There are a quite a few folks willing to give Wal-Mart, Edelman and others that have deliberately been opaque in the blogosphere a pass. I'm not as willing. I think folks want to believe in Edelman, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. They've been at the forefront of the blog marketing movement for quite some time now, especially since Steve Rubel started working there. It's natural to want to root for the first mover. Even I want to root for them, and I have some service offerings that some people might consider competitive.
But I'm not quite ready to give Edelman a pass. Yes, I do think some of the things they've done in the past few days have been good. Yes, we need some work on ethics guidelines. Yes, it's good to admit it when you screw up.
I think, though, that there's a big difference between a screw up and knowing you're committing flagrant sins in the blogosphere and continuing to do it until you get caught. That's my big problem here. Yes, we can be expected to foul certain things up while we figure out how to market in the blogosphere and in social media.
But we can't be expected to screw up on the most basic part of it, where the rules are obvious to anybody who's spent more than a couple hours surfing blogs. The values of transparency, honesty and commitment to the discussion are core values of the blogging movement.
These values are shared almost universally in the blog, which is why it's tough for me to give Edelman a pass. I have a tough time with the notion of somebody not spotting this from the get-go and saying, "Hey, we're not being transparent here. We need to do something about that." It had to have come up at some point in the process.
The cornerstone values pretty much boil down to the Golden Rule - treat others how you want to be treated. Obscuring agendas is both disrespectful and dishonest. I can't see how that wasn't debated when putting the programs for Wal-Mart together.