us all unique.
There’s also the question of rewriting articles. Many people believe that’s unethical, because they’re taking one source and basically saying the exact same thing that someone else said only in a different way. I have kind of a different take on that one also. I have rewritten my own stuff from time to time, and as I am the original source for that information, I have no qualms about doing that rewrite.
I also think that it depends on what you’re writing as to whether doing a rewrite of something is ethical or not. For instance, if you’re writing something about a new story you read, and you can only find that information in one place, I don’t think there’s anything unethical in writing that in a different way; after all, that’s news, and it’s what all the major newspapers around the country do when they get those newsfeeds from places such as the AP and Reuters. I do that on my finance blog all the time, although I also didn’t comment on those stories which make them unique.
What are your thoughts on ethical writing? Do you think I’m too strict, too lenient, or something else? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂