Blogging: When It Pays To Have Friends

Filed as Uncategorized on April 30, 2007 4:57 pm

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You may have heard a little science blurb over the past weekend — something about fruits improving the antioxidant qualities of alcohol, or some such. What you didn’t know is that there was a blogging related to-do that came out of the whole thing, and it raised an interesting issue:

When does it pay to have friends?

Scientific American had a great summary of the issue, but basically a science blogger by the name of Shelly Batt decided to do a thorough analysis of the paper in question, published by the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, and discovered a few interesting facts that weren’t released through the mainstream media.

Namely, that ethanol specifically wasn’t the best kind of alcohol for promoting anti-oxidant effects, and neither was it the best to prevent decay of the fruits (berries specifically). She then re-posted a graph and chart from the journal to prove her point.

The problem? She was hit with a letter from the lawyers of the journal, claiming that she violated copyright issues, and if she didn’t remove it, she’d be looking at a lawsuit.

While the story has a happy ending (the reposting of the content was thought to be “fair-use” and the lawyers backed down) what’s quite interesting was the manner in which the blogger in question was able to defend herself.

Initially she had capitulated to the threats of litigation. But found support amongst her fellow bloggers, and the story really took hold when BoingBoing got a hold of it (one of the largest English-language blogs in the Internet).

The real issue for bloggers, I think, was what happened if she had no friends? What happened if she didn’t have enough fellow bloggers to rally to her cause? what if she wasn’t able to convince Cory Doctorow that the issue wasn’t worthy enough to post on BoingBoing? And let’s be frank here: what happens if you don’t happen to own a blog that’s been linked to by USAToday, PCWorld and the Daily Kos?

While it is utterly mercenary to only think of your friends in terms of “what they can do for you” (although ironically, the best way to acquire them is to think in the completely opposite direction), its clear that having friends did pay off for Shelly Batts. In fact, the world “mob” was used at least a number of times by Scientific American, and on Ms. Watt’s on blog to describe the zeal with which her fellow bloggers (and fans) rushed to her defense.

The question remains: What would happen if *you* happened to find yourself in this bloggers’ situation? How many friends and resources would you have to call upon?

Here’s another question:Is it right that only the popular are able to benefit from “mob” style protection? (pun intended) Or with social networks and social news, is this something we can all benefit from equally?

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  1. By Nicholas posted on April 30, 2007 at 7:09 pm
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    Smaller blogs without the readership, authority, and “bigger” friends definitely have the problem of publishing critiques.

    But this is where EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and other blogger’s right organization take over.

    If you take on the heavy hitters, you would be wise to join some meaningful organizations as well as develop your contacts, or at least have a good lawyer handy.

    In the end, it’s not fair, but it’s a fact of life.

  2. By pelf posted on April 30, 2007 at 10:31 pm
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    (1) I have a small personal blog, and I don’t have a lot of big-shot-blogger-friends. Plus, the fact that I am staying in a country where most of our bloggers are only interested in themselves won’t help *my case* much.

    So, yea.. If that happened to me, I’d either have to (a) call upon a WHOLE lot of big-shot-blogger-friends, or (b) quietly step down. Seriously, when you’re a small-shot, you don’t have much options!

    (2) Yes, it is right that only the popular are able to benefit from “mob” style protection. I have seen it in our local blogosphere, but let’s not talk about law suits for now. I’ve noticed that if a popular blogger (with a lot of readers and fans) wanted to shoot and bring down OR popularize another small-shot blogger, s/he can almost always do it, because her/his members will definitely echo after her/him!

    Two political bloggers were recently sued by the Malaysian government, but while I am not in a position to tell whether they benefited from mob-style protection, you really gotta see who you’re up against. I frankly think it’s useless to fight your own government, unless you have a whole load of supporters!

  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 30, 2007 at 10:37 pm
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    I’ve found that it doesn’t matter the size of your blog, you have friends out there you didn’t even know you had when you need them. The issue is that you have to ask for help, something many of us have trouble with.

    Remember, all it takes is one person to change your world. You don’t need an army. :)

  4. By Nicholas posted on May 1, 2007 at 5:36 am
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    Excellent point Lorelle.

    I think you’re exactly right. Most bloggers are quite willing to help if you ask them. Especially in cases such as these where it also affects them, then certainly it’s always good reason to ask.

    As I’ve said in another blog, there are organizations that are also willing to help. I know one organization that frequently steps up to the plate, and that is EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation)