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June 2, 2008

Assembling the Spam Puzzle

Fighting spam has proved to be a nearly impossible task.

The best and brightest minds of the legal and technical worlds have failed to come up with solutions to stem the flow of junk email, splogs or spam comments.

Every new law or technological advancement has just been an escalation in a never-ending arms race between the many who hate spam and the few that send it out.

To be certain, spam plays a much smaller part in our lives today than it did a few years ago. We rarely see spam in our inboxes, spam comments are largely filtered out and only search spam seems to work with any reliability, especially with blogs.

However, the junk content keeps flowing at an ever-increasing rate. More and more junk email gets sent out every year, comment spam is on the rise too.

We have managed to treat the symptoms, but not the illness. This is because we have been dealing with how spam mails us, one issue at a time rather than looking at the bigger picture.

It is time to take a look at the spam puzzle and how it all fits together.

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May 12, 2008

When Fans and Artists Collide

Earlier this week, a fan of the British TV series Dr. Who was forced to take a portion of his site offline after receiving a cease and desist letter from the BBC. However, Mazzmatazz, the fan is question, was not posting clips onto YouTube or making pirated copies of DVDs, but rather, posting knitting patters to let other fans make their own Dr. Who characters.

In a similar, but much more famous case, J.K. Rowling has sued one of her fans, the author of the Harry Potter Lexicon site, in order to prevent a book from being published using information from her series.

These are just two examples of creators butting heads with their own fans over matters of copyright. Ever since the Internet made the fan site possible, it seems that copyright holders have struggled to find where to draw the line with their own fans and fans, for their part, have had difficulty finding just where that line is.

But how can such bloggers fan site creators avoid drawing the ire of those that they admire? What can copyright holders due to avoid needless clashing with their own fans? Sadly, copyright law is of little help in this area and the real key lies in making an honest attempt to resolve a very complicated matter. read more

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April 21, 2008

Blogging Lessons For and From Journalism

As the proud holder of a journalism degree, I am always looking for ways to connect what I’ve learned both in school and in previous jobs to my blogging.

The fact is that blogging and traditional news reporting are actually closer to one another than many would like to admit. They both involve many of the same elements including, finding stories, researching them, writing the article, crafting the headline and finding supporting media.

So what do professional journalists have to teach bloggers, especially new/amateur ones and what can bloggers teach the print world about online media?

As it turns out, there is a great deal for both sides to learn, if they are willing to listen.

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March 31, 2008

What Gives You The Right To Tell Me?

What gives you the right to tell me how to do something? Why should I trust what you have to say about blogging? About politics? About money? About making money with my blog? About fixing cars? About anything? What gives you the right?

As I prepare for the “Biz School of Blogging” program in May at SOBCon, the terms authority blog and authority blogger keeps popping up in the program discussions. Chris Garrett has even helped create the Authority Blogger blog.

The term, authority blogger, was coined a little over a year ago labeling a blogger and their blog as the “authority” on their blog subject, thus making the blogger an expert in their field. Blog branding is the marketing effort to turn your blog into an authority blog through visual and content connections, establishing proof over time of expertise.

Yet, every day I run across bloggers claiming expertise and spewing nonsense – and no one challenges them.

Should they? Should we?
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March 25, 2008

Blogging is About Writing – and Not

Blogging is about writing. That is a fact. You can video blog, podcast, and do all kinds of fun things with your blog, but it is the writing that makes or breaks a blog. What you say in the blog posts, descriptions of visual and audio elements, and what words you offer search engines for their indexing to help people find your blog.

However, blogging is not just about the writing, albeit it is a large part. Blogging today is about so much more. Are you ready? Do you know all the things you have to know about blogging before you start blogging? Or after?

Whether you are a new blogger or long time blogger, these are the things you are going to have to learn about in order to blog in today’s world.
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March 4, 2008

Breaking Trust: How Not To Link to a Plagiarist

David Peralty’s article on Amazing Women BloggersI haven’t been through my incoming link statistics in a while, so I was delighted to find an article highlighting “15 Amazing Women in Blogging.”

I learned a big lesson with that one incoming link. One you need to learn, too.

It was posted on a blog subtitled An Iranian Woman Bloggerm which added a thrill when I found I was included in the list. To know that I’m making an impact in a country where women suffer so much, my throat started to close and my eyes tear a bit as I read through the article. The comments about each woman blogger were wonderful and included some fellow bloggers I didn’t know. The beautiful words made me want to get to know them.

I eagerly copied the link and a blockquote to my text editor to compile a blog post for my blog. There have been a lot of articles highlighting women bloggers, but the way each one was described and recommended, it was truly from the heart and distinctive from all the rest of the articles. This one I wanted to honor on my blog as it celebrated the achievements of women bloggers.

After writing up the post in my text editor, I went back to check the article for any last minute things I could add. I also wanted to say thank you for my inclusion in such a powerful list of female bloggers and show my appreciation for introducing me to some I’d not heard of…when I found David’s comment.

He warned the blog owner to remove the content as it was a copy of his own.
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February 26, 2008

Thou Shall Not Blog

Bloggers Rights graphic by Lorelle VanFossenOver the years, as blogging has grown from fad to trend, I’ve traveled the world talking to other bloggers, many sharing stories of how they were confronted with new job contracts, agreements, and policies that state: Thou shall not blog.

My first response is always, “Why not?” Oh, I get an earful. It ranges from business practices to government limitations, and everything in between.

Here are some of the reasons why many people can’t blog.

Violation of Non-Disclosure

Let’s face it. We’re human. We make mistakes. We go forth with the best intentions and screw up. Often without thought. Knowing this, many businesses won’t risk the slip you may make as you free-wheel your thoughts publicly and disclose some of their proprietary information. Fear of disclosure is a huge issue for companies, a big incentive to bring out the papers for signature, banning blogging.

And there can be big money in such disclosures, too, an incentive for those to blog trade secrets.
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February 25, 2008

Don’t Sign Away Your Rights

Many bloggers dream about getting a recurring guest blogging position. Whether paid or unpaid, many bloggers toil in relative obscurity for years before being offered a chance to write for a large site.

However, the excitement of being offered a new writing position often causes bloggers, as well as other writers, to make serious mistakes. When they receive their first contract, they either do not read the document carefully or, in a desperate bid to please their new employers, sign the contract with little regard to the rights that they surrender.

However, when you sign your name to a contract, you are bound to it and signing a bad contract can have long-term consequences that can both limit the rights to your own work and the scope of your future projects.

No matter how good of a deal the contract seems to be, it is worth taking a moment to read through it and watch out for the rights that you may be giving away.

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February 21, 2008

Google! Clean Up Blogger! Now!

I know that lately, there continues to be a lot of kvetching about Google, Page Rank, and spam blog issues. This are legitimate concerns, but I have a bigger bitch with Google. Clean up Blogger, NOW!

I was contacted today by a newspaper reporter from Charlotte, North Carolina, to comment on the death of a local blogger, part of a pair of women who have taken Charlotte by storm with their social commentary blog. I wanted to research this myself to write about it here, so I headed to Google, the search engine of choice, and entered in death, social, bloggers, charlotte, north carolina and clicked over to Blog Search when Web and News came up empty. I expected to get a few hits as the reporter said the death of this young woman was the “talk of the town” and the community was turning out to support the surviving blogger.

What I got were ten search results all from Google Blogger/Blogspot sites.

My first reaction? Google must now give priority to their own bloggers in the search results. It’s a good assumption based upon the evidence.
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February 18, 2008

The Limitations of Fair Use

When it comes to matters of copyright, many bloggers are simply asking for trouble and don’t realize that they are doing so.

They take images and put them in their entries without a thought to where they got them, they take articles, in whole or large part, without a thought to who wrote wrote it and tell themselves that their copying of the content is protected by fair use.

This type of behavior is not only very risky, but also shows a lack of understanding of what fair use is, how it works and what it was designed to protect. This causes many bloggers, especially new ones, to put themselves in risk that they never would have otherwise.

To make fair use work, it is important that we not only understand what it protects, but also what the limitations of it are and understand both the actions it doesn’t protect as well as the headaches it can’t prevent.

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