Transparency, Trust, and Pretenders

Filed as Features on March 1, 2007 8:00 am

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A man I know told me a story, “Someone on the Internet — someone who had been his friend for a year — wasn’t a friend, but an enemy who had taken on a new identity. The pretender said he had done it to get another chance at a friendship with the man who told me the story. The man asked me what my response would be.

The first word I said was “transparency.” I remember my frown before I went on. “No. That is the reason that authenticity and transparency are valued so highly on the Internet. They are our word. They are the bond. Without belief in authenticity and transparency, we couldn’t interact, because we couldn’t trust.”

I explained how the opposite happened to me.

When I was a new blogger, a friend of five years turned pretender. She visited my blog, day after day, with a new identity, making long conversations in the comment box. At day 8, familiar phrases crept into what she said, and I started to suspect. When I confronted her, she was simultaneously emailing me and commenting on my blog as her alter ego. Her excuse was that she wasn’t a blogger and that she didn’t know better.

Even supposing no ulterior motive, I deserved a friend who had better judgment than to visit my house dressed up as pretender. Forgiveness was a given, but all trust was gone.

In January, Darrnen Rowse wrote this about transparency in building a great blog.

. . . Great blogs are blogs that leave no question of their motives, who their partners and affiliates are, and who their authorship is. Transparency means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into. Because transparency is really about trust. Great blogs have earned the trust of their readers through their posts, their opinions, and their engagement. But they are also not misrepresenting themselves, or the reason why they’re blogging in the first place. At the end of the day, trust is the only real currency in the blogosphere, and people who read blogs have the expectation that they’re getting at the truth — in whatever form the truth is to them. And because there is the presumption of truth, readers will often react in an intense fashion to being manipulated, hoodwinked, and otherwise bamboozled.

The same rules apply for bloggers and for readers.

Bloggers and readers who are transparent leave no question about their motive, no suspicion of a hidden agenda. They speak with credibility and authenticity, in large part because of their transparency.

Because can’t see the eyes of another, because we can’t hear their voices, or watch their body language, we rely on an agreement to be transparent. Authentic transparency converts almost immediately intro trust.

It could be argued that trust runs the Internet.

Liz Strauss writes about with authenticity and transparency, and a variety of words she knows at Successful-Blog.

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  1. By Big Roy posted on March 1, 2007 at 6:58 pm
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    Hello Liz,

    I know that story must have bothered you a lot. I’ve seen you mention it a couple of times.

    I sometimes deal with very controversial issues on my blog. Which can cause problems. In fact I remember on a Tuesday night when I first started my blog someone on your open mic said I should stay away from controversy because people don’t like it.

    What I’ve found is, you must have a honest consistent voice. Allow readers to respond in a manner where people don’t scream at each other. I may totally disagree with a longtime readers view. Should I disagree and risk losing a reader. Or should I be honest and politely state my case.

    Overwhelmingly I’ve found that people just want honesty. They don’t respect people who agree just for the sake of agreeing. If you believe in something than stand up for it.

  2. By Liz Strauss posted on March 2, 2007 at 3:26 am
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    Hi Roy!
    You’ve always been a stand up guy. That’s certainly one of your strengths and it makes you a light in the blogosphere. People need to know where folks are because we can’t see or hear them, or know what they’re really doing . . . . We have to trust in what they say they are.

    I don’t know that you’ve seen me mention this particular story much, but in passing. I wouldn’t say it bothered me. I would say it made me sad. it crossed a line of trust, which aleays leaves a taste of disappointment and a questioning.

    A calm voice in a clear room of transparent people who disagree is indeed a bright light.