Last week in San Francisco I was a panelist along with Shazia Mistry from Adventures in Motherhood, Nelly Yusupova, founder of Webgrrls International, and Chilihead from Blogging Basics 101 at the fourth annual BlogHer conference. The four us tackled questions for beginning bloggers and I thought I'd share part of what I said Friday morning. If you'd like a complete outline of the information we put together with links to the resources I compiled, please download the Blogging Basics PDF file at Webgrrls International that Nelly put together.
Well blogging can be like this--while the internet brings us closer together we're still separated by keyboards and screens and it's easy to forget that there's another person on the other end of the wire and not just some nameless machine cranking out posts. We read someone's words, perhaps feel some emotions about what we've read, think we know all about them, then we act as if the circuits and signals separating us relieve us of any responsibility towards courtesy or respect.
They're a blogger right? They've put themselves out there for everyone to read so they're asking for it right? They'll never know who you are so you can say what you want right?
Now of course the extreme example of this is trolls--people who pop into a blog long enough to leave a comment that socks you in the gut and shows you that you're not as great as you think you are. They're bullies and irritating and should die a slow painful death but there's not much you can do about them so what about the rest of us?
It's time to "get out of our cars" so to speak. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as isolated writers on deserted country roads, we're on the information highway, people, where we're going to meet up with other bloggers. You can pretty much expect that there are going to be some fender benders here and there as we bump into each other in our associations and how we handle those situations affects the whole community.
So when it comes to blogging etiquette it's not so important to remember all these minute bylaws and rules as to remember to think about the person on the other end of the connection and remember that they're not just some car whizzing past, they're a person with feelings too. If ever there was a place for the Golden Rule, the blogosphere would be it.
When you comment at another site, remember that the other people can't see your smile, your body language or hear the humor in your voice and adjust your comments to compensate for this. Don't just assume they should know how to take something and be careful how you say it because it will always come off a little differently than if you say it to their face.
If you're receiving these comments, be careful how you treat those who visit your blog and treat them with respect--even if you think they may not deserve it. They may be crazy and rude but descending to their level by being rude back won't help anything.
When you link to another site remember that it's a symbiotic relationship--if you do your links properly not only will it help the other blogs you link to but it will help you as well.
The search engines not only count your inbound links, they also notice your outbound links and rather than say "click here" or using someone's first name as a link try to get into the habit of using their site name for the actual link. This builds recognition for their blog, encourages people to click on the link and gets you points with the search engines--a perfect win/win situation.
If you like someone's post and want to mention it on your blog, go ahead and mention it but don't reprint it in full. Give a teaser then the link so that it sends people to the person who actually produced the content (Google doesn't like duplicate content anyway so reprinting someone's post can hurt pagerankings). Though it's not absolutely necessary to ask it never hurts because it flatters the blogger you're asking, gets their attention and shows a lot of care and concern for courtesy.
Finally, there isn't a lot to say about properly attributing content to the original source--I think the rules of plagairism are fairly clear but what may not be as clear are the "rules" governing attributing photographs. I myself have been guilty in the past of not being good in this area because it's easy to think "it's no big deal" to borrow a photo that is just floating around out there nameslessly but once again, think of how the person who took that photograph feels about his or her work. To have their work used without recognition or compensation is a very big deal and good bloggers should avoid using anyone's photos improperly.
About 99% of the photos I use are my own--no problems there. If I'm running a review for a product or film or book I will use photographs I didn't take to promote something but every once in a while I've taken shots from Google images where the original source was hard to discern. I should have either requested permission from the original owner but if the original owner couldn't be found then I should have made a note in the post giving credit to the source or used another photograph.
Included in the Blogging Basics PDF document I've listed above is a link to a post at Presentation Zen that lists lots of places to get photos for free or for a low cost. Handling your photos responsibly will polish your blog and help you to be a more professional site.
The bottom line? Get out of those cars and realize that the blogging world isn't full of machines and computers so much as human beings with feelings and thoughts--when we reach out and treat others as we would want to be treated it opens up room for dialog and exchange. And isn't that a better way to travel anyway?
Congratulations to Belinda of Etta, Mississippi for winning the Philips AJL308 alarm clock this weekend--there must be a lot of people needing new alarm clocks because the competition was steep. Thanks to all who visited and entered.
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