Arcane Thoughts: Do you trust me?

I’ve been watching an interesting debate between Scoble and Joel on the recent giveaway of Vista loaded laptops to bloggers. (No, I didn’t get one, dang it.) First, let me see if I can summarize their opinions, with apologies to both gentleman if I over simplify.

Scoble’s most recent posting on the subject can be found at http://scobleizer.com/2007/01/02/why-bash-microsoft-and-not-nokia/. His basic position is that it’s acceptable for bloggers to accept items from companies as long as there is full disclosure.

Joel in his posting at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/12/28.html has the position that by accepting any item we destroy any credibility and lose trust with our readers.

As a relatively new blogger, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking about both viewpoints. And while an admirer of his work I have come to a conclusion.

Joel is wrong.

Trust and credibility are something a blogger builds with his readership over time. Scoble is a perfect example of this. Microsoft paid his salary for many years, yet he still managed to gain an enormous amount of respect in the blogging community. Why?

Simply put, Scoble’s posts about the company he worked for rang true. Readers trusted him when he wrote something good about Microsoft, because he also wrote when Microsoft did bad things. Additionally, his experiences were reflected in the user community, who could hold his feet to the fire through comments. Finally, and most importantly, Scoble quickly and openly admits when he is wrong, publicly correcting his mistakes.

For a blogger who is willing to accept hardware / software, whether to review or not, his credibility will be born out over time. A blogger who only writes love letters about the things he accepts will soon be found out for the untrustworthy individual they are.

On the other hand, bloggers who are willing to be honest, provide full disclosure, and write negatively when justified, as well as positively (like Scoble did with Microsoft), those bloggers will gain that high level of trust and credibility regardless of whether they accepted freebies or not.

Those are my arcane thoughts, feel free to leave yours…

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