An interesting bit of synergy: I was interviewed by WIRED magazine this afternoon for an article about confidentiality and blogging, and not thirty minutes later I’m spinning through my NewsGator subscription list and find not one, but three different sites blogging about how Google’s Mark Jen might or might not have been fired from his position at Google.
Mark came into the blogosphere eye a few weeks ago when Google apparently asked him to pull down his “life at Google” blog where he shared his musings (and kvetching) about what it was like to be a Google employee after having just started working there a few days. The weblog reappeared, without much explanation of what happened.
Here’s the problem, fellow bloggers: the more that the blogosphere is a digital picket fence where we share gossip, innuendo and rumors, the less credible it will seem and the more it’ll end up being like some sort of distributed rumor mill of the worst sort.
As we tell my children, if you don’t have anything nice to say, if you don’t know what you’re saying is true, keep it to yourself so that it doesn’t harm anyone or make them feel bad.
The third prong of coincidence: last night I watched the remarkable 50’s film Peyton Place, where the pain and hurt of a town full of mean-hearted gossips ruins the lives of a number of young men and women during the early 1940’s. In many ways, Peyton Place set the standard from which all modern soap operas and adult dramas are woven, but the main subtext of the film was that if you aren’t 100% sure, if you don’t know something for a fact, if it’s just innuendo and gossip, don’t share it or disseminate it further.
Contrast that with highly respected blogging colleague Robert Scoble who has posted on his own Weblog the following (quoted in its entirety):
Hmm, it’s going around the blogosphere that Google fired a blogger. I don’t know if this is true. Can anyone confirm?
If you don’t know if it’s true, why mention it, Robert? And it’s not just you, either. Search Engine Lowdown,Search Engine Watch, Inside Google, and Company Blogs were all busy spreading this innuendo too.
I think that for bloggers to be a long-term force for good and a useful alternative to mainstream media, we are all going to have to decide what it means to blog, what it means to have a voice, reach and influence, and decide how we want to utilize that power – however large or small – to help make the world a better place.
Lofty goals, but when the worst kind of unsubstantiated gossip flies around the blogosphere, I tend to react in a diametrically opposed fashion.