With so much blog fever going around, it is easy to be lulled into thinking this is some sort of promised land. It isn't. Forbes, (you'll need to register - it's free) in a very one-sided article describes blogs as:
"the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo."
Steve Rubel, one of the heavy hitters in the PR side of blogging is aghast. He says:
"My message to Corporate America is simple. Don't listen to Forbes. Take a look around the blogosphere for yourself and you will find real humans - good, bad and ugly."
Much as I like a lot of what Steve says, I think he misses an essential point on this occasion. There is no editorial control over what gets written on many blogs. That's one of its great strengths because then you get to hear the 'authentic voice' of the scribe. But it also opens the door to abuse.
It means if you come under attack, it is almost impossible to stop the chatter. The Access Accounting story is one that was at risk of taking on a life of its own. In extreme cases, the language used can be 'inventive' to say the least. But it is when the attacks take on a personal tone that life can be very stressful.
I'd be surprised if UK plc resorted to the smear tactics referenced by Forbes. But you never know. I've been mauled enough times over the Internet to know how disorienting and confusing it can be. (I'd link to a particularly libelous attack from a couple of months ago but the site has been torn down.)
There's an important lesson here. This stuff is not going away so it has to be faced. I'd suggest people assess the potential benefits, be aware of the risks but use an editorial process to ensure what you're saying stands up factually and isn't potentially libelous or defamatory.
It's not as easy as it sounds. It's not only common sense. It's why sub-editors on UK national tabloids newspapers get well rewarded, it's why The Economist is usually such a great read and why certain well-known hacks are regarded as trusted sources of information. And that's what any corporate blogger wants - readers' trust.