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.
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.