Blogger ethics? Oh, please.

Update: I’ve reformatted a few key sentences in this item, making them bright red and boldface, since some people seem incapable of reading anything longer than 15 words. If you only skim this post, just read the stuff in red and boldface. I haven’t changed any text from what I originally wrote

Earlier today, my friendly DHL delivery person dropped off a small package from Microsoft and AMD. It contained an Acer Ferrari 5000 with Windows Vista Ultimate and Office 2007 preinstalled on it. I’m not the only person to receive a similar package. Microsoft and AMD have delivered a truckload of these units and some lightweight Ferrari 1000 notebooks and even some kick-ass Media Center machines to a long list of people. (Scott Beale and Mitch Denny, Mauricio Freitas, Brandon LeBlanc, Long Zheng, Barb Bowman, and no doubt others. But not Dana Epp or Thomas Hawk.)

As a rule, I don’t solicit review units and I never accept gifts from companies that I cover. The biggest reason? It’s a major pain in the ass to unbox hardware, get it set up, work with it for a while, wipe the disks and put everything back in its original condition when I’m done, box the pieces back up, and send everything back. I don’t have a lab crew or a shipping department, so I have to do all that scut work myself, and usually it isn’t worth it. If you’re not in this business, you probably think it’s cool to get new stuff all the time. But it’s more of a burden than a blessing, which is why, when I look around this office, I see four desktop PCs, three notebooks, a server, and a slew of gadgets and spare parts, all paid for out of my own pocket. I pay for software, too.

So why did I make an exception in this case? Simple. Because I can’t buy a new PC with Windows Vista preloaded yet, and Aaron Coldiron from Microsoft offered to send this review unit. The note I got last week made the offer perfectly clear:

This would be a review machine, so I’d love to hear your opinion on the machine and OS.  Full disclosure, while I hope you will blog about your experience with the pc, you don’t have to.  Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away to your community, or you can keep it.  My recommendation is that you give it away on your site, but it’s your call.  Just let me know what you plan to do with it when the time comes.

I want the chance to see how a 64-bit version of Vista runs on new, high-end hardware so I can compare it to the half-dozen or so machines I have already tested it on. I’ll be doing a lot of testing of Windows Vista between now and its launch on January 30 so I can write good solid reviews from as many perspectives as possible. Here’s my current hardware lineup:

  • I just took delivery on a brand-new Dell Inspiron 6400 last week with a Core 2 Duo processor, paid for out of my own pocket (it cost about a third of what the Ferrari 5000 costs). It took half a day to wipe the pre-loaded crap software off it so I could install Windows Vista Business.
  • I purchased a top-of-the-line Acer Tablet PC nine months ago; it’s on its way back to Acer for a new keyboard, and when it comes back it will get Vista Business (32-bit) installed on it.
  • I’ve got a two-year-old Dell Latitude 505 running Windows Vista Home Basic.
  • I’ve got a four-year-old homemade desktop box running Vista Ultimate in its primary role as a Media Center machine. (You’ll be shocked when you hear how well it works.)
  • And I’ll be replacing my main desktop machine in about six weeks – as soon as I can buy a system with Windows Vista pre-loaded. I’ll share the specs for that one in January.

None of the systems I currently own can run 64-bit Vista acceptably, so this review unit will be a nice addition to that hardware lineup.

When I’m done testing this notebook, what happens to it? I haven’t decided yet. I’m not keeping it, of course. Update 31-Dec-2006: I’m sending it back to Microsoft after my review is complete. It could go back to Microsoft, I suppose. But I’m more likely to auction it off for charity, along with a copy of Windows Vista Inside Out and some free consulting time. Last I looked, there were still a lot of homeless people in Indonesia, two years after the tsunami and six months after the earthquake that most Americans never heard about. There are a whole bunch of people that are still leading miserable lives in New Orleans or in temporary housing hundreds of miles from their home in the Crescent City that could use some help. With an assist from readers of this site, I raised more than $400 on New Years Eve 2004 and a couple hundred bucks earlier this year for Indonesian relief. I raised $350 to help people whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I’d feel pretty good if I could parlay a review unit into that kind of goodness. It might even make me smile while I’m boxing up this machine to send it away.

But that’s my personal decision, and it’s based on my personal code of ethics, which says I don’t accept gifts. So, do I think everyone who received one of these boxes should send it back? Don’t be ridiculous. The people who are whining about Microsoft “bribing” bloggers are misinformed.

Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of motivations. I’m a journalist by training and by profession, and that dictates my decision. But what if I were a starving student or an MVP who started a blog because I was passionate about technology and wanted to share that passion with a community? Everyone in the community wins when that person gets the chance to play with new technology. In that case, Microsoft is just doing some smart marketing, seeding the market and increasing mind share. They could spend the same amount of money hiring people to write white papers or running ads in the Wall Street Journal. But the world will get a lot more valuable feedback if that information comes from real people actually using this technology.

Ultimately, it all comes down to this: Who do you trust? Last Friday was the fourth anniversary of this site, and during that time I’ve written nearly 1500 posts. I think I had about four readers back on December 22, 2002. Last time I checked, more than 2,700 people were subscribed to this site’s RSS feed and roughly 100,000 visit the site every month. I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to those people – to you. I plan to do this for a long time, and my independence isn’t for sale.

And if you think that a free laptop is going to change Long Zheng or Brandon LeBlanc, well, you haven’t spent much time actually reading their sites. Both of these guys are in the Essentials folder in my RSS reader because they’re smart and funny and they don’t pull punches. I’m looking forward to meeting both Brandon and Long at CES in two weeks, and I’m looking forward to reading about their experiences with Windows Vista in coming months. I’m also looking forward to telling you all about my experiences with this hardware.

Oh, one more thing… If you’re thinking of convening a blogger ethics conference, count me out.

43 thoughts on “Blogger ethics? Oh, please.

  1. I think that people who have the opportunity to get a free high-spec computer are going to find any way they can to paint it as -not- affecting their integrity.

    In all my time as a tech journalist a software company has never given anyone a free computer. Sure, computer companies give out computers on long term loan, etc, but that’s not the same thing. It’s their product for a start (Microsoft doesn’t make computers) and they’re loaners, not keepers.

    I don’t see this so much as reflecting badly on bloggers’ ethics, but rather reflecting badly on Microsoft’s ethics.

    The offer should have been a loan. Microsoft shouldn’t have offered the option of keeping the computer, because that dramatically muddies the waters for everyone concerned – Microsoft, the bloggers and the readers.

  2. (sorry, of course, that should have been: in all my time as a tech journalist, no software company that I’m aware of has given anyone a free computer. I’m sure it has happened.)

  3. Microsoft gave just few weeks ago free Vista Ultimate license to every beta tester. That is too something extraordinary.

    Maybe this is just Microsoft’s marketing strategy. More buzz. And it’s certainly cheaper to send 10-15 free computers than posting a full page ad in every newspaper around the world.

  4. Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of motivations. I’m a journalist by training and by profession, and that dictates my decision. But what if I were a starving student or an MVP who started a blog because I was passionate about technology and wanted to share that passion with a community?

    I may not be an MVP or a “pro” journalist but I have been involved with technology for a very long time and at my age let me tell you that when I say something it is the straight goods as I see it and $$ don’t make it different.

    My take on this nonsense:

  5. “Oh please.”. Exactly. Why bother with ethics? Why bother rambling on an entire post of how good and implicitly ethical you are, when obviously you are not. This bribe is in several orders of magnitude unethical.

    you get an expensive powertoy as a Christmas gift from a company you are obviously biased to
    you get to brag about how nice you are and will maybe donate it
    BTW, no need to repeat that you have the option of sending it back to Microsoft or giving it away. Isn’t this true by definition? It’s yours, so you do whatever you want with it, no? That includes keeping it, sending it back, giving it away or smashing it with a hammer… Read their lips: “it’s yours, you do whatever you want with it”
    by auctioning it off for charity, Microsoft makes a triple splash, and you my friend reach new lows in ethics:
    -1) you are happy because you got to play with it, brag about giving it away
    -2) the poor soul that buys it think they’re doing a good thing, supporting a charity (they could very well donate to the charity directly, if they really wanted to)
    -3) 2 people get to look good posing as benefactors (the buyer did a good deed by auctioning a product “for charity”, you did a good deed by “giving it away”). 2 smacks with one blow, when all you did is a sale transaction with a promise to send something to some charity (plus, I guess you both get to deduct it from your taxes). Hell, you can even keep the money, who’s gonna check on that?
    -4) The poor schmuck who bought it would have been better off going to the store and buying a product that is really suited to him/her, but in that case (s)he couldn’t show off and brag about a double-wham (buy powertoy + do a good deed)
    -5) If Microsoft didn’t bribe you, would you have given to that charity anyhow that same amount? I think not. Would you have bought an Acer Ferrari and auctioned it away for charity? Of course not, the “gift” gives you the power to give, and makes you tentatively look good.
    giving it away makes you look good as well, and helps serve your long term purpose

    This is a bribe, there is no doubt about it, unless you are a bit shortsighted, and slightly mentally challenged.

    Microsoft gets one happy biased user either way. Be it yourself, your buyer, whoever you give it to, or even if you send it back (they’ll find another clown, so better make it be you).

    Do us all a favor and keep it. This is the most ethical thing to do at this point. After all, you’ve earned it no? All these months praising Microsoft and Windows Vista, if someone earned it my friend, it is you!

  6. John, I’ve noticed the most long-winded lectures I get from people tend to be from those who are visiting here for the first time. And no doubt the last. It’s amusing that the most vigorous protests (I’ll never visit your site again!) come from people who never visited this site in the first place. And sure enough, my site logs say this is the first time you’ve ever visited or commented.

    But thanks for the lecture. It looks like it took you a long time to type it even if you didn’t actually take a long time to think about it.

  7. Congratulations, Ed!

    Even without knowing the server stats there is no doubt “John” is not a regular reader. If he were, he would know that you don’t hesitate to say what you don’t like or find ineffective in Microsoft Windows and Office software. (A quick example: Windows Genuine Advantage @ ). As Scot Finnie wrote in “Scot’s Newsletter“:

    “Ed’s coverage of Windows Genuine Advantage, Vista’s Software Protection Platform, Vista licensing, DRM in Vista, and many other controversial topics swirling around Windows Vista and Microsoft this year have been nothing short of first rate.”

    I will continue reading, with appreciation, your unbiased “Tips, tricks, news, and advice about Windows and Office”.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Good luck to you is what I say and yes I am a tad envious, I just wish I was a well known blogger 🙂 and could get one of these to play with for a while. An awful lot of tosh is being blogged about this, a lot of it coming across as either pure envy disguised as an ethical rant or a pure anti MS thing again disguised behind some moralising. As one posted on another blog, would the same noise be made if this was google or apple giving away goodies to try and promote a new product. Somehow I don’t think so, or at least not with the same level of venom that some are displaying over this.

  9. Ed

    Thank you for sharing this issue with us. No doubt, you could have simply kept the machine and not say anything. I respect your ethics and your professionalism. Me too I am a tad envious but I also realize that you are an expert and, as such, your opinion and judgement is seeked by Microsoft and other producer of software.


  10. I don’t think its fair to paint the bloggers as accepting bribes. If Microsoft/AMD had sent the machines out as short term loans there wouldn’t be people complaining like this.

    To be honest I think the statement by Microsoft that “full disclosure doesn’t have to be given” could be read by some as a “shush – don’t tell anyone we gave you this otherwise they might think your views are biased” which in retrospect was probably not a wise thing to do.

  11. Steve, where did anyone from Microsoft or AMD say “full disclosure doesn’t have to be given”? Their mistake (and it was a mistake) was trying to blur the line between review units and gifts. The first category is acceptable at most major media outlets, the second is prohibited at most media outlets. So why mix it up?

    Edited to add: Ah I see what you mean. The quote from Aaron was “Full disclosure, while I hope you will blog about your experience with the pc, you don’t have to.” To me (and I’m 100% certain this is what he meant) this said, in shorthand: “In the interests of full disclosure on the part of Microsoft and AMD, we are providing these to you in the hops you’ll write a review, but that is not a requirement. If you just want to use it and not write about it, that’s fine.” He certainly didn’t say “Full disclosure is not required.” But again, this was poorly worded and is an example of how something like this can backfire when it’s poorly thought out.

  12. Once you accept a gift like this (and if you don’t have to return it then it is most certainly a gift) you have officially defined yourself as a whore. Just like the bloggers who took money from politicians, or the ones who accepted free trips to Amsterdam. You’ve hung out a sign that says, “I’m for sale.”

    That’s your choice. But pretty soon nobody can be sure if you’re espousing a point of view because you truly believe it or because somebody paid you to believe it. And if you think you can accept payola without it affecting your independence, you’re extremely naive.

    Oh, and you forfeit all rights to speak credibly about the biases of the mainstream media.

  13. Ed, Robert McLaws has the right tack on this issue when he says : “You can flame us all you want. Question our credibility if you want. Say we “sold our souls” for $2400. Fine. Most of you have been taken out to lunch for a business deal or interview. And most of you have made up excuses to have your company “comp” a trip to a conference. So get off your freakin high horse, you don’t have the moral high-ground. Read my blog, don’t read my blog. I don’t care. But don’t act like you’re so altruistic.”

    Enjoy the laptop and I, like most of your readers, are looking forward to your comments on how it works with Vista.

  14. Uh, BobH? Yes, I do have to return it. That’s the official business practice here. Just because the company says they are willing to let me keep it doesn’t mean I can consider it a gift. And no, I’m not for sale.

    Let me see if I can explain it in a way that might resonate for you personally. Let’s say you work at, oh, I don’t know, a big city newspaper. Say, the Seattle Times. Just to pick a newspaper out of a hat. You accept a review unit from a local company because you intend to write a review of the product, which you know your readers will be interested in.

    Now, the person who arranged this “review unit” for you tells you they’re willing to let you hang on to it to do a long term review if you want. So you hang on to it and use it for a few months, or even a year. They never ask for it back. You never give it back. That, sir, is unethical. On the other hand, if you follow your organization’s stated policies and give it back, even though the company says you can consider it a gift, are you then unethical? That seems to be the bizarre standard you’re applying to me.

    It’s wonderful how helpful complete strangers can be when they’re anonymous. I’m a little baffled by the reference to my “forfeit[ing] all rights to speak credibly about the biases of the mainstream media.” I just did a lengthy search on this site and can’t find even a single example of where I have done that. You must be confusing me with someone else. Or maybe you’re just defensive because you work in the mainstream media and you think all people who write blogs hate you?

    If you’re going to criticize people over issues of disclosure, maybe you should disclose who you work for when you post anonymous comments on blogs.

  15. Ed,

    I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the system. I’ve gotten a lot of good information from your blogs here and at ZDNet. You’ve even helped me in my blogging efforts with direction and thought in how I blog.

    It’s not surprising that a small minority of people will read something for the first time and just shoot off a response off the cuff just because they differ in opinion. You’ve written about something that’s probably just as volatile as politics.

    On that topic, there is a difference between accepting lunch from a vendor who wants you to use their product and you accepting this computer. You have disclosed up front that you are not going to keep it, that you don’t accept gifts, that you don’t have to write a review about the system and your track record about this is well established.

    Whereas, all the folks that have taken the free lunch have compromised themselves for the rest of their business dealing as one who accepts favors or gifts for their service.

  16. As I put in my blog, I doubt the “blogstorm” would’ve happened had Apple handed out Macbook Pros to bloggers. Microsoft just can’t win.

  17. There’s one other aspect of this promotion that I haven’t yet seen anyone address: taxes. It appears to me that, because Microsoft has explicitly said “you can keep it,” it should be considered to be a prize or award. Microsoft should send the recipients a 1099-MISC with the fair market valuable in box 3 (“prizes and awards that are not for services performed”) or box 7 (“prizes and awards for services performed by nonemployees”), and recipients are supposed to report it as “other income.” (Of course, this can be at least partially offset if it’s donated to a legitimate charity.)

    Perhaps that’s why Microsoft asks about the disposition — so they know whether to send you a 1099 or a call tag for DHL pickup!

  18. Forgive me for not making it clear I was using the generic “you” when referring to bloggers who keep this booty. If you’re not keeping it, my post wasn’t aimed at you specifically.

    My opinion still holds, however. And I have no problem owning up to it. (If I did it wouldn’t be hard to use an anonymizer to hide my tracks.) You seem overly defensive if you feel the need to gather info on everyone who leaves a negative comment on your blog.

  19. I got a note but no puzzle box.

    And BobH, your initial post was hostile in the extreme. Pardon me for being personally offended when you write “you have officially defined yourself as a whore.” You really need to pay more attention to pronouns. If you don’t realize I wasn’t keeping it, then you didn’t read the initial post and just fired off your comment without thinking. Not what I expect from a member of the media.

    And I repeat what I said before: Why are you coming to my site and whining about people complaining about bias in the mainstream media? That’s not me, and if you have a problem with that you should seek some other outlet for venting your frustrations.

  20. While I am a bit envious of the computer, what really interested me was the comment about using Vista Ultimate as a Media Center in a 4-year-old home built. I can hardly wait for that report, and I don’t really care WHAT you do with the Acer…

  21. Mr. Bott,
    Did you happen to notice anything to do with the viral marketing campaign A letter from a person named Loki, a funny box with a grid, or a clue of some sort? A few of us are working on this and would love a tip.

  22. Since I’m a recipient of a Ferrari 5000 from Acer, I’m obviously biased towards Microsoft’s motives. I personally began blogging on Microsoft technologies to refrain from sending my clients too many emails – or emails that were not pertinent to them at the time.

    I’m not a “journalist” – but even professional IT consultants have “ethics” too. I could not be successful without telling the truth, being fair, doing my own research, verifying my research, and creating original content.

    As a Microsoft consultant it’s my job to be familiar with technology BEFORE my client sees it. Or more importantly, BEFORE they have a problem with it!

    My TechNet subscription provided me access to the betas of Windows Vista (along with the many incremental upgrades). For almost two years, I’ve participated and provided feedback in Windows Vista forums, webcasts, training and labs.

    I’m pleased and humbled that my blog is “popular” beyond the people that I personally support. Microsoft named me MVP for providing technical assistance beyond my normal professional responsibilities. Being provided an evaluation computer from Acer is not a “bribe” – it simply allows me to accelerate my evaluations, documentation and demonstrations of Windows Vista.

    Blake Handler

  23. Ed,
    I am a first time reader and have been in the industry quite a long time.

    I do think that the Microsoft/AMD move was brilliant. As a small company owner, I would love to be able to pass along a number of our products for free to some existing clients, and some prospects. It would make a huge impact on their impression of our business, and give them a very good (or bad depending on one’s perspective) experience of those products. Either way, it would lead to further discussion, and hopefully new business! 😀

    As BlakeH has said, it gives him, and you, a leg up on the tech and software.

    I look forward to reading your reviews on the unit and Vista’s functionality with the laptop. Given a laptop’s many intricate and complex components, it is important for me to see how Vista will handle them.

    Thanks for your time,

    Philip Elder
    Microsoft Small Business Specialist.

  24. How nebulous the thought processes at work here!

    How fast we can bend the reality to make it give the view we want.

    If you accept a gift from someone that you have an independent or adverserial relationship to ; you have just been biased in that relationship. This is not rocket science, this is ethics. You can dodge and bend and weave, but the dilemma remains.

    You will be perceived as being bought, your motives, your writing and your professional career will always have this cloud hanging over it. And what did it cost to create this mayhem, to besmirch yourself in the eyes of the public and the I.T. community? A few thousand dollars, which is about what the average congressman took from Jack Abramoff.

    If you feel you are above morality, please be more forthright and say so. If you think it is all right for large corporations to bend the morals of citizens to promote their products, lets have the argument. Stop pretending you are unbiased and unbuyable, we are all tempted. We just know now that your price is approx. 2500$, this will be handy for other corporations looking for stooges and shills and I predict you will be receiving many more unsolicted gifts in the mail soon.

    You may want to mention how smoking doesn’t really cause cancer and what a tough break the tobacco companies have been getting of late. Throw in “global warming is a fad and has nothing to do with big oil & coal, and the lack of green energy”, and you’ve got yourself an online lobbying firm.

    If you were a charity, then accepting a donation/gift would not be wrong, otherwise and in light of the fact that you write about Microsoft/Amd/Acer – what you did is at the least immoral and possibly(depending on the tax implications) illegal.
    Spend more time contemplating your immortal soul and less time worrying about gadgets,toys and software; and you and the world will be a better place.

  25. Jane, my dear, I didn’t accept a gift. Period. It’s a review unit. I’m giving it back to Microsoft. When I am done with my review, I will have nothing left of value. In fact, I will be out the cost of shipping the thing back.

    Please go ponder your own immortal soul and leave mine alone.

  26. I don’t see what the big deal is, you get a laptop to review, and a chance to keep it. So it would only be unethical if you let it influence your review of the product. If I’m given something and its a piece of crap, I’ll say so even if I get to keep it (I would probably return it because why would I need something that doesn’t work?). Sure Microsoft is at fault for “giving” out units in hopes of a good review, but that shouldn’t affect how you objectively review a product, if its garbage say so, and if its great so be it. Maybe your “wording” of the review will change, but the benchmarks wont lie. As long as you know that you can’t be bought and you disregard being able to keep it/do whatever you want with it and write a review as if you had to send it back when you were done with it, then I don’t think it really matters what you do with it. Everyone is making a big deal out of nothing, or maybe they’re just jealous they didn’t get one.

  27. Hello, Ed
    I read Long’s blog for some time now and I just can’t trust my eyes that recent Microsoft’s move created such (ugly word) tsunami of protests and such polarization in blogosphere. I personally think that such MS move is quite unnecessary (in aspect of marketing) because few millions of people already tried Vista (during Beta or CPP programs)(I tried Betas 1 and 2, RC1 and RC2) but on the other hand it is quite welcome, especially for bloggers that don’t have respectable funds (students like Long) but make difference with their enthusiasm. All of us that follow MS technologies know quite well that whatever Microsoft do, it will cause controversies and protests from people that hate-whatever-Microsoft-do. I am not fully satisfied with Vista, just to be clear, and I cannot understand why I cannot run aero on Radeon 9250 :(, but I think that Vista is one remarkable piece of software.
    That’s my opinion…

  28. Ed

    I champion you for your ethics! Having a negative or flaming post on your blog for sure would cause you to be determined to defend you ethics. But it is just a piece of advertising from a very large organization that spends millions in advertising in all forms including review units. How would the Flamer feel if the Review unit had been a top of the line Powerbooks from apple? Seems that being called a bad name is tough in the scope of professional IT writers. Dont let it chap you to bad! There are worse things. I want to hear your review of how the Acer 5000 fairs with you. I have read your articles and Windows Books for years. People allways ask if we are related. I dont think we are? My fathers family are all from Wiesbaden or that vicinity. I have worked in the IT world for almost 2 decades as well. App support and networking. Cheers and Happy New year! Kelly

  29. This “payola” in it’s purest form. Anyone who accepts this “gift” should be ignored on the net. Clearly many don’t understand the implications of “payola”, gifts in exchange for special considerations. It matters not if the “payoff” comes from a lobbist or a coprorate identity. It is “payola”.

    I think you had every intention of keeping the computer until you heard the uproar. If you had true journalistic morals you would not have accepted the computer in the first place. Shame on you for considering to keep it.

    No one should accept a bribe, and the Feds. need to investigate it for what it is, “payola”. Clearly , your title says it all, you don’t get it.
    Turn the computer over to the Feds and let them investigate.

  30. I think you had every intention of keeping the computer until you heard the uproar.

    You think wrong.

    But that’s understandable. You’re a Mac user, and you followed a link from Macworld to get here. You don’t know this site, you don’t know me, and you read a grand total of one page to form an opinion of me. Very open-minded of you.

  31. Ed,

    May I make a suggestion. Rather than sending it back to Microsoft why don’t you donate it to a local charity who could make use of a new computer. You could make more good that way rather than it ending up in some junk cupboard at MS offices or nabbed by an employee.

    There are hundreds of hospices around, childrens charities and so on that need new technology but cannot afford it and they would welcome a new laptop with open arms. Take a look in your local phone book and pick a charity that you fancy, these places usually have no funding and rely totally on donations, they may not even be able to afford to upgrade to Vista.

    BTW to anyone who feels this is a bribe, do we hear shouting about Nintendo who recently gave Wii’s to various review sites and blogs?

  32. Let’s suppose (hypothetically, of course) that you are overwhelmed with love and gratitude toward Microsoft for giving you the Acer. You decide to keep it until the end of time. This warmth you feel then causes you to make your reviews a little rosier… both from gratitude and in hopes of staying on Bill’s christmas list. What of it? Do these people with “ethical” questions really believe that it won’t show to your readers if you become biased?

    This is free market at work in one of its most simple forms. You provide a service. People perceive a need for that service and have determined that you are a worthy provider. If that service is no longer needed or if you lose your status as a worthy provider, then your blog will fade.

    Forgive me as I ramble… I wonder just how much jealousy plays into those who are railing against this giveaway? I also wonder if Krispy Kreme sent a few dozen over to Jane’s place of work, would she eat any?

  33. Bill,

    The American Heritage Book of English Usage says “who is perfectly OK” in informal writing (as is the case here). In fact, they say it’s “perfectly natural” and note that “[u]sing whom often sounds forced or pretentiously correct…”

    I started my professional career as a copy editor and still have tremendous respect for a copy editor who knows when it’s OK to break the formal rules in the interest of readability.

  34. David,

    Let’s suppose (hypothetically, of course) that you are overwhelmed with love and gratitude toward Microsoft for giving you the Acer. You decide to keep it until the end of time.

    Well, why don’t we just suppose that I live on the planet Tralfamador and have a time machine that allows me to see into the future so I can write my review before I even receive the review unit, thus saving me the hassle of actually receiving it.

    Both scenarios are fantasies. This is a loaner review unit. What I write will be based on my experiences.

  35. Ed,

    I’ll admit amusement and amazement at some of the scathing — and unwarranted — criticism you’ve received here. Most of it can be distilled down to this illogical thought: your journalistic ethics were compromised the day Microsoft decided to send you the computer. Simply by being on the recipient list, you were screwed.

    I don’t think many of your critics have a good idea of what it is like to be a journalist. While I’m far from an expert, I did spend seven years as the West Coast editor for Design News, an engineering trade magazine. Companies sent me unsolicited stuff all the time, and many of the items came with a wink and a nod that the ‘loan’ could go on for as long as I wanted. I too had to send these items back due to my own ethical standards. And trust me, noooobody would have known — or cared had they’d known — if I’d kept them.

    I can’t believe the absurd posts that imply someone could be ‘compromised’ simply by considering what to do with the review unit. Apparently, you’ve had impure thoughts; you’ve publically noted the obvious temptation in the gift, thus revealing you are human, and now whatever action you take is meaningless. Even if you’d refused the shipment and then blogged about it you’d have been criticized for returning it solely to look ‘ethical’, not because you really were ethical. You must have been faking it to trick us. Sorry about that, Ed, but cosmic ethical standards work in mysterious ways.

    In reality, it’s a greater measure of someone’s standards to return a ‘gift’ of this nature. It says more about the recipient than any loaner where the ultimate return of the product is demanded and made clear up front. And it’s not as if you back-pedaled after trying to hide or deny you received the gift.

    Anyway, keep the good work. Thanks for the thoughts and the blog. And I’m sorry to read many of the offensive posts here from people who write what I’m sure they would not say in person, all the while hiding behind anonymity. They could benefit by taking a closer look at their own character issues.

    “You can judge the true character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing to him, or for him.”

  36. @1: When I worked as a tech journalist, Microsoft regullary let journalists keep less expensive products, like joystics, mouses, keyboards, etc. It was simply too much work/expensive for Microsoft to handle returns of used products. But I also never heard about anyone getting a computer from any manufacturer. Long term loans, yes.

    @3: I was a beta tester of MS-DOS 5.0, and after it shipped I got a license (full box with manuals, disks, etc) in the mail. So it is not uncommon.

  37. It doesn’t really matter if you return the unit or keep it indefinitely.

    Your readers will know if you are sugarcoating your review because you were influenced by a ‘gift’. That would be the only real measure of your credibility.

    People should not be attacking without seeing your measurables (reviews), which haven’t occurred yet and comparing it to their own personal experiences. If your past reviews and tips have been ‘money’, there is no reason to believe that this review unit will influence you in any way.

    If you have been influenced, then you will see an obvious drop in visits to your site and comments, etc.

    Keep up the good work.

  38. This is primarily about Microsoft, their product, and their product strategy. Microsoft believes in its new product, and that reviews will be good, but they need reviews to move the market forward in their favor. They want many respected persons to form public opinion in a short space of time in order to build immediate acceptance and start a flood of desire. But reviews of their product simply cannot be made without hardware, so the hardware is provided for their purpose and benefit. Sales and service are their bottom line, the recurring theme needed to sustain business and life, and the payback for their years of hard work. Hardware and software, though expensive for a time and short lived, are just the tools and the means that make sales and life happen for them and for us. Individually, we must decide and act upon what we think is important, and what we represent to others that affects their lives and ours. The odds are in Microsoft’s favor if they have done well, and many of us, for the time being, are dependent on their products for the work we do. Who are we in the grander scheme of things, even if we have a grander part? When should stones be cast, and when does it matter? We can only hope that when we do our best when life is not clear cut, that most people will keep believing in us, and life will be kind.

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