What Do You Do When The Ethics Alarm Sounds Late? This…

A photography site that knows about ethics, too.

SmugMug is a photo sharing website that comes complete with a blog on photo sharing issues, including ethical ones. Here is the blog’s most recent post, a remarkable confession and an apology, as excellent an example of  taking responsibility for a mistake, being accountable and apologizing sincerely to the party harmed as there is. The post is entitled, “What Were We Thinking?”

“Sometimes you see the dumb things companies say and you wonder, ‘What were they thinking?’

I never imagined that happening to us, but we did something so dumb in a blog post, we’re now looking at each other blankly and asking, what were we thinking? The post was about image theft and we used examples from pro photographer Valerie Schooling’s site and gave the impression she was doing things wrong, which she wasn’t.

To make matters worse, we somehow embedded screen captures of her site without asking her permission.  If it weren’t such a dumb thing to do, I could explain why we did it other than the obvious: she and her photos are awesome. Naturally, her friends and other respected photographers in the industry asked us what we were thinking, and unfortunately the honest answer was, “We weren’t.”

We learned a lesson we’ll never forget because we also betrayed ourselves, since we are photographers.  We apologize for the time and angst this caused a lot of wonderful people.”

“Chris MacAskill
President & co-founder
Not usually so clueless”


All of us make mistakes, including occasionally violating our own principles, because we are concentrating on other matters and let non-ethical considerations like haste, or enthusiasm, or emotion, or any one of a dozen other motivations and considerations that are part of being a fallible human being, momentarily freeze the clappers on our ethics alarms. When we  discover our error, and those alarms are ringing loudly, the proper process is to…

  1. Admit the mistake to ourselves.
  2. Accept responsibility for it, without qualifications or excuses.
  3. Apologize openly and sincerely to whoever was harmed, and to those who trust us not to do such things.
  4. Learn the right lessons from the experience, so the ethics alarms sound loudly and immediately the next time.

Mr. MacAskill and his site did all of this gracefully, sincerely and well, giving everyone a tutorial on the ethical way to admit wrongdoing. As a result, SmugMug not only preserved its reputation and trustworthiness, but enhanced it.

Good job.

[Much thanks to Mark Draughn for the link.]


1 Comment

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, The Internet

One response to “What Do You Do When The Ethics Alarm Sounds Late? This…

  1. Pingback: Ethics Articles | Pearltrees

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