The Content / Commerce divide
I read a couple of posts about what some of the other Gnomedex attendees are saying, and it seems the usual editorial/commerce divide is still being debated. I honestly dont understand why more people dont see that the free market (for infomration and commerce) will ultimately weed out the people and organizations who are untruthful or shilling for someone else. Unless entities speak with authenticity and good intentions, they wont last long. Commerce and the Commons must coext, and can do so as long as the people who publish are not taking money for the sake of money, are not motivated by the money and most importantly, they are not lieing for the money.
When all of the people and organizations of the world understand that the core problem in our society is one of trust and truthfulness, and they move beyond the world based on fear, perhaps this won't be an issue any longer. I think more than anything else, people need more experience with this mindset and less experiences with the likes of an Enron. Until there is a system out there which can authenticate a person's statements and publications (hint, hint) the general public will still have to figure out whether what they read/watch/hear is truthful for themselves.
Just because someone makes money because of what they have to say (ie via grassroots media or even mainstream media) it does not necessarily make them bad or evil. Even in the more recent brouhah over the Bush administrsation paying those 'experts' to speak about the plans for education reform, the actions themselves were not problematic, insofar as the people involved truly believed what they were writing/speaking about. The way in which they handled it, however, was an error in judgement - perhaps stemming from the same lack of understanding that lead to some of the early corporate bloggers being fired from their jobs. Their affiliation with the white house should have been clearly stated somehow, or if the person really believed in what they were doing, they should have turned down the money and acted as a true independent voice, finding another way to get paid.
Look, we are living in the Knowledge Economy, and in such an economic system where people and organizations reap the rewards of value creation by thinking, the marketplace of ideas can be a full time pursuit. Some people (writers/columnists) get paid by organizations to write (New York Times, Weblogs and Fast Company) some people may get together to form a co-operative on a topic, some people may blog to promote their expertise/consulting services.
The bottom line is that it is ok to find a way to make money off of what you know, say or do, insofar as you do it with good intentions and are truthful. I think the real problem with this debate may just be one of transitioning from the information economy to the knowledge economy and creating grassroots media for fun and profit is a new way of participating in an old profession - hence the old judgements on the need for a content/commerce divide.
One last note on this topic for now: I first encountered this problem back in 1995 when we launched Virtual Community Network and our first site Sobe.com. As a local content site for South Miami Beach, FL that was way ahead of the dotcom curve, we took most of the arrows for that industry and the biggest one among them was regarding how we would maintain our editorial integrity. To me it was never an issue because I knew that as long as we were truthful with what we said, we clearly demarked what was paid and as long as there were no illicit dealings involving payments for a piece of editorial, we would maintain our 'trusted source' status - the only slippery slope to fall down would be found by people already in mid slide...
[INSYTES: PROF: content/commerce, knowledge economy, trust, blogging, grassroots media]