The Blogger Code of Ethics

It seems to me that I’ve never seen a code of ethics for bloggers. Have you?

I figured I’d write one. The interesting thing about this code is that it isn’t just an ethical code. It happens to be a success code. If one applies this code at all times, their chances of success increase. Success gravitates to ethical people, for the most part.

It also happens that this code would be true for pretty much anybody in business. But, since I’m a blogger, I like to talk about that. Naturally. :)

So, here it is:

  1. Be thankful.
  2. Be and act kind.
  3. Be and act generous.
  4. Help people.
  5. Be honest.
  6. Be transparent.
  7. Only sell what is in absolute best interest of the customer.
  8. Don’t require approval or praise.

What do you think?

Let me offer a few comments on this code.

Be thankful. Never take for granted that you have readers or that people pay you money. They made a choice to invest a small part of themselves in you. Thank them for it.

Be and act kind. You like it when people are kind to you, so always be kind back. It comes naturally for most of us. The biggest challenge might be when somebody goes after you in a negative way. When you get snide comments, it might be hard for you not to counter-attack. The quest for rightness is the path to nowhere. In most cases, you’re better off just deleting the email and walking away than to respond in kind. You don’t owe replies to people who don’t deserve one.

Be and act generous. Give more value than you take. Try to help your readers with personal email replies.

Help people. This is the foundation of this entire business. Help people solve problems and they will pay you back in spades.

Be honest. Always always always. Don’t promote something you don’t believe in. Don’t write anything that doesn’t come from a place of honesty.

Be transparent. People like to bond with real people. So, be a real person. Social media is the best tool for transparency. Also, bloggers have often seen how readers respond to posts which are most transparent. This doesn’t mean you have to tell your readers everything (that’d be stupid), but don’t be an impersonal faceless person, either.

Only sell what is in the absolute best interest of the customer. Pretty much a no-brainer.

Don’t require approval or praise. This is a biggie for many bloggers who just have a hard time taking it. Some bloggers have their whole day ruined when somebody decides to unsubscribe, leaves a bad comment, or requests a refund. Why? First of all, this is a people business and not every person is going to click with you. Don’t take it personally. Just realize that that person is not your ideal reader/customer, and part ways. But, under all that, just make it a personal policy that you don’t need approval. It you required approval for everything, you could never rock the boat in any way.

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Got a Question or Comment?

  1. Great list! I would add “Be Humble.” This is “ear-conditioning” that keeps one open to new ideas and concepts. It keeps one in the learning mode.

    Tom Schulte | Executive Director | Linked 2 Leadership
    http://www.Linked2Leadership.com

  2. I gotta say, David. Right on the money with this code. I'm fairly new to writing in the blogosphere but I've been an avid reader for years, and I unfortunately see this code broken too often. Fortunately, though, there are a lot of really great bloggers out there already doing what you're proposing, and (fortunately for the long-term outlook in this great business,) they are the ones enjoying the highest levels of sustained success. I hope to be among them (yourself included) one day.

    Thanks!

    Justin P Lambert

  3. Be fair and objective. Just because you have a firm opinion on a topic doesn't make someone with an opposing view wrong.

  4. Definitely. As a blogger you have to quickly learn that it is all about community and helping others. I try to always tell people that but some still do not get it and wonder why their blog isn't as successful as they would like. They are stuck in their comfort zone and do not do some of the things on your list, if any.

    People will not automatically come to your blog, you need to make conscious effort.

  5. sandrasimmons says:

    I absolutely agree with this code of ethics and would like to suggest adding these points to it

    9. Be true to your own goals – Not driven by someone else's
    10. Be unique – Be you; everyone else is taken

  6. Great code. More people should follow these things in every day life as well as on their blogs.

    It's the lovely thing about what I get to do. Even the most well intentioned dog lover doesn't usually know some of the cool things I can help with and am happy to get the ideas out there for people to use with their dogs everyday.

    Wagging more for people and their dogs is an awesome thing!

  7. Great stuff David, and I like these two extra points Sandra. Might be worth printing this out and putting it on the wall next to my desk.

  8. Good points. :-)

    Yeah, I'm sure this code could be expanded upon.

  9. This reminds me of how all this new tech, new media, new rules of pr…. all pretty much circle us back around to the simple rules of the road.
    the List of the code of ethics reads similar to what i remember from Boy scouts.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same and peoples golden rules are wise words to live by.
    thanks and take care
    Bry

  10. Great advice David.
    My bet is that number #8 will be the hardest for most bloggers. I had to stop all notifications of people unsubscribing etc, it's too distracting and too tempting to read too much into it!
    cheers
    Simon

  11. mirkogosch says:

    Hey David,

    The Blogger Codes of Ethics are spot-on. I subscribe to all of your 8 rules and those Sandra added as well.

    Mirko

  12. David
    These are rules to live by and I think a lot of us (including me!) struggle with the separation of personal and business lines. It seems we learned to put on a different face in business in the old days, but really the thing to do is just be yourself and treat others the way you want to be treated.
    The lines are really just keeping the intimate details of your personal life to yourself-otherwise let people know who you are
    Cheers
    Mark

  13. Hope you're doing well, Bryan. I seem to recall talking to you at Kern's Mass Control event last year.

  14. moneyandrisk says:

    David,

    It sounds like you got burned by someone who you associated with and believed in.

    There really isn't a need for a code of ethics so much as for people to act the same online as they would in real life. It's when people hide their true self and act differently for an audience that their online associates get hurt or they get hurt.

    If someone is self-centered and thoughtless, I'd rather know now. On the other hand, I've seen people acting out online because they feel anonymous in their mind. There is no recognition of consequences because they have a disconnect between their life outside and the life inside the internet. MMORPG is probably a good example of these behaviors.

    If a blog is monetizing, then the blogger should treat it as a business and act with professional courtesy and ethics.

    The traits that you are talking about above such as kindness, generosity, and honesty are personality traits. You can't tell a con man to be honest and expect that he will be honest. A user will always be a user.

    They can pretend but eventually their true self will shine through and hurt the people who trust them based on the persona.

    I've wondered for years if some of the horrific attitudes I've seen online are actually the real person freed from societal constraints that real life imposes. Their deepest, true self.

    Unfortunately, you can't tell someone to be ethical. They have to choose to be ethical.

  15. Thanks David,
    Flattered you remember me from so long ago.
    doin fine here, just catching up with some client work that should have been done before i taught a workshop last nite,
    I was actually thinking next post I do for my blog may be an exploration and extension of this post of yours and wondering whether its worth trying to find out if the Boy scout insignia/logo was usable under fair use with attribution.
    funny to see you're in the same boat as me with an overly astute toddler who enjoys the mind games on mommy .
    Keep on rockin and take care
    Bry

  16. Aabigmack says:

    You've done it again, thank you David. I'm like some of the readers with my struggle with the mighty #8. It seems as if you read my mind from across the country. Thanks for the uplift once again and much love to your family.

  17. I remember that a code of ethics for bloggers were a hot issue a year ago. It was during the time when paid blog posts/reviews were still hot. Details are sketchy but those who started the debate wanted to have a universal code to be applied by all bloggers, but then some opposed saying that no single blogger or group of bloggers have the right to do such a thing because blogging by itself is democratic and that the blog-o-sphere would police its own.

    Then came the “I Disclose” movement, which I think was the response to the call for a “blogger's code of ethics.” Anyways, that's what I remember whenever I read about this topic.

    But your version of it is plain, simple and is good standard to stand on.

  18. I have seen something similar. Its called Blog with Integrity. There was an uproar about a year ago and someone drafted a badge, etc. But no matter what you call it, you should be honest with your readers and true to yourself in everything you do in life.

  19. It's a standard code for building a good business, isn't it? It's the foundation to building trust and good relationships and it's well worth reminding people. The sad part is the people who need to read this won't because it's not “flashy” enough – they're in another space altogether

  20. It's a good beginning for building a blog as a brand name on the Internet. Beginning to make people trust me not only as a blogger but as a person as well.

  21. Are_Morch says:

    Also agree that your points was great David and that Sandra here added that extra little touch.

    Cheers.. Are

  22. Way to go Jonco…

    I have a teenage age son who when I say yes he says No…

    I guess we have opposing personalities :-)

    Malcolm.

  23. In the pre-Internet days, I used to say there's no such thing as “work ethics,” there's just ethics. You have them, or you don't. People that don't have ethics don't suddenly gain them for the work hours. I think the same applies to bloggers. There's just ethics; you have them, or you don't.

    Reading just a few blog posts (of any blogger) is usually enough to figure out which is which. The ones that can fool people for a while, those are the ones to really watch out for. The obvious ones are dead easy to spot and they attract their own kind.

  24. You forgot the one about not coveting thy neighbour's blog :-)

    Seriously, a good start and I have no doubt that you can add to it but where do you stop?

    I think the beauty of it is in its simplicity and I love Sandra's suggestions.

  25. “The quest for rightness is the path to nowhere” Now that would make a great tattoo…

  26. Nice work Dave, that sums up what we do, or should do, very nicely. Thanks for posting it to the world, everyone with a blog should have a copy. man this sounds like spam but it isn't!

  27. Yeah, that whole disclosure debate is small potatoes compared to a higher-level code of just being honest and never recommending anything against somebody's best interest. If you do that, then whether you disclose an affiliate link or not is immaterial. That's my view.

  28. Nah, I didn't get burned. One might think so given my post from Monday, but the draft of this post was written already before I authored that other one. This code was just written for everybody, with no particular person in mind.

  29. I especially like the points about being transparent and not requiring approval or praise. This is a great code!

  30. I agree, it's just like with any business. I also like #10 Sandra…

  31. Any time one writes this should be their code. Even those that get paid for what they write. Unfortunately I don't think that it does not happen often in journalism, be it radio, tv or print (web or paper)

  32. Marchamont says:

    Utter dross.

    - that's point 9, be able to take criticism.

    This is a code for a nicey-nicey, I'd like people to buy things off me blog. But a lot of bloggers are cutting edge, putting their balls on the line day-in and day-out, and sometimes a lot more than that.

    Those people are the real deal and we shouldn't forget that.

    So a code for bloggers – no way. A code for commercial bloggers perhaps.

    And point 10 – be controversial ;)

    regards

  33. MarkEValley says:

    David,

    You have certainly done it again! You've taken a slow news day and picked an old chestnut topic to blog about. Your code lacks originality or punch. You can do far better than this! Are you close to burnout or something?– Is that why this stuff seems so lackluster?

    Best,
    Mark

  34. Deborah Shane says:

    David, you kind of hit it when you said it is a “life code” really. It's about fundamentals that are powerful attractors. So much of social activity and business is based on serving, supporting, gratitude and engagement. It's simply humane and smart customer service to be this way. I mean who do you know that enjoys interacting with a mean, hostile, angry, egotistical, self centered, lyin jerk? Just sayin. You are true to your code, and I appreciate that about you.

  35. I agree with this code but simply try to “Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.” It is simple to remember and effective. Treating others how you would like to be treated shouldn't only apply to blogging of course.

  36. I can agree in particular #7, a lot of bloggers need to see this – every single email they send “buy this – buy that”. It gets really annoying after awhile especially those who claim they make a million – a voice in my head says “why do they need to sell more when they are making a million?” – probably the reality is they have spent all their fortunes on more expensive things and are in with bigger mortgages. Instead of simplifying their lives they have complicated everything.

    I really like to send this out – to all bloggers who are guilty. Problem is most of these guys would never read it if you sent it. Thanks for the post.

  37. evanhadkins says:

    I entirely agree with all the points.

    It is in the application that things get interesting I think.

    For instance: I think having pop-ups that dominate the screen are inconsistent with “Be and act generous” – they make it clear that the blogger is more interested in their own needs than their readers.

  38. That's why you just close it and move on. :-)

  39. Thanks David for sharing this. I agree with you totally about every point you have made here. Truth, honesty, and integrity should always be first on any of our minds.

  40. Tabrea777 says:

    I agree with Deborah…..you are true to that code and that's also what I like and respect about you. Yeah I'd rather be happy than right… and I have always tried to use these codes in busness as well as life….and your right it is also a success code….I have one also..

    Work like you don't need the money…..it is through giving we receive

  41. “Don’t require approval or praise” this was the best though it doesn't look like a code…we shouldn't take things personally…or anyone will get the liberty to ruin our day :)

  42. I agree with all of your 8 suggestions David.
    Most of us start off trying to please others and fall flat on our face.
    You need to really be the best you you can be. Tell the truth, share wisely and be committed to what you believe in.
    Pierre
    Thee Quest For Perfect Health
    theequest.com

  43. lol! Marchamont is an aposite pseudonym in this case. Marchamont Needham is portrayed in some circles as a revolutionary writer. The truth is he changed sides every few years during the British civil war, always being careful to follow the money, and often writing his pamphlets under a false name. He was basically a fraud.

  44. I think a code of ethics is a good idea, and I'd sign up to one if we can refine it a little and get some wide acceptance for it.

    I'd add a ninth to this. “Do what you say you're going to do.”

  45. Marchamont Needham says:

    How cruel to sully a man's reputation in such a fashion.

    Mr Needham was a writer who changed sides in order to write. In those days, upsetting somebody by pamphleteering could get you flogged through the streets of London, cast into The Fleet or have various parts of your anatomy struck off. That's why most pamphlets of the era are anonymous.

    The changes were obvious – e.g. Mercurius Pragmaticus and Mercurius Politicus. What could be clearer than that? And if you were to read Christopher Hill's excellent book on the experience of defeat, you'd realise just how many of the main protagonists changed their views along the way.

    In fact, the whole country changed their views by restoring the monarchy! Except of course for the regicides who weren't allowed that luxury.

    And nowadays – Marchamont is probably best known as the first spin doctor.

  46. Great post David, as blogging is a people business and two way communication between blogger (the writer) and the reader we should follow some ethics. You raised this voice. With your 8 point I also like the two extra point by Sandra.

    Thanks.

  47. Mark Mobley says:

    Great post. The only one I would add would be, “Have courage.”
    to quote Teddy Roosevelt

    Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

  48. “Marchamont is probably best known as the first spin doctor.”

    I rest my case. :)

  49. PatriciaD says:

    I totally agree and like sandrasimmons 9 and 10, too.

  50. A little Old Skool usenet pops up. Brilliant!

  51. Billyjbowling says:

    Good, sound, basic human, (she and he), stuff. You can never go wrong by starting with this kind of simple, basic foundation. After all, everyone is just trying to get it all figured out, and service and helpfulness are the only true directions; everything else is selfishness and power tripping.

  52. annegalivan says:

    Good list. Well-stated.

    For me, I think it all comes down to this: follow the “Golden Rule.” If we would treat others the way we want to be treated, we will be acting ethically.

    I like how you go a little further encouraging us that, while we are being kind and generous, we need to not get worked up by those who just want to dump on someone. Neither should we go into blogging (or any venture really) requiring that our actions be praised or approved. It's hard to walk away when we are being unjustly slammed. It takes courage to go where we feel led even if the road is lonely at times. But if we want success and fulfillment in life, those two things are absolutely necessary. Moreover, when we do those things, we inspire that kind of grace and courage in others. Win/Win.

  53. yes only promote what you know works.

  54. I would like to add

    - Have the courage to be a person, not a company.

    Often I see freelancers and bloggers who address themselves as “we” or “our”. “our goal is to…”, “we believe you as a customer…”. I personally think it´s far better to go with “me” and “my”. If i´m a single person doing all the work, why in the world should I go around and call myself “we”?

  55. 54 comments on this excellent post but not one of those who read it already took the time to review it on StumbleUpon? THAT is why I believe influential bloggers who understand how to use Social Media must collaborate with each other. No matter how many readers and followers we each have most of them are not adept at spreading the word effectively.

  56. I am a huge fan of full disclosure, but I suspect that the relationship between influence and bias is often (or even mostly) not based on cash. That becomes virtually impossible to sort out so cleanly.- If a blogger works for one company and reviews a product built buy a partner during the early stages of a partnership between two companies- If a blogger’s main source of income is as a professional speaking, and he/she discusses a company’s upcoming product release while talking with that company about a speaking engagement- If a blogger has an industry-specific blog, and finds his/herself looking for regular employment, and provides reviews of the products of potential employers in order to garner a conversationAll of these situations are very biased, but not cash-related. I’m not sure that it would be easy to bucket the types of bias so cleanly. We may be best with a “sunshine” policy of simply declaring any potential sources of bias, to your own best knowledge.Great conversation to start though, thanks for highlighting it.

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