In the interest of disclosure…

Not everyone is fully aware of what I do at the moment, where I work, and where the money comes from. I need to remain forthright about it, particularly when I have been, do, and will be blogging about companies that have to do with my paycheck, however remotely.

Here’s the scoop. I’m currently acting as an independent contractor for Gestalt IT, which runs Tech Field Day. I perform duties specific to event management of the Tech Field Day events, and some very light system administration.

This is important, because some of Gestalt IT’s money comes from the vendors who appear at Tech Field Day. The way the event works is that there are eight slots over two days. Each of the slots costs a certain amount. The money paid by the vendors goes to fly the delegates from all around the world into whichever city the event is hosted in, it pays for their hotel rooms, for the transportation to and from any airports, plus around the city as we travel from company to company, plus all of the meals, including a party on Thursday evening. I am also paid, and Stephen Foskett, who owns and runs Gestalt IT is paid.

We try to run the events such that they don’t have a highly positive cash flow – the money is reinvested into the event for the most part, with some carrying over to help events in which we don’t sell all of the vendor slots.

Now, this brings us to the idea of disclosure. I am paid by Gestalt IT. Some of that money comes from vendors…vendors such as Gigamon or Brocade, both of whom I mentioned in posts recently.

Normally with Tech Field Day, delegates need to disclose that the vendors they’re talking about paid for the event, although they weren’t paid directly, and no Tech Field Day delegate has ever been told that they have to write about something specific, nor will they be, but most delegates see interesting things and want to write about them genuinely.

I, on the other hand, AM paid, but very indirectly, but most certainly not to write blog entries about companies presenting at Tech Field Day. If I write something about a company, it’s because whatever I’m writing about is interesting to me, and I think it may be interesting to you.

I was accused of filling my stream with marketing-related materials on twitter this weekend. I probably took that a little bit personally, to be honest. I am in a position right now that exposes me to a lot of new products – I am going to think that some of those products are interesting, because they are. The reason that Gigamon was at Tech Field Day was because I found them on the VMware show floor, talked to them, and was immediately enamored with the product. I didn’t write a blog entry about them right then and there because I would have a lot more information after a Tech Field Day session. So I waited, and the post came out last week. There’s almost no chance that HyperGlance would be a sponsoring company, but the product was so awesome that I lavished it with praise immediately following VMworld.

So here’s where we stand. I will continue to write about system administration-related topics, just like I always have. I will also get to write about interesting new products that I am exposed to, because I think that posts like that have some value. I understand that not all of you feel that way. I don’t want to lose you as readers if you feel this way, so I’m trying to make it easy on you.

I haven’t previously used WordPress’s categories like I should have, but I am now. If you want to only receive System Administration-related posts, then you should subscribe to my SysAdmin Category Feed. I will only be putting sysadmin-specific things in this category. The post you are reading, for example, will be excluded, as it goes to Administrivia. I’m in the process of going back through my nearly-700 posts and properly categorizing them, but this will take time. I will also encourage the various sysadmin planets which redistribute my blog to use my sysadmin feed. Those of you who want to get the full feed can continue with no change if you’re already subscribed.

Also, when I do write about a company in some way in which I imagine that it could be construed that I have given some sort of preferential treatment because they paid for an event, I will put the following disclaimer at the bottom of the post:

This post mentions a company which paid my employer to partake in an event. I was not paid to write this post, nor was it requested of me. This company has provided me nothing of value besides things which would be considered normal conference swag, such as memory sticks, bags, or pamphlets of information. I write this entry of my own volition and stand by the contents. As always, if I say something is good, it is because I think it is good, not because someone asked me to say it is good.

I think that the combination of these efforts should be sufficient to placate people in general. But you know what they say…

  • Every statement can be assessed for trustworthiness and validity.

    Transparency (e.g. disclosure of affiliations, education, summary of expertise, etc) is fine in that it helps people evaluate whether or not they should trust the source of a statement. Such information is especially helpful to human beings in situations where they lack familiarity with the source or sufficient expertise to evaluate a statement on their own.

    Unfortunately, people make the mistake of leaping from trustworthiness to validity and vice versa. Trustworthiness has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of a statement beyond a implying believability. However, just because we believe a source is trustworthy does not mean that the source’s statement is de facto valid. Conversely, just because a source’s statement appears to be valid does not mean we should indiscriminately trust that source.

    Having written that, I believe there are two types of human beings. The first chooses to focus on sources rather than statements especially if the statements conflict with their own strongly held beliefs, emotions and biases. Their ad hominem attacks are easily identified. The second chooses to focus on the validity of a statement regardless the source.

    I am the latter type. Whether a statement is made by a felon, laureate, politician, saint, family member or stranger, and whether the individual is known to have ulterior motives, prejudices or opposing beliefs matters far less to me than the validity of his/her statement. All are given equal opportunity to make their cases independent of who they are as individuals or what they may represent.

    At the end of the day I could care less if every blogger/pundit/author posts a code of ethics and a disclosure following every statement. I skip over that content because it’s meaningless as a measure of validity.

    One’s statements must have the strength to stand on their own.

  • Sllinky

    I hope you found that persons post at the least marginally offensive. All the time I have known you your moral compass has always eclipsed my own. While it may have been a killjoy, I greatly respect and admire you for that.