Basic Blogging Etiquette, Do’s And Don’ts, Plagiarism

I don't usually post to my blog on Tuesdays but this is not the usual kind of post - I'm in the midst of trying to resolve a nasty issue regarding the plagiarism of one of my articles (swiped from right under my nose within 24 hours of posting!) and I'm not a happy person today. So I thought it's time for one of those Admin/Miscellaneous posts.

I have been blogging since April'07 but still consider myself new and have a great deal to learn. And I've learnt a lot from many other bloggers, blog discussions and picking up blog tips along the way.

I'm no expert but I can list out briefly here what I've learnt which will be applicable for the average blogger who knows little about how things work in blogsphere. It's a jungle out there, folks! Don't be ignorant and get eaten up!

I'll cover the following in this lengthy post -
1) Dos and don'ts in blogsphere;
2) Helpful widgets and steps to protect your blog's content; and
3) How do you know if your copyrighted article / photos have been plagiarized.

I've discovered since I started blogging that it's not possible to
be a lone ranger. If you had started your blog as a private diary and you're satisfied with three visitors a day: your mother, your boyfriend and your cat, then I supposed it's fine to be alone and friendless.

However, the majority of bloggers blog for as wide an audience as possible, and many bloggers desire to make money from their blogs as well. They want visitors. We want visitors. Now that you are a newbie in the world of blogging, what do you do? What should you NOT do?

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Blogging etiquette, do's and don'ts in the blogging world - These are some very simple rules every blogger ought to know, otherwise you might piss someone off or get into real trouble.

Four Do's

Number one: Do fellowship with other bloggers. You can do this in blog discussions or by visiting other blogs every now and then. These may or may not be blogs in your own niche. I've learnt a great deal from many, many blogs and so can you, and what you learn will make you a better blogger.

Number two: Do join a blog community, and check out other bloggers and follow discussion threads. After joining blogcatalog, I lurked for a while to check things out, and occasionally participated with my two-cents worth of opinion. I've found many bloggers here to be very friendly and helpful. When I discovered my plagiarized article, one of the first things I did was to yell for help at blogcatalog, and many experienced bloggers came to the rescue and responded quickly with good advice, links and some shared their own experiences. In the same way, do step forward if someone else needs help and you have the expertise. It doesn't take a lot to encourage someone, or slip them a useful link if you have one.

Number three: Do try to comment on blogs you have visited. A simple line or two will surely encourage the blog owner who has put in much effort in the content, and makes the day a lot pleasanter for everyone too. Blog owners should make it easy for visitors to leave their comments. Asking them to log in with password is a bit too much.

Number four: Bloggers love to have other bloggers link to their sites. It increases their blog's technorati authority rank and Google Pagerank. Linking is different from plagiarism. In my recent post on Vibe, I linked to their blog so that you can simply click on it to go there, but I did not copy their content for my own post. So, if you can, do link to related blogs in your posts, or list out links in blogrolls on your sidebar.

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Four Don'ts

Number One: When commenting on other blogs or leaving messages on their tag boxes, please don't type in many urls after your comment, such as - "Hi, I like your article. Please check out my blogs xxxxxxx.com yyyyyy.com zzzzzzz.com aaaaaa.com" One url is ok. Two may be tolerable for a few bloggers, not for many others. Three or more is way too many. Please do not spam.

Number Two: When I read something I don't agree with, I generally tell it to my computer screen or shake my fist at it sometimes, but I keep my fingers off the keyboard. Don't shoot off thoughtless comments like - "Your Wordless Wednesday entry is simply crap. What a stupid photo!" While constructive criticism (if asked for) or corrections (if the blogger is genuinely in error) are welcomed, if you can't say it in a civilized manner and stay away from personal attacks, please don't even start. Nobody will benefit from your tirade, and everybody will know you're an idiot.

Number Three: Don't ignore comments visitors make on your blog posts. If they had taken the time to say something about a particular post, it is always polite to acknowledge them. If it is not possible to reply to every single comment individually, do make it known. Your visitors should not be made to feel that they had come a-calling at your house only to find no one at home. If they come several times and find the same thing, they may get discouraged eventually and stop visiting. I track new comments easily via a Recent Comments widget on the sidebar, and all comments are also delivered to my e-mail, and I'd like all visitors who made comments to know that I do read and appreciate your replies!

Number Four: Don't plagiarize other blogs' content. The word means - don't copy other blogs' articles, photos, video clips and other content and place it on your own blog. Even citing and/or linking to the source - "The above article is from XXX's blog" or translating the article into another language for your own blog is not acceptable. Many bloggers spend a lot of time on content and are passionate about their blogs. I know a talented 12-year-old blogger from India who writes original stories and poems and she spends a great deal of time writing. Not long ago, she found one of her poems on another person's blog (Ooh, someone actually stole from a child?? Yup!) However, with help from other bloggers, she resolved the issue quickly, and now she has made suggestions to help me resolve the same problem I have.

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Five useful widgets and blog tips -

Number One: Do install this widget or a similar one that tracks Recent Comments.

Number Two: Statcounter - I installed this and tracked where my visitors come from. Be afraid, be very afraid, I know where you come from! You can try it, or else there are several other counters, such as Google Analytics which you can also use.

Number Three: Take reasonable steps to protect your blog content from plagiarism. When I first started my blog, I had no idea how to do this until a few weeks later. I subscribed to copyscape.com, and placed a big Do Not Copy button on my sidebar. But I guess it's not big enough, huh, since my article got stolen anyway!

Number Four: Use your photo editing software to stamp a watermark on all your photos before putting them online. It does take time to do that if you have lots of photos but at least it identified these photos as Mine if they should ever appear anywhere else. Otherwise one day, if you find your photos somewhere else but there's no identifying watermark, how can you proof that those pictures were really yours in the first place?

Of course do take note that despite the above precautions, thieves can still come in and help themselves to your stuff, but a little deterrent is better than none. We lock our doors and windows, but unfortunately some of us still get visited by burglars.

Number Five: And last but not least, here's a useful, great article from Chris which I read today, comparing blogs to bringing up babies.

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How to find out if your content has been stolen - On Saturday afternoon, I posted a new article entitled Recent Koh Kong Trip, with three photos I had taken myself, which I was quite happy with. On Sunday evening about 24 hours later, I discovered a copy of the article in its entirety (including the photos) plus a foreign language translation. How did I that find out so quickly? There are various ways to track down plagiarism, which I shall share here, but this happened quite by accident.

I go to technorati.com every now and then to check who links to my blog. By accessing this page and typing in my blog url in the Search box, a list of the latest blogs with links to my blog will appear.

As explained earlier, it's ok to link to other blogs. However, I was suspicious about the foreign language link because not only did I see the link to my blog, I also saw a translation of the title of my article and the last lines of my article. If it was a simple link, I would not see these things! I clicked on the link to the foreign blog. Initially I had some trouble getting in and couldn't see anything, but after repeated attempts and asking for help from a few friends, I discovered it. There it was - my whole article and photos reprinted there.

Another way to track down plagiarism is to do a search on Copyscape.com. However, I'm only using their free service, and the search is limited. If you are serious about ensuring that your content is not plagiarized at all times, it may be a good idea to subscribe to Copyscape's paid premium service. Do check out what sort of protection they offer at their website.

A third way is to google your own articles by typing in an uncommon search phrase, but this only works if your blog and the plagiarist's blog have both been spidered by Google's search engine and will show up on the first page.

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What to do if your content has been stolen - I'm still in the midst of figuring this out and exploring some options, but I have done / will probably do the following -

Number One: I have sent a comment to that particular article to let the blog owner as well as all readers of that article know that it was stolen from me, and that I'm asking [as politely as possible, at this stage] to have it, and all my photos, removed immediately.

Number Two: If the blog owner does not do anything, the next step is probably to send another comment, a stronger one, with veiled threats.

Number Three: My third step - writing this unbelievably long admin post, which I hope will be stumbled-upon to as wide a readership as possible to warn other bloggers about this increasingly common occurrence.

Number Four: I've also been directed to a useful blog on dealing with plagiarism, and you can go there and learn from it too. Other bloggers have told me there's nothing much I can do and let it be. Well, we'll see.

Number Five: Other actions to take - a) collect evidence. I've made screenshots of the German page to keep as evidence. b) trace the IP address. With Statcounter installed, I can make an educated guess where the plagiarist is from. I have discovered the city, country, time, IP and name of ISP, and so another alternative may be to write to the ISP to complain.

If you have anything to add, feedback or your own experiences to share, please comment. This article is not for probloggers but for us simple folk, especially newbies, just trying to make the world a better place with our blogs.

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Links to this post:

Blogging And Blog Commenting Etiquette
Blogging Etiquette
Weekly Digest Lorelle Recovers
Plagiarism And Fears
The Do's And Don'ts Of Blogging
The Do's And Don'ts From BloggingNotes.Nets
The Do's And Don'ts
Who's Making A Mark This Week

16 comments - add a comment: to “ Basic Blogging Etiquette, Do’s And Don’ts, Plagiarism

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  • Meghna
    Tue Oct 23, 11:02:00 am  

    A very good article on do's and don'ts of blogging. You have given many useful tips like new bloggers like me.
    Also thank you for mentioning about my gesture about sharing with you how I resolved an issue on copyright. It was the need of the hour. I feel we all should help each other such situations. Thanks to people there at Blogcatalog who help people like me and you!

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  • Kat
    Tue Oct 23, 11:13:00 am  

    Thanks for the great information. I recently started a blog and wasn't aware this kind of stuff was going on. I am going to check out all the websites you mention so I can protect myself too! Thank you!

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  • Deb
    Tue Oct 23, 06:42:00 pm  

    Meghna, actually, heheh! I go to your blog a few times but never made any comment yet. Have to remind myself to do so next time! Kat, I was aware of these kind of stuff going on, but never thot it will happen to me. Sniff!

  • Ackworth Born
    Wed Oct 24, 02:56:00 pm  

    good article. If your work was snitched within 48 hours it is almost certain that someone is subscribing to rss feeds on a keyword and they'll be reprinting all manner of posts. I'd a huge spate of these things a little while ago - they appeared in my links and were all variants of something that looked like a guide to hotels. They seem to have died now. How much of a real threat they are I'm not sure - it is copyright infringement really not plagiarism. Like spam emailers these folk can be hard to track and personally I don't have the energy to do so.
    People who pinch photos or pass off writing as their own are a different matter and should be told that their behaviour is unaccetable. I could recount several personal experiences but this comment is already long and I'm waiting for the milkman to come [he's late this morning] so I can get my breakfast. Cheers.

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  • Jonathan Bailey
    Thu Oct 25, 12:26:00 am  

    First off, this is a very good post, a lot of great information here and many of these dos and don'ts should probably be converted into an easily memorizable song or poem for others to hold on to.

    However, I wanted to talk with you about your personal incident and offer to help. I'm sorry to hear that your continent was ripped off so badly and, as someone who has stopped over 600 plagiarists in the past six years, I know well what you are going through.

    One thing you're going to want to look at is filing a DMCA notice with their host and quickly. The sooner you do it, the better. If you need help finding the host, you can email me the information and I'll look it up, I also have some stock letters on my site that can help.

    I don't think that posting comments will help much. If this site is an RSS scraper, which I suspect, they don't even read comments as it is automatically generated. Your best best it to hit them at their advertising and at their host, both by using the DMCA.

    Once again, if I can help, please let me know. I'll gladly do what I can.

    Take care and good luck!

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  • czecho
    Thu Oct 25, 03:41:00 am  

    Love your post, great information especially for us newbies. But frankly I am surprised that you consider yourself a newbie, you seem very knowledgeable and resourceful.

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  • Chris
    Thu Oct 25, 04:59:00 am  

    Great article and thanks for the link

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  • Deb
    Thu Oct 25, 09:37:00 pm  

    Thanks, Chris, Czecho, that's very encouraging for me. If I seem knowledgeable and resourceful that's because of all the lessons I learnt at BC from u guys & many others, and surfing other blogs. To Ackworth Born and Jonathan, thanks so much for your feedback... there was so much to look into I had to print out your comments to highlight keywords, etc. Jonathan, I've sent u an email. Thanks again!

  • Angry Jenny
    Mon Oct 29, 09:10:00 am  

    Awesome post! I have learned that I have to be very careful with my original artwork that I have put up on the web. Thanks so much!

    www.stopapathynow.blogspot.com

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  • Deb
    Sat Nov 03, 11:00:00 pm  

    An update on the situation: After contacting Jonathan and receiving his advice, I've filed a DCMA notice with Google about the theft, and am now keeping my fingers crossed.

  • AnneTanne
    Sun Nov 04, 03:02:00 am  

    I really wonder if that 'Copyscape'thing is worth a dime...
    On my website and my blog, I have a Creative Commons License, so I don't really mind 'copying', as long as I'm given credit. But I was curious, and did a search with copyscape. They search a page I do now has been copied a few times (and those copies are still online) so I don't think I trust other negative results.
    A better method is probably just to perform a google search on one or two sentences that come directly from your blog...

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  • Eric Cumberworth
    Sun Nov 04, 09:40:00 pm  

    Deb,

    That must have really been aggravating to have your content stolen (and even translated). If one good thing came out of this it was your article. I too am new to the blogosphere having just started last month and so I've been looking for good tips.

    -Eric

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  • Katherine
    Tue Nov 06, 09:22:00 am  

    If the stolen article is surrounded by Google Ads then I indicate that I shall be reporting the matter to Google - and then do. Basically they're then making money off your work and there's a word for that.

    However if it looks like a spam blog (ie it's nothing but a harvest of lengthy blog posts from various un-related blogs) then don't comment and do report them to Google (re removal from the index) and their host (re breach of terms and conditions) using the DMCA notice. I've not yet had to report to the domain name registrar but it's sometimes worth doing a 'whois' query to check that one out and have it up your sleeve for next time.

    The most effective thing I've done to cut out spam blogs from ripping off an entire post is to switch to a short feed. This cuts down on the words, makes you less vulnerable and elminates the original artwork and images.

    People who know me don't mind and those that do don't after I explain why I've had to do it!

    However this was before Feedblitz decided that it would be "such a good idea" [my heavy irony] to keep a big corporate customer happy by including all the images in the short feeds. They've not yet had the courtesy to respond to my e-mail pointing out why this is not a such a brilliant idea re the prevention of spam blog ripoffs and asking them to remember that circulation of original work should be at the owner's discretion and should not be at the discretion of the feed service.

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  • Rod Templeton
    Wed Nov 07, 04:50:00 am  

    Thanks very much for an informative article. I wish that everyone subscribed to these rules of etiquette, but I also know that that's not very realistic.

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  • Catherine
    Sun Nov 18, 09:14:00 am  

    *hits the bookmark button*

    Thanks for such an informative post!

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  • Illusion
    Wed Nov 21, 09:12:00 pm  

    It's possible to be ultra-frank. Plagiarists are lazy lumps who can't think up anything on their own. So they think that it's perfectly alright to copy someone else's stuff. I wonder what kind of pleasure they get out of seeing stat counters go into the sky...

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