Tom Hoffman said in a recent post that "once one reaches a certain point of authority and popularity, one has to be more careful and deliberate about blogging." I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with Tom’s Spiderman-like view that "with great power comes great responsibility."
The act of blogging can have many purposes. One purpose might be to put forth oneself as an authoritative expert on certain topics. If this is the blogger’s intent, then I agree with Tom that the blogger better have his act together. Otherwise, his readers will see him as sloppy or, worse, a fraud and will move on to other experts whom they trust more. In this sense, a purported expert blogger would be similar to a book author who fabicates parts of a supposedly-true book, a televangelist who presents himself as a moral leader but then gets caught with prostitutes, or a university researcher who fabricates his results.
Another purpose of blogging might simply be to start a conversation. In this case, a blogger might throw some ideas up on her blog and see how others react, either through comments on that post or on their own blogs. We see this often in K-12 education and educational technology blogs – this is a time-honored purpose of blogging. Indeed, the primary purpose of this post is to spark some thinking and conversation about what I think is an interesting issue.
Yet another purpose of blogging might be to get stuff out of our heads. I know that this is an important aspect of blogging for me. I have way too much stuff floating around inside my cranium. Blogging lets me get some of it out, much like a safety valve on a pressure cooker.
There are, of course, many other purposes for blogging besides the ones that I have listed here. These include posting news items, exposing fraud or waste, connecting readers with resources, creating community, etc.
It seems to me that a blogger’s intent should be what we ultimately use to frame our judgments about her blog and/or particular posts. It may be that more of us need to clearly state the intentionality behind our blogs (perhaps via our About link) or particular posts, but I’m hesitant to say that a blogger’s post was irresponsible or inappropriate without knowing a little more about the blogger’s mind when she wrote it. For the blog post that Tom cited, it’s not clear what Vicki’s intent is, either for the individual post or for her blog generally.
I know that many of us are blogging for purposes other than because we feel we are authoritative experts on something. In the end, however, Tom’s post raises important questions about our ethical responsibilities to our readers. By blogging, do some of us become ‘public figures’ who accrue certain responsiblities to our audience? If so, do we then lose the ability to start conversations or get stuff out of our heads simply because too many others have found value in what we blog?