October 10, 2004

The Weblog Handbook - The Etiquette and Ethics of Blogs

Having finished reading Rebecca Blood's The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog, I've decided to discuss some of the information she gives on the "etiquette" and "ethics" of weblogs, because all bloggers could benefit from it.

Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world--even if what is published is not true.

~Richard Bach

That is the quote that opens Blood's chapter on blogging etiquette. A simple statement, and a powerful one... It made me realize that on weblogs such as mine, even things that are completely filled with errors and incorrect information can be dignified and moral if they are written and changed in the right way. In other words, if you know how to write well on your weblog, you'll never have to worry about your reputation being damaged, no matter what the content is. Your readers will know that you simply made honest mistakes.

Blood discusses what she calls blogging "etiquette" in great depth, but all of her advice can be summarized in short. While many of the points she makes may seem like common sense (which she admits, herself), some of them could be easily overlooked by bloggers like me (in fact, I'll admit that I've broken a few of her rules on occasion, because I did not know any better).

The Etiquette of Weblogs

Never, ever launch a personal attack on someone (especially other bloggers). Not only does this lessen your own credibility, but it also causes problems which are likely to never be resolved satisfactorily.

If you ever become the victim of such a personal attack, the best policy is to ignore it. If you get involved, you are taking time away from the valuable construction of your own material.

Don't ask someone to link to your weblog... If he (or she) truly wants to lead his readers to your site, he will do so at his own discretion.

Don't complain about receiving too few or (less likely) too many visitors on your weblog. The more you whine, the less inclined readers will be to remain faithful to your blog and the less appealing your personality will be to them.

Always give proper credit where it is due when linking to others' websites or taking links from someone else's website.

If you will be unable to update your weblog for a while, inform your readers of when you plan on returning to its upkeep so they don't waste time checking it while you are away.

Always warn readers if the content of a link may be something they will not approve of or simply will not want to see. Do this explicitly, in words, somewhere very close to the link itself.

Try to answer as many e-mails from your readers as you can, but don't waste time doing it if it affects the development of your weblog.

The Ethics of Weblogs

Only claim that something as fact if you know it to be true or can prove it to be true.

If you take material from online sources, link to it when you make references to it.

If you correct mistakes in an entry, make some sort of public notification of this (such as providing better links, or leaving the original entry intact and then creating another copy below it that is designated as more recent and correct).

Add to entries at your leisure, but do not change (rewrite or delete) them, because others may depend upon your material to support their material via links, and for this to work your original material must remain unchanged.

If there is a conflict of interest in your entries, let your readers know about it.

If a source seems questionable or is obviously biased, tell your readers that *before* you give them a link to the source, so they will be prepared to interpret it fairly.

What Did I Learn?

I've made a few mistakes that violate these principles. For example, I complained about the traffic going through my weblog (albeit briefly) in my entry entitled Social Anxiety... I also gave an obviously biased source in support of my argument in the entry "Pop-up" Solutions? (which I will fix posthaste by alerting my readers to the fact).

Altogether, I think these ideas are valuable not only for writing on weblogs, but also for writing on the internet as a whole. I will definitely take them into consideration in my future works.

Blood, Rebecca. The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Posted by ChrisU at October 10, 2004 09:54 PM

Very well written post, Chris. I see you've used the MLA guidelines to quote the source. Pay special attention to giving sources credit in your posts. It gives you credibility and makes the original author very happy.

Posted by: Neha at October 11, 2004 04:27 PM
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