January 18, 2011 by Alistair Deneys
When I started this blog many moons ago I mentioned a few pet peeves about blogs I had in my introductory post. Also in that post I mentioned I had a few guidelines for myself to follow to help prevent me from committing some of those mistakes myself. However at the time I never published what those guidelines were. This was mainly because I had never written a blog before and I didn’t know how difficult it would be to follow them.
Well, two and a half years on I’m pretty confident I won’t be falling into those traps, so here is my list of responsible blogging rules. I say responsible because the only person to enforce these rules on any blog is the blog author. In my view, if they were responsible they’d follow these rules and not pollute the web with drivel.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a few simple points of things you shouldn’t do on your blog.
- Don’t post just for the sake of posting
If you have something valid to say, then say it, but don’t just post for the sake of posting and looking for some frivolous thing to post about. Quality over quantity. Better to post fewer times with better content than more frequently with filler.
- Don’t just post a link
If you see something cool on the internet and you like it so much you think others should go and see that thing too, don’t just post that link and nothing else. Posting a link and “Hey this is cool, check it out” does not constitute valuable content. There are many other mechanisms to show your fondness of the link instead of posting about it. If you have something valuable to add, or if you want to discuss or give your opinion about what is at the other end of that link, by all means post that. As long as you’re adding something then that’s fine.
- Don’t copy and paste
The content on your blog should be original and yours. I’ve seen several instances of blogs simply aggregating other blogs and posting the same content. In fact, I’ve seen it happen to this blog! One can only imagine the reason for this is to try and bolster the authors search engine ranking.
I have also seen instances of blogs being translated into different languages on other blog sites. I would say this is generally OK as this opens the blog to a wider audience and does add value. However I have previously seen this blog translated into a different language on another blog, then another blog again translating the translated blog back into English. The result was quite funny 🙂 .
Where we start to get into grey areas is when an author posts a document they may have which is not yet publically available but becomes available at a later date on another site. I believe I’ve seen this before where the content of a Microsoft document (regarding certification exams) was posted on a blog, but that document became available on the Microsoft site at a later date. The author here is adding value as the document didn’t exist on the web before they published it, but as a reader I would want them to mention explicitly that the document is an early release.
- Don’t just ask for feedback
This rule again is starting to get into grey areas. As someone who has subscribed to a blog I want to read and absorb quality content. And I don’t get that if the entire post is just asking for feedback or input from me. This normally happens for product blogs where the author says something like “we’re working on version x of our product. What do you want in the release?” but I’ve also seen it on small personal blogs where the author is simply asking the readers how they approach a certain issue without discussing their own approach. A blog is not an appropriate forum to illicit this kind of feedback.
The author in this case is trying to start a conversation. I liken blogs to newspaper columns which put forward someone’s opinion about an issue, or show how to do something. If you want to have a conversation, then use a forum. You can always post on the blog saying you’ve started the conversation on the forum.
A good example of this rule in action is what Mark Van Aalst did recently about asking for features for EviBlog 2. He didn’t ask that question directly on his blog, he set up a discussion forum on SDN then posted on his blog explaining what was happening with the module and about the thread he’d started. This is how this kind of thing should be done.
Don’t get me wrong, you can always ask for peoples opinions and views at the end of your post on the subject you’ve just written about, just don’t make that the only thing you post.
And that, I hope, will lead to a cleaner web full of quality content. Let me know if you have any rules that you follow when blogging.