VINners’ Oath
April 13, 2017 (published) | February 18, 2021 (revised)
Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology), co-founder, VIN

Common to most successful societies throughout history is a form of the “Golden Rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Since day one, VIN has valued trust above all other assets. VINners trust VIN to serve only one master – you. To prevent even implied conflicts of interest from threatening this trust, VIN does not accept any sponsorships or advertising. VIN is fully supported by membership. VIN’s governance structure, codified in The Ten Commandments of VIN, ensures VIN will always maintain that commitment to you.

VIN isn’t perfect. We’ve made plenty of mistakes. Some were recognized early and corrected. Some were not mistakes at the time decisions were made, but as the world has evolved, the flaws became clear, and we work every day to fix those flaws. I’ve said many times, “VIN sucks, but we try to suck a little less every day.”

VIN is a community of colleagues. VIN was birthed on America Online before there was a World Wide Web. At that time, there was no online advertising, no spam, and online communications were novel. VINners recognized how special it was to, for the first time in history, be able to reach across geographic and time barriers to bond with and learn from colleagues in the next town, state or country. Non-commercial and mutual respect doctrines were spontaneously and collectively adopted. Almost all VINners understood and cherished this sense of mutual responsibility.

As the Internet and VIN have grown, we’ve taken this for granted. We’ve erred by assuming that the social structure and responsibility of being a VINner was self-evident to all who joined the VIN community. As the Internet became a sea of knowledge and home for much good, it also became a seat of commerce and home for disinformation, scam artists and trolls.

Although we might want everyone to follow the rules all of the time, we know that expectation is not realistic for every rule in every situation, whether it's "thou shalt not murder" or "thou shalt not share VIN information off VIN."

We, perhaps naively, assumed that our VIN community was immune from these pathologies. And for the most part, the VIN community has been amazingly successful at keeping our community veterinary-only, respectful and free of commercialism. Though we may have succeeded compared to most online communities, it isn’t good enough.

We’ve failed to ensure that everyone joining VIN understands that belonging to this community comes with responsibilities to oneself, one’s colleagues and the community as a whole.

This letter is about trust, but not the trust you and all VINners have placed in VIN. This letter is about the trust VIN and all VIN members place in you and all VIN colleagues.

To explicitly state the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the VIN community, we, as a community are adopting and asking all to be guided by a VINner’s Oath. Nothing is changing. We are just trying to make sure everyone understands what it means to be a VINner.

In following letters, I will elaborate on each of these points – the reasons, history, and goals behind each.

Here is a first draft of the VINners’ Oath. I expect that as a community we will evolve these items:

  1. 1 I will not violate the confidentiality of the VIN Community. I will email to ask permission before reproducing or sharing VIN community content with anyone. If I obtain permission to share content, I will make sure the content is fully anonymized. Item 1 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  2. 2 I will use only my personal login and no one else will use it. Item 2 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  3. 3 I will treat all colleagues with respect when posting to the message boards and give colleagues the benefit of the doubt when reading their posts. Item 3 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  4. 4 I recognize that ALL VINners, GPs and specialists alike, equally contribute to the VIN community and have valuable knowledge and insights. Item 4 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  5. 5 I will respect the non-commercial nature of VIN by not promoting services I own or am affiliated with and will disclose any conflicts of interest in my message board posts and other interactions and communications. Item 5 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  6. 6 I will remember that my expertise, insights, and resources are valuable to the rest of the VIN community and my input is welcome and highly encouraged. Item 6 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  7. 7 I recognize that VIN is an educational resource and that by providing complete histories and follow-up on the message boards, I am enriching the VIN database for my colleagues. Item 7 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  8. 8 I will only contact a VIN colleague or consultant through VIN, unless openly invited to do so off of VIN. I will not provide anyone else with a VIN colleague or consultant’s information. I will not contact VINners with the intent of selling or promoting a service or product on or off VIN without their express inquiry and consent. Item 8 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  9. 9 I will help to make VIN better by providing suggestions and feedback. Item 9 — Explained by Paul Discussion 
  10. 10 I recognize that VIN is for veterinarians and veterinary students only. I will not allow my staff to access my VIN account; instead I will encourage them to join VSPN. Item 10 — Explained by Paul Discussion