A premie baby is causing debates and controversy about medical research projects. A debate on plant ethics questions over the humane treatment of plants opposes yet is related to the debate on ethical treatment of animals as food sources. Advanced research on stem cells and human cloning is debatable on all sides, especially when news of animals being brought back from extinction brings hope to many. Another current debate hovers around food stamps as the US Congress argues over cuts to the program and whether or not to continue supporting the program as millions of Americans live in “food insecure” households. With the debates ongoing over military intervention in Syria, Noam Chomsky’s debates with Stanley Hoffmann titled “The Ethics of Intervention” in 1969 seem appropriate even today.
Ethics are tough often brutal points of contention for and against those on one side, those on the other, and the ones caught in the middle of the tug-of-war.
Today’s blog exercise is to tackle an ethics issue and blog about it on your site.
Part of the magic that made the television show, Star Trek, and its sequels popular were those ethical debates as plots. Current events and moral arguments thrashed out in a futuristic, science fiction world. Black verses white, roles of males and females, war, peace, good verses evil, in the book, The Ethics of Star Trek,authors Judith Barad and Ed Robertson debated those ethics. I’ll use an excerpt from the introduction of their book to outline your blog exercise.
One reason why Star Trek has endured from one generation to the next is that most of the stories themselves are indeed moral fables. Though episodes are obviously self-contained, when taken as a whole they constitute a harmonious philosophy filled with hope. While our Star Trek heroes are far from perfect, they are nonetheless essentially decent beings whose interaction with “new life and new civilizations” is always guided by nobility and morality. This morality is based on a fundamental ethics that was inherent when the franchise was initially conceived.
From portraying television’s first interracial kiss to dramatizing the issues of homelessness, homosexuality, and religious intolerance, the ethics of Star Trek has generated a world that strives to be free of the racists, sexist, and xenophobic attitudes that are, unfortunately, still all too common today. By raising these issues, each series challenges us to examine our own values and ask ourselves whether they are defensible, let alone reasonable.
It’s time to raise some ethical issues on your blog, examine your values, and ask yourself whether or not these are defensible and reasonable, and share it with your readers.
Your blog exercise today is to write a blog post that outlines an ethical issue associated with your blogging topics.
This debate is with yourself. You may respond to a news item or another point of view.
The perspective may be your own, the views of others, a game of Devil’s Advocate where you take the opposite view of your own, or you may try to tackle both sides of the issue.
Arguing the ethics of something helps everyone learn more about the issues, and it often helps your readers get to know you and your subject matter better. It helps to include them in the debate, letting their comments show their perspective on the issue, maybe shining a new light on it.
The keys things to consider as you prepare your ethics post are:
- Clearly state the moral dilemma: Make the point you are arguing clear so we understand what you are debating.
- Clearly identify your position on the issue: There may be many perspectives and positions on any issue. Make sure the reader knows where you stand.
- Identify the position you oppose: If you are against something, make sure the reader knows what you are against, battling over, or contesting.
- Identify arguments for and against your position: Bring us into the story. We may not be familiar with the issue, so let us see the bigger picture before we narrow our focus down to your side of the story.
- Identify the objections to the positions: Your point may be right, and you may think it is the only right position to take, but what are the objections to that point? Are any of their points valid for or against? If they are, say so. If they aren’t, say that as well.
- Offer solutions: Do you have a solution? Is there a better way? Is there a compromise? What has to change?
You may think there are no ethical issues to debate in your industry. I’ll argue that one.
WordPress Community Ethics and Moral Values
You would think that in the WordPress Community, life would be joyous, easy-going, everyone working together in harmony. Yet there have been and will always be ethical conflicts associated with web publishing and WordPress. Want a peek inside my world?
By 2007, there was a surge of WordPress Themes stuffed with hidden or visible advertising links called “Premium” or “Sponsored” Themes. People would download free Themes only to find their sites plagued with unwanted spam ads, malware, and possible viruses. Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, closed the ethical debate over such WordPress Themes by removing all sponsored Themes from the WordPress Theme viewer. In 2009, the Software Freedom Law Center clarified the usage of CSS files in WordPress Themes as copyrightable, giving them the right to be bought and sold. WordPress Theme architecture, the HTML and code still come under GPL and cannot be copyrighted, but the CSS styles, the design elements, of a WordPress Theme can. From that point forward, a commercial area of the WordPress Theme Directory was created and Themes could be sold to WordPress users. This battle hurt many relationships within the WordPress Community as they fought over the right to sell their Themes. Eventually, this compromise healed many wounds.
There continues to be ethical issues over the rights and attention WordPress Theme developers have over WordPress Plugin Authors, a disrespect I hope will end soon. A long time fan and loyal supporter of WordPress Plugin authors, I was furious when some people claimed paid (premium) WordPress Plugins were better than free Plugins. This isn’t true. What is true is that there is a committee that oversees WordPress Themes on the WordPress Theme Directory. There are paid staff, checklists, review boards, and monitors in place to evaluate WordPress Themes. WordPress Plugins are crowd-sourced, relying upon the WordPress Community to report on WordPress Plugin issues, conflicts, or bad behaviors. There are no official checklists in place, no staff to oversee, evaluate, or block “bad” Plugins from the Plugin Directory unless something is brought to the attention of someone in power – at least to my latest information. I’d love to be wrong on this, since WordPress Plugins make our sites work better and we are so reliant upon them.
These were big issues, but there are many little ethical debates in the WordPress Community. In 2006, there was a great deal of concern over WordPress Widgets and giving control of the sidebar to the user, thus breaking the WordPress Theme the designer so carefully developed. Freedom won, and now you can mess up a WordPress Theme in many ways, shoving all kinds of crap into widgetized areas.
From Plugins and Themes to WordCamps and Meetups, ethics debates challenged us to find ways to listen to all the points of view and find a way to go forward with the nobility and morality Barad and Robertson talked about in their book.
Ethics in Blogging
The blogging industry is not exempt from controversy, too. In these Blog Exercises I’ve brought up several controversial issues including the ethics of choosing which types of sites you will link to in your post content. The ethics of linking goes deep, influencing readers as well as search engine algorithms.
From the earliest days of the web, copyright issues have long been an issue of contention and ethics in web publishing. In the early years of WordPress.com, an unethical company known as Bitacle ripped off thousands of WordPress.com blogs and republished their content on their sites, arguing that they had the right to use our feeds for their advertising income. My article, What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, continues to be one of the most popular on this site as people face ethical decisions over copyright protection of their content daily.
There are even debates today, long after you would think they would be settled, on whether or not bloggers should blog anonymously, and how they should protect themselves online. Many now say that with the move towards transparency on the web, shouldn’t we just all be ourselves online? On this, don’t get me started.
Your Ethical Assignment
Find your own ethical issue in your blogging subject matter. Give your side, their side, and bring your audience in for a peek at where you stand on your issues.
Some topics may get you in trouble, some may suddenly turn you into the leading expert on the subject.
Be brave. You have something to say. Let it be heard.