The Right Thing To Do: On Blogger Ethics

I want to revisit something from my “blogger development” Armchair BEA post:
THERE’S NO ONE RIGHT WAY TO DO THIS.

My best blogging advice is “Read a lot of other blogs.” You’ll see what you like and what you don’t, and as you learn what inspires you, you’ll figure out how those inspirations can shape your own blogging.

I really have come to believe, after more than six years and 1900 posts, that there isn’t one “right” way to blog. However, I also firmly believe that there are “right things TO DO” as a blogger. This blog has worn a Blog With Integrity badge for nearly four years, and shortly after I added it, I posted some of my thoughts about what that means to me:

“On a different scale and at a more specialized level, the book-blogging community has been debating some of (these) issues–disclosure, transparency, compensation, recognition, responsibility–for quite a while. (Edited to add: And we still are. Appropriately. It’s an evolving environment, and that requires this to be an ongoing conversation.) 

“…While we may not all blog about the same topics, we are facing some of the same issues and challenges no matter where we focus. Blog with Integrity is one response to that. It’s a response to the marketers and PR people who ask us to post their press releases and plug their products (Edited to add: Books are products too!) as if they’re doing us a favor. It’s a response to those who send out one-size-fits-all pitches that don’t reflect any acquaintance with the blog and its writer. It’s a response to the bloggers who cheerily accept those pitches and products and do those favors, without necessarily acknowledging their source, because they want the products and the compensation and the attention–and who have complicated the game for bloggers who don’t want to play it that way.”

Book Expo America 2011  www.3rsblog.com

I think that if you’re going to review books on your blog, having a posted, clearly expressed review policy is essential…even if your policy is that you don’t accept books from publishers or authors. and only review books you buy or borrow from the library. And if you do accept books for review, you need to be aware of the (also-evolving) FTC disclosure guidelines…and follow them. These practices address some of the more concrete concerns of book blogging, but things get fuzzier when it comes to the more creative side of things.

I believe what I said earlier about being inspired by what we see other bloggers are doing. That said, inspiration and plagiarism and very different things.

My general stance is that if you tweak an idea you’ve seen elsewhere and make it your own, it’s courteous to give credit–via a link, at the very least–to the blog and/or post that started you on that path. If you substantially quote or copy someone else’s work, setting off the quotes and attributing to the original in both link and text are critical. My own policy is to make every effort to link and credit when I post something inspired by, or expanding on, something I encountered on another blog. In some cases, the blog linked may not be the primary source of the material, but I do try to make sure I give credit to the place I found it. (If you ever find that I have quoted you without proper link or attribution, please e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com with your link and any necessary correction. I would appreciate not being called out publicly, in comments, for honest errors of that sort, but I will edit the post and acknowledge the revision.)

When it comes to most matters of ethics, I feel that even the most complex codes of policies and procedures are underpinned by a pretty fundamental idea: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You. Be fair, be honest, be reliable…and hope that those you deal with do the same.


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