Full Disclosure: Transparency And Maintaining Trust

Full Disclosure: Transparency And Maintaining Trust

Am I trustworthy? Perhaps. May be not.

Really what evidence do you have to go on? If you’ve never meet me all you have are glimpses of who I am. Words here, photos there, a few videos, way too many tweets and whatever interactions we have online.

Why do I care if I’m trustyworthy?

Because trust is an important part of the blogosphere. Building trust online takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something you earn through your actions. Transparency is an important of maintaining trust and as a blogger part of being transparent is revealing any potential influences (especially monetary ones). While we all know that words can easily be misinterpreted the words we leave out can cause worse misinterpretations.

What brought up this conversation on transparency and trust?

Well today Stephen Downes called Steve Dembo and I out on this issue:

How about a little disclosure here? Are Steve Dembo and Sue Waters getting paid to promote a commercial product (I assume Alan Levine’s rah rah post is unpaid, though you’d never know from the tenor)? Was Dembo being paid when he started plugging it on his site back in early April? I don’t care if people want to make a little money, but let’s keep the advertising content in the edublogosphere clearly labeled as such, OK? Because, as it stands now, I can’t trust anything Sue Waters and Steve Dembo write – and that’s an unhappy state to be in.

Well Stephen right I didn’t provide a full disclosure and left it up to interpretation. So let me provide full disclosures to hopefully clarify all matters:

MyStudiyo Competition

Steve Dembo and I am not getting paid by MyStudiyo to judge their competition.

MyStudiyo contacted me, explained that they were planning this competition and asked if I could be a judge with Steve Dembo. I thought about it and decided I was happy to be involved because I had seen Steve’s quiz, liked the product and saw the value for educators.

In response to Stephen’s comment “Don’t you think that being given a computer to give away to your readers is a form of payment?” my answer is sorry, no I don’t because the competition is open to anyone.

The Edublogger

When James Farmer, founder of Edublogs, approached me to ask if I was willing to be the editor of The Edublogger the concept was that I would keep doing the kind of stuff that I already do well, but also do it at a central place within Edublogs. My passion has always been about HELPING OTHERS learn how to use these technologies; so that is why I jumped at the opportunity!

I’m paid to blog by Edublogs to write posts for The Edublogger based on payment per post only (which works out to less than the “minimum wage” i.e. wouldn’t even pay for a takeaway meal for the family).

The Comment Challenge

The Comment Challenge came about because commenting is a crucial aspect of blogging conversations for achieving the greatest learning. Trouble is factors often limit people’s commenting practices so they don’t experience this learning and fail to appreciate it’s value. I, and others, felt strongly that we needed to do more to engage others, especially new people, in commenting. This Challenge is being sponsored by CoComment and Edublogs. None of the coordinators are being paid by CoComment.


There is a difference between being paid to blog and being paid to blog about a product. I’m not being paid to promote any product and if I was I would fully disclose it.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

17 thoughts on “Full Disclosure: Transparency And Maintaining Trust

  1. Sue – Don’t let the “B’s” get you down! I believe the level of help (freely offered and provided) is fantastic. You do things the “right” and you have creditabilty with me (for what is worth).

  2. Sue,

    It’s difficult for me to believe how anyone could think you’d be a paid “shill” for a product on one of your blogs. Your integrity, demonstrated by your public work, is just too obvious for that.

    Keep on doing what you’ve been doing — Please!


  3. Sue, I appreciate your disclosure, although I had no doubts whatsoever about your work. You do everything with the utmost integrity and transparency, one of the reasons I’m proud to call you a friend.

  4. Trust online is an interesting thing because we’ve all become accustomed to believing our eyes and trusting that people are honest in how they present themselves.

    That said, how do we really know who is actually commenting on our blogs, who is honestly writing the posts that we read, and who is truly the person behind those curious posts to Twitter?

    A perfect example of this lies (no pun intended) in the US presidential race. Obama and Clinton both maintain active Twitter accounts. Do you honestly think that Barack himself is anxiously posting to Twitter? Yeah, right.

    Nevertheless, it looks like Obama. We think that it’s Hilary. Or at least we want to think that it is.

    When all is said and done, we’ve been nothing but duped. Duped into thinking that we’re dealing with a person that we thought that we knew. We trusted them. We wanted to believe.

    Which is exactly what you may have done upon reading this comment. While it may appear that Stephen was the author of this comment…

    …in the end, it was none other than Drape.

    And THAT is full disclosure.

  5. Sue, I would love for you to write about the K-12 quizzing and assessment site http://yacapaca.com/ and I can guarantee you will avoid Stephen’s wrath because we can’t afford to give away computers to anyone. Not even an Asus eee!

  6. Interesting discussion, and one that’s worth having. Trust and identity are crucial issues in online relationship.

    Thanks for your post Sue, and your disclosures. i do think Stephen made a good point initially, but i also agree with you .. that if you’re giving away the computer, it’s not payment for you.

    kind regards, michael

  7. Agree with you about establishing trust… however, isn’t the onus on the readers to think critically, be discerning, and gather evidence before assuming anything? I was taught to do that with traditional media. I teach others to think even more critically, etc. with everything online.

    Along those lines, then, I wouldn’t be so apt to blindly believe everything I read (e.g., Obama’s tweets coming directly from Obama, etc.).

    Love your blog posts, Sue. You’re most helpful, and the trust I have in what you post comes from my own learning/researching… not just blind faith. To follow Stephen Downes’ thinking, perhaps everyone who blogs should be required to “fully disclose”??? I don’t think so.

  8. I guess I’m one of those naive people who never read more into your posts than face value. I never thought I should not trust you and have had conversations with you on twitter before. If it comes to the time where I have to not trust anything anyone says, I guess I would just about have to stop doing anything. I enjoy your posts and what you say! Thanks for all you do!

  9. I’ve been shocked by all this. I have a background in journalism and making accusations in a public forum without checking facts is a violation of trust to the readership of the person doing it. Assumptions aren’t good enough when reputations are at stake. ‘Nuff said.

  10. @Downes (Draper): I think it is important to understand the difference between lying about identity and simply projecting an expected identity. Of course Obama/Clinton don’t have time to write out Twitter responses/emails/letters/etc. Yet, it is still important that those things get out there. In a way, the identity of any candidate is really built by a campaign rather than the candidate themselves. The candidate is the campaign and vice versa.

  11. Michelle Baldwin said “isn’t the onus on the readers to think critically, be discerning, and gather evidence before assuming anything?” with which I agree. I didn’t think that Sue was getting compensation for the MyStudiyo competition because I’ve developed a sense of trust in Sue. I’ve been a reader of her blogs for 6 months and I feel like I know what she’s all about.

    Now, if someone I didn’t know very well, who hadn’t had a chance to gain my trust, was promoting a similar contest (or challenge, or…) I’m pretty sure I would be asking myself “what’s s/he getting out of all this?”

    After the big stampede to Diigo a few months ago we’d be fools if we didn’t think that on-line companies are trying to harness the viral power of influential bloggers. Now, I’m not saying that Diigo paid bloggers to promote their product, but I am saying that anyone with a product to sell that witnessed that stampede would be given pause for thougth.

    Stephen Downes (the real Stephen Downes) makes a really good point. If edubloggers are being compensated to promote a product, then they should say so. If they are not being compensated, then that is equally important to mention.

    I am glad that Sue wrote this response to Downes’ post. For many of us Sue is our mentor extraordinaire and Downes’ comments do nothing to detract from that.

    Thanks for straightening things out Sue. I guess now I’ll have to go back to all my “rah, rah Google” posts and disclose that I was not approached by Google to write them, nor was I compensated in any way. I’m just a fan 🙂

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