No Drama Llama and His Trusty Steed, Armadillo

Blogging & Social Media Tips

Netiquette in the Nineties

14 Sep , 2019  

I have never understood the need to reinvent the wheel. To improve on it, perhaps. To modify it from a wheel suited to a dirt road to one suited to modern highway pavement, sure. But until the day a hexagon rolls better than a circle, the wheel will be round.

The same holds true, I think, for good manners. Do we really need a guide to “netiquette” or “political correctness” when such things all spring from simple consideration and respect for our fellow travelers on earth? Sure, cultural interpretations of how we manifest that vary, so codifying the rules – to some generally agreed-upon set of behaviors appropriate within a culture – is helpful. The old question of whether burping at the table is considered rude, or indicates compliments to the chef, is a case in point. Is it considered professional to put emojis in an email to executives, or is that career suicide?

But do we really need to regulate the minutiae of human interaction? Or is it enough to warn of the bigger pitfalls – social gaffes that might well start a war? Shouldn’t we also, each of us, think of compassion and understanding as part of our social duty to one another, and be quick to assume the other meant well even if they expressed themselves poorly? Must we impose rules on one another for the simplest communications? I know that I live in a Utopian fantasy that exists largely inside my imagination, but wouldn’t this be easier?

Since I wrote Rules for Blogging? NEXT TOPIC! the search results for rules blog* have grown from about half a million to 1,150,000,000. Why? Why in the name of God?

Wild West, Digital Style

If humans were reasonable, God would only have needed ONE Commandment: Be GOOD to each other. But no, we are wired to split hairs and look for loopholes, and to break rules whenever we find them, if we think we can get by with it. “Define ‘good,’ we say.” We love a challenge, and that may really be the bottom line as to why we need so many damned rules. Not because breaking them is all that challenging, but because enforcing so many of them them is damned near impossible!

I used to love Google, but ever since the introduction of monetized search and ad servers, the Internet has become a cesspool of utter garbage, along with a billion largely-futile rules attempting to control it. And now, even Google can’t tame the monster they helped to create. We used to have terms for empty digital space and code that pranced around signifying nothing – vaporware, for one. And blogs became the vaporware of words.

Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Blogs! (Or, Make Money Online Writing Blogs While You Sleep!)

Writers deserve to be paid. But most bloggers – probably all but a dozen of those 1,150,000,000 who wrote posts pontificating on the “rules” for blogging – are just regurgitating the same old tired lists composed by someone trying to earn money from what became a wildly popular search phrase, as if there should ever have been rules imposed on digital freedom of speech. Writers – and bloggers who actually write things – can be some of the most insecure people. How to write? How to blog? It’s not hard: Learn the basics, like spelling and grammar. Grab a pencil and paper, or a PC and any text editor, and start putting words down. Words you’d want to read if you cracked open a book.

Rules? If rules were followed, we would have nothing that could truly dare to call itself a “novel,” since novel means something new and original. If blogging is dead, it’s this kind of nonsense that killed it. Just keep writing the same thing over and over – oh, writers do this, too. Go to any bookstore and count the titles on “how to write.” I used to say that writing a book on how to write was what novelists did when they suffered from writer’s block, in order to keep food on the table. They know their target market well: insecure people who think they want to write, but convince themselves that some dark magic will be released from the page and smack them upside the head, recognizing them as the author-mposters they believe themselves to be, as opposed to the poor fools who just apply butt to chair and write, because it’s a thing they love to do. Those “fools” are the people who craft the dark magic that leave others feeling insecure! But the best “how to write” advice I ever got came from Tom Clancy: “Just write the damned book!”

Not all bloggers deserve to be read, let alone paid.  There used to be a question of whether bloggers were also writers and whether all writers were authors.  I used to argue they were synonymous: writers could blog, and provided it was original content they wrote and published, they were authors. And then I learned about article spinners and ways to manipulate affiliate links and found out just how many bloggers hated to write and would literally work ten times harder, and invest money they could ill afford, with text “spinners” and “systems” that promised “passive income” from whatever crap they vomited onto the page.

I waged war on in-context ad links a decade ago, refusing to be a cog in that machine. I wouldn’t leave comments on blogs that extended the links to the comments field, as links to my employer’s competitors might appear to be a conflict of interest, if people didn’t understand that commenters had no control over them. I argued that it was a copyright violation by the bloggers who ran such plug-ins, that if they applied them after the fact to my comments, they were creating an unauthorized derivative work. (Same thing for machine translations, unless a reader knowingly requested one.) Now, instead, we have ads on major media sites masquerading as “Related Topics” or “You Might Be Interested In” and they lead to trap doors down the rabbit hole of spurious links and ads that – very much against the terms of service for most ad servers – jump around as the page loads so that we can’t help but accidentally click on them. This, by the way, is theft – theft of advertising dollars that’s likely passed along to you by way of higher product costs. Advertisers deserve better, and don’t always realize that they are paying for clicks that merely annoy readers, or links that are served up on shady sites and mobile apps where their target market won’t see them at all.

Everyone Wants to Play Sheriff

Backlash was inevitable. Frustrated bloggers, as well as forum and group moderators are waging war on all forms of promotion that they cannot control or monetize, themselves, but are, I think, going overboard with it. This morning, a writer/illustrator posted a digital character image they’d drawn, and it was copyright watermarked with their Instagram handle. Leaving aside the dubious legality of a copyright claim based on an entity that, for legal purposes, may be entirely fictional – the use of an Instagram handle, with the @ symbol in front of it, was against the group rules as a form of “self-promotion.” The member changed their watermark to use only the © and not the @, and all was well. But given this is just a symbol – not a hyperlink, not a trap, and something someone would have to work to type into their browser if they were interested – why would using the @ pose a problem, where the same handle and a copyright symbol does not?

It’s a silly, arbitrary rule, in my opinion. But then, clearly, I find the spirit of the law much more interesting than the letter of the law. If anything’s going to get my hackles up and trigger my rebellious nature, it’s a typo in the letter of the law that thwarts the spirit of the law or makes a mockery of it.

So what is the spirit of the law, in this case? And why are there so many blanket bans on any form of self-promotion? Is it because we hate the competition and want to claim the spotlight for ourselves? I don’t think so. Is it because so many spammers have left group and forum moderators and writers of original blog content wary and weary and it’s just easier to enforce silly rules against everybody than to risk having to ban one person and deal with the ensuing arguments and blathering on about censorship? Yes. I think this hurts individuals and small business owners more than it does the nefarious spammers and scammers of the world. They build massive human and automated networks to promote one another, and no moderator is going to shut that down short of an IP address ban. But those individual writers and small business owners struggle to catch a break, and can’t build a good network of authority links that would help them to boost their online presence and credibility, or just allow them to gain a wider audience for their work.

Moderators gotta sleep, sometime… I do believe moderators and bloggers have crafted defensive rules so that they can appear to be fair and impartial to all – while what they’re really doing is trying to manage large a large member base and get time for work, family, self, and sleep. Who could blame them? The digital “West” was won, then tamed, then “civilization” moved in and ruined everything…

Respect your moderators. There is no point harassing overworked forum moderators by arguing over their rules. Just leave, if you don’t like the rules or think they’re infuriating (not just silly). If you don’t like the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” rule at your local diner, you wear a shirt and shoes, or dine elsewhere. If you’re a smart ass writer or lawyer and feeling particularly cheeky, you show up wearing nothing but a shirt and shoes. I get it, but life’s too short. I’ve reached a point where I’d rather just dine at home in the nude.

This is why I run my own site – so I can write nekkid and impose another set of capricious and arbitrary rules on you.  I’m just kidding. It’s so we can have minimal, but sensible rules and ride around on ponies shooting each other with Nerf guns.

, , , , , , , ,

18 Responses

  1. It’s about time we got a Holly rant… and now I’m going to comment on it with my own mini rants. lol

    You asked “Do we really need a guide to “netiquette” or “political correctness” when such things all spring from simple consideration and respect for our fellow travelers on earth?” My response is “obviously we do.” Since we’ve agreed in other realms that there’s no such thing as common sense anymore, and since I stick with my premise that parents aren’t parenting anymore (which probably wouldn’t matter since their parents didn’t teach them any better either…), someone needs to smack sense into people to realize that they can’t just say anything without the possibility of repercussions if someone else doesn’t like it. Free speech is only free speech if you’re strong enough to handle the crowd at a moment’s notice that doesn’t like what you’ve said or how you’ve said it.

    Later you said “How to write? How to blog? It’s not hard…” once again, obviously it is for the majority of people. I’ve often said that people who gripe about how much it costs to pay someone to write great content for them forgot how much they hated writing papers in high school or college. Then millennials came around during a period where teachers were told to grade based on if they believe students have an understanding of the material than grammar… which prompted the almost total extinction of anyone knowing how to use semicolons, how to spell or use spell check, and that phrases like “these ones” makes them look stupid… yeah, I said it!

    As for your points on moderation… in a way I actually agree with you. I have a ban on my blogs that people need to use a real name instead of a business name when they leave a comment. That’s because 99.997% of comments that come with a business name are actually spam instead of a real comment. I also disallow putting subdomains in their domain name unless the subdomain is the blog; that’s what CommentLuv is for; anything else makes the commenter look disingenuous… no one needs that unless they’re totally craving comments… I’m beyond that after all these years.

    I think that’s enough to prove I actually read the article… which I hope others do as well. 😉
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…5 Things To Consider When A Break Isn’t A BreakMy Profile

    • I thought I said ANOTHER guide, meaning, “couldn’t we standardize and keep the rules simple and essential” more like the Golden Rule and less like a law library?

      As for the writing, I’ve always said that not everyone HAS to be a writer. I can’t build a house or do brain surgery.

      Those who hate to write should stop torturing themselves. Basic reading comprehension and the ability to communicate clearly in writing are important and necessary skills, but do not demand that you write a book or a blog.

      Googling “how to write” or “how to blog” is avoidance of doing either of those things.

  2. Holly!

    Your Utopia is showing and it is a lovely place. The Internet, far from being a democratized landscape, populated with reasonable citizens, is more like a trainload of fiefdoms, jostling pell-mell down a track to who knows where.

    Netiquette has always been an ideal, preached from the pulpits…to the choir. We are nice to another, but that doesn’t stop trolls from sticking their hands out from under the bridges to trip us.

    As an entity, the Internet remains one of the most fascinating conduits for human experiences, both old and new, since Gutenberg. As with paper, digital media can be used to inform, entertain and exploit.


    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

    • You’re right, but wouldn’t one set of simple rules be easier to enforce? I’m not really advocating for a free for all, just…

      It’s like style guides for writers. Why not settle on one, generally speaking? If that one doesn’t cover an issue, add a supplement, but don’t start over.

      And it’s the very “preachiness” of “netiquette” that can be its downfall. The minute people can mock a “rule,” they all start to crumble. Like I said, God could have made do with “Be GOOD to each other.” The Golden Rule works well unless you’re a masochist. Trolls will ALWAYS be there. I’m just saying that we could simply that definition, too. Not everyone who challenges your thinking or fails to agree with you is a “troll.”

      Not everyone trying to promote their work or products on the Internet is a snake-oil salesman. We have grown ridiculously controlling (I think, to the point of aiding in the destruction of what makes the Web the Web, e.g. linking to good content, not recreating it) in response to the trash and noise.

      • Ah, I kind of missed one of your themes, which you clarify in the final paragraph of your comment, above.

        Do you remember the Ryze web community? It attempted to address self-promotion by allowing members to create specific forums for that purpose. That seemed to work well…for the community, but not so much for self-promoters, who found themselves awash in a sea of badly formatted classifieds. LOL “Trash and noise”, after all.

        Personally, I just think promotion and content do not mix. If I am reading War and Peace, I do not want a contextual ad for a game of Axis and Allies.

        Same thing with commercials on cable. What a farce! We PAID for ad-free television. What happened, there? (I’m not talking about self-promotion, in this case, which would be fine. I mean those horrible interruptions during riveting shows.)

        As for trolls, I also agree that differences of opinion is not a criterion for membership. But we know trolls when we see them, and their presence makes the web poorer.


        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

      • Still, there’s a big difference between the noise and crap and someone sharing an illustration in an appropriate context in a forum, where they’ve watermarked it with their social media hands or url.

      • I agree. See, on the one hand, there exist web customs that users accept by default. One of these is the so-called handle. Everyone seeks to be unique in the company of others and, it is no different when the social setting is digital in nature. Handles “mark” us. We know when Holly or Anklebuster is in the house. 🙂

        On the other hand, this very property makes handles irresistible to marketers. These folks subvert the spirit of the custom. Whether the handle is invoked in a forum signature, a user account name or embedded in the body of content, inappropriate use sparks annoyance at best and controversy at worst.


        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

      • Yes, but the issue here was a watermark, NOT EVEN A HYPERLINK. 😆

      • If the moderators who took umbrage at the “handle” don’t see the irony of accepting the copyright sign in lieu of the handle sign, that proves your point about the arbitrariness of it all.
        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

      • And do you find my hands picked Amazon links, in this post, annoying?

      • Nope. Didn’t notice them. 🙂
        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

      • Well now how am I supposed to keep my affiliate status over there?

      • “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Spammity Spam! Wonderful Spam!”

        Or not. LOL


        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Extra-Savory PerceptionsMy Profile

  3. Marian Allen says:

    Preach, sister! When I was teaching Creative Writing, I told my students there was one rule, and one rule only, that they MUST inevitably follow: Do whatever works.

    And, yes, be nice to each other. Unless we’re writing political satire. Then the gloves are off.
    Marian Allen recently posted…Calculating Poll Results #SnapshotSundayMy Profile

    • Yes! You get what I was trying to say. Too many arbitrary rules are antithetical to creativity and originality. I’m all for rules to keep people reasonably safe, and simple guidelines (like etiquette) so they understand cultural norms and don’t jam a foot down their own throat. But experimentation, mistakes, and the freedom to try things and share things – we NEED that.

  4. […] was this post by Holly Jahangiri titled Netiquette in the Nineties where she makes a good case for not reinventing the wheel when it comes to etiquette on the […]

  5. […] go a long way to counter this and ensure the well-being of us all. In last week’s post, Netiquette in the Nineties, I ranted aboutexpressed my frustration with the urge to control every little aspect of human […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: