Archive for the ‘web-geekery’ Category

Blogging Perils and Pitfalls

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I am looking forward to the Blogging For Beginners day-long workshop that I’m doing for Litfest. The Storey is a magnificent venue and Litfest put on some brilliant events there. I also love meeting people who are interested in the same sort of things as I am, and getting to talk to them about it. Which is a big part of what teaching is all about. If you are interested in signing up, details are here.

Part of the workshop is going to be about the tricky side of blogging – the worrying things that can sometimes happen as a consequence of putting yourself out there on-line and how you anticipate / prepare for / avoid them.

Perhaps I’m just noticing blogging perils more now I’ve started to think about them in advance of my workshop, but recently I have noticed a few on-line friends having bad experiences – with trolling from anonymous commenters, sarcastic remarks on facebook pages from envious fellow writers, hacked twitter accounts,  plagiarism of stories and poems posted on blogs and forums… all kinds of horridness.

My version of a bad experience might not be yours. I don’t think I’d be upset by an anonymous trolling commenter because they usually make themselves look so daft it would only be funny, although I do worry about my privacy and the privacy of my family. The benefits I get from on-line exposure (making friends, getting invited to do readings and workshops, increased promotion for my books which might, one day, translate into increased income through royalties…) outweigh the risks for me right now. But that is always something that could change.

There are other kinds of pitfall – it isn’t all cyber-stalkers and trolls. Perhaps some of you pour time and effort into blogging and feel that your ‘real’ writing is suffering. Perhaps by publishing yourself on-line you worry you are giving away something for free you could have been paid for? Maybe your work colleagues and employers don’t know you’re also a blogger and you worry about what the consequences would be if they did? Feel free to chip in if you’ve experienced a blogging pitfall that I haven’t thought of yet.

My own approach is fairly simple. I always keep in mind I’m talking to strangers and not friends – even when that isn’t entirely true and I’ve actually met many of the readers of this blog. I don’t talk about other people when I know / guess they wouldn’t like it, and if I don’t have anything nice to say, I don’t say it (hence no real book reviews). This isn’t how I conduct myself in real life (I can be an opinionated over-sharer at the best of times) but I know that once something is in writing it is there forever and can be quoted into infinity without me being present to explain myself.

These aren’t things that I thought about when I started blogging three and a bit years ago but apart from a few strange emails and the someone who persistently finds this blog by googling for my children’s names, I’ve been very lucky. Because I’ve worked in prisons I know just how careful I need to be with my personal information, but I also want to live and write my life, and so I take calculated risks that may be different to yours. My own comfort zone (ugh, what a phrase) has also evolved from what I’ve observed from other bloggers.

As many of the readers of this blog are also experienced bloggers, I thought whose better brains to pick? What advice would you give to a beginner – someone who has only just started reading blogs and hasn’t started their own yet, or perhaps who has been blogging for a little while but is looking to expand and get a wider readership?

My teaching style isn’t prescriptive, so I’m not looking to create a set of rules or guidelines. I’m researching other people’s experiences so I can lead a discussion on the way the bloggers in the workshop can think about what parts of themselves they want to put on-line and how they go about safeguarding themselves. I know what I do and why I do it, but there are as many ways of doing this as there are blogs and bloggers, so the more you share with me about your own thoughts and methods, the richer the discussion will be.

If it could be guaranteed that your personal information was safe, that you’d never be misquoted or offend someone you later want to employ you, how would your blog be different? For long time bloggers – have you ever been back over old posts and deleted content you wish you’d kept to yourself? What about photographs? Have your ideas about what it is ‘safe’ to write about online changed since your readership has increased? What is your policy on anonymous comments? In what circumstances would you delete a comment?

Comments on this blog are public and so I may quote them in the workshop or direct workshop participants to this post for ‘further reading’. Emails sent direct to me are private and won’t be shared in any format either anonymously or with your name attached unless you give me your permission.


Edited to add: someone kind sent me these links, which may interest you:

Only You Can Prevent Blog Trolls and Comment Jerks

Developing a Personal Social Media Policy

How To Protect Against Social Media Remorse

Out on a Limb: the launch

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Finally, the Out on a Limb website is here. Hooray! If you click here you’ll be taken by the magical power of the interwebs to a web of stories about the Wirral – the fruit of a project I worked on at the beginning of this year. The website is beautiful (that map was HAND DRAWN by Elaine) and if you click through to the participants’ blogs you’ll be able to comment on their stories, ask them questions about their writing process or anything else you can think of (they are looking forward to taking questions / compliments through their comment forms, so don’t be shy to weigh in with feedback for them) and see how the stories link together through images, themes, characters and settings.

I think the most rewarding part of this project, for me, was working with a small group of beginner writers and bloggers to create a permanent record of their memories, thoughts and experiences. Some of the stories are autobiographical or started out that way – and all of them capture authentic Wirral voices that, in some cases, we are publishing for the first time. If you like the stories, I’d also recommend you dig about in the blogs that all the participants kept as a record of the evolution of their story. The dead-ends, rejected ideas, eureka-moments, frustrations, abandoned drafts and alternative endings are a fascinating record of what it is like to invent a story and work on a collaborative project like this.

Now the ‘behind the scenes’ bit of the project is over, the site is also accepting new stories / poems and photography set in the Wirral. You don’t need to live there or work there to submit – but your story does need to be set there. We are hoping that over time the site will evolve into an on-line library of tales that will put a little-written about area on the map. Since I started tweeting about the stories last week (what you mean you don’t follow me on twitter?) I’ve already had a few submissions. Top Banana!

You can submit via the site, or you can email me about it. Stories will go up in batches and I’ll be tweeting lines from them over the coming weeks to generate some traffic. Your story should be under 1500 words, although we’re not going to be super strict about that – and it should stand on its own two feet, although if you want to link it to any of the original stories written by our first set of project participants (if you click on the links within my story you’ll see what I mean by this) then we’d hop with glee.


Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I’ve spent my lunch break doing something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Throw tomato soup all over the Mr.’s computer.

And update my blog list. It’s been shockingly out of date for months. It’s all done now, with links and icons and automatic updates and all sorts. Click through if you want to see what I’m reading these days.


Saturday, July 26th, 2008

This is the last chapter of fishbook
made into a picture.

There are lots of exciting words in there.
Like squid, and bonfire.

Click on the picture to make it big.

Cheesy Peeps!*

Monday, June 30th, 2008

The MA currently on offer from the Ashworth University of Hard, Soft and Medium Knocks almost won Post of the Week .

I am flabbergasted.

If I’d have known, I’d have made you all vote, you crap pupils you.

* ‘Cheesy Peeps’ is a good all purpose swear word I learned from my good friend and drinking buddy. A lot of my borrowers are using it now too, because I bump into the books trolley a lot at work and need a word like this.

Why Are People So Interested In Big Headed People?

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

You know, around 30% of the people who make one quick visit to this blog and pop off again are searching for answers to the time old question of,

Who Has The Biggest Head In The World or
Biggest Human Head or
Whose Got The Biggest Head.

This bothers me. And I’m sorry, but I don’t know. I do know that the colossal squid has the largest eye in the world though. Ask me anything about squid. Test me. Squid, angler fish or hot air balloons. Go on.

Anyway. Other search terms include:

How To Be Successful In Life Without Lieing (sic) – learning to spell would be a start, and other than that, I don’t have a clue

Most Everyday Lies – I like this one. I’d like to know what are the most common lies in the world. I’d bet my left leg that its ILY

Good Short Stories For Free – I like this one. It made me happy. There are short stories here, and for free.

I’m going to neglect this blog for a little bit. Just a couple of weeks. I might post sporadically with word counts and stuff, but mainly I am going to finish the first draft. I want to be done by the end of May. I usually get to write two or three hours a day if I don’t go to bed early. So I think that is reasonable. I will let you know how I get on. And when I have finished getting on, I will be back.

If you want to guest post, you should email me.

I will still be writing at Sh.


Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

I am lazy and busy. I will reply to all emails soon. I will post good blogs again soon.

For the person who found me by googling: ‘anxiety and shoes’, please identify yourself and I will buy you a pint and punch you on the arm in a matey fashion.

Jiggery Pokery

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I am trying out something I learned in the seminar I went to recently. I have made another little blog but I’m not going to do writing in that. I am just going to do links and quotes and extracts and excerpts of things that I read on the internet that I like and I think other people should have a look at too. It is going to be like a collection.

If you have written something and you want to see if I like it or not you should email me a link and I will look at it and read it.

If I have time I will look at it and read it.

If I have time and I am in a good mood I will look at it and read it.

I might not look at it and read it.

It is, for the moment, called Blurb, but it is still under construction.

Head Flushing Toilet Twice

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

To the person who found my blog by googling ‘head flushing toilet twice’:

I am sorry you only found a post wittering about how writing was like going to the toilet. Necessary, but not for dinner conversation. Was it a disappointment?

Did someone flush your head down the toilet twice? I am thinking of the boy I sometimes see on the way to work. The ginger boy with the too-short trousers and the green scarf. You should really wear a coat as well as your blazer. And go to bed earlier. Did they flush your head down the toilet twice? Twice? Were you soggily searching for possible after effects? Or methods for revenge? Or checking to see the bastards hadn’t youtubed it?

I am thinking about my borrowers. Did one of you flush someone’s head down the toilet twice? Likely, perhaps, but I don’t think it was any of you. You aren’t allowed on the tinterweb, are you?

Whoever you are, if you are considering flushing someone’s head down the toilet twice, whoever they are, please don’t. It is unkind and I want no part in it. If it happened to you I am sure you will be fine as long as you kept your eyes and mouth closed and not too much water got up your nose. Most toilets are cleaner than the tables in pubs. That’s what I heard, anyway.

Attention Seeking for Wallflowers/Party Shoes

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Yesterday was interesting. I went to this seminar, run by Litfest and Literature Training. I was in two minds, but it was free, and near my house, and you got your dinner and as many chocolate biscuits as you wanted. And in the end (despite not much of the info being new to me) I am glad I did, mainly because I got to meet some new people (eek!) and was directed to some interesting websites, not least the tumblr tlog of the trainer, Jacob Sam-La Rose (see how down with the lingo I am? Who knew what a tlog was? Not me.)

It also turned out to be one more of the ways in which my work work and my writing work have combined and overlapped recently (insert wittering about Library 2.0 here) and when that happens it makes me like both of them more.

Walking home in the rain after foisting the url of this blog onto the people I met (if you are here, hello, and thank you!) I decided again that there is something troubling about all this social networking. The web is full of spiders – reaching out with their hairy legs, brushing past each other in search of some nasty/tasty/useful fly.

You should click on this link here to read a story by Neil LaBute (and the wonderful comments below it) before you go on.

Done? Good. Welcome back.

Setting up a website without doing all the other promo stuff was compared to going to a party and sitting in the corner waiting for people to come up and chat (in what you thought were your best pair of shoes and eyeshadow that looked funky, but became magnified into a perfect black-eye behind glasses). I find it much easier to go to the party online, mainly because I can ditch the party shoes and, perfect for shy slow-thinkers like me, there is a time lag. I get to draft before I hit ‘send’ or ‘publish’ or ‘update’.

There’s something insincere and distasteful to me about friending 600000 people you don’t know so you can promote your latest book/picture/song/tea-cosy but perhaps no less insincere than interacting with the world mainly through a medium which allows me to be constructed and drafted, as finished as the stories I try to write.

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