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Weblog research ethics

What would you do when using quotes or stories from public weblogs as examples in your research?

Do you inform people that you study them? I can understand it if you study specific weblogs to use them as a case, but what if you just let yourself to be immersed in the blogging community and pick up stories and examples as they come and go. You can announce your interest in studying it in on-line chat or forum, but what do you do with weblogs, with their open-ended nature. Do you post “I’m studying your blog” on all your pages?

Do you quote anonymously or with attribution? You can tell stories without giving any names, but quotes are never anonymous – Google is always there for those who are interested to find the author. Attribution is nice for the authors if you quote their smart ideas, but what if you want to illustrate conflict?

Do you ask for permission? I don’t ask people for permission to quote their paper in my research and I don’t ask for a permission of bloggers to quote their posts in my weblog. How weblogs are different? They out their in public, so I should be able to quote as far as it’s “fair use” (but what is fair use when it comes to blogging?). From another side, they are between public and private, so should you excuse yourself as you would do interfering a conversation overheard in a party?

I would appreciate any thoughts on it, especially if you are researching weblogs and have your own guidelines for making ethical decisions.

And, once you are reading this post you are somehow on my radar – beware, I may be studying your weblog 🙂

This post also appears on channel weblog research

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/04/27.html#a1188; comments are here.

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