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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Your Online Identity: Blogging Interactions and Comment Policies

Angkor Thom 19

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 1
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.

Sriracha Buffalo Wings 1

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 12
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.

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."
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.

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."

Huntington (Chinese Garden) - San Marino 17
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?
  1. How to Start a Food Blog
  2. On Blogging and Food Blogging
  3. Choosing a Blog Host
  4. Picking a Name: Be Clever, Original, and Memorable
  5. Posting: Frequency, Topics, and Accuracy
  6. Giving Credit: The Right Way to Link, Copyright, and "By," "Inspired," and "Adapted"
  7. Your Online Identity: Blogging Interactions and Comment Policies
  8. Photos: Photography Tips, Storage, and Watermarking
  9. Design: Layout, Navigation, and "Above the Fold"
  10. Blogrolling: Will You Be My Friend?
  11. Building Traffic: Participate in the Community and Respond to Your Stats
  12. Measuring Success: Cheerleader or Nerd?
  13. Public Relations: Handling the Freebies and the People
  14. Monetizing Your Hobby: To Ad or Not to Ad
  15. Bottomline: Have Fun, but Protect Your Work
Did you find this series useful? I'd appreciate credit if you use any of the information. Thanks!

1 year ago today, fruit and nut mooncakes on the Mid-Autumn Festival.


  1. Nice "Emily Post" post on the good manners of blogging/commenting, particularly the analogy you made to going to someone's home to try their dishes. I certainly wouldn't put up a "Ur doing it all rong!" comment on someone else's recipe. Heck, given all the adjusting and adapting I do to recipes anyways, I don't really think there's a wrong. Don't like how it came out as published on a cookbook/TV show/foodblog? Fix it to your liking! But I digress...

    Bummers about all those inflammatory incidents that led you to prioritize this post though.

  2. Wanderingchopsticks, as a new blogger, this series is very helpful to me. A lot of this is just plain common sense, but a lot of this blogging etiquette, I would not have known about (such as the links in comments). I feel awful for people plagarizing your material. After my post on mooncakes, I even felt bad when I realized a number of people had posts on the same subject matter, including yours. I'd have to say, bloggin' is tougher than it looks.

  3. Bravo! Bravo! Standing Ovation! I must say I don't believe I've ever read such a well crafted blog post about the morals and ethics of plagiarism.

    I know that when I write, depending on what it's for, I labor over my words. I write, and edit, and write, and re-edit. It can take me hours to get out a single sentence.

    If someone copy-and-pasted my words claiming it as their own, I'd be outraged and feel violated. Those are my words, my thoughts, my ideas. They might as well have just walked in on me in the shower with a camera.

    Congratulations on a wonderful post, I loved it.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts to us! I am new in blog world, and often have questions about it's ethics. I agree with you on people that comment but don't read the blog. I suspected that existed....

  5. On the comment thingy, i understand what you mean. There was a time when a reader kept leaving me unrelated comments. There was even once he said my 'son' is so cute. She didn't even read the first para of my post and throughout the post..i kept refering the boy are my 'beloved nephew'. Gosh!

  6. Bloggers should definitely give credit when quoting or using someone else's recipe. And not with an "I found the recipe here(link)." Full credit is appropriate.

    As for comments, I always reply to them, unless they're one of those "That looks tasty!" commenters. And I get a little let-down if I comment on someone's blog and they don't reply (unless they get a ton of comments, then I understand).

  7. I was about to put a nasty message to Cookie C.'s---but she's gone. Yelp erased her!

  8. hey WC, dropping in to say hello
    and yes this post of yours is very informative and I totally understand your 'pain'.

    Especially the part about some ppl being rude enough to criticise a dish in your own house AND after you laboured over the cooking fot them..unfortunately, I have had this experience before, needless to say, she has not been invited back!

  9. HC,
    Oh, but I certainly did just get a comment that said I was doing it wrong, even when I specifically said I followed directions on the box. Maybe it's just me being too nit-picky about all those incidents. I know some bloggers just shrug it off.

    You shouldn't feel bad for writing a post on mooncakes! Heck, everyone does this time of year. Some people feel differently about signature links, but I just wanted people to be aware of the Spam connection.

    Thank you so much. It's very hard to see our words appear somewhere else when we labor so very much to eek out each sentence. And really, I think the best way to prevent or catch plagiarists is by watching out for each other. I wouldn't quite say it's the same as being caught naked, but it certainly feels like a violation!

    Well, commenting on a lot of blogs is certainly one way to get people to visit your blog. But if someone comments in a way that makes it obvious they didn't read what I just posted, it has an adverse effect.

    Aww, but your "son" is so cute! ;) I think I remember the first post I read on your blog was about your nephew! You make it very clear!

    There are a handful of food blogs that get tons of comments, but I think on the whole, responding to comments is pretty manageable and doable. Afterall, why have them if you're not going to respond to them? Quoting isn't just about giving credit, it's about asking for permission first. It's just common courtesy.

    Yeah, it took them about three hours, but they did delete her account and any threads she started. Thanks for having my back!

    Oh, no, I was just making an analogy. Thankfully, I've never had anyone rude enough to criticize my cooking in my own home. Although, I don't cook for people who don't properly appreciate me. It's not worth my time.

  10. another great and a helpful post for bloggers!! I understand your pain..its true that sometimes there are people out there that thinks because its the blogsphere they have the right to be impolite and rude. Anyways your site is one of my fave and I truly admire you! Keep it up!

  11. WC, you put so much time and effort into this blog, and it is very disheartening to see ppl misuse or misappropriate what is yours. After reading about how one of your readers found that Yelper and brought your attn to the plagiarist, I felt much better, knowing that you have made great friends (me included) who will watch out for your back! Keep on doing what you enjoy doing, and you will continue to inspire us!

  12. A fabulous read and I echo many of your same sentiments on blogging.

    Also, it appears that Yelp user has been removed due to "violations".

    I too had a dish lifted/stolen/plagiarized last week and now I watermark photos to deter.

  13. Hi WC. I read your post 2x (really?!) and I thought about what you wrote for a little while before replying. I understand your concern about ppl quoting you. Would you have said something different if you had known they were quoting you? Not trying to be rude, just curious. I, myself, do ask ppl permission first before I quote them on my blog. I think ppl are flattered and appreciate it so I take that extra step. My comment policy is pretty simple. Say anything you like as long as it relates to what I posted. I agree that I try to take the time to reply to every comment. I don't mind the "Looks nice" comments but I don't really respond to them either. The only ones I delete are obvious spam. Question: Let's say I wanted to duplicate a recipe from your blog. What steps would you prefer before I post it on my blog? I tend to adapt recipes for my needs but I do give linkage to the original blog so readers can compare the original and my changes. Does that sound reasonable? Thanks for writing the Emily Post of blogging. Its a great read and I am learning alot...

  14. PS. People really comment about "you" being wrong in your own blog? Seriously? How rude!

  15. Dhanggit,
    Unfortunately, many people use the anonymity of the internet to be obnoxious. Those kind of people just ruin it for the rest of us.

    Thank you for your encouragement. It certainly was very heartening that Bites and Bolts looked out for me. I hope we all watch out for each other.

    Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I did notice the watermarking on your photos. Why do you think I do the same? Sad that it happens.

    My quibble with the quoting thing is more of a matter of courtesy. For instance, if you look at your comment, you used ppl as short for people. If I cut and pasted your comment to quote you. "I think ppl are flattered..." Clara said. Well, sure it's true you said it, but wouldn't you have appreciated a heads up before I decided to publish, so you could have written the word in full? That's what I mean. Twitter gives you 140 characters, to fit in that space it's acceptable to truncate words, but would you want to be quoted that way? Also, if someone emails you a quick question, and you send back a quick reply without thinking of how you want to craft that sentence, would you want to be quoted that way? The content of the quote might not change, but by asking permission or giving someone the heads up, they can at least take the time to write out full sentences. As I said, food blogging is not hard news where you only get one chance to capture a quote. So why not take the time to be courteous about it?

    As for the "Looks nice" comments, that's really aimed for comment whores. Some people deluge blogs with comments, any kind of comments, hoping to get a visit. You say you don't acknowledge those comments. So a beginning blogger would now know to put a bit more effort before leaving a comment. That's all.

    As for my recipes, if you made changes that means you adapted it. I've even been OK with people who followed all the same steps, and only made minor modifications as long as they wrote what they did in their own words and used their own photos, and as long as they acknowledged all that info came from me. I don't like when people cut and paste. If someone's using my entire recipe with no changes, then I prefer a link back.

  16. WC, aahhh I see what you mean about quoting now. That makes sense. Thanks for explaining. It would be nice to be able to craft a less truncated sentence/quote. Appreciate your reply. I hope I can reach your 4000 hits/day status someday! :)

  17. Clara,
    Sometimes what's obvious to me doesn't always come across when I write. Tell me when I need clarify!

    As for "wrong." The most recent example was a random commenter on my chocolate mochi post who said I did it "wrong" because I heated up the dough in the microwave. They suggested boiling the doughballs instead. Ack! Waterlogged mochi. Also, I merely followed the directions on the box of Japanese rice flour so I'd hardly say that's "wrong."

    Mostly though I get annoyed with people who correct me on Vietnamese recipes. They try to tell me to add noodles and cucumbers and sprouts to my cha ram. I'm not making goi cuon, it's cha ram! Or they don't understand that banh xeo is smaller in Central Vietnam and keep thinking I'm talking about something else. Or when people tell me rice paper can't be fried. Or people who don't understand that there's a specific type of rice paper that's thinner so it doesn't need to be soaked, not that I'm suggesting you eat regular rice paper dry. (Not you Christine D., in case you read this.) Just rude people who really don't know as much about Vietnamese cuisine as they think they do. Those kind of people bug me. I don't know everything either, but then I don't go around telling people they're making cha ram wrong because it doesn't look like goi cuon. :)

  18. WC, The definition of "wrong" is like opinions. Well... I am sure you know the quote. I dont know enough about Vietnamese cuisine to even make any "wrong" comments but I am working on learning more. My mom is so happy. haha. Happy Friday.

  19. wow that was a lot of information, thank you for that. i sometimes wonder where you guys (the more popular blogs with huge amounts of visitors daily) find the time to respond the way you do, as well as keep content/posts fresh and interesting.

    i must not blog surf alot but i have never come across a blog where there is bashing of other bloggers.

    also, in regards to comments. i have tried a number of ways to respond, sometimes i respond in the same comment section, i've emailed directly or i've gone to the commenter's blog and commented there. and once, i did ALL three, repetitive and confusing to say the least! now i try to leave comments in the comment section but still visit the commenter's blog.

  20. Hi WC,

    I love your blog! You are my 'link' to my favourite Vietnames food that I missed soooo much since I left LA.

    I may not cook all the recipes you post, but I sure drool all over them!!!

    Sometimes, I don't understand why people would leave nasty comments. If I were to visit a blog that has a recipe that is different from the way "I" cook. I don't see it as "WRONG" ... it's just a different way of cooking!!!

    Some of the dishes that my sisters (I have 3) & I cooked are slightly different. We all have our own taste buds and we cook according to the way we prefer it to taste ... especially when WE are the ones cooking it!!!

    I use the recipes I find as guide-lines. I may follow the recipe to the "T" on the 1st or even 2nd try ... most times I adapt to my preferred taste.

    Anyway, don't stop what you are doing!!! I want to "Thank You" for giving me at least some of my link to my life in L.A. with your review on food and restaurants!!

  21. Again, nicely done WC. I'm amazed at your hits and am hoping you will post more of your "secrets" of blog traffic (besides posting frequency, I'm guessing you'll post more on this topic in 10 and 11 of this series?). I don't pay much attention to my hits, perhaps because I don't get many, but I'm beginning to think I should start concentrating on that more.

    I'm also very terrible at answering comments that appear in old posts. Whenever I get an email for a comment I get excited, and then I see that it's for something I wrote months ago I'm less excited. I know. I'm terrible. But I think you've guilted me into starting to answer comments even in the oldest of posts;)

    And bravo for getting on your soapbox!

  22. As the blogger that misquoted you without permission, I have since corrected the entry. I was thoughtless when I quoted without permission, because I was overly concerned with misquoting you so I typed directly from a twitter message. I can definitely see how that would bother you and I apologize. Please know that I asked for assistance because I value your knowledge so much. Do not worry, this certainly will not happen again and I will be more considerate of blogging etiquette thanks to your informative write-up.

  23. In my opinion, there is a fine line between a reader offering criticism on a recipe versus a reader telling you that you are doing it all wrong, and it's all in the wording or in the conversation that ensues. Unfortunately, many many people find it hard to present the spirit of their comments accurately. Still others find it difficult to discuss opposing views without escalating to an argument. Cooking is so individualistic, it's funny that these things come up, but they do. Personally, I would welcome constructive criticism and advice on my cooking, but someone just being argumentative or elitist would really bother me.

  24. This is a fantastic post and really helpful tips for all, especially us new bloggers. I think a lot of it is common sense, but it still helps to be remind of basic etiquette in the blogging world once in a while. Nicely written!

  25. That looks tasty! Just kidding, now...

    Glad to see that the Cookie C situation was dealt with(although now it looks like she's back with another screenname, but NOT plagarizing your reviews).

    About quoting other bloggers, I agree with your opinions on the matter. Bloggers are often more approachable than say a writer for the NY Times, so it never hurts to contact that person first and confirm that you would be using a private e-mail or other correspondence in your blog.

    In terms of writing about different cultures, I think it's absolutely necessary to check yourself and make sure you're not being ignorantly offensive, in terms of using words like "oriental" or "American".

    Funny, I had a somewhat heated conversation online about this once. What does "Americanized" REALLY mean? If you were born here, aren't you an American, regardless of racial background?

  26. Very thoughtful and interesting post. Of course you have a different approach to blogging having so many visitors and posting so frequently, but on the other hand this gives an amount of experience I will probably never reach with my chaotic fun page...

    I am trying to keep things as simple and friendly as possible, yet I got also angry a few times and posted things I disliked myself after cooling down my temper a few days later *sigh* Of course I deleted those afterwards, but there are still snippets cached in Google.

    Yes, absolutely yes, even if Google has a (pretty sneaky hidden) feature to delete pages from its cache, this only applies to one's own pages, since you have to add a bit of code into the header part of your page. Anything else remains in Google cache for years. I heard there are already companies which sell services to track down silly comments and online "faux pas" for clients, who became mature and more responsible and realized that their entire future life could be destroyed by a stupid online error. It is kinda frightening... No, it is actually really really frightening.

    Today I am really glad I made just some silly comments and never did anything really embarrassing. That is also another reason why I left Twitter (besides their server troubles and downtimes), too quickly said things get distributed all over the net on dozens of pages I never even heard about. Until today I can read dozens of comments I made on Twitter, not only from the Google cache, but stored and published really prominently somewhere. This is just creepy.

    BTW. you can count me in to the list of those people who "learn Vietnamese cooking from Wandering Chopsticks" :D
    Your page is great, even the best cookbook could never provide so much information and real advice. There is absolutely no wonder your page is this popular, this is one of the best Asian cooking pages out there, and all this with no tricks or Photoshop :D Maybe it is even the fact that your dishes look so real and home cooked (but still perfectly good photos), that people never get frightened, as in from looking at too unrealistic photos. Instead I just get the urge to cook. It just looks like I could cook this too in my own kitchen :D I am actually using already some of your cooking and serving techniques for my usual dishes, not directly, but as a form of constant inspiration...

  27. Oops, I left a comment (or thought I did) on this post, but I don't see it yet. WC, I totally DID want to meet up w/food bloggers down South (including you and EDNBM + CP), but I didn't think I'd have time since I was in my friend's wedding and even did the makeup for her Mom! The meal I had was on the way to the airport. Still, that is no excuse. I will make sure to meet up w/you next time. BTW, my grandma loves your blog! I show her the food pix because she does not read or speak in English--only Vietnamese.

  28. I do apologize friend. And you wouldn't need to take me out anywhere! However, if you made one of your world famous cha gio (rice paper or plain spring roll wrapper, I am not picky), then I would be your friend for life! Only one cha gio is necessary. Not a batch. :D I am sure I will remember that taste for life.

  29. WC,wow, what a great post!! Like a lot of other new bloggers, I am always learning and this is truly informative!

    Being so new = not too many traffic, I haven't receive any comments about what I did is wrong type of thing. *Horrified!* I can't help but cracking up about eggrolls part :D I can't relate, culinary wise. But in my line of work, it ticks me off when clients would literally tell me the a-z on how to do 'my' work!!! Sure, I get paid, but....come on! :)

  30. Thanks so much for taking the time to thoughtfully and intelligently educate us on so many topics.

    And I'm so touched by the stories you're receiving from readers. That is so cool that you are (hopefully) helping someone realize that the way to a Vietnamese man's heart is through his stomach. I hope she keeps you posted on the outcome.

  31. thank you so much for this blog. being a new blogger myself i find this all very helpful and while i am not a food blogger, i do appreciate the guidance here because its very universal.

    you've made me look at blogging in a totally different light; it is an art in class and courtesy with rich interactions.

  32. I don't think you've addressed this (I hope I'm not wrong...). I follow recipes from cookbooks or magazines often. Am I not allowed to copy it, even if I reference it? If there's a link, I'll add the link but what if I only have it in print? I like to share, but I don't want to get in trouble.

  33. Like you, I welcome comments and even little tips that I may have missed.... but enviably, there will be someone will will take it abit to far and start being very critical or rude even. It's hard not to take it personally but a good lesson to learn.

    As for replying comments, I struggle with that sometimes too. I try to reply as soon as I can but often that might take a few days. But I do agree, sometimes, I like checking back to see if my questions has been answered or comment been reviewed-I like to think that the world is a small place and comments are like conversations for us to improve on cooking/writing skills as well.. abit like intellectual conversation if that is every possible.

  34. This is a useful and fantastic read especially for folks like me who's quite still new to all this ;) Luv all your food blogging series, though there are still a few for me to catch up on the reading. Hey if you have any feedback for my site, can share with me (no matter how brutal the truth may be hehe) ... btw congratulations on your traffic increase... blog on! XD

  35. i generally try not to criticise anyone, except very public figures such as the much loved tony bourdain lol, but i am pretty harsh in terms of restaurant reviews or recipes created/published by professionals

    as for comments, first i tried to respond to every one...but lately i tried to just respond to the "wow it looks tasty" in just 1 sentence "thx for ur comment ^_^"

    sometimes i hv the luxury of time to wander to all the commenting blogs, sometimes i didnt have to even respond to comments at all :(

    sorry you guys....i'll work harder harder harder...

  36. Clara,
    Ask your mom for her recipes. They always like that. :)

    I think I've tried to respond in multiple ways too. And try to visit people who leave me comments. But sometimes, it really isn't possible to do everything. And when it comes down to it, updating my blog and respond to comments takes priority over visiting other blogs and commenting. It was startling for me to see that post criticizing another blogger. Thankfully, that doesn't happen often. Overall, the food blogging community is quite nice, but there's always a few bad apples in anything.

    Tigger Mum,
    Exactly! In most comments we all chime in with suggestions of how to do things, or we learn new ways of doing things. All those comments are welcomed. But every once in a while, there's a commenter who likes to go around telling everyone how much they know and how wrong you are. And in many cases, those commenters are the ones who are flat out wrong. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog, even if you don't cook my recipes. :)

    You should pay attention to your traffic and respond to it. That's partly how you can increase it. Also, old posts matter, they're how some people find your blog. So it's worth it to respond because they do come back to see if you've answered their question. And in some cases, that old post and whether you respond is how they become a regular reader.

    No harm done. Thank you for your apology. It's just me being overly concerned about how I come off online. I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to spelling and punctuation and all that.

    There are so many ways of cooking the same dish, and so many different taste buds that there's so much room for discussion. But there's always a few people who don't realize how they come off when they say things. And sometimes, people say things in such a way that there's not other interpretation except rudeness. If they're rude to me, or rude to my readers, I hit delete.

    Thanks! I think it's largely common sense too, so it's boggling that it needs to be said huh?

    Bites and Bolts,
    Thank you again for looking out for me. I've posted several times about other "American" musings. I think I just want people to realize "American" does not mean white or hamburgers and hot dogs. The beauty of our culture and cuisine is its ability to absorb and adapt to all of our immigrants. My little bit to try and educate others, even if it is through food.

    Thank you for your kind words. What types of techniques did you learn from me, that you're using? I wanna know. :) Twitter's been an interesting experience for me. There's a lot of personal chatter going on, and I guess only you can decide how much information you want to put out there. I think I'm leaning more towards using it as a message board for announcements of various things on the blog, or just to let others know when I've put up a new post. I'm very conscious of how much I want out there, which is very little! Google is Big Brother! And while it's convenient, it's also scary.

    Haha! My cha gio aren't that great. I'm just teasing you. I know how hectic weddings can be. It's crazy trying to squeeze everything in, much less make time to meet up with other bloggers. And your other comment is there, it's way up high on this loop.

    What? You mean egg rolls aren't burritos? ;)

    Susan C.,
    I hope so too! Then my blog gets credit for bringing two people together. :)

    Seasonal Lust,
    Thank you! I think the sense of community is the nicest part of blogging. You don't have to be a part of it if you don't want to. There are certainly plenty of bloggers who just post and do their own thing, but to me the interactions are the best part. Otherwise, I'm just typing out to emptiness.

    Yup, all the copyright and republishing stuff is covered in my previous chapter about copyright and credit. There are bloggers who republish recipes from magazines and cookbooks on their blogs. I would never do that though. Doesn't matter if you give credit, it's still a copyright violation because you're not supposed to republish. I don't like borrowing trouble. However, if you've made changes and adapted the recipe, and you write all the directions in your own words, then you can post about it and give credit back. I've done that for several recipes, where I got the idea and a general sense of the recipe, but changed quantities, ingredients, or methodology. See my most recent Vietnamese coconut tartlets recipe. I didn't go from the book, but got the idea and added my own twist. Otherwise, if there's very little real changes, you can post about it with photos and mentioned that you made it in case others want to buy the book, but I wouldn't reprint the recipe. That's me, because I'm very conscious of copyright.

    Inevitably you mean? There's a lot of back and forth with food blogs. Celebrity blogs or fashion blogs and stuff, it's not quite the same. I think it's because many of us are sharing parts of ourselves along with the food, so people do get more personal. And for that reason, the comments should be acknowledged. I'm not always able to respond right away either. But I do try to keep up on it or else it just becomes too unwieldy.

    Your site is great, you worry wart!

    What? You don't love Tony? And here I thought everyone loved Tony? :) Food celebrities are a whole different breed. Everyone slags on Rachel Ray for instance. ;) We all have lives. It's not like any of us make a living from our blogs. Or most of us anyway!

  37. There is one thing I would like to point out about people who mistake race/ethnicity and citizenship: my great-grandfather(1875-1942) was not considered "white" when he was born in Savannah Georgia. Why? His parents were from Ireland. Irish, Italians. Sicilians, Greeks, and eastern European Jews/Orthodox Christians were not automatically recognized as "white" by the US government until well into the 1920's.
    You could say that John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was the first "non-white" president of the USA;)
    By the way immigrants from India were considered "white" until the 1960's.

  38. Soup Monkey,
    Good points about the changing definition of European "white." A correction though. While anthropologists defined Indians as Aryans, they were not considered "white" ie. "Caucasian" and were not accorded the same privileges. See US v. Bhagat Singh Thind.

  39. You are absolutely right about the negative comments affecting you. It didn't made me quit, but it did soured my mood for a few hours and then I posted a little pondering thought in my blog regarding one of the feedback I got.

    Basically it took me some little time to let that go.

    Your tips did helped me out and gave me some very good ideas on the pitfalls regarding my blog. Especially the tracking and building traffic.

    I can't wait for your last three installments!

  40. Pepsi Monster,
    I think it's sad when people choose to be rude because they can hide behind the internet. But also, Digg and some other sites have skewed the way people comment. Inflammatory comments are much more likely to get a rise and to get their comments moved up. Those types of commenters then carry that on when the comment on blogs. There's no need to give those people a platform for rudeness, so I choose not to engage them at all and hit delete.

    Haha. Is that a hint? I know, I need to finish up the series. They take a lot of time for me to write since I try to make them as thorough as I can at the time I write them.

  41. Hey WC,

    Yeah I know! No pressure though. I know you like to be thorough and I appreciated that. Willing to be patient on that front.

    The Whole sucky part of the entire incident was that the guy have the audacity to name the people he/she thinks that is the authority figure on the place that I reviewed. (not that I am suspecting the hidden identity can be one of the two names mentioned. LOL)

    Hence the question. Would you delete the comment? I guess it's up to the blogger.

    Also, I noticed you mentioned about people repeating the same pleasantry on your posts. You know you wouldn't click on it to read the other blogs, but would you delete you if you feel it's a spam? Do you think there's a protocol for that?

    Yeah, that got me thinking a bit. I'm curious on your thoughts on that. Thanks!

  42. Pepsi Monster,

    As you said, it's up to the blogger. I don't delete comments if someone disagrees with me. Like if they had a bad experience at a place I liked. Or they liked a place I didn't. I hate when people think someone else is an "authority." It's your tastebuds. No one else can tell you what you should or shouldn't like. There are several places that critics and bloggers go gaga over and I don't like them. And I have no problem saying so.

    The only comments I delete are obvious Spam and offensive ones. Repetitive comments, especially if they're pleasant still deserve a "thanks." I see it this way: if you pass by someone every day in the office, they don't say anything to you beyond "hello," wouldn't you still say "hi" back? I may not talk to them further, but I can still be polite.

  43. Great post! People too often completely disregard other people on the net just because they can't see them.

    And thanks for the hat tip re the oriental word - was completely unaware. Will watch out for that in future.

  44. Marisa,
    Unfortunately, too many courtesies go to the wayside with anonymity these days.

  45. Very informative post. Generally, I don't read your blog information posts, because I don't have one. But your link to this post from Oriental Food Value Supermarket as to why the word Oriental is offensive led me here. As an Asian, I was always slightly uncomfortable with people describing food and stuff and other Asians as 'Oriental'. But I couldn't really place a finger on it, it just made me feel weird. Thanks! Now I can explain why I don't like it. On a side note, I think I tried to comment on a fro-yo review of yours a year ago? I don't quite remember the time frame, but I do remember recommending Yogen Fruz as a place to try out. I'm really not a paid Yogen Fruz spam monkey butt. I didn't know about their bad sneaky promotions. Sorry about that.

  46. Karen,
    Google the "Asian is not Oriental" poem and it might help you understand it better too. Sorry if I deleted your Yogen Fruz comment! So many of the comments sounded like bad spam that I pretty much delete them all unless the commenter said something else.


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