So, now to actually get to the point of the previous post which was supposed to be about blog etiquette. Largely, I have this to say:
- Since blogs by definition involve interaction, there are bound to be rules on the way in which that interaction takes place so it remains pleasant.
- The rules are subjective.
Part of it depends on how you view your blog and the blogs you read. If you see them more like a magazine/website with a personal voice, then the rules change. If you see them as a forum, then the rules change again.
I sense that Indian bloggers mostly view blogs in a distinctly Indian way – as a personal, almost physical, space, like a home. Thus, the way most Indians interact and expect interaction on their blogs seems related to this idea. Indian commenters tend to introduce themselves when they comment for the first time – saying which blog led them here, or that they are delurking. Non-Indians don’t seem to do this so much – they just comment. Indian bloggers may also welcome people to their blog like they would to their home. We feel obliged to respond to every comment (though the more popular blogs don’t because sheer volume means just replying would be a full-time job). Some would feel guilty about not visiting and commenting on the blogs of people who visited and commented on theirs. This reciprocity also strikes me as so Indian – like if someone invites you over to their house, you must do the same. It exists to some extent in other cultures, including the West, but very fiercely as it does in Indian culture.
I tend to be less typically Indian in my online interactions, maybe because I’ve been influenced by living abroad, maybe because I was always on the rebelling-against-norms-of-polite-society side of the Indian spectrum anyway when I did live there and being online enables me to recast the rules a little.
However, one thing living abroad has brought home to me is that basic rules of courtesy are somewhat universal. Rude behaviour is often rude across cultures. I think if we can adhere to those universal rules, we should be okay. And in my mind those are:
- Make your point nicely, without resorting to personal insults.
- After some time, you need to stop arguing.
Here is the Bloggers Code of Conduct as per Wiki. All things we should be considering, particularly “Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog” and “Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.” I am conflicted about the latter. I have definitely started instituting this rule more myself but part of the joy of the online is exactly being able to say what you might not were you face-to-face at a social gathering. A lot of what I, and many bloggers, write is giving vent to stuff we might not say quite so bluntly in public. Nevertheless, particularly in comments, we might do well to rethink and tone down our comments if they veer too far away from what we might have said had we been interacting in person.
The rest, I feel, is subjective. So here’s my personal policy for this blog:
- Comments are open and I’d like to keep it that way. I reserve the right to moderate comments but have never done so as far as I can recall. I have been fortunate not to have persistent trolls though I have had the odd mean commenter. I would be more quick to tell off a commenter for attacking another commenter than myself. I really appreciate the way regular readers of the blog rallied to my defense in the face of rudeness. It seems to be true that popularity breeds detractors. I have had huge traffic increase to the blog on a few occasions and I realised that I don’t like it or want it. I prefer the nice people who read regularly and know where I’m coming from. The Mad Momma (not sure if I should be linking or not) said this once and I now I know what she means. I have great respect for people like her and IHM who contend with a huge readership and still manage to stay sane.
- If someone randomly comments without introducing themselves per se, I’m fine with it. I don’t think people need to specify which route they took to my blog, though it’s fine if they do. I love it when delurkers identify themselves though. It reminds me that there are nice people reading who I didn’t know about.
- I post some strong views on my blog that might not be to everyone’s taste. I try to think out my posts and do some research (though not nearly enough because then it would be work) so often my rants have been well considered. People are free to disagree with me and I enjoy different perspectives but on many of the more controversial stuff I’ve posted, I find that it is possibly the first time commenters are thinking about it but I’ve been thinking about it a while. So I’m not likely to change my mind easily.
- While I enjoy a good discussion, I feel, being my blog, I deserve the last word even if I’m disagreeing with a commenter’s point. I would do the same on someone else’s blog, though I know I tend to argue quite a bit. I’d like to think that I stop before it’s too late and that I let the blog owner have the last word.
- I try to reply to every comment but that’s because I have a manageable amount of comments. Sometimes I do a group reply though, if people are saying the same thing. I don’t feel that bloggers are obliged to reply to comments though, particularly if they are large in number. Would I be offended if a blogger replied to all comments but not mine? I guess, but I also know that it happens sometimes unintentionally. I’m still getting used to the WordPress platform and the odd time a comment has appeared and I didn’t get a notification for it or I read it and wanted to reply but forgot. If it’s happened to you on this blog, forgive me people! You can chalk it down to unintentional.
- I don’t feel obliged to check out the blogs of people who comment. It used to be that I read too many blogs. Now I find that sadly fewer people I used to read update. Ironically, I would like to discover new blogs to read but now I don’t have that much faff-time. But I do sometimes check out the blogs of people who comment on mine though I don’t normally comment right away unless I feel really strongly about a post. Overall, I’m trying to comment less.
- It’s fine to read a blog, including this blog, and not comment. But please know that I love comments (though I can live without them). I also love delurkers, as mentioned above. Hint hint. I also love how a lot of people delurked when I announced my pregnancies just to congratulate me. It tells me that my readers, even the silent ones, are nice people.
- I love long comments and comments that don’t have that much bearing on the original point. Don’t apologise for a long comment.
- It’s okay to reply to other people’s comments. That’s kind of the purpose of many blogs and open comments – to bring people together for a good discussion. But as ever, be polite.
- This one is very specific to me. I HATE it when people point out grammatical errors, typos, slips-of-the-tongue on this blog. I write these posts superfast and often re-read them superfast too (so it doesn’t seem like work). In the case of most errors, I do know better but have missed them. I don’t care if they’re there. Sometimes I reread posts much later and correct them. Sometimes I miss them anyway. I appreciate if people bring to my attention huge formatting errors (such as where text gets repeated like happened once) or factual errors but otherwise, do me a favour people and cease and desist. I used to cringe at other people’s grammar too when I was young and stupid but now even if I do cringe I know better than to judge or to correct.
- I choose to keep this blog anonymous for various reasons, the most salient of which is that it’s a promise I made to V. There are people who know me in person as the author of this blog. I’d prefer if you didn’t out me, or refer to me as the author of this blog at social gatherings.
- Comments with links to one’s own posts on similar topics are welcome. I don’t see it as pimping as much as adding to the discussion. Comments on irrelevant stuff, basically spam, would be deleted. But I am such a nice person, I actually sometimes leave one spam comment per spammer. Luckily, I don’t get too much of it.
- I am still unsure how I feel about being linked. On the one hand, I like being linked because it brings in readers interested in what I blog about and also acknowledges my ideas as the source of a post. I also do the same when my posts are inspired by other people’s posts. On the other hand, being linked sometimes brings in more traffic than I’m prepared for. In the end, though, if I want this blog to be public, this is a risk I take and happily, most of the time I have just the readers I like. I don’t expect to be warned before being linked but do appreciate a heads up if its in reference to a specific post.
PS: This one may be updated if I think of more.