Blogging E-Mailed Comments

The author of one of the books I blogged wrote me an interesting reply, but sent it via e-mail. Can I place her comment in my blog comments without violating some written or unwritten code? —John SpurlockBlogging E-Mailed CommentsE-Mail)

If I were to send a letter to the editor to a newspaper, I shouldn’t be surprised if it were published — that’s what a “letter to the editor” is for. If I were to send an e-mail to a website that features published e-mails, I shouldn’t be surprised if that e-mail were published — that’s how the site gets its content in the first place.
John’s situation is more complex. As I understand it, he has written a traditional print review of a book, but posted a longer version of that review on his blog (“The Blue Monkey Review“). The author could have commented directly on John’s blog (indeed, another author has done exactly that). Instead, the author chose to send an e-mail.

I think the context is very important here.

I presume that the audience for my own blog is net savvy enough to know one shouldn’t e-mail anything that one wouldn’t want to become public. (Though how often we all follow that guidline is open to question.)

Since John is asking the question about an e-mail sent to him by a book author (that is, someone who makes a living by writing), and since the academic subject of their correspondence is presumably not cyberculture or online writing conventions, I’d say I wouldn’t think twice about mentioning the e-mail, paraphrasing it in order to write a response, or even quoting a sections for the purpose of defending/explaining/rebutting/continuing the intelletual discourse in another blog entry. It’s possible the author simply wasn’t familiar with the convention of posting comments in a weblog. Since the author didn’t actually type it there, I’d do what I did here — create a separate blog entry to introduce the e-mail, and link back to the original discussion. Still, before I’d post the whole thing, I’d ask the author’s permission. And I’d start blogging my rebuttal while awaiting the reply. If the author doesn’t reply after a few days and a telephone follow-up (if possible), I’d paraphrase the e-mail and/or quote selective, and post my response anyway (after briefly explaining my attempts to contact the author).

(And by the way, I did ask John’s permission to post his inquriy and blog my response.)