06/08/07 696 W - + 15 - 16 Rules of the Road?

Well, gang, we've been blogging for 18 months now. Some 920+ postings and 3,100+ comments so far. We've shouted and goaded and whispered and questioned. There've been corrections, retractions, deletions, and apologies. The topics have varied, and so have the comments. Occasionally things took a turn for the worse, but we've been learning.

Looking back lo these months-- both for our benefit and those new to the medium-- what we would say about the things we have learned? What would those "rules of the road" look like?

First, let's review what's enforced on this blog.

What will lead to editing or deleting of comments? Anything crude, lewd, or rude, of course. Personnel issues are also off-limits. Same with personal attacks, or attacks on specific agencies. Sh&t-stirring by anonymous posters is also objectionable. Sh&t-stirring by signed posters is more likely but not necessarily universally tolerated. On the presentation front, comments may also be edited to correct spelling and fix spacing. And if you're curious why a particular comment was edited or removed, just mail Mike. These rules also apply the blogger himself.

Here's a stab at some general guidelines:

Learn to listen. Start your online experience by listening to what's being said. Be a reader for a little while before posting comments to blogs or discussion boards. Ditto before becoming your own blogger.

Add value with what you say. Help yourself or others learn better, work better, or communicate better.

Attract and maintain readers (if a content creator). Write at regular intervals. Be yourself and consistently yourself.

Respect your audience. Avoid saying or linking to things that are obscene, defamatory, profane, libelous, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, or embarrassing to another person or organization. Yeah, yeah, we all have tough skins, but why add grief where it isn't needed?

Communicate well. Help your readers understand what you are saying. Proofread what you are writing. Does it make sense? Are your points easy to follow? Did you spell-check the thing?

Be sensitive. Steer clear of sensitive topics, such as religion or politics or other things that might be considered inflammatory or objectionable to others. On this blog, that has typically meant personnel issues.

Respect privacy, both of other users and third parties. Respect the privacy of victims and victim details, though that's a no-brainer.

Clearly identify facts from opinions. If you are speculating, indicate same in your writing. If you have heard of something second hand, indicate same in your writing.

Understand the medium. What you write may be read by anyone, any time, anywhere. This includes friends, family, coworkers, employers, and future employers. Remember, too, that they have their own perception of both WHAT you wrote and WHY you wrote it.

Abide by pertinent policies. If your department or employer has a computer usage or online channel policy, abide by the policy. Don't get in trouble, duh.

Understand forum rules. If you post to moderated discussion boards, or other people's blogs, be aware that your postings may be modified or deleted at the discretion of those forum operators. On this blog, comments are typically deleted if they (a.) anonymous and (b.) talking trash. Comments may also be edited for clarity and to correct spelling.

Use appropriate technology. Private messages are best communicated using e-mail, versus forums. Users may not appreciate the use of the forum for one-to-one messages. Others may react to inside jokes or such in ways not expected.

Avoid Public Relations Liabilities. Consider refraining from identifying your employer or your department.

Avoid Legal Liabilities. As necessary, identify that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of another entity. Disclaimers are good.

Manage attracted attention. If you are contacted or confronted about something that you posted, think before responding. Review what you posted. Understand what they are asking. And, if necessary, consult with others on the appropriate response. You also have the right to remain silent, or use those equally effective words "I have nothing [else] to say at this time." This can apply to all attention, from peers to bosses to media members.

Are those good guidelines? There are others on the 'net, such as blogging guidelines from IBM. Just Google.