Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Okay, this is part rant, part plea, and part advice to my fellow bloggers. Feel free to blow me off but if you proceed know that the following is one sista telling you how I really feel (as if I'm ever anything but candid). There are a lot of online users who are new not only to blogging but interacting online in general. Me, I'm an old veteran so I'm going to mention a few things that use to be common knowledge among message board members and online community administrators. The following are Susan's guide to creating a great webspace and being a good member of online communities:
  • Content. Bloggers, a blog is a website. You are a writer. Even if your site is personal, remember it is public. Think before you post minutia. There is no shortage of content or topics to cover. Give your readers a reason to return.

  • Respond. Part of the appeal of blogs and the Internet is the ability to interact. If I wanted to sit in on a lecture or read a traditional article with no means of sharing my opinion, I wouldn't be reading a blog. When your readers comment, reply. Generic is better than no response. Believe me. And many readers like me do care if you act as if you sit in a lofty tower. My 'I just want to sit at your feet days' passed more than a decade ago.

  • Follow-up. If you host a contest, set a firm deadline and honor it. Things come up. When they do, update your readers. Personally, I'm a little miffed when you ask me to become a follower, leave a comment, promote you and your contest and you drop the ball. Don't ask me to jump hoops and then you don't deliver. For all those wondering, when you win a book from BES or Color Online, books ship within 10 days. I let you know when book ships, too. And for you prize winners, stop driving hosts crazy by failing to let us know you got the prize. Books get lost, stolen or yes, we forget we left the wrapped book in the car or at the office. I don't want you to thank me repeatedly, I want to know you got your prize because I said I'd send it.

  • Memes. Warning, major rant here. Participants if you don't know, memes are only successful when participants participate. That means drop a link and follow up by commenting to other participants' posts. If you're too busy to visit fellow bloggers and leave a comment, don't post your link and bail. Not cool. Some memes boast double digit links but there is little commenting going on. What's up with that? And do link back to the original meme post. Why? Because it makes it easier to access the next link so you can comment to someone else.

  • Websites are references. Bloggers if you don't know, not only are your fans reading you but so are future employers and current ones. The Internet is public. Be careful what you post. Don't publish something that someone can access at a future time that will cause you a career move blocker.

  • Website or picture book. Bloggers, pictures and widgets and lovely backgrounds are pretty, but are you presenting a slide show or a site for reading and interacting? Consider who your audience is and how they access your site. Everyone is not traveling the web in a Cadillac. If your readers have to wait for your page to load or they have to remove blockers or they are blocked from viewing your site (viruses, firewalls and spam are realities of the net) then you may be losing or failing to gain readers because visiting your site requires hoop jumping.

  • Word verification. Okay rock stars. I realize I said spam is real but do you really need word verification? Live Journal is the worst. Not only do you have to type words that are barely readable but then you have to cut and paste gibberish. What the frack? Yes, I get you don't want ugly comments or spam but have you really had multiple, bad experiences or did you buy a policy because it sounded good, and you wanted to be careful? Really, how long would it take you to delete an unwanted comment? Less time than it takes your readers who are taking time to comment. Years ago, I belonged to a diversity forum and there was a real need to moderate and filter comments. If you run a blog that inherently draws the nut jobs, by all means, I agree you need filters. For the rest of us who are gushing over books or grand babies, I don't think we have too much to worry about. If you have word verification, know that I and I don't think I'm alone and it's cool if you don't care if only I don't show up, know that I come by your space less often and definitely comment less. I spend way too much time online, and I don't want to extend that time jumping hoops to tell you I enjoyed what you wrote.
I concede upfront that I have not mastered everything mentioned. I am a scatterbrain and I will forget to write a host and while I hate word verification that doesn't mean I won't read a blogger. The obvious exception are bloggers I've gotten to know so I will jump hoops when motivated.

Any peeves of your own? Want to tell me don't take myself so seriously? It's cool. I have thick skin, and I've embraced my ornery self already. Confession Tuesday is hosted by January at Poet Mom. Join us.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all those helpful guidelines. Some people (okay, me) do things wrong because we can't figure out what's going on - like meme rules. It takes a while, but it's enormously helpful to have someone post comments like this once in a while so I can learn!

floreta said...

here here!

susan said...

Rhapsody, I think there's a different between ignorance and disregard. I'm jaded. What bugs me is when I perceive the offender is self-centered.You don't strike me as someone who wants all the attention. :-)

Hi, Floreta.

Eva said...

lol: I agree with you on a lot of these! I don't really enter contests that require me to jump through hoops anymore; it just exhausts me. And asking for a link to the giveaway is one thing but there's something so shameless about bribing people to up your blog's stats in general...(that wasn't a nice or tactful thing to say, was it? I'm sleep deprived!)

My biggest pet peeve EVER is when bloggers have stupid music playing. Usually, I immediately exit out of the offending site. When I was cheerleading during the read-a-thon, so I had to stay at the blog long enough to make a comment, it made me sooooo cranky.

tea said...

Good points, as for myself I will try to do better. Improvement makes the world a better place.

susan said...

Music is annoying and it drains memory. I love music, but most people fail to use compressed files and they don't give you the option to listen or ignore. I'm okay with a player that I can access. I usually will ignore it.

susan said...

Eva, I just check my own giveaway. lol I'd like to think it's clear that a dropping a link to a post which is the intent of the meme is clear. I don't mind the extra point thing. What I mind, is the idea that the host is more interested in getting more traffic than sharing the prize.

Anonymous said...

So true!

Steph Su said...

A good and honest rant, as usual, although I think I'm guilty of the contest thing. (I'm working on it, I swear! It will be up today or tomorrow.) While all these points are great, it's also hard to demand them of everyone, and even you have admitted that you have not mastered them all. I think for these instances of etiquette it is the INTENT and not the actual action or product that matters. Good intentions don't necessarily lead to the desired results, but perhaps we should fault those less than those who do everything perfectly but soullessly. Online etiquette is a touchy subject, all the more so because millions of people are online and interacting now, and just like the human race, there are differences that will irk you, annoy you, make you hate that person. (I would know: I am the worst judge of my fellow college classmates sometimes.) So it's great to have pointers like yours out there, but I'm going to give leeway for human error, of which there could be tons. I wish everyone read your Confession Tuesdays, Susan. People could benefit from them, even if they don't necessarily achieve the result you'd like most.

susan said...

Steph, what I want readers to remember these are guidelines and ultimate desires. I don't expect anyone to hit them all, and we're all going to be better at some some of the time. My guy thinks I push the envelop with images and given that I am a pack rat and I am a visual person, I am keenly aware of aesthetics. I'm not the teacher admonishing students, I'm a peer saying, "Hey, have you thought when you do X?" The confession is about striving for balance and having good time, too.

Lastly, can I blame it on my techie, geeky guy who spends hours reading web design and online community info? lol Well, I do a lot of behind-the-shoulder reading and he is my guy so we share some common quirks.

Besides, questioning and probing leads to interesting discussions. Thanks for weighing in.

January said...

I think it's funny people don't realize that employers look at blogs and social networking sites. It's shocking what people put out there for the world to see.

But word verification, no matter how stupid, is necessary. I recently got robo-spammed, even with verification in place. I had to restrict posts that go back further than two weeks. I don't like the hard-to-read ones but I've received considerably less spam that before.

Thanks for confessing.

susan said...

January, I hear you. I didn't say stupid, but annoying. lol It may be because we use other filters, I don't get spam.

It is naive for people not consider how easy it is for others to find you online. What you post is a permanent record. People are fired or not hired because of something you've written or your online behavior. And I should say I was reading about this from a web authority.

...deb said...

I'm with Eva: "My biggest pet peeve EVER is when bloggers have stupid music playing."

I turn my speakers off if I have to read a music-background blog. But I usually don't go back.

I'm also not a fan of too many widgets/gadgets on the blog. I'm going to try to clean up Stoney Moss when I have a little more time this summer (read my confession and you'll know why ;-) )

I am terrible about following up on comments. I get better, then fail again. Thanks for the reminder.

Teddyree said...

LOL I loved your rant and couldn't agree more, kudos on saying things that I've wanted to say for quite a while.
I'm a big fan of if you participate in a meme, you comment on as many participants posts as you possibly can, someone told me that I was an idiot for doing this & heading for burn out LOL -obviously not everyone agrees.

PS There's an award waiting for you at my place

anthonynorth said...

There's not much I can disagree with there. You've just about nailed blogging, I think.

MichaelO said...

Girl, why don't you tell us what you really thing?! Ha! I enjoy a good rant. Probably because I rarely go there. You know, you make a lot of good points. And there is always etiquette we should all strive to employ. I guess I always expect a percentage of the clueless in every given community. And like you said, they would tend to get ignored. By me, I mean. Not that you have anything to worry about there ;>)

Zouxzoux said...

First time reader from 3WW. Great advice. I'll be back.

susan said...

Hi Michael, I don't mind being ignored. I know I'm an acquired taste. lol I have been guilty of every offense. I've been online 10+ years so I've seen a few things and one thing that has kept me here is community so I get miffed when I it's being eroded.

Hi Z, welcome.

I'm behind. Doing a lot of work in an effort to improve our group blog and life stuff but I will be reading and commenting even if I don't post a 3WW this week.

Devo said...

I'm talking about a link exchange... think about the possibilities. www.dailyfessup.blogspot.com

pjd said...

Susan, I agree with your rant and with what you posted on 3WW. The nut of the 3WW is the community/participate thing. I post a short 3WW every week, and most weeks I try hard to make the rounds. But that's not always possible because of work, family, and other obligations. Even the weeks I do make the rounds, frequently I have to forgo reading the very long posts some people write. If it's more than one screen long, I might not have time for it.

I guess my counter-rant is that there are quite a number of meme participants that regularly post long entries and expect everyone else to read and comment. The more meme participants there are, the harder it is to reach many of them, and harder still if the posts take more than a few moments to read.

The conclusion of my counter-rant is that if you want lots of people to read what you post, write it short.

susan said...

pjd, thanks for weighing in. Listen, I like you and I like that your posts are short but not all of us have that gift. It's about balance not perfection. I don't comment to 35 members every week (who among us don't have jobs, school, family, other obligations). There are members who routinely don't comment to even a few others per week. Don't ask me for names. It doesn't take a rocket science to figure out who and we know anyway. The point is don't ask for what you're not willing to give.

Personally, I've stopped driving myself crazy and I don't bother to read people who have a history of sitting on their perch. I comment because I think it is the right thing to do and I'm not going to apologize for arguing for a basic courtesy. We all may not be friends but we are peers. Play fairly or don't play. That's all I'm saying.

pia said...

I think minutia can be wonderful if written by a true writer, and sometimes we need a place to dump. If not blogs where else? It saves on therapy bills and allows us to keep the people closest to us content from our rantings

What I hate are bloggers who either never return a comment because they're on their way to being big or for the same reason send a generic one line email. I actually used to find that hurtful

If I don't have time to comment I either close comments or don't post

It bothers me when people participate in a writing exercise by writing but not commenting. That's not participating that's showing disdain for other people--unless it's a true emergency

I wish I could be a warm touchy feely person. I'm not and that comes across in my blog.

I am caring and cause centered and that too comes across. Many people get that

I won't participate in contests as I don't believe in competition in blogging. I have this "perfect" view of it being something communal and fun for all who choose to blog

susan said...

Pia, I don't know what kind of contests you're referring to, many readers like me can't afford to buy every book I want to read so I enjoy a chance to throw my name in a virtual hat.

Well written minutia is good. The key is well-written and intended for an audience.

Thanks for coming by. I didn't post for 3WW but many are coming by. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Susan -

I'm sure you're not surprised that I don't agree with everything you said, but the contest one really hit home. I'm grotesquely guilty of email winners & mailing books but not publicizing - and I forget people want to know these things. Thanks for the reminder.

claire said...

Hi Susan, thanks for posting this. Being a new blogger there are certain things I'm not aware I should do, so this is a big help. Which reminds me, I should tell you that I will be reading A Wish for Midnight soon and am very excited. I'll let you know when my post is up! I hear Eva really enjoyed it. :)

GirlGriot said...

So many of my pet peeves here! I do try to make sure that my page has real content (I slack off now and then, but I hope it's not too often), and I try to respond to any comments I get. That last part's pretty easy, since I don't get all that many on any given post!

As for people posting things that would be better discussed over a coffee at the corner diner and not on a public website that any stranger can read ... well, I don't understand that, either. I do post personal things, but they aren't things I would be hesitant to talk about, or things that could cause me trouble in my career. I'm very careful not to 'name names' as far as my work is concerned, even changing the names of people I write about to maintain their privacy.

I've seen people post some really troubling things, however. For example, an English teacher creating a class blog and asking his students to post their homework -- directions from the classroom to their homes!! -- in the comments section! Yes, really. I emailed and tried to suggest as gently as possible why that might be a very wrong idea. Major naivete!

susan said...

Hi Aerin,
I don't expect or want total agreement. And if you've read through my follow up comments, I've said more than once that I'm equally guilty. The purpose here is awareness, a reminder of how we can improve our blogs and more importantly strengthen our interactions with our peers.

This is not a finger wagging at anyone in particular. But to be specific about contests. It makes more sense to let the individual know via e-mail that a book went out or received.

susan said...

Hi Claire, how you are you? Glad you're enjoying the book. AWAM continues to garner great reviews.

GirlGriot, I am one to talk. Like you, I only get as personal as I know won't cause me or others harm.

Why am I surprise this has generated so many responses? :-)

Thinking Aloud said...

Wow, it took me fifteen minutes to read all of these comments.
You didn't talk about that, reading the comments that other people posted. I want to comment and add something insightful to the thread, not simply regirgitate what someone else has said.

And it is great to see that you practice what you preach. I have gone to about fifteen blog sites in the past few days, and at two-thirds of them is a comment from SUSAN.

susan said...

Hi T, impressed you read this all. I confess online communities are my primary social outlets. Is that pitiful? I work odd hours and I'm most interested in books, culture and politics. The web is where I connect with the greatest number of people who share my interests so there's a bit of info of why I spend so much time here and why I've made the observations I have.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Bella Foxx said...

Hi Susan, I am bad about commenting, on people's blogs and responding to people's comments.

I also didn't do so great on my last contest, but it was my first so I am pleading ignorance.

I enjoyed this post it was very informative.

susan said...

Bella, but you were also quick to respond when there was a problem. And anyone who has interacted with you knows how kind you are. Thanks for weighing in.

Sandra said...

Sounds like things we all need reminders of from time to time. The comments are enlightening too. Thanks for doing all that work to write this post.

pia said...

I was talking about a "write a caption" or "you get X points if you follow me on facebook and y points if you follow me on twitter."

The first usually goes to the person who can be "dirtiest" the second no matter what the prize is designed to make the blogger "popular."

I read PJD's comment and am sure I'm one of the people he's talking about. I have problems with poetry that doesn't grab me yet I comment

I don't understand why many bloggers expect people to comment but think they don't have to

susan said...

Pia, I won't belabor the point. I can tell you Little Lov'n Monday is about promoting and supporting others and I give the prize because I like to share books.

I know many people do not like competition of any kind. I respect that. I don't expect those who hold that view to participate. Others take issue with a blogger trying to build a readership. I do not see a desire to cultivate a readership as a desire to be popular but to be heard. I am less concerned with a blogger's motivation as I am with connecting with bloggers who share common interests.

I think folks would describe me in some colorful ways but I'm not warm and fuzzy either and that's okay. We are who we are.

I suspected this would ruffle some feathers but I hadn't expected this response. Just imagine if we were as engaged when we sign on for a meme. :-)

pjd said...

LOL pia, I do actually click to yours nearly every week with good intentions. Usually I leave the window up in the background while I work, hoping to get back to it during the day. When I've actually read your posts, I've enjoyed them.

Susan, I've followed the comments and thought a lot about this. I understand where you're coming from, and I understand the protocols of blogging. (I've been participating in online BBSes or usenet or blogs for 24 years, since I used a 300 bps modem to connect to The Parking Lot BBS and others.) There are certainly selfish, ignorant, and rude people out there who take take take and give nothing back. The problem I have is that your post seems to be implying that everyone who gets a comment but does not reciprocate is selfish, ignorant, or rude.

You used the term "sign on for a meme." I don't believe the act of saying "I posted something inspired by Meme X" creates any kind of contract or even any moral obligation. It does not obligate others to read what you've posted, and it does not obligate you to comment on others' work. While some internet "memes" are actually clubs with expected behavior and contributions, the vast majority are organic.

What I do agree with is the undercurrent of your rant, which I think is really your point: Don't expect me to go out of my way for you if you persistently ignore me completely. That is, if you don't ever visit others, you are not really part of the community. But, blogging is by its very nature an act of ego. It takes a different attitude to understand and tap into the community aspect of memes, and to realize that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Seriously, thank you for provoking a lot of thought about this for me this week. I think I understand my own participation (or not) better now. It will help me manage my online time. :-)

susan said...

pjd, it's Confession Tuesday. I let off steam and let it go.

Thanks for commenting.