Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Playing nice in the sandbox

The blogosphere has been buzzing the last few days over the kerfuffle over the "outing" of a pseudonymous blogger "publius" by Ed Whalen. The lovely Ms. Janis has a bunch of links that will give you the gist of the situation.

What I find most interesting is that there does not seem to exist a single, comprehensive source for the rules of blog etiquette. Even an Amazon search turns up books and articles that only tangentially deal with the specific issue of playing nicely in the blog sandbox. No doubt others have had the same notion, and within the next few months the bookstores will explode with volumes claiming to be the definitive work on weblog manners.

In the meantime, let's apply some common sense, hmmm?

1. Attribution. Simply put, give credit where credit is due. It's fine to reference another writer's post, but when you do, be sure to include a link back to the original post. Note please that I said reference; it is never, ever all right to lift another blogger's post word for word and put it up on your own blog, regardless of whether or not you provide a link back. Do the author the courtesy of linking back to their article; who knows, they may do the same for you some day.

2. Attribution, part 2. We've all done it - we see a post on another blogger's site, and it strikes a chord with us. We do a riff on the subject on our own blog. Since we aren't quoting or otherwise directly referencing the other author's post, we don't have to link back to him, right?

Wrong. Be generous - give the other blogger a shout out. "XXX's post on YYYY got me thinking about..." "I have some thoughts about XXX's post on YYY..." Even "h/t to XXX" will do the trick. It costs you nothing, but builds goodwill.

3. Pseudonyms. Bloggers who write under other names generally have a good reason for doing so. Respect that. Over time, the pseudonym itself takes on character and develops a reputation. What purpose does revealing a real name serve?

4. Comments, leaving them. If another blogger has a posted comment policy, abide by it. Use your name or pseudonym when commenting, rather than hiding behind "anonymous" - if you are brave enough to post your opinion, you should have the guts to identify yourself. If you have a blog, put the url in the "website" field of the comment box - putting it in the body of the post as well makes you look as if all you care about is trolling for views for your own blog (all right, strictly speaking, that may not be a matter of etiquette, but it really seems tacky to me).

Make sure your comments are germane to the post on which you are commenting. Read the other comments before you write your own. Speak to the issue without resorting to name calling or profanity. If you can't do that - don't comment.

Remember - if you want to receive comments, you need to leave some. How you conduct yourself in others' comment section has a direct bearing on whether I'll be willing to click through to your site.

5. Comments, receiving them. If you have a comment policy, post it clearly, and apply it consistently. Whether or not to approve comments before they post is up to you. Reply to commenters, either in your own comments, or via e-mail. Be nice - these people took the time to visit your blog, read your post, think about it and comment on it.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and is limited to things I've seen recently on the blogs I tend to frequent. In fact, while I was writing this, Lindsay put up a post highlighting what can happen when people don't play nice in the sandbox. Her work was stolen - there's no other word for it.

Play nicely, people.

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