Archive for the 'Ethics' Category

Are About.com ‘Experts’ Liable?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

This makes my head spin, and itch. An About.com expert recently advised people to consider using veterinary products to treat head lice. At least one commentator begged the author to take the post down.

The author has been a chemistry expert since 2001. This kind of bad advice makes me question the reliability of About.com and it has me wondering whether the site itself would be liable if some harm resulted from people following bad advice. The site has a medical review board that reviews any advice that is categorized as medical. The bad advice coming from a chemistry expert is very much medical in nature but is apparently not in the purview of this board.

EDIT: Here is the meaty part of the user agreement on About.com, I guess they are pretty much off the hook…

THE SERVICE AND THE SITES ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” BASIS WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF TITLE OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OTHER THAN THOSE WARRANTIES WHICH ARE IMPOSED BY AND INCAPABLE OF EXCLUSION, RESTRICTION OR MODIFICATION UNDER THE LAWS APPLICABLE TO THIS AGREEMENT. NEITHER ABOUT.COM NOR ITS AFFILIATES ENDORSE OR ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACCURACY OR RELIABILITY OF ANY OPINION, ADVICE OR STATEMENT ON THE SERVICE OR THE SITES.

UPDATE: I emailed a few people about this issue on the day that I found out about it. Once my concern came to the attention of some doctors on the medical review board it was dealt with quickly. The article is gone.

Smart is the New i

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Does anyone want to predict which product will be the very last one that receives a brand name that starts with a lower case ‘i’?

Perhaps an iToilet? (wow, i looked it up and nerds have been plumbing that joke for a decade)

Maybe an iCoffin? (kinda edgy in a morbid way, it seems that Steve Jobs’ medical leave sparked a bunch of macabre nerds to make prototypes already)

Anyway…

I am hoping that the word Smart takes over as the default prefix for cool new stuff. Smart Cars are great. Smart Wood is a great program.

I’m undecided about SmartHouse. A truly smart company would have invested in good English translations of the their promotional text.

Using the word Smart in your product branding is a great way to sell stuff to people who want to think of themselves as smart. You are not in any way limiting yourself to people who are actually smart. Steve Pavlina’s site is a case in point.

As a child, I was sometimes called Smarty-Marty. I preferred that to Farty-Marty, which was the more popular of the two choices.

People Don’t Forget

Monday, January 12th, 2009

While I was reading some online information about how American clothing labels get their stuff manufactured in Chinese sweatshops I started noticing something. All the sites that I was visiting looked very dated. This issue was a cause du jour several years ago . An undated PBS web page linked to a very impressive chart showing the wages and conditions at various factories as well as what fashion house they were working for. That chart had a date at the bottom, it was made in 1998.

The lack of freshness of the info is best illustrated by the fact that one of the main targets for criticism was Kathy Lee Gifford. For all I know she could be working in a sweatshop by now. When I googled a few factory names, I saw the dated information being paraphrased or quoted in blogs from this century. The manufacturing industry of China is huge, I am not even going to pretend to know whether the situation is better or worse today. I am pretty sure that things are not exactly the same as they were in 1998.

The thing that bothers me about this situation is that companies that respond to criticism by cleaning up their acts deserve to have the positive changes acknowledged. It seems like having ten year old facts used against them would be a disincentive.

On the bright side, hopefully new corporations understand that unethical practices can result in decades worth of negative word of mouth.