Am I a customs official? No, but when you visit a foreign country it’s nice to know how to hail a cab and get to your destination without pissing off the driver (and even better if you find out where the cool local bars are). This is basically my blogging style guide, the link practices and ethics that I’ve developed over the past few years writing for (and appearing on) various blogs, including mine. It’s based on a guide I wrote for Fleshbot when we hired beyond just me and Jonno, but what’s after the jump is much more. All this blogging about blogging lately has made me want to polish this up, so here it is. Email me with comments, opinions, arguments… :)
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Prior and related links and posts: Search Google and related blogs for earlier/current posts on the same topic; most often, the links making the rounds on other blogs are things already covered that have resurfaced. Search name and URL.
Blogger link courtesies — expected: Double posting (when you put the same post on more than one blog) or copy posting (copying someone’s post from another blog) is usually considered rude. In my paranoia to avoid this, sometimes I’ll even get a post ready and re-check other blogs seconds before I hit publish to make sure I’m not posting *the same thing* after someone else has. Still, things happen, like when Scott Beale and I literally posted simultaneously about the Embarcadero public art prank last weekend; we’d both checked and rechecked, then realized we’d posted simultaneously, and exchanged smiley emails about it and updated our posts with links to each others’ posts. Here’s mine; here’s his. That kind of linking is more than a courtesy. If someone sends a link, thank them in the post. Ask if they want a link and their name used, and link to them if they want. Here is an example.
A link is a gift of traffic, writing about something makes it real: The point of this is the underlying principal that if you link to someone, you are sending them traffic, and in many cases that’s like sending them money. A link also sends publicity; when you link to someone you are telling your readers in a way, that you endorse what’s at the end of that link unless you explicitly state otherwise.
Linking and link theft: Always cite your sources. (example: theurl.com, via placeIfoundit *link to the place you found it*) Here is an example. Purpousely avoid linking to, or thanking sites that snag links without credit from you and other blogs, and don’t source their links on a regular basis. People new to blogging or ambivalent about the way information is shared among bloggers think no one will notice if they just steal links from everyone — they are wrong. Lots of people find links by simply stumbling across strange websites on Google or get sent things from friends, but often you’ll find something on a blog or site and you’ll want to display the courtesy of acknowledging them with a link. If someone blogs a link and you re-post it, you have to tell people where you found it. Here is an example of this courtesy. When someone posts a link that just appeared on another blog, it looks suspicious — and people see these things when they happen, especially other bloggers. If you post a link and it was already somewhere else and someone brings it to your attention, update your post with an ‘also seen at’. Here is an example. Follow up on your links after you post them: Geocities and smaller image hosts will go down, so keep an eye on your links after you post them as a service to your readers. You have created a resource, even if it’s a simple post.
Community: There’s an underlying ‘bloggers stick together’ thing, where people who link to each other a lot, are friends, or write on the same site blog accordingly, watching each others’ backs. Don’t do favors to people who fuck you, or others, over — it’s that simple. If someone writes something shitty about a friend of mine that I felt was undeserved or mean-spirited, I think twice about linking to them; if they do something worse, like stalk or harass, then I definitely don’t ever send them traffic. If someone links to you, thank them. If you blog and you don’t link, it looks strange to the rest of us. If you don’t link to something that really needs a link, it often looks like you’re dissing whoever you didn’t link to. Be mindful of omitting a link; people tend to read posts and automatically think everything you did is purposeful.
Topics: Make your topic clear at some point and give the reader an indication as to why your links are different than others like it and why they should look at it. Keep an eye on the rest of blog culture; avoid posting things that are SO OVER, like “figging”. If you’re covering a story others have done prior work on, but you have new info, link to their previous work/posts on the topic. Here is an example.
Photos not your own: Cite the source and link to them. Link to the original artist whenever possible. Here is an example.
A post is alive: Update your post with new facts and information as you get it, and clearly indicate that you’ve updated. Here is an example. If you change what you wrote after you posted, make it clear — the history of what you wrote is out there forever (somewhere) the minute you publish, and if you try to lie about what you wrote, you will be caught, with proof. If you discover that what you wrote or published was incorrect (even if a quote), use strikethrough and amend. Here is an example. Or, fix it and explain you made a fix at the bottom of your post. Stay with your topic, your readers will appreciate it; add more info to keep it developing. Here is an example that ties several post together on one topic, making it a living, developing story.
Info should be free: Fuck paysites, especially news sites with required registration or paywalls. I actively, loudly avoid posting to a paysite unless there is something truly substantial for the reader, like six pages of free hardcore photos for them to wank to. I love “free” and so do my readers. *News should be free, never proprietary.* I never post to any bait and switch sites and watch out for spyware sites — my readers trust my to be savvy and to tell them when code is buggy or if I think things are photoshop enhanced or fake, and I want to keep my readers’ trust. Trust = building a readership I have a relationship with, and thus community. I never make a post that shills sales for any company; linking to a storefront is never acceptable — unless that page leads to free galleries of naked people, or I’m making a point.
We, the readers; we, the bloggers: Regurgitated press releases are fake content and make you look like you’re on the take. Always, always, always choose an indy site or person over a company or corporation. Do not ever assume an all-male audience, a straight audience, or that your female readers only like the soft stuff.
My ethics about readers: Never insult the reader, call them a freak for liking anything you think is strange, or suggest the reader is not smart. Never judge anyone’s sexual preferences or orientation. Let people think things are weird all by themselves — don’t assume the reader will agree with your perceptions about what’s right and wrong in any context. When I run Fleshbot, my line is this with the writers: no one cares if you think trannies are freaky or fat chicks are gross; the reader who’s into it (and there’s a lot more than you think) is a reader just like anyone else. If you have something to prove about your sexual orientation, this isn’t the place to make your point. If it makes you uncomfortable, or you’re more worried about what people will think of you for posting it than the fun things you can say about it, don’t post it — give it to me!
My ethics about content: Avoid racist and sexist content. If it’s “interracial” but really hot, say something about how lame the titles are or how stupid racial sexual stereotypes are, but how nasty and hot the sex is. I link to christian anti-porn sites when I slap them, hard, and want them to see who is sending them traffic. No one is ever ‘stupid’ or ‘sick’ for liking sex, no matter what kind. I make fun of stereotypes and pastiches; I won’t endorse a “how to pick up chicks” book, but *will* make fun of it. I’m all about irony (especially of sexual stereotypes), making smart commentary, finding hot things to wank to and strange things for people to look at.
Lastly, call out bullshit when you see it. *Because you can.*