Saturday, September 6, 2008

Basic Blogging Etiquette - and Church-Specific Council

From Elder Ballard: "This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths. It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know. ("Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet" - Ensign, July 2008)

1) Remember, you do NOT speak for the Church. It is fine to say, "I believe" or "in my opinion (imo)", but it often is not ok to say explicitly, "The Mormon Church teaches . . ." (There are some things that are so fundamental that such a statement is fine.) If you create your own blog, it is a good idea to add a disclaimer stating that the things on your blog are your own opinion and that you do not represent the Church. On all stake and ward auxiliary blogs, such a disclaimer is required.

2) On personal blogs, remember that they are open to public view - including those whose motives are not in line with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not post personal information that could lead a stranger to identify you. Use abbreviations or nicknames when discussing yourself or others. While it is fine to post pictures on personal blogs, avoid adding names to the pictures - especially full names, but even fully spelled first names. This is required on all stake and ward blogs. (For example, "Sister Smith"should be referred to as "Sis S.", and "Melanie" should be listed as "M".)

When publishing pictures of those who are not immediate family, it is a good idea to obtain permission from the parent(s) or guardian(s) of anyone who is still a minor. Publishing pictures of individuals on stake and ward blogs is expressly prohibited.

Also, due to the potential for abuse when comments are unrestricted, the settings on all stake and ward blogs are set to default at comment moderation for all blogs. Do not release comments that violates the comment policy provided at the bottom of each blog; rather, delete them.

3) Make sure you understand any doctrine you are discussing. One of the worst things you can do is argue with someone about some teaching of the Church when you are wrong and they are right. This is important particularly when discussing Church history - both factual details and statements of former prophets and apostles.

4) Be respectful and courteous, even when you disagree strongly with someone. NEVER insult anyone or their intelligence. Charity and love should govern your comments, even when you are correcting a mistake in someone else's comment.

5) Stick to the topic being discussed. "Threadjacks" generally are not appreciated, unless you have commented long enough to be seen as a "regular" - and even then they are not encouraged. Keep your comments as short and concise as possible. Nobody wants to read a novel. Many people will skip long comments entirely.

6) Use SpellCheck, and pay attention to grammar. Nothing can make others disregard your input as quickly as mis-spelled words and simple grammatical mistakes. Also, use standard capitalization, sentence punctuation and paragraph breaks.

7) Re-read your comments before submitting them. As you read them, think about how you would feel or react if someone else was writing the comment to you. Edit your comment if you would feel uncomfortable or upset if it was directed at you. Don't get into comment fights - EVER. "We will have to agree to disagree," is a great way to end a potential fight.

8) Read and follow the rules on each blog where you comment. Remember, different blogs have different rules - and enforcement of those rules also varies. Some things that are allowed or even encouraged on some blogs are not tolerated on others.

9) It is a good idea to "lurk" (read without commenting) on any blog you visit for at least a couple of weeks before you start commenting. Lurking is an excellent way to gauge how comments are perceived by the authors and other commenters. (For example, it is a good way to see which blogs encourage humor and which ones don't.) Many people have jumped into commenting too quickly, offended the regular commenters unintentionally and ended up being "banned" (not allowed to comment again) - simply because they didn't take enough time to understand the general tone of the blog.

10) For all auxiliary and stake network blogs, do not change or delete the disclaimers or links/sections provided as the structural backbone. It is fine to change the visual format and add appropriate links and additional sections, but what is provided by the stake must remain as an active part of the blogs. (The stake cannot control what you add to the blogs, but it will delete anything of which it is made aware that is not appropriate to the mission of the blog network - sharing the Gospel and the Church with all within its boundaries.)