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10.23.2015

Series: Tips From a Newbie (#2: Managing Your Blog)


These posts were written in celebration of Edge of Night's 1 year blogiversary to share some of what I've learned during my time blogging. While I love to give advice when I can, this isn't my niche and this is not what I usually post. But if you'd like to read more, be sure to check out my other posts in this series!

- Perfecting Your Posts
- Managing Your Blog
- Your Sphere
- The Pretty Little Details
- Wrap-Up
                                                 


Managing Your Blog

Nothing good comes easy. If you want your blog to flourish, you're going to have to work hard at it. You're going to have to invest some time, some effort, some enthusiasm, and, if you truly want to do things right, you're going to want to understand important things like copyright.

Everyone is familiar with copyright and plagiarism to some degree. But a good number of new bloggers (heck, even veteran bloggers) don't take it seriously. They pull images off of Google, plop them in their posts, and maybe they put in a little caption that says simply, "Image not mine."

That ain't gonna fly if you eventually want to get noticed.

So, onward and upward! Here are a few things that you should know about managing your blog.



Commitments




- Expect to spend a decent amount of time on your blog.


Thinking, writing, publishing, designing, interacting. Blogging requires a decent chuck of your time.

Obviously the amount of time needed is different for everyone. And more casual bloggers don't need as much of it. But I can tell you, being a casual, that it's still tough to manage everything sometimes.

You might be one of those people who have a very easy time thinking of post ideas and find it just as easy to quickly jot them down and get them out. I personally have a hard time with that, and so it takes me a bit longer to think of new ideas and where to go with them. But then comes the actual writing, which, as you know, requires a good amount of thought and often research. It also takes time to proofread.

Then there's the time you invest in designing your blog and interacting with other people. You want your page to look good - and sometimes it can take a while to decide what fits and what doesn't. You might have to research how to create specific things, how to add certain widgets, what this piece of code does, etc. If you're like me, this can take a long time. And you always want to reply to comments and messages, and to discover other blogs, so that can take a while as well.

But, despite all that, don't let this deter you. You might find that not all of that is for you, or that you don't require as much time to get it done. You can make it work, just know what you're getting into!


- Hard work pays off.


The more work you put into your blog and your content, the better things will be for you.

However, putting in a ton of effort doesn't guarantee you anything. It's still going to take time, and it's still going to be pretty difficult to get readers, get people commenting, etc. But your little space on the Internet will be a lot more appealing if it's obvious that you care about it and put some time into making everything work.





Copyright


*Note: I'm going off of US/general copyright laws and information.
Your country may do things differently. Make sure you know what applies to you!



- There's a difference between copyright and plagiarism.


Copyright and plagiarism aren't the same things, although there are a lot of similarities between the two, and it's good to know about both.

Plagiarism is more of an ethical issue and focuses on when you take credit for something that someone else created, or when you don't give proper attribution

You plagiarize when you don't properly cite a work. You can't just say "not mine." Even if you state that the work isn't yours, you're still guilty of plagiarism if you don't give the original source credit. 

Copyright is a legal issue. It protects people's creative works by giving the original author(s) the exclusive rights to make copies of, redistribute, license, edit, etc. works that they create. Original authors can give others permission to use their work.

You are guilty of copyright infringement if you use a work without the original author's permission. This permission can be in the form of a license, or it can be directly from the author (e.g. a written letter, an email, etc.). If you didn't receive, through one of these methods, permission to use something, or you didn't follow the author's guidelines, then you're using the work illegally and the author can take you to court.



- Your copyright


Managing your own copyright is pretty simple (did I really just use "copyright" and "simple" in the same sentence?). 

Everything you create is automatically copyrighted as soon as you make it. It's up to you how, or even if, you enforce it, and it's also up to you what guidelines you want others to follow to be able to legally use your work.

You can simply say "give me credit if you use this," or you may want more restrictions than that. If you want to give others permission to use your work under certain terms, Creative Commons licenses are a great way to do this. CC licenses are super easy to generate, and they provide an easy-to-read "license deed" which lists the requirements.

If you want anyone and everyone to be able to use your work legally with no requirements and no permission, you can put your work in the public domain. If you claim your work to be in the public domain, you are giving others unlimited and unrestricted use of your work. You are waiving your copyright. (Creative Commons also has a license for this as well, called CC0.)

Keep in mind that Creative Commons is not your only option, but it's the option I know most about. 

If you'd like to license your work under Creative Commons, click here.
If you'd like to assign your work to the public domain via CC, click here.



- Working with another's copyright


Copyright laws can be unnecessarily complicated and contain a lot of gray areas. It's made even more difficult when people aren't clear on how they want their works to be used or how they want you to cite them. To top that off, you've got the "fair use" guidelines which are pretty dang vague.

But all of this confusion doesn't exempt you from following copyright laws, so it's up to you to do your research and figure out what you need to do.

And like I said in the beginning, many people don't do that. They pull images, videos, etc. off of Google or Pinterest and plop them into their posts willy-nilly. This is bad on several levels.

First, sometimes it doesn't even matter if you cite the material. Some authors don't want their work being used elsewhere. Period. If you use such an item, or if you don't follow the terms correctly, then citing it makes no difference. You're still infringing on their copyright, and you can still get sued for it.

Second, many works have specific requirements. Remember me talking about CC licenses in the last section? That's a great example. Many authors want you to cite them a certain way, or they may even have other restrictions. If the work happens to be for sale, you really don't want to ignore those rules. Especially big stockphoto companies like Getty Images, Shutterstock, etc. are not going to be forgiving about your illegal use of an item. 

And remember, when it comes to attribution, simply putting "image not mine" or "Via Google" is NOT sufficient!

Finally, the original creators deserve to be credited for their work. If you don't want to monkey around with citing, which I completely understand, then search for public domain material. PD works are not entirely risk-free, but there are some good resources out there. Creative Commons licenses and PD works are what I look for in the vast sea of Internet.

You might be thinking that no one is going to notice you using these things. But it happens, and people do get in trouble for it. Again, especially from larger stockphoto companies. Don't risk it. It only takes one mistake. 

I'll provide some resources in my last post of this series, but also feel free to contact me if you need a few. I might have something you can use. :)

                                                                              


Summary:
  • Understand that blogging can be time-consuming.
  • Hard work shows in a blog and its content!
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  • Copyright = legal issue, protects creative works. Plagiarism = ethical issue, is about citing.
  • Everything you make is copyrighted as soon as it's created.
  • Do your research on each item you wish to use. Can you use it? What are the terms of use?
    • Also try looking for CC licensed-works and public domain material.

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