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Friday, 19 March 2004

Turns out, nobody asks permission, see . . .

Topic: Vic Jameson

The results of the MIT Media Lab Blog Survey are in. Apposite timing, too, what with events snowballing around BdJ (always a little too near to BDSM for my taste), and Creepy being hounded out of her blog [by evil witchy schoolmarmy types who think it infringes the privacy of their previously unknown online pseudonym].
"Formerly viewed as a marginal activity restricted to the technically savvy, blogging is slowly becoming more of a mainstream phenomenon on the Internet. Thanks to much media hype and some high profile blog sites, these online journals have captured the public?s imagination. As novice authors plunge into the thrilling world of blog publishing, they soon realize that publicly writing about one?s life and interests is not as simple as it might seem at first. As they become prolific writers, more bloggers find themselves having to deal with issues of privacy and liability. Accounts of bloggers either hurting friends? feelings or losing jobs because of materials published on their sites are becoming more frequent.

"Here we report the findings from an online survey conducted between January 14th and January 21st, 2004. During that time, 486 respondents answered questions about their blogging practices and their expectations of privacy and accountability for the entries they publish online:

- the great majority of bloggers identify themselves on their sites: 55% of respondents provide their real names on their blogs; another 20% provide some variant of the real name (first name only, first name and initial of surname, a pseudonym friends would know, etc.)

- 76% of bloggers do not limit access (i.e. readership) to their entries in any way

- 36% of respondents have gotten in trouble because of things they have written on their blogs

- 34% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in trouble with family and friends

- 12% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in legal or professional problems because of things they wrote on their blogs

- when blogging about people they know personally: 66% of respondents almost never asked permission to do so; whereas, only 9% said they never blogged about people they knew personally.

- 83% of respondents characterized their entries as personal ramblings whereas 20% said they mostly publish lists of useful/interesting links (respondents could check multiple options for this answer). This indicates that the nature of blogs might be changing from being mostly lists of links to becoming sites that contain more personal stories and commentaries.

- the frequency with which a blogger writes highly personal things is positively and significantly correlated to how often they get in trouble because of their postings; (r = 0.3, p < 0.01); generally speaking, people have gotten in trouble both with friends and family as well as employers.

- there is no correlation between how often a blogger writes about highly personal things and how concerned they are about the 'persistence' [ie, longevity when cached online] of their entries

- checking one?s access log files isn?t correlated to how well a blogger feels they know their audience

- despite believing that they are liable for what they publish online (58% of respondents believed they were highly liable), in general, bloggers do not believe people could sue them for what they have written on their blogs.

"The findings in this survey suggest that blogging is a world in flux where social norms are starting to flourish. For instance, many bloggers reveal the names of companies and products when they blog about them, except when they write about a company for which they currently work or have worked in the past. More bloggers are becoming sensitive about revealing the full names of friends on postings as well. But for all of the careful publishing guidelines that are starting to evolve, bloggers still do not feel like they know their audience. For the most part, they have no control over who reads their postings. The study also shows that bloggers usually have some idea of their ?core? audience (readers who post comments on the site) without really knowing who the rest of their readers are ? in many cases, this latter group makes up the majority of their readers.

When confronted with questions of defamation and legal liability, respondents in this survey paint a conflicting picture. In general, they believe that they are liable for what they publish online. However, bloggers in this study were not concerned about the 'persistent' nature of what they publish ? which tends to be a major aspect of liability ? nor did they believe someone would sue them for things they had written on their blogs. Moreover, 75% of respondents said they have edited the contents of their entries in the past. Even though most respondents explained that they usually edit typos and grammatical errors, 35% of respondents said they had edited for content as well: entries they decided were too personal, entries they thought were ?mean?, some respondents mentioned having gone back to entries to obfuscate names of people. These results reveal a certain naivete in how most bloggers view 'persistence' and how it can operate in networked environments such as the net, where information is being constantly cached. As blogs become more pervasive and their audiences grow, the ever-'persistent' nature of entries and the direct link to defamation and liability are likely to become even more of a burning issue."


This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:08 AM GMT
Updated: Friday, 19 March 2004 12:10 AM GMT
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Friday, 19 March 2004 - 1:23 AM GMT

Name: Sarah
Home Page:

- 36% of respondents have gotten in trouble because of things they have written on their blogs

- 34% of respondents know other bloggers who have gotten in trouble with family and friends

This has me puzzled. (Reminder: I'm not a Maths) Let's say, 36 people get into trouble due to the content of their blog. And 34 people know someone who has gotten into trouble for something they have blogged. Assuming that the average blogger has 10 links (I'm underestimating for easier calculation..) That means over 90% of bloggers who get caught out don't blog about it! How odd.

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 6:46 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Perhaps they got told not to?

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 7:05 AM GMT

Name: Rose
Home Page:

Thanks for the info! I linked to the post. :)

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 8:50 AM GMT

Name: Sarah
Home Page:

Heh, yeah, but not only did they fail to blog it, they also couldn't have communicated it in *any* form, if those figures are to be believed.

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 1:42 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Well I got told not to! :D

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 2:03 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

Aaaahhhhh HA!

Friday, 19 March 2004 - 6:35 PM GMT

Name: Looby in Glasgow
Home Page:

What an interesting article! I fall into all the majority categories there.

I'm having a little bit of a rethink about what I write about at the moment because virtuallancaster has found it, so have some colleagues from CAMRA, and some people associated with the p[lace where I do my gigs, and some of ther anti-car park people. Suddenly I've got all these new auidences to consider. Initially, at least, it feels like quite a restriction, because there are so many more people whom I feel I can't slag off!

Saturday, 20 March 2004 - 3:54 AM GMT

Name: Drunken Vanessa

Or.... you could slag them off, and - horror of horrors for the modern man - they'd know how you actually feel about them. Strictly not PC.

But I know what you mean.

Sunday, 21 March 2004 - 5:56 PM GMT

Name: boz
Home Page:

That's it, I'm going to start using an assumed name.

Sunday, 21 March 2004 - 11:01 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Wonders what Mister Ennui looks like as a signature...?

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