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Blog Exercises: Debate Ethics

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.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.

First interrancial kiss on television - Star Trek screencap of Uhura and Kirk in Platos Stepchildren.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.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.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 , an unethical company known as Bitacle ripped off thousands of 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.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.


  1. Posted September 6, 2013 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    In high school debate we had no ethics. I made up quotes allegedly made by Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln , for instance, all the time. Still couldn’t win.

    • Posted September 6, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Lol. I assume you’ve gotten better at making things up. 😀

    • Posted September 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Hi Lorelle,

      Carl has indeed graduated from making things up to making cartoons (up, down or in any direction).

  2. Posted September 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    Here is a post that deals with some ethical, social and environmental issues. SoundEagle looks forward to interacting with you and reading your comments and feedback at the post.

    • Posted September 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      That is a post published earlier this year. It would be lovely, and in compliance with the exercise, to do one today, or in the next few days. These blog exercises are designed to motivate you not get you sitting on past accomplishments. It’s called “exercise” for a reason. LOL!

      And I have to say, you get my award of the day for a sidebar more cluttered with stuff than my own. Wow. That’s a serious sidebar. It took ages for the page to load because of all the stuff on it.

      We did several exercises early in this series on cleaning up your site to make every pixel count for the reader, not ourselves. One was on when your site looks spammy and ensuring your content doesn’t compete with the design, masking the purpose and mission of the site. I have another one coming up about dissecting everything in your sidebar, and yours would be a perfect example, if you wish.

      Not to offend. We’re all here to learn how to flex those blogging muscles and blog better all around.


      • Posted September 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your feedback, Lorelle, though I was clearly requesting feedback about that said post on my blog, not a feedback here about my blog per se, which is multidisciplinary and multimedia, and which contains far more than a single or a few “purpose and mission of the site”. I am, and have been, aware of many of your recommendations. Thank you.

        Also, I barely have time to blog nowadays, being a sole caretaker of a beloved one, and also doing a fair amount of pro bono works. I just came across this post of yours today, and thought that my said post can or could be a candidate.

      • Posted September 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        These exercises are for you, ways to help you stretch and grow, and it has been a policy since the beginning that we help each other out by offering advice to improve our sites. Sorry if I stepped over any boundaries.

        I only give feed back on posts directly related to these exercises, however, as a white paper style report, your post works. As an incentive for discussion, challenging your readers to have their say, it appears that you are writing for your audience as you have plenty of comments and interactions. Excellent.

      • Posted September 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Lorelle, for giving me some feedback and your insight. I shall settle for, and be satisfied by your feedback here, though it would be lovely to have you and other interested parties joining the feedback and discussions there as part of the “comments and interactions” at the post.

        Happy September to you and Brent!

      • Posted September 13, 2013 at 2:51 am | Permalink

        Thank you. My comments on your article would be about form and structure, not content, so it wouldn’t be helpful to the conversation on the subject. While I appreciate the invitation, the subject matter is one that I’m not well versed enough to contribute to. Please try another and maybe I can participate on that. Thanks!

      • Posted September 13, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

        Hi Lorelle,

        As requested, and in order to cast the net wider and to increase the chance of you finding something to your liking or taste, here are some nice ones (listed in chronological order) to choose from:

        Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality

        Use with Caution or Not at All

        In Longevity and the Living Society

        In Best Moment Award from Moment Matters

        Facing the Noise: Music Playgrounds for Bio-phobic Citizens

        Looking forward to experiencing your participation!

      • Posted September 13, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Thank you.

      • Posted September 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        You are very welcome, Lorelle.

        May you have a lovely weekend!

  3. Posted September 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, I totally agree with you on The Ethics of Star Trek. The musical “South Pacific” is also ahead of its time in dealing with many moral, ethical, racial and socio-political issues through musical and cultural subtexts.

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