Blogs as a Public Commons

When you interact with Tactical Philanthropy or any other blog in the comments section, you are engaging in public speaking. Proof of this comes from this weeks Chronicle of Philanthropy, which quotes me by republishing comments I posted to the GiveWell blog.

The story in question is the cover story, which provides an extensive overview of GiveWell. In a section discussing co-founder Holden Karnofsky’s “brash” style, the Chronicle writes:

“I get the impression that you are very authentic in your desire to make the world a better place,” [Stannard-Stockton] wrote in the blog’s comments area. “But my take is that a submission like the one you wrote will be dismissed out of hand because you used your normal writing style of sharp criticism.”

Mr. Karnofsky responded that it was not natural for him to “nice up” but conceded “there are times to tone it down.”

I’ve been harping on Holden to figure out how to present his incredibly important message in a way that funders can be more receptive towards (see my back and forth with Holden on this issue during the Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted live chat from today). But if a Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter had called to interview me on the record about GiveWell, I would have focused on the very positive work they are doing, not their drawbacks.

Frankly, though, as much as it can be scary to live in an “on the record” world, I think that it does benefit a more authentic conversation. Like everyone else I turn on my “media face” when I get a call from a reporter.

Welcome to the public square.


  1. M says:

    This certainly solidifies my decision to blog anonymously as I do. Not because I don’t want to be held accountable for what I say – I accept full accountability. That *my* words are *my* opinions and experiences. And if I say something stupid, argumentative, insightful, questionable, whatever, I want someone to call me on it. And I will respond.

    But I wasn’t anonymous, and if I am blogging from my blog, which is what it is like working inside a foundation, and I comment on some topic that my employers may not agree with, and that comment gets quoted in the Chronicle – I would *so* be fired. No question.

    So I don’t want their name associated with my opinions – they are MY opinions.

    Besides, if I blogged with my name, it is just too easy to find me on the internet. And I have had one crazy stalker too many already.

  2. Leyla Farah says:

    Comments are an overlooked opportunity that can lead to great publicity for non-profit organizations. It’s inexpensive (even when measured by staff time spent), it forces staff to keep abreast of who is reporting on their sector, and it provides a deep well of written work that can be leveraged in other settings. I encourage it, and I’m glad to see you doing so as well!

  3. M, I understand completely. Maybe in some alternate universe or utopian future, foundations will think hiring smart thinkers who can express themselves well in writing and whose thoughts are so compelling that they get quoted in major papers would be a good thing.

    I’d hire you.