We all want to make friends and influence people, right? Even if you write only in your own little corner of the Blogosphere, you'll be in contact with other humans, and it's important to treat your readers and fellow commenters as such. We're all human beings, and we all have something to offer to the worldjust as we all have flaws. The following sections provide some guidelines to remember, whichremarkably enoughmimic etiquette in the real world.
Bloggers exist on all seven continents, and virtually every demographic group on earth is represented by at least one blogger. Bloggers are very young, very old, and every age in between. Bloggers come in every shade of color between translucent white and deep ebony. Religion, sexual orientation, social class, genderyou name it, and there's a blogger out there to match any and every combination thereof.
Unless you have some sixth sense that tells you the particulars about a person based solely on a few words printed on your monitor, you will have no idea to whom you are leaving a comment or who might be reading your blog. Unless you aim to offend others or incite arguments, bear in mind this note about diversity.
That is not to say that you cannot express your opinions on your own blog or in the comment areas of other blogs. However, there is a fine line between expressing an opinion while recognizing the inherent worth of all people, and making bigoted statements with the intent to offend. Crossing or not crossing that line is a personal matter for each and every one of you.
Opinions Versus Facts
No one is "right" or "wrong" in the Blogosphere, unless there are facts in evidence that tip the scales one way or another. For instance, my car is silver. I know it is. If I say it is and a reader leaves a comment to the effect of "your car is blue," that person has obviously just lost some credibility. In this situation, I would correct the person, explaining that my car is indeed silver and I know this because I bought it, it's parked outside my house, and here, gentle reader, is a photograph of it. The example I just used is pretty lame as examples go, but it does show how to diffuse a possibly contentious conversation: offer evidence that supports the argument you are trying to make. But what if there is no evidence?
Let's say two people are arguing over whether newborn babies should ever wear polka-dotted clothes. One person might offer an opinion that her child benefited greatly from wearing polka-dotted clothes. Another person might offer an opinion that polka-dotted clothes caused tremendous mental anguish for his child and in fact is the cause of his child's developmental delay. Neither person can point to a scientific study regarding the effects of polka-dotted clothes on newborns. The two should agree to disagree, and the person who asked the question originally should consider both sides of the argument. However, if either of the opinionated parents says that he or she is right and the other person is wrong without offering factual evidence to bolster the case, that stubborn blogger is behaving badly.
Cite Your Sources
If you offer facts in evidence, use links in your posts to direct readers to the primary source of this evidence. For instance, if you are citing scientific research, link to the journal article in which the research was published. If the primary source is not available to you, link to a reputable secondary source in your post. In other words, if you are offering evidence to support your claims, provide your readers with a method to evaluate this evidence on their own.
In addition to citing sources, give credit where it is due. Perhaps you're writing a blog post about a spectacular salad you made for dinner. If you got the recipe from your mother, say so. If you got the recipe from another blogger who posted the recipe on his blog, say so with a link. The link serves several purposes: It shows you're not a salad recipe plagiarist, and it tells the original blogger that you used his recipe and enjoyed it. The act of linking also increases the page-rank of the original blogger's page in search engines that use the number of incoming links as a measure of the value of the page content.
In addition to citing sources within the text of your post, you can also utilize a blog-specific type of linking called trackback. You can learn more about trackbacks in Chapter 6.
Trolls have been around since the first words were typed on Usenet, all those years ago. If you have spent any time on mailing lists or message boards, you've likely experienced a troll. Trolls exist for the sole purpose of "posting specious arguments, flames, or personal attacks," and they typically have no interest whatsoever in the topic at hand.
THE JARGON FILE
The full definition of troll, and much more information on Internet jargon in general, can be found here.
It might take some time before you can immediately recognize trollish behavior. If you think a troll is baiting you into responding, you might want to post a short response to the argumentative comment by beginning with something like, "You appear to be a troll, but regardless I will briefly answer this question." You might also want to end your response with something like, "If you are not a troll, we can continue this discussion in a more civil manner." But the best way to get rid of the troll is simply to ignore it. On your own blog, if you feel a troll has posted in your comments section and want your regular readers to ignore it as well, you might post a comment that says, "Please do not feed the troll."
A successful blog means different things to different people. Personally, my own blog is a success because it provides me with a place to chronicle people, places, and things in my lifeand my handwriting is atrocious, so that was never an option. The fact that anyone at all reads my own blog is simply icing on the cake. The interaction between members of my own little blogging community is special to me because we all have things we can learn from each other. But even if no one else read my blog, I'd still be happy with it. Other people have a real need to receive comments to their posts, as a sort of validation that someone is reading their work and is moved to say something about it, and that's fine too.
However, in addition to the other elements of etiquette just discussed, there are two very blog-specific things that are considered bad form:
To end this section on a positive note, the primary tip I can offer to you is simply to have fun. Blogging can be emotionally draining, but it can also be a raucous good time for you and newfound friends.