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« 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 26: Set Up a Staff-Only Area | Main | 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 25: Review Your Loans Procedure »

10 Obligations of Bloggers

If you blog for an audience, as opposed to simply for yourself, what are your obligations? I’d say the following:

Use manuals to help with tricky or confusing words.

Write with integrity

For example, if you write about a product you have some connection with, especially if your report is positively glowing, then state that connection loud and clear. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, ie if you don’t have any connection you should probably say so. I use the word ‘unfortunately’ simply because I think it’s a pity that some people think that if you like something, you must be getting a pay-off in some form.

Write accurately

Accuracy is another facet of integrity. Check facts, quotes and references. If you don’t have time to do that, make it clear that you’ve written what you believe to be the case, rather than present it as fact. Some people think that bloggers somehow naturally have more integrity than professional journalists, but I think integrity has to be worked at.

Write incisively

I know that one of the great thing about blogging is that it’s OK to air some half-thought-out idea, which on later reflection or in the light of further information may become regarded as less useful than it first appeared. I think that’s fine, as long you don’t try to sound as if not only do you know what you’re talking about, but that any other viewpoint is plain wrong. Why not just say: “I’ve only just seen this, so my initial thoughts are…”, or “I just had an idea that I haven’t had time to think through, but…” or “Here’s the kernel of an idea; tell me what you think.”?

Writing incisively shows through in the questions you ask as well as what you state. It’s not obligatory to always have an answer.

Write regularly

I think if you have built up a following, even if it’s only a dozen people, you owe it to them to write as regularly as you can. I don’t think you have to write every day necessarily, but reasonably often, like once a week.

(This is something of a counsel of  perfection: I have only just managed to update my My Writes blog for the first time in months, because I have been concentrating on the ICT in Education one, which I update pretty much every day).

Write well

I realise that to a large extent good writing is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. What you find beautiful I may regard as too florid. Writing which keeps me engaged may leave you in despair at its starkness. That sort of thing is a matter of taste, and there is little if anything to do about that. But surely it is not unreasonable to expect – to take just one example --  that those who blog at least trouble themselves to check the vocabulary they use and not, for example, confuse ‘continual’ with ‘continuous’ or ‘uninterested’ with ‘disinterested’?  Books which deal with commonly confused words are easy enough to obtain, after all.


Write for a purpose, with the reader in mind

I think if you write for yourself, you can be completely self-centred about what you write. However, in my opinion, as soon as you have an invited audience (which, by definition, you do have by making your blog URL known), you have an obligation to give them a reason to read your blog, whether that’s entertainment, enlightenment or simply stuff to think about.

Write for all your audiences as well as each of your audiences

We urge pupils to write for an audience, and to write differently for different specific audiences.  Should we not also encourage them to develop a set of over-arching principles that would apply to all writing, for all audiences?

Write with consideration

I suppose this is a personal thing, but I don’t like the idea of having swearing, or even implied swearing, on my blog, in case it offends some readers. That’s why I sometimes don’t publish comments expressing an opinion ‘robustly’. People are entitled to their opinion, and they’re entitled to express it forcefully, but if they do so by using expletives I’m afraid it won’t see the light of day here.

Be yourself

As Polonius said in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” I think an obligation that each blogger has is to define his or her own set of obligations. That is, I think that if you’re going to write publicly you have to develop a set of rules by which to write by. They may be very different from the ones I’ve listed here, which clearly reflect my own value system, but I think the process of thinking about them is important.

Be silent

Finally, I don’t think it’s necessary, or even wise, or useful, to pass comment on something as soon as it’s been announced. It’s good to be first with the news, but it’s also good to be among the first with well-considered reflections.

As Salvator Rosa said,

Be silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence.

What have I overlooked?

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Reader Comments (8)

Great list and I agree! One other I read somewhere is Reply to your Comments. I look at my blog as my home in a way. If people are kind enough to come into it and contribute, I owe it to them to recognize them. It's just polite. :)
May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrudbasher
Dang! Wish I'd have put that one in! Thx!
Thank you for this clear list of blogging tips. I agree that is it very important to be silent.
May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Verschoor
Thx, Jennifer. Yes, I really like that quote! It reminds me, in an oblique sort of way, of Oscar Wilde's "He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing."
I love your post and will take your advice to heart. However, I respectfully disagree with your final Obligation of Bloggers, "Be Silient: I don’t think it’s necessary, or even wise, or useful, to pass comment on something as soon as it’s been announced."

I've read in two separate books written about Public Relations and Marketing that mention blogs that, "The most popular kind of content you'll probably ever be able to publish is breaking, exclusive news... When you do hear about something you can write about, act fast. There is very little benefit to publishing second or third. Get as many details and as much media as you can and then click Publish." from The social media marketing book, by D. Zarella (an informative book and funny!)
August 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mach
Thanks for the comment, David. I don't think what you've said and what I said are mutually exclusive. You said "Get as many details and as much media as you can and then click Publish." I think that's fine if you have time to do that, and I certainly get a buzz out of publishing/announcing something that is hot off the press as it were. However, I think there are quite a lot of blogs which announce something and then announce a further development then announce an amendment, and so on. I like to look at the issue, stand back, evaluate it and THEN write about it in a more considered and reflective way. Of course, if I had the time, I'd probably do both: announce some news, and say something like, "Here is some news about X; next week I'll give you a more in-depth analysis." But I don't usually have time to do both, and judging from the feedback I receive I'd say that my readers prefer the latter option. But if you ARE able to get something out really quickly, that's great!
Your list is well thought out. As a former English teacher, I felt developing the writing skills of all of my students was very important. I can see that they will need to be able to communicate effectively even more so in this day of technological advances. Writing across the curriculum has been the most effective methods I have witnessed in education. And now, with the many tools that students have, this can be even more effective. I remember one of my 8th grade students who scored the highest on the 8th grade English state test. She was surprised as she did not consider herself the best student. I pointed out to her that being the inquiring reporter on the ms newspaper and insisting on publishing her column every week not every other week like some reporters had sharpened her skills without her realizing. She would have loved to blog - who knows, she may be out there doing so now!
November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Schultz
Thx, Andrea, that's a great story! It certainly shows the power of having to write for a real audience.

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