Firstly I have to say that I’m disgusted beyond words by the reaction from across the blogosphere to this incident – the fact that Arrington has been receiving death threats over this leaves me incredulous – where is a sense of balance or value for robust intellectual debate. Sure he could have been a little more “diplomatic” and sure one could say it’s all a bit of hype to generate some pageviews – but the bottom line is that it was a disagreement between peers and should be left as such.
That aside however i thought it an opportune time to once again reflect on transparency. The entire incident occurred because Arrington asserted his opinion that Laporte should disclose the fact that he’s been given a loan product to review and that his review may be tainted by this loan.
Bear in mind here that those of us who review products (be they hardware or software) need products in order to evaluate. Almost every SaaS product that I’ve ever reviewed has given me a free account – the vast majority of these have been used a few times in order to run the review and then left – in all practicality they’re probably still live (albeit unused). Are my reviews tainted because of this? Well I believe not, in fact my reviews are only possible because I have access to a live account. A number of products I’ve continued using for my own purposes – none of which I believe is grounds for disclosure. This of course is different from a financial relationship – as Zoli pointed out on his treatise on transparency a few months ago. The few (sadly very few) relationships I have with vendors that are paid relationships are always disclosed.
Similarly I get hardware to review from time to time – my conference machine at the moment is a Dell Mini 12 which compatriot and VP at Dell Andy Lark arranged for me – again this is a review unit and so my thoughts about it (positive, negative or otherwise) come from a neutral, but informed (thanks to physically having the unit) standpoint.
So there you have it – a storm in a teacup and an unfortunate incident that doesn’t reflect well on the digerati at large. But an opportunity for those of us on the receiving end of vendor pitches to remind the world where our ethics lie.