Friday, February 01, 2008

Upright and Uptight

Robert Harris,
oil on board, 1886,
National Gallery of Canada.

When I first began blogging over two years ago, it was considered improper and even excessively bad mannered to post an invitation on a personal blog for others to visit your blog.

Dismissive of the post topic as well as the host blogger. Up-staging. Hi-jacking.

Rude n' crude.

From what I've seen lately on various sites, that may have changed.

A new generation of bloggers seem to view all blogs as public message boards, as if blogs were a supermarket bulletin board where anyone and everyone can post an advertising flyer with those little tear-off phone numbers, offering babysitting, free kittens, or a motor bike for sale.

For example, the recent fuss that erupted in comments about critiques of the Surprising Essential First Page Challenge entries at Nathan Bransford's blog could have been so easily avoided if the various enthusiastic critiquers had had the courtesy to approach Mr. Bransford first.

He does have an e-mail.

After all, it was his blog, his contest, and the entries, while visible to all and sundry for comment and criticism, were directed to him.

No doubt he would have been happy to post a list of sites eager to give their opinion on the entries.

Then there would have been no need for anyone to assert freedom of speech, the need for thick skin, or for entrants to express umbrage, resentment, etc.

Of course, anyone is free to comment on any or all of the entries, though one should seek permission from the individual author if s/he intends to quote or reproduce.

One should also bear in mind that some entrants might consider a gratutious critique intrusive, since the object of the exercise was not a free-for-all critique.

And, of course, if they posted their entry on their own blog, one would be free to drive-by and make one's opinion known.

To me, the kerfuffle arose largely out of the direction of the linkage, from Bransford to the critiques, not from the critiques to Bransford's site.

Clearly, I'm old-fashioned in this regard.


Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

...Son in IT remarked recently 'If its published on the net nowadays its public property' - and subject to colliding world views.

Bernita said...

I disagree with his opinion, Julie.

BernardL said...

MSN uses the public property disclaimer on everything written on their sites too. Courtesy and common sense are endangered concepts nowadays. I wish it weren't so, Bernita; but as you stated, things have changed. Our words out here are open to be used and abused whether we like it or not. Good post.

Jaye Wells said...

I think what's disappointing is how often just for fun contests done with generous intentions ends up with some people behaving as this is an elementary school playground. The bullies and the whiners always ruin the fun.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bernard.

Exactly, Jaye. It's the competitive climate I suppose.

spyscribbler said...

I disagree strongly with Son's (above) opinion, too. That's a dangerous trend of thinking, one that can cause lots of problems in the future.

And I don't blame Son in particular, btw. It seems to be a prevailing opinion of that generation. I'm pretty sure they outnumber us on theweb, but still.

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess it never occured to me that what you posted publically would be exempt from critiques by anyone who read it and cared to comment.

It also seems to me that folks should be appreciative of the feedback, even if they don't find it helpful.

JLB said...

I love your metaphor of the "drive-by opinion" Bernita - I've seen a few messy drive-bys on blogs from time to time. Occasionally I like to offer artists respectful critiques on their blogs (but I also usually look around first to see if my opinion has actually been solicited).

And just to echo the others: I too disagree with the notion that works published online are automatically considered public domain. As much as I value the sharing of artistic ideas, I think it's important to respect copyrights.

Josephine Damian said...

Bernita, I have not been by Nathan's blog since it turned into a major cluster fuck, and frankly don't intend to return.

I lectured him in private - it was his choice not to listen to me.

But I think if he had to do it all over again, he'd do things differently.

I just hope anyone who participated realized that getting a cursory glance from an agent who only has a few seconds to decide on merit because of the sheer volume of entries, isn't getting a true and fair evaluation. Nathan should have limited it to 100-200 entries, that way he could have at least given each entry the time and attention it deserved, and not made a decision with bleary eyes and a fried brain.

Lessons learned for everybody.

Bernita said...

A very dangerous trend, Natasha, I agree.

Charles, I think it was the venue method as much as anything that got some entrants backs up.
If critiques had been posted on Nathan's blog in comments, I don't think there would have been a whisper of complaint.

Thank you,JLB.
Indeed, copyright and intellectual property rights don't magically cease to exist just because the means and medium of display have changed.

Bernita said...

Adequate ground rules might have saved a lot of frustration for those entered, Josephine.
I was surprised he didn't end up with a thousand entries.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

"I too disagree with the notion that works published online are automatically considered public domain." Ditto, for me, though I do believe that you are "subject to colliding world views"--a nice way to put that.

In the US, anyway, the law as I understand it (this is from our E-spec attorney, but I may have misinterpreted) is that as soon as the words are written they belong to the author...until the point of sale for rights to publish. That's why posting a Copyright on your work is so amatuerish--you already own it, by virtue of having written it. Caveat--IDEAS cannot be copyrighted, FYI. So that's the stuff to keep close to your vest.

It's common practice and courtesy to ask permission or notifiy someone when repeating their words, whether it's electronic or paper. And your son in IT is majorly wrong on one count--the many magazines and publications that even post for free to the net are still not up for grabs. That'd be like saying that copy from one of those free local magazines can be printed elsewhere without permission.

raine said...

I have to agree with you, Bernita.

Plain old netiquette always dictated that, if you posted an invite on someone else's blog to visit your blog, it was a tacky intrusion, amounting to little more than spam.

If Mr. Bransford had invited critters to link FROM his site, it might be a different story, and the entrants would've been aware and prepared. But it seems like this amounted to little more than seizure and assault. A little consideration would've gone a long way toward avoiding this.
But maybe common courtesy is a thing of the past. Claiming a first amendment right to gangster your way onto someone else's blog? Phffft.

Dave F. said...

Nathan's offer was that if we post 500 words (the first page, more or less), he would pick what he thought were the best. It's a contest offer.

Nathan never said "you'll get a critique" or "you'll get published." He never said anything about other websites. AND THAT, is crucial.

The writer submitting the first page never agreed to anything but Nathan reading and picking the ones he liked (or thought were good). The writer didn't agree to have the work publicly critiqued or cross-referenced.

That's the point to remember. If one of us submits to criticism at EE's Blog or Electra's Crapometer or (when it was active) Miss Snark's Crapometer, then we know that we will be criticized. Nathan didn't offer any critique, the writers submitting to his contest didn't agree to that.

You can't change the circumstances in the middle. At least that's the way I look at it.

And writing on the internet still retains copyright. My work does not cease to be my work when I post it.

Savannah Jordan said...

There is a distinct lack of decorum in blogland these days. I usually stay far away from anything that stinks of personal attack, or erroneous public opinion. And believe me, I've had my dander up and had a mouthful of venom, but I never spew in public--it's not ladylike, or adult.

I agree with Jaye. Unfortunately, with the 'free reign' concept in the blogging world, the elementary mentality wrecks it for many of us.

SzélsőFa said...

I'm on an email list where women talk about various problems of their lives. Like transportation, job, marriage, children, doctors and so on.
A, one of the members has a blog and she quoted another member, let's call her B. Practically A used the B's words and now her blog is featured by one of the biggest news sites in Hungary.

The way B got to know about it is when girlfriend C asked B about her marriage problems.
C read about it on the internet.

B intended it for a safe, closed email group and it ended up to be available to anyone.

Bernita said...

More or less as I understand it, too, SS.

"A little consideration would've gone a long way toward avoiding this."
I agree, Raine. Especially since the same question came up in the first paragraph contest.

An excellent point, and very well expressed. Thank you, Dave!

"a distinct lack of decorum"
That delicately put, Savannah. Sometimes it's more like the World Wrestling Federation.

That's a dreadful story, Szelsofa.

The Anti-Wife said...

Even when the rules are clearly written, some people ignore them. It makes for an unpleasant situation for many people.

Chumplet said...

I never thought of it that way. I'm pretty sure I haven't committed such a faux pas, except for mentioning in my book on occasion. However, any comments I made were in direct correlation with the post involved.

Steve Malley said...

I remember once reading a David Brin novel (whose title I forget) set in a future without privacy, where most everyone was on camera most all of the time. Oddly (to me, at the time), everyone in the book was pretty genial about it and just got on with life.

This would've been in the 80's I read it, and like so much science fiction back then, I never would've dreamed I'm living it.

Privacy is a changing cultural value, and in our society, it's changing FAST.

Bernita said...

So true, AW.

I'm pretty sure you haven't committed faux pas, Sandra.

A lot of boundaries and values are changing, Steve.

writtenwyrdd said...

I wasn't even aware of this because I was too daunted by the mass of entries to read Nathan's contest entries or comments. But I think Bernardl has it right, that courtesy and common sense are in short supply these days. I mean, linking in Nathan's comments to their own critiques is rude, considering no one asked their opinion(s).

Bernita said...

I thought it was on the pushy side, Written.
And though many entrants are happy to have critiques, Dave's point about the conditions under which people submitted is valid.

LadyBronco said...

I don't see you as old-fashioned at all Bernita.

When someone tries to advertise their blog in the comments section of my blog, it is cause for immediate deletion. (Not that I have tons of visitors - it's the principle of the matter.)

Not only is it rude, but it really annoys the hell out of me.

December/Stacia said...

I saw a little of this last time I checked Nathan's blog but missed the whole thing--I just saw his post about people doing their own critiques and didn't have time to look through it all.

It's rude to do your own crits on your site. It's very rude to use someone else's blog to advertise your own (unless you've either been invited or in other special circumstances. I've posted links to my publishing series in other blogs, where the original blogger was asking about eplublishing. But in those cases I felt--and I hope I'm not wrong--that it was actually adding to the conversation, since the OP asked.)

The blogverse is getting ruder, and less fun than it was even a couple of years ago. I still like blogging and will continue to do it, but I don't have as much fun popping around and checking out new blogs as I used to. It seems like everyone has an axe to grind now and nobody wants to consider other peoples' feelings.

Sam said...

I'm quite careful about what I post - because the internet is public it's akin to standing on the soapbox and shouting your opinions.
I'm prepared to have dissenting views posted on my own blog - though I can't say I find it particularly Polite, because it's also a bit like your house - your blog is in a way your house, and guests ought to show their manners.

Bernita said...

Lady B, at times I feel decidedly old-fashioned and out of date.

December, you've always been most courteous and considerate.

I try to be careful too, Sam, bearing in mind I might unintentionally give affront.
And I'm glad that rude comments have been a rarity on my blog.

cyn said...

it's a big bad internet world out there, and there is no concensus on etiquette. esp since we're talking about a world wide audience affected by different cultures and norms.

if i thought cell phone etiquette has gone down the toilet (please don't talk while you're squatting in a public restroom, thanks!), then internet etiquette is even worse.

you really never know what will happen to your words or your images (i'll post my own mug online pubilcally, but not my immediate family's anymore). you don't know who is looking at your site, you don't know anything about anyone hiding behind the monitor.

i've even known cases of "faking" online identities. i may not be who i present myself to be--and it's the sad truth.

it's a lot to think about, and be leery of. i met my love online thanks to the internet. but there's the dark side of the www age, too.

Ello said...

Interesting discussion. I actually didn't think it was rude or problematic to have bloggers critiquing people's submissions on their own blogs. As far as I'm concerned it is no different then a blogger commenting on American Idol contestants. If after reading 500 entries, they feel like they want post their opinion about it on their own blog, I personally didn't see the harm. I was actually surprised by the hoopla.

On the other side, I completely see what you are saying and agree that before critiques were made, Nathan should have been contacted first. But I don't agree with Dave because the practical side of me says these submissions were made onto a very public forum for any and all to see and comment on. Of course the original copyright owner still retains copyright, but copyright protection does not preclude criticism. And anything and everything is open for criticism. That doesn't mean it was done in good taste, but it could be done.

the more interesting comments I saw and which you also alluded to was the idea of highjacking readers to your own blog by doing the criticisms. People have different opinions and I didn't think there was anything really wrong with it because I couldn't believe anyone in their right mind would actually read through all of those pages and agree to critique them who was not Nathan. Part of me admired their gumption and if they won over new blog readers with such hardword and determination, I thought that would be great too. Cause honestly I read maybe a handful and had to stop, I found it so overwhelming!

Lana Gramlich said...

Although I'd joined some groups via one of my blog directories, all of the post there are for link exchanges--aka a complete waste of time. Not to mention, too, that so many people are completely incapable of following directions, even when they're right in front of their faces. Not long ago an argument on one blog spilled over into my (& other peoples') comments--and I had absolutely NOTHING to do with the argument at all. Needless to say I deleted the comment. Blogs are cool, but also have annoying aspects.

Bernita said...

Cyn, I've always assumed there are a lot of fake identies on the net, well beyond the mere use of pseudonyms, which are understandable. (particularly because of the fake identities!)

You share the attitude of the majority of bloggers,Ello.

Bernita said...

"so many people are completely incapable of following directions, even when they're right in front of their faces."

Lana, that is so true!
Agents constantly report queries outside their clearly specified interests. Yet, writers are supposed to be literate.
The problem, in part, is that people skim, they don't read.

Lana Gramlich said...

Bernita; Exactly true--people don't read, they skim. I saw proof of this again yesterday, when a commenter mentioned "gotta love Western New York" about a post that was entirely about Canada. Ah well.

Lisa said...

Wow. I miss out on so much! But I have to say, this entire discussion is the reason I only occasionally visit agent blogs or big/popular blogs and I never comment. For obvious reasons, they attract a lot of self-serving, sometimes bordering on really nutty people. It's true that once you've posted words, there's no way to control what someone says about them, but I agree with you Bernita, it comes down to a matter of courtesy to others and whether or not you're inviting critique. I absolutely agree that commenting on a post with the aim of trying to hijack traffic to your own blog is the height of tackiness. I checked out the site of one of the critiquers and she is an unpublished writer who doesn't appear to have any particular qualifications that would indicate she could even provide valid critique so I'm even more puzzled. I think I'll stick to my circle of courteous, kind hearted blogging friends. So far (fingers crossed) the experience has been all good.

Bernita said...

Gives our eyes rolling exercise, Lana.

Thank you, Lisa.
The probable justification is that those critiquers represent one reader's take and therefore their view has value.
However, writers and aspiring writers don't read with quite the same eyes as a normal reader imho.

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