Blog Etiquette & How to Deal with Negative Comments

Over the weekend I had the chance to share my thoughts on ‘Blog Etiquette & How to Deal with Negative Comments” during The Hive Conference in Berlin. During my talk I promised I’d share some links in a post, so I decided to put together a little overview of highlights and resources on the subject. I’ve made the presentation [visuals] available for download right here. It’s full of quotes from some of my favorite bloggers and their thoughts on the subject. Below are some of my favorite points to help encourage a supportive community.

Crediting is one of those things that gets glossed over on the web. Pia Jane Bijkerk and Erin Loechner put together a great poster to guide you on your way as you figure out if you should use an image and how to credit it. You can even buy the poster here. Chelsea Fuss shares her thoughts on crediting from the point of view of a photographer. Basically, the way I see it is, what if someone else was featuring your work on their blog, how would you want to be credited?

Just because major blogs are doing something one way, doesn’t mean it’s the “right” or only way. One of my personal crediting pet peeves is when someone writes the word “via” and they only way they give credit is by adding a link. As some one constantly scouting the web, I love to see names and credits and it makes me want to click around your blog more. The Curator’s Code is another attempt to give guidelines on how to credit. Nichole Robertson also adds that crediting isn’t always enough. It’s one thing to feature someone’s work, but another thing to use their images for your own editorial purposes (especially if your blog makes money, and you’re not paying the person who took the photos).

Even though Pooja of Notabilia is a relatively new blogger (well, two years now), from the start would email everyone she featured on her blog. In the process of asking for photo permissions, she also has built an incredible set of contacts in Singapore. It only helps build and create a stronger community when we respect the work of others.

On the web I see two main tracks: curated content and original content. Sites like SwissMiss and Brain Pickings are great examples of curated content (look to them for crediting). Little Brown Pen and Paris vs. NYC are two sites creating all original content. Design*Sponge (where I’m a contributing editor) is a mix between the two, but still at the same time, we try not to repeat things if they’ve already been shown on another blog. Let’s keep the web interesting and don’t be afraid to try new things. Be different and don’t be afraid to use your blog as a testing/ experimental place. If you don’t use your own images, look into Creative Commons as a good solution where permissions are all spelled out.

The way I see it, the main problem with the internet is it has taught us that we want everything to be FREE and we want it NOW. It teaches bad habits and manners have gone down in the drain along side it. It’s something to be aware of, and we can all do our part to grow the business of blogging and online etiquette. Katrina of Pugly Pixel is so generous on her site with amazing tutorials and freebies. There is an entire section devoted to TOU [terms of use] and she said it’s amazing how many people ignore it completely.

Most of the time the web is a really positive place, however, despite all the good, it’s often the bad/negative that stands out and sticks with us. You may be tempted to respond immediately, but if you do, you may regret it (never respond if you’re jet lagged or super tired). A lot of the time we rush to conclusions. First off, take a deep breath – seriously, it’s not the end of the world. Always take the high road and stay professional. Kill them with kindness. Grace of Design*Sponge shares her thoughts on dealing with negative comments here, and put together a three part Biz Ladies series on the topic of online etiquette: part 1, part 2, part 3. The Biz Ladies is great for staying professional, and covers a ton of relevant topics.

Tina of SwissMiss is a big fan of the phrase “haters gonna hate” meaning people are going to be people, and it’s better to move on and not let it get to you. (See illustrated guy by These Are Things). Tina addresses touches on this topic in her recent TYPO SF talk. One of my other favorite examples of channeling negative energy into positive energy, is rather than continuing to complain about the poor design of her daughter’s temporary tattoos, Tina decided to start her own side project, Tattly. These days it’s a highly successful temporary tattoo business where she also gets to collaborate with many of her favorite illustrators. And now there is even a haters gonna hate tattoo! Moral of the story: find the positive in anything, and when you do something you love, you never know what may come out of it.

The thing about the web is just about everything is public. You can do your own research and look to the comments section of your favorite bloggers and see how they handle the comments. Some respond and continue the conversation, some allow the comments and ignore then, and others delete them. A lot of it comes down to personal preference.

Some comments are constructive and others are just mean spirited. As David Lebovitz points out, as bloggers we’re writers, editors, photographers, art directors, etc. and we’re expected to do everything and be perfect at it. (Some readers going nuts over spelling gaffs on his site – but at the heart of things he really is a pastry chef). He also notes that he likes to respond to criticism because he stands behind what he writes.

It often takes a lot more energy to take the professional road than responding with what you really want to say, but just be careful that something you write doesn’t come back to haunt you later. In general I like to keep my tweets positive, or challenge something in hopes of making it better. However, on a couple of occasions I’ve had people write in the moment tweets that came out of my mouth, which they took quite personally. Just be aware.

You can never say thank you enough, especially if someone is letting you use one of their images without paying. Reward people with link love, and tell them you appreciate their work. In “real life” I send hand written thank you notes as much as possible. People are much more likely to remember you and want to work with you down the line if you stick with common courtesy. However, in the “free & now” internet world I can’t tell you how often this gets over looked. So I’ll wrap this up with a huge thank you to Yvonne, Peggy and Radonista who made The Hive happen and a great and inspiring weekend! Thank you too to the Betahaus for providing a great venue for the event.

P.S. I love this picture that Emily Westbrooks took right before my talk. Yes, I did dress to match my presentation!


  • Hi Anne,

    It was great to meet you, albeit short and at the end of your talk… you have a really nice presentation skill!

    Let me know when you’re next in London and we’ll hook up for coffee or tea and explore some great places.

  • Thanks, Tina! As the quiet shy kid who didn’t talk much, it’s nice to know I’ve come a long way and can give a presentation (and love doing it) that can engage others.

    Looking forward to continuing the conversation and sharing ideas!


  • Anne, thank you for sharing this. I wasn’t able to attend the Hive but appreciate that you shared what you spoke about. Being a really newb blogger, I have yet to get a negative comment (knocks on wood), but I know they will come. Learning from seasoned bloggers on how they respond is really helpful to prepare for the inevitable.

  • Hello! That is a great post… At the mometn I just try to have comments… I hope teh time comes when I e¡have even negative ones! ;-)
    I wish I could have been at The Hive. I’m sure it was wonderful!

  • I’m lucky that I don’t have many negative comments myself. There are some that catch me off guard or maybe make me mad, but it’s the perfect time to have a conversation and engage readers while supporting what you believe in.


  • Good, good, good, good — no, GREAT! — stuff, Anne!

    And many kudos to how you linked everyone in. :D The best way to communicate is sometimes to demonstrate. (aka “show AND tell”) Just to add to the slogans, maybe, lol.

    Truly, this is a terrific post, and I am glad that you got to present at The Hive Conference about it.

    When I started blogging, I realized how much going to grad school in the early 1990s helped me. I was constantly CITING MY SOURCES back then, and it kind of became a way of being when I wrote stuff. Sometimes too much (it’s probably a good thing I can’t footnote in blogs, lol). Things have changed in many ways since then, but something like The Golden Rule never goes out of style, even on the Internet.

    (And thanks for posting this on G+! I was actually on there today and saw you linked this post there. Thanks for putting out the alerts at various places about your posts.)


  • May 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm // Reply

    Thank you for this very valuable insight into the blogging world. As a new blogger (3 months now) I am constantly aware of the mindfield out there. It’s great to get all of this info from those of you far more experienced than me. Keep up the good work, I love this blog.

  • Hi Anne!

    I attended The Hive – I was the one who lingered shyly as you spoke to Tina *cringes* – but couldn’t listen to your talk because it clashed with another. :(

    Thank you so much for this overview – it’s so thoughtful and super helpful of you! :)

  • Well said Anne…I am lucky that I have had one or two during the two years I’ve been blogging, and I respond after calming down. It does help! I had not realized that I’m guilty of using “via” to credit sometimes…I will stop doing that! ;)

  • This was really useful since I wasn’t able to lesson to your presentation at The Hive. I so agree on the keep things positive. Not only when it comes to blogging but also generally speaking in life. Made me think of my favorite quote by Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity – an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” :-)

  • Fantastically informative talk at the hive and great post here Anne. Thank you so much for all the incredible advice and engaging talk-you did a really great job and very kind to put it up for download now! :-)

  • I attended your presentation and it was really really well done. I love how you involved other bloggers and their views on the topic as well.

    And kudos for getting up in front of a room full of people and making it look like you love doing it. Well done.

    Great advice about not responding to negative comments immediately.

  • Thank you all for the kind words! It means so much to me! Caroline & Jillian, you in particular made my day. I never was the public speaking type, but when you talk about something you love and are passionate about (blogging, not negative feedback ;) ), you can talk about anything :)


  • I’m so glad you spelled it out here. This is so very helpful. And I’m super bummed once again that I didn’t get to see it in person. :(

  • Hi Anne,
    Very interesting stuff – and very eloquently (and esthetically) put! This is something I shall be rereading as you really have a lot of valid points and some great ways of dealing with things. Thanks very much for this – very helpful indeed! –Kim

  • Thank you Anne for sharing all these fantastic information (and links) not just for the attendees of The Hive but for the rest of us who couln´t make it.

    I agree, you can never say thank you enough. Also, I think online/blog etiquette should be a reflection of our `real´life etiquette.

  • What a FABULOUS post! I’m sooo lucky because in the 2.5 years I’ve been blogging I’ve only received 1 negative comment. I don’t get why there is so much negativity out there…I see it ALL of the time. If people don’t like a blog, why on earth do they read it?

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