Credibility in the blogosphere

Posted on Wednesday 22 March 2006

Someone recently asked me, “How would you define an expert in the blogosphere, what attributions, experience or credentials would make them credible?

Heavens! An “expert in the blogosphere”? I admit it. I stumbled a bit on the question. There are so many spheres in which people blog these days, I could hardly wrap my mind around the question. It’s like contemplating infinity!

I was reminded strongly of Dwight Silverman’s recent quest for a “blog critic”:

This person would have to be someone who’s non-partisan, who’s been blogging awhile, and who has the respect of the blogging community.

How does one measure the “respect of the blogging community”? And does “respect” equate to “credibility“? I don’t think so, but the mental exercise turns out to have been good for me, because I was finally able to put my thumb on a couple of things:

  • Quality — If a blogger can’t write well, Polimom, at least, won’t take them seriously. That doesn’t mean the blog doesn’t have terrific ideas or information; there may be some wonderful nuggets buried under appalling grammar, spelling, or syntax. Given the choice, though, I will choose an articulate, well-presented entry every time. Those are the blogs Polimom respects and sees as most credible, in all subject areas.
  • Substantiation and expansion — Regurgitating news items without comment is totally useless. If you’re online (and not totally inept), you can find the stories at their original source. What a waste of time! Conversely, I find it frustrating when a blogger opines or makes references without quotes, links, or snippets.
  • Rational — In terms of politics, I tend to choose moderates for the “Daily Reads” – those who don’t rant from the left or right as a general rule. Bloggers that consistently blast Bush or Clinton (I’m referring to Hillary here…), swear continuously, etc., are not credible. They require constant “filtering” to get through the bias. However, Polimom is able to respect their opinions. Usually.
  • Aliases — Finally – there are some who feel that blogging under a pseudonym (as I do) detracts from one’s credibility. I don’t know if that’s true, but it comes up now and again. There are, however, a number of bloggers I read, respect, find credible, who approach things in the same way. It’s possible (probable?) that people would find Polimom more credible if I blogged under my real name, or posted my photo, but I don’t see how.

    As a result of this person’s question, though (and my resulting soul-search), I decided to add a bit more information about myself to the “So who’s Polimom, anyway?” page. Will that increase someone’s respect for my writing? I doubt it, but it might satisfy some curiosity.

All in all, this was a fascinating thought process for me, and I’m truly curious what other people think here.

Tell me: How do you define credibility in the blogosphere? Who do you respect, and why?

6 Comments for 'Credibility in the blogosphere'

    March 22, 2006 | 1:02 pm

    I run two blogs. One is a personal blog about the various goings on and misadventures in my life, the other is a journalistic effort delving into legal issues. For the first one, I use an alias, the one I sign my comments here with, the other one I use my real name.

    The reason for the difference is because, as a journalism graduate, I know that people tend to trust a person they can “touch” more. With my personal blog, I don’t care if people believe me. I started using a pen name there ten years ago when I started the site out of fear that my classmates would discover what I was doing and never backed away from that, despite growing up, graduating high school, college and becoming a taxpaying citizen.

    Things change, but I didn’t care enough about my credibility to to switch to my real name. Besides, it’s now such a part of my identity there that I can’t back away from it.

    Which brings me to my final point (in a roundabout way). People seem to put about as much stock in my alias as my real name. The reason is that I’ve built up the reputation of my alias over the past ten years and people know that, pen name or not, they can trust me to write at least moderately well and tell it like I see it.

    Long story short, I think using your real name gives one a credibility “head start” but it’s up to the blogger to earn their reputation over time. Good posts, good writing and fair articles can make an alias as powerful as a real name and bad posts can kill a real name just the same as an alias.

    The only difference is that you can run from your alias. No such luck with your real name.

    Just my thoughts.

    March 23, 2006 | 1:01 am

    I’m the poster boy for profanity on a blog site, but when I do that, it is more of an exercise in blogging as catharsis. I try not to let it get in the way of my point, but sometimes Sam Kinison gets more attention than Mahatma Gandhi.

    March 23, 2006 | 7:20 am

    Hey ashley!

    I thought of you, in fact, when I wrote this entry, and I do read your blog even though I know you’re liable to go off the handle sometimes. (smile…) It calls for mental preparation, though, when I visit, because I’m not sure what to expect.

    Since I’m trying to follow some things you blog about (specifically the Lusher school issue and Tulane), and since I respect your opinion, your blog is the perfect case in point. I’m glad you stopped by and commented!

    March 23, 2006 | 10:54 am

    I’m blaming Ashley for my digressions into vulgarity.

    There came a point, post-Katrina, when it didn’t seem enough to just make rational comments on issues and events like the mainstream press does, but to be honest in expressing the way those things make us feel.

    Let the press do the objective reporting. They can do it better than bloggers most of the time anyway — they get paid to do it.

    What they can’t do, and never will do, is express what it feels like to get screwed day after day by incompetent and negligent public officials.

    Of course, there are many more things to write about than politics and current events, but that’s generally the emphasis at PGR.

    Nice post. Nice points. *Nice-looking blog!*

    I’m getting aggravated by Blogger lately — thinking of making a switch.

    March 23, 2006 | 11:34 am

    Although I am appalled at Ms. Huffington’s ruse, and I do applaud journalism in its truest most ethical form, I think blogs are a bit different. I read many blogs, and have been encouraged to start one of my own (haven’t gone there yet but am thinking about it). I do like links, article quotes, etc. in some blogs as they seem to fit the thought process of the person writing the blog. However, some blogs are far more stream of consciousness in their content, still others are just the airing of the blogger’s opinion, which sometimes assumes, wrongly no doubt, that the reader has read the article on which the blogger is opining. There is validity in all forms. Opinions don’t necessarily need the backdrop of the article, depending on how the writer writes. As I said earlier, the blog needs to fit the mindset of the blogger, and some are more anal than others in terms of facts vs. opinions or the combination thereof. I like the range.

    As for writing under a pen name, in this privacy starved era I have no problem with it. I don’t think it is problematic in terms of credibility at all, unless, of course, one’s pen name suddenly becomes George Clooney.

    March 24, 2006 | 1:52 pm

    I agree with the first three points, and your remarks about sounding “rational” echo some of my own recently (which I for some reason disgorged on PGR recently — sorry, Schroeder). Persuasion is a gentle art. I thought Dar Wolnik’s recent post was a sterling example of this.

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