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Our Policies, Biases, And Conflicts

Posted in Good People

I am a huge fan of Seth Godin’s books and of his blog. His piece, “Small is the new big,” is a classic. Godin is a marketing genius. On Godin’s blog yesterday, he had the following post, entitled, “Policies, biases and conflicts“:

I don’t take advertising on this site. I never have, I don’t intend to.
If there’s a link on this site, it’s because I thought it was a good idea. I don’t get paid to include links. I write about stuff I like, stuff you might like and people that I like.
The only affiliate program I belong to is Amazon. All my proceeds go to charity.
I don’t take PR pitches. If you send me a press release, I will go out of my way not to mention you here.
I’m a principal shareholder in Squidoo.com, a company I founded. I don’t get paid a salary by Squidoo and all my Squidoo royalties go to charity.
I get paid to write books and give speeches. I don’t mention them on this blog because I want you to buy them, though, I mention them because I figure people who like the blog will find them interesting. Fine with me if you borrow a copy instead of buying one…
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m trying hard to make this as pure an exercise as I can. I’m very fortunate to have your attention and (possibly) trust, and I’m certainly not going to blow it for a few bucks. But I’m not naive enough to believe that there are no conflicts. There are plenty of them. People and ideas that I have an irrational attachment to, or habits I’ve got that are hard to break. I’m hoping that won’t get in the way of provoking you to think a little differently.
There are plenty of bloggers and online writers who have far more significant conflicts of interest than I do. And that’s just fine. I have no issue with people selling ads or links or affiliate programs. I think, though, that it’s essential that you make it clear to people what those conflicts are. Most of the great bloggers I read do just that.
Thanks for reading.

I LOVE it and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, here goes for this blog:
I don’t take advertising on this site. I never have, I don’t intend to.
If there’s a link on this site, it’s because I thought it was a good idea, just plain funny or would impress you. I don’t get paid to include links. I write about stuff I like, stuff you might like and people that I like. I also write about what I think it is important for you to know.
The only affiliate program I belong to is Amazon. I am going to start donating all my proceeds from it to charity.
I don’t take PR pitches. If you send me a press release, I will go out of my way not to mention you here, unless I think you are really deserving of it. If you ask me to link to you, I will respond with brutal honesty as to why I will or, more likely, why I will not. Oh, and if your blog is so good and relevant, I have probably already seen it or will see it within the next few weeks.
I get paid to give speeches (though I give them for free to various not for profits). I don’t mention them on this blog because I want you to attend, though, I mention them because I figure people who like this blog will find them interesting and I also enjoy having people I know go.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m trying hard to make this as pure an exercise as I can. Towords that end, I am never reluctant to blow the horn for what some may perceive as competitors to this blog or my law firm (see here and here, just by way of example). I do this for many reasons. First, I believe (not sure if I learned this from Godin or developed it on my own) that my firm will never get work by bad-mouthing competitors who do not deserved to be bad-mouthed. Second, the odds of my firm getting business from my spreading good karma are far higher than the odds of my firm getting business from spreading bad karma. Much of my firm’s work does come from other lawyers and bloggers. I have to try to separate this blog from my firm because I know that nobody wants to read a daily advertisement.
I link over to my friends as often as it makes sense to do so. I do that because that is what friendship is all about. However, I am limited in doing this by the requirement I set forth above on how every post must be about “stuff I like, stuff you might like….[and stuff] I think it is important for you to know.”
Whenever I write about a company in which I own stock, I reveal that fact.
Just as Godin says, “I’m very fortunate to have your attention and (possibly) trust, and I’m certainly not going to blow it for a few bucks. But I’m not naive enough to believe that there are no conflicts. There are plenty of them. People and ideas that I have an irrational attachment to, or habits I’ve got that are hard to break. I’m hoping that won’t get in the way of provoking you to think a little differently.”
We moderate comments. When we first started this blog, we accepted virtually every comment except those that engaged in incredibly harsh, unverified attacks on third parties and those which were so horribly racist and/or sexist and or against a religion as to rise to the level of pure evil (as defined by me). We have since gotten tougher, due in large measure to my having realized that a large portion of the comments that were against this blog were actually written by one person using countless different aliases (stupid me for not having thought to check the IP addresses until one of this person’s ex-employees pointed it out to me). We now block all comments from this particular individual and also those comments that we deem intended solely to destroy, rather than to enlighten or challenge or spur discussion. I still valiantly strive not to delete any comment simply because I disagree with it. More than anything else, I want this blog to be a place for active, even heated, discussion.
And yes, we have all kinds of biases here. I personally have more than I can probably even list, but I seldom deny them.
Thanks for reading.

  • Jonathan G.

    Dan,
    Thanks for running this post explaining yourself and thanks for running such a great blog for so long. I don’t want you to get a big head but you are right in what you are trying to do and that is why you are so appreciated.

  • http://www.chinalawblog.com Dan

    Jonathan G.,
    Thanks a million.

  • http://www.chinaenvironmentallaw.com/ Charlie

    Dan: Your straight-talking is always appreciated, but your generous spirit is what sets you apart from many others. I was absolutely astounded by the time and effort you took to thoughtfully respond to some of my basic questions about the China blogsphere. I am still learning from you and still benefiting from your largesse (which you were under absolutely no obligation to provide to a putative competitor). My conversations with others have revealed that there are many out there who have been similarly aided by you. Keep doing what you’re doing, and thanks for all your help!

  • http://www.chinalawblog.com Dan

    Charlie,
    Geez, I’m blushing.
    That is really what the blogosphere is all about and I have been helped immensely by others, including but not limited to, ImageThief, PekingDuck, ChinaHearsay, ChinaBusinessLawBlog, LostLoawai, CalPolyMBABlog, OneManBandwidth, ChinaBusinessNetwork, ChinaBusinessServices, ChinaSolved, ChinaConfidential, Danwei, CupOfCha, IPDragon, Chinalyst, ExperienceNotLogic, SilkRoadInternational, Shanghaiist, EastSouthWestNorth, and ChinaRises, with things ranging from telling me when a post sucked (that is actually quite helpful), helping me with an idea, helping me deal with cruel spammers, helping me learn about a particular aspect of China, buying me a drink, helping me with an article or post, or even just linking to us early on and helping drive readers to the blog.
    I don’t mean to get all Sally Fields here, but there is a very strong element of “pass it on” within the Chinese blogosphere and I dare say that element has strengthened us all.

  • George Boeck

    Dan:
    You echo Seth Godin (thanks for the reference to him, by the way). The pair of you are endearingly insecure, protesting that you try to be honest and forthright.
    Someday as a send up I should try to re-write what the pair of you have said from the reader’s perspective, just to show you why we try to make time to read and consider what you have to say.
    Your faithful reader,
    George