Today we welcome Sarah from Pings & Needles. This post originally ran on Day 6 of the first Blogger series, last February 2011. So some of the information in Sarah’s intro about how long she’s been keeping her blog etc… is a little bit out of date now. But apart from that I’m sure you’ll agree that Sarah’s post is tremendously informative and useful, full of practical information.
Thank you again for sharing this with us Sarah!!
WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY AND HOW
Hi, I’m Sarah and I live on the South Coast of England, in Brighton – a diverse city of sea frets, pebbles, beautiful Regency architecture and, for me, international students! I’m so excited to be guesting on Kat’s blog!
In my spare time I paint and sew and blog. Or blog and sew and paint. Or blog. Or sew. Or paint. Depends on my inspiration levels! Online I mainly live here at my blog: Pings and Needles. I’ve only been blogging there for about six months, but I’ve been blogging in general for about three and a half years. My other blogs are nerdy techy sites that live alongside my training and teaching. I blog at Pings because I wanted to join this amazing community of crafting people and because I want to be able to say thank you sometimes for the inspiration that it brings.
My day job is teaching ICT to pre-uni students at an international Higher Ed college. I also train teachers in the use of technology in their teaching. This takes many forms – from online courses to classroom activities, to blogs.
One of the most important things we teach our students is netiquette – guidelines for good online behaviour. One of the areas that teachers find most confusing, given the phenomenal role of the internet in our everyday teaching lives, is the big grey fuzzy area of copyright.
This is why I volunteered when Kat put out the call for guest bloggers!
I have to warn you now – this post is l-o-o-o-n-g!! I’ve edited as much as I can, but I’ve indulged myself and just written what I’d would have liked to have known when I started blogging (which you’ll see was quite a lot!! LOL)
I’ll come to copyright and creative commons at the end of this post, but first –
MY TOP 6 BLOGGING BASICS
Whether you’re a shiny new blogger or an old seasoned hack, I think we should all bear some things in mind when blogging. These are just my thoughts, based on experience and my own twisted common sense. If you don’t agree, feel free to comment below 😉
1. BE YOURSELF
Starting a blog can be really exciting, but it can be difficult to find your ‘voice’. You can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about how you are portraying yourself.
My big tip here is to write as if you are talking to yourself – we all do that, right? Hopefully, you won’t just be talking to yourself for long, but it makes things a whole lot easier if you start how you mean to go on.
There’s no doubt that your blogging style changes over time. I know it has for me. Confidence helps us to write what we want to write in such a way that other people will respond to it and (with any luck) come back for more. If you want to test this, go to a blog that you love and go through the archives right to the very start. Different huh? I posted about this as a giveaway task, because I found it so interesting. I know, I know, no-one likes jumping through hoops for giveaways, but sometimes we bloggers want a bit of active involvement for our efforts!
Showing off our creativity? Yes!
A willingness to share our knowledge/experience? Yes!
A perfect Martha Stewart household with freshly whitewashed picket fence,a perfect sex life, baking that always works and children who never cry? No!
Well, that’s not what I look for in a blog, anyway. I think most of the feelings of jealousy, competition and worthlessness that some bloggers write of come from believing, for a moment, that all these perfect lives really exist. If it were that perfect they wouldn’t be twigging about on the internet so much! LOL.
We blog because we want to communicate.
2. COMMUNICATION IS A TWO WAY THING
When I talk to myself I’m often asking a question. Try to involve your readers in your posts: ask questions; ask for advice; invite guest writers (!); invite comments; use something like linkytools to bring your readers and their posts into your blog. Just look at kootoyoo’s weekly My Creative Space post, it’s a great example.
NETIQUETTE ALERT! – Reply to comments! I’m not suggesting it’s practical to reply to 100% of your comments 100% of the time but it really really makes a difference if you do reply to people who have taken the time to write something (a) complimentary (b) constructive or (c) so funny you snorted tea through your nose. It took me a while to learn this. I wish I’d learned sooner. Instead of just having “traffic” I feel that I have made friends.
3. GO VISITING AND DE-LURK
I confess – I love walking down my street in the early evenings and looking in through my neighbours’ windows. Most of the time I wouldn’t dream of knocking on their doors, but occasionally they catch me eyeballing them (!) and we exchange a little wave or a nod of recognition. That often leads to a conversation when me meet in the street some time later.
Blogs are the same really. Yes, you can just lurk and go through your favourite blogs without ever contributing a comment. It’s fine. But, if you want to open up communication, the best way is to leave a comment on a post that you particularly like. It’s also a nice way to say thank you to someone who has commented over at yours.
I’ve found some of my favourite blogs from reading a great comment and clicking over to see more. I know that I’ve had visitors from comments I’ve left. This is why it’s important to be consistently ‘yourself’ on your blog and in your comments. If you leave great comments but your blog writing is stilted you will confuse your readers!
NETIQUETTE ALERT! – Do not use your comments on other blogs to publicise your blog! It’s just bad manners! It’s like going to a party and then asking all the guests to come over the road to your house because your wine is nicer and you’ve got better nibbles! You wouldn’t do it in real life, so don’t do it online!
Most comment systems won’t allow links anyway, to cut down on spam. I do, however, think it’s OK to put your blog in your username. My username for comments is Sarah@PingsAndNeedles – partly because there are so many bloomin Sarahs out there, and partly because my blog is part of my online ‘me’ and I do want people to know who I am and where to find me.
NETIQUETTE ALERT! – Do not leave negative comments. If you don’t like something just move on. Why waste your energy leaving a negative comment? Everyone has different opinions. Don’t expect to love everyone, or indeed for them to love you!
A lot has been written about how to deal with negative comments. My trick is to ignore them. Simple but it works for me. I don’t moderate my comments anymore. I did for the first couple of weeks, but for my blog the “your comment will be visible after approval” thing is just a little too bossy and I think it kills the spontaneity of blog-hopping. If I really don’t like something, or it is offensive, I can always delete it. I’ve never had to. In fact, I’ve never had a really negative comment.
4. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE!
Whilst I know that others have had really bad experiences with this, and I in no way want to minimise the impact that it has had on their lives, before you get too hysterical about the possibility of it happening to you, relax! It is NOT the norm. Just as in real life, every person you meet is NOT a murderer, rapist, animal torturer or embezzler. (Unless you work in a prison, LOL).
I think it’s also important to remember that unless you’ve been really dumb about your personal details these naysayers are not going to come knocking at your door either. This is the internet. People are sitting in their own homes on computers, typing. They’re not putting poo through your letterbox.
Yes, pictures are important. Very important. But I’d rather see no photos and some good copy than bad photos any day. If it’s fuzzy, badly lit and out of focus don’t post it. Use the “if I saw that on another blog would I snort with derision?” rule.
6. HAVE FUN!
If you feel like blogging, blog. If you’re not in the mood, don’t! Everyone has their off days. Sometimes those off days can inspire us to share, sometimes they leave us blocked and unable to find our mojos. Don’t despair. Get out into the real world. Take photos. Eat cake. See friends. Then come back. We’ll be right where you left us!
I’m into the home straight now, are you still here? … First up is a little glossary of terms I created for a workshop for teachers last year:
CREATIVE COMMONS? OPEN SOURCE? PUBLIC DOMAIN? COPYRIGHT? COPYLEFT?
Creative Commons: Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organisation which facilitates more flexible copyright usage for the internet. Anyone can release their work under Creative Commons, with differing levels of restriction.
Public Domain: Non-copyrighted material which may be used without violating copyright restrictions. Also refers to things like Books and Film which become public domain after their copyright expires.Each country has their own rules about this.
This chart, explaining the different icons used in creative commons licensing, comes from squidoo.com
THE PERILS OF COPYRIGHT IN ONE SENTENCE:
If you don’t want people to copy your work don’t put it on the internet!
I’m not happy that people can steal my ideas. But I also accept that to some extent all creativity is derivative, and none more so than in the burgeoning online quilting, crafting community.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to protect your stuff. Everyone has the right to protect their creativity. I’d just ask you to put your hand on heart and say you weren’t inspired by all the brilliant work out there, before you try to sue my ass for making a quilt with a wonky block!
Even haute couture designers know their work is going straight from the catwalk into the high street! Very few will sue. It’s just not worth it. The clever ones create a diffusion range that beats the mass producers to it. There’s plenty of room out there for everyone.
I know that things get a little more tricky when, for example fabric designs are copied. I’m not going to go there. I’ve seen dreadful examples of mass production of people’s work. If it’s going to affect your livelihood then you might want to call a copyright lawyer. But this post is mainly for bloggers and people who might make small amounts of goods to sell online in stores like etsy or folksy.
There are very easy ways to protect your designs – in the UK you just have to mail yourself the design and NOT open it. That way you have a dated sealed example of your work. Establishing copyright is easy. Defending can be expensive and ultimately unsuccessful. Sorry, there is no magic wand for this.
This is very important. Yes, copyright is a minefield, but basically if you didn’t take the photo, make the thing, or write the copy, it’s not yours to use unless you have permission. End of.
If it’s creative commons or copyright free you can use if for free, but in the case of CC you still have to attribute the ownership according to the specific license. Most copyright free images don’t require full attribution.
Some bloggers are really specific about their intellectual property and request no blogging of their photos whatsoever. The easiest way to check is to read the “About” tab on a blog, if there is one, or to email them directly.
The internet has evolved away from the age of broadcast and into an age of collaboration and connection. Because I teach (and believe in) the importance of collaboration and sharing online, I’ve released all my pictures with a non-commercial creative commons license. That means that anyone can use my pictures for non-commercial use.
If you use flickr to upload your pictures you can read more about this here. It’s a great page because it explains HOW to attribute correctly. This is something I’m not going to touch on, because different people require different text.
Personally, I feel that unless you’re a soopah doopah top notch paid blogger, who earns a living from photography, to watermark your photos, and litter your blog with copyright warnings, is overkill and just a little bit precious. If someone wants that picture they’re just going to right click and save it. Anyone with a bit of tech knowledge can get rid of a watermark if they really really want to!
So that’s it from me.
I leave you with some really useful links to copyright free/creative commons images & sounds, and I hope you come and visit me at PingsAndNeedles soon (it’s much more about sewing there!)
If you use Firefox then you can download a gadget which adds Creative Commons to your search options
FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
A gazillion photos – well, about 17,000,000
CREATIVE COMMONS SEARCH ENGINE
Fantastic multi-search engine for images, sounds, videos etc.
FLICKR COMMONS PROJECT
Search a whole heap of galleries, libraries, museums
Search for images, sounds, videos – topics: science, society, nature, general
SOUNDSBRITISH LIBRARY SOUND ARCHIVE
Amazing collection of regional accents, soundscapes, nature, oral history. Licensed for educators to link to, but great fun to have a browse through.
GOOGLE OPEN MUSIC SEARCH
‘Copyleft’, Creative Commons and Public Domain music and sound
Incredible database of world sounds and soundscapes with interactive map