Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thank You from Advanced Organizational Communication (Fall 2005)

I would like to thank all of the students for their contributions to the blog throughout the semester.

On behalf of the whole class I would also like to thank all of those outside our course who have linked to our site or posted comments (John Cass, Kip Meacham, Alex, Debbie Weil, Jeremy Pepper, Jack Vinson, The Supervisor, Louie, Elizabeth Albrycht, Dr. Joanne Detore-Nakamura, Zane Safrit, and Phil Gomes), as well as those who agreeed to be interviewed for our Blog Analysis Report assignment (for purposes of anonymity we will not mention specific names).

Special thank yous go to the following people:

- John Cass of Backbone Media for contributing the report "Corporate Blogging: Is It Worth the Hype?" and discussions about that report;

- Pete Blackshaw and Christopher Hannegan for contributing the Edelman and Intelliseek report "Talking from the Inside Out: The Rise of Employee Bloggers";

- Dr. Phil Tompkins for the dialogue about his book Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: The Decline of the Space Program

We will have another section of this course in the "Spring" term (which actually means during the cold New England winter), so look out for new posts in another month or so!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Blogging as Organizational Communication, by Emily Bhatti

Context For This Post
“Why would you study blogging in an organizational communication class? What concepts from organizational communication give you any special insight into
blogging?”

Students in an organizational communication class must not only obtain knowledge of the foundations of communication principles but they must also stay up to date with new technology and its impact on the organization. Blogging is a new phenomenon and its widespread use within organizations makes it a perfect application for study in our class. While blogging is a new concept, it is still just another channel of communication that has opened up for organizations to use. Therefore, the concepts in organizational communication that apply to the sending and receiving of messages through any given channel apply to the practices of blogging.

One of the main concepts from Tompkins book was the concept of speaking truth to power. Blogging has opened up an arena where employees can express their thoughts, wishes, and beliefs in a public forum. This ability to gripe about the problems at work allows employees the benefits of speaking truth to power especially in organizations that condone blogging and read their employee’s blogs. Blogging allows for feedback and openness, two traits that are essential to successful communication with any medium. However, with any medium there is a danger that the true purposes of the medium will not be carried out sincerely. The risk of synthetic transparency, or a quality of “fakeness” within a blog, is dangerous and even more a reason why students should study blogging to be aware about what is necessary for it to be practiced properly.

If blogging is practiced properly, many employees will be able to feel empowered by having a voice on their blog. Empowerment, the fostering of self-driven employees, creates an environment where employees are happy and are motivated to work hard for the good of themselves and the organization. Blogging allows employees some power in what they say and do, and can help them feel control over their role within an organization.

There are many pros of blogging but there are also many ways that blogging can be done improperly at the expense of the employees and the company. Since blogging is new to the organization, students need to be aware of how blogging works as they enter the work force in a few years. By learning about blogging from the perspective of organizational communication, it can be assured the knowledge of good communication practices will help to keep blogging a healthy activity.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blogging as Organizational Communication, by Becky Meyer

Context For This Post
“Why would you study blogging in an organizational communication class? What concepts from organizational communication give you any special insight into
blogging?”

Organizational communication classes are typically theory-based, as opposed to application-based, by their very nature. As important as theories are, I believe that they are not truly understood until they are applied to an actual situation. Blogging has allowed me to apply the concepts I have been learning for the past 4 years, in such a way that I was able to understand them in greater depth and scope. The applied concepts that were most apparent to me are the following, along with a brief reason why I believe they gave me special insight into blogging:

•Organizational identity: when employees blog for work, at work or about work, these blogs have the potential to help align the employees goals and mindsets to those of the organizations. The blogs act as a way to connect the individual-self to the work-self.

•Automatic responsibility: many corporate blogs seek feedback from customers and other company outsiders. Employees who read those blogs have the responsibility to either fix the issue or find someone who is capable of fixing it.

•The ideal communication climate (SCOPE): the 5 aspects of an ideal communication climate (supportiveness, credibility, openness, participatory decision-making, and emphasis on high performance goals) can be used to determine the effectiveness of corporate blogs. They can also help to generate criteria for whether or not an organization is ready to blog.

•Speaking truth to power/rocking the boat and whistleblowing: Blogs can act as a system of checks and balances for corporations that blog. If employees see something wrong, they can expose the problem easily, thereby damaging the company’s credibility and reputation. Thus blogs can help end wrongful business.

•Organizational culture: blogs can help employees connect with one another, regardless of status. It provides a forum for sharing ideas and feedback. Blogs have the ability to foster more internal collaboration and improve supportiveness and openness in the organization’s culture.

•Empowerment: blogs serve to empower employees by acting as a communication tool that allows them to express their self-identity and individual skills. Also, there may be people (customers, other employees, management, etc.) relying on them to accomplish something (relates to automatic responsibility) which would make employees feel worthwhile and needed.

There are several other course concepts that relate to blogging, but the 6 mentioned above were most helpful to me in understanding and gaining insight into the corporate “blogosphere.”

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Blogging as Organizational Communication, by Leigh Taginski

Context For This Post
“Why would you study blogging in an organizational communication class? What concepts from organizational communication give you any special insight into
blogging?”

On the surface, blogging looks like an activity for 13 year old girls and boys to discuss their recent crushes. However, in the context of organizational identification, employee empowerment, speaking truth to power and the power of language, studying blogging becomes a powerful tool for companies and employees as well. In an economy and society where everything seems to be standardized and codified, blogs are a breath of fresh air for organizational communication. No longer is the communication between customers and companies like pulling teeth. No longer is the CEO behind 3 doors of security on the top floor keeping his personality hidden behind fancy memos and generic emails. Blogs are giving customers and employees a voice and companies an ear.

However, with this new tool comes the possibility of problems as well. Employees are not always happy with their jobs and a blog to the world on bad practices could mean the end of their reputation. However, what if that company needed some light shone on what they were doing? Phil Tompkins would argue that speaking truth to power is an important action that employees need to be able to take and blogs could give them the outlet to do so. By pointing out the problems as well as the highlights, blogs offer companies and employees an opportunity to display honesty, increase credibility or perpetuate the problem based on how the situation is handled. A negative comment is not the end all or a reason not to blog; not being able to handle feedback may be however. Companies that are not ready to act on feedback have other communication problems that need to be addressed first.

Blogs are also important from an organizational communication standpoint as they help to measure the openness, credibility and overall SCOPE [supportiveness, credibility, openness, participatory decision making, and emphasis on high performance goals] of the organization. How a company handles company and personal blogging will show a lot about the communication climate they have. A company’s problem with blogs may help to highlight what communication areas may need some altering so that it can better display an ideal communication climate. Blogging is about communicating and when it is introduced as a tool for communicating in or about an organization it is important for both the blogger, the audience and the company to understand the impact the blog could potentially have on all parties involved. Jobs have been lost over blog content and company reputations have been smeared. These important implications prove that this tool is a serious medium that needs to be understood, and studied; but at the very least make people aware that it exists and what it can do.

Just as email is included in an organization communication class now, blogging needs to be studied as well. Blogs offer a space to enrich or hurt an organization’s communication climate and the impacts can no longer be ignored as the age of the blogosphere picks up speed.

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Final Blog Postings: Blogging As Organizational Communication

Our semester is now complete and I would like to announce that our final blog postings will come from three of our students reflecting on why blogging should be studied in a course on organizational communication (at the advanced undergraduate level). Specifically, they were asked to draw on course concepts in making their most compelling argument for the following question:

“Why would you study blogging in an organizational communication class? What concepts from organizational communication give you any special insight into blogging?”

In three separate posts to follow, we will hear from what I consider to be the top responses to this question from the Fall 2005 class. I have received permission from each of the students to post their brief essays (each student was limited to 500 words): Leigh Taginski, Becky Meyer, and Emily Bhatti.

One essay will be posted over the next three days, starting today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Emrooz website was set up by people close to Iran's reformist President, Mohammad Khatami. Since a crackdown on reformist press, the internet has become the main forum for dissident voices in Iran. Emrooz carries news and current affairs articles that are broadly sympathetic to the reformist agenda, and challenge the wide-ranging powers of Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ayatollah Khamenei controls some of Iran's most powerful non-elected institutions, including the judiciary and the army. Iranian internet service providers have always been prevented from permitting access to sites deemed pornographic or anti-Islamic by the authorities, most of which originate outside Iran. But this is the first time the judiciary has banned an Iran-based domestic political website in this way.
Since the crackdown, there have been eight arrest of webbloggers and reformist newspaper journalists. The Iranian journalists' union are fearing a more radical crackdown.
Everyone try and check these articles out. Like the police that used myspace for evidence in a PA murder case, issues are even happening internationally.

Closing in on childrens' social skills: better for us or them?

About a month back, I came across an article I wanted to share with the class out of the Boston Globe. It was the November 13th issue, the article entitled, "Don't underestimate the value of social skills," by Penelope Trunk. In this article, the importance of having social skills was emphasized, and related to how they impact the workplace. The article touched on the notion of "in" and "out groups" and mentioned "how we value competence changes depending on whether we like someone or not" (p. G 1). What I thought was very interesting was what educators are doing now to promote this skill set. It seems that schools are starting to work on children during their playground days now, plucking out those who seem to need extra help in socializing with other children, and giving them a "variety of therapeutic approaches [that can] teach a child social skills while their brain is still forming" (p. G12). I couldn't believe it when I read that they were doing this at such an early age now, considering the number of years children have before they need to enter the workplace; and I'm still not sure of how I feel about it all. However, I do think that being liked, as Trunk notes in her article, is key to landing a job, or staying at a job. We are being conditioned now to be in the "in" groups, whether we know it or not. However, I'm not sure if the educators' decision to start on children this early was for the childrens benefit as much as it is for the organization the child may grow up to work in. Kenneth Burke's notion of identification sticks out for me while I'm rehashing this stuff. Will we feel more guilty for the children who grow up with under-the-par social skills? Or are we worried more about ourselves, as potential managers or co-workers who may feel guilty not being able to break through the wall of difference between ourselves and someone other than us (which is what Burke's theory deals with)? I'd like to think it's for the children, but in a capitalist society that is very self-concerned, I can't be so sure. Thoughts?

The Survival of the New Orleans Blog

If you go to Technorati's Top 100 Blogs, you can see the most popular blogs in the blogosphere, based on links from blogs to blogs in the last six months. As I scrolled through the list of accomplished bloggers, I saw "The Survival of the New Orleans Blog". It was number 100. Michael Barnett, the blogger, posts about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He says that he tells the truth about what it's like to live there, how people are losing their jobs, and that simple repairs are still very far from complete. In his last post, he leaves his readers with some advice "tell the truth- in the long run you'll be doing more good than harm". I found it intersting that he included this tidbit of insight, because in my crisis communication class all we've been hearing is "tell it all, tell it fast", "be honest". In learning that practitioners perspective and seeing Michael give the same advice in times of a crisis, it makes him a more credible source to me. His honesty and honesty about honesty made me want to keep reading. Even though he could just be a regular guy venting, (there wasn't really any information about who he was in the blog), I believed what he had to say. Maybe that's all bloggers can do.. be honest and original, and hope that they're seen as credible sources.

How Blogging Mirrors Living, by Cristina Calderaro

After recently ending a hostess job I used to work frequently, and finding a bit more time on my [usually tied] hands, I thought today about work, and how it pertains to the quality of life. Life is always better for me when I have a lot of work to do- odd, but true for many of us. I thought of blogging, in relation to work, too (5 years ago this sentence would have confused many, I know). I realized how the two- life and blogging- are very much interconnected. One is almost a metaphor for the other... think about it. When we do our work, and are happy, people always are interested to know what we are up to, how we’re doing, where we’re going out Friday night- you know the drill. For bloggers, when they do their work, and blog each day (or close to that at least), people tune in and want to hear all about it. Readers become addicted almost. An example is John Mayer’s MySpace blog- his fans love his blogs, and part of that is because they are written consistently (I'll explain the other part in another conversation sometime). As a result, John is getting his fans even more pumped up about him, and about his music, which I'm sure is great for his career- and so constructive. But when bloggers don't do their work, blogs gets harder and harder to follow, and we become I think a little distanced from them... here's an example. About a month and a half ago I found a blog called CelebrityScum. This site has gossip about celebrities (I found it doing research for another project). While their posts are great- always very entertaining and informative, it's a site thats posts usually only come few and far between, unfortunately. I went to check this site today and there was a blog there which said that the domain was being sold. While the editor mentioned on the blog that they were re-working the entire site altogether, I think that people were starting to get frustrated with the blog, as well: "Everybody wants to know what happened to CelebrityScum. The numerous emails made that pretty clear" (www.celebrityscum.com). The posts on this blog were very inconsistent from month to month, and I think if they had posted more regularly, they woudln't need to sell the domain now... (just my two cents).
I think the sad end to celebrityscum can teach us all of the importance in keeping on top of our lives, and our blogs, by putting in as much as we can, every single day. The success went to the sure and steady tortoise, let’s not forget. Blogging is really much like living. It's how much you put in that determines how much you get back. There's an interesting connection I think there.

Look at me!

With millions of people learning about this new tool, how do you make your blog stand out in the blogosphere? I found a great resource to address this question. I hope it wasn't mentioned before, but it's John Jantsch's Duct Tape Marketing. It's been recognized by Forbes Magazine as a great resource for small businesses, and once you visit, I think you'll agree.
Although this was a useful resource for my applied research report, I still have to wonder if Joe Shmoe's Shoe Shop Blog can get attention in this ocean of blogs, and become the next Scoble.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Support Group Blogs

The rise of blogging has led to the formation of health blogs. I have found a couple of blogs that support groups for cancer and diabetes patients just to name a few.

I think these blogs brings a new dynamic to the creation of support groups. People are able to get some of the latest information on medication, procedures and treatments available. People who suffer from these diseases are able to console one another making people feel that they are not alone.

These blogs make me trully see the impact and influence blogs have on peoples lives. In the diabetes blog there is a post to a link of a young man's blog who has been battling with diabetes since a very young age adding a personal touch. There are even links to local foundations were people can volunteer or make a donations.

When Murder Hits the Blogosphere

I searched the net today on my friend's computer ( she has msnbc.com as her homepage), and there it was... "When murder hits the blogosphere: Personal sites suddenly very public in aftermath of Pennsylvania killing". (I'm sure many of you have heard about the 18 year old who killed his girlfriend's parents.) Apparently, both Kara ( the victims' daughter) and David had blogs on their myspace accounts. Their myspace profiles and personal blogs now seem to be a great interest of authorities investigating the murder case. The article highlights a good point. Myspace and blogs provide a window into the personal lives of others. Possible valuable information could be found from a simple set of blog posts. Although the point of Myspace is to make a profile, contact and be known to others, maybe these blog postings are revealing too much information about personal lives. Maybe bloggers need to set more limits to what they say in their blog posts. Maybe anonymity really is best?.. what you say can and will be held against you.

Autonomous?

I was looking into getting some feedback for my paper so I sat down with my manager at the company I'm recommending to start a blog. I'm proposing a customer service/marketing blog that will help customers get more information about the shopping center, any events as well as have the opportunity to ask any questions of the blogger they may have about the Center. My manager loved the idea but her two concerns were 1) how much time this would require from the bloggers' days and 2) how to regulate it. She was concerned that each blog would have to be approved before it could be posted. Obviously blogging regulations would have to be created for this company to feel comfortable with the posting, which we know is common. I was wondering, though, how a blog that goes through approval processes is considered in the blogosphere. I'm sure many companies are afraid of liability and secrets getting out as we've read, but if every post is to be approved, doesn't that take away from part of the goal of blogging?

Credibility Meter

When we pick up a Tabloid off the newspaper stand, we know we're reading rubbish. With blogs and wikis though, I feel like its easy to be tricked into believing what we read. Many people are jumping on the blogging bandwagon, including already established politicians and media personalities. When I read politically driven blogs with fancy looking charts and statistics, can I trust what I read? It seems credible, but who's checking to see if the information is correct?...Nobody! How about when I want to learn about the Roman god, Pluto. I go to Wikipedia. It's an encyclopedia right?....one that anyone can edit! Should I then cite it on my big Org Comm paper?...or is that just as credible as citing my friend Joe Shmoe?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Future for blogs

I was reading that Voice section of the September 2005 issue of Financial Planning and come accross the "10 questions section" which were directed toward Dan Hunter and Kevin Werbach on Blogs and NewInformation Center of Gravty.When asked "where are we right now on the blog evoloution timeline?" Hunter responded that they will continue to advance. he also said that "The remarkable opportunity for blogs to lower the cost of creating and publishing content means that the amount of information and commentary to address this small niche of financial planners could, and probably will, expand expodentially. You might see hundreds, if not thousands, of collaborative media that will spring up to address this niche- and thats a wonderful thing!"

We were talking in class about blogs changing the way people use print such as newpapers, magazine, and books....this seems to be something that people are thinking of already, as a route that blogs might goit will be interesting to see how copywriting and sales are affected by this. It would make newspapers, magazines and books online so much more accessible, then again companies may not go to that in fear of losing sales. it becomes a toss up. This would not mean just with financial niches but with all niches.

Advanced Organizational Communication

Advanced Organizational CommunicationAs I was doing my research I found an interesting site called Your Guide to Corporate Blogging It may worth a glance. The site is run by a Sweedish gentleman, Fredrik Wacka. There are many good tools aside from the blog posts such as, business blogging basics and a list of european corporate blogs. The topic of the moment is in regards to social tools in business and how blogs an play an important role in external and internal communicaion. It also discusses the role of blogs as newspapers. It is interesting in the electronic bases age that we are in how the form in which we digest information is changing so rapidly. I do not believe that paper news sources will ever disapear, but maybe instead of buying them we will be downloading and printing them to take with us.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Virtual vs. Physical

In my other Communication class today, my professor posed to our class this question- Would you go to a public place (street corner, Quad on campus) and engage in a speaker and comment to what the speaker was preaching about? Would you ask questions and state concerns with the speaker, or let them know that you agree with what is being said. Most of us would say no in many cases. But, with the rise of the blogosphere, we are willing to go online, read posts, add comments and participate in this alternative form of discourse. Because why? Why can we do it in a virtual space, but not a physical one? I thought this was really interesting. Our discussion of anonymity seems like it could play a significant role in approaching this. One can be seen, and physically looked at if in a public space, but on the other hand, a blogger can be completely anonymous. Let me know what you guys think of this.

Collaborative Literature Review on Corporate Blogging

This week students will be writing their Applied Research Reports on corporate blogging as organizational communication. As a class we agreed that students would share resources they found and post them as comments to this blog post. All of the comments will then be compiled and placed in a new post.

Anyone outside the class is also welcome to post academic or trade sources on corporate blogging. We'd love to hear from you!

Blog Education

When talking to my dad about this class and how we use blogs so much, he had so many questions about what they are exactly. He told me that he thought blogs were just like online journals where people write whatever they want about any topic usually being their lives. He wanted to know why he should be interested in that at all and why he should think of them as credible. I think that there are many people still who dont understand what blogs are, I didnt until this class. When people think of blogs, they think of personal journals where people just whine about their lives. But they are so much more. I think there needs to be more education about blogs. People dont understand that whatever you can think of, i'm sure someone is blogging about it.

Corporate Blogs as Media of Empowerment? Three Criteria To Assess a Company's Culture of Empowerment

Much has been made of the potential for corporate blogs to empower their authors, largely due to the fact that blogs have the potential to give employees a voice and an audience they might not otherwise have available to them. For example, in Edelman & Intelliseek's excellent report entitled "Talking From the Inside Out: The Rise of Employee Bloggers"* (link opens PDF in new window) their first paragraph reads:

The rise of the blogosphere has the potential to empower employees in ways not unlike the rise of labor unions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although more subtle than those fundamental shifts in the labor-management dynamic, employee bloggers, in many cases, have tipped the balance of influence in their favor to establish levels of credibility that many CEOs can only dream of. (p. 3)

This excerpt sets the bar very high. How do we know if corporate blogging is reaching that potential? What criteria can be used to determine whether or not blogging is really helping employees to feel more empowered? These two questions were recently discussed in our Advanced Organizational Communication class at Northeastern University. We would like to propose that there are (at least) three criteria to use in order to assess whether or not employees are really empowered. We invite bloggers in organizations to ask these questions of themselves and their companies to determine if they are really empowered through their blogging efforts. The three criteria are: 1) autonomy of judgment, 2) level of authenticity, and 3) level of subordination.

To assess autonomy of judgment employee bloggers can ask: How much freedom do I have in the content and style of my blog posts? How rigid are our guidelines or policies about what can and cannot be said? Does my company trust me enough to make these decisions for myself, or do my posts need to be screened before they are allowed to become publicly accessible? We hypothesize that greater autonomy of judgment leads to greater feelings of empowerment. We also acknowledge that companies do have legitimate needs to constrain or otherwise prohibit certain types of blogging activities, such as not disclosing company secrets, not allowing harrassing behaviors, etc.

To assess level of authenticity employee bloggers can ask: To what extent do I feel like I am speaking with my own voice? Do I feel like I have to change how I speak in order to fit the style of how my company wants me to speak? We hypothesize that greater levels of authenticity lead to greater feelings of empowerment.

To assess level of subordination employee bloggers can ask: To what extent am I made to subordinate my own needs to the needs of my employer or my audience (such as customers, clients, colleagues or other stakeholders)? To what extent are my perspectives as an employee made subordinate to management interests and decision-making (for example, if my voice needed to be heard in order to right an organizational wrong-doing or injustice, would my voice be heard)? To what extent am I involved in decisions that affect my blogging activities? We hypothesize that lower levels of subordination lead to greater feelings of empowerment.

In our humble opinion we propose that employees, and their companies, that want to foster a communication climate of empowerment would do well to reflect on these three criteria -- autonomy of judgment, level of authenticity, and level of subordination -- and design guidelines and policies accordingly.

Please comment on our three criteria, critique them, praise them, suggest additional criteria or alternatives. We would love to hear what you think!

If you are interested in this theme of empowerment, you may also be interested in our postings (1, 2, and 3) on using the phrase "synthetic transparency" to call out corporate blogging practices that do not hold to the ideals of blogs as media that facilitate openness, honesty, and clarity.

* We read the Edelman & Intelliseek report in our class as an assigned reading. I would strongly encourage other classes to do the same, as well as any individual or company who wants an engaging and accessible introduction to this fascinating topic.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Celebrity Gossip Blogs

Blogs are becoming increasingly popular as a medium of information. In doing some research of the different blogs that are out there in the "blogsphere"I found a ton on celebrity gossip. These blogs contain the latest information on the hottest celebrities out there. Some of them are sponser by popular newspapers, or personal blog website. This makes me wonder if blogs will take over the job of tabloid magazine since people can access them for free.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Encouraging email from Tompkins!

Hi guys! Tompkins read our response and here is what he had to say about it!
Hi Gretchen,

Wonderful! A writer/professor could not ask for a better, more thoughtful response. First, it proves the students read and understood the book. Second, thy used some of my own value premises in their response. Third, they were thinking. Please share with them my appreciation of their response. In addition, let them know that I will be giving a speech in late January in Daytona Beach. There willbe some NASA people there, college students like you and your colleagues, and people from the community. They want me to stress communication, to begin with Challenger, move on to Columbia, then move backwards in time to Apollo. I will then develop my improvement on an economic theory about asymmetrical information--I will call it the inequality of information--and then close with the information from Deep Throat. Call it Automatic Responsibility. Call it Penetration. Call it speaking the truth to power. I will meet with a class reading ACC. That will be fun. They will be giving me a big stipend, but I would have met with your class for expenses. In a week moment I might have come at my expense. Thanks, Gretchen, for the lively correspondence.

With admiration and regards, Phil

Blogging is frustrating me very much!

Just blogged about unintentional hyperlinks and more phrases were hyperlinked that I did not want to and without my knowledge. Wondering if other people are seeing these links, because I did not put them in and it is frustrating me very much!!

Unintentional Hyperlinks

While commenting on Kaitlin’s Post Secret Blog, two phrases were hyperlinked, although I did not intend to. It made me wonder if all blogs or comments automatically pick up on certain phrases and hyperlink them to certain websites, and if anyone else has encountered this problem. It made me feel weird that bloggers may be blogging about something, and hyperlinks are put in, without intention or their knowledge. One phrase was “find someone” and it linked to a match-making website- a sneaky way to advertise I think, and also unethical- any thoughts?