Joel on Software on bribing and ethics


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If you're a blogger or read blogs you might have come across the debate,
such as it is, about "pay per post." Frankly I've not paid much attention
to it other than noting the links go by without my clicking on them. But
Joel's stuff is often good.

Check out this
from Joel on Software:

Joel says: "There's an interesting debate going on about whether bloggers should
accept gifts from vendors.

Lately Microsoft, working through their PR agency, Edelman,
has been getting rather aggressive about trying to buy good coverage
from bloggers. A few months ago they invited bloggers out to Seattle
to meet Bill Gates, with all expenses paid (hotel, airfare, etc). Last
week they send out a round of expensive laptops with Vista
preinstalled. These are not loans, by the way: they're completely free
laptops ("yours to keep!"). Here's the offer I received from a
Microsoft employee… [snip]

Sounds nice, huh? What could be wrong with that?

Robert Scoble says
"it's an awesome idea." He says that as long as the bloggers disclose
that they got the laptops free, they're acting ethically. And he says
that Edelman is just "doing their job," which is therefore by
definition ethical:

On Edelman's side? Is sending out laptops ethical? Of course! That's
their job.

Scoble is wrong.

Just because it's someones job to do something, doesn't make it
ethical. Robert, your logic is faulty. Unless you want to assume that anything
that Edelman does in the name of promoting Microsoft is automatically
ethical, this logical argument you are making is simply false. For
example, if Edelman paid a bribe to a government official to
standardize on Windows, that would not be ethical, even
though it's their job.

[snip…]" (End of quote of Joel on Software, from: Bribing

Yeah, I think that Joel is making a pretty good ethical argument. I
guess the more visibility (= power) you have the more you have to bend
over backwards to avoid "the appearance" of impropriety.