Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas
The past week has been a very interesting week for the blog. My Alexa ranking broke the 200,000 barrier. Five days of 3,000+ hits, 30 hits shy of 4,000 on September 18, and finally more than 4,000+ hits on September 21. That averages out to almost a thousand more a day than normal. Guess everyone's been fascinated by pomegranates, loofahs, 100 Vietnamese foods, and sprouting potatoes.
As my blog increases in traffic, so does my interaction with readers and other bloggers. I've received some really lovely emails from readers this week such as raves after trying my recipes (I always love getting that kind of feedback. :P ) and a woman who's using some of my recipes to woo a Vietnamese man. The most touching email came from a reader who had recently lost her mother and is using my recipes to cook for and to take care of her father. Earlier, I had also received an email from a reader who lost her mother when she was young, so she's learning how to cook Vietnamese food from my blog. Gosh, I don't want to sound like I'm bragging. It's just, I'm so incredibly touched that my side hobby has turned into something that's become such a part of several people's lives. Thank you.
Those moments are much appreciated as I deal with some of the headaches that come with blogging.
So that's what this post is about -- how you want to be perceived online, how and whether you choose to respond to comments, and how to interact with other bloggers. Again, I just want to reiterate that this is merely my opinion of how I chose to and continue to conduct myself online. This is by no means the only way. I'd love to hear what you think.
This morning, I was tipped off by Bites and Bolts that Yelp user Cookie C. had plagiarized parts of my restaurant reviews. She immediately emailed Yelp, then emailed me. In fact, Cookie C. had cut and pasted entire paragraphs from eight of my restaurant reviews. I've informed Yelp, so I'm assuming the content will be removed soon. I don't want to get into a rant here because I hope that you know that that's just plain wrong. We put so much time and energy into our blogs that those kind of people suck all the fun out of it. I wouldn't have been aware of the incident if Bites and Bolts hadn't informed me. What I do want to point out is that I hope we continue to look out for each other. Thank you again Bites and Bolts!
Bites and Bolts helped redeem what was a not-so-great week of blogger interactions. Last week I discovered that another blogger had plagiarized my copyright and attribution requirements. Ironic right? I emailed him, he apologized and immediately deleted the content, then wrote a profuse apology on his blog. He said he saved my version to use as a template for his own, and that he was dismayed that I would think he copied it word for word. (Incidentally, dismayed was also the word I used first when I emailed him.) I did a side by side comparison before contacting him. Except for sections where he replaced my blog information with his own, it was an exact word for word copy of my copyright and attribution requirements. I spent hours and hours laboring over that post to make sure that I covered my bases and phrased things just right. I know the way I write, I know how I phrase things, I know when an entire post is word for word my words. I chose to believe that it was a blunder for a beginning blogger and told him he could remove the public apology. I know we all come across information from other blogs that we find useful. While I've mostly focused on plagiarism of recipes or restaurant reviews, I just want to stress that you shouldn't copy anything.
Pho Ap Chao Bo (Vietnamese Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef).
And while I'm at it, I received several requests from other bloggers for help in double-checking some Vietnamese food posts. They then quoted me from the emails and Twitter. I don't know about you, but when I respond to someone's question, it's usually quickly, without paying attention to how I'm going to sound. I'm merely trying to answer their question. I didn't like that they didn't tell me they were planning to quote me, nor did they ask for my permission. Mainly this is because I am a stickler when it comes to my writing. While I don't mind being quoted from posts that I've already published, I don't like being quoted without my knowledge or in truncated text message Tweet-speak. I think the bloggers quoted me so that their information would be accurate, but they failed to inform me either before or afterward to see if that would be OK. They could have also paraphrased the information instead.
While none of the quoted parts were inflammatory, I think the larger question is about blogging courtesies. Though I've quoted from various other blogs for this series, I've only quoted information that has already been published online. Food blogs are not hard-hitting news, I think asking permission is a basic blogging courtesy that I hope others would consider if they are going to quote from information that's not already available online. As for quoting from emails, Food Blog S'cool has an interesting discussion on the expectations of email privacy and the resulting legal implications if you choose to publish a private exchange.
Also, if you're going to ask for suggestions or information from another blogger, I don't think it's too much to ask that you look for said information on the person's blog first. It's the same complaint I have about readers who email me for information but don't have the courtesy of checking to see if it's already available online. Type what you're looking for into the searchbar first. Really! It returns results! Or look through the archives. Otherwise, I think it's discourteous to ask for someone to help you when you didn't even bother to read their blog.
I am much nicer online that I am in person. Why? Because even if your memory is shoddy, Google's isn't. So from the moment you hit publish, the Google bots are searching and cataloging. You can try hitting delete but sometimes Google cache captures your blunders for all time.
I said in the beginning, if you want a personal blog where you can rant and rave, then none of this applies to you. However, if you want to become an active participant in the food blogging community, each thing you do or say online matters.
Things I've seen other bloggers do that I would never do? Dedicate a post to ranting about another blogger, why they didn't like that blog, and how they couldn't see why everyone raved about it. While the post eventually was deleted, I'm still reminded of the bad first impression I got of the blogger who wrote the rant. First impressions count. If it's negative, you might not even get a chance for a second impression.
One of the types of comments that annoys me the most are people who tell me what I'm doing is wrong. Sorry, not to sound snotty, but I know my Vietnamese food. In most cases, it's the commenter who is wrong because they're unfamiliar with regional variations and think that the one preparation they know of that dish is the only way it's made. And even if I choose to do it differently, so what? One of my favorite bloggers lamented that when she orders an egg roll, they come out too small, appetizer-sized. She longed for the burrito-sized egg rolls she enjoyed in the Midwest in her youth, big enough she could make a whole meal out of one egg roll. Ack! I was horrified by the thought of a gigantic egg roll the size of a burrito, but I would never say that she's not entitled to like what she likes. You've seen the flattened, plate-sized egg roll I ate in Salzburg, Austria. What if that was the only kind of egg roll you were ever exposed to? And if that's what you like, who am I to tell you what to eat?
Sometimes I get horrified at some people's interpretations of Vietnamese food. People who soak rice paper so long that they have to lay it out on a towel to absorb excess moisture. People who misspell banh mi (Both instances probably because they followed Cooking Light's misinformation!). People who think the proper preparation of Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) includes clear vermicelli bean thread noodles and mint, and not banh pho (Vietnamese flat rice noodles) and Thai basil. But I don't go on their blogs and correct them, I only do that here. ;)
Seriously though, I think it's completely ill-mannered to visit people's blogs and tell them how they should do things and how they should eat. Would you visit someone's house, and upon being served a dish, proceed to tell them what's wrong with the way they made it? But you'd be surprised how many people do just that. Ever read the comments in my post about Brodard Restaurant in Garden Grove? A commenter got into a debate with me about what he speculated might be in their special sauce, never mind that he had actually never eaten at the restaurant to even know what the sauce tasted like. I find that type of behavior completely obnoxious.
So it seems a little silly for me to have to say this, but...
...watch what you say and do online.
Certainly you can choose to rant on your blog if you want to, you can go around correcting people, you can tell them how they should eat, you can plagiarize their content, and you can quote them without their permission. Or you can look out for other bloggers and tip them when you see their stuff being plagiarized, you can say nothing at all if you don't have anything good to say, and you can ask permission to quote them before you hit publish. Just keep in mind that your behavior online and your interactions with other bloggers will leave an impression.
Cua Rang Muoi Tieu Me Gung Hanh Toi (Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Crab with Tamarind, Ginger, Onions, and Garlic).
One of the main forms of interaction is through comments. So, at the risk of repeating myself, because I still feel the same way, the following paragraphs are from my post about Blogging Courtesies: Questions, Comments, and Credit:
"I make it a point to actually read the post before I leave a comment. Shocking isn't it? Some people only look at photos and then leave a comment in order to leave a comment. It's glaringly obvious because they'll leave a comment that's completely the opposite of what I was actually saying in the post.There are also Spam commenters who get paid to leave comments on blogs. Yes, it's a side of marketing that we hate but people are getting paid X amount of money to leave X amount of comments. Beware and delete all comments that come from non-bloggers that include links to another website. They may make some vague reference to what your post is about, but it's really a guise for them to insert a link to their website. Google "Yogen Fruz" and you'll see what I mean. These commenters deluge blogs. Every food blog that posts about frozen yogurt gets hit with commenters extolling the greatness of Yogen Fruz. Whoever was in charge of marketing handled it the wrong way. Instead of building buzz, I will deliberately go out of my way to never try Yogen Fruz because of how obnoxious their Spam commenters have been.
Don't be a comment whore. "That looks tasty." "That looks great." "I want to try this." If you say that each and every time and nothing else (Repeatedly!), I know you are not really reading my blog. I view those types of comments as thinly veiled attempts to sell your blog and get me to visit. I won't.
Also, don't leave signature links to your blog at the bottom of your comment. Your name already links back to your blog. The links are just viewed as another attempt at selling your blog. It's not just I who feel this way, look at "Is it OK to Leave Links in Comments?," "SEO and Link Building Via Comments," and "How NOT to Leave Blog Comments." In some cases, the more popular blogs automatically delete all comments that include links. In other words, including a signature link to your blog means your blog is considered Spam. Don't be Spam."
On the flip side, decide if you're going to acknowledge each comment or not. I view comments as an ongoing conversation, building relationships with other bloggers and readers. Decide whether to answer in comments or by email. I like commenting in the same loop because it sometimes answers other people's questions. I notice many craft bloggers prefer to reply by emails. That's up to you to decide. Honestly, if my comments don't get acknowledged, I just stop commenting and sometimes even stop visiting the blog entirely. I think of it as akin to saying, "Hi." How long will you continue to greet someone if they never say anything back? This is especially crucial for new bloggers because each unacknowledged comment may be the loss of a new reader. Also, respond to comments in a timely manner. If I check back and check back and never see a reply, I eventually stop checking. So even if you did respond, I missed it because I stopped checking in.
I know Blogger has an option for you to receive emails if someone leaves a comment. Check that box. I sometimes get comments and questions on old posts. That email lets me know so I can go back and respond to the commenter. If you don't check that box, then close off comments. Otherwise, the comment is left hanging -- the commenter awaiting a reply, you not acknowledging their comment at all.
A good rule of thumb for me is to try to respond to all comments when I put up a new post. It's not always possible, but I do try. That's because when readers visit my site and see a new post, they'll maybe leave a comment, and often check on their previous comment. This also allows me to keep on top of my comments without making it too unwieldy.
Should you moderate your comments? I turned off anonymous mode because I was tired of deleting Spam or obnoxious comments. The act of having to sign in or make up a name has kept that to a minimum. One blogger I know was so genuinely upset after someone left a negative comment on her blog that she dwelled on it for days. While I don't take comments that personally, I think negative comments cause far more harm to the blogger than the person leaving the comment. I don't mind honest discussion about any topic. I do mind negativity just for the sake of being obnoxious. And if you go on my friend's blogs and act that way, I'll smack you down.
When you leave a comment on someone's blog, think of how your comment will come across. Because you cannot tell what a person's tone is on the internet, your words must stand alone. Would you come into someone’s house and use swear words? Would you arrogantly show off how much more knowledgeable you are than they? Would you force them to cook according to your taste? Would you go off on a racist tirade? If you did any of those things in my house, I would promptly kick you out. Here, I hit delete.
Elise of Simply Recipes wrote an article titled "How does your comment policy affect your readership?"
"I believe that our democracy gives you the right to publish your own blog, not to spit all over mine," Elise said. "Providing a quality environment for the readers of our blogs is more important than giving a platform for a few people who don’t know how to play well with others."
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Garden (Chinese Garden) - San Marino.
One last note about impression. Nowhere in this series do I tell you how or what to write. Blogs are personal and so is our writing. However, since we sometimes come across unfamiliar cuisine and cultures, I want to stress that how you say things and what you use to describe the setting has implications. Please do not ever use the word Oriental to describe an Asian person or our cuisine. I know this practice is used in Britain to distinguish between South Asians and East/Southeast Asians. However, for Asian Americans, the word Oriental is offensive. Yes, there are still a few grocery stores that might still use this word.
In "Orientalism," historian Edward Said argues that the word Oriental was given by whites to describe the "exotic," the "other," the "inferior." It is not just a word that describes the differences between East and West. The word Asian American was a term created during the 1960s Asian American Studies movement to describe ourselves. The word Oriental is rife with a whole host of stereotypes that makes me recoil whenever I come across it. Please don't use it.
In the same refrain, when writing a post, consider whether race or accent is crucial to the story? If you're dining at an ethnic restaurant, is it necessary to say that the waiter spoke in broken English? If the waiter spoke no English, I could understand its importance because a visitor would have to be prepared if they choose to dine at that restaurant. But if he spoke with an accent, yet is still understandable, how does that affect your enjoyment of the food? When you say you're the only American in Chinatown, aren't you really trying to say you're the only "white" American? What purpose does that serve except to pat yourself on the back for venturing into an ethnic enclave? I don't pat myself on the back for being surrounded by white people. Just because I don't look "white," doesn't mean I'm not American. (Hopping off my soapbox now. This public service message brought to you by the letters W and C.)
What do you think? Should bloggers ask permission before publishing quotes? What's your comment policy? Do you think bloggers should be careful of how they describe a different culture and cuisine?
- How to Start a Food Blog
- On Blogging and Food Blogging
- Choosing a Blog Host
- Picking a Name: Be Clever, Original, and Memorable
- Posting: Frequency, Topics, and Accuracy
- Giving Credit: The Right Way to Link, Copyright, and "By," "Inspired," and "Adapted"
- Your Online Identity: Blogging Interactions and Comment Policies
- Photos: Photography Tips, Storage, and Watermarking
- Design: Layout, Navigation, and "Above the Fold"
- Blogrolling: Will You Be My Friend?
- Building Traffic: Participate in the Community and Respond to Your Stats
- Measuring Success: Cheerleader or Nerd?
- Public Relations: Handling the Freebies and the People
- Monetizing Your Hobby: To Ad or Not to Ad
- Bottomline: Have Fun, but Protect Your Work
1 year ago today, fruit and nut mooncakes on the Mid-Autumn Festival.