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Blog Exercises: The Don’ts of Blogging

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Did you know there is a Blogger’s Code of Conduct? It’s on Wikipedia.

Initiated by Tim O’Reilly, it is as follows:

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Don’t feed the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.

It was created in response to a rash of malicious and personal attacks against several “famous” bloggers.

We are surrounded by “don’ts” in our world, even in blogging, but do you really know all of them? This is a good start but let’s look at some other don’ts in blogging in these Blog Exercises.

Don’t Infringe

Trademarks and copyrights are protected by law internationally, but that doesn’t stop people from abusing them, consciously or ignorantly. How many sites are there with Apple, Windows, Android, and other trademarks in their name? What about WordPress? Did you know you cannot use WordPress in your domain name? It violates their trademark, which is why there is a proliferation of sites with WP in their domain name.

In “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content,” one of the most popular articles on this site, I explain in great depth the basics of what you need to know and do about copyright. I also highly recommend visiting Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today to learn even more.

The article begins with the statement that dealing with copyright is not a matter of if but when. Every day, whether you know it or not, whether you think it only happens to professional or popular bloggers or sites, your copyrights are being violated. Google has been repeatedly persecuted for copyright violations, and the non-profit, Internet Archive, has also been sued for copyright infringement. They store copies of all the websites they can get in the world to preserve them. The only things saving both of these companies is apathy towards copyright, the belief no one can do anything to stop it, and the thought that this action is for the benefit of all.

Jonathan and I came up with the Ask First campaign. I came up with a variety of simple badges to put on your sites to encourage potential copyright thieves to ask first as I might say yes to the use of my copyrighted content. It was successful in getting people to acknowledge there is fear in asking permission to use content, but it’s better to ask first than pay the price later for copyright infringement, so ask first.

Know The Rules of the Sandbox

calls these the rules of the sandbox. If you are going to play in it, everyone needs to know the rules. The web is a big sandbox. There are many rules.

Every company has a terms of service, their rules of their sandbox such as the WordPress.com Terms of Service. So should every blogger and web publisher. We’ll get more into blog policies, so start with understanding the policies, terms of service, and limits set by your web host, publishing system, city, county, state, and country, as well as those you do business with through your blog.

Laws on blogging are evolving, and not always with freedom of speech and expression as a foundation. The laws are often buried in double-talk and confusing legaleeze. I’ve included resources to help you understand many of these below. It’s a new world for expression, and freedom of speech on the web is threatened daily.

Not long after the word “blog” came into the lexicon, the conservatives and worry-warts started attacking. By 2005, many companies and governments banned blogs in the workplace for a variety of reasons. Some said they were time wasters, watching employees blog or read blogs on company time. Others said they threatened the sanctity of the workplace with porn and inappropriate content. Some countries like China, Turkey, and even Brazil, banned and censored WordPress.com and other blogging sites and services.

In 2005, the Delaware Supreme Court the US First Amendment to include blog comments. This hasn’t been adopted nationwide though blog comments are generally accepted under freedom of speech, lifting the liability of the site owner/blogger from responsibility for the comments.

In 2006, the United States House of Representatives started a bill to give Internet publishers the same freedoms and rights attributed to newspapers and magazines. I couldn’t find the bill to see if it passed into law, but this is one of many attempts to protect the rights of bloggers.

In 2011, the UK and some US states passed laws requiring full disclosure on social media sites as well as blogs for those sharing on the web for compensation. The UK laws also included rules and regulations on parody blogs, restricting their activity to “truth in advertising.”

Just a year ago, protests and blackouts in protest of SOPA and PIPA in the United States rattled the blogosphere as we fought against limiting our web publishing rights. We tend to have short-term attention-spans when it comes to the issue of protecting our rights. Luckily, there are bloggers taking time to remind you that you have rights worth protecting and defending. The Electronic Frontier Foundation works daily to report and protect those rights.

As I wrote this, 17 bloggers in Vietnam are on trial for “attending workshops on digital security; writing and linking to blog posts that are critical of the Communism Vietnamese government; calling for peaceful protests and political pluralism; and association with the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan).” If found guilty, they face sentences from five years to capital punishment. With the introduction of new censorship laws in Vietnam last year, the government has cracked down on dissidents including bloggers. Dozens have been imprisoned. The mother of one blogger killed herself by setting herself on fire to protest her daughter’s detention for spreading anti-state propaganda.

Yes. This is happening today. Now.

While blogs are now an accepted part of society, invaluable to some, there are still companies and governments threatened by them. There are laws in place that protect and harm bloggers, but you must know the law as it applies to you in your corner of the web publishing world. You also need to know the risks if you break those laws. Some laws are worth breaking.

Personal, Moral, and Ethical Don’ts

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to list your blogging don’ts. Your list may include the above items, but it goes beyond those to your own rules of your sandbox.

Will you allow swearing and cussing on your site? In the content? In the comments?

What type of comments will you allow? I’m not talking about spam. I’m asking you to consider what makes for an acceptable comment on your site, and how do you know the difference? We’ll be exercising on comments later in this series.

What filter do you put your content through before you publish it? Do you consider defamation? Libel?

What will you or won’t you publish?

What makes you put on the brakes before you publish? Some bloggers don’t have filters. If you do, what are they? What are your limits that you will not allow yourself to cross, and what limits do you set for interactivity?

What are your don’ts?

List them in the comments or publish a post on your site about your thoughts on your don’ts. Include a hat tip link back to this post to be included in the trackbacks.

Resources

I’ve written much about blogger’s rights and the do’s and don’t’s of blogging, as have many. Here are some resources to help you understand more about the do-not-do of blogging.

NOTE: The persecution of 17 bloggers in Vietnam is just the tip of the iceberg of government forces cracking down on bloggers and freedom of speech around the world. While blogs and social media helped to fuel the right of self-determination in the Middle East recently, our silence and lack of support for bloggers worldwide hurts me – and it hurts you in the long run. If we let one country get away with it, we encourage our own country to get away with it. Please take a moment to send your thoughts or your blog and social media posts out to support those who suffer and pay the price for having their say. They need to know they are not alone. At the very least, send a few dollars to the Electronic Frontier Foundation or similar organizations fighting for the rights and lives of bloggers to help them continue their good work.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

11 Comments

  1. Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,
    Thanks for this information. As always, I learn something from you! I really like this pledge that is available for bloggers to take and display the badge on their sites, if they’d like. http://www.blogwithintegrity.com/
    While I am a rule follower, honest, and filled with integrity in my real life, communicating that to my readers seems more of a challenge. With this badge on my site, folks can see that it’s important and they can click over to read more about the pledge.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      @Sara:

      It’s a good pledge to take. I have a copy somewhere of the Blogger’s Rights. I know I published here a while ago and now I can’t find it. If anyone stumbles across it, please let me know. It’s painful not being able to find something you know you published. LOL!

      Excellent point about letting your personal integrity speak loudly, representing yourself fairly to your readers. Thank you for educating so many and setting such a good example.

  2. Cammy
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    So much information! Thank you, Lorelle. I’ve got scraped content all over the place and need to do something concrete about it. I’ve never been successful in past attempts.

    Do you know where “news aggregator” sites (news360 and newsalloy, for example) fall on the legality scale? News360 has a feed into their site with my full blog posts and a link back to my original post. I’ve contacted them, asking to afford me the same courtesy they give CNN, HuffPost, Forbes and other sites, and post only an excerpt, but no response so far.

    • Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Aggregators, news or not, are still under copyright law, specifically the Fair Use part of the law. They must follow the guidelines set by those they copy at the most. At the very least, they must only include an excerpt with a clearly defined link to the original content source. It’s the law.

      If you are having trouble getting compliance with copyright infringers, and the steps in “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content” are not working for you, contact Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today for help. He’s amazing! His site is stuffed with resources on what you can do, and his podcast is a must-listen.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 17, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Lorelle!

  3. Posted February 8, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    When did Brazil prohibiited wordpress? Are you crazy? I have had a wordpress account since 2004… Please, inform yourself

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your input. I can’t remember the dates, but WordPress.com was banned by a Brazilian court because a single blogger violated their rules on freedom of speech, so they censured them. If you read the article linked from that section, you would have learned more about this issue. Because they did not understand that WordPress.com represented thousands, now millions, of bloggers, they blocked the WordPress.com domain, not the individual subdomain.

      WordPress.org, the self-hosted version and main part of WordPress that you have been involved with since 2004, has not been banned or blocked by any country as individuals host their own accounts. I was specifically addressing the bans by several countries against WordPress.com, the hosted version of WordPress. It’s a subject I’ve followed from the very beginning, cheering on WordPress.com for not complying with such censorship.

  4. Posted April 6, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    You’re wrong about the censorship and my engagement, cause I have maintained blogs on the .com platform. Now as to the blocking, it was more about a threat than an actual block. And it wasn’t a governmental or a state policy, but rather a decision taken by a court in first instancy that never went on. It was hard, it was even dangerous for the free expression, but the real thing is… It wasn’t even a matter of free expression, so technically the decision only threated free expression by ordering the blocking of millions by the error of one.
    What really happened was that a famous model and actress, dum enough let her boyfriend film their sex intercourse at the beach, saw the video spread through youtube (which was also condemned on the case) after they broke down. The court decision was about her privacy rights (which of course we can discuss, since she was f… on a public place) but that’s another matter. The problem there, again, is that a judge took a decision without having technical knowledge on what he was judging. That’s also annoying, but somehow understandable (eventhough I do feel “third-party” shame, if you know what I mean).
    Also, I think Brasil hasn’t discussed free expression rights, nor even free information rights nor many thinks after leaving a dictorialship, almost 30 years ago. But it is rather strange that you put us side by side with fully authoritarian comunist regimes.
    I insist that if you want to properly discuss a matter, you should not stick to one source of information, nor count unchecked examples just to make a choice.
    I do, anyway appreciate your blog and the least interest on our country. I am opened to the discussion, if you would like.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I’m familiar with the Brazil case, which blocked all of WordPress.com to Brazil through a variety of methods. Luckily, it didn’t last long but it happened, one of several attempts to shut down and block a single site by not understanding the technical aspects nor the consequences of the legal decisions involved. WordPress.com was right to not comply, making me proud of them. However, I didn’t discuss the issues of the case in this article, so I’m confused about your comment. I did not compare Brazil to any other countries. My list is not an “axis of evil” list. I mentioned the incident which is a fact, not an opinion.

      Don’t forget that “freedom of speech” includes stupidity, fortunately or unfortunately. :D

      It is important for all of us who publish online whether professionally or personally to know the responsibilities and consequences of our arts, just as we are in public. Thanks.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      “Don’t forget that “freedom of speech” includes stupidity, fortunately or unfortunately”…
      Yeah, but sometimes would better remain unpublished… ;)

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      LOL! In a perfect world…


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] far, we’ve touched on some of these in Blog Exercises: The Don’ts of Blogging, Blog Exercise: Taking a Risk With What You Blog About, Blog Exercises: Comments and The Blog [...]

  2. [...] “Blog Exercises: The Don’ts of Blogging,” “Blog Exercises: Stand Up For Freedom of Speech,” and “Blog Exercises: [...]

  3. […] Blog Exercises: The Don’ts of Blogging […]

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  5. […] In another blog exercise, we talked about the etiquette of blogging, setting standards, and adhering to them as part of building your community. […]

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