Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Housekeeping, Policies, and Comments

Ahh, working on a session for Blog Indiana on blog etiquette, ethics, and policies (Saturday, at 11:00 a.m.) and have been researching best practices. Suddenly, it feels like a lot of "do what I say, don't do what I do." An overeaching theme is community -- I'm very proud of the community we here together have created.

I've always been an advocate of the free and fair Wild West nature of the Internet. Communities should be self-policing, right? Bloggers have always been the best community builders. Modern print media tries to tell us expertise doesn't matter. They only want writers to re-tell the average customer experience and implement "positive review only" policies. As media outlets across the US (like the Indy Star) continue to cheat readers out of a point of view, they deprive them of the expertise and analysis needed for credible recommendations. Add in the complications of paid advertising where traffic is king, a desire for lots of comments, and user-generated reviews, and you've got a recipe for why Web 2.0 is a real mess.

Of course, there are some in Indy who feel I'm not much better. "Bloggers are horrible!" they cry. "They're disruptive! One bad experience and they've made it gospel! What do they know anyway? Who do they think they are? She's not an expert!" Well, they're right. But I'm more expert than some guy or chica from Indy.com who just wrote that your greasy French fries were terrific and the bathrooms were clean -- and, in fact, gives *every* place they review props. Your sophisticated customers don't buy it and community members here don't buy it either. (Your customers are the ones emailing me asking for my opinion.) Expertise begets influence. Period.

Very often, I'm honored to run into readers and chefs who tell me that the food world is a little better in Indy because of the Feed Me/Drink Me community. That's *you* people. You're talking about it. You're trying it. You're learning about it. It's been said that if you're doing great work, you're not afraid of criticism, and as I research community best practices, I find that we're a little behind on classing the joint up a bit.

1) No more anonymous comments. You'll need a registration to post a comment here. Comments are the core of our community, so it's only fair that comments and opinions, agreements and disagreements, have a real person attached. Online experts have us all believing that to build heavy traffic, we must allow anyone to post easily -- at the expense of healthy community. I disagree. It's OK to use a coffee name. Your email address is just between you and me. Registration with Blogger or OpenID is free and simple.

2) My bio and email address are posted in my profile. When I first started blogging, I was working for a large corporation and thought nameless might be better. Eventually, I figured everyone just knew me (although I know "who is braingirl?" has fueled many an energetic dinner discussion.) But good policy (and previous advice) says I should be open about my expertise. Plus, many of you have asked for a way to send tips or off-topic info.

3) A Published Ethics Policy: Folks in journalism or editorial work take for granted that you readers know how we operate, but there are a lot of misconceptions out there. I report what I know firsthand to be true. I identify rumors as such. I correct mistakes as quickly as I can and prominently. I don't review for food. Or for PR people. I do sometimes attend media events with local food writing colleagues, but if it's bad, I will say say so (or not mention it at all.) I don't announce my visits. I don't do positive-only reviews. I am not paid by any restaurants or chefs. If you have questions about how I work, reviewing policies, blogging best practices, or journalism standards, don't hesitate to email me. (It sickens me to hear reports from SF where customers have told chefs "you'd better comp us our appetizers or we'll give you a bad review on Yelp!" More power to those chefs who tell those customers to just shove it.) I'll post the new formal policy later this week after any discussion here.

4) Advertising. Currently, I participate in Google Ads and make very little money on the blog. (Seriously, not even enough for dinner at L'Ex.) But that might not always be the case. Please be aware that no matter who might source ads to this site at any given time, they will not influence the content here. You guys read for smart analysis and commentary (with a fair dose of snark). You think I'd let anything change that?

1 comment:

braingirl said...

FYI, I haven't been having any problems. There haven't been a bunch of comments lately that need to be nuked. It just became clear to me, from a community perspective, that everyone deserves to know opinions are attached to a real person. There are certainly ways to get around it, and I hope that folks who disagree with me here will continue to register in discussions over the issue. I just want to make it fair to the regulars -- most of whom *are* already registered and post under their own names.