Blogging Code of Ethics

I did a search for a Blogging Code of Ethics but found nothing I like. Take this one, for example. I thought if it made Wikipedia, it must be marginally useful. But its stated aim is to promote civility on the blogs. I have no interest in that, to tell you the truth, especially if to achieve this dubious goal I have to ban the anonymous comments and never say anything online I wouldn’t say in real life. The beauty of online communication is precisely that it allows you to be more honest about things, and if you need to be anonymous to do that, then that’s got to be fine.

So I came up with my own Blogging Code of Ethics that will serve both bloggers and commenters. As everything on this blog, it is based solely on my personal opinions. Feel free to dispute or add anything. If you want to do it anonymously, that’s good, too.

1. Don’t leave links without express permission. When I first started blogging, it took me some time to realize that people don’t particularly enjoy it when you leave links to your blog in their comments section without being asked to. Polite people don’t promote their blogs on strangers’ websites. If you want to attract attention to your blog, simply leave comments that will be interesting enough for people to follow you to your own blog to continue the conversation.

2. Every quote needs a link. If you are going to quote a person, insert a link to the post you are quoting. And don’t quote people’s posts in full. Leave something for the readers to discover at the original location of the post.

3. Surfing the wave is good – if done respectfully. If somebody published a post and it’s proving to be hugely popular, it’s OK to surf the wave. Write your own post on the same topic to attract readers. It’s good form, though, to mention the blogger whose wave you are surfing. Start your post with something like “I just read an interesting/horrible/stupid/fascinating post at and it made me think. . .”

4. Say all you want about other bloggers – but let them know. If you are appalled by something another person wrote on their blog, it’s perfectly fine to express your outrage about it on your own blog in any terms you like. It’s not nice, however, to talk behind people’s backs. This is one of those times when it’s not only acceptable but necessary to leave a link to your post at the offending blogger’s site. They will delete it if they don’t like it, but at least they will know that you are talking about them.

5. Don’t investigate bloggers and use the information against them. Even if what a blogger says annoys you to no end, it is very stupid (and really creepy) to investigate them and send letters to their place of employment demanding that they be fired or punished for expressing their views online. (This didn’t happen to me but it did to Hugo Schwyzer – see how I linked back to him here?, and I think it’s absolutely wrong.) Unless the person in question is engaged in illegal activities of which you have evidence, it is not your place to censor them. If the desire to shut people up for disagreeing with you persists, try getting a life.

6. If asked to leave – just go. If a blogger asked you to leave their site, just do it. Believe me, even if it’s the most fascinating blog in the universe, the Internet still doesn’t end there. You will find other places where you can express your opinions. Or just start your own blog and nobody will be able to ban you from it. Don’t overanalyze the banning either. Who cares why this particular blogger doesn’t like you?

7. Read before you write. Before making outraged accusations, make sure they don’t make you look stupid and waste space. If a blog’s header says “Feminist Blog”, it might make little sense to inform the blog’s author “Oh, you sound like a total feminist!” If a blog announces itself as “An academic’s opinions on everything”, do everybody a favor and don’t exclaim triumphantly “It’s just your opinion!”

Everything besides this is, in my opinion, fine. Want to post anonymously or use 15 different identities? Feel free. Want to be aggressive, rude and obnoxious? That’s perfectly fine. If you can’t be your true nasty self on the Internet, then what’s its point, really?


Unreliable Narrator

For a long time, I kept trying to explain to N. why a first-person narrator is unreliable. (If you don’t want to be lectured at all the time, don’t marry an educator. Otherwise, get prepared to being educated in perpetuity.) “But if the narrator is telling his or her own story, they have to know what they are talking about, right?” N. kept saying. “I don’t understand why I should doubt what a first-person narrator tells me.”

Then, we traveled to San Francisco for a conference. Before we set out, N. donned a huge and heavy coat that I’d never seen him wear before.

“We are traveling to California,” I said. “Why the hardcore coat?”

“You know this book series that I love that is set in San Francisco?” he answered. “The main character always complains about how it’s extremely cold there. It’s always foggy and there is this piercing wind. I need to be prepared for that.”

Of course, when we arrived in San Francisco, the weather was lovely. It was warm and sunny. I walked around in my business suit while N. suffered in his coat meant to withstand Siberian winters.

After a day of sweating in the coat, he finally exclaimed,

“Oh, now I get it!” N. suddenly exclaimed. “You should never trust the first-person narrator because he doesn’t talk about how things really are. He just relates his own subjective perception of reality that might be very different from mine.”

And then there are people who say that literary criticism is useless.