17 February 2012

Top 5 Policies to Make Your Blog Better

I read somewhere  on a list of top 10 blog tips, that people like numbers and lists.  Post titles such as  "12 tips for faster sewing" or "The top 7 Color Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" will attract more attention and appeal to people needing guidance on your subject. Hence the title of this post.

Self-portrait, Lower Belvedere Palace, Vienna
I have been a bit slow with my blog lately.   In addition to just being very busy with other work, I have to admit a large reason why I have not been posting more often,  is that I am feeling inhibited, after finding a staggering number of my images being used without credit or permission, in many cases being passed off as the work of another.  I found one blog using 15 of my images and claiming the work as their own (it has since been taken down you can be assured). I recently saw some of my work on a blog where the titles of the image files were something like "blogger/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Screen-shot-2010-11-07.png"    The poster rather obviously did a screen grab of the image via an image search, and left the date of the offense right there in the image title for all to see.

It's depressing for a visual artist such as myself, that there are now so many bloggers and Pinterest pinners and Facebook sharers (and splogs!)  out there with really bad manners.  Seems like every time I talk to a photographer they are complaining about blogs and Pinterest and the users of the world wide web's lack of respect for copyright and original content. 

So in a concerted effort not to rant (too much), here is a post on simple policies on sharing content you can enact for your blog, to make it better, more relevant, and ultimately more interesting.

1. Use original content.
What is the purpose of your blog?  Assuming you want people to read  what you are publishing, think about why.   The blogosphere is too full of compiler blogs that just re-post other articles or images or entire blog posts from elsewhere without any comment or editing.  They are boring.  They make their authors look boring. Obvious gimmicks trying to drum up traffic using other people's images or writing is boring.  Please, don't be boring.  Have something to say, put your own mark on what you are doing, reveal a new insight,  say what you think!    Original content will make your blog a valued resource and garner its own, unique  following. Use your blog to express something of yourself.  Otherwise, really, what's the point? 

2. When you post your own images,  mark them.
 Whenever possible if you can add your name or blog address to your image prior to posting it, then it will be clear, wherever else it ends up, where it came from. This can take a little time to do nicely but it's worth it.  I don't think it needs to be stamped across the front obscuring the images, but just noticeable enough.  If you are concerned about not being given proper credit, insist on it, by marking your images.

3. State your sharing policy
A Creative Commons License makes it easy for you to state your policy on sharing and use of your work.  If you are publishing under a Creative Commons License, as I generally am, (see my side bar) your readers will have access to a detailed policy on sharing your work.  
If you want to retain full copyright,  and not have anything pinned or shared or copied, there is a license for that, too, or you can simply say so.  At the wonderful blog  Art and Alfalfa, the copyright notice is posted directly under the header.  I respect Gina's copyright and if I want to share her beautiful and original work with you I can ask her myself, or I can simply repeatedly link to her lovely site so you can go there and see it.

I admit I was pretty flattered to see so much of my work from both my portfolio and my blog being shared at Pinterest.  Note that all of my images are marked and that Pinterest does link back to me.  so we're cool.

4.  Please, give credit where it's due!
I  understand the enthusiastic sharing of beautiful images, but it's just bad manners not to respect a posted policy and in many cases it's also illegal.
Cite sources for images you are posting, and wherever possible the name of the designer, photographer, artist, etc. in the caption or elsewhere in the post.  Do not just swipe images, or do screen captures, to illustrate your blog.   Make some effort to give credit. Your readers might really want to know where those leopard print loafers came from, or who did that beautiful painting.   The original creator of that image was nice enough to share it;  don't be rude by not acknowledging their contribution.
Citing "via Pinterest" is not really giving credit, it's a cop-out that translates to "co-opted from someone else's research."  If you did get an image from Pinterest (or Google or Bing or Wikipedia, etc) you should at least link back to it, or better yet, go to that image and click on it and it will take you to its original site. You won't have to drill down far to find its original source.  Make the small effort to give credit and you appear knowledgeable, trustworthy, and connected.

Before posting this image on Pinterest, I researched its origin using src-img
If you cannot figure out where an image came from, try searching for it using the outstanding reverse image lookup tool called Source Image:   src-img
This is a marvelous free bookmarklet:  put it in your browser toolbar, and when you click on it, it will ask you which image you are looking for-click on the question marks (see above) and it will deliver a Google search of the image or ones similar to it to assist you in finding the original source of it. I have been able to track down the origin of an image in 10 seconds or less. Surely you can spare 10 seconds to find the author or source of an image. Don't you want to know where that wonderful image came from? The above image I traced back to Bruxelles Antiques,  a wonderful site full of gorgeous, original images,  well worth a visit. 

5.  There is no # 5. I just though 5 in the title sounded better than 4. The only no 5 that matters is Chanel No 5.


  1. You made me laugh, in typical Lynne Rutter fashion; with the Chanel No. 5 comment! This post hits on a touchy subject with all of us involved in visual work. Thanks so much for including the reverse image tool.

    1. thank you Theresa, have fun with that one--- sometimes i do reverse image searches just for the heck of it and it's amazing where it leads. hours of obsessive fun!

  2. It is such a problem when posting original content and copying and one of which I know very little. I am sorry to hear someone has ripped off your pictures. I hope it does not put you off too much.

  3. thanks Lynne... very interesting and educational..
    Not boring at all. Last year A painting contractor listed one of my houses in his prtfolio . When the prospective client was outside gawking at it.. the owner came outside to blurt that Winning Colors
    actually did the painting. Shame on him for falsifying his portfolio !

    1. Nita (@Anonymous) I am happy to hear your loyal client set the record straight. This is why doing your best work is your most effective advertising.

      @Bella thanks so much for your comment. I hope to get back to enthusiastically posting beautiful images as soon as my work schedule allows!

  4. Thank you Lynne for this post. I have been thinking along the same lines. My blog posts are 99% my photographs. I know that I expose myself to the internet and that is "the beast of the thing".
    Recently a major Real Estate Company featured a double page photograph in a major magazine from a publication wherein our house was featured. What was most annoying is that the Real Estate tried to sell it as "their house". The worst part was that many people called to find out if we were really selling our home. Of course, we were not. They just liked the photograph. But the damage was done.
    Thank you also, Lynne, for using my blog "Art and Alfalfa" as an example.

    1. I hope lots of people go look at your blog Gina, your work is wonderful. and wow, I hope no one tries to sell your house while you are still in it, my goodness.

  5. Lynne, I completely understand your frustration and I have had a lot of discussions about this issue. I have long given up to be angry about my blog contents - and not only that - ripped from my various blogs because you would have to spend too much time on something that obviously cannot be extinguished. But it is good to see that it is brought up from time to time. There are still too many people who believe that only because you publish something on the internet it is free stuff for anyone.

    1. I think I figured out the Image search tool now. Thanks for this tip. I am going to use it. Thank you for sharing that piece of information. It will make my days so much easier. Huge Blessings to all of you! Meranda

  6. When I first started blogging, not knowing how to search for image sources, I contacted another blogger to request permission to use an image photo from one of her post and she replied giving me permission but told me that she had stolen it from some other blog and made me feel ridiculous for asking. Shortly after that another blogger that I followed and had on my blog list and one who clearly stated on her blog that she must be contacted before using any of her images or photos stole a button that I created and put it on her blog without so much as a "Hey by the way I'm taking this". I was confused and a little discouraged but quickly realized that in the blog world just like in the real world there will always be inconsiderate people with bad manners.

    Great post and thanks for the reverse image look up link. But no number 5? What a rip off.


    1. Tamra,

      Yes, this is how I started as well. Asking for permission only to learn that it wasn't theirs to begin with. This is an excellent article. I must have read it about 5 times in the last couple days really to dissect what has been stated. The fact is there is little information on the copywrite topic in general when it comes to blogging. When ever these blogging conventions are advertised I look for two topics that might be discussed. "Copywrite issues, and how to make money blogging" I have contacted many bloggers to get their opinons when it comes to images, what they do. There is very little information. I haven't looked into pinterest yet, and really have to sit down and learn the website. Again, I have to ask, with so much sharing, how can you possibly catch an image being passed around from pinterest to blogs to facebook and around the world? I am also having a very tough time with the src img link you mentioned in the article. I just cannot seem to figure it out. I have dragged it to a blog which many images don't have credit and it doesn't work. What am I doing wrong. Right now, I use google images and use the "more sizes" to see who else has posted the same picture hoping some original credit is sited. This sometimes works but often times it doesn't. It is really frustrating to come across blogs who do nothing but post pictures with no credit. Then you find a picture you like, and you end up having to give them credit~ They end up building links to their site, for the lousy work. GOOD blogs are those who have a narrow topic, and content, not pictures. At least this is the case when it comes to making a lot of profit off of blogging. Thank you for this great article. We all need to be reminded of manners. I know I have mis-stepped in the past, but I want to be considerate when it comes to siting content from other bloggers. There is nothing wrong with putting links to other blogs who do a good job, and especially when the original content is theres in the first place.

  7. thanks Tamra, Petra for your encouragement.
    I will note here I have had numerous (and not surprisingly anonymous) comments from those who disagree with me about this, who think that free access invites and validates the "free for all" mess that the web has become.
    I am not publishing those comments because I don't have to. It's my blog. So there.

  8. OK, seriously. That Source Image tool is GOLD. I love it so much and have been using it already. Many thanks for the introduction. Love this post of yours and of course, the No. 5 inclusion.

    I don't think this is a "free for all" -- there needs to be responsibility and, unfortunately, it looks like it will happen individual by individual rather than the sites imposing the need to credit. I get it, I do. If I can't find credit in some way, I will let the image go. But sometimes there is an image that grabs you and you want it and there is no credit to be found. I'm guilty as well of still pinning the image with a huge amount of guilt. Sigh. Confessions.

    It's quite the subject and one that is quite flammable. I thank you for including my Pinterest article, btw.

    1. When I wrote this post I wasn't looking to get into a "flammable" debate about Pinterest. The lack of respect for the basic rules that Pinterest has posted on its own site (under "Pin Etiquette" and "Copyright" , for example) is really not different than anywhere else on the web. What I say in my post is that on your BLOG you should seek the original source and give proper credit rather than citing Pinterest itself as a source. Why? because that will make your blog look resourceful, interesting. Put another way, if Pinterest is the source of all the images on a blog, why should I bother to read the blog when I can just go to Pinterest and look at the nice pictures there?
      Pinterest markets itself as a bookmarking tool but its "sharing" aspect makes it publishing and as such it is subject to the same rules as any other kind of publishing. Beside which I fail to see the value of a bookmark that points to no useful info. So as a blogger, if you are using Pinterest to gather reference images, you should seek out that credit right away. Otherwise that image is of no real use.

    2. "I don't think this is a "free for all" -- there needs to be responsibility and, unfortunately, it looks like it will happen individual by individual rather than the sites imposing"

      Well, we are ALL guilty of posting content that is not ours. I know this debate got really heated between my husband and I when God like Productions was taken into court over articles that were copied right on to their site by other members. I post nothing BUT other peoples pictures on to my site. Unless I photographed it myself, it isn't mine. So when we talk about being strict with responsibity remember that the rules we MAKE for ourselves "just siting authorhip" may not be the rules that apply. I am just saying that we are all guilty of posting pictures that don't have authorship. I try like heck to find the source, but at times, I run into a dead end, just siting the blog. These days I find I am only siting blogs, because most people have dropped the ball (including myself) and I simply DON"T have time to research every picture. At times I come across a picture that pertains to my blog, and I want to use it, so what do you do? It is beyond frustrating... that is for sure. As a blogger I try my best to site sources. How does joining pinterest help that?

    3. Hi Meranda~
      thank your for you comments and for voicing these concerns.
      This is why I think it's important to post a sharing policy on your blog- nearly every image on this blog is my own. I post my CCL for all to see and I make myself easy to contact if there is a question about permission or use. Others don't make that information available and they risk having their work misused.

      If you get into the very bad habit of taking and using images or articles without attribution or permission not only does your reputation as a blogger suffer, but you run the risk of having your entire blog shut down by someone with a legitimate copyright complaint. If you care about your blog you won't risk its destruction simply because it's too hard or you lack the technical ability to do better. It's up to each person to take some responsibility for learning how to use the very powerful publishing tools we've been given. So, I think, if you cannot find the source of an image in order to give proper attribution to it, just don't use it. Find something else to illustrate your article.
      Anything worth doing at all is worth doing well.

    4. You have some very valuable points Lynne. Most of the images I use are from magazines, rather than artists so to say. What are the rules on those images? I don't know..... I do my best to give credit, and you have made my life so much easier with the new search tool. SO thank you!!!

  9. As always great content, sorry there are so many doing this to you. It happens to me also. Great tip on the tool.

  10. Making A Mark blog wrote an article I'm sure your readers will find interesting, called "Pinterest: How to prevent your Blogger images from being pinned".

    1. that's a great thing to know, thanks for the tip, Alan. here is a link to that post http://makingamark.blogspot.com/2012/02/pinterest-how-to-prevent-your-blogger.html

  11. It's going to be interesting to watch how things evolve regarding DRM and copyright issues over the next few years. The publishing market is going the same route as the mustc industry, and stripping DRM [Digital Rights Management] from eBooks (the highest-profile example being J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter eBook series), meaning that content is no longer limited to the purchaser and can be spread across paltforms and devices.

    Also; self-publishing eBook sites currently do not have DRM for any self-published authors, and there's no moderation of content either. What this means is that you, as a self-published author, will not be able to protect your work. Nor, equally, will your work work be scrutinized for possibly using other people's material and sticking your name on it.

    The online News industry is going the same way: My wife works in photo rights for the biggest online newspaper in the world, and has seen first hand how the rights of the photographer are being ignored. When *major* news sources ignore the rights of photographers, and publish their work without attribution or permission (i.e. payment), you can be sure it is a sign as to the future.

    The simple fact is that content is tending towards a free-for-all, whether we like it or not. What can we do? I'm not sure there is anything we can do except grudgingly embrace the changes or get left behind.

  12. Sorry, another thought:

    The reason cited by the publishing industry for de-regulating DRM is that, according to them, it's already too easy to circumvent. They admit that pretty much anyone out there who wants to grab a free copy of an artist's work (and is the slightest bit tech-savvy) can already do so, so why step in front of a freight train? May as well let it pass.

    I'm not suggesting that the current state is okay, but the signs are that the situation is sliding out of control. The debate between Free V. Paid content is raging: AOL still depends upon paid subscription, as does The New York Times among others, but they are rapidly losing market-share to companies that are providing the same service for free.

    Of course; who then will pay the writers, photographers and artists who actually *create* all that content? I think it'll take a few years until it all irons out and we see a new workable model.

  13. the online copyright discussion is a really big one and there are whole blogs and indeed agencies and companies dedicated to doing battle between access and ownership. I'd just like to stick to my main point: If you are writing a blog, you, as an individual author, have a responsibility not to republish content that is not your own without giving proper credit or obtaining permission where needed. I see a lot of nice blogs out there making money from ad clicks using content they don't own with nary a thought for the artist whose work they are using. They make no effort to trace the source or give credit. I think it's wrong and I think those blogs are boring and I refuse waste my time looking at them.
    I do actually see a difference between a teach savvy person downloading images for their own reference or use, and republishing those images without credit or permission on a blog or a public site like Tumblr, or Pinterest, or Houzz, etc. It's the republishing that is the problem.
    I am frustrated trying to reconcile wanting to freely share my work so that people who like that sort of thing can enjoy it and be inspired by it, and protecting my work from plagerism or misuse. Publishing my work on this blog and on my website has brought me clients and students and has been great for my business. I am very happy to have my work shared so long as I am being linked to and credited with the creation of the work.

  14. Here's a question: if I say, "Thou shalt not steal", who do I credit? (Moses, The Bible, or He who Is????)

    First comment on a blog ever for me. I am glad I skimmed this, and will read it. I am a teacher of art and art history at the 6-12 level. (Why get narrow?) I loved your site, and several that you link to. I pin them so I can return. Most bloggers blog to make their work more widely known. So if it links back to their site when people pin, how can they object? That I don't get. I'm glad you don't mind it, and I will revisit your site.

    I've had plagarism discussions with my classes, and co-educators. Students who snitch or buy a paper and turn it in as their own, or even cop fine phrases without giving credit should flunk--or at least loose points. A writer who publishes someone elses work as his own is a criminal and won't be published or respected again. Because they didn't do the thinking. Giving credit makes it a compliment and it's fair that the quoter share in a little of the aura of smarts and talent he gives the quotee.

    A text I use in Medieval Art -- by Emile Male -- points out that the images in Gothic Cathedrals were illustrations of the teachings and writings of the Church Fathers. To interperet the art he stdied the writers. There are a great many of them, but because one author paraphrased the previous ones it is only necessary to study a few. For them it wasn't "plagarism" because they were understood to be passing on the traditions. It probably wasn't for money. "Instructing the ignorant" is a "spiritual work of mercy". Books were few and valuable and far between, and written by hand one at a time.... not like blogs available everywhere. Who gets hooked on a re-hasher blog that doesn't give sources? They're unoriginal and can't be trusted.

    If talented successful hardworking artists are inspired by historic works, should they be offended when others are inspired by their work? And when is it like Moses saying "Hey! I said that first!!" ???

    1. A lot of my work uses designs and imagery from ancient sources, old masters, and other artists. All artists do this to some degree.
      In an Art History class I took at UC Berkeley, I wrote a paper on one figure from Rogier van der Weyden painting, and the source of the figure. I found 16 paintings within a 100 year period, using this figure in the same pose and same clothes. And I was only looking for paintings. I am sure there were prints, sculptures, etc. all using the same figure in the same pose. Is that plagiarism, or just a lot of commissioned artists making use of a great compositional device?

      Of course I would be thrilled if my original work became the source of inspiration for artists who come after me.
      I am not offended that people like my work and want to share it with others. Why would I be?

      However, I am annoyed when they do it without giving credit. Far too often the images are lifted from my site, altered, and then republished without credit. Linking back to my site or this blog happens probably less than 10% of the time. That's why I put a mark on the images- so if people like it, they know where to find more!

  15. PS.... following the "Moses" comment... I so want to take a class. Thanks for beauty.

    1. awesome! I look forward to meeting you sometime!


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