Sunday, June 28, 2015

Privacy, Qualifications and Blogging Ethics

Everyone has an inherent "right to privacy," but public figures must be prepared for the reality that the public is interested in them, and that this affects their right to privacy. Actors, actresses, politicians and royalty have long been plagued by "paparazzi" and understandably resent such uninvited attention.

Relatively recently, the Internet has provided a new venue for becoming a public figure: the web log, or "blog."

Blogs began as personal logs and repositories of information found on the Internet, interspersed with commentary  regarding the blogger's interpretations of logged items, personal interests and concerns. The great majority of blogs are still personally oriented, and are frequently kept private - only being shared with a few friends and associates.

Blogs which are open to the public (such as this one) are in reality a form of publication. Very often such blogs address a particular interest of the blogger -- in the case of this blog, collecting and dealing in ancient coins. The majority of problems and concerns in these interest areas now center upon cultural property law, and the one-sided conflict between archaeology and collecting. Archaeologists are on the attack, while advocates of collecting do their best to present the merits of this avocation and to highlight inconsistencies and inequities in the demands of archaeology's extremists.

One such extremist has recently restated a longstanding, oft-repeated view that "his personal life" has nothing to do with what he posts in his blog. Certainly, he needs no one's permission to say there whatever he likes. However, some aspects of what he considers to be "his personal life" are indeed relevant, as to how those who read his blog react to it. These aspects include his qualifications as an archaeologist, and as an observer of (and commentator upon) events relating to antiquities collecting and metal detecting. 

This archaeologist has not published a resume or curriculum vitae, nor has he disclosed relevant information that would enable readers to make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. All these are essential background necessary to decide how much weight to give to his remarks and opinions.

He clearly has developed a "public," which includes those who unreservedly applaud his crusades for "responsible collecting" and against "irresponsible metal detecting." It also includes many who see some merit in his concerns, but dislike his confrontational manner of presentation. It further includes many who see little merit in his views and concerns, instead regarding him as an offensive pest and perhaps even a public nuisance.

Whether this archaeologist likes it or not, he has deliberately and intentionally made himself a public figure through his blogging activities, and must accept the consequences. These include public interest in learning more about his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives, and a tendency to wonder why he is reluctant to make this information public.

In this observer's opinion, it is at best disingenuous to publish a blog that is intended to have a wide readership, and at the same time insist upon keeping one's own background and qualifications (as an expert observer upon the blog's subject) secret. That certainly isn't my conception of "best practice" where blogging ethics are concerned, and is especially inappropriate when a blogger frequently criticizes (and even castigates) others for not following "best practice" in their activities.

Those whom this blogger criticizes have not maintained such a reserve regarding their own backgrounds, and have considered it proper to publicly disclose their qualifications.


Here it is clearly appropriate to once again present my own qualifications as a numismatist and numismatic blogger, in a convenient Internet-accessible public disclosure of my background.

My numismatic background and interests are outlined here:

My focus upon education as a primary objective of my numismatic website begins here:

My focus on numismatic research and information-sharing is apparent in these pages:

My technical background is the focus of the ATM consultancy website:

That background is additionally discussed here:

The most recent [2006] version of my technical resume is available here:

Readers who play chess might be interested in the best-known game of my brief  career as a competitive chess player:

While this has nothing to do with numismatic blogging qualifications, it gives insight into the diversity of my interests. This game received the Brilliancy Prize at the 1968 U. S. Open and was published in that year's Chess Informant. After I stopped playing competitively, I concentrated on furthering the development of computer chess.

********************UPDATE 7/2/2015********************

The archaeo-blogger referred to in this post apparently still is not convinced that it is important for him to disclose his credentials as an archaeologist, so that the public may make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. 

This, despite a great deal of discussion in the comments section of this blog.

Perhaps he believes that there is one set of blogging ethics for "archaeologists," and another for everyone else. What he has posted in his blog recently indicates that he instead prefers to further criticize and attempt to ridicule this observer and other pro-collecting advocates.

One would think that the public which reads his blog would eventually  realize that this blogger is continuing to construct an immense edifice of highly controversial opinionating, without providing any publicly  visible foundation to substantiate his pretensions to being an archaeologist.

He seems to think that this omission can instead be dealt with by challenging the traditional definition of numismatics as the collecting and study of coins, and the traditional definition of "professional numismatists" as those who make their living, or a significant part thereof, dealing in coins or writing about them.

According to this archaeo-blogger, "numismatics" should instead be regarded as an academic discipline carried on by those who have degrees in that subject, or in archaeology and related disciplines, and contribute by presenting papers at academic or archaeological conferences relating to numismatics.  He goes on to say: "The problem is that elsewhere, and in the US particularly (but not exclusively) mere coin collecting is also called "numismatics". Dealer Dave Welsh wants coin selling to also be called "numismatics". I suppose a parallel would be stamp collecting which its practitioners call "philately". But just using a catalogue to put rectangles of paper with colourful pictures of butterflies (or round pieces of metal with blurred pictures of Roman emperors) in order in an album/coin folder or tray is not really any kind of "study" and any "methodology" of this kind of ordering is the most primitive."

I can only observe that a great many real numismatists will regard these remarks as an almost incredible intersection of arrogance and ignorance.

********************Update 7/4/2015******************

David Knell, a supporter of the agenda of the archaeoblogger referred to above, has taken umbrage at my views on qualifications and blogging ethics:

It is very interesting, and somewhat puzzling, to observe that he regards a call for this archaeoblogger to publicly disclose his credentials as an archaeologist, as amounting to a personal attack on his credentials. Now, how could such a call be regarded as an attack on those credentials, unless there is some reason why they will not stand the light of day?

I did not really imagine that such could be the case, although John Howland indicated such a suspicion in his comment on this post.

My concern was rather that the public, seeing this archaeoblogger's identification of himself as an "archaeologist," may imagine him to be a peer of luminaries such as Lord Renfrew and Roger Bland, and ought to be able to accurately assess for themselves his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives.

Then Mr. Knell went on to sarcastically characterize my approach toward managing comments to this blog as being "pompous." He ended by saying:
"Ah, and there was innocent 21st-century me, naively thinking a blog was just a blog."
Perhaps Mr. Knell does not notice pomposity or arrogance in this archaeoblogger's blog utterances, however others do, and it is quite clear that this "archaeologist" does not envision his venue as being "just a blog," but instead as a forum for conducting a crusade (some might go so far as to characterize it as a jihad) against antiquities collecting and metal detecting. As such, it has become widely known and in the opinion of many opponents of antiquities collecting, important.

Given the combative tone of the archaeoblogger's comments toward which my comments policy statement was directed, it was important to explain to other commenters why I had allowed those comments to be published.