Rules for Rain City Guide Contributors

I’ve never been one for rules, but in preparing to take on a new RCG contributor, I thought it might be a good time to articulate some of the informal rules that we seem to have developed on the site in order to bring together such an interesting crew (often with competing interests!) :)

But first… Let’s be clear that there are no formal rules. And I definitely enjoy watching contributors “break” the unwritten rules because they almost always get immediate (and rarely pleasant) feedback from the community.

Here are the only two “rules” that come to mind:

  1. If you are going to attack something… attack ideas, not people. (i.e. “your idea sucks”… not “you suck”)
  2. Avoid obvious self-promotion.

The first rule is just a modified version of a rule from my mother with regards to the way I needed to treat my little sisters… (I was allowed to say to them “you did a bad thing”… but never “you are a bad person”). It’s pretty simple advice that I inevitably regret when I forget to obey.

An interesting related piece of advice from my mother is that I was never allowed to say “no” to my younger sisters, but rather I always had to say “instead”, as in “instead of playing with that, here is a toy you’ll find interesting.” Combine those two bits of advice and you get the essence of good blogging: Passionate challenging of ideas while providing interesting solutions.

The second rule is much more art than science and I can’t blame new bloggers for crossing the line on this too often. Obvious self-promotion looks bad and is an real turn-off for most consumers. I’m a huge believer in treating my readers like they are intelligent and savvy enough to know that the typical professional is blogging in order to earn business. If the consumer likes your attitude and style, they will choose you when looking for an professional without the need to constantly prompt them. One of the reasons I put all the contact information for active contributors on the sidepanel is because I think it is classier if I do the promotion for the contributors than if they try to do it for themselves… ;)

By the way, one trick I recommend for new real estate agents to help stay away from the self-promotion angle is to make sure there is always at least one link in their posts that references an idea of someone else. The link could be to a news article, but preferably it is another blog post. (A ton of credit for promoting this idea goes to Greg as I’m not sure I would have realized this advice was novel without his encouragement…)

Linking does two things: 1) It adds credibility to your post because it demonstrates that you’re knowledgeable and follow many different real estate discussions and 2) it ensures that you’re part of the larger “real estate” conversation on the web.

This seems like a great topic to turn back on the community. Are these two “rules” sufficient to run a community? Are there other “rules” I encourage/enforce without realizing it? I would definitely enjoy everyone’s feedback! (but remember to attack my ideas and not me or I’ll delete your comment! LOL!)

UPDATE
Rhonda reminded me of a third “rule” I advice to new bloggers. I also request that contributors DO NOT post the same article on their blogs. This has two purposes: 1) It helps ensure that the articles they are writing are relevant to the RCG audience and 2) the duplicate posts are extremely bad SEO for the contributor’s website (There’s a long history behind this as more than one RCG contributor has temporarily lost all Google traffic to their personal blog after republishing all their RCG articles… The search engines, and Google in particular, hate this duplicate content and end up temporarily banning the agent’s site).

About Dustin Luther

As the Director of Engagement at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, Dustin heads up both the event and the social media teams. In addition to managing Rain City Guide, he also manages Credibility Insights and plays hard on his personal blog.

You can find me on Twitter (@tyr), Facebook (dluther) and Google+ (+Dustin Luther).

Comments

  1. Oh! Can’t wait to see who your new contributor is, as I’ve enjoyed reading all the current writers. One thing reading and writing for blogs has given me is a way and means to articulate ideas that were previously just spinning around in my head, and this back-and-forth conversation keeps me informed of the market from different areas of the city.

    As a blog moderator myself, I’ve been relieved of having to make any rules since we have a “terms of service” contract with the host that does not allow blatant self-promotion. One thing we have leeway with, however, is with comments, and it’s a fine line as to whether or not to allow anonymous comments by hostile writers to infiltrate and poison a thread. What’s the point if it doesn’t add anything to the conversation?

    Thanks Dustin, for you continued efforts and good work here.

  2. ‘The first rule is just a modified version of a rule from my mother with regards to the way I needed to treat my little sisters… (I was allowed to say to them “you did a bad thing

  3. Marlow, soon enough you’ll get to know the new contributor! :)

  4. I just refreshed my page and thought that Galen was the new contributor since his photo is updated!

  5. By the nature of the post my guess is the new contributor is someone who holds beliefs in contrast to the general population of the existing posters…a seattle bubble type maybe?

  6. Dustin, is there a rule about “reposting” on our personal blogs? I sometimes get close to doing this with the Friday rates, however I try to change the commentary so that the information is at least a little different.

    And I confess, I did repost when I was on vacation, a few old RCG post I had written over on Mortgage Porter, however, I “disclosed” it when it was republished.

    What are your thoughts?

  7. “…a seattle bubble type maybe?” I resemble that remark. What kind of type would that be? ;)

    What about the nature of the post would suggest that, anyway? People who think we are in a bubble don’t have self-promotion as a goal. What are we selling, other than clarity of thought, unmuddled by the self-interest and self-promotion?

    No, my guess is representative of one of the on-line competitors to the traditional agency model. Zillow or Redfin.

    That would shake things up around here!

  8. Biliruben,

    A Zillow or Redfin rep would fit with my interpretation of the post as well. My point was that by establishing a rule of “attacking the idea and not the person,” Dustin is concerned the new person will be bringing in ideas that may not be popular with most of the posters here. I guess I wasn’t putting too much emphasis on the self-promotion rule as that may have been more directed at the more recent battle between Craig, Ardell, etc.

    Now that I think about it though, I think your guess is probably more realistic as both of the posted rules would apply!

  9. You guys are reading way more into this than I expected! :)

    The new guy is someone who has been leaving interesting comments lately..

    By the way, Matt Goyer from Redfin was publishing stuff for a while, but he got a bit busy (go figure!)… and I wouldn’t be against bringing others (like a Zillow employee) on board, but they’d have to be active in the RCG community for a bit first.

  10. Rhonda… You are SOOO right. I forgot about the duplicate content issue completely when writing this post.

    I also request that contributors DO NOT post the same article on their blogs. This has two purposes… 1) It helps keep posts that are super generic off the site and 2) the duplicate posts are extremely bad for SEO (mainly on the contributor’s other site since RCG ranks very well…).

    I think I’ll update the post to reflect this issue when I get a few more minutes to think about how to do it right!

  11. Maybe the Matt at UrbnLivn. The Realtors here would flame his ideas though since he wasn’t able to sell his condo.

  12. Oops, too late.

  13. I agree, Dustin. It’s important for any blog to have original content. I think Biliruben is our new addition to RCG!

  14. I think it’s another Attorney. Except for Bubble Bait, nothing starts a great debate like a Lawyer. Right Ardell?

  15. This is why a true blog is rare.If you are afraid to take some flak ,dont post in a real blog,jus watch the big fish as they circle.All this PC stuff is what got this country where it is.Its like kids sports now,dont keep score,everyone is a winner…….America now? The flavor looks like vanilla.

  16. In Rhonda’s case, I think you should allow an exception for her Friday Rates post. I mean that’s her business and her business relies in part on showing her products.

    I was planning to interview Ardell earlier about posting on sites and was planning to bring the guest blogging subject up but it never made it. Anyways the way I feel, I think bloggers shoudl offer information like educational articles on their own site, write about national issues on guest blogs and maybe post rates on both, but that’s just my thinking and you all know I could care less about what Google thinks of my site so…

    Like for my site, I will write about NC real estate on my site, maybe the NAR on say here or Greg Swann’s site and if I was a mortgage or loan officer, post information n both sites as this is where I feel I get a trade off for posting guest posts – allowing me to advertise my services on your site for free in exchange for content.

    Then again, I think I am going to be hanging up my blogging efforts soon anyways to try to focus on book writing (one real estate book, two novels, one baseball book and one recipe book) and seminars so my opinion doesn’t matter to begin with.

  17. R Duke,

    Is your comment in regards to the fact that I don’t like to publish attacks on individuals?

    Assuming so, here’s a bit more background…

    For many people, and I don’t put you in this category, the bar required for contributing to a website is actually quite high. I’d like to think that we get a wide variety of people who feel comfortable contributing within the RCG community because they have an implicit understanding that I won’t tolerate personal attacks. If that feels too vanilla or PC for you, I honestly don’t mind… And more to the point, that may mean we’re striking the right balance.

    By the way, I’ve seen you go off-topic many times, but I’ve never seen you attack any individual, so my comments about not tolerating personal attacks are not meant for you.

  18. I can’t wait to see who’s added to the mix….fun, fun, fun!

    So, some detective work is in order Dustin. The person is someone who has been “leaving interesting comments recently” . Hmmmm… could even be a “she” since even though it’s not April 1st (your apprentice reveal) you could be misleading us with the “guy” comment! Guess we’ll just have to wait patiently…. :-)

  19. Does all this mean I can’t call out Craig anymore? Jeez, can’t a girl have some fun once in awhile? When an agent and lawyer can’t “go at it” in public…well that’s just drawing the line a little on the boring side, don’t you think :)

    We’re all dying of suspense here. I think it’s the KW guy. I’d love for it to be Greg Perry. When is the curtain opening?

  20. Sorry Ardell, Greg’s already writing for us!

    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/realestate/author.asp?author=106580&x=9&y=9

    Dustin, we’re dyin’ to know who it is!

  21. Derek! That’s a ton of books to write!

    It really is hard to decide what to write where. My blog always comes last. I’ve been talking to my agents on the active rain blog, that’s been fun. Here it’s usually broad topic. Maybe I’ll turn my blog into a blatant self promotion blog :)

  22. Can’t wait to see the new person’s posts! Great post, Dustin, well put!!!

  23. Dustin, do you think I could lose my google juice from publishing rates at RCG and Mortgage Porter? I’m trying to vary how I title them and do it at different times in the day (this is also in case of interday rate changes).

  24. I think it should be Eleua

  25. Rhonda,

    I don’t think you should have any problem with what you’re doing… The only time I’ve seen problems is when entire posts are copied verbatim and cut-and-pasted in bulk in a short amount of time.

  26. Thanks, Dustin! :)

  27. Ardell: Yeah I know that’s a lot of books to write but the thing is, all but one is over half completed. I am the type of person who can wake up in the middle of the night have a wonderful idea, start writing and ends up with a girlfriend which throws me off track.

    I will virtually lock myself in my room at times and not be seen for days in order to sit down and write. Blogging is fun and I enjoy it and I may do some guest articles if someone wants me, but I just feel like writing books is more or less my thing.

  28. SS can win his $5 back if it’s E.

  29. I was going to suggest sniglet…

  30. Just to get everyone on the same page… I sent the following email to to R Duke yesterday and have not yet received a response…

    R Duke…

    Why do you feel the need to pepper all your comments with such rude remarks? No one at RCG is being rude with you and as a matter of fact, I’m seeing contributors go out of their way to bring you into the conversation. When you’re ready to begin conversing without all the rudeness, I’ll be happy to take you out of moderation.

    He’s obviously a real estate enthusiasts and I’d love to his opinions be part of the overall conversation… However, he will have to first work on providing commentary beyond mean one-liners.

  31. Dustin,

    Are lead posts bad too? hmmm

  32. Keven,

    What do you mean by lead posts?

  33. I bet a nickel I know who it is.

  34. Hey there, Dustin,

    I have a question about the rules. How will we be enforcing the rules?
    Are we like a craigslist sort of community here where one of the main contributors gets to flag a post? Will you be the sole enforcer? Is there a process we go through? The reason I ask, is because one of our contributors has penned a blatant self promotional post this afternoon.

    http://www.raincityguide.com/2007/09/18/taking-on-kingkong/

    So I suppose the adjective “blatant” is my own interpretation.

    Do I get to call that contributor on the carpet? Do I get to flag her post for deletion?

    If I have a vote in how the rules are enforced, here’s how I would vote to proceed.

    If a contributing author writes a post that is blatantly self-promotional in nature, or leaves comments on other posts that are blatantly self-promotional in nature, first I would approach the person and point out the error.

    Sometimes I find that folks just need to be re-directed towards the intended goal, which, in this case, is no blatant self-promotion.

    If it happened again, I would counsel the contributor to re-write the blog article from an informative perspective instead of a promotional perspective.

    If it happend a third time, every blog article would go into pre-screen moderation for a while.

    Once out of moderation, if it happened a fourth time, perhaps this contributor would be better served writing for a different blog.

    Rules without enforcement are like having no rules.

    RCG writers: Your thoughts?

  35. Jillayne,

    I’d agree that the last post pushed the boundaries of what’s appropriate on RCG and I’ve begun a conversation with Reba.

  36. Email Etiquette
    Technically speaking a computer is a perfect communicator. It says exactly what it is instructed to say. Whenever we send an email, regardless of the purpose, it’s the equivalent of sending out our resume; therefore, the message should be from our Adult perspective.

    A good approach in an email is to use “I” messages instead of the “You” type. By doing so it invites the receiver’s contribution and it provides direction without demeaning the other person. The “I” message is an Adult-to-Adult message that does not diminish the receiver’s self-esteem.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The People’s Choice Award is fun for me. I get to see what everyone else would have voted for for the Odysseus Medal. If you think consensus in the norm, think again. Virtually every post in the short-list of nominees will earn votes, a nice testament to the overall quality of the candidate posts. Still: Somebody’s gonna win. This week it’s Rain City Guide’s Dustin Luther with Rules for Rain City Guide Contributors. The title is more parochial than the post. Witness: Here are the only two “rules

  2. [...] Lowell Elementary school ranks better than any other school in Seattle (using standardized tests scores). I learned this while ironing a bug out of Estately’s new Seattle real estate page. And I think I just broke the rules. [...]

  3. [...] Unfortunately, the web and blogs have managed to define discourse down even further.   And – who’d have thought? – it’s even beginning to infect RE blogs.  I think that’s why Rain City Guide’s Dustin Luther issued his preemptive admonition,  brilliant in its brevity:  Attack ideas, not people; no personal promotion. All’s well, and RCG continues to be one of the best in quality dialogue. [...]

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