". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogging Etiquette

Several recent events have turned my attention to the issue of blogging etiquette, several of them by highlighting what I think is proper blogging behavior and one of them demonstrating what is most definitely not.

First, in the past few weeks I have had several bloggers stop by, introduce themselves, and ask permission either to link to my blog or to share a link in my comment box that they thought I might be interested in. I think such an approach demonstrates impeccable blogging etiquette, and I appreciate the consideration shown to me. These individuals are obviously doing their best to practice good internet manners, and by doing so, they make me want to do the same.

In the meantime, someone close to me has been having a highly unpleasant experience with a blogger who seems not to understand blogging etiquette. This person, whom for the sake of anonymity I will just refer to as my friend, is a relatively new blogger whose reputation in his field resulted in immediate traffic to his site once he decided to start a blog. His blog, unlike mine, is subject-specific and focuses on his area of professional expertise.

Several days ago my friend posted an article on his blog that he did not write himself but that a colleague of his had written at his request for the express purpose of being posted on my friend's blog. In short order it became apparent that another blogger, a quite high profile one, had taken this material without permission and had posted it on his own blog without citing the source and in fact giving the impression that the material was original to his own site. He did cite the author of the material (my friend's colleague) but did not link or in any way identify where it came from. Additionally, he made several changes to the original post without indicating that he had done so, thus misrepresenting the original author's words.

Once this act was discovered, an attempt was made by my friend to have it rectified. A request was sent to the well-known blogger who "borrowed" the post asking him to identify the source. The request was ignored. Another more forceful request followed, acompanied by a threat to go public with the offending behavior if appropriate measures were not taken. This request was not ignored but was met with anger and derision.

It seems that the blogger who took someone else's property without asking and without giving credit for it was surprised that anyone would object to such behavior. He informed my friend that he does not have time for things like links and hat tips and that if he were to concern himself with tracking down all the people who borrow from him he would have time for nothing else. He personally attacked my friend for having such "pride of ownership" that he would worry about such a thing, and he expressed the view that my friend should have been flattered to have been ripped off by one such as him. He ended with the promise of a blacklisting, assuring my friend that he would never again mention my friend on his blog or promote his work in any way. And then, rather than adding a link or a hat tip to his post (because those are so very time-consuming, you know), he deleted the borrowed post from his blog.

I think the fact that he took this action, as well as the emotional and illogical way in which he responded to my friend, demonstrates that although he is not willing to admit it, deep down he knows that his behavior is not defensible. It is my hope and prayer that as he reflects on this incident he will have a change of heart, because in my opinion the world of blogging is no different from the world of writing. I understand that when someone puts something up on a public blog he is making it available to the world and should therefore not be surprised when the world reads it and even quotes it. But just as it is proper in print media to give credit to one's sources, it is proper to do so in the blogosphere as well. And in the blogosphere, it is so much easier! There is no need for a bibliography or a works cited list; instead, one just needs to name the author and give a link or a hat tip. It is an eminently simple thing to do and demonstrates that one values and appreciates the source of the material. And it builds up the blogging community and encourages good will and reciprocal behavior.

In the aftermath of my friend's unpleasant experience, I have been looking online for some guidelines in the area of blog etiquette. I have found a few helpful sources, but there is not as much out there as I would have expected. So in the future I would like to write a post that gives suggestions for good blogging behavior. If you have thoughts on that topic, I would appreciate hearing them. What should bloggers do when it comes to borrowing from, linking to, and commenting on the blogs of others? What should they not do? And what are some good general recommendations for blogging in general when it comes to writing and posting? When someone demonstrates poor blog behavior, what should one do? If you have ever had an experience such as that of my friend, how did you handle it? Does anyone know if blogs are legally protected by copyright laws? If so, what should one do if he is the victim of copyright infringement?

I look forward to hearing from you, my wise blogging friends and readers.


Susan K said...

People... disgust me sometimes. Yuck.

I don't think I have any suggestions that wouldn't be very obvious, i.e. making sure quotes are clearly shown as quotes, links, hat tips, and permission asked. But I can pretty much guarantee that when you do make this post, I will be first in line to request permission to post a link on my blog, perhaps with quotes. :)

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I too hope this is resolved in Christian humility. I think anyone who has written a fourth grade book report should have a clear idea of what plagiarism is, and should give credit where credit is due, blogosphere or not.

W. E. Messamore said...

Thanks for this post. Frankly, when people are just loving at their core, everything else takes care of itself.

On my blog, I sell merchandise with my original designs. I got an e-mail this spring saying one of my designs violated a copyright. I did some looking and as it turned out, my design looked exactly like a graphic that this man had a registered copyright for. I apologized profusely and told him it was an innocent error.

Guess what he said? He told me I could keep selling the product so long as I attributed him. He didn't even ask for a link back to his website (though I gave him one)! Reminds me of an old bromide about honey, vinegar, and flies...

Blogversary said...

Blogging etiquette is getting some much needed attention.

People are pretty reasonable as long you try to cite them, link to them, or something of the like.

I had a recent post were I used an image and linked to the source. The photographer emailed me asking me to included his copyright notice and license etc. He first thanked me for including a source (which is rarely done) but just wanted me to go a step further. I complied without complaint.

My thought is if someone does not have the time to properly blog, then they should not blog. No one lives in a vacuum.