The unwritten rules of blogging

Image by Banksy

The great thing about blogging is the amazing people you get to meet both online and offline. The blogging community is about respect, sharing and being generous with content. Its the same with Twitter, its all about free information and passing it on to other like minded people. This can be difficult for some traditional media people to get their heads round, as they tend to think of content in terms of policing, ownership and property. In the print/real world these terms are still relevant and its possible to control who uses what, but in the online world it is very very difficult to apply these rules.

Yesterday I had an email from a photographer I had featured on the blog two years ago. I had been sent an invitation to her private view and given a copy of her book, a press release and a CD with images. I loved the exhibition and featured it on our blog, crediting her work, book and linking to her website.

We try where ever we can to credit images and usually use pictures that relate to the topic we are blogging about. We have many lovely emails from artists, designers, shops etc etc, thanking us for featuring them. Having worked for a global online business to business trend service for many years we both realise the importance of crediting images and linking to the original source of an idea or reference. And as a former designer I realise how frustrating it can be when someone begs/borrows or steals your ideas.

So when I received a furious (and rude) email asking me to remove the image, I apologised and offered to take it down, but explained how I had obtained the picture and how I thought it would be ok as I was essentially promoting her work. It turns out the exhibition was run in conjunction with a campaign to promote a charity, which unfortunately I had had somehow missed. Understandably the photographer was frustrated by this and had I known I certainly would have mentioned it.

Indirectly, I am sure we did help the campaign (in some small way) as I know several people who made a special trip to see the exhibition and bought the book – and several other bloggers wrote about it – all because of our post.

We have found that somehow the bloggers code of conduct is almost self regulating. No-one has formally laid out a set of rules, but somehow we all know what they are. I realise it may not be the case for all bloggers – but certainly the ones we know.

  • Credit where credits due – always link to the original source where possible
  • Don’t be bitchy or horrible – if you don’t like something, either be funny or say nothing
  • Don’t pretend an idea is your own if its not (or an image).
  • Be honest if you are trying to promote or sell something – in fact be honest about everything!
  • Be true to yourself and write about subjects that you love and engage your readers.

When it comes to images, as far as we know it is not illegal to use images as long as they are credited and you’re are not making money from them (which we can assure you we are not!) but if anyone knows more about this, let us know, as it’s a bit of a grey area.

For writers, designers, artists and photographers must be difficult to see your work all over the internet, but isn’t it a double edged sword? As I keep telling my son who is an aspiring photographer and gets very possessive about his work, it’s all good PR and people will find you if your work is good. Look at Banksy. It’s not about ego!


  • Lilac says:

    Some great wisdom in this post, thank you.

  • There is never any excuse for rudeness, even if you are frustrated. My understanding is, that use of images (other peoples) as a basis for commentary is legal, whereas using them for promotion or sale is not. The area is indeed very hazy, and the print and online worlds are operating quite differently at the moment. We are in a time of change!

  • Zoe says:

    You can't please all of the people all of the time!
    And now I'm thinking…is that someone famous' phrase?, am I allowed to use it? etc etc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Z xx

  • Yikes, poor you. The same thing happened to us with a very rutheless, outspoken, rude and harassing male photographer who, it turned out, seemed to be spending 60% of his time pursuing half of the international blogging community in the same way. Crazy. I don't know how he found the time to do any real work.

  • Thank you for sharing this post. I have just started to twitter on behalf of our new business and I worry every time I post that I'm breaking some unwritten law of twittering etiquette! Now it appears there are other things to worry about as well – who said social media was easy!!

  • Sorry to hear about your experience with the photographer, and I couldn't agree more. I try to credit whenever I can and coming from up north, believe honesty is the best policy. Also, I never understand why people bother to leave bitchy/nasty comments – if you don't like it go away and read something else!

  • jane says:

    Thanks for all your supportive comments. Its such a grey area, that all we can do is try to have some integrity and make the rules up as we go along. I just hope I don't have to encounter such a rude and angry person again for a long time – scary!
    J x

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