“You may have heard by now what Holden Karnofsky, co-founder of GiveWell, did. In various places, often anonymously, he praised GiveWell and even knocked other nonprofit organizations. When he did so at MetaFilter, a large online community, he got caught.”
Well, I like the view from the moral high-ground, but I’ll not go there. I actually understand that it is tempting to promote your website using means that are ‘bending the rules’. Especially since you put so much time and effort in making the site work. Add to this, that you are working for a better world, and it might be easy to let yourself go. Still.. it’s just wrong.
Besides ethics, it kind of shows you don’t know the internet when you try those tricks. Reputation is just about all you have and everything you do sort of sticks forever. The whole idea of social charity sites is to use the transparency enhancing qualities of the internet to improve the world. When you’re creating such a site, you should know you can’t really afford such a mistake.
This makes me think; Have I cheated the rules? Well, I’ve sent some people an email that I hardly knew, just to try to get some attention for Helpalot. Also, I’ve commented on a number of blogs that I don’t really read (all that often), for the sole purpose of promoting Helpalot. I try to only comment on blogposts where my comment is relevant, so it feels like fair game..
Online, I don’t swear and I try to be neutral on religion or politics, just so my opinions don’t lead to people being offended end projecting their negative feelings toward Helpalot.org. It might make me look less passionate. Sometimes I do let myself go a bit, but overall I’m holding myself a bit back. I guess this might be true in the offline world too in some settings.
So back to transparency and neutrality; the idea of Wikipedia is that it doesn’t interpret the facts, it just tries to write them down. That’s why Wikipedia is a great tool for everyone. Like that, I think Helpalot should be neutral. Therefore I think we (Helpalot as an entity) should not say global warming is a big problem for instance. We just facilitate the process of finding charity projects you can trust. We encourage discussions, but again, try to stay out of them ourselves. So far as I know, this is a big difference between Helpalot and other social charity sites.
What do you think? Should I write more about what I think is going wrong and right in this world? And would this blog be the place to do that? And how neutral do you think Helpalot.org should be?
Update: The GiveWell problems even caught the attention of the New York Times. Here’s the article.