A few days ago I posted some pictures of my daughter’s room rules. There just happens to be certain things that Hannah does and does not want going on in her room. My sons, however, prefer a “rule-free” environment.
Likewise, believe it or not, there are a few rules regarding proper interaction among bloggers and their blogs. For the most part, I think these rules are things that we are expected to pick up along the way. After all, Blogger and WordPress (two hosts with which I am familiar) do not offer a list of blogging dos and do nots before they provide their services. While software providers and many other sites require an end-user to agree to their terms and conditions before they allow use, there is no such agreement prior to writing that first post or leaving your first comment on someone’s blog.
With most of the hobbies I’ve dabbled in, I have benefited from the expertise and experience of someone else. When I wanted to learn how to make my own cards, I attended classes at someone’s home. When I wanted to learn how to use a sewing machine, I went to my mother-in-law. Generally speaking, we find someone we know who knows how to do whatever it is we want to do and we take on the role of a student.
Not so with blogging. In my case, I did not personally know another blogger. (I still don’t know anyone in my hometown who blogs. I even went to a writer’s conference over the weekend and I did not meet one single blogger.) Therefore, I have not benefited from the experience of another person who was already doing what I wanted to do.
A lack of knowledge can be a very bad thing. To be completely honest, I have made some blogging mistakes. Blogging has been more of a stumble-trip, learn-as-I-go experience. There isn’t anything wrong with that; I think most bloggers’ expertise have come that way. In my case, however, I know I have offended other bloggers, I have neglected to do certain things that I didn’t know I was supposed to do, and I have been sloppy. I hope I’ve learned a few things this past year, though, and that is what I’d like to share in this series of articles.
I am going to organize this into three parts:
- things to keep in mind on your own blog
- things to keep in mind when you’re leaving comments on others’ blogs
- things to keep in mind when you’re interacting with other bloggers
First, what are the things bloggers should and should not do on their own blogs?
I hesitate to write any rules for bloggers and what they do with their own blogs simply because they are their blogs. I will share a few rules that I have for myself. And, if you are a regular reader, then you will know that sometimes I break my own rules. So, the first rule is to remember that your blog is your blog. Have fun and write whatever you want to write. A blogger must, however, be careful about how to share what’s on her mind. This brings me to my second rule.
Do not write ranting posts riddled with complaints. An emotional, complaining rant is not a joy to read. I’ve written a few of those. When I take a moment to read an archived post and I come across one of my rants, I always cringe. It’s just terrible to read. I am sure that when it was written there was an emotional context for me, so that it made sense. But when I re-read it without that context, it lacks everything I thought it had when I clicked “publish post.” I have to remember that the person reading this blog does not really know me very well, and she probably won’t understand the “voice” I am using, therefore, the ranting post does not make sense, is not funny, and is not a joy to read.
Third, if you just have to get something off your chest and want to put it on the blog for the world to read, then try to offer something positive and constructive, or an alternative. For example, if I am ranting about music (and I have), then I should cite some reasons for my dislike and offer some good alternatives. A rant for the sake of a rant is not enjoyable to read (in my opinion) without a good resolution in the end. It is always a good idea to have a positive “take-away” for your readers.
Fourth, and along the lines of #2, do not attack other people in a post. Whether the person is another blogger or someone more public, do not attack him or her on your blog. It should not need to be pointed out, but bloggers are real people with real feelings. Do not say anything in your blog that you would not say in a face-to-face encounter. Attacking another person conveys more about your inabilities, insecurities, and hang-ups than it does any valid reasoning you may have for the attack. It will also greatly damage your credibility.
Fifth, do not single out blogger comments in a negative way. Say someone leaves a comment on your blog and you disagree with him or her. Do not take that comment to use as fuel for your next fiery post. Keep the comments in the comments. If you need to write another post to clarify your position, by all means, do that. However, do it without singling out one other blogger. That is humiliating for the other person and makes you look cold and heartless. If you disagree with a blogger’s comment on your blog, you can try writing your own response in the comments section or you can contact that person through email. I would recommend using email, which means you MUST include your email address when you leave comments. In your Blogger profile, Blogger gives you the option of including your email address with your comments. Please check that box!! It’s only visible to the blog owner, and it makes correspondence regarding particular posts so much easier.
Sixth, do not copy someone’s blog without linking. Just as you would not steal words from a book without attributing them to the author, do not steal ideas and words from another blogger without linking to him or her. You can do this either by mentioning (and linking to) the other blogger in your post or by placing a “hat tip” at the bottom of your post. This is generally done like this: (HT: “blog name” with hyperlink).
Seventh, do not steal images from other blogs. Ask the blog owner if you can use it. Most bloggers are very nice about stuff like this. He may ask you for a link in return, but that is a very small price to pay if you really want an image from another’s site.
Eighth, my mother always told me, “Never write anything down that you wouldn’t want another person to read.” I lived this terrible truth when my boyfriend’s mother read my diary. Don’t ask how she got my diary, just take the knowledge that she had it and she read it, then think about 15-year-old me absolutely mortified and praying for the ground to open up and swallow me whole when she returned it to me. They say that time heals all wounds. Well, there still isn’t enough time between that event and today for me to laugh about it. If you’d be embarrassed for a parent, or another adult whom you admire, or one of your children to read a post, DO NOT click “publish.”
Ninth, it is a good idea to let your readers know if you’re not going to be posting for a while. Regular readers depend on their bloggers. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. You wouldn’t walk away in the middle of a conversation without saying, “Excuse me,” so I think it’s polite to alert readers to an extended break in posting. I’m not talking about a few days. I’m referring to a break that lasts a week or longer. That way, your readers know when to check back for new posts and you don’t have to worry about how many readers have decided to unsubscribe for lack of posting.
If you do a Google search of “blogging etiquette” it will turn up lots more rules than my 9. If you want more, it’s easy to do a search. I did one which also turned up several posts for how to drive traffic to your blog. I do not really consider blogging etiquette and blogging traffic to be the same thing, but building traffic may be a topic of interest to you.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this list. The last thing I want to be is boring. More than that, I hope these nine “rules” are helpful to you. They certainly are things I wish I had known before I started blogging. Next, I’ll write my thoughts regarding some things to consider when leaving comments on other blogs. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you can remember that one, then you won’t go wrong.