Come on folks... we are better than this

13 replies
This is more frustration than rant, so please bear with this. It's shocking just how many threads there are in this forum that start out by asking the question, "Is it ethical to...?". Why do so many WF members even need to ask that question?

The line seems to be blurring here about what you can ethically do in business versus what you can legally do. Only your attorney can give you qualified advice about how your actions may create liability for you. Ethics is an entirely different animal. And there is a reason we occasionally wrestle with our own thoughts before we take action.

IM can be an isolated endeavor, but this does not mean we are separated from society. For the most part, we learn the fundamental rules of truth, honesty, fairness and other character elements at an early age. They are etched into all of us. When we ask questions about the ethical side of our potential actions, it is hard to imagine that we don't already know the answer. Just ask yourself. Will my actions harm someone else either personally, financially or otherwise? And would I feel harmed in any way if I were on the receiving end of such an action?

Yes, it is true that you can be perfectly legal but highly unethical. But you address matters of ethics in your own mind first, you may never need to seek legal counsel.
#folks
  • Profile picture of the author Dietriffic
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    It isn't a recent phenomenon. The question of ethical behaviour has been a regular topic on this board for as long as I can remember.

    Like the OP, I've never understood why someone would require a consensus in order to feel their actions are ethical. But this is as good a guide as any:

    Originally Posted by DeadGuy View Post

    Just ask yourself. Will my actions harm someone else either personally, financially or otherwise? And would I feel harmed in any way if I were on the receiving end of such an action?
    It seems a lot of the time, the question is merely posed in order to get some kind of group permission or justification for an activity the questioner already knows is dubious.


    Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Yep, questions of ethics have been here for as long as I can remember.

    I also think that the majority of those asking ARE looking for permission and justification. HOWEVER, there are also those who are completely new to business and really don't know.

    For example...

    "Is it ethical to make people sign up to my list before they can get a product they just paid for?"

    Or...

    "Is it ethical to use a fake name?"

    The answer to both is, "it depends". There are many other cases where ethical lines are not that clear-cut.

    Still, I do think a lot of people are seeking permission to do something wrong. But, because there are those asking for completely innocent reasons, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    They may not know if their actions will be frowned upon, inconvenience others or harm others. They simply don't know, so they come here and ask.

    I have also seen examples where enough people have responded in a way that gets a permission-seeking type to change their minds.

    It's all good.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      I take your point, Michael, but I don't really see the examples you quoted as ethical issues. I believe they're more to do with industry protocol.

      Ethics is the way you live your life, not just how you conduct your business.


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      • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
        Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

        I take your point, Michael, but I don't really see the examples you quoted as ethical issues. I believe they're more to do with industry protocol.

        Ethics is the way you live your life, not just how you conduct your business.


        Frank
        True enough, but to somebody new, they ARE ethical questions. At least from their perspective.

        In other words, it's so outside of their normal experience that they don't know how to attach their ethical beliefs to it. If that makes sense?

        All the best,
        Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author Goatboy
    There are a number of different ethical systems and each views things a little bit differently.

    "Do unto others" is part of Golden Rule ethics, there are also utilitarian ethics, care ethics, social contract ethics, and a multitude of other systems. All of these will have slightly different values and requirements.

    This causes a lot of confusion as we try to deal with people operating under different systems or move from system to system ourselves. Consider this, under Golden Rule ethics, there are things that I might not mind being done to me that would cause someone else to cry foul.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ryan D
    Banned
    I don't like tar/feathering people for asking ethics questions on forums. The IM industry has a reputation for being kinda shady, so I think people tend to overcompensate when people bring up ethical questions in a forum like this. They don't want to be viewed as someone with questionable ethics, so they kind of give the OP a hard time. Some no doubt are sincere, but I can't help but think there is some grandstanding going on.

    My wife is what I would consider an extremely ethical person and she called me out for something I did, maybe download a TV show online instead of paying for it. I then said something like "Well, it's not nearly as bad as making a CD and then giving a copy to your friends like you did last month" She hadn't even considered it and kinda felt guilty about it.

    I'm not in the IM (sell stuff) business so I don't really have anything to lose here by being honest. But some of the stuff I do would probably be considered unethical if I posed the question in the forums. But it's not something that I'm doing to be malicious or even something that I'm conscious of. When it comes to dealing with customers/suppliers, I always treat them with respect and give them a fair deal...which is the most important thing if you're in business.

    Someone might lend a copy of some IM product to a friend. That person might get scolded by someone who thinks that's unethical, but it's the same person that lives plenty of blank spaces in their emails between the end of the message and the unsubscribe.

    A lot of these questions are not black/white. Some things you would view as totally fine, someone else would not. Some thing likes cloaking/redirecting are a little more cut/dry, but I could see some of these questions either way. I don't see the need to make these people feel like lepers or something for asking the question.
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  • Profile picture of the author Online Bliss
    Making money off of someone's work is where
    I draw the line!

    Downloading a movie and watching it once
    is not right although I've done it.
    Same with putting a Youtube video of my favorite
    artist playing a hit song on my personal website.
    I have done that too as have many others.

    I always wondered how youtube can get away with that
    (file sharing) and Napster could not.
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