Doesn't anyone have any shame anymore?
Apparently some people still do. PalMD of White Coat Underground and Orac of Respectful Insolence have recently seen the light. More specifically, they've seen the ads on their blogs placed there by automated algorithms that supposedly select ad content based on the content of the blog posts, and have been appropriately ashamed and appalled.
It turns out that the results of those automated algorithms are embarrassingly inaccurate. Most of the time, they come up with ads for the very things -- chiropractic, colon cleanses, homeopathy, all kinds of alt med woo -- that are being ridiculed, taken to task and otherwise being deconstructed in the very posts they appear beside.
Unfortunately there is another blog, one that prides itself on its skeptical slant to the point that its name is actually "Science-Based Medicine," that has had these ads on the blog's sidebar from its inception. Worse, I've pointed it out to them. Several times. To more than one of them. Their answers ranged from, "Our webmaster can't do anything about it," to "We trust our readers to understand that we don't choose the ads and that we don't endorse their content."
Doesn't even the appearance of conflict embarrass them? That's why I don't have any ads on my blog at all, and I don't think I ever will. There are better ways to make money from writing than passive income from ads for quackery, and there are better reasons to write blogs than to make money. Or at least there ought to be.
We need to be clear not just about what we're doing when we blog, but why we're doing it. Some of the SBM editors have pointed out to me that their blogging takes time, and their expertise is their stock in trade. Blogging costs money (actually, it doesn't have to, or it can cost very little), time is money, and therefore revenue from the ads is justifiable.
I call bullshit.
If you're a doctor like me, you make your living taking care of patients. Ditto if you're a nurse. If you're a doctor who does research, then you are paid by your grants. Writing (which includes blogging) is not the equivalent of patient care. It is possible (and a lot of fun) to be paid for writing, but entering into a contract to be paid a certain sum for writing a something specific is not the same as passively collecting revenue from sidebar advertising on a blog. It's kind of like charging rent to leeches for allowing them to suck your blood.
So Kudos to PalMD. Orac, I'm reserving judgment. Although he states his tolerance will be zero by Monday, I wonder what -- if anything -- he will do about Science-Based Medicine. As it turns out, he blogs there too.