Today’s Mercury News has an article about company’s attempts to influence bloggers with free merchandise, cash, etc.. In December, Microsoft gave away a bunch of PCs loaded with Vista to well-known tech bloggers, and “marketing firms like, and routinely dangle cash — as much as $1,000 — before bloggers willing to write about a particular product.”

The practice is raising the usual ethical questions (should I disclose that I’m getting money to write about this thing?), blog-specific questions (does the participatory nature of blogging make such efforts to secretly buy good press impossible?), and among many bloggers, the biggest question of all: Why haven’t they called me? Personally, I’d love to write about my all-expenses paid trip to… just about anywhere, actually.

Though maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Last week at my kids’ school, I had two different people recognize me from the blog. One of them had stumbled upon it while doing research about Peninsula, and appreciated having a view of a place that’s hard to make sense of when you’re on the outside. I’m not likely to get any new toys out of it, but I suppose one should be grateful for whatever influence one has in the world, expected or not.

[To the tune of Stevie Wonder, “Another Star,” from the album “Songs in the Key of Life“.]

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