Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Notes on blogging etiquette for artists

I thought I'd write a few words on blogging etiquette. I hope people find it helpful even if you're not new to blogging. Unfortunately, it's sad to say, but the people who breach the common courtesies on a regular basis probably aren't reading this or any similar post on any other blog!

Polly - Study#1
pen and sepia ink, 10" x 6.5"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
(see end for more info.)

The 'netiquette' on commenting on this blog was spelled out very early on and you'll find a link to my Comments Policy in the right hand column - in 'For your Information (just under the subscription box). I also developed a Blogroll Policy which means I've got something to refer people to if they ask me to link to their blog. Many other people include both of these areas in their notion of blogging etiquette.

This post deals with all the other aspects about which conventions and preferences have developed over time. I'm also linking to this post in my 'for your information' section in the right hand column.

Blogging principles and courtesies

Here are some suggestions as to some of the general principles and courtesies which make blogging a more enjoyable and less irritating experience for most artists.

  • ALWAYS Think before you blog. Always. This isn't a private journal - we're all reading it - and it's probably going to be around for a very long time! Remember that even if you delete your blog or a post that there are ways of retrieving previously published material. Bloggers tend to be both author and Editor which means that it's generally a good idea to develop the habit of reflection and take a little more time between writing and publishing.
  • ALWAYS Think before you comment. Many people find blogs for the first time because they follow comments back to their author and that person's blog. You're therefor representing your own blog and blogging practice while visiting and commenting on other blogs.
    • Think about who the blog author is and what sort of tone they set on their blog and aim to fit in with this.
    • Always stick to the topic. Long rambling comments which are completely irrelevant to the post don't get published on this blog - and my guess is others also do likewise.
    • If you want to be controversial and/or very much disagree then it's probably better to be more explicit about a topic on your own blog and then reference the post you saw and disagreed with. You can always then comment that you have a different perspective and have continued the debate on your own blog and provide a link.
  • ALWAYS Link to your sources and correctly attribute your references. This means if you read something on another blog or newspaper or journal first then always attribute that as the named source and give them a link. My only exception to this are things that are getting coverage across a range of sources at the same time because they are current "news" and the subject (eg an art gallery) probably issued a press release in the first place! In which case, link to the originating source even if you read it first in (say) a newspaper. You can always reference other good coverage of an event or item as well.
  • ALWAYS Correct errors after the event. For example: last week I realised I've been spelling somebody's name incorrectly from time to time and went through all my posts to correct every instance. Remember people read your posts for some time afterwards and might reference them elsewhere as 'this is how it's spelt/this is a fact/etc.'. Also remember that if you correct in a separate post then the correction might be separated from the original if this is accessed via a search engine.
  • NEVER spam. Spam comments appear completely random and include links to sites of no relevance to the blog and post in question. Don't post a comment on any old blog you come across and ask them to visit yours. However, so as not to frighten everybody off, I think it's OK to leave a link to a post on your blog if it's relevant to the topic of the blog post you are commenting on. What many people don't realise is that links left in comments on Blogger blogs are not indexed by Google in any case. Blogger codes them automatically as 'nofollow' to reduce spam which means they make no difference to your page-ranking in Google!
  • NEVER copy most or all of somebody else's blog post in full. This is called 'plagiarism' in polite society and 'stealing' when people aren't being quite so restrained.
    • Nobody is impressed with people who copy content in this way. It's what spam blogs do all the time. You risk having your blog eliminated from Google's index.
    • If a post you find is interesting then say so on your blog and provide a link and give the author and their blog the credit AND the traffic they deserve. 'Fair use' provisions only provide for short extracts from text.
    • Never ever do as one person did and copy one of my sketches simply to provide decoration or illustration for her blog post. Illustrated blogs are emphatically not an image resource!
  • NEVER ignore a request to remove any content you have copied. Even if you believe that yours is a 'fair use' within the terms of copyright law and guidelines, it's almost certainly best to remove first and then discuss the situation in a calm fashion.
  • NEVER ask somebody to link to your blog. If they want to link to you they will. Don't put people on the spot and/or make them indicate that they don't want to. Enough said?
  • NEVER attack a person on your blog. When I say don't attack I mean don't name call and/or otherwise say things which are not true or are defamatory.
    • The Internet is not the equivalent of some sort or 'wild west' in legal terms - the rules of libel apply to everything you write. This is not the same as expressing an opinion where you indicate and evidence the reasons behind your views. I also happen to think internet corporations (Google, eBay, Microsoft etc.) are in a different category to people and you'll come across a few rants about 'the powers that be' from time to time across the blogosphere. However evidencing the views you express is always a very sound rule.
    • If you are the victim of an attack then don't respond - attacks are often perpetrated by attention-seekers. Ignore them.
  • NEVER ever publish while under the influence of any alcohol or narcotic. I'm not saying don't write - I'm just suggesting it's a really, really good idea to wait until you wake up and/or are stone cold sober again before you publish your rant/rhyming couplets/analysis of what is wrong with the art world/whatever etc. In fact it's generally a good idea to take time out to reflect on your draft about anything controversial even if you have signed the pledge!
  • NEVER assume debate is welcome. While comments, suggestions and discussion may be very welcome, not every blog wants to be the venue for the expression of extreme and/or controversial views. See my comments policy for why this one blog doesn't court arguments or controversy.
  • Remember cultural perspectives vary. We may say or hear things in ways which don't 'fit' with the culture of the person listening or writing. If you feel offended for any reason, chances are that this is a cultural or style issue. For example, the English are often criticised for being more direct than others in the English-speaking world. If you feel offended remember you don't have to read a blog and it takes all sorts to make a world.
  • We all make mistakes from time to time. The important thing is to remember that errors are made mainly because of ignorance and sometimes because of plain stupidity and that we are all capable of making mistakes from time to time. The only people I am critical of are those who should know better and/or are just plain lazy! If you are the victim of somebody else's mistake I suggest you let them know to avoid repetition. If you are the person who has committed a mistake then it's a jolly good idea to say you're sorry as soon as you recognise what has happened.
  • Seek permission first before quoting more than a few lines or including images from other blogs.
  • Check a blog and its author before you comment for the first time. Hit and run commenting can lead to you looking silly. If you've never visited a blog before and want to comment, then I suggest you take a look round and look at the evidence that the blog presents. Checking out the blogger's profile is equivalent of 'introductions'
  • Reciprocal comments / e-mails are nice but not required. Remember we all have lives to lead and not everybody has time to reciprocate comments left on their blogs or e-mails that they are sent. That said it's nice if you do if you have the time.
  • Not everybody wants a critical comment on their artwork
    • people generally like to receive support for what they are doing - encourage where possible and acknowledge progress
    • Have a mind to what you're saying if commenting on artwork which is displayed 'for sale' - don't harm the chances of a sale.
    • Remember also that if all your work is for sale it's unlikely you'll ever get constructive feedback! By the same token don't ask for honest feedback and then feel hurt if people provide it.
    • If people are pondering process, then it's probably OK to make a suggestion - but I suggest that you get to know the person first. Try and see if they are asking for constructive criticism. When commenting in public it's good practice always to find something good to say as a minimum - or say nothing. You can always comment in a more direct way using e-mail if you feel that might be well received.
  • Warn people if something you post might offend them. My personal view is that it's generally better to be OTT in this area.
  • Don't whine. Or if you must, try to make sure you don't do it too often. Whining only loses you visitors. Have a whining pact with a friend instead - and do it in private!
  • Alterations after publication: The area where I find it most difficult to define 'good practice' comes in the area of alterations after publication.
    • I often find I need to correct grammar and spelling immediately after publication because of errors and omissions which I missed in the incredibly tiny drafting window provided by Blogger.
    • I also find I sometimes look back and realise I should have said something differently either because it's capable of misinterpration or creates the wrong impression.
    • My rule is to get amendments done within the hour and before the first comment. If I amend a blog post at a later date I generally provide a note like this [12th February - revised to include.....] unless it's something really minor like a spelling mistake I'd not spotted (and thanks to all those who point these out to me from time to time).
    • Also if I amend if after the first comment I leave a note in the comments as well.
Further Reading:

I hope you've found this interesting -it's certainly helped me review my own practices. If you're interested in the subject of Blog Netiquette then you'll find some links below which provide other perspectives on this topic. I'd be very interested to know about any other notes of this sort targeted at and for artists.

I reserve the right to update and amend these notes periodically - including the links section. Do please comment and suggest any improvements you can think of.

[Updated 13th February for some grammar and double negatives I missed yesterday!]

About the drawing
Polly is my Abyssinian cat. This is an initial study for a candidate for a work I'll be submitting to the SOFA exhibition in September. The aim this year is to try and get one or two works completed so that they can be considered for inclusion in the exhibition catalogue. I prefer to draw a study before I start and then I can work out how the pose works. It also means that I can save the pen and ink freehand drawing and try out different treatments in order to create a plan for the final work. I can now work with this particular image either as a print-out or as a digital file.


Blogging for Artists
Feline Art


  1. Hello Katherine. I think this is an incredibly helpful post. You've covered just about everything and some things I wouldn't have thought of, but are important. For example, cultural differences, viewpoints, ways of speaking,etc. And I love the drawing of Polly- wonderfully sensitive and soulful.

  2. yowza, that column has a lot of energy behind it. It's not easy interacting with the public. I hereby apologize for any mistakes I've made -- I'm sure there must be some. Your writing is truly valuable to this reader. best wishes for continued good energy in the blogosphere. great cat drawing!

  3. Thanks Deborah - some of this comes from over 2 years of blogging - it's not all easy to pick up at the beginning

    Laraine - like the notes say 'we all make mistakes from time to time' but I don't think you've made any mistakes.

    However I have been having one or two problems with other parties recently who've 'lapsed' in common courtesies which won't be immediately apparent to other people even if it is to me. I thought this might be a useful way of addressing them.

  4. Hello Katherine. Thanks for this post and your blog. I subscribe via RSS and devour every feed. As someone in his 40s who recently decided to pick up a sketch pencil again... not having done so since being a teen, I find your posts/comments about art and sketching inspirational; your comments on the intersection of art and blogging informative and insightful. I've got a loooong way to go and many basic skills to establish, but having fun along the way! Thanks for blazing a path!

  5. Like everyone else who has responded to this post....I too say "thanks Katherine". I don't think I have ever read anything that lies it all out this clearly. Like Laraine, I apologize for any mistakes I've made also but I always do my best to remain respectful to all.

  6. Your comments make sense Katherine. Life and etiquette in the ether will be an ongoing journey with both good and bad experiences.

    By setting the guidelines, it makes it easier for people to understand how their behaviour impacts the blogger and others who visit the blog.

    I think your drawing of Polly is lovely. Those eyes...its the look of disdain that only a cat can provide. :)

  7. Hi Katherine,
    funnily I am currently writing something about blogging also - before I went to yours to realize that you have covered this in total detail. Now I am not sure whether I shouldn't cancel my draft in order not to be considered as a plagiarist although I am merely talking about the polite side of blogging that seems to be ignored by a bunch of people. But what do I know about blogging...
    As a relative newbie (blogging only since June last year) I have the question for you that I am not sure how it should be dealt with if you publish photos which are clearly not your own? Let's say photos from books, catalogues etc. I realize that many many people do not even care about this issue and just take the photos and put them on their blogs - not as link but the photo itself. I have always thought this to be clear copyright infringement but I may be wrong here?

  8. Perfect post, Katherine -- I mean, really spot on. I'm linking it on my blog because I think it's something everyone wandering in the blogosphere should read.

  9. Katherine,
    thanks for taking the time to outline all the do's and don'ts
    It was helpful.
    I think a ot of the rules can be remembered by one basic rule that many of us follow as human beings...Treat others as you'd like to be treated.
    That would take care of most of it, right? (Not being rude, untruthful,...)

  10. TJ - I had a look at your blog - nice to see somebody focused on the natural world. Congrats on completing the first sketchbook!

  11. Melody - glad to hear you find it useful.

    I had to go searching when I initially started to put my comments policy together. There are a lot of unwritten 'rules' in the blogosphere. Given the quantity of techie stuff people have to get their heads around when they start blogging it's hardly surprising if people then tend to pick things up on the process side as they go.

    However I do remember feeling very grateful when I came across some posts which told me what's OK and what's not OK and I've tried to follow them ever since. I guess I'm trying to return the favour.

  12. Thanks Jeanette. This is Polly's look which means "I have you under my spell - you will go to the kitchen now and open that nice tin of food just for me before Cosmo wakes up"!

  13. Petra - why would you cancel your draft because somebody else has written about the same thing? You'd get my vote if you emphasised the polite side of blogging!

    Here are three reasons why you should not cancel:
    1) Like I said in the post and above I was very grateful to find people who offered their opinions of what was and was not OK.
    2) Although I'm appreciative of the way the readers of this blog are increasing all the time I definitely don't think I've reached everybody out there! Every blog has its own unique circle of readers.
    3) Some topics are of enduring interest - and some concepts are not new. It's a bit like painting eggs. I guess there is somebody out there who was the first one to do it - but who it was is lost in the ether. Should nobody else paint eggs because of that?

    To clarify - for me plagiarism is when somebody copies the text and adds nothing new or of value. It's also lazy blogging. At its worst it also creates spam blogs. Spam blogs "scrape" text from 'real' blogs to generate content for the browsers and the Google Ad Sense adverts they are invariably loaded with.

    Good blogging is a dialogue where we acknowledge and respond to things other people have said. So, for example, when writing blogs posts like this one, I always look around to see what other people have said before me and then link to their posts as well. It helps me to refine my views and it widens people's appreciation of the blogs out there. Take a look at my comments policy and you can see how it worked in relation to that.

  14. Petra - to comment on your second question - I see (or think I see) copyright infringement all the time on blogs

    Now the reason for adding that I "think I see" is because you don't know what a blogger has done before posting an image.

    For example, I write and ask other artists/bloggers if I can use their images on my blog. Lots of them express surprise to be asked - saying they've had all sorts of people rip off their images over time. They are generally very pleased to be asked and invariably give permission because they know that their images will be treated appropriately.

    Similarly I write to the press office and get press release images for some of the exhibitions in London

    So - bottom line - it's entirely possible that the images that you see are being used inappropriately. But it's also possible that permission has been given for their use.

    I generally look for the nature and level of accreditation given - it's a pretty good indicator of respect for the material of others.

  15. Jeanne - you hit the nail on the head!

    In my comments policy I indicate that

    "Essentially I want to run with a policy which is derived from and based on what has been referred to by Lisa Williams as the “Living Room Doctrine” and the principles of the “Friendly Stranger” and Rana’s “Benefit of the Doubt” "

    If you've got some benefit out of reading this post and comments so far, then you'll appreciate these links too.

  16. Very readable and useful post, Katherine. Sometimes my comments on blogs disappear and I spend anxious time wondering if I offended the blogger. I'm beginning to realise that often it is because I am moving too quickly and leave the comment section without waiting to see that I have filled in all the spaces and that my comment has been saved for blogger approval. Anyway I'm hoping that's the case.

    And isn't that Polly beautiful! Terrific sketch, I look forward to seeing this picture develop.

    I don't know how I'm going to break the news to Dermott that Cosmo has backup!

  17. That happens to me too sometimes - failure to hit the final button, but because you wrote it you think you also sent it!

    Of course it could just be that comments are being moderated and the individual hasn't dealt with them yet.

  18. This is very useful. Thanks so much! I would like to link this to a blog that I have just started for a regional artists guild. People are uncertain about participation, and this is such a thorough discussion.
    The blog is"It's in the BAG" www.liza389.vox.com
    Please let me know if that is okay.
    Thanks so much!

  19. Liza - that's absolutely fine - please do link to this post if you feel it will help other people. Also feel free to ask questions on any points you're not clear about

  20. Katherine, this is wonderful. I found the post through Clint Watson's newsletter because I've been so bad about visiting other blogs. But I'm so grateful for his mention of your post. I'll be sending people your way on my blog. Thank you!

  21. I'm very new at this blogging lark! I am an artist (printmaker mainly) and I've had a website for donkey's years. I have been considering starting a blog for a while but to be honest I wasn't really sure even what they were! I don't remember how I came across yours but it is incredible! So much information, so concisely written. I have tried being informative (but end up rambling), controversial (ditto) and my naive and clumsy attempts to get people to visit my website verge perilously close to spamming. How you manage to find time get any painting done as well is a miracle! I was thinking of asking for a link to my blog but I don't think really at the moment I have anything worth visiting. You seem to have covered all of the topics I would have attempted. I will probably concentrate in future on printmaking tips so maybe in a few months time I would be worthy of a link? Meanwhile keep up the good work and I will certainly link to you!
    Cheers Colin

  22. Thank you Alyson

    Colin - we're all unique and have our own individual perspectives on different things. Put simply, it doesn't matter how times a subject gets covered you'll always find something new to say.

    Unless people blatantly copy that is - of which there is rather too much for my liking.

    I do projects during the year, other people sometimes join in - and they often find things out which I didn't know and I learn from them. Sharing is good!

  23. Imagine my chagrin when I came across a whole blog on the order of pastel, and my very own pastel tray appeared as the banner!

  24. Just found this post-thank you very much. I have just begun blogging and this is very helpful.

  25. Thank you for this excellent article! It has been a great help to me as a new blogger. This information has saved me from lots of potential mistakes. Everything on the list was a great help, expecially the emphasis on editing thoroughly before publishing. Do you have any more tips? Thanks!

  26. Thanks Dustin - I took a quick look at your blog. I'd switch your text to the left and the blogroll column to the right. When people scan read they scan down the left hand side of the page. If you put your text on the right it's quite likely they'll read less.

  27. I was wondering just that...weather to have sidebar on the left or right. I changed it back to being on the right like you say. It was kind of aukward on the left. I really really appreciate the feedback on my blog. It's new and I've been doing a lot of tweaking trying to get just the right look. Thanks!

  28. Hi Katherine, I am late coming to your post as it was just kindly pointed out to me by another artist (after I had made a post and poll last night on the question of Blogging Protocol).

    Thank you for the in-depth information, and with your permission I will link to your article in a future post.

    Your artwork is gorgeous, as well!

  29. Thanks for such a useful and informative post. I'm just starting out blogging and its good to know the etiquette as a newbie. Many congrats on the blog, its a joy to read :-)

  30. Thank you for this post. I think (no, I know) I have made a few such mistakes in the short while I have been blogging. Your blog is very helpful in so many ways!

  31. Thank you so much for this informative and comprehensive article, which I am now going to print out and file in my "essential info" folder! As a newbie blogger, I am just starting to feel my way. This helps a great deal.

  32. Agree with everyone above that this is very useful, and the cat drawing is fab.

    Nothing else to add, really. Please carry on the good work . . .

  33. Thank you for a good solid post about things that I, as a newbie to blogging need to know - only been doing this about 5+ months and would appreciate any critique that would be helpful.

  34. In case anybody else misunderstands, this thread is not a place to request blog critiques.

    Generating content for a blog is always a good place to start Lynne. Keeping comments "on topic" when commenting on another blog is also much more likely to generate a comment on your blog.

  35. Excellent post thanks for sharing.I have been blogging for just over a year now,and wish I had seen this useful information earlier.Really useful!

  36. I’m new to blogging and am using another platform at the moment. Your blog provides a wealth of useful advice and food for hought, many thanks. Rebecca


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