Armchair BEA: Ethical Blogging

This is my first of two items for today, playing along with today’s Armchair BEA topics.

First up: Ethics in Blogging

We’re getting back into discussion mode in a big way today with the topic of “Ethics in Blogging.” What guidelines must we follow as bloggers–attribution, disclosure, honesty? Have you had an experience with plagiarism (victim or perpetrator?), and how did you deal with it? Do you have recommendations to new bloggers about how to ensure that credit is given to whom/where it’s due?

Perhaps because I’m still relatively new to the blogging world, I haven’t personally run into any problems, although I’ve seen a lot of discussion and comments on the topic. I actually have a fairly vivid fear — not so much about real plagiarism — but more about being accidentally influenced in some way before I’ve really formulated my own thoughts. For that reason, I try to avoid reading reviews of anything I’m thinking of reviewing until after I write my own.

The only hard and fast rule that seems to apply on a regular basis, at least for what I tend to do on my blog, is to give credit to meme hosts and link back to their sites. I’ve had a couple of nice bloggers ask to reblog something I’d written, and I was happy to say yes — and happy to be asked. It hasn’t come up for me yet, but of course I’d expect to do the same.

I did make a boo-boo early on, when I copied a book cover image from a blog instead of from Goodreads, and used the “copy from URL” tool instead of just copying the image itself. Months later, I guess someone must have clicked on the image and linked to the other site. That blog owner sent me a fairly nasty comment on how rude I was to link to his site without permission. Fortunately, I have moderation turned on for new commenters, and so that comment did not go public. Unfortunately, he did not provide me with any contact information, so I was unable to respond, explain that I’d made an error, and apologize. I did take down the image and the link, but it left a rather bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The issue of giving credit can be a thorny one. In this age of Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, where cute pictures get shared and forwarded constantly, I think the mindset often becomes that any picture that’s out there on social networks is fair game. And that simply isn’t the case. I try to be mindful of what I copy and give appropriate credit, and mostly stick to using book cover images (which, from everything I’ve read, is okay to do) and photos I’ve taken and uploaded myself. I do want to explore further the various resources out there for public domain image archives. Suggestions, anyone?

On the issue of reviews and the necessary disclosures, I suppose I should count my blessings, for once, in that I really don’t get that many ARCs! Most of the books I read and review on my blog are books that I’ve bought or borrowed. When I do write a review based on an ARC, I make sure to indicate the source of the review copy. The whole point, for me, of starting a blog was to have an outlet for saying what I think — so that’s what I do. I will say that if I don’t care for a book, I’m more likely not to post a review at all rather than writing a bad review. Again, I started a blog to share my love and excitement about what I’m reading, and I’d rather not dwell on the negative. As my mother always taught me, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”!

I had no idea, when I started blogging, that there were so many issues to think about. For the most part, I think the basic rules of being a good person work as guidelines for being an ethical blogger as well:

  • Don’t take what’s not yours.
  • Be polite.
  • Don’t put other people down.
  • Treat others in the way you want to be treated.
  • Be lavish with praise; be careful with criticism.
  • Always ask permission before touching someone else’s stuff.
  • Share when asked, and people will be happy to share with you.
  • Making fun of others doesn’t make you look good; it makes you look mean.

I know there are several sites that have published some great “Blogging 101” guides, and I’ve found those incredibly helpful. (Of course, I’m drawing a blank on what those sites are right now!). There’s a lot to know and a lot to consider, and I do truly believe that most of the mistakes that bloggers — especially new bloggers — make are honest goofs that come from not knowing or not being aware, rather than coming from intent to deceive or to take someone else’s work.

What kind of guidelines do you keep in mind as you work on your blog? Where do you see the biggest pitfalls and challenges for bloggers? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues.

6 thoughts on “Armchair BEA: Ethical Blogging

  1. You have so much great advice here!

    I do think it’s important for us all to be polite, even if we think someone has stolen our words, ideas, images, etc. If it’s a blatant copy and paste job of an entire review, then the plagiarism was probably deliberate. In the case of things like images, similar phrasing, etc., the blogger often doesn’t know he or she is doing something wrong. Although we have the “ignorance is no excuse” mindset for legal issues, I still think being polite and explaining why a blogger is plagiarizing is probably more helpful in the long run than anger, however. Most bloggers will be nice, apologize, and try to avoid it in the future–just as you said you would have liked to do.

    • Thanks! I appreciate it. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom πŸ™‚ — I’m always preaching to my kid about what it means to be a good person, so I don’t see why it should be any different in the blogging world! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Yeah, I can understand that it was tough for you with that linking to an image thing. And it is really difficult in the beginning to know the dos and the don’ts when it comes to the internet.

    I agree that being polite and treating others the same way we would like them to treat us is a good rule to follow. And sometimes, it’s better to walk away than to start an argument πŸ™‚

    I’m glad I found you thanks to Armchair BEA πŸ™‚

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