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July 24, 2006

Rules of Netiquette For New Bloggers

Some people ask if it's permissible to track-back an article, or even add someone to a blogroll. Chad didn't know it was permissible to send other bloggers emails promoting an article on their site.

So here are "the rules," at least as I understand them:

1) Bloggers appreciate emails tipping to stories. I know I do. There are a couple of cautionary notes here:

a) Don't flood bloggers with emails pimping marginal pieces. Send out your best stuff. Or the most interesting stories you find.

b) Please, please, please, for the love of everything holy, DO NOT just link a story which has already been linked by Drudge or Instapundit and expect a link to your site. "Finding" a story on Drudge or Instapundit and wanting a link for it is much like an astronomer wanting credit for the discovery of a new heavenly body, tentatively called "The Moon."

c) You may also want to send along tips to stories with no request to a link to your own blog, i.e., just send the URL of the actual story. However, this is by no means necessary. If you found it, and you alert the blogger to it, I think it's fair for you to get a link right to your site, where people can then click on the whole article, if they want to read more.

2) You don't have to ask permission to track-back. It's always permissible. I have never heard of someone saying "How dare you track me back." If someone really finds you objectionable, I guess they can always delete the trackback. As I suspect Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald do.

a) But you can't trackback on my site, because trackbacks are hopelessly fragged.

3) You also don't have to ask permission to blogroll someone. It's an honor, and it always helps one's standing in the ecosystem, which some people care about.

4) On the other hand, it's kind of a dick move to ask someone for a "link exchange." That's a quid pro quo, and most people don't appreciate that. It's better to just blogroll the blog you like -- if you like them, you should link them, whether it's reciprocated or not -- and then send them an email informing them they've been blogrolled, and maybe they want to check out your site.

Little story: A while ago I realized I didn't have Iowahawk on my blogroll, and he didn't have me on his. I began a letter to him suggesting a link exchange. Then I realized how dickish this was, so I just added him, then told him I'd added him and invited him to add me. He did.

a) But bear in mind that the bigger the blogger, the more of such requests he gets (often from people who have never even read his site, but have just seen it was a big blog on the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem).

b) It might help to mention you are, in fact, a reader of the site, and kind of signal that by mentioning the blogger's interest/schtick/style. You don't have to kiss ass, just prove you are actually a reader, not a random person looking for a link. Bloggers usually want to help their readers; random dudes on the internet, less so.

c) Also keep in mind that being blogrolled is no big deal. Starting bloggers think if they can just get on the blogroll, then the hits will start rolling in. That's what I thought when I started. It's not true. You get hits from people linking your blog in a post, not by having a link in the blogroll. People usually don't even bother with blogrolls-- they have their own favorites bookmarked on their own computers -- and they almost never just randomly click on a blogger's blogroll just to "check a new site out." Getting blogrolled is a cosmetic thing that will goose you in the ecosystem, but it doesn't expand your audience, and no one except bloggers keep tabs on the ecosystem either.

I am told that being blogrolled puts you up in Google and Yahoo searches a little, but trust me, those searches are bullshit hits by people who will almost certainly never come back to your website again.

5) Sock-puppetting to create a false impression of widespread popularity is frowned upon, unless you're a rabidly left-wing blogger, and you have a Magic Boyfriend living in your Rio pad you can conveniently pin it on.

Well, that's all I can think of at the moment. If you have anything more questions about netiquette, I'll answer them.

The Biggest Rule of All: Rule Zero: When excerpting another blogger's work, do not post most of it or "take the heart" out of the piece and put it on your own site. What is left, then, for the reader to read on the original writer's site?

You should tease a piece, quote some good stuff, but not all the good stuff; be mindful that if someone wrote something good, he'd like a little traffic off it, and will not appreciate you simply posting almost the entirety of his piece on your own blog.

When quoting an MSM article discovered or at least brought to wide attention by a blogger, you can quote a little more, but still, bear in mind, the blogger who found it has earned some traffic for his news-scouring skills, and you should still leave enough of the article behind so that someone has a reason to click-through to it.

I'll tell you, nothing pisses me off more than seeing an entire Top Ten of mine posted on another blog with a simple "Via Ace" link at the end. Gee, thanks. You just posted the entire list. Why would anyone now click on that link to read more?

This is a difficult thing to do. You have to balance a couple of things-- you want to inform your own readers and put up a nice quote for them to read, but on the other hand, you don't want to just completely rip someone else off and post most of the substance of his piece on your site. It's a balancing act, and sometimes you fail.

If you're in the situation, which comes up a lot, where you almost can't quote anything without stealing the heart of the piece, you have three options:

a) Just digest the piece and provide the link to the quote or the piece.

b) Do an Instapundit-style blind-link that just says "Heh" or something. In my experience, these aren't very good links, because people have to know what they're gonna get before they click.

c) Post the quote, even if it does steal the heart from someone's find, but make damn-sure you then scour the site for something ELSE interesting to click on, and then tease that at urge your readers to click on it.

This is a tricky one, and sometimes you'll find you've gone too far and pretty much stolen something from someone. I know I do from time to time. If that happens, bear in mind you owe someone a prominent link in the very near future.

Another Common Situation: What if you find an MSM article just quoted and linked with little analysis on a blog, and you want to do a longer, more thoughtful, more substantive piece on the article? Do you still have to leave all the good quotes behind at the blog you found it on?

I think the answer is "No." Here, you have in mind something more ambitious than the original blogger did; for him it was a throwaway link, for you, it's the basis for something approaching an essay. In that case, you can link directly to the original article and quote from it to your heart's content.

However, you should still hat-tip the blogger at the end, and you should still look for something else on his site to link to with a nice, juicy tease so that he'll get some traffic off your post, even if not for the original bit that caught your attention.

Since I never write long, thoughtful, substantive pieces, I never run into this situation myself, but I'm informed it does happen.

Incidentally, I "stole the heart" of that Muslim's Letter to His Fellow Faithful piece. I did take care, however, to really tease the site I got it from at the end, with promises of boobies and heinies which I knew, in all likelihood, would send a lot of traffic to the guy.

Again, it's an art, not a science.

One More Thing: When sending an email tip, include your blog's URL, even if you're just sending an article without the expectation of a link!

Even if you don't get a full "go here and read" link, you are still owed a hat-tip, at the very, very least. (Which of course counts as link on the ecosystem, if you care, and most smaller bloggers do.)

Don't assume the blogger you're sending the tip to knows what your blog is, or even if you have a blog! A bunch of times I got good tips sent to me from someone calling himself by his first name, and I just thanked him, by his first name, at the end of the post. I did not not know this person actually had a blog, called "The SkinnerSphere." Thus, no hat-tip to his blog.

It wasn't that I was being a dick; it's just I didn't know this person was a blogger at all. He didn't alert me in his email as to his blog. I knew of the Skinner Sphere, but not that this guy was associated with it-- he'd only given me a not-terribly-uncommon first name.

Bear in mind that there are a lot of blogs out there, and most bloggers simply do not know the names associated with the blog. I know Glenn Reynolds does Instapundit, and Tom Maguire does Just One Minute, and Charles Johnson does LGF, and Roger Simon does, well, Roger Simon; but really, after that, I get a little bit shaky on matching names to blogs. And I imagine most other people do, too.

Except Allah. He knows everything going on in the blogosphere.

So, you know, include your blog, and the URL, please. It's easy for you to type it or add it as a sig; it's a little more difficult for someone else to open up a Google search and look for the URL himself.


Addendum: If you want traffic, name your blog beginning with the letter "A," as blogrolls go in alphabetical order.

I stumbled on to the Ace of Spades name. You cannot imagine how fortuitous this was.

Were I to do it all again, I would name this site, "AAAAAAYYYY!!!!: Fonzie-Conservativism for FonzoCons" or something.

Karol says I overstate the underutilization of a blogroll. She says she randomly clicks on blogrolls all the time.

Well, most people don't, but I guess there is some usefulness to being on a blogroll. I'm saying it's not a big deal, not that it's no deal at all.

She also points out that she gets loads of hits from Michelle Malkin's blogroll. I do too. But I think that's mostly because we have similar audiences, and most people who read me also read her, so it's just convenient, after going to Michelle's, to punch my link, rather than type it out in the URL bar.

Plus, you know, I "introduced" newbie Michelle Malkin to the blogosphere, and gave her one of her first links.

And look where she is now.

This isn't a blog. It's a rocket pad, baby.


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posted by Ace at 02:07 PM

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