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When you have an online journal, you’re the CEO, Editor-in-chief and majority shareholder of MYBLOG.com. You have 100% control over what you post.

If you ask me, having total control over content is one of the best things about blogging. Of course, it’s also one of the worst, especially when you’re just getting started. After all, how do you know you’re doing the right thing? What if you upset people without meaning too?

With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to include something on the dos and don’ts of blogging etiquette in the workshop notes I use on my presentations about blogging.

As always, these are just my opinions which, like spouses and children, should be ignored or embraced at the individual’s discretion.


Don't Cut & paste someone else’s post into your own blog
If you see a post you want to share with your readers, by all means link to it, but please don’t copy someone else’s journal entry into a post on your own blog (even if you do give credit to the original author in your introductory paragraph).

Aside from being more than a little unsporting, it’s a breach of copyright, and though you’re unlikely to get sued over it, posting other people’s work on your blog without permission won’t make you any friends either, no matter how much you feel they ought to be flattered.

Do give credit where due
If you come across a post via someone else's blog and decide to link to it yourself. Give credit to the one who sent you there as well as the person who wrote the actual post.   

Do Respond to all commenters whenever possible

My old gran used to say, ‘There’s always room at the table for Mr. Manners'*. If someone leaves a (non-spam) comment on your blog, you don’t have to reply, but just like in real life, ignoring someone can come across as rudeness, even if it’s unintentional.

*Actually what she really used to say was: ‘Sit up straight before I nail your shoulders to the back of that chair’ but it meant the same thing.

Don’t post spam comments on other people's blogs

Other folks may disagree, but I’d say blogging-type spam comes in two different forms. First (and most obvious), there’s the comment containing a link to one or more websites, all of them totally unrelated to the subject of the post. These usually come from troll programs which scour the internet, posting automatic spam links in people’s blogs, presumably in the hope that a tiny percentage of them generate traffic or business.

The other kind of spam comment is the one I’m talking about. It usually goes something along the lines of ‘Great post. You and your readers should check out my blog [LINK INSERTED], it has similar posts on there.

This kind of thing makes it look as if you’re only there to divert readers to your own blog.

Developing a readership for a blog can take some time, but if you post genuine comments on other people’s journals, sooner or later, most of those folks will check out yours. After that, it’s a matter of whether they find your blog posts interesting or not. 

Don’t use foul language on someone else’s blog
Swear as much as you like on your own blog – though personally, I tend to skim over posts containing foul language – but I recommend you avoid using swearwords in comments on someone else’s journal. You never know who’s reading that post and who you might offend.

Don’t start flame wars and pointless arguments
Some folks enjoy starting arguments and/or throwing their weight around online. They make antagonistic posts or comments, designed to elicit an angry response or (as they see it) put someone in his/her place. Other people make equally vitriolic posts and comments under the guise of feeling passionate about a subject.Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Trying to start or host a balanced, reasoned discussion is one thing, but if you make posts and comments which read like your intention is to annoy people with the opposing view, you risk losing the goodwill of your readers, even those who share your basic beliefs.

How about you?

What would you add to a list of blogging etiquette dos and don’ts?


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( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 29th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
Don't post publicly about your work (meaning your non-writing job) in your blog.

In an era of corporations (and their competition) skimming the internet for information, posts about your job will attract attention. Such posts might also violate terms of your employment, and leave you vulnerable to firing.
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Good point. Thanks, Mike :)
(no subject) - mary_j_59 - Jun. 29th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 30th, 2011 09:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jun. 29th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
"Don’t start flame wars and pointless arguments"

Hm ... define "pointless" :-)
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
You know, Adolf Hitler said pretty much that same thing to Otto Strasser.

One of the more frequent indicators of a pointless argument
is the invocation of Hitler.
I figured we could get that out of the way first.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 29th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
hm. i sometimes cut-and-paste (after getting permission from the original author, and of course citing them) to increase visibility without my readership having to click a link. i figure it's up to the original author to say if they'd prefer that or a link plain.

it's not a breach of copyright if you get permission, of course. some posters (i am thinking of kylecassidy, whom i've reposted a couple times) actually include links to code to make reposting really super easy. i guess they care more about the signal boost than that somebody see their page per se.

wrt goodwill, i figure my blog is *not* a commercial intended to get me love and kisses. as i've said, i mostly try to use it to keep in touch with folks i am not routinely in touch with because of time and space. i think it would be out-of-keeping with my character, and give those friends less of who they came for, if i tried to sanitize my presence for the sake of "being nice". if i had a more professionally-oriented web presence i might feel differently, but my professional stuff is mostly static rather than blogging.
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
If you've got prior permission, that's fine, but otherwise it's a definite no-no as far as I'm concerned.
(no subject) - lyonesse - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
One of my personal rules, after waaaaay too many kerfluffles and "fails" has been "If you can't say anything nice, say it on your OWN blog."

I've taken to responding to things on my own blog and linking to others, mostly because I think that some of the usual haters out there get some sort of gratification out of trashing people in their own "homes". Then whine when they get blocked or have their posts taken down.

Where I come from, you can legally shoot and kill someone who trespasses into your home uninvited and hostile. The best offense against someone on the internet is to simply ignore them.

Nowhere else will you find a more wretched hive of scum and narcissists.
Jun. 29th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
The strange thing is that the people who've blocked me
weren't the ones who experienced my rabid outbursts.
Go figure.
That's not an endorsement of rabid outburts,
just an observation.
(no subject) - wendigomountain - Jun. 29th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 29th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
Does anyone here have an agent or publisher who did not suggest starting a blog?
So, of course, the whole point is to divert readers to your own blog,
but you don't want to corral a bunch of idiots who click on anything,
and you don't want anyone to feel corralled.

Whether the relationships are intimate or internet,
lasting structures begin with solid foundations,
and Arthur Godfrey's success in radio and television
resulted from his ability to make people at home
feel as if he'd merely stopped in for a visit.
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
'So, of course, the whole point is to divert readers to your own blog'

I don't agree. I'd say the point is to give them a reason to keep coming back, if that makes sense.
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
One thing that always comes to mind to me is "don't blog angry". Don't comment, don't blog. If you're feeling in a foul mood, just browse. (Or read a good book.)

In addition, I generally believe in not using incredibly specific insulting examples. (i.e. it's one thing to say, "I love JonGibb's work, especially he does..." but you shouldn't write, "Certain people seem mired in writing misogynistic caricatures of characters. Tracy's character X comes to mind...") This is doubly true if the person you're using as the bad example is not widely known and/or reads your blog. ;) Obviously exceptions apply (i.e. if you're reading Tracy's book and trying to review it, you're using an example from a very well known author that most of the audience would be aware of, etc.) But...insulting people can genuinely be a great way to start up wank, even when the insult was unintended/used for a greater purpose.

I also tend to be against giving advice and using your own work as a source of when technique A or B was used properly. Even in a best case scenario, it looks really arrogant.

Oh, and make sure of your attributions. I had someone attribute stuff I wrote to my father, my brother, and a friend. It's just obnoxious...
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
I love your 'Don't blog angry' advice, but as for 'it's one thing to say, "I love Jon Gibbs's work"' I suppose it could happen, but that particular example seems a little far-fetched to me ;)

(no subject) - mutive - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mutive - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rowyn - Jul. 2nd, 2011 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mutive - Jul. 2nd, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)
There are actually a few blog posts where the authors are strongly encouraged to cut-and-paste; but mostly, it's not too great an idea. I'd have to count what they call "memes" in with this.
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
When it's encouraged you have a different situation.

I'm thinking more of when someone copies an entire post without so much as a by your leave, which (even though it doesn't happen to me very often), I confess irks me somewhat. I assume other folks would feel the same.
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jun. 29th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
All of these are good tips, but this point: Swear as much as you like on your own blog could use a bit of expansion, if I may. If you want to see your posts shared via peoples' facebook pages and the like, keeping your language fairly clean is something to think about. I have business contacts on my fb page and I know people read fb at work, so I won't link to anything that's not work-friendly. (Which doesn't mean all I link to is recipes and pictures of kittens, but it does mean that anything controversial needs to mind its manners in public - no porn, no graphic violence and no f-bombs scattered all over the front page) I also check the thumbnails on links carefully before I put them up - and I get annoyed when people don't pay me the same courtesy. FB, especially, is not a private space.

Edited at 2011-06-29 04:35 pm (UTC)
Jun. 29th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. In fact, just this morning I followed a link to a post which, had it not contained a lot of (what I found quite unnecessary) swearing, I'd have added to my weekly roundup.

Thanks for sharing :)
(no subject) - rymrytr - Jun. 30th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 30th, 2011 09:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
One thing you must NEVER do on someone else's blog is fart. It's not polite, and it's no way to get any interest in your own blog, no matter what your older brother (or old gran) may tell you.

Another good tip is to remember that a blog (especially on LJ) can be a community rather than simply a place to post goings on in your life or career. Don't talk AT people, but interact with those who comment. I must say that if I follow a blog and the blogger never responds to anything I (or the majority of others) have to say, I stop following.

Great pointers, Jon!
Jun. 29th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Lol, my old gran used to say 'It weren't me it were the dog' which always confused me, since we never had a pet when I was a lad :)
Jun. 29th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
It's not something that I have a rule about, but one thing I've wondered about is how soon to intervene if it looks like things might get tense among commenters on my blog. This has only happened very, very, rarely, but even so, it was enough to make me think about it. My blog's content isn't usually the sort of stuff that provokes strong opinions, and generally the people who comment are pretty laid back. However, the readers do actually stretch quite a spectrum in terms of attitudes, and on the very few occasions when it's come up as a problem, I've felt at a loss as to how best to arbitrate stuff.
Jun. 29th, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's ever come up here, but if it did, I'd make a lighthearted comment like 'Am I gonna have to seperate you too?'

If I thought it was getting really bad I'd send a private message to both parties asking them to calm down.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jun. 29th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - clarionj - Jul. 3rd, 2011 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Hmm, you cover the important things here, so I'm trying to come up anything else I've seen. The only thing that comes to mind is "don't assume the worst first." I recently saw a commenter on a friend's blog become very angry at something the blogger wrote. Because I know the blogger, I immediately saw that what had been written could be misconstrued, especially without background on the person or the topic as it had been unfolding.

When we write, we don't always get across the little smile behind our words, or the nuances of expression that can clarify something. I'd just say before judging something you read in a blog or in a comment on your own blog, ask a few questions. The blogger doesn't always realize how a statement "sounds" to the reader. (Though maybe this falls under the don't-be-vitriolic category.)
Jun. 29th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
I agree with this so much! Give the person the benefit of the doubt!
(no subject) - clarionj - Jul. 3rd, 2011 04:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 30th, 2011 09:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
This is hard for me, since I have strong opinions and love to express them - but you might want to be careful about talking about politics and religion. When/if I have an official author's blog, I won't have that stuff there. On my personal LJ, I do discuss political and spiritual matters, because they are important to me, but I'm well aware that some readers will be turned off by my opinions.

Otherwise, I can't think of a thing I would add. Great post, Jon!
Jun. 30th, 2011 09:37 am (UTC)
Nothing wrong with strong opinions, except when they come with a side order of venom. I'll never understand why some folks can't talk about politics or religion without hurling insults at people who hold a different opinion.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 30th, 2011 09:46 am (UTC)
Sample quotes are fine. To me, the breach of etiquette occurs when someone lifts pretty much the whole post.

If I knew someone very well, I might add a link in a comment, but even then I think I'd be inclined to do it by seperate email or message, in case that person's readers misunderstood my motive.

As for helping others with your blog, I totally agree. It adds to the fun factor :)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 30th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
I used to have a rule: 'Don't say or do anything my old gran wouldn't..'

Of course, I've long since settled down :)
Jun. 30th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
I generally try to make my blog 'a nice place to be'.

Even more so, I try to 'behave' when I comment on other people's blogs. Being appreciative goes a long way when commenting, as does keeping snarky comments to myself if I disagree. If I absolutely can't keep my mouth shut, I try to keep in mind that I neither intend nor expect to agree with everyone.

Nice post, btw ;-)
Jun. 30th, 2011 09:49 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jakob :)

By the way, we've been friends for years now, there's really no need to salute when you leave a comment. Do you have an 'at ease' icon? ;)
(no subject) - jakobdrud - Jun. 30th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jun. 30th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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