Blogging guidelines (2)

by Richard on January 11, 2008

I mentioned a couple of days ago that at our recent bloggers gathering we discussed whether there should be some voluntary blogging guidelines for Methodist bloggers. If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have pooh-poohed the idea, but now I’m starting to feel that the need for something like this is becoming urgent.

As a further contribution to working this through, I came across the guidelines developed at IBM for its blogging employees. Here’s the summary.

1. Know and follow IBM’s Business Conduct Guidelines.
2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time—protect your privacy.
3. Identify yourself – name and, when relevant, role at IBM – when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog outside of IBM and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
6. Don’t provide IBM’s or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to IBM.
7. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory – such as politics and religion.
9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.
10. Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.

I notice that IBM used a wiki to develop their guidelines collaboratively, and I humbly suggest that Methodist bloggers could do the same.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }


Will 01.11.08 at 8:05 pm

Good idea, Richard! Is this something akin to David Webster saying that the Methodist Church wanted to do theology online collaboratively?


Richard 01.11.08 at 8:48 pm

A wiki would be one way of doing that, yes Will.


Methodist Preacher 01.11.08 at 11:09 pm

I think we should take care.

The internet opens up real possibilities for dialogue within Methodism. Issues that were once the property of those in key positions can now be examined by all.

We are not a multinational corporation like IBM (very interesting that you, a bit of a lefty, should be holding them up as an example!). Unlike many Methodist bloggers I do not draw a penny in salary.

Our founder had to stand on his father’s tomb outside the church where his father ministered in order to get a hearing.

There have been one or two posts on the Methodist blogsphere which I have challenged ( references to evangelicals as vermin for example), but I challenged them. If that’s how people feel there is little I can do or say. We live in a free society - thanks largely to enlightened protestantism.

Our connexion is desperately in need of “Fresh Expressions” - I’ve just read this week’s Methodist Recorder - we shouldn’t run away from free expression.


Dave Warnock 01.12.08 at 12:20 am

At the risk of being boring I want to again point to the blogging guidelines of Sun Microsystems. They are brave enough to provide blogging facilities to the staff they make redundant! Also they have one of the first blogging Chief Executives, See the Sun policy and blogging guidelines (pdf).

David, as for your jibe about salaries please note the last point in the IBM guidelines “Don’t forget your day job. You should make sure that blogging does not interfere with your job or commitments to customers.”

I note that in the case of my own blog I have received a stipend (no salary) from the Church for approximately half the time I have been blogging. I can think of few things less relevant to my time blogging. Oh except I notice that my day off finished 18 minutes ago, so maybe I need to consider myself being paid for this comment.



Richard 01.12.08 at 12:54 pm

We should always take care David. But what should we take care about?

You seem to be suggesting that I’m against open dialogue. Nothing could be further from the truth! But blogging is a very public thing, and what we write can be expected to be available for several years at the very least.Even if I were to take down my site completely, the contents of this blog could still be read through services such as the wayback machine. (Here’s a rant of mine from 2000 from a server which I’d thought long since defunct.“>Here’s another. Looking at these, perhaps I’ve been blogging longer than I thought!) Because of this, I reckon bloggers should be very careful about posting stuff which could be damaging to an organisation or group that they otherwise claim to support. That stands to reason, doesn’t it? Imagine a Labour Party member, blogging in a key marginal who blogs every other day about how the Party has gone to the dogs and the leadership don’t know what they’re doing. I imagine you’d find that just a little bit unhelpful at election time!

How does your continued (and continual) criticism of the Methodist Church help us in any way? Would it encourage and affirm the Methodists of Birmingham? I’ve been reading your blog for some months, and I don’t recall ever reading anything positive about our church at all.

On a personal note, I’m disappointed that you continue to let go of our past differences. When we met, I thought we’d done so in friendship. Certainly, we confessed our sins, broke the bread and shared the Peace together. Was that simply play-acting? I thought we meant it.

One last thing. You say you want change, for Methodism to do things differently. Amen. So do many of us, including those working in Marylebone Road. So why do you continue to imply criticism of those of us in ministry who have used a little of our time to explore the opportunities for communication that the interweb offers. I simply don’t understand you.


John 01.15.08 at 1:32 pm

Well, Rule #8 obviously won’t work for us.

I don’t think that any formal guidelines would be useful, and could even have a chilling effect.

We are known outside of our blogging world. For example, a member of my District Committee on Ordained Ministry and Conference Board of Ordained Ministry reads me about every other day. If I did something improper, I am certain that I would be held accountable IRL. And I think that this accountability would exist for anyone else in our connectional system. Isn’t that enough?


Richard 01.15.08 at 1:52 pm

Just to be clear, John — I was thinking of voluntary guidelines for British Methodists.
And no, connexional accountability doesn’t appear to be enough.


John 01.16.08 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Richard.

Since I’m not a British Methodist I guess that it’s not particularly my business, but…could you give some examples of posts that were over-the-top and yet not restrained by connexional accountability?

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