Mommy Bloggers Don’t Write About Mommies

Mommy Blogger

Screencaps and annotation of USA Weekend and USA Today 11/24/2013

When you have a Ph.D., have starred in, not one but two, hit TV shows, written a best-selling book, and also happen to write articles that are published on a website geared toward Jewish-parenting how should you be described by a journalist? How best to explain who you are when the article is about a charity you’re supporting? Is it relevant that you’re on TV? Maybe. It’s your career and how you’re best identified. Possibly mention the Ph.D.? Perhaps. It’s pretty darn impressive. Mention you’re a best-selling author? Not sure, since it’s a parenting book. Or, home in on your online writing presence and call you a “mommy blogger”?

Normally I don’t let stuff like this get to me, but seeing Mayim Bialik described as a “mommy blogger” in the USA Weekend and on the USA Today website in a segment called “Cause Celeb” really bothered me.  See, women bloggers have, for the past few years, tried to shed the negative moniker “mommy bloggers”. It’s not a term of endearment, empowerment, or influence.

Written by Gayle Jo Carter, the Cause Celeb segment for USA Weekend is to highlight a celebrity and a charity they support. Great idea to share charities that our favorite celebrities are passionate about. Celebrities featured in “Cause Celeb” have included other actresses, actors, country music personalities, and a pro football player. For the most part, the bios are pretty basic – actor, country superstar, actress.

Surely, Ms. Carter must know that “mommy blogger” is not really a nice way to describe a woman who blogs about her parenting as a Jewish mother, especially one who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and is a well-respected actress and author. And while I’m sure Ms. Bialik ranks parenting as her top priority, it’s not her writing for a Jewish parenting website that gives rise to the “celeb” part of “Cause Celeb”. I’m pretty sure no one calls her a “mommy journalist”, so why define Ms. Bialik as a “mommy blogger“? She wouldn’t dare call Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, a “mommy CEO”. So why “mommy blogger”? Is blogger not sufficient?

The title “mommy blogger” has never been a positive and empowering definition of who these women are. It was used as a way to let stay-at-home moms know that they’re not “real” bloggers like the millions of men writing about more important things like politics, music, art, and business, but rather someone to patronize for daring to write about something as low-brow as being a mom. Never a term meant to elevate, “mommy blogger” was a veiled put-down.

Calling women who blog “mommy bloggers” dismisses the contribution, background, and expertise they bring with them to the online landscape. It’s a cutesy way to put women in their place and remind them that while they may be writing about key issues of motherhood they’re not writing about “real” things such as tech, politics, or, well, pretty much anything else that doesn’t’ involve children and their upbringing. As if writing about parenting and women’s issues is somehow less worthy. This, despite the fact that so-called “mommy bloggers” are sought out for their expertise in parenting, dealing with and overcoming postpartum depression, giving a platform to women of all sizes to be seen as beautiful, creating communities for those who parent children with any host of special needs. And let’s not forget that these “mommy bloggers” are often the people reporters and journalists turn to when they need insider information about parenting, families, and issues affecting women and children.

We don’t use mommy as an adjective to clarify any other type of work. There is no “mommy lawyer” or “mommy doctor”. We don’t call them “mommy senators” or “mommy singers”. For centuries, women have been writing about parenting. If anything these women are parenting bloggers because “mommy bloggers” don’t write about mommies. But how else can you marginalize women who pose a threat to the traditional structure than calling them “mommy bloggers”, which often comes with a silent “just” before it.

What say you? Should we cringe at being labeled “mommy bloggers” because we are moms? Or should we just let it go, roll our eyes, and just continue to conquer the world?

Sara

Year of Awesome In Review

Today is the last day of my Year of Awesome. I kicked it off last year with a Reflection on Aging. It’s been quite a year. I’ve had so many amazing and wonderful experiences, visited beautiful place, shared with friends and have met a variety of extraordinary people. This past year has been Awesome!

It kicked off with a Mom’s Night Out, celebrating women. Days later I was off to Bloggy Boot Camp and found myself surrounded by women who believe in sisterhood.  Then came the whirlwind of CycleGuy heading off to the Bay Area for a new job opportunity.

And with that move, I became friends with an amazing group of women that embrace me for who I am and encourage me – quirkiness and all! I’ve always believed that friends are people who touch your heart, not just those that touch your hand. Because I have a sister by choice, I know about creating friendship in a virtual space. R and I have been friends for over 35 years, not having met in person until about 10 years after we first met through a pen pal exchange program. I never needed anyone to convince me of the power of the written to connect women – whether those words are written on paper or a computer screen. I knew the possibility.

At the end of summer I headed to New York for my first BlogHer experience, and it did not disappoint. I was able to meet many of my online friends in person, see the city, learn more about blogging and experience new things. The fall was 10 magical days at Disney World with BabyGirl and CycleGuy. The highlight of that trip was going to all four parks in one day! Yes, we are that crazy! It was one of the best Disney World experiences we’ve had – not just going to the parks, but riding all the major rollercoasters too. Multiple times! I can’t wait to do that again!!

New Year’s was celebrated visiting San Francisco. It included my family as well as my SupaDupaSexySisterhood – Grace, Carrie, Jessica and Countess Mo. It was a fantastic way to kick off 2011!

Throughout this year I’ve thought a lot about who I am. Now a ’40-something’ I looked back at the person I was. I’m also looking forward – creating the woman I want to be. And while I might never have considered myself a Badass, two women did. Again, women I’ve never met in person. Women who use written words to connect with people and have been able to hone their skills to find and nurture great friendships. I will forever be thankful to Diana and Amy for including me on their list of 75 Badass Women on Twitter. If I wasn’t a scaredy cat I’d get a tattoo. Maybe one of those temporary ones will be OK?

The best part of the Year of Awesome is that I rediscovered ME. And now I work to make sure I am always first. Because, as the saying goes: “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else!”

Thank you for being part of my Year of Awesome!

Sara

Contract Law Basics Part 2

Contract Law Basics

Now that you know what the basics of Contract Law are, I’d like to move on to the main issues of contract negotiation. Most contracts, whether from the brand directly or via their PR agency, will have been crafted by a team of lawyers and heavily stacked in favor of the brand. It’s just how it works. Most lawyers aren’t in the business of making contracts fair and balanced. It’s all about protecting the client.

I take a bit of a different approach and don’t believe that contracts have to be imbalanced or onerous to one party. One-sided contracts don’t do much good because it immediately puts the other party on the defensive. However, if you know that the contract will be heavily favored toward the brand (other party) you’ll be better able to read through it without feeling taken advantage.

Contracts, or Agreements, are usually negotiated documents. There are many that are not, such as website Terms of Service, Ad Network agreements, sponsored posts via a third-party ‘mom collective’. But we’re talking about contracts with brands to engage you, the blogger, to do work for them.

If you’ve been talking with a brand or PR rep and are entering into a relationship with them, the agreement or contract you receive is something that should be read fully, understood and, if necessary, negotiated to include terms you need or want as well as spell out more clearly those terms that are ambiguous.

Some aspects of the contract will non-negotiable, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget about them. For example:

1. Jurisdiction – in the case of a dispute, this is the location the dispute will be settled. It will often be in the state of incorporation or where the corporate headquarters are located. No matter where you live, work, or are qualified as a business, very few brands or PR agencies will allow this term to be changed. It’s not in their best interest and creates logistical issues for them in case of dispute. Just be aware of this so if something does go wrong you know where you’re headed.

2. Notice – there will almost always (I say almost because sometimes are they inadvertently left out) be a Notice term. This sets out where and to whom notice is given in case of changes or disputes. The key here to to make sure your information is correct so that they can reach you at any point in time.

3. Assignment – usually a clause is included that prohibits the assignment of the agreement. Often it will say that the brand may assign it without notice or approval but that you may not assign it without their approval. This makes sense from a business perspective as the brand enters into thousands of agreements and does not want to obtain permission prior to assigning an agreement for business purposes such as merger or change of structure. However, because the brand is contracting with you or your business specifically they don’t want you changing places with someone else.

The terms and conditions you will want to focus on are those that directly impact your relationship, scope of work and compensation. These include:

1. Non Compete – If an agreement includes a non-compete provision, read it over carefully to determine (a) length of time, (b) scope as well as (c) location. A world-wide brand may want to limit your ability to work with a competitor on a global scale. Does this make sense if you’re only focused on the US? Is it appropriate to prohibit your working with a competitor for 12-months when your agreement is only for a 3-month contract?

2. Scope – Define as clearly as possible what work you are to do. Is it a set number of posts? Are there time or word-length requirements? Who provides the images? Will they pay for shipping giveaways? If you need to travel, how is that paid and what is covered? When it says ‘electronic’ does it cover all new aspects of electronic media? Or is the term vague?

3. Compensation – Most people know that the actual amount you’re being paid is negotiable. However, they often overlook the terms of payment. Some companies pay 30-60 days after receiving the invoice. Is that acceptable to you? If your compensation includes both cash and goods, be clear as to the value of those goods and how it will be reported to you for tax purposes.

4. Intellectual Property – this is a big one for bloggers. Who owns it? And what is ‘it’? Read this provision carefully as you will want to know exactly what you may be giving up. In addition, you will often be providing assurance and guarantee that you will not provide anything for which there is a potential dispute over ownership. Thus, if you use images on your posts or site that may be copyrighted for which you do not own or have a license, permission or fair use argument for then there could be a potential for breach. In addition, you will want to know what you are giving up to the brand. Will they be able to use your post on their site without linking to you or without reference to you by name or site? The other concern you should evaluate is whether this is, in fact, a Work for Hire. Work for Hire is a technical legal term related to Copyright and certain terms and conditions must be met.

5. Dispute Resolution – If there is a dispute that escalates beyond the ability to resolve through discussions, you or the brand may need to take a more formal route to resolve the problem. Many companies are now moving to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) programs such as arbitration or mediation rather than using the court system. There are pros and cons to each type of resolution system. Many litigators will tell you that litigation is cheaper and more reliable than ADR. Mediators and arbitrators will say ADR is the way to go.

Some lawyers will say avoid arbitration clauses at all cost. This is fine if you never want to work with the other party again. If you don’t mind standing on scorched earth at the end and having no possible means of maintaining a relationship then litigate away. Some lawyers believe that because the more powerful party can stack the arbitration clause in their favor that there is an inherent lack of fairness or that it could be cost prohibitive to the party that can’t make any changes.

In most situations, this term will NOT be part of any negotiations. The more significant the agreement and relationship the more likely you can negotiate this term. The reason I bring it up here is that if you can negotiate it then you’re likely working with a lawyer who can advise you what is in YOUR best interest. If you are NOT able to negotiate this term, at least know what it means to you should the relationship go bad.

6. Parties – Who are the people/businesses who will be liable on this agreement? I include this although it seems like a no-brainer. If you have been working with a brand or PR agency they likely know you as a person who has a blog. They many not realize you have formed a legal business entity. When entering into an agreement, be sure that the agreement is between the other party and your business if you have one. Indicate on the agreement the name of the business, the address and the state where it was formed. Indicate the type of business as well. It may not mean much at first, but it can be used as proof to the IRS as well as in case of dispute that you are not sued personally. If they want both you personally AND the business on the agreement, understand what that means for you legally.

Conclusion

While most every term of a contract or agreement is negotiable, it’s not often realistic to negotiate with a brand on what may seem to the brand to be routine relationships. If a brand or agency wants to work with you, coming back to them with a marked up agreement that looks like you’ve had a run-in with an axe-murderer will not set the tone for a friendly relationship. Remember, they need to go back to managers, supervisors or a legal team with your changes.

From personal experience, I was more willing to make changes to an agreement when the changes were presented in a clear and concise manner. Telling me why it’s important for you to have the changes helps the other side know what your goal is. Remember, you may actually be trying to negotiate with people who know nothing about you. You need to give them a reason to make the changes. Especially when it’s a large company.

Also, rather than marking up every single term you don’t agree with consider why the term or condition is there. Keep in mind that many of these agreements were drafted months or years ago and may not be updated with references to new technology. Also, understand that they’re not trying to pull one over on you. As a large corporation they tend to focus on standardization within the legal department. They do not devote resources to review ever single agreement, often leaving it to brand personnel to finalize agreements. Their authority to modify and change agreements may be limited because they are not lawyers and they, themselves, may not fully understand the agreement either.

All that being said, when asking for changes be clear about what changes you want. Know which ones you will be ok with if they can’t change it. And if it is very important that something be changed, do not be afraid to ask for it. Often explaining why you need the change will allow them to see a different perspective.

Finally, when presenting your changes submit them all at once. Dont’ piecemeal your requests. It’s very frustrating to have to keep looking over the same agreement and you’re less likely to have success getting your terms and conditions incorporated.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

Sara

What To Do When Your Online Content Is Copied

What to do when someone steal your online content

If you went to Blissdom and attended the Ignorance Is Not Bliss ‘Lawsome’ panel, then you had the fun of a sing-a-long. Sure, there were technical difficulties but everyone was a great sport and sang along to my new words to YMCA as they applied to the law and blogging. That all stemmed from a guest post I wrote about blog copying.

When I was in law school learning about copyright and intellectual property, I had a very heavy laptop computer. Copying music meant making a mixed tape if you had a dual cassette tape or if you were lucky enough to have a CD/Cassette tape player you could record your CD. But music copying wasn’t all that easy, although it was done. Copying off the internet was done, but only by ‘hackers’ or ‘bad guys’. The internet existed but not anything like we know it today.

In the years since, I’ve spent plenty of time online. My first website was created in 1993. By today’s standards a 6 month old child could probably do better that what I’d done. Over the past 14 years, I’ve learned about the legal rights that grow with each of these platforms. Remember Napster? It wasn’t a problem until artists realized they were getting ripped off. Gone were the days of recording music on a crappy cassette from the radio or your own boombox or relying on your friends to let you borrow their album. No longer are we relegated to having to use an electric typewriter or mimeograph machine to plagiarise.

Now, with the click of a mouse or touchpad anyone in any corner of the world can copy what you do and wholesale pawn it off as their own (plagiarism, at minimum). There isn’t much effort needed to steal not only words but also all the effort and ownership that goes with those words. And with enough know-how, people are creating bots and spiders to automate the copying process.

The written word has long been protected by copyright. And for well over 100 years, the US has recognized ownership of a person’s written work. Bloggers words are protected by copyright. And you don’t have to put a disclaimer on every page or any fancy wording. From the moment you hit publish, on works that are sufficiently original and meet the necessary requirements, you have a copyright. Plain and simple. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain.

It’s not a laughing matter either. Many bloggers, big and small, have been copied. Copying a small blogger may seem like no big deal, arguing that they don’t have many readers. But what one may define as a small or less influential blogger is irrelevant. Copyright does not have as a defense ‘but I’m bigger than them’ or ‘but I’m smaller and not many people read it’.

What do you do if your work has been copied? Besides wanting to find the person and flame them openly on twitter . Or write a ranting post and hope they copy it and look ever more foolish. Or get all your friends in social media to give them a digital beat down.

Following are steps you can take if

your blog or website has been copied

1. Verify the copying – scan for duplication using a service like Copyscape. I don’t suggest doing a right-click and cutting and pasting the post from their page. If it is an image, be absolutely sure that it is your image. Verifying is usually pretty easy.

2. Document the copying – screen cap the offending material, print it out, PDF it. Whatever you do, get a copy of the material and make sure it is date/time stamped so you can further authenticate if the situation escalates. The goal here is to have proof that their material came AFTER yours. Do not rely solely on posting times. There are ways to make it appear that a post was made prior to when it really was. Be aware of this as it may come up.

3. If this is the first time this person has copied your post or image, send a nice email. You can often get some form of contact information on their site. If it’s a legitimate site there will be a way to contact them, even if it’s an embedded  contact form. It’s better if you can get an actual email so you have record of the contact. But, if the only way is to use a built-in form then use that. You should also check out domain registrars to determine if there is an email contact available. Use a site such as Who Is to find out who owns a domain. What do you say? (A) Identify the post in question both on your site and theirs. (B) State you have a copyright and ask them to do whatever it is you want such as take it down, link back, edit, etc. (C) Give them at least 24 hours and verify that whatever you asked to be done is done (D) Tell them how to contact you.

4. For repeat offenders or those who did not respond to the previous nice email, you’ll need to escalate your response. This is where you get to send the “Cease and Desist” letter (or email). A “Cease and Desist” letter is a formal legal document telling the copyright violator to take down the offending material or risk further legal action. These SHOULD NOT be sent without getting legal advice, even if it’s a call to your brother’s neighbor’s son’s soccer coach who is an attorney. Get professional advice! The Cease and Desist letter/email should be copied to the domain registrar, host and the major search engines’ legal departments. Each of these entities will have something on their websites telling you where to direct legal notices.

5. If nice didn’t work and ‘guess you didn’t think I was serious’ didn’t get any result, the big guns come out. With this, GET A LAWYER or DMCA Specialist! You will need to file what is known as a DMCA Complaint. See Google DMCA Complaint information. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is part of the US Copyright laws and specifically addresses copyright as it applies to the internet. The penalties for misuse of the DMCA Complaint are significant, so if you’re at this point because your blog is being copied and it’s causing you irreparable harm and loss of income then spend a few (hundred) bucks and get someone to do this who knows what they are doing. If the offender is found to have violated your copyright, the rewards can be significant.

6. Copyright laws and the DMCA do not require you to take any interim steps to have your copyrighted works taken down from any site that is violating your copyright. I suggest sending an email and a Cease and Desist out of courtesy, not because it is required by law. I do not always send them, depending on the circumstances. Then again, I am a lawyer and I have experience with this. I am not suggesting you resort to going straight to a DMCA Complaint, nor am I saying that you have to wait it out.

Copyright infringement of blog material is becoming more and more prevalent. It bothers me both as a blogger and as a lawyer because the topics you can write on are seemingly endless. Diana Adams of both Bit Rebels and Ink Rebels has even done the work for you in her post 100 Sources of Blogging Inspiration.

Copying someone else’s material says a lot about you as a person. Not only does it diminish SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for both sites, it speaks volumes to PR professionals and other bloggers. I understand that mistakes happen. New bloggers don’t always know the rules. Seasoned bloggers may not realize you shouldn’t do something like this. But if you make a mistake, apologize and take down the post. Don’t get up in arms, badmouth the blogger you copied or do anything public that you will likely regret later. The blogoshpere will rally around the injured. Believe me on that one!

You may also be interested in reading:

Know Your Digital Rights – Blog Etiquette

Know Your Digital Rights – Recipe Copyright

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

photo credit: Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons, text added by Sara Hawkins

Sara

Finding My Bliss

BlissMitzvah with @Chambanalaura and @saving4someday
BlissMitzvah 2011

This week I’ve been at Blissdom not only to speak but also to catch up with friends, new and old. I have met new and wonderful women, and I will introduce you to some of them.

Last night I spent the evening with 12 wonderful and fascinating women at a party that my friend Laura, who is the one of the ChambanaMoms, and I put together. Laura and I wanted to bring together other Jewish bloggers so we can connect, share and get to know each other. We called it BlissMitzvah. Cute name, huh?

Yes, Laura and I are wearing matching shirts. Our friend Hollee is coming out with a new book, with her writing partner Becky, called Good Enough is the New Perfect and we were wearing shirts with the book title on it.

I’ll tell you all about BlissMitzvah when I get back.

Thank you all for supporting me while I get my Bliss on!

Sara

In this case, 5 is the Magic Number!

Blog World Photo
Me with Annabel, Calvin & Lisa

Thanks to Trop 50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 fabulous wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to help grant a friend’s wish!

Tomorrow I’m heading to Nashville for the Blissdom Conference. And while I’m there I have a list of workshops and discussion sessions I’m planning to attend. Oh, and I’ll be leading one of those fancy-pants sessions too. (no pressure!). I’ll be meeting up with people I met last year and haven’t seen since. There are also a few that I’ve seen at other conferences and always love to see. And, of course, there are those I only know because of their blog and Twitter.

I’ll be surrounded by fabulous bloggers. Women I admire for all sorts of reasons. Some for their ability to face difficulties with grace and elegance, others for being at the other end of Skype whenever I’ve typed in ‘Hello’. I have about 100 different blogs in my Google Reader, many of them that no matter how frequently they post or what it’s about as soon as I see it I click on it and go to their blog because I know that whatever they write will be as if they’re talking with me.

There are two women I met at Blissdom last year that left such an imprint on me that I often wonder what I had done to deserve their friendship. I was, after all, only about a month into this blog. But each of them, rock stars in their own right, welcomed me like I was family.

Meeting people at a cocktail party can be a bit unnerving. You’re standing up (in heels!), starving and dying of thirst. Yet trying not to slurp down your drink like you just finished the Ironman or pile your plate high like you’re practicing for some Fourth of July eating contest.

So there I was, knowing no one, saying hi and trying to fit in when Heather Sokol puts down her drink and asks me what’s good to eat. That’s gluten free. Lucky me! Because I know the answer and I could actually have a real conversation. So even though Heather is this big time blogger about money saving ideas, she’s talking to me! And talk we did. And have ever since. Heather’s one of those bloggers who is confident and sure of herself, and it shows in her posts. And while Heather can talk about SEO, how to budget, and make a grocery shopping list seem like something all the cool kids do, she is the epitome of the down to earth midwestern girl she strives to be. She has been a mentor and a friend not only to me, but to quite a few others. She definitely puts the social in social media!

And there I was with Heather at the Jack Daniel’s Saloon at the Opryland, talking like we’ve known each other for, well, for definitely longer than 20 minutes and up walks Mary Anne. Wearing gorgeous shoes and sporting the most welcoming smile, I had to say hi! And there we stood for the next half-hour or so talking about all kinds of things not related to blogging. So much so that all I knew was that her name was Mary Anne, until we were about to leave and exchanged business cards. I had been talking to The Stiletto Mom! Mary Ann is fabulous because she makes this blogging thing look so easy. She doesn’t stress about who’s reviewing what or taking a trip to awesometown this week. She writes because it matters to her. And that’s why it matters to other people. And while I will try to act all cool when I see her at Blissdom, I really want to tell her that she’s like my fairy blogmother and that I’m glad she helps me focus on why I blog.

Now, what if you find out that the authors of a magazine column you read have a blog. Well, you go read the blog too. Right? I no longer needed to wait for my monthly lawyer magazine to read about lawyers and work/life balance. Every day (or almost everyday) I could get my own personal little article from Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple from their blog The New Perfect. Hollee is a lawyer like me. She’s also a professor of law (like me in my dreams). I’ve gotten to know both of them through their blog and twitter and it’s like we’ve been friends for years. They’ve spent years encouraging women to allow themselves some breathing room. And not be so hard on themselves. I felt like they were talking to me. And, well, now they do!

Had I not gained the confidence these four women encourage in my blogging, I’d never have met Annabel Candy of the internationally read Get In The Hot Spot. Like Hollee and Becky, Annabel encourages her readers (and friends) to ‘empower your life‘. I met Annabel in Las Vegas, which is nearly halfway around the world from her slice of paradise in Australia. At a party where I was the least recognized person, Annabel embraced me, laughed with me and encouraged me to make this, my Year of Awesome, one where I would ‘get the life you want‘. She lives half a world away but she still finds time to send me encouragement. She’s honest and blunt, but never to make you feel bad. She truly does want me (and you!) to succeed, not just in blogging but in those areas of life I choose to focus. Annabel knows that we don’t go it alone in this world. Meeting her and becoming friends is one of the highlights of my Year of Awesome.

I could go on and on with a long list of fabulous blogger. But what I’ll do is for the next several weeks I’ll introduce you to the bloggers – both men and women – that I find interesting, inspiring, funny, smart, and are good people. But before I close, I have one other blogger I’d like to add to this, my first list of bloggers I think are pretty fabulous.

With readers on every continent (and probably other planets even), Darren Rowse definitely puts the pro in Problogger. An unassuming gentleman, I had the pleasure of meeting Darren (no, we’re not BFFs but I do’t think he’d mind my calling him Darren) at Blog World Expo in Las Vegas. I actually met him twice there. The first time was at a private party that CycleGuy was invited to attend for his media company. There were a bunch of ‘big time’ bloggers there. I recognized Darren because he looks like he does on his website. The second time I met him was at a party he hosted. Just a casual get together to thank his readers and hang out with his friends. And while I’m a lurker and attempt to implement all of his blogging tips, I’ve also had the chance to tweet with him socially. I’m up late and because of the time zone I’ve found myself exchanging tweets with Darren periodically. He’s is what every blogger should strive to be. Not the monetization stuff or the blogger with mega stats. I mean, the genuine and real person. A rock star who replies to tweets from someone with a few hundred followers. Someone who when meeting a total stranger makes you feel like you’re important. And Darren is fabulous for any number of blogging-related reasons. But for me, he’s fabulous because he made me feel that I belonged in the blogging world. And for that I will always be thankful.

It was so difficult to limit this to just 5, which is why I’m turning this into a series.  Who would be your Fave 5?

Don’t forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to support a friend’s wish. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

Sara

You Retweet me!

Retweet on keyboard

Do you remember ‘THE‘ line in Jerry McGuire where Jerry tells Dorothy Boyd (played by Renée Zellweger) ‘You complete me.’? Of course you do, what am I thinking! Well, every time one of my social media hero’s ReTweets one of my tweets (which isn’t an everyday thing) I get all verklempt and the phrase ‘You retweet me‘ flies through my brain.  Yes, I know it’s totally lame. But then again, when coming face to avatar with someone you look up to and that avatar happens to be in your @ reply stream it’s kinda cool.

Maybe not for those who have 20,000 followers. But for me, with my 2,000-ish followers it’s very cool and exciting.  It’s kind of like my own personal Mean Joe Green Coca~Cola commercial playing in my mind.  And, well, yah, I do kinda feel like a kid.

Who would think that two little letters tucked neatly next to each other on a keyboard could mean so much. For me it’s a teeny tiny bit of validation that in a world of a bazillion people on the Twitters that I said something worth sharing. And sometimes I’m all fan girl and do a screen cap of it, but I usually delete it because that’s kind of weird to keep a RT. Now an @ reply, that’s definitely screen-cap worthy!

But why is this relevant to you (or me for that matter)? Well, something so simple as the two letters ‘RT’ can tell someone that you appreciate them.  You may not talk to them a lot (or at all for that matter) but when they hit that Retweet button they’re saying a lot about you and how they feel about you. And you should feel good. And be happy. Or giddy (not that I know about giddy!). And you should thank them if you can. I know that my RT of someone with 50,000+ followers is not likely going to garner me a ‘thank you’. But, you know what? There are some people out there who really do GET the Twitters and even though they have enough followers to be a monarch of their own little city they’re savvy and authentic and know how to make little ol’ me feel like I hit the twitter jackpot. So I take their lead on best practices and I thank those who RT me.

After all, it really is the little things that make all of us appreciate the day a weensy bit more.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. But if I am, I guess that’s OK too.  So, am I the only one?

Sara

Google Alerts Lies

Google is watching you
photo credit: surrealpenguin

You’ve heard of Google, right? Have you heard of Google Alerts? Where you can type in your name or whatever keyword you want and then Google will send you an email when it finds someone on the interwebz about what you’ve asked? Well, Google Alerts is not a person. Regardless of how smart all the fine folks at Google are, this algorithm isn’t a person. And sometimes it finds your name or keyword and associates it with something that it may not have been intended to be associated with.

So why am I talking all techy? The other day I got a Google Alert showing my name attached to a post by a fabulous woman I’m working with for the Blissdom panel. The post was about trust and how she had just been burned by someone she thought she could trust. And while she was cryptic and spoke in some generalities, Google somehow decided to email me an alert that I was mentioned in this post.  So I read the post. I was horribly saddened to think that I somehow betrayed her trust. If I had it was completely accidental. But still, she felt that a person she was working with had created a big giant social media fail. She never named names. If I had just read it I may not have even thought, “Hey, she’s talking about me!” But I had proof that she was because I got the Google Alert in my inbox! And we all know that Google Alerts are like sworn testimony before the supreme court. NOT!

Problem is, her post wasn’t about me. And the post was just her getting some things off her chest. No names were mentioned. She was ranting. I’ve ranted before too. We all do it! I’ve also had posts where someone reads my rant and thinks I’m talking about them in some way. I was so sad when I read the post and thought I had hurt her. Sure, I was being a bit self-centered thinking she was talking about me. (Cue Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”!) How could I not. Afterall, I got the Google Alert saying that I was connected somehow to the post. My name wasn’t there but maybe she had me in a tag or meta data or post description? How was I supposed to know?

And for those who don’t know me well, I stay up late. Often way too late — like 2am late. So here I am in the middle of the night thinking I’ve inadvertently hurt a woman I am enjoying working with. I can’t call her or tweet her or message her on Skype – she’s 3 hours ahead of me and while 5am may be when she gets up to work out, she’s definitely not expecting contact from me.  I immediately emailed and apologized. I felt terrible and couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning and my mind kept coming up with all the awkward scenarios that would exist since we have to be at a presentation together soon.

But like I mentioned, she wasn’t ranting about me at all. Oh, social media how you tease! I can only imagine what went through her mind when she got my email. My very apologetic email.

Fortunately it turned out fine. However, I could easily have sent her a ranty email ripping her for writing a post about me, blah, blah, blah. Which would have completely blindsided her and probably messed up our relationship. It’s a natural reaction for some, to come out fighting.

We rely on technology to give us information. We often want to know where we are mentioned online. To protect privacy. To claim our 15 minutes of fame.  As a blogger, I have Google Alerts set to monitor my site. That’s why I got this alert. But the alert was wrong. I had commented on her site. Google took my name from the comment I left on a blog post a few days earlier and when it scanned her site it took the first post. Her rant. And then Google Alerts sent me an email telling me my name was matched with her post about broken trust. Fabulous!

See how I could, in error, assume she was writing about me? So I caution you not to get all freaked out if you get a Google Alert that ties you to something that seems wrong or weird or even just makes you think “I’m no so sure”. Also, you should know that you could be on the receiving end of an email from a self-centered, awake too late, freaked out person because they got a Google Alert saying you’re talking smack about them. In both cases, proceed with caution!

And while the saying is “computers don’t lie, people do”, I’m here to tell you that Google Alerts lies! Sometimes. And, as she said, sometimes things in social media get Lost in Translation.

Have you ever had this happen to you? Have you ever thought someone was talking about you in a blog post or article but really they weren’t. How did you handle it?

Sara

Guess Who Is Speaking At Blissdom?

To say I’m excited would be an understatement! Earlier this week I received a lovely email from Megan Jordan, who is coordinating the Blissdom speakers, telling me my speaking proposal has been accepted and I’m being invited to speak at Blissdom.

The conference session is Ignorance is Not Bliss: Decoding Legal and Tax Implications of Your Success and I’ll be presenting with Charlene Oliver and Sarah Visbeek. I’ve never met Charlene or Sarah but I’m thrilled to be part of this presentation. And if our presentation is half as interesting as our collective blogs, we’ll set a pretty high bar for making what could be a boring topic (have you read some of the lame stuff lawyers churn out?) one of the must-do sessions!

If you’re going to Blissdom, I truly look forward to meeting you and hope you will come to the Ignorance is Not Bliss session.

Sara

Five Things I’ve Learned Since I Started My Blog

building 5
photo credit: qmnonic

I started this blog on January 1, 2010 with my own header and a basic understanding of self-hosted WordPress. I’d read blogs and I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So on the first of this year I spent several hours chatting with Joy from Five Js Design about setting up my blog and designing something fabulous. Which she did!

But now that I’ve been doing this blogging thing for 11-months here at this site (not counting all the years I spent on other platforms doing other projects) I wanted to share Five Things I’ve Learned Since I Started My Blog.

1. People Will Read My Blog. While in the back of my head I knew this, it still, 11-months later, makes me giddy when I look at my site stats and see that hundreds of people came to my blog one day. That is just so cool! It takes time, but most things do.

2. I Will Meet Wonderful People. I could list hundreds of people that I’ve met because of blogging. And I can count many of them as true friends. People who would reach back if I reached out. Yes, you have to put yourself out there and take time to meet people, often in online settings such as Twitter, The Blog Frog, and The Sits Girls and reading other blogs. But when you have an opportunity to meet IRL (in real life) its a very cool thing. It reminds me of my childhood because I had a penpal, Rhonda, since I was about 7 years old. I didn’t meet Rhonda until I was 18, and 30+ years later she is truly my sister. I can see that happening with people I’ve met first online.

3. There Will Be Haters. Some people are just unkind, unfriendly and/or downright rude. I’ve experienced them. But because of the great people I’ve met, I have been able to brush off the run-ins with these people. It happens in every job, every community, every day. Sometimes it’s a person just having a bad day. Other times you find out that the person is just not nice and it’s best to ignore them.

4. Write What You Know and Love. I write about saving money and trying to figure out how to achieve my dreams, big and small. I may not be the ‘go to’ expert in these areas but they’re important to me and my passion and interest comes across and gives depth and dimension to my site. Authenticity is a word you hear a lot in blogging, and it is especially important to be your true self. I’m always amazed that other people are out there who think about the same things I do and want to reach out and connect with like-minded or similar people.

5. Don’t Be Afraid. Just write it and hit publish. Send the emails. Reach out to people. Tweet at people. Leave comments on blogs. Become part of the blogging community. There are people out there that will adore you and be thrilled that they are meeting you. Other bloggers hope people love their posts too, so if you like what you read let them know. Same with twitter. If someone provides a link to an article or post that is meaningful to you, let them know. The computer doesn’t love us. It’s the people on the other side of the screen that makes being part of the online community, involved in Social Media and connected to others via the world wide web that makes this all worth it.

Maybe writing a blog isn’t in your future. But you’ll likely read them. Maybe you’ll get on Twitter. No matter what you do, take a deep breath, stick out you hand and say ‘Hello, my name is….‘. In the online world it’s easy — leave a comment, send a nice tweet, send an email.

I’ve learned a lot more but I think these five things are what are most important to me at this point. What have you learned, either as a blogger or as a reader?

Sara