Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blogging Tips

I received a random email today about social networking safety.  I have been thinking about doing a write up on blogging.  So why not?  No time like the present and here we go!

These are just what I could come up with tonight.  I am sure there are many more tips, ethics, and such that could be discussed, but for now this is what I offer you.  :D

Friends and Family Safety
Remember safety first!  I talk about my friends and family from time to time.  It's pretty difficult to talk about life and not mention them, but I do not mention names (especially not full names) or personal details of those people.  The few that I do mention are other cosplayers, creators, friends that lead a public life, or those that I have permission to talk about or post pictures of.  There are some circumstances that are fair game such as convention photos or shows.  Keep your personal life as private as possible and protect the people in your life by not exposing them online without their permission.

I have dealt with stalking and I know at least one of those stalkers does read this blog.  Because of this I try to be as safe as possible without feeling stifled online.  One of the safety's I use on any social networking is listing a fake town.  I never ever share the actual town I am living in even on my personal pages.  I also shut off location functions.  I can't tell you how many times I see other public persona's post on their public sites and pages with location turned on and it makes me cringe because they are opening themselves up to stalkers.  Its one thing if the location says Los Angeles area, but it's another if it's a small town where being located might be easy.  I also do not list my place of work or where I train.  I do not attend conventions alone.  I make a very strong point of having floor buddies especially when cosplaying.  If I list a public appearance (like FCBD) I will be with a group of people.  This is also why not sharing information on friends and family is important.  Always think about safety.

Get a PO Box.  Period.  There may be times where you will need to provide a mailing address for media purposes.  Ever the worry wart I will not give companies a street address.  My PO Box is also not in my town of residence but that is personal choice.  This is also helpful for those of us that move around.  Constantly changing addresses is time consuming and a PO Box solves that problem.

Workplace Talk
Writing about work is never a good idea.  As mentioned with stalking never give out your place of work.  There is nothing wrong with a vague location and an idea of what your job is, but no specifics.  Always think about the legality of what you are writing especially when pertaining to work.  There are loads of people who have been fired for blogging about their work place.  "Can I be fired for writing this?" is a question you should ask yourself when discussing work life.  I do talk about my actual work from time to time, but not in an illegal way.  I talk about what I do, like when I went to the food trade show two weeks ago, but I don't talk about the inner workings of administration, go on vents about coworkers, or anything that could be a security violation.  It's wrong on all accounts.

Ignore them.  I know it's hard.  I know you want to change that person's point of view and I am sure you wouldn't mind your friends jumping in to save you.  I don't agree with this practice.  Do what you can to report it.  Often I find "trolling" issues to be ones of racism or other issues that should violate abuse policies, so make use of those violation policies.  Badgering the person (especially if everyone jumps on the band wagon) is reverting to trolling yourself and taking your friends down with you.  It's like fighting trolling with trolling and it just makes everyone look bad.  Take the upper hand and report it.  Don't let those trolls see you angry.  Don't give them what they want.  If you have to respond make sure it's one written respectfully.  Not that anyone trolling "deserves" to be given respect when they are certainly not giving any, but you will gain the respect of other people and help neutralize the troll.

Think about how what you write will be perceived by both those in offline relationships and strangers.  I try to present myself in a manner that is positive, accepting, and childlike.  For the most part this is me but the side of me people in my offline life rarely see to it's full extent.  Of course I have bad days, but I do try to spin it into something positive.  I have read quite a few posts where people are writing upset and present themselves as angry individuals.  My best advice to this is write something on the side in a word processor and take a look at it later.  Ask yourself if this is something of importance to the public.  What intention does this serve?  Often I find when I wait a day or two that the topic losses it's meaning or I realize it would be poor judgement to post.

Make sure you understand the full intention of what you are writing especially if it has the potential to hurt someone.  Like I said above, think about what your intentions are.  When I am writing about a potential touchy subject I do try to make my intentions very clear.  I had an issue over the winter where a friend was "hurt" by a post about a very personal experience of mine which sent me into a blog about why I choose to leave friends and family out of my writing.  I never expected anyone to be offended by the original post because it was about my inner feelings on a health issue that I am dealing with in my way.  My intent on commenting on the post reflecting this persons comments was to deal with potential future issues of the same nature.  In the end the person was upset because they felt left out, but it's for their own safety.  Also, like I said above if you really feel the need to write about something that has upset you write it on a word processor first, step away and then come back to it.  Think about how you would see it as the other person and decide whether or not it would be respectful or ethical to post and of course what the intention is.

Retaliating Blogs
Oh the joys of reading blogs and seeing two of them attack each other.  People love reading that, they do.  People love drama.  People especially love reading about drama in other peoples lives that make their life look like cake.  I think if a blog has something poor to say about another blog its a poor choice to post publicly.  Its an even poorer choice to retaliate on the other blog.  It's bloggers bullying and trolling each other.  Do not do it.  It's petty drama and it does not solve anything, but it does attract a lot of potential drama stalkers.  Like with trolling if you need to comment on it make sure its done respectfully.  Think of how a public relations firm would respond.

I still have not gotten the hang of this.   I do have opinions on strong subjects, but it is very hard to find the neutral zone when writing.  There is nothing wrong with having a strong opinion, but please consider the opposing opinion.  If your writing about something "political" make sure you know both sides of the issue.  If you choose to only write about one side then be ready for the lash back.  I would also advise thinking about how this could affect readerships and if it's damaging in any way.  Last thing I want is to write a strong political opinion and then garner the wrong kind of attention.  Why open myself up to political trolling?  By politics I hope we all know I am not necessarily talking about government.  Also, make sure you have an opinion!  Don't worry about upsetting a person (unless its an attack on a person, because that is not cool).  A well written opinion can be a wonderful piece of work but put it out there with an open mind.  Sometimes I write about topics because I want peoples opinions.  I want to get people talking about a topic.  I like hearing what other people think and getting other perspectives I may not have considered.  For my blogging that is the purpose of my opinions to open up conversation.  Remember if you're not making people think (or bugging someone in someway) you're not writing anything worth reading.  Oh and of course you can discuss a topic without sharing your personal opinion.

Public Figures or Approved Personal Contacts
When writing about people and mentioning names always keep it positive.  Regardless of if someone leads a public life and if you have been given permission to mention them do not disrespect them.  Make sure what you are writing will NOT offend them and can not be perceived with ill intent (that is a the tricky part).  I see this happen from time to time and it makes me cringe.  Remember putting something online is public and regardless of being a public figure they still have feelings, a right to privacy and a right to maintain their stellar image.  Always put yourself in the other persons place and maybe ask them to read it before it goes public.

Responsibility and Accountability for Commenters
Make sure to moderate comments on posts.  Keep reader comments fair and free of abuse.  Any comment posted reflects the blog and can be damaging if not properly moderated.  Remember you're not only accountable for what you post but what others post as well.  I suggest turning the spam filters on and setting up comments so that they need to be approved before posting.  I realize this can in-hinder conversation and it's probably why I see more commenting on my FB page then on the blog, but it prevents an issue from arising when you might not be able to moderate.

I have a link posted below about blogging and money.  It is well worth a read and it mentions issues I had not considered as they have not come into play in my blogging experience.

Keep It Interesting
I write about quirks in my daily life but I try to stick to things that I find interesting, thought provoking, amusing, or helpful.  I don't write a detailed day to day life story because, as interesting as life can be, I don't think a diary writing does any good on the internet.  Nor do I really want to put that much of my personal life out in the public.

Well this is all I have come up with tonight.  I hope you find it helpful and interesting.  I am also thinking about looking into some of my old posts and possibly deleting some as I am sure I have violated one or two of these in the past.  I am never immune to my critiques.

Is there anything you think I missed?  Let me know in the comments!

Additional Reading:
A Blogger's Code of Ethics
Three Simple Rules About Blogging Ethics & Money
Blog Stalkers - Personal Safety for Bloggers

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