How to Start a Technical Blog, Part 5: Blog Etiquette

Enough with the technical details – let’s talk manners.

Give People Credit and Links

If you hear about something from somebody else, credit ’em.  The internet is huge, SQL Server is huge, and we all get help to find the stuff we need to do our jobs every day.  We find stuff through other people, and it helps to credit those people.

Link their name to their blog and/or Twitter account.  If I’m talking about something that Tom LaRock came up with, I won’t just leave “Tom LaRock” without a hyperlink – I’ll write it like this: Tom LaRock of, aka SQLBatman on Twitter.  If you find my blog interesting, and I find somebody else interesting, then you’ll probably find them interesting too – so keep those hyperlinks coming.

Ask Before You Use Real Names.

I deal with a lot of questions about how SQL Server works, how to improve performance on a server, how to improve a product, and so on.  Ideally, I’d blog about all of them, but sometimes people don’t want me to mention their questions or name names.  Before you say, “John Smith emailed me asking how to kill a process in a database,” ask them if it’s okay to use their name in the post.  If not, just post a general blog article about how to kill a process.

Hint – here’s how to make that easier. When someone asks me a technical question, I like to kill two birds with one stone by writing the email reply knowing ahead of time that I’m going to copy/paste it straight into my blog.

Think Before You Trash Talk a Product

This week, I threw Windows Home Server to the mat and body-slammed it, comparing it to the Ford Pinto.  If the Microsoft Windows Home Server team decided they wanted to hire me later, and searched my site, they’d probably recoil in horror.  Granted, I never want to work for the Windows Home Server team – nothing against that product, it’s just not a career goal I’d want to check off.  But that’s not all – that team might include somebody whose career will intersect with mine.  Or maybe somebody influential out there like Donald Farmer is madly in love with Windows Home Server, and he’ll never treat me with kindness again.

It’s a small world.

Take me, for example – a little over a year ago, I was having all kinds of problems with Idera SQLsafe.  I wrote up an Idera SQLsafe review, and I started it off by saying, “I hate badmouthing a product on the internet because it’s permanent.”  A few months later, when I was in the job market, I ended up interviewing at Quest (one of Idera’s competitors), and Billy Bosworth specifically mentioned the Idera article.  He said he’d been impressed by how balanced it was, and that I’d clearly thought through it – that I wasn’t just writing, “So-and-so-sucks-butt-wind.”  If I’d have written a slam-the-product article, I bet I wouldn’t have gotten the job I have today.

Don’t Disable Comments on Your Blog

John Gruber of Daring Fireball does this and gets away with it by saying that everybody who reads his blog is only there to read his thoughts, not the thoughts of other readers.  He wants people to go to his site and absorb every single word on every page, and not get distracted by somebody else.


If you’re just getting started blogging, don’t try that.  You come off like an asshole who isn’t interested in reader feedback or opinions.  (God, I love blogging for myself, because I can use words like asshole.)

Spell Check.

Some browsers have spell check built in, but if you’re not using one of those, copy/paste your blog entry into Microsoft Word before you post it.  Look for little squiggly lines under the words, and fix those.  It’ll look much more professional.

I know bloggers whose blog posts are completely correct – perfect spelling, good grammar, correct capitalization – but their emails make me think of Mr. Period at Penny Arcade.  That’s totally okay – as long as your blog posts are at least relatively period-populated, you’re good to go.  We’ll work on your emails in another series of blog posts.

And that’s a wrap!

Get out of here and go write a blog.

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • It’s an interesting dilemma about producing negative blog posts. On one hand, people love to read charged, confrontational posts especially when directed at certain companies. On the other hand, you don’t want to be perceived as a negative and confrontational person.

    It can be quite the balancing act. Once again, I loved the Pinto reference.

  • Nicely done, Brent!

    WRT “Give People Credit and Links”, I too am liberal with providing credit & links. It’s extra work but the right thing to do.

    I just wrote a white paper & listed each-&-every person who’d added to my body of knowledge, even customers, as a contributor.

    I’m relatively new to the world of blogging, yet I’ve already been a victim of plagiarism. The copied work was the result of diligent research & a lot of hard work. In one case someone merely stole a chart & a few words. In the other, the perp copied-&-pasted 27–count ’em, 27!–pages.

    I put on my best Dale Carnegie impersonation & ever-so-graciously asked them about it. In one case there was no reply; in the other it was treated as a joke. Harrumph!

    This speaks to your section on “Think Before You Trash Talk a Product”, though in my case it’s “Think Before You Trash Talk a Colleague”. I’ll defer naming the guilty parties.

    Being the terminal optimist I am, my current mindset is that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.

    I was a research biochemist in a former life, & I cite everything. Geez, I even cite the superfluous images I liberate from the web.

    For me, it’s a matter of intellectual & personal integrity.

    Again, nice job, Brent. Thanks for sharing.

  • Re: Spelling.

    I’ve found myself unsubscribing from an RSS feed because its spelling and grammar was so atrocious. I can’t say I’m perfect myself, but I like to think that it’s a priority.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a context sensitive spell checker? I mean a spell checker that could recognize (based on older posts) that you meant to write “SQL Server” instead of “SQL Serves”. Or maybe when typing “VACHAR” it could suggest “VARCHAR” instead of “VOUCHER”

  • This is why I often use Outlook to draft my posts, taking advantage of not only spelling & grammar checker, but also my custom dictionary & my extensive collection of AutoCorrect entries. I consider AutoCorrect to be the most powerful, underutilized tool in Orifice. At some point in the future, I’ll be blogging extensively about AutoCorrect.

    I hope it’s not bad etiquette to suggest you subscribe & to stay tuned. 😉

  • Brent,

    Just want to say thanks for the series and your site! You've truly helped me get off the blocks and recruited a loyal fan in the process…

    Forgive me for "borrowing" from you where needed, until I get my feet wet. Anguishing over every decision can lead to no decision.

    I buy into the part where you said “I am blogging for my long-term career success.” The truth is I'm compilng my experience. Each time I document something it increases the likelyhood that I'll retain it and it deepens my understanding. Bonus if someone else learns from it too.

    Thanks again!

  • Brent,

    Thanks a lot! I think I will.

  • Hi Brent,

    Thanks for a great series of articles it’s down to yourself and
    Brad McGehee that I have started blogging. I too went down the WordPress route, but decided that I would create a subdomain for SQL so I can separate it easily from other interests.

    Keep up the good work,

  • Well said about the comments!
    I tried to approach the guy, via his blog/comment, who made racial comments directed at me after he and a Senior VP stripped me of my contract after finding huge security issues with their DB systems – and what did he do? Took off all comments on all of his blogs!

    Good job, buddy, way to point out how important feedback, whether good or bad, is to maintaining legitimacy of your Online Persona. If you cannot handle comments don’t blog – similar if you cannot stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen 🙂

  • Hey Brent,

    Great series you have here, inspired me to get off my arse (can I say arse on your blog??) and dig out my old wordpress blog and rehash it. I must say that I wish I had seen this series before I had edited my theme about a year ago, took me days to get something working properly!

    Anyway, thanks again for being a great help to the community,


    PS. Sorry for the post necromancy :-p

  • I just read through this series and I have to say that I am constantly impressed with the amount of well written, well though, and generally applicable information you have on your site. I started reading your blog to try to straighten out some muffed up SQL server issues I had, but I have kept reading it for all of the good content like this, gotta give you props. Testament to hard work, very inspirational to step my sql/marketing game up.

    I added wordpress into my site a couple of weeks ago to try to get into blogging and this was very helpful. Do you think there is any disadvantage to having it in a subdirectory ?

  • Thanks a lot Brent. Very nice and thorough articles which helped me a lot. Because of you, I own my own blogging site now 🙂


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