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eG Ethics code


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#91 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 04:56 PM

I have some issues with codes of ethics in general.

Setting those aside, since the decision has already been made to adopt the code and the only open questions are ones of specific wording, let me address the specific concerns you raise.

Respect for intellectual property. All text, photos and other media from outside sources is republished only with the explicit permission of its owner or in compliance with an applicable license (e.g., Creative Commons), with the exception of brief quotations from written works in the context of discussing those works.


Is there a reason that this is much more stringent than fair use?


I don't agree that it's "much more stringent" but, in any event, we're creating a code of ethics not a code of law. Law and ethics are, needless to say, not the same thing. The laws of intellectual property may or may not respect original creation as much as the eG Ethics code does.

Links where credit is due. Where the creator of content referenced on this website has made it possible to link to that content, a link is given here. Where books are referenced, links are provided to allow purchase. In general, links are favored over reproduction of content.


I do not see the point of this. If, for example, I am writing something critical of a book that I do not believe deserves to be purchased, why should I link to a place to purchase it?

This was discussed above and a change is being made.

Also, for individual users, how does this fit with policies like those here at the eGullet forums where reproduction of content is preferred rather than linking back to ones own blog?

I don't understand the relevance of that situation. Content under one's own control is clearly a different species.

Disclosure of comps. Where a free or discounted product or service has been accepted, a corresponding disclosure is made.


Presumably only if you are writing about that product or service, yes? If someone sends me something unsolicited and I do not write about it, I should not be required to disclose that they sent me something.

Yes, one would only need to make a disclosure where relevant.

Fair comment. This website allows registered users to comment on the content contained herein. Free and fair comment will be permitted so long as it is civil and conforms to this website's terms of service, including this document.


Not all websites should be required to allow comments.To say otherwise presumes a great deal about the purpose of that site. Moreover, "free" comment is ambiguous. What about comment moderation? By my account, eGullet does not allow free comment, there is a process that needs to be gone through before the ability to comment is granted.

Not all websites are required to allow comments, but the eG Ethics code won't work for those that don't allow comments. The code doesn't require unfettered comment. It allows for limits such as terms of service, registration and a requirement of civility. But it does require that there be a mechanism for fair comment.

Fact checking. The author of any factual statement on this website has made a good-faith effort to confirm the accuracy of that statement. Statements of opinion, however, are just that.


What about websites that are intentionally tongue-in-cheek? What about those that take an outrageous tone? As long as they are up-front about these things, is that a problem?

Satire doesn't constitute a factual claim, so no that wouldn't be a problem.

Faithfulness to the historical record. This site has an edit window of X minutes to permit correction of typographical, spelling, attribution and minor errors. Neither this window nor administrative powers will be used to remove or alter content in a way that distorts the historical development of any content, except when the terms of service have been violated. Even then, due care will be taken to restore the content so as to preserve the record.


Say I have a popular blog post on a topic. I find out that a fact in that blog post is incorrect. Shouldn't I update it?

In most cases the best way to update an older post is to leave the post intact and add something along the lines of a parenthetical ("edited to add"). There are also situations where there needs to be a full edit, such as removal of an intellectual property violation. The final version has some language changes to make this all more clear.

Revision.  This code will be revised, updated and clarified from time to time. The latest version of the code along with elaboration and discussion can be found at LINK.


This is problematic unless you maintain earlier versions as well and allow people to sign on to a specific version. Someone might sign on to 1.0 - but not be willing to follow the changes that you make between 1.0 and 2.0. Retaining them as a signatory to the updated code would be unethical.

All versions will be maintained and dated, and those who feel they can no longer comply with an updated version are asked to remove the badge.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#92 kitchenhacker

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 05:31 PM

Thanks for addressing my concerns.

Some responses:

I have some issues with codes of ethics in general.

Setting those aside, since the decision has already been made to adopt the code and the only open questions are ones of specific wording, let me address the specific concerns you raise.


That's fair, I suppose. I would love to see something added to the code that concedes the inherent fallibility of codes. They are always overbroad in some ways (and may not go far enough in others). The fact that you want to make this an evolving document acknowledges this implicitly. It would be good to make that acknowledgment explicit.

Respect for intellectual property. All text, photos and other media from outside sources is republished only with the explicit permission of its owner or in compliance with an applicable license (e.g., Creative Commons), with the exception of brief quotations from written works in the context of discussing those works.

Is there a reason that this is much more stringent than fair use?

I don't agree that it's "much more stringent" but, in any event, we're creating a code of ethics not a code of law. Law and ethics are, needless to say, not the same thing. The laws of intellectual property may or may not respect original creation as much as the eG Ethics code does.


I was vague here. The only exception you list is "brief quotations from written works" - but intellectual property isn't limited to written works. What about audio samples? Excerpts from other media that are used for perfectly acceptable purposes?

That's why your code is much more stringent.

Also, for individual users, how does this fit with policies like those here at the eGullet forums where reproduction of content is preferred rather than linking back to ones own blog?

I don't understand the relevance of that situation. Content under one's own control is clearly a different species.


Is it? What is the premise for a preference towards linkage? Is it the assumed preference of the content-owner? An a priori preference for original sources? Neither of those would render it a different species. This feels like a double-standard.

Fair comment. This website allows registered users to comment on the content contained herein. Free and fair comment will be permitted so long as it is civil and conforms to this website's terms of service, including this document.


Not all websites should be required to allow comments.To say otherwise presumes a great deal about the purpose of that site. Moreover, "free" comment is ambiguous. What about comment moderation? By my account, eGullet does not allow free comment, there is a process that needs to be gone through before the ability to comment is granted.

Not all websites are required to allow comments, but the eG Ethics code won't work for those that don't allow comments. The code doesn't require unfettered comment. It allows for limits such as terms of service, registration and a requirement of civility. But it does require that there be a mechanism for fair comment.


Why?

Wouldn't it be enough to say "if comments are permitted, then they must be fair?" Is there any reason behind the commenting requirement?

Also, I think that "free and fair" need to be clarified. They are incredibly vague, especially if limited by the ToS. Limiting fairness by the ToS robs this clause of any point. What if my ToS allow me to remove or change comments if they upset me? No one would say that was free and fair.

Fact checking. The author of any factual statement on this website has made a good-faith effort to confirm the accuracy of that statement. Statements of opinion, however, are just that.

What about websites that are intentionally tongue-in-cheek? What about those that take an outrageous tone? As long as they are up-front about these things, is that a problem?

Satire doesn't constitute a factual claim, so no that wouldn't be a problem.


Depending upon ones definition of "factual" - this should be clarified.

Faithfulness to the historical record. This site has an edit window of X minutes to permit correction of typographical, spelling, attribution and minor errors. Neither this window nor administrative powers will be used to remove or alter content in a way that distorts the historical development of any content, except when the terms of service have been violated. Even then, due care will be taken to restore the content so as to preserve the record.


Say I have a popular blog post on a topic. I find out that a fact in that blog post is incorrect. Shouldn't I update it?

In most cases the best way to update an older post is to leave the post intact and add something along the lines of a parenthetical ("edited to add"). There are also situations where there needs to be a full edit, such as removal of an intellectual property violation. The final version has some language changes to make this all more clear.


Why?

What if adding such update notices and such ruins the post (because, say, it was dependent upon a certain narrative flow or a certain format)? What if it is just a spelling mistake? There are some changes that are trivial. Why should altering your own content be limited in this way? Is there a compelling reason that trumps all others?

I just don't see the reason behind this being an absolute.

Revision.  This code will be revised, updated and clarified from time to time. The latest version of the code along with elaboration and discussion can be found at LINK.


This is problematic unless you maintain earlier versions as well and allow people to sign on to a specific version. Someone might sign on to 1.0 - but not be willing to follow the changes that you make between 1.0 and 2.0. Retaining them as a signatory to the updated code would be unethical.

All versions will be maintained and dated, and those who feel they can no longer comply with an updated version are asked to remove the badge.

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Putting the onus on others to do so seems as morally problematic to me as opt-out mechanisms usually do. Couldn't you have code version numbers with unique badges/links? Thus, when you update the code, people can choose whether or not to update their badge along with it?

#93 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 05:43 PM

I would love to see something added to the code that concedes the inherent fallibility of codes.


We're trying to keep it limited to essential provisions. It's a practical code not a treatise on ethics. We will (and already are through discussions like this), however, offer lots of elaboration on points exactly like this.

What about audio samples? Excerpts from other media


Not okay under the code unless there is explicit permission or an applicable license.

This feels like a double-standard.


It's a double standard because it's two different things. If I rely on the original work of someone who has gone to the trouble to place that work online, I should link to it. If I'm the author of the original work, I shouldn't use other websites as pure marketing tools by linking to it -- I should reproduce it.

What if my ToS allow me to remove or change comments if they upset me? No one would say that was free and fair.


I agree.


Why should altering your own content be limited in this way? Is there a compelling reason that trumps all others?


We have found through many years of experience in this area that a large cross-section of people consider it suspicious when editing powers are used in secret after the fact. They see "edited to add" and equivalent conventions as more honest. With spelling changes, it's easy enough at the end of a post to note "(edited to correct spelling)." Many eG Forums participants do this as a matter of course and it's a good system, balancing the needs of creative flow with respect for the historical record.

Couldn't you have code version numbers with unique badges/links?


That's a bit much. We'll try to maintain a mailing list and notify people of code updates. But ultimately we place the onus on signatories to keep up to date.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#94 robyn

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:11 PM

how will any Code of Ethics solve the problem of bum restaurant recommendations?

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It won't. A bum recommendation isn't a question of ethics. We're not trying to solve all the world's problems, or even all the world's ethics problems. We're trying to provide some good guidance for online writers, and I think we achieve that with the code.

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Hey - if all of you in the food chat board world can manage to resolve your disputes - I will recommend to the current president (Chelsea Clinton :wink:? ) - that you should be sent to the middle east to negotiate a lasting peace. Sometimes the former seems harder to accomplish than the latter :smile: . Robyn

#95 prasantrin

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:26 PM

how will any Code of Ethics solve the problem of bum restaurant recommendations?

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It won't. A bum recommendation isn't a question of ethics. We're not trying to solve all the world's problems, or even all the world's ethics problems. We're trying to provide some good guidance for online writers, and I think we achieve that with the code.

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If an undeserved recommendation is given because of a personal relationship of the blogger/poster with the restaurant owners/chefs/etc. then is that not an ethical consideration?

This point is somewhat covered by having to dislose comps, etc. but not entirely.

#96 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:28 PM

If an undeserved recommendation is given because of a personal relationship of the blogger/poster with the restaurant owners/chefs/etc.

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The code provides:

Disclosure of conflicts of interest. Where the author has a relationship with the subject of coverage beyond a casual or typical customer relationship, that relationship is disclosed. Financial and employment relationships, including those of close friends, associates and family members, will also be disclosed.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#97 prasantrin

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:29 PM

Saltshaker, the notion that there will be a stigma attached to not adopting the eG Ethics code is risible. You attribute a hilarious amount of power to our organization.


To some degree, I think having an eG code of ethics and accompanying "badge" implies that eG has more power or at least prestige than most similar organizations. If you didn't believe it did, why bother with it at all?

#98 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:37 PM

To some degree, I think having an eG code of ethics and accompanying "badge" implies that eG has more power or at least prestige than most similar organizations. 

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I'm not sure what "most similar organizations" includes, and "power" is a loaded term, but yes, we think we have something to offer here. For the most part, it's all about the code itself: we think on its own terms it's a good document and the badge implies little more than that. Our team also has a lot of collective experience working on and talking about these issues, so we offer that as well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#99 robyn

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 08:10 PM

how will any Code of Ethics solve the problem of bum restaurant recommendations?

View Post


It won't. A bum recommendation isn't a question of ethics. We're not trying to solve all the world's problems, or even all the world's ethics problems. We're trying to provide some good guidance for online writers, and I think we achieve that with the code.

View Post


If an undeserved recommendation is given because of a personal relationship of the blogger/poster with the restaurant owners/chefs/etc. then is that not an ethical consideration?

This point is somewhat covered by having to dislose comps, etc. but not entirely.

View Post


Something an ethics code would never cover is the "hip" factor. This is the newest - hottest - trendiest restaurant in town. And OMG - I just scored an 8 pm Friday night reservation through a friend of a friend - so I can't be too critical (or critical at all). Otherwise - I'll never score another decent reservation until the place goes out of favor (or out of business).

Although we live at opposite ends of the world - I am not sure this is a factor that comes into play on our home turfs - but I'm sure it does in trendier places.

I guess what's going through my mind when I read this stuff is - what's the point? The objective? Being a (retired) lawyer - the point of the Code of Ethics when it comes to lawyers is to prevent clients from being screwed by someone with whom they have a fiduciary relationship. To make sure the client doesn't have an incompetent lawyer - a lawyer who represents clients with conflicting interests - a lawyer who steals money - etc.

Here - the only objective I can think of is to maximize the chances that a reader will have a good meal - and I'm not sure that any of the rules here are designed to achieve that result. If there is another objective - perhaps someone can explain it to me. Robyn

#100 Fat Guy

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 11:51 AM

Many thanks for all your comments. We have made several changes to the draft code and published the first iteration of the code, along with badges and the signatory form, at eGullet.org/ethics.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)