Here’s the great thing about being online, and having a blog – no rules. No one to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, and no one to cramp your style. Hurrah!
Yet, there are some unwritten rules that I think is basic common courtesy and ethics that makes sense to be adopted or borne in mind, as bloggers, we plot our journey through the ever-changing digital landscape. I don’t like preaching things like this and coming off sounding holier than thou but I do believe that in the challenging and now, competitive world of blogging and online media some basic common courtesies and ethics get lost or overlooked.
I’d like to just remind you of 5 today. This was prompted by a rather unpleasant episode that happened to me last weekend, of image copyright infringement, so yeah, guess I’m preaching to the choir, since those who did piss me off probably won’t read this :P
If you blog, then you will be able to resonate with these I’m sure. Perhaps it sounds like I’m stepping on your toes :P If you don’t and are a regular blog reader, perhaps this might give you an insight into putting your trust in a blogger, especially a review blogger who may influence decisions you make on what to buy or use. Feel free to add any other tips or reminders in the comment box :)
1. Give proper attribution to sources using backlinks and proper URL references
If you were inspired by someone, or want to make reference to something found on another website or blog, there is nothing wrong with linking to them. It helps people read the source article for themselves and form their own judgments, and tells a fair story, or just helps people discover new sites and ideas. If inspired, there’s no harm in saying you were inspired by ABC blogger and linking to ABC Blogger because ABC blogger would likely be honoured at the mention and thankful for the link love, and you may even gain a new friend.
Also, if for reasons unknown you choose not to link to a particular website then use the full citation e.g. mywomenstuff.com because mywomenstuff means nothing in the internet. If a person’s URL is my-women-stuff.com then be sure to cite accordingly. It’s only polite and courteous, like getting someone’s name right when speaking to them.
2. Do not remove watermarks of images that you use from another website unless by consent
Well first off all, don’t steal images. As bloggers who take our own images, we feel terribly affronted to see our images being used willy nilly on webstores (especially when we don’t get paid anything for prompting a sale!) and even worse, to discover that someone has not only used your image without permission, but chopped off your watermark.
Make your blood boil? Yeah, made mine boil.
I don’t claim to take such great photos that warrant them being stolen but however crappy my photos can be, they are mine. If permission is asked, I usually allow the use of my photos on other sites provided there is a backlink and proper attribution. Most people comply, and when they do so, I expect the full photograph to be used, not part of it chopped off, and especially not when I have watermarked my photos. I have contemplated not watermarking them but I just prefer to.
I recently found my image being used on another site and it had been resized so my watermark was removed. There was a mention at the end of the post that the image was “Courtesy of mywomenstuff” but I had never been asked, no link was provided, there was no proper attribution and my image had been edited and my watermark had been removed. This isn’t polite nor courteous nor ethical. To their credit, when I asked, they removed the image but the damage was done.
3. Disclose, disclose, disclose
This one is an area that is a little grey since there are no rules nor laws that require blogs or online media to disclose if a product featured is a complimentary sample or sponsored or paid for or an advertorial. Well, in the USA there are FTC rules and guidelines, but these generally apply to bloggers based in the USA. Outside, we are subject to the laws of individual countries and I haven’t come across other countries implementing similar laws yet.
While disclosure isn’t therefore legally necessary, I think it only ethical and courteous to disclose things like free samples and payment. It helps readers decide on the weight they give a blog post, in particular when researching product reviews. Blog advertorials are big things once companies and ad networks worked out the influence wielded by popular and “celebrity bloggers” who receive payment in exchange for a rave review.
Not disclosing sponsored posts and advertorials is what sets my teeth on edge as it basically dupes people out there into buying into a commercial. I’m less fussed when it’s about cosmetics but I do give the side-eye when it’s for expensive beauty supplements or aesthetic treatments.
4. Don’t stoke fires of hate or incite drama
I believe that as bloggers, on your own platform you can say and do anything you want, but I also believe that we have a social responsibility to not promote hatred or incite drama. We don’t have to be friends with everyone. After all, how many of us can claim to get along with everyone we meet? Not many.
Sure if something pisses you off, you have every right to write about it. It’s your blog. But I also think discretion is the better part of valour and drama is unnecessary. I’ve seen and talked to bloggers who told me that they’ve left the blogging scene because they were unwittingly drawn into a drama and forced to take sides in an internet war. Influential or popular bloggers have an even bigger responsibility I feel, to not promote this sort of drama. When power and influence can be used for good, why promote hate? Life is far too short and the impressions go deep.
I’ve also seen these dramatic posts deleted from the blogs in question after they go on to be popular. Those who have seen it or have been affected by it will remember and impressions last.
5. Be honest
Honesty is the best policy, especially if you’re building up your reputation in a review niche for anything, be it beauty, food, household gadgets etc. You don’t have to like everything, but you also don’t have to be horribly mean about it. Justify why you think it’s bad or why you don’t think it worth the money and go about it rationally.
Honesty lies in your thoughts on the product, disclosure on whether you were paid to blog about it, and in your photographs.
If you show a before/after shot of your face to show results from a treatment or product use, honesty dictates that your photograph not be doctored. Editing brightness, or contrast is acceptable and in many ways, helpful. (See some of Tine’s tips here) But I’ve seen people photoshop in forehead lines in a before shot and then blur out their forehead in the after shot, to show how efficient a serum is. I’ve seen before pictures of someone’s face and an after picture that was quite obviously photoshopped to be smooth, clear, bright and poreless to show how efficient an aesthetic treatment or product is. It’s a lie and you know it and if you have poor photoshop skills, your readers know it too. Where’s your credibility then?
I have nothing against people who do apply filters to their photos but I do look askance if it is used to enhance their glowing review of a skincare product, treatment or a foundation. Few people are lucky enough to have that sort of poreless, ethereal glow to their bare skin after using any product. I’m less critical about other colour cosmetics because those come down to individual preference as opposed to efficacy of product which I feel differs from person to person and therefore should be taken a little more seriously.
Right, I better step off my soapbox now before I self combust :P
Have you other online courtesies and ethics you’d like to add, that you think online media/bloggers should employ?
Above all, be nice, be polite and be pleasant. No one ever complained that someone was too nice :P Oh and after all this I just realised that today’s Valentine’s Day so erm… Happy Valentine’s Day everyone :P *rappels down from soapbox tower*
Simple Blogging Tips are some simple tips I have for fellow bloggers, based on my own experiences. I’m no ‘guru’ but I hope they will help you. You may read up on previous Simple Blogging Tips here or please feel free to ask your question in the comment box or in email.