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About Blogging Etiquette and Inline Product Promotions

Last night I got a comment on one of my posts. My post basically pointed to a rant by Joel on Software about prototyping habits, and also points out the book he recommends.

Here is the comment I got:

Posted @ 5/28/2003 1:17 PM
I really like some of the things you have to say in your blog, but why bother putting references to stuff Joel recommends in yours (other than to get the Amazon commission). If I want to know what Joel recommends, I'll subscribe to his blog (which I do)?"


Although I've answered Richard's question as an inline comment, I felt the need to discuss this in a separate post, since I've been thinking about this thing for the past night or so.  

My reply to Richard was composed of several points:

  • Not all the people who read my blog read Joel's (I know of at least two)
  • I only recommend books I would buy myself, hence I feel I lose no credibility when I get commissions from books I refer to
  • I would rather have a book recommendation by a developer like me than from a commercial book site. I don’t mind that developer getting commission for my purchase as long as I know the recommendation is legit



These points bring on a much broader point to me:

  1. Does the fact that I, as a personal blogger, promote books for commission, hurt my credibility?
  2. Should personal bloggers never promote stuff for profit?
  3. If so, what are the ethics for this process?



Here's what I think:

1.      Only when certain conditions are met:

a.       It is likely that a certain promotion is based solely on profit, and not on personal choice of favorite

b.      Or, Promotion, even though for profit, is represented as a "personal recommendation" and not as a "on the side" ad

2.      No. Bloggers should be able to make a profit on their efforts, as long as it stands to a certain ethical code of conduct

3.      I can see several points here:

a.       Any promotion that is not a personal recommendation should be displayed in a separate part of the display area – A banner on top,bottom or side, but not as inline text where it could be perceived as a personal recommendation

b.      If a promotion is a personal recommendation then there has to be a way for the reader to know that this link is somehow sponsored is commissioned. This should be an easy to see text or banner saying that "I am an affiliate of X" or "All book recommendations here are part of an affiliate program"

c.       Never hide the fact that you are promoting anything. Distrust is a deadly and infectious disease


There are probably more. Perhaps we should start making out a draft for a "blogger code of conduct" of some sort. Sort of amendments for the blogging community. What do you think?

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