Social Enterprise

Tech blogs, transparency, and vendor FUD: Who can you trust?

As end users increasingly rely on blogs and other social media, we have to step back and think about who is doing the talking. IT guru Rick Vanover shares his perspectives on tech bloggers and disclosure.

Frequently, I refer to myself as a blogger. This means I write material that ends up on a web site, like TechRepublic. But there are other types of blogs as well; in fact, I’d say there are four distinct formats of blogs today that IT pros may frequently use. These are outlined below:

  • Personal blogs: These are among my favorite types, as you usually get the story as it is told from the end user. Some of my favorite personal blogs out there are Gabe’s Virtual World, The Virtualization Evangelist, and Ruptured Monkey. These are people who use various technologies -- storage and virtualization, in this case -- yet do not work for a technology vendor.
  • Commercial blogs: These blogs are good, reliable sites for information that have the luxury of a professional edit. Some of these sites include TechRepublic and the IT Knowledge Exchange. These are driven by contributor content, some of whom may be paid; and are generally made up of end users who provide relevant technology information to the day-to-day user.
  • Vendor blogs: These are blogs that are put on by a vendor of a technology product or service, which would instinctively be in best light of the product at hand. Some examples here include the TechNet blogs, VMTN, and the Vizioncore vCommunity.
  • Collective blogs: This situation is most rare amongst IT professionals, but is effectively a pool of bloggers who offer technical material that does not fit in the above categories. The best example of this is Gestalt IT.

Why is it such an issue to know what kind of blog you're reading? It comes down to transparency and vendor FUD, and know when you're on the receiving end. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter in social media about who is transparent and who is not. This can be a way of critiquing analyst firms for perceived bias or simply crying foul about who works for what company. There have been some specific call-outs of transparency, including this post by Chuck Hollis (CTO of EMC). My take on blogging is to fully disclose everything and leave nothing left to uncertainty. That is the spirit of my personal blogger disclosure, which is public for the world to see.

For the day-to-day IT end user, I think it is important to be very clear on what interests are represented on each blog post. It can be difficult to determine the interests involved, however. In a sense, we’ve always had to take Internet content with a grain of salt. I think blog content is no different. What is your take on blog transparency? How do you decide who to trust when reading about technology? Share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

17 comments
aharper
aharper

...the truth as they see it in the most positive light. What would a Microsoft vendor back about 1999 say about WindowsME? He will make sure he still has a job when Windows 2000 rolls around. Folks will also tell you what they know. I have an acquaintance who is stuck with what he was taught about 1998, and is scared to death of new things. I don't ask for his opinion on the subject of Fedora vs. Ubuntu, because I know he used Debian with only a CLI (runlevel 3). My point is, everyone is biased based upon prior experience and knowledge base. These factors should be taken into account when trying to derive the truth of things.

apotheon
apotheon

Isn't runlevel 3 the default runlevel for a standard Debian installation -- even when running X Windows? As I recall, if you want to bump a GUI up to runlevel 4 and make runlevel 3 CLI-only in Debian, you have to edit the contents of the rc directories yourself to reflect that preference for runlevel behavior. In fact, I think Debian's default is to configure all runlevels from 2 to 5 the same way. It's up to the admin to adjust them. I had to do that with my Debian systems, back when I was using Debian regularly, anyway.

b4real
b4real

Your post makes me challenge any nugget to verify it in the blogosphere, as we need to really be able to sort the FUD it seems. Much less, know exactly what is being said.

Brad
Brad

Hi Rick, What's the point in reading a blog that's NOT biased? After all, it's the blogger's opinion that I'm seeking! Furthermore, why would a blogger want readers who NEED to be told who to trust? I mean, if readers can't discern for themselves, what's the point in having them as readers? My point is simple, good stuff is good stuff and it doesn't matter what angle it comes from (at least in my opinion). Why? Because I read a blog in order to get that blogger's "interpretation" of the subject matter at hand. I have absolutely NO INTEREST in a blog that's "politically correct." Sincerely, Brad Reese

b4real
b4real

Bias is OK, and all of that is fine. It is the transparency and knowledge of Bias that I'm after. Giggler: I typed "BIOS" twice instead of "Bias". Geek in me.

Brad
Brad

Hi b4real, I've got a bias on transparency too. Here's my take, if a blogger is blogging that their being transparent, well, in my mind a "little red flag" starts waving! Why? Because if you're transparent, you shouldn't have to blog that you're transparent. Sincerely, Brad Reese

b4real
b4real

I would really prefer to make it 100% clear where someone is. Basically it comes down to where you work, I am convinced that you really can't separate the two.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

Personally I don't want bias, I want facts. I do not want fud or spin, I want to learn something concrete. I do not want politcal correctness either but I don't want someone telling me something that is not true either. Don't tell me what you think, tell me what you know and I'll do my own thinking. Give me facts, or if you think what you think is fact then give me the real facts to back it up with. Too often people say things they think is fact but is nothing other than their opinion of the facts, which is OK, if you can back it up with real facts. Knowing your connection to the subject at hand helps. IF you are a user and you are reporting your experiance that is a good thing, but give me the full story and not just your interpretaion. If you are connected to the company that made whatever you are discussing then tell me, this could be good or bad. Good if what you are doing is giving me information only an insider would have access to, bad if what you are doing is repeating sales material or putting down your competition. And if you are a reviewer, I want to know what you are getting back from the company who's product you are reveiwing. Yes your views are important, until you start comparing to other peoples products because then all you are doing is producing fud and fud is not desired. And if you are commenting on a blog post your comments will be filtered by the tone and if what you are doing is just causing fud as well. Myself, I am a computer programmer at a national lab. We use almost every OS out there and do development in many languages for many different platform. I am a true adherant of the best tool for the job rule and do not exclude anything on anything but merit as far as I can. I can write for any platform and in any language, currently program in over 20. I try hard not to have a bias as the only true influance should be system requirements and regulatory constraints. I'm just as happy writing something in FORTRAN for HP-UX as in C-Sharp for MS Windows, or php on Apache/Linux, depending of course on what the application is supposed to do and where it gets it's data and who/where it's users are.

Brad
Brad

Hi sysop-dr, Your statement: "Depending of course on what the application is supposed to do and where it gets it's data and who/where it's users are." Well, in my opinion, your above statement is what I would call bias! And I believe that's a GOOD THING. Additionally, some facts will always be questionable, for example, is it a FACT that British Petroleum is doing everything it can to STOP its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Sincerely, Brad Reese

jhallbauer
jhallbauer

I think that vendor blogs are OK, as long as they are talking about their own technology. When they start talking about a competitor's product, that's a red flag that you are probably on the receiving end of FUD.

b4real
b4real

The only silver lining here is that it is very clear that vendor blogs are single view. Resellers and others make it very difficult to discern, however. There have been some FUD-lingings recently, which I didn't link to. But if you want, I'll send you the FUD-slinging posts.

johntroyer
johntroyer

Thanks for the post - people should definitely be aware of the connections and biases of the authors of what they read -- online or off. Personal bloggers are the trickiest category. Even in the bloggers you listed, Gabe works for a VMware channel partner. Is he biased toward companies his employer is partnered with? Or Duncan Epping -- he works for VMware, but his personal blog has valuable, non-biased technical content. The great thing about blogs is that the blogger quickly develops a track record of posting, so by dipping into the archives you should quickly begin to get a feel for where the blogger is coming from. Still, if you're just arriving via a Google search and hit a great blog post, reader beware!

david.hunt
david.hunt

Multi-sourcing information on any given topic will soon reveal the truth, "opinions" and biases inherent in blogs and news group posts (does anybody still use newsgroups?) Even people who are not trying to provide a biased view may have a perspective from which they examine the subject. In addition, we are all human. Occasionally we post something based on memory of the facts and are mistaken. The value of newsgroups and Blogs with comments enabled is that readers can highlight innacuracies and provide their own perspective. This helps in evaluating what content can be relied on and what is perhaps subjective or inaccurate or perhaps even the author having an axe to grind. If you continually read items by the same author and evaluate in this way it is easy to build a level of trust or distrust based on your own evaluation against other sources. Always ask yourself. What is the author's reason for writing. That in itself can lead to some conclusions about voracity.

apotheon
apotheon

The value of newsgroups and Blogs with comments enabled is that readers can highlight innacuracies and provide their own perspective. Of course, then you have to be aware that it's possible that comments are moderated -- sometimes with the appearance of being unmoderated. What has the site's maintainer deleted?

b4real
b4real

Personal blogs are the most difficult to discern the what behind the who. I usually verify with a LinkedIn profile, if available, but the lines are even more blurred with people whom work for the channel. Gabe, E-plus, softchoice, CDW, the list goes on and on... Again, the call to disclosure is the key. Maybe I should write a disclosure class :)

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