Respect in Blogging
One part of blogging that often gets talked about is “transparency and authenticity”. While I fully support these ideals, I think there is an aspect of blogging that does not get much coverage, and that is respect.
Since one of my friends got attacked pretty shamelessly by a couple of sites for some pretty innocent remarks, I have been wondering what it was that troubled me so much. I came to the conclusion that they showed her no respect. Banter is fine but they crossed a pretty serious line in my view. The fact they were online seemed to strip the conversation of the mutual respect that would be present had the discussion been face to face.
We see it all the time, cross blog conflicts, name-calling and airing of laundry, snarky attack posts, horrible and infantile Digg comments …
It seems in the search of traffic and revenue, it is easy to overlook respect as being important. But if we think about it, respect is vital. Respect for your audience, after all without them your blog is not worth much, respect for other bloggers (snarkiness only gets you so far), and self respect (not taking $2 a post freelancing gigs for example).
We all know respect is earned. I would argue you should respect your audience in return for visiting, but why should they pay you any respect? I think we are back to “transparency and authenticity”, but a large part will be how you behave. Are you attacking unnecessarily? Do you cause offense as a traffic generation tactic? Do you do your best to provide value?
Just like in any field, bloggers have to earn a good reputation. While many people will be impressed by photographs of over sized cheques, huge RSS counts or massive visitor numbers, in the end if you do not have the goods to back these up, inevitably the illusion will fade. Far better to be authentic from the start then all the other things support rather than risk your brand as a whole.
I can’t say I have this fully figured out so I would welcome your feedback. Do you think people online, and bloggers especially, treat each other with respect that they would face to face?
Chris is a professional blogger and internet marketing consultant. You can get more of his blogging tips, internet marketing advice and copywriting articles and a FREE ebook just by subscribing at chrisg.com
We’ve seen an upswing in blog posts and articles related to the growing issue of incivility on the internet and in online communities. The most recent article from PC World’s John Dvorak sums it up nicely:
“Nastiness is an earmark of many bloggers, podcasters, and members of the herd; a few insane people; and those who feel that being an out-and-out mean and profane presence on the Internet is cool or funny. The level of nastiness that floats around the Net in various forms, forums, and Web sites is incredible.”
We think that this is not so incredible, but is just the way the world is right now. When you look at other media such as television what do you see? Nastiness. Whether it’s political (Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann), social (Jerry Springer, The View with Rosie O’Donnell), or even legal (Judge Judy) the overwhelming tone is nasty. Why? Because it attracts people to engage with the show. And the internet is the same. Nastiness gives visitors a reason to engage.
Because of this nastiness, some folks like Tim O’Reilly have called for a Bloggers’ Code of Conduct. Okay, that would help the folks that actually blog perhaps. But what it really is, is a set of very good moderation tips for online communities as a whole.
We know from our experience that there are always going to be members who are visiting only to disrupt, argue, and complain. Most of these members only come to attack those who have differing opinions. They do it with strong language and abusive comments. They also are the first members to bring up “Freedom of Speech” and my “Constitutional Rights” as soon as a moderator steps in. When their commentaries and attacks are edited or deleted they attack the moderator and host organization rather than looking inward. Then they enlist their online friends to continue the attack on your organization. You will never please these people.
So you had better have a plan for how you deal with them. And that means having professionally trained moderators ready to deal with this situation. Moderation is a thankless job. Your moderators will never keep everyone happy. But they need to be consistent and strong willed while being able to communicate clearly to all members.
But what about the members themselves reporting violations and problem members? It is a myth that is far from reality. From our experience, here is why:
* Many members don’t like to rat each other out. It’s not their problem, it’s yours.
* One side of the fight will report the other repeatedly (and vice versa) over every comment they perceive as a slight or violation. That means that the same comment will be reported multiple times by a group while ignoring other violations because it becomes a game.
* The average site visitor doesn’t care about violations.
* Most people do not understand copyright law or the fair use provisions. (Just ask YouTube)
* Actual violations will always be under-reported versus actual violations which need to be removed.
Our experience shows that for every legitimate violation reported by members, our moderation teams edit or remove an additional four comments which violate the community’s terms of service. We believe that allowing a community to self report issues will eventually kill the community as the groups start slugging it out, providing a strong disincentive to new visitors to join. Eventually, the fighters will tire and leave your site resulting in a dead community which will not help your organization’s goals.
Thank you for writing this. Many people say that “If we are in it for money (and/or popularity), then we should do everything we can to get it.” And “everything” often includes offenses, trolling, namecalling etc. Those individuals try to justify their acts by referring to “the right to express our views.” But when you attack other people, it means you don’t want to let them make use of *their* right to express *their* views. Talk about coherence…
“Do you think people online, and bloggers especially, treat each other with respect that they would face to face?”
Unfortunately, many don’t. And among those who seem to respect their peers, you’ll sometimes find insincere pals: they sound very nice and friendly on their own blogs, but you get disappointed at certain pages that they stumble and comments they leave on other blogs.
I think it is possible to be scathing, or even to ridicule if you feel the situation warrants it, without being disrespectful. If someone wants to attack, they should address the idea, not the person. There is not a lot of difference between “You’re an idiot,” and, “That opinion is idiotic,” but there is a big difference between those and, “That opinion is idiotic because…”
If someone disagrees or objects vehemently to what someone else has said, I don’t mind if they express themselves forcefully as long as they don’t resort to ad hominems and explain why. That gives the other person the opportunity to address the issues raised, or make counterpoints.
Clearly giving someone the right of reply is a minimum standard of respect. Sadly, I don’t foresee the shock-jocks meeting it any time soon.
Great topic, Chris, and I know you have an excellent grasp on what works.
Bottom line, treat anyone as you expect to be treated, whether online or off.
This is so true. I don’t know what it is, but everything and anything will come under attack as a blogger. Your character, your blog design, a donate button, even your choice of images. Some of these attacks are infantile and have no real purpose.
I think it’s just a part of life – just like you’ll sometimes get a couple of drunks who call you names just for walking down the same street as they do, you’ll get it even more on the internet where anonymity makes them feel safer. Nothing we can do about it. Even a code of conduct won’t do much, I believe.
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.
I think “That opinion is idiotic because…” is still inflammatory. Perhaps something like “I disagree with your opinion because…” is more appropriate.
It’s kind of like insulting someone but adding “no offense.” Of course, they’re offended. Just because you add a qualifier doesn’t make it justifiable to call their opinion idiotic. That’s only your opinion that it’s idiotic and that’s definitely not the way to get them to listen to your point of view. One of the reasons why no one is listening to each other these days is because so many of us start off by either insulting each other or insisting everyone is wrong rather than asking others to just consider an alternative thought process. I know I’m more open to new ideas when they aren’t being shoved in my face or I don’t feel like I have to defend my belief system.