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Monday, August 04, 2008

Blogging Courtesies: Questions, Comments, and Credit

Just a quick note: I've added a poll to the top of my sidebar to see what you would most like to see on the blog next. I find it easier to blog in bunches as I can bounce off of the previous post. The topics were drawn from a quick scan of my photos. If there's something you'd like but don't see on the list, just drop a note. I might have it somewhere in my queue. Please vote just once. You can click on more than one topic. I make no promises that I'll actually post in the order of what is most popular, but I might be persuaded to do so if there's enough interest.

The navigation bar has been moved to below my Foodbuzz ad until the poll closes at the end of the week.

Day 31 Note Cards
Thank you cards
, from the last time I was annoyed with the "internets."

I know I've said it before, but I just want to reiterate that my archives have recipes and restaurants subdivided by categories. Other topics are all sorted as well. Or you can use my searchbar. Or click on any of the tags.

Recently, I've been getting more and more emails from people who don't bother to do any of the above. What seems like a quick email that you shoot off to ask me something still takes time out of my day to answer. While I like hearing from all of you, it's frustrating to be continually hit with questions that can easily be answered if you either A) Googled B) Used my searchbar or C) Clicked on my archives. Multiply that by several emails every day, or questions in comments. Add in the amount of time it takes to sort through my photos, upload them to Flickr, watermark them to prevent sploggers from stealing my content, all before I even get to blogging. After I post, I still have to answer comments and sort the new post into its appropriate category and subcategory so you can find it more easily. So please use the archives, they took hours upon hours over the course of months for me to create, organize, and maintain.

I understand sometimes you want my opinion on a subject, but my entire blog is my opinion. If it's something that I've already written about before, the information is available on my blog if you simply typed in what you're searching for into the searchbar or clicked around my archives. If you're too lazy to do either, or too lazy to read through the entire post when the information is already there in that post, then why should I help you? I think it's completely discourteous when I receive an email from someone who blatantly says they haven't looked through my blog but do I have the answer to such-and-such? What happened to "hellos" and "thank yous" when you email someone to ask a question? Gimme information now! Don't want to bother with being pleasant? I won't bother replying. If you asked me a question in a comment, wait for me to reply first. Do not then immediately email me demanding the same information. I am not at your beck and call. And certainly not when you approached it so rudely.

I've tried to be nice about all this, but it's getting harder and harder to do so.


Because it's not my blogging buddies or regular commenters who are usually at fault. It's the lurker, or drive-by commenter, or random person who stumbles upon my blog. I realize this post will most likely fall upon deaf ears, or rather blind eyes I should say, because those are the people who don't actually see me as a person. Those are the people who, even if I do reply, don't bother thanking me either.

I know there aren't hard and fast rules for blogging, but maybe there should be. Or at least a code of conduct. At the minimum, can I at least ask for courtesy?

I'm not saying you have to do what I do, but this is how I chose to conduct myself online as a reader, commenter, and blogger.

As a reader:

If I genuinely enjoy a blog and find myself reading it on a regular basis, I delurk to comment and let the blogger know I appreciate them. I tend not to comment as much on blogs that get a lot of comments, but it sure beats being a creepy lurker. And if I come across something useful or interesting, I tell them so. I don't know how many times I've followed my stats to multiple discussion boards or forums or blogs. A tiny, tiny percentage actually bothered to comment or thank me even though they used the information I provided, made my recipe, or visited a restaurant because they discovered it through my blog.

As a commenter:

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.

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. If I like the comment, or it interests me, I'll click and visit. Sometimes it takes time or repeated comments before I get around to it, but I do try to visit each person who left a comment. If I didn't, I didn't mean to, but it probably slipped my mind.

While I certainly like receiving compliments as much as the next person, I appreciate them much more when the comment has value. I most enjoy conversation-like comments that allow me to get to know my blog buddies and readers. I also don't leave as many complimentary comments for this reason. If I'm commenting, it's because I enjoyed the post and like you and/or your blog. Do you really need constant compliments? If so, and you're only interested in getting a lot of complimentary comments, well, then I don't know what to say about that.

As a blogger:

While I can usually cook from taste and keep recipes in my head, I don't know everything. I know! Hard to believe, right? If I used someone's information, I link back. If I used or adapted a recipe, I link back. If I discovered a restaurant, I link back. And I don't do it half-assed by simply saying I got it from "here." I type out the complete name and link back to the appropriate page. That's the bare minimum. I also try and qualify the link. Afterall, if I'm linking to it, there must have been a reason why.

I rarely follow someone else's recipe completely. If I did or do, I'd rather direct people to the appropriate blog instead of republishing it on mine. Even a simple recipe post takes a fair amount of work. I hate it when I see my recipe printed verbatim on someone else's blog, even if they give me credit. It takes time for me to write directions that I hope you can follow. It takes many photographs to come up with a few usable ones. And then of course, again the editing, uploading, writing, etc. I would never cut and paste. I feel that doesn't give the person proper credit. So if I used something in its entirety, far better to direct people to the source. If I adapted something, I write it in my own words.

On linking forward, I tend to be more judicious than other bloggers. I don't provide a whole mess of links of everyone who made the same recipe. I usually link to people who have linked to me, or if I thought the information was useful. I also try to remember if any of the blogs I read posted about the same thing and link to them too.

This step isn't really an expectation, but more what I do as a courtesy gesture. If I have time, when a blogging friend posts about something that I've already posted about, I sometimes go back and include their links in my previous post. If someone makes my recipe, I try to include appropriate links as well.

What do you think? Am I asking for too much? What do you do as a reader and/or blogger? Does anyone else have these problems and frustrations?

I just wanted to add, this wasn't a call specifically for people to delurk. My blog is public. Blogging by it's nature is personal for many people. Bloggers are sharing a part of their passion and lives with others. Most of us do not make a living from blogging. I do not consider it the same as reading something you liked in a newspaper or a book. Journalists and authors are paid for that. Most bloggers are not. That's why I said that for the blogs that I truly enjoy, that I read on a regular basis, I do make it a point to tell the blogger I appreciate what they're doing. That's my personal choice. I am not asking for you to compliment me if you like my blog.

What I am saying though is that I know there are people who read my blog on a regular basis, who use my information, who link to it on various forums, and who have yet to ever once comment to even say thank you. Also, it's not just specific to me, but it is "creepy" if you read my blog, never ever comment, and then out-of-the-blue and in complete seriousness ask if you can come over for dinner. Or when you insist I reveal my name to you when I've stated why I prefer not to. I don't know who you are at all, and that is what makes you a "creepy lurker."

1 year ago today, Cherry Lattice-Crust Pie.


  1. Citing sources is an ABSOLUTE must! Those who don't probably think they are fooling people with their gastronomic bredth of knowledge, but they aren't.

    And you know I agree about the comments. I'm pretty chatty and like people to leave comments that are engaging. Compliments are always nice of course, but I prefer to know if I provided some kind of useful info.

    Thanks for putting this out there!

  2. I must say, I am guilty of being a creepy lurker (LOLS). I actually go on your blog quite a bit (as in everyday at work) and I have been through your recipes multiple time). I like how your blog is a FOOD blog, but as readers we can read your posts to see your personality and other facets of your life (i sound rather creepy).

    I've tried a couple (the crispy noodles and another tofu one) and will be working my way through your recipes.

    AS WELL, I must tell you that I am ENVIOUS of you because it seems like you eat good food all the time.

    So now you know you have one more reader who isn't so creepy.

    PS: I have a particular friend who I call creepy (who likewise, do the same with me) all the time so creepy to me is not necessarily a negative thing, but rather enduring. So creepiness can be done out of love.

  3. mmm, as a regular reader, I admit I am guilty of scanning your blog recently at lunch time at work. I think it's fair that you ask people to actually give you their thoughts instead of just generic compliments. You're not asking for much. It must be a bit frustrated to keep on top of things with a blog that is so popular like yours but believe me, yours' the best that I have come across in a long time (hey that's a compliment from the bottom of my heart :D)

  4. I don't think you're asking too much. You make lots of sense here, and it's a good lesson in blog etiquette for at least me, anyway. So thank you for posting this.

  5. Another WC fan coming out of lurkdom.

    I consider myself a blogging newbie (been blogging for 8 months or so) and I've learned my etiquette with each new blog that I read. Kinda learn by example you know? I have found that there really isn't a general standard of rules for us newbies but I totally agree with the linking. I don't mind if someone wants to duplicate or adapt a recipe but linking is always appreciated. Its just respectful IMO. But I have to respectfully disagree with commenters who leave their blog at the end of a comment. I do that b/c I have multiple blogs on Wordpress so I find leaving the link makes it easier for ppl to find me fast if they so choose. Its not my intention to fish for comments or readers (ok maybe a little) but I am not upset if ppl don't come over either. Of course now that I know its not something you appreciate I want to respect your frustrations.

    Keep up the great blogging from one fellow Vietnamese girl to another. :)

  6. I think it's great you put all this stuff out there. I started blogging to really get into "conversation" with people, and that's still what I love most about it, whether I'm on the giving or receiving end of a comment. So I couldn't agree with you more about not just commenting to comment without even reading the post. Good for you!

    Now I AM going to e-mail you about something totally unrelated, though . . . ;-)

  7. Your thoughts on web-etiquette are on point.

    I enjoy your blog very much, especially the restaurant reviews around the OC (I'm a fairly new student transplant). That said, I found the guide you posted by cuisine/city extremely useful. And of course, I envy your cooking accomplishments. Keep doing what you love to do.

  8. It is often not easy to put these thoughts out there and I do think u did a really good job.

    I do confess that occasionally I scan the blog post but most of the time, I read it! That's because I know I would like my readers to read mine too rather than just posting for the seek of posting.

    Keep those chopsticks wandering. Yours is a fabulous blog.

  9. I think your indexing and categorising is brilliant and, I know how much work must have gone into it, because everything takes forever when getting blog posts ready! As you know, I sometimes spend hours wading through your categories, just for fun. Because it *is* fun!

    phbtph to your rude emailers / commenters. I tend to just delete my inappropriate randoms, but then, I have significantly fewer readers than you!

  10. I admire your blog so much--in format, in the frequency of your posts, in your fabulous photos, in the amazingly rich content that you provide mind-bogglingly often. I think that my blog is better because of what I'm learning from yours. I am kind of a naif when it comes to blog etiquette though, so it's useful to read/hear your points. Thank you for sharing them. I generally agree. I do see Clara's point about adding a link if what you're referencing isn't obviously "clickable" (if I'm understanding correctly). Also I don't think it's very creepy to lurk. Maybe I'm too print-minded, but I think of the Web like a big open book that I can peruse as I like, and privately. I like a lot of novels, but I've never written to a novelist to say so. I can see how feedback might be appreciated in the blog world though... it is SO possible after all!

  11. I completely agree about the attribution about the recipes. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I rarely post recipes, because one of my first recipe posts was substantially cut and pasted into another blog, and while changed a bit to say "adapted from PE," essentially plagiarized. (And I took a lot of time to make that recipe from scratch, when there was no other equivalent online, believe it or not.) From that point onward, I stopped writing out recipes and just "talk about the ingredients" in the post, although that seems like the crap-out way to handle it.

    But honestly though: Especially for you, I love your blog because you post SO many hard-to-find and valuable recipes, and they really are fantastic. People should pay money for what you do. It is clear you put so much effort into those recipes, and even if they attribute you, you took the time to measure out the ingredients, explain them, and spell out the process. You own those recipes as their creator, it is ocmpletely reasonable for you to feel this way.

    I am going to say something though, if you don't want to respond to emails, you shouldn't! I read this one post about 2 yrs ago, where it said, "If someone leaves a bad comment on your site, don't think about it twice, just delete it. You wouldn't allow someone to talk crap to you in your own home, why your blog?"

    I loved that post, and now, if a comment annoys me and has no other purpose than to insult, I delete it. I feel the same about emails. You have a full time job, if it is too much, you don't have to respond. It is a tremendous service (to us) just to be able to read your blog! Becks & Posh had a similar dilemma and spelled it out a while ago.

    All of us bloggers feel you. We love you WC, keep the work up!

    Also, I would totally dig the Foodbuzz reference! You might have to tell me a little more about what Foodbuzz is though. I tried to claim my site the other day, and it didn't work. Someone (a Foodbuzz employee) wrote me a comment about it a long time ago, and I added their link to my sidebar, but I don't know much about it.

  12. Yeah, we get these type of people and e-mails too. But luckily, nothing has really been as frustrating as what you're going through. It takes the fun out of blogging.
    I first started writing about mostly Viet dishes (back when I thought no one read my blog) and found 2 Viet bloggers and a Viet food site using my stuff. My original posts were about lots of unique regional Viet home cooking dishes. Maybe that's why that Viet food site was a "creepy lurker". Then I took them off and started watermarking my pictures, that took way too much time. I gave up and stopped watermarking, it took the fun out of blogging for me. But now I need to put all those recipes back up but with new photography.

    There is also a paid service that (I heard about) will trace all our photo's on the web. I don't know how they do it, but if my photograph gets duplicated anywhere on the internet, this service will automatically detect it and let me know everyone that is using my photographs. I'm gonna research this and really think about paying for it.

    If I make someones recipe from a blog or another food site, I never write the recipe on my blog. I would much rather just link it to that site so that they get the visit. Besides, it's more work to write out a recipe. The original person who created it did all the work already and they should get the credit and the visit! Unless it's from a book, then I will create an adaptation for it and let the reader know which book it was adapted from.

  13. Hi,

    I came upon your blog quite by accident this morning through a Google image search. It brought me to your May 2007 archive and my jaw immediately dropped as I skimmed the pictures and read your entries. Asian food? Flowers and gardening? A love of all things pickled? Heaven!

    Many of the Vietnamese food you blog about made my tastebuds long for the food I grew up with. My mother is Cambodian, my father is Vietnamese, and I was a rebellious child who didn't heed my mother's warning of "you're going to want to watch me make this because you'll want to make it one day." How foolish I was to think I would be different and "American" and subsist on burgers and pizza!

    I love your restaurant reviews (I live in Los Angeles but unfortunately am car-less, so few food adventures for me), and I appreciate the time you take to post pictures and write recipes. It was also very enlightening to read the debates on Vietnamese food vs Cambodian food. I often tell my friends how Thai food is quite different from Cambodian food, but I've always thought Vietnamese and Cambodian were similar enough to not create a fuss about. Looks like I was wrong!

    Wrapping up this insanely long comment, you've been bookmarked and I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Darlene,
    But I know everything, why would I need to cite sources? Haha! :P

    Lil Miss,
    I wasn't trying to force you out of lurking. I have tons of lurkers, most of them stay lurkers. And I have no problem with that. Since you know your friend reads your blog, that's not creepy. You know that person. It's when the lurkers overreach and invite themselves over, completely out of the blue, that makes them creepy. Anyway, thanks for trying my recipes. I'd love some feedback. And I eat junk food as much as the next person, I just don't post about it.

    I'm not forcing people to say anything they don't want to. Many people only look at pictures. Just that if they say anything at all, at least have the courtesy of reading the entire post first. Too many times I get comments where it's obvious they didn't bother to read the post because what they said was the opposite point I was trying to make.

    Well, it's really my blog etiquette. Everyone has a different set of expectations.

    I've edited my post to explain why adding a signature link to your comment is a no-no. It's not just that I don't like it, most of the people who write about blogging don't like it either. And in many cases, spam filters will automatically delete your comment if it includes signature links. You don't want your comment to be misconstrued as spam.

    Thanks for your comment about leaving comments. Haha! ;)

    Pomegranate Girl,
    Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoy the blog and find it useful.

    Thanks. I'm not demanding that people read each and every post. Everyone has different interests. But if you comment, have the courtesy of reading the post you're commenting on. That seems so obvious. I think a lot of people want to leave comments to be nice and to show that they're reading, but if the comment reveals that they didn't read the post, that does more harm than good. So don't feel obliged to read every post, just read every post you're going to comment on.

    Darling Oanh,
    You know that I know that you appreciate me. :)

    Prof Kitty,
    Thanks for your compliment. It's nice to hear. I disagree about the web, or blogs in particular, as being like a novel. Novelists are paid to write. Most bloggers do not make a living writing and sharing their knowledge. We do it out of love for the subject matter and because we want to share it with others. Some even get very personal about revealing themselves. And most bloggers do this without any hope or expectation of payment. So for that reason, for the blogs that I find myself reading on a regular basis, I choose to tell them how much I appreciate their blog. Not just because it's easily possible to do so, but because I know how much time and energy I put into mine and I appreciate each and every genuine compliment I receive. Not the compliments with ulterior motives prefacing questions people want to ask me. I really appreciate the compliments from readers who just like the blog and wanted to tell me so, for no other reason except that. Since I know how much I appreciate such gestures, I also do the same for the blogs that I enjoy. Regarding signature links, please see my comment about to Clara explaining why it's considered spam.

    I felt the same as you at first. But honestly, the best and surest way of establishing your rights to a recipe or anything is to claim it first. Then sic your fans on them if something goes awry. :P Oh I don't bother to respond to rude emails. Most of my frustration isn't with rude emailers, but the clueless ones who don't bother using the searchbar or looking through the archives before they start demanding information that if they just took a few seconds to search for, they'd find. Or they ask me obvious questions that can easily be found by Googling. Just because it's far easier ask me instead of looking for it themselves.

    I've followed my links back to one VNese food site, but it was all weird and I couldn't precisely find my recipe so I gave up. Nonetheless, I could understand your frustration. At first the watermarking was a pain to do, but now I'm used to it as a necessary step to deter people from cutting and pasting. If people are gonna steal, they'll do it regardless, but at least I don't want to make it easier for them.

    Make it spicy,
    Thanks! Maybe since your parents cooked both, Cambodian and VNese food seemed the same to you growing up? While there's some overlap with dishes, the way each dish is cooked in each cuisine tastes quite different to me. Unless your dad is from the Mekong Delta, in which case, there'd be even more overlap of the cuisine so preparation might be a lot more similar. I just know the two cuisines are distinctly different to me.


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