Punctuation – Exclamation Marks Aren’t All Bad!

I happen to like the Exclamation Mark. Most writers say it denotes strong feelings or even high volume (shouting), but to me it is just my preferred alternative to the lackluster presence of a period.

As an example, here is one of my recent comment replies.  I could have written it this way:
It will be unfortunate if all your flowers get frozen.
But I wrote it this way: It will be unfortunate if all your flowers get frozen!

I’m sure you understand that I wasn’t shouting when I used the exclamation mark. Did I have real strong feelings? Not really. I just thought that frozen flowers deserved more than a quiet period.

289-exclamation-mark The QuipperyI am, of course, woefully mistaken in my use of the Exclamation Mark. Real writers have horrible things to say about people like me.

Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald –

And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.
– Terry Pratchett –

In the family of punctuation where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.
– Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, pages 137-138 –

Lynn does, however, offer one faint hope that the exclamation mark won’t languish forever on the top left edge of the keyboard:

…it sometimes seems hurtful to suppress the exclamation mark when – after all – it doesn’t mean any harm to anyone, and is so desperately keen.
– Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, p 139 –

oval scenery
The Eggstol Mark

What to do, what to do?  I suppose I could just invent a new punctuation mark – something less dull than a period, but not as robust as an explanation mark. Maybe a nice upright oval, slightly taller than a period.  I could call it an eggstol mark, perhaps.

Canada – a Little Fish in a Great Big Blogging Sea

Sysomos, a Canadian analytics company, surveyed 100 million blog posts (the Great Big Blogging Sea) to determine, among other things, where bloggers are located. They found the following statistics about writers from predominantly English speaking countries: (see the Sysomos website for the complete stats, which includes the non-English speaking countries)

29.22% came from the United States
6.75% came from the UK
3.93%  came from Canada
2.22% came from Australia

I wondered how these statistics looked in comparison to the WordPress.com Blogging Sea, which has published such information on their Stats Page.  According to their figures, there are 70.5 million WordPress sites in the world, half of which WordPress hosts. 66% of the blogs hosted on WordPress are written in English. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t indicate which countries these English writers come from, so I thought I would do a quick survey of the last 50 blogs that were chosen by the editor of WordPress’s Freshly Pressed to see what countries are represented.  The results were:

38 from the United States (76%)
2 Americans currently living in Europe (4%)
6 from the UK (12%)
2 from Canada (4%)
1 from Australia (2%)
1 from Holland (2%)

Now I don’t know if these statistics reflect the actual percentages of WordPress bloggers in each country, or whether they reflect the preferences of the Freshly Pressed Editor.  I don’t know whether these stats would remain consistent over the course of a year or two.

These stats were, however, an eye opener for me. I had been under the assumption that every WordPress blogger who followed the Freshly Pressed guidelines had the same chance of being chosen as every other blogger. I hadn’t thought about the fact there might be other dynamics at work, such as a distribution based on country of origin. I also discovered that a significant percentage of Freshly Pressed blogs are written by relatively new bloggers, many having started blogging within the last few months.

This is all good information for me. According to my  research, my Canadian blog, which has been floating around for 2 years now, is statistically NOT likely to ever get Freshly Pressed – I’m getting long in the tooth, as it were! That is a much more comforting thought than the doubt that creeps in when all my blogging associates have been asked to the Pressed Prom and I haven’t.

I tell little stories, but other Canadians tell much larger ones.  The National Film Board of Canada hosts many of these on their website, and I invite you to listen to one of them from the actor Paul Gross: Remembrance.

Alberta Canada
A January Sunrise in the True North Strong and Free

We are Canadians and we live in the land of  “The True North Strong and Free.” We may only be 4% of the blogging world, but our stories are as big as the land we live in!

Stop Online Piracy Act

I’m a day late getting to the SOPA/PIPA Protest. I spent Blackout Day trying to find a comfortable position. My back and shoulders suddenly decided to go on strike against the rest of my body, and the picket lines they erected made life for the whole gang pretty uncomfortable. I alternated between lying down, sitting up, wandering around, ice packs, pain killers, and the odd dose of dark chocolate.

Things have settled down a bit today, so I can spend some time thinking about my position on the Stop Online Piracy Act. The goal of the United States House of Representatives seems worthy enough. In the briefest terms, the intent of it is: “… H.R. 3261 allows the Attorney General to seek injunctions against foreign websites that steal and sell American innovations and products.”

The devil is in the details and the enforcing of this legislation could possibly restrict the rights and freedoms of  everyone, not just the pirates. In the end, the pirates will find other ways to keep doing business, leaving those who abide by the law holding yet another bag of restrictions.

Of course, I am a Canadian, so I don’t spend too much time worrying about yet another limitation on the rights of Americans. But this new legislation is being supported by the American Music and Movie industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the electronic and auto industries, groups that seem a bit like pirates themselves sometimes.

I  think the internet today is like the Old West – open, free, and dangerous if you don’t take responsibility for your own welfare. Maybe SOPA is akin to when the military moved in to make things safer for folks who should probably have just headed back East to where things weren’t quite so wild.

The responsibility for policing the internet belongs to each and every person who accesses it. There would be no desire for legislation like SOPA if there weren’t so many ‘law abiding’ individuals who are willing to buy cheap pirated product.

Reblogging and Image Copyright – Part 2

I’m not going to pretend I have never violated someones copyright. If I was to follow the strictest terms of the law, then I should include the author and source document of each Quotation I use. I should not have  photographed my Daffy Duck shirt and blogged about it. I’m also a bit unclear as to whether the graphics I bought from The Print Shop can be used on my blog or not…

ToonadayI am, however, a bit touchy about the issue of other bloggers using my Photographs without permission. In a previous post, When Does Reblogging Violate Copyright?, I mentioned that one of my posts had been reblogged. I complained to WordPress about two things:
1. The reblog contained one of my photos, used without my permission.
2. The site that reblogged my post seemed to consist entirely of reblogged posts, without a single word of original content.

I haven’t received a reply from WordPress about my complaint, but when I checked the offending blog today, I saw that WordPress had dealt with the issue by removing the blog:

hello100blog.wordpress.com is no longer available.
This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service.
– WordPress.com –

A WordPress Happiness Engineer, Erica V., (who was on the receiving end of my complaint), also wrote  some suggestions in The Daily Post for finding photos that are in the Public Domain – A Picture’s Worth.

Of course, I still don’t have an answer as to whether WordPress thinks Reblogging violates image copyright

Hopefully everyone understands that it is a big NO-NO to copy photographs and images without permission. Of course, the consequences of doing this are probably about NIL unless someone discovers it and complains… Nonetheless, there are a number of image sources on the internet that don’t violate copyright. In addition to the ones Erica mentions, here are a few others to consider:

1. Wikimedia has an impressive list of  Public Domain Image Resources.

2. YouTube  is a popular source for interesting video, but embedding a YouTube video in your blog is not something you should do without taking a few precautions. The people who upload material to YouTube are expected to abide by the information presented on the Copyright Education page. Not all of them follow those rules, however. YouTube cannot, of course, review every video that is uploaded, so they depend on subsequent viewers to alert them to Copyright Violations.

Before a blogger embeds a YouTube video in their blog, they should also assess whether it violates copyright or not.  HubPages presents a comprehensive Copyright Infringement discussion.

Stanford University Libraries discusses Copyright and Fair Use.  It is very readable, and includes the  fact that Copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1923.

I know it all sounds quite complicated, and I know that now and then most bloggers are in violation of something. But that shouldn’t stop any of us from trying to do the right thing, not the easy thing

When Does Reblogging and Pinning Things Violate Copyright?

Reblogging

We All Like to Reblog by Andy P, WordPress.com, June 1, 2010
Have you ever come across a blog post that you enjoyed so much you wanted to easily share it with the readers of your own blog? Sure, you can copy and paste the link and perhaps even a snippet of text with your own comments, but overall it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience. We wanted to change this and make sharing other posts with your readers as easy as posting to your blog.

On December 5, 2011, I got a notice that one of my posts had been Reblogged. When I clicked the link that pointed to the site that had reblogged me, this image is what I saw:

In the case of this particular post, the reblog contained about half of what I said, plus one of my photos in its original size. The Blogger that copied my post did not add any of their own content.

I was not asked for, nor did I give permission for someone to copy and post one of my photos. Reblogging, in this case, looks an awful lot like content theft.

Content theft happens all the time on the internet, but that doesn’t make it right. Each and every one of us holds a Copyright to the content on our blogs, as long as we are the original writer of the words, photographer of our photos, or designer of our graphics. We don’t even have to post a notice of Copyright for this to be so. (But it is a good idea to do this to remind others that your content is not free for the taking. WordPress discusses how to Prevent Content Theft.)

No one else is allowed to copy this content in it’s entirety without our express permission. They can, however, take small excerpts from it for inclusion in their work, provided they give us credit. These snippets should be for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting and are considered “fair use”.

In the case of a photograph or graphic, the photographer or graphic artist has the sole right to produce and reproduce the photograph or any substantial part of it. No one can use that photo or graphic without permission.

All WordPress Bloggers signed Terms of Service. We agree that we will not “download, copy and use Content that infringes the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret rights, of any third party”. In turn, we as bloggers “grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting our blog.”

I contacted the owner of the blog that has violated my photo copyright. They did not approve my comment, respond to my complaint, or remove my photo. I contacted WordPress and asked them to facilitate the removal of my photo from this site. WordPress eventually responded by blocking the offending blog completely.

So, what do you think about Reblogging? Does it look like content theft to you?
Have you ever included photos or graphics in your blog that you have not obtained permission to use?

Pinterest and Copyright

Copyright law governs the use of these works on the internet, just as it does in all other forms of publication. Contrary to popular opinion, everything on the Internet is NOT in the Public Domain.

Perhaps the largest segment of the internet population who violate Copyright (and there are over 70 million of them now) are Pinterest Users.   Copyright violation (content theft) occurs every time a Pinterest User ‘pins’ a photo or an article to one of their boards – unless they get the permission of the author or the artist to do so. The reason it is content theft is simple. Pinterest pins are exact duplicates of the original content which is stripped of identifying metadata and then stored on Pinterest’s servers.

Pinterest Pins are not thumbnails (thumbnails are not copyright violation because you have to go to the original source to see the full picture.) Pinterest Pins are not embedded links (like embedded video clip links, which are also not copyright violation.) Pins are a duplication of material that was created by someone else for use on their website. If the creator of that material does not give you permission to put that material on your page or board, you are violating the author or artists copyright.

Pinterest knows that Pinterest Users violate copyright all the time, but it isn’t really a concern of this well funded company (currently valued at $3.8 billion). Pinterest won’t be the ones on the hook if the original authors of the content get fed up with content theft. Pinterest have absolved themselves of any wrongdoing by stating that they “respect the intellectual property rights of others” and that that they expect their users to respect these property rights  too. Pinterest goes on to say that the user is solely responsible for the User Content  they post to Pinterest.

Pinterest also thinks they can do an end run around Copyright. They offer the owners of the original content a code that will prevent Pinterest users from being able to pin from code protected sites. This suggests that Pinterest believes that nothing is copyright unless the owner takes the responsibility of inserting the code into their site.

The vast majority of Pinterest Users do not even realize that they are guilty of content theft. If they do understand what that is, they don’t think they will ever be caught doing it, and if they are caught, they believe it is highly unlikely they will be sued. In their minds, what they are doing is really just the digital equivalent of the scrapbooks they used to make from the pretty pictures and comics they tore out of newspapers or magazines.

The difference between paper scrapbooks and internet ones is subtle, but important. When you buy a newspaper or magazine, you are not copying and distributing the item. You simply purchased the material for your own use.  If you were to scan and post that picture or comic to a website where it is available for illegal copying and downloading, you would then be violating the copyright of the author of the work. The same applies to the photo or article that you pin to your Pinterest Board. You have taken another person’s work (which you have not paid for) and made it available to the world without the author or artist’s permission.

Why is this a big deal to the person whose work has been taken?  When a photo is pinned to a board, it becomes a competing version of that image. This often siphons image search traffic away from the source site. If that source site is trying to sell their work, that affects their business. Many Pinterest users gather their pins from other Pinterest Users. This means that Pinterest Users don’t even have to go to the original source of the image at all, and that further erodes traffic to the very people who are producing the work in the first place.

Last, but not least – Pinterest is setting themselves up to make some serious money through advertising. They have started off with Sponsored Pins – which are promotions for certain pins from a select group of businesses. These pins will be targeted to match the content the users pin to their boards.  Where does that content come from? All the creative people who take photos and create art and write the stories that get ‘appropriated’ by Pinterest users.  Will any of those creative people be financially compensated for that content? Not likely.

I’d like to end this story with a lesson as to what can happen if a person ‘borrows’ a nice picture without getting permission. This  is a post by blogger Roni Loren: (Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story).  Another story about being sued comes from The Content Factory.

Path from Your Blogging House to Mine

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

Now and then I catch sight of the animals that visit our woods. In the summer time, they come and go without leaving much hint of who they are, nor how long they stayed. In the Winter time, with snow on the ground, the story is different.
animal woods winterThe deer have well defined paths that create a link from the woods/hay field in the north to the farmer’s grain field in the south.

This reminds me of some of the writers on my Blogroll – the people who have linked to my blog, and I, in turn, have linked to theirs – a bloggers reciprocity treaty!

There are other paths in the snow, the ones that are left by the creatures coming and going from less fixed destinations. This makes me think of the people who frequently leave comments.

Another group of special bloggers are the ones who have nominated me for the numerous Awards that bloggers give to one another.

Last, but certainly not least, are the Silent Majority. They leave no mark, but their presence can still be felt. In blogging terms, these are the folks that visit regularly, nod or shake their head, and move on. Though I can’t read their thoughts, I value the fact that they are readers!

Thanks to all of you and Merry Christmas!

Canadian Blog Award Nominees

A Vote for Me is a Vote for… Me! (I can’t think of a catchy slogan…)

I ran across a list of Canadian Blogs at a website called the Canadian Blog Awards. A month or so ago they called for Nominees for the 2011 awards, and in a moment of self advertisement, I nominated myself. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.

The list of nominees was just posted, and I am in the running! The first round of voting will take place this coming week. It would be very nice if you would go to the Canadian Blog Awards webpage, scroll down to Best Personal Blog, click on it and then vote for A Lighter Shade of Grey.

If I make the cut in this round of voting, I’ll let you know!

Thanks for voting!

2nd Anniversary of Blogging – Comments, Halloween

Comments
My post last week, Comments Etiquette – All or Some?, generated more comments than any other post I have written. The majority consensus was that it is just plain polite to reply to every comment on your blog. But it was acknowledged that very popular blogs might generate more comments than it is possible to respond to. As for leaving comments, some bloggers like to push the ‘Like Button’, especially when there are already lots of comments, and they have nothing new to add!

Halloween
The Car Guy did the shopping for Halloween this year – one box of 125 mini chocolate bars. I wasn’t surprised when we still had 125 mini chocolate bars at the end of the evening… okay, there were 121 bars left. We sampled a few ourselves.

Many thanks to all of you who read my Halloween Blog Post from last year. It was called Pumpkin Face, and it explained why I am unhappy with the commercialized, politically correct holiday that has replaced the Halloween of days gone by.

Blog Birthday
It has been two years since I wrote the first post for this blog. It was called H1N1 Flu. Like many of  my posts, it is a combination of useful information, social commentary, and humour. Since then I have added my photographs to my blog posts, and that has been the single biggest change in my life. Looking at life through the lens of a camera, rather than just through words, has been very exciting!

Thanks to all of you who visit these pages. I don’t know how enthusiastic I would be about blogging if no one ever viewed them!

Comment Etiquette – Do You Reply to All or Just Some?

Google the topic of Comment Etiquette, and even if you spell etiquette wrong (which I did – it is a very tricky word to spell), there will be quite a few sites to check out. WordPress weighs in with ‘Are You Well-Versed in Comment Etiquette‘.

I’ve learned a few things about making comments by observation of results. One of them is ‘don’t ever leave a comment on a vegetarian blog if you are not one’. Carnivores are generally not well received, even very polite Canadian ones. Actually, a general rule of thumb is to be very cautious about leaving a  comment anywhere if you realize you are going to be the only one with a dissenting opinion. It is like responding ‘Yes’ when a friend asks you if she looks fat in her new tight jeans. Some things are best left unsaid.

I have a large pile of Blog Ideas that result from comments I refrained from making…

I read quite a few blogs, and often I would like to leave a comment. But if there are 30 or 100 comments there already, I realize I have absolutely nothing new to say. So I click the Like Button. To me, the Like Button is my way of saying ‘This is very good! You are a very talented blogger, and I thoroughly enjoyed this post!” Only it is a lot briefer, and the blogger doesn’t have to say anything back.

I know there are two schools of thought on how bloggers reply to comments:
– Some bloggers think each and every comment should receive a reply, even if all they say is ‘Thanks”.
– Some bloggers think that some comments clearly lead to replies, while other comments are more like someone pushed the Like Button, and no reply is necessary.

Which brings me to the meat of this post which is, how do you reply to comments on your blog? Are you an ALL person, or are you a SOME person? I would really like to know what my readers think, because it will help me to decide whether I am going to continue being an ALL person, or whether I will become a SOME person.

Networking – Awards and Challenges

Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships.
– Dr. Ivan Misner –

Networks – how many do you belong to?  I have many, built over the years in response to what I was doing. My most recent network is because of my interest in blogging. A Blogging network  isn’t just about who comes to my blog. It is also about which blogs I follow.

One of the ways bloggers build this network is by passing along Awards and Challenges. Not every blogger is interested in cultivating their relationship garden by taking part in these, which I understand. But I don’t mind them, even though I bend the rules a bit because I really don’t have an unending inventory of fellow bloggers to pass the Awards and Challenges on to!

THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD

This was recently passed on to me by k8edid, a delightful Middle Aged Mumbling Madwoman. I only recently discovered her blog, but I already know we share many interests and ideas.

My list of Seven things about me – I’m going to cheat here and send you back to the post I did the first time I got this award: The Versatile Blogger Award.  The only thing that has changed since I made that list is that I took my Christmas tree down in July… In that post I introduced you to Six Bone Marrow Transplant or Cancer Survivors, and I’ve added another one to that list.

SEVEN LINKS CHALLENGE

Amy nominated me for the Seven Links Challenge. See the world through Amy’s eyes at The World is a Book. I know you won’t want to leave her blog once you get there and start exploring, but it would be nice if you came back here for a few minutes.

The Seven Links Challenge has two rules.  The first is that I must publish the links to seven of my own posts for the categories below.  The second is to pass the Seven Links Challenge on to five to seven bloggers. (Or three, if you are up to your ass in alligators and that is about the best you can do for now…)

1.  Most Beautiful Post: Christmas Peace – The Christmas Season, according to the marketing world, will arrive shortly after Thanksgiving. I don’t think, then, that I am too early in suggesting some ways to tone down the nonsense of the holiday!
2.  Most Popular Post: Induction Cooking – Pots and Pans – This post got the most views, and there is not a single bit of humour in it…
3.  Most Controversial: What Dressing Like a Slut says – There are times and places where looking like a hooker might be a bit dangerous, and these are usually places where you wouldn’t leave your car unlocked either…
4.  Most Helpful: Grandma’s Doilies – turns out a lot of people wonder what to do with all those lacy bits that Grandma made with her own two hands.
5.  Most Surprisingly Successful: Using a Barnes and Noble nook in Canada – it turns out there are a lot of us who were given a bit of misleading information about the connectivity of a nook once out of the USA.
6.  Post That Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved: Self-Indulgence –  a cautionary tale about spending what you don’t have
7.  Post I Am Most Proud Of: Actually, I am happy with each and every post I’ve written. But Self Control and Marshmallows was pretty good, and only 10 people ever read it.

Here are three bloggers who might be interested in taking up the Seven Links Challenge, but if not, I still want to tell you about them:

Before Morning Breaks – I just recently found Barb’s blog, and all I can say is that she sure has an interesting way of looking at life through the eyes of a person from Oregon.

Ramblings – Pegoleg is a witty, interesting, tell it like it is (or like you think it should be) kind of gal. Her blog is fun, as are the comments she leaves at other blogs.

Now it is your turn to talk about Networking: What is the most significant Award you have ever received?