Context Is Credibility

I’ve written before about the importance of context; and ranted too about “stolen” images used, uncredited etc., at Tumblr and other sites. I’ve tweeted and posted at Facebook about my hatred of such things. Others have taken a far more direct and pointed-tongued approach (NWS) regarding the issue. But Sarah Werner‘s It’s History, Not A Viral Feed is the most direct and well-articulated article — complete with excellent resources.

— A. History (@AhistoricalPics) January 24, 2014

 

Borders Bleed & Blow My Mind (Thoughts On Context)

Sometimes history is thought of as it is taught: In separate chunks. But history passes, weaves, and certainly is attached and connected to time — the time behind it, the time before it, and simultaneously to persons and events which, even in attempts to understand and reclaim, we have neatly severed into subjects and categories.

History and culture isn’t simply a matter of dates or compartmentalized periods. The subject of context isn’t merely one for writers, bloggers or content curationists, i.e. photo or image with research or text story, properly credited, for real readers. Context is even more than the object, person, or event in cultural context of what came before it, what came after it. Context must include what and who are contemporaries.

For example, do you think of opera legend Marian Anderson and artist Frida Kahlo as contemporaries? As friends even? Most probably do not.

[About the image: Marian Anderson and Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera, Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Covarrubias, Ernesto de Quesada and others in Mexico, 1943.
More astonishing than this photo which went wild on Tumblr is the video.

The video is silent home film footage of that same trip, from the Penn Libraries Marian Anderson collection, A Life In Song, use of and upload to YouTube approved by Nancy M. Shawcross, Curator of Manuscripts, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania on June 19, 2012.]

For in our (admirable) attempts to reclaim lost stories of Black Women and Hispanic Women (groups who have felt marginalized from Feminism and Women’s Studies), separate stories emerge. Separate stories may narrow focus, provide an ease for our brains (which many falsely claim are over-stimulated and bombarded with information; information overload is a myth) tasked with absorbing information, but so many separate stories not only lead to false notions of separate lives issues (which fosters a sense of competition, risks alienation, and further divides what is Us), but removes the full complex beauty of cultural context.

Oxford University historian Dr. Cliff Davies, in his discussion of the myth of the Tudor era, describes this compartmentalization of history as “seductive” and helping “to create the idea of a separate historical period, different from what came before and after.” I say this seduction also includes the temptation to remove the context of contemporaries. And that it ought to be avoided. Even in an age of working to create filtered focus.

Even when you have multiple blogs, collections, and curated topics — each with its own focus, there is likely to be some overlap between them. If you are aware of and include context with your collections, there will be, ought to be, some repeated content and objects across collections. Even those with the most dedicated focus.

I consider this to be not redundant overlap but more connections, yet another layer to your stories. Practically speaking from a marketing approach, it is another way to find more readers too.

And another way to blow their minds.

Facts & Questions on Blogging, Curating & Collecting

How Much Data In A Minute?

I’ve been getting a lot of “What the heck is curating?” questions, largely in response to my request for votes (“Likes”) on a topic I’m curating at Snip.It, but also because, despite what Forbes has to say about it going mainstream, content curation is a rather “new” thing. I had thought I’d done a rather good job of defining content curation here, but either I haven’t or people haven’t read that post. But that’s OK too, because it gives me a chance to go into a bit more detail.

Content curation is to magazine and newspaper publication what blogging has been to writing or journalism: A digital-age means of self-publishing which is primarily based on platforms (software or code) available to anyone with access to the Internet.

The big names in blogging platforms or publishing software are WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, etc. In content curation, you have Pinterest, Scoop.It, and, my favorite, Snip.It (RIP). These content curation platforms are not the first; but like Facebook, which improved (and capitalized) upon the early social networking sites which came before it, these three curation sites are emerging as the top dogs. (Also like Facebook, these content curation sites have social networking aspects — and they do connect to social media, including Facebook at Twitter.) And it’s merely a matter of time before you somehow become involved with content curation sites; be it by curating, subscribing/reading, or, as some forecast, using curated content topics as your search engine.

But what does that mean? How is that really different from blogging? And why on earth would we need another means of adding to information overload?

Firstly, information overload is a myth. Humans have always had far more information and media available then it can devour. (So as not to get too far astray, I’ll send you here for more details on that.) Even if the push of media makes it seem worse, such technological shifts in our relationships to information are, as James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, “part of the evolution of the species.” The true problem is, or remains, that of how an individual human can find what he wants or separate the good from the bad, i.e. a filter.

And that’s where content curation comes in.

Content curation is the process of sorting, arranging, and publishing information that already exists. Like any collector or museum curator, content curators identify and define their topics, select which items to include (and often how they are displayed), while providing the context, annotations, and proper credits which not only assist their readers but identify themselves as more than interested but invested; a leader or an authority.

Content curators are being dubbed “superheroes” (by Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, and others) because content curators are saving humans everywhere from the skill and drudgery of finding and filtering themselves. Rosenbaum even says that people will pay “for clarity, authority, context, and speed” of finely calibrated filters.

If this all sounds a lot like what you (or others) do as a blogger, it just may be. Many bloggers spend their time selecting what they consider the best of what other people have created on the web and post it at their own sites, just like a magazine or newspaper. Or they provide a mix of this along with writing or otherwise creating their own content.  Not to split hairs, but curation involves less creation and more searching and sifting; curation’s more a matter of focused filtering than it is writing.

Because content curation is expected to be based on such focused filtering, it begins far more based on topic selection. This is much different from blogging, where bloggers are often advised to “just begin” and let their voice and interests accumulate over time to eventually reveal a primary theme. Perhaps the best way to ascertain the difference is to consider this in terms of collecting styles.

Some collectors just collect what they like as they stumble into it. In fact, many collectors, including myself, began this way; letting their collections evolve until a definition or purpose seems to reveal itself. …Sometimes, collectors just keep piling up stuff, no matter what it is. Even if this isn’t hoarding, it’s not-so-much of a purposeful pursuit. But professional curators, those who manage collections for museums or other organizations, and serious collectors, they maintain a specific focus.  And rather than stumbling into items, they continually seek for specific items. The definition dictates the curation — and everything from funding to their continued employment is based on how well their collection meets the collection’s definition.

While blogging success may be thought of in many different ways, the success of content curation lies in how well you define, search/research, and stick to your subject.

Image Credits: Data Never Sleeps infographic via Domo

Things I Learned At and About Tumblr

Tumblr Logo
Tumblr has a bad rep in the blogosphere; it’s notorious for its members taking the content of others without crediting it. But clients have asked or stated that they should “be on it,” and so to be fair, I spent some serious time (about 11 months) using Tumblr — under various niches and topics.

These are some of the things I learned about the site.

Tumblr is far more social network or community oriented than a standard “blog”; or maybe it’s more accurate to say that Tumblr is more of an intense microcosm of blogging. The posts are shorter, more rapid, more plentiful — mainly because nothing is actually created there. Instead it’s based on reposting what others have created around the Internet, and then reposted and reposted over at Tumblr, in and out of the interconnected social circles of followers.

Tumblr is so based on the notion of regurgitating the posts and reposts of others, that the only real way to keep up is to stay logged in to Tumblr and sit at your dashboard, where you can see all the reposts of those you follow go by. For this reason, it has an addicting quality. But the price of such a glut of rehashed stuff is the need for more speed — people clicking repost as fast as they can, more stuff flying at you.

That can be a time waster, but let’s look at the more important things in terms of promoting your business, your site, your writing.

Tumblr is incredibly image oriented. Text posts and links are virtually ignored. Even when the photo you post has text or a link, these are seldom what makes a post popular i.e. reposted. In fact, your text and link have at least a 60% chance of being removed by the person reposting it. And link click-through rates, even when the link is the image credit (i.e. clicking the photo to get a larger version), are much lower than at regular blogs and websites — including in the adult area.

That is the number on reason why using Tumblr to market your site or business is ineffective.

The popularity of a post is reposting. “Likes” do very little for you (since they are a one-click thing not requiring them to leave the dashboard, they are just a way for a user to more quickly add their “note” to a post).

Readers, followers, etc. are numbers that don’t matter as much as the long string of “notes” (the list of people who reposted and liked the post). This is obviously increased by the number of people following you; but as long as your post is reposted by someone and reaches another circle of users, your post will go on and on, showing up on your dashboard over and over again. But, if no one is clicking the links, visiting your store etc., then so what?

Tumblr is also not the best way to have conversations with your customers or your target market either.

Comments are not actually built into the system (though you can add DISQUS) and conversations are discouraged in general. You can send a message via the “ask me” feature, but if you answer it, it’s published at your Tumblr — and the one who asked or commented does not get a notice of it. So unless they are logged in, are following you, and see it on their dashboard, how will they know you replied? And in order to continue the conversation, one of you will have to go back to the “ask” and start again. It’s incredibly awkward.

Tumblr is also a rather closed community in the sense that anonymous (non-Tumblr users) are clearly second class citizens. In your Tumblr settings, you can allow or disallow anonymous to “ask” questions, but unless they say, “Hi, it’s Susan,” or otherwise identify themselves, you won’t know who it is because Tumblr either recognizes a logged in user or labels them anonymous.

While the rest of the Internet is trying to engage readers across platforms, regardless of whether or not they are an official user/subscriber, Tumblr and, more importantly, Tumblr users deride and mock the “anons.”

That’s a closed community.

And now we get to the issue of what most irks people about Tumblr…

Contrary to what most of us were taught, having something unique to say or offer is not important at Tumblr. In fact, unless you are a big wig at Tumblr, your original content is likely to go completely unappreciated. People prefer to repost what the cool kids repost rather than be the person who finds unique or new things. These are the majority of the users at Tumblr.

The other group of users is a smaller group, but they are far too often those with larger followings. These are the folks who like to pose as the news makers, the creators, taking credit for what they found with the omission of where they found it, who owns it, etc. — and they are to blame for Tumblr’s poor reputation, even if the majority users are guilty of perpetuating it with all the reposts.

Some blame the ease of Tumblr’s reposting and sharing widget are to blame for this, but if people were truly lazy and using Tumblr as it is, nearly every image raped from a site would have a link crediting where it was found (and, one hopes, more information on original source, etc.). But these people take great efforts to right-click-save an image, then upload it to Tumblr — never crediting the photographer, scanner, or image owner.

This is a malicious act. It’s done on purpose. It requires more effort than the one or two click of the Tumblr Bookmarklet sharing widget — and it’s done so they can act as if they put the time in on something they didn’t. Often times, once they’ve saved the image on their computer, they’ll even go so far as to remove copyright and URL information before uploading and posting to Tumblr.

The number of people who post that they’re “going home to scan more photos of X” — and then perform image searches for such photos and scans are astonishing. Those of us who spend the time scanning know what our scans look like — where there’s a wrinkle on the page, tanning, if we included text or not, etc.

All of this would be the silly poser stuff of teenagers — if it weren’t so infuriating. Because the bottom line is, there are many big bloggers out there who are so popular because they find and credit the cool stuff; they are like antique dealers who are adored by collectors with less time.

As if this weren’t bad enough, many Tumblr users take great pride in expressing their indifference and defiance regarding copyright and intellectual property. Sidebars and profiles are filled with “I find stuff lots of places and if you’re one of the credit nazis, don’t follow me” and similar statements that I gather are supposed to appear as cool non-conformist, punk-rebellious, barbs at The Man. Unfortunately, the Internet is not The Man; so the ones they hurt are the ones who create the content — artists, photographers, dedicated folks who scan antique and vintage works, etc.

No, Tumblr is not a good way to market your product, your website, etc.

Yeah, this post is so not going to make me popular at Tumblr. But what am I going to miss? Even more of my content going out and about uncredited?

I have since deleted my old test accounts at Tumblr. But I do retain a personal account there for two reasons:

One, a few ethical people I met there only post at Tumblr and so I can keep up with them

Two, sometimes logging in and scrolling the Tumblr dashboard provides some good leads on cool stuff. Such a stream of photos can provide a quick way to see things — but it’s deceptive in the sense that once I spy something cool, I’ll have to put a lot of work in to searching for the images. (For that I use TinEye; a detailed account of how and why to use it is here — the site is NWS.)

And when I do use it, it can be a tremendously frustrating time suck because so much uncredited stuff is coming at you so fast.

So overall, I do not recommend Tumblr as an effective way to market yourself or your blog; but it has its entertainment value and can be useful if you don’t invest too much time in it.

UP to the DL: Blog Tours & Marketing Services

ABOUT:

UP to the DL

U.P. to the D.L. is the dynamic duo of Deanna Dahlsad & Laura Brown, two wordy grrls who met 10 years ago as columnists at (the now defunct) Backwash.com.

Of course, both had been writing and promoting online (and off) long before that time, so the slow demise of one site didn’t keep them from continuing to do what they do — or being friends. *wink*

Our latest joint projects are Inherited Values and Ululating Undulating Ungulate. (If you visit the sites and are interested in joining us there, please check out the “about” pages!)

Because of our years of experience in the Internet trenches, we’ve long been individually helping other writers, bloggers, artists, sellers, and entrepreneurs start-up or increase their online presence; now we’ve joined forces, offering you our firsthand knowledge and experience.

We offer specialized services, such as:

Bloggers, you have brands too, so any of these services can be tailored to suit you!

You can keep up with U.P. to the D.L. by following us at Twitter and you may contact us at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com.

A detailed FAQ of services can be found here.

BLOG TOURS

The most familiar sort of Blog Tour is the Book Blog Tour, which is the virtual version of yesteryear’s book tour. At UP to the DL, we don’t limit the idea to only books — you can use blog tours to promote anything, any product or service, including, simply, yourself.

This virtual version of a promotional tour isn’t so bad; it’s cheaper, less frustrating than traveling, and, as Arielle Ford (former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books) says at The Huffington Post, you “essentially spend the day in your bathrobe while interacting with your readers and fans and selling books.”

However, if you aren’t familiar with all the details involved, virtual tours can become real nightmares!

Organizing a Blog Promotional Tour involves:

  • Identifying potential hosts — that will reach your target audience
  • Contacting potential hosts
  • Making the pitch, helping sort through the options with hosts
  • Scheduling the tour and individual host actions
  • Answering technical questions and concerns of hosts
  • Performing the check-ups and follow-ups necessary to ensure a good tour
  • Proper timing of it all!

And, if you are an organized person with enough time to do all of this, do you know what things are most vital to a successful tour?

  • Do you really know how to identify your target market and evaluate which of the millions of blogs, podcasts, zines, newsletters, etc. are honestly able to reach them?
  • Do you know how to anticipate, avoid and over-come host/blogger concerns?
  • If you have a limited number of products (or none at all) to give-away for reviews and contests, do you know what other tour options you can offer — some of which are even more likely to garner the results you desire?
  • Do you know what sort of tour events or activities will help you more increase cash flow, which are designed for long-term, how to maximize long tail results — and which ones you really need?
  • Once you have secured hosts that will reach your target market, do you know how to best capture the attention of your potential readers or customers?
  • Do you know what sorts of posts and tour activities will positively (or negatively) affect things such as PageRank (PR) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
  • Are you aware of and know how to address the legal and ethical issues in virtual tours?
  • Do you know how to create promotional tours which will get bloggers excited to participate — and their readers converting to sales?

We do.

We’ve been writing, reading and buying online for over a decade. We know, as press, readers, and consumers what bores & what soars.

We know what pitches get, well, pitched via that delete button. We each have over a decade of networking with other bloggers, building relationships and contacts to ensure results.

We know what sorts of things discredit you, harm the reputation of you and your product or service. We will organize your online event so as to maximize your sales and your personal brand.

Hire U.P. to the D.L. as your blog tour coordinators and liaisons; we’ll maximize your presence and sales.

We know how to identify the online conversations and communities where your audience is congregating — and we know how to ethically participate in those relevant conversations so that you, your products, services, and brands are engaging with your customers and potential customers.

Blog Tour Package Rates:

(Details on what each blog tour includes are listed here; information on the process is also outlined here.)

One Week Basic Blog Tour: One week of blog tour events, including Tweets and other social networking site promotion for just $150.

Two Week Basic Blog Tour: Two weeks of blog tour events, including Tweets and other social networking site promotion for only $289.

Select & reserve your Basic Blog Tour package:

 

Basic Blog Tour
 

 

U.P to the D.L. does not guarantee a specific number of hosts on your basic blog tour, however, our goal is to get at least one host per day of the tour.

For more information, please see our list of tips for authors and promoters.

The Soft Blog Tour: This tour is our specialty; we’ve been doing it for years, nearly unnoticed — and that’s by design.

Unlike traditional blog book tours, the soft tour is designed to go without the pomp and circumstance of the usual blog tour. There’s no set time frame, no tour link round-up or announcements, as this tour is designed to look and feel more organic. It best suits the needs of clients who’d rather avoid the promotional look of tours and for bloggers who, for their own reasons, do not wish to appear as part of an organized tour.

The same rules and tasks of basic blog tours apply, only the posts are published over a longer period of time, rather than as a timely event, and for this tour only we do guarantee a minimum of blog posts.

The fee for a Soft Blog Tour with a minimum of 5 posts is $500.

The fee for a Soft Blog Tour with a minimum of 10 posts is $900.

Select & start your Soft Blog Tour package:

Soft Blog Tour
 

We reserve the right to refuse to offer our services at any time to anyone, or any product, book, service or brand, deemed objectionable.


OTHER SERVICES

We offer a number of services in brand management and online support; experienced assistance for newbies and start-ups, those expanding their online presence, and established folks with limited staffing and budgets.

Marketing Consultation:

Marketing consultations & one-on-one tutoring are now available here.

Website Reviews:

Wondering if your website, store, or blog is ready for a Blog Tour or other promotional efforts? Get a review! More than a “Pass” or “Fail” test, we’ll give you tips on how to improve what you’ve got. One of us will review your site for $9; each of us will provide our own review for $16.

   

Website Review

 

Individualized & Customized Services Upon Request:Looking for some help editing your press release, proof reading your website, drafting your bio, assessing your press kit? Have “just one quick question” you want us to answer, or some information you want us to suss out? Need a longer blog tour time period? Rather than tutoring, would you prefer to have us set up your new and/or connect your existing blog, social media profiles, pages, etc.? Have some other virtual assistant needs? Looking for some other service that’s not listed here? Want to “bundle” a few packages at a better price? Contact us about your needs.

Yes, we offer these and other services for bloggers too!

After all, you’ve got a brand too!

If you’re wondering why your site isn’t getting pitches for reviews, blog tours, links, ads, etc., let U.P. to the D.L. help get you to the next level with our services.

Disclaimer: We reserve the right to refuse to offer our services at any time to anyone, or any product, book, service, or brand, deemed objectionable.

FAQ

What makes your blog tour services different from other blog book tour services?
What niches or genres do you cover?
What does a blog tour include?
How, exactly, does this blog tour work? What’s the process like? How personalized is it?
Are bloggers paid to participate in the blog tour?
What if I want Laura or Deanna to host a tour at one of their blogs… Will that be a conflict of interest or against their No Payola policy?
What’s expected of a blog tour host?
Why host a tour? What’s in it for bloggers?
I’m interested in hosting blog tours. How do I get on your list of contacts?
Do you offer long-term exclusive management?
What publishing platforms, content management software, and other “tech stuff” can you help with?
What social network(s) do you recommend?
Do you do web design?
What’s your privacy policy?
What makes your blog tour services different from other blog book tour services?
Frankly, our experience — which we could go on and on about. But the bottom line is this: We know how to turn ideas, products, services, brands into stories that will garner interest and yield results. 

Some specific features and benefits are:

Content: Because we know written content is king, our focus is on the written content or text of the tour. (After all, people type text into search engines to be found, and brands battle over keywords!) As a result — and to achieve the best results — we:

  • Do not allow canned Q&A. This is not only boring for readers who may be avid readers/followers of multiple host sites (both in terms of redundancy and lack of the individual personality each host site offers), but duplicate content is disliked by Google and other search engines which, upon finding it, will penalize both host sites.
  • We don’t waste any of our time or your money on any specialized graphics, trailers or other gizmos in our blog tour packages. Fancy graphics can be fun, but we’re after results here. If/when individual tour hosts are inspired to create images, videos, podcasts or other audio and visuals as part of their host blog tour post, that’s great — and, in fact, a much more preferred way for them to interact with their readers than offering them canned promotional schtick.

Availability: Like you, we are able to juggle multiple tasks and projects, including multiple blog tours running at the same time professionally and effectively. This means there is more freedom and flexibility in scheduling your tour.

(However, also like you, we do have our limitations! So please contact us as soon as possible to reserve your optimal promotional dates.)

What niches or genres do you cover?
We have a vast network of friends, associates and cohorts all along the Internet, but our specialty niches are: 

  • Arts, Crafts, Photography
  • Beauty, Fashion, Shopping
  • Collecting, Antiques, Vintage
  • Family, Parenting, Special Needs, Mommy Sites
  • Health, Sexuality (from Informative to Risque and, yes, even frank Mature Adult sites)
  • Hobbies, Handmade, DIY
  • Home, Interior Design, Housekeeping, Cooking
  • Relationships, Dating
  • Social Issues, Politics, History
  • Women, Gender, Feminism
  • Writing, Publishing, Media

Yes, we know book bloggers, and, yes, we can help with fiction genres. We find the best results include tour stops at other sites based on your readership’s demographic interests.

What does a blog tour include?
Each blog tour is unique and tailored to the client’s needs, but each tour stop will include: 

  • Subject to relevancy of who/what the tour is promoting, an image of the product, book, company logo, photo of the expert, etc.
  • Links to client’s website, blog, shop etc.
  • A minimum of 350 words (250 if the post is accompanying a host produced podcast, video, etc.)
  • Participation in social media sites by Deanna, Laura, and/or U.P. to the D.L., as appropriate.

Also, at the end of the tour, U.P. to the D.L. will post an official blog tour page with the client’s bio &/or product information (including appropriate site links) as well as listing and linking to each stop (or post) on the tour along with the home page of the host.

How, exactly, does this blog tour work? What’s the process like? How personalized is it?
This might be business, but we also know this is a very personal experience! 

Once we receive your payment, the process begins by having you answer a few questions about you, your promotional interests, your availability preferences (participation and interviews), product availability (for reviews and contests), and your desired time frame. Once we’ve evaluated you and your brand needs, we’ll begin our work in tailoring a tour to fit you.

Next, will begin the process of identifying and contacting the appropriate potential hosts for your tour. As hosts and dates are confirmed, we will communicate them to you, along with any necessary participation on your part (including sending items for review, scheduling interview time, etc.).

As tour posts are published, we’ll send you the links.

At the end of the tour, we’ll send you a link to the official blog tour’s page along with our specific tips on how to continue to utilize the virtual tour.

Absolutely not — this is not advertising; paying for any PR coverage is unethical. 

Our fee is for organizing, coordinating, and communicating regarding the blog tour event itself.

What if I want Laura or Deanna to host a tour at one of their blogs… Will that be a conflict of interest or against their No Payola policy?
To avoid any conflict of interest issues, neither Deanna nor Laura will host a tour at one of their own personal blogs. However, as each will be aware of and following along with the blog tours, if they are interested in the subject or are sparked by an idea presented in tour conversations, they retain the right to publish their thoughts at their own sites after the official event has concluded.
Why host a tour? What’s in it for bloggers?
Simply put: for the content. 

Like any magazine or newspaper, radio or television host, bloggers need stories to tell, guests to interview, topics for conversation, etc. in order to entertain, enlighten, and/or educate their audience. There are many (often unseen and unknown) activities involved in blogging and many bloggers relish the idea of interesting relevant subjects and experts brought to their attention.

Also, the buzz about a blog tour offers the opportunity for host blogs to generate additional traffic from links, tweets, etc. as well as finding other bloggers in their niches to network with.

What’s expected of a blog tour host?
As each tour and each tour stop is unique, some specifics may change, but generally speaking, your post must include: 

  • Image(s) of the product, book, company logo, photo of the expert, etc.
  • Links to client site(s) (Please note: hosts are forbidden to use “no follow” links)
  • A minimum of 350 words (250 if the post is accompanying a host produced podcast, video, etc.)

You do not need to mention or link to U.P. to the D.L. or the official blog tour page. (Although we do recommend you visit the page after the tour to visit other blogs which may be in your niche and therefore might be excellent sites/persons to add to your own network).

And, most importantly, post when promised and follow our ethics rules.

I’m interested in hosting blog tours. How do I get on your list of contacts?
Simply contact us at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com, providing us with your name, site URL, and any additional information you think would be relevant and we’ll review your site and contact you regarding our decision as soon as possible.
Do you offer long-term exclusive management?
At this time, our services are non-exclusive.
What publishing platforms, content management software, and other “tech stuff” can you help with?
We are experienced in WordPress (including WPMU and BuddyPress), Blogger, Movable Type, Drupal, Tumblr, Blog Talk Radio, as well as standard HTML and CSS.
What social network(s) do you recommend?
It really depends upon your business, brand, personality and time constraints. We are experienced with Twitter, FaceBook, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumblr, MySpace, Friendster, Ryze, and Ning as well as many smaller, more specialized communities and networks.
Do you do web design? Do you create logos and graphics?
We are not web designers, but we can, in most cases, personalize or tweak templates and we can refer you to good programmers and designers. 

We can also tutor in the basics in graphic software, such as Photoshop and Gimp so that you can create most things you need by yourself.

What’s your privacy policy?
Client and host names, conversational details, services used, etc. are all confidential. Other than information on blog tour pages, as stated, will be made public. Contact information is only released as necessary in order to facilitate tours, interviews, items sent via the mail, etc. Otherwise, unless you opt to provide a testimonial, your information is never shared or sold. Ever.

DEANNA DAHLSAD

Really? Another bio? Writing bios is the one thing that prevents me from activating all the domain names in my possession. It certainly isn’t a lack of names for websites or an inability to talk endlessly…

Anywhooo, here’s the short story:

I’ve been writing, selling, and working on the web since 1997 (more info below), which has led to many successes, including wonderful personal and working relationships. The latter had me form Big Mouth Promotions; ironically a quiet, under-the-radar, marketing service I started when helping others for free became too time consuming to be so kind about. I’ve been purposefully quiet about my professional services so as not to distract me from my primary passions of blogging, but now the cycle of need is, apparently, high again, and so I’ve teamed up with Laura in a more official way, opening U.P. to the D.L. to provide the experienced “insider secrets” we use on our content focused and driven websites.

You may find and follow me at Twitter and FaceBook. Feel free to contact me at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com.

Resume-esque Info:Education:

Graduate of Alverno College, dual degree in Professional Communications and Business Management — with a minor in Social Science.

Sales & Marketing Experience:

Various work in sales, marketing, buying, direct sales, direct mail, retail department and specialty shoppe management, winning numerous individual and district sales awards.

Several years of work in the non-profit sector, community relations, fund raising, etc.

Writing:

Along with my own personal sites/blogs/projects, I’ve been:

  • A paid columnist @ CollectorsQuest.com
  • Greeting card writer and blogger for No Evil Productions
  • A paid columnist/blogger @ Backwash.com
  • Various paid work in both print and web publications, under numerous pen names

I’ve also been lucky enough to sit at The Cool Kids’ Table a number of times, with posts/articles featured at BoingBoing and other top sites.

Web & Social Media:

Presenter at the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) and Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Joint Annual Conference, 2008 Museums & Web 2.0: Slaying Dragons or Titlting at Windmills? Blogs, YouTube, MySpace – Using Social Networks for Museums.

Presenter at the 2010, and been asked to return again to the 2011, Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention; my sessions are best (loosely) described as being focused on the importance of sharing your hobby, your passion, and how to do so on the Internet.

Consulting for Collectors Quest, No Evil Productions and numerous smaller clients via Big Mouth Promotions.

More about me than you likely wanted to know…

Along with liking to talk and collecting domain names, I collect many other things. It’s a vicious cycle, really. I find a neat thing to add to my collection and I want to blab about it. In order to make my blabbing more well-rounded, I research the collectible. From there, as my research and I segue into related topics and contexts, I not only find more items to collect, but I find myself wearing my marketing hat and start to think it might suit readers and other researchers better if I had a site tailored to that sort of thing… Should I start yet another site? If so, should I use one of my already held domain names — or the fabulous new one that just popped into my head?

Endless cycle.

(Which is why I know too-too much about starting, marketing and moving websites!)

My antiques, collectibles, and vintage themed sites are:

Items from my collection appear in such places as the Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America exhibit at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum (at Case Western Reserve University) and The Hingham Shipyard Historical Exhibit.

If you still want to know more about me (and even my mom doesn’t want to know that much about me!), you can check my Google Profile and my other sites (along with their “about” pages) for more.

LAURA BROWN

I started online in 1996, an IRC diva after I had taken a two-year Corporate Communications college course. The free style and creativity of web publishing appealed to me, long before weblogs became popular.

I started writing online in 1998. At first creating my own site, then a newsletter and then I branched out and wrote for online networks like HerPlanet, Suite101, WZ.com, LockerGnome, and BackWash. During this time I became an editor with the Open Directory Project as well.

Along with running WordGrrls and my other sites (which can be found at ThatGrrl), I currently am an assistant to Bev Walton-Porter, host of the online radio show, Elemental Musings on BlogTalkRadio.

I can be found at Twitter and FaceBook. Feel free to contact me directly at thatgrrl@gmail.com.

Skills and Qualifications:

  • Social media management: Twitter, Stumble Upon, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Delicious, and Ning.
  • Developed marketing, advertising, promotions, SEO campaigns for online networks.
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS and web usability standards.
  • Copywriting, editing and proofreading. Strong verbal, oral and written communication skills.
  • Columnist, community manager and forum moderator.
  • Publishing with WordPress, Movable Type, Tumblr, Blogger and other content management software.
  • Working with a team to develop ontology and integrity of a web directory.
  • Using digital photography, image scanner, graphic software and cartoon drawing to illustrate online publications.
  • Location scout and digital photographer for two Ontario film makers.
  • Production and booking guests for a web radio show.

UP to the DL: We like stuff. We write about stuff. We do stuff. We like projects.

Ethics In Virtual Book Tours & Other Blog Tours

Blog Tours
Blogging is a form of self-publishing — and it’s a beautiful thing; but it comes with its own set of responsibilities.

I personally don’t abide Paid Posts and proudly proclaim my No Payola status, but as those posts rather cover my sentiments, today I’ll focus on the ethics involved in Blog Tours — specifically in terms of the rules of UP to the DL Blog Tour Services.

These rules are based not only on the experiences we’ve had hosting blog tours, posting reviews, receiving pitches to promote this or that, but on fundamental ethics — good ol’ common sense. And these rules are designed to protect the integrity of bloggers, blog readers, consumers, and promoters alike.

Rule #1 It is not ethical to review something you’ve never used, read or otherwise employed; that’s fraud. Therefore, asking a person to commit a fraudulent act is unethical, at best.

Rule #2 It is unethical, to say the least, to insist a reviewer not publish or share a review that is not flattering. Such “reviews” are not reviews at all; reviews are to be thoughtful opinions, educated critiques, and, above all, honest. Individual hosts may, after reviewing the item and honestly disliking it, post their negative (but not hate-filled or personally attacking) review as they wish; or, they may wish to contact us for help regarding their conflicted responses and uncomfortable situations.

Rule #3 Follow-through on what you promise. Send your review copies, samples, contest prizes on time; publish your blog tour event as promised; get back to people as promised. In the rare cases where “life happens,” please contact U.P. to the D.L. as soon as possible to communicate and problem solve the situation.

Any and all persons who break these rules, are found to be guilty of such unethical behavior, will not be allowed to participate in any U.P. to the D.L. projects of any kind. Offenders may also find themselves the subject of unwanted press, with a public disclosure of their behavior.

I know these rules may sound more stern or even scary rather than inviting, but practicing these principles protects and respects the integrity of all involved! It is our expectation that everyone upholds these values and has a commitment to the rights of consumers and brands.

If You Believe “Good Guys Finish Last…”

It’s easy to be pessimistic today, especially when it comes to business. Those of us not in the upper two percent, those of us with little in our pockets but our sweaty palms, those of us who don’t just feel beaten-up by big business but have the financial and even physical marks to prove it, those of us who are the “other” under the heels of the “us” that is Corporate America, we can easily draw the conclusion that the only time virtue comes up is when the fat cats greedily giggle over their “there’s no virtue in business besides money” mantra.

These feelings infiltrate, or, if you prefer “trickle down” (the only time the principal actually appears to work) into every aspect of our world, at every level. From realized fears of neglect and victimization in our political system to the mentalities of school bullies, controlling abusers, and national “pro-life” terrorists., it seems we are increasingly forced to live in a black & white world of virtue — and to consider which side we are on… Should we remain the down-trodden good guy who will finish last, if at all? Or should we give in to the dark side, just to survive?

I hear this echoed in discussions everywhere.  Activists wondering if they should adopt the same tactics their opponents successfully use.  Entrepreneurs who cringe at identifying themselves as such because of what “being in business” implies. Parents wondering how they can continue to teach their children to be “good,” “fair,” and “generous,” when their children see what the rich and ruthless reap.

It seems hopeless.

Enter hope. Or rather enchantment.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki is primarily touted as a business book — a small-business or entrepreneurial manifesto. And sure, it works for that. But more than that, Kawasaki’s book explores the power of enchantment.

Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet. It causes voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you to get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.

Firstly, Enchantment is a breath of fresh, good, air; it’s an affirmation that good guys and gals don’t have to finish last. And there are real stories, real cases, of real good people who are examples.

Secondly, Kawasaki outlines the principals of enchantment — sound psychological principals and insights into human behavior that are easy to read and even easier to comprehend.

Thirdly, the book inspires action.  Heart lightened with the affirmation and validation that Good is indeed good, heart warmed by the examples of Good successful people, and armed with the knowledge of how it all works, you, the reader, are inspired to live enchantingly.

It’s good that you are inspired because the author is now going to offer you opportunities to implement the strategies.

Kawasaki provides a checklist of things to consider and opportunities to explore, rather like self-help books do. (In the book’s Coverphon, there’s evidence neither the author nor the publisher would like this “soft” self-help comparison; but I think the work is to be commended for it’s uplifting, affirming, readily understood, easy to incorporate strategies as well as it’s “hard” business acumen.)

And, yes, the author includes plenty of tips and methods for businesses and entrepreneurs to put to work online (i.e. push and pull technologies such as email, Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs, etc.).

While nearly all stories, prompts and checklists are business related (including chapters on how to enchant your boss, resist enchantment, etc.), there’s no reason the information couldn’t be applied to any facet of your life, including parenting. Where else does one need to model integrity more?

(There are even concrete stories for you to counter wise-ass remarks from kids who dare you to prove that greed and might are the only ways to get ahead — in fact, stories and examples that suggest that life ought not to be viewed as a race in which one must “get ahead,” but rather how to work for the betterment of many.)

In short, Enchantment is just the breath of fresh air that good guys and gals need to reaffirm their vows to be a person of delightful integrity. It gives us the tips to enchant — and the permission to be enchanted with ourselves.

PS If you do buy a copy of Enchantment, you might want to know about this enchanting offer from Guy:

When people anywhere in the world buy a copy of Enchantment in any form (paper, recording, or ebook), they can get a free copy of Garr’s book called Presentation Zen.

Presentation Zen is one of the best books ever written about making great presentations. Seth Godin said this about it: “Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good.”

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book. While the free copy was appreciated and enjoyed, the fact that it was free has no bearing on this review or the contents of this post — other than the legal requirement to make such a statement.

Advertising & Affiliates: The Basics

At some point, everyone working on the Internet faces decisions about advertising and affiliate programs. Some people even start a blog for this “passive income,” believing that it’s as easy as setting up some links and then sitting back to let the income stream in; but that’s not necessarily what happens…

So I’ve got a white paper on the subject. It’s based on my 20+ years of working on the web; priced at $7, that’s less than 35 cents a year!

This white paper is written mainly for bloggers & website owners, to assist them in evaluating affiliate and advertising programs. However, it will also help those looking to purchase advertising &/or promote their own affiliate programs by helping them to understand the sorts of concerns they may encounter along the way.





Ignore Rude Emails “Offering Links Swaps”

How many times a week do you get the following email:

I’ve visited your website ( url ) and I was wondering
if it would be possible to get a link to my (my partner’s) website on it?

I’ll place a link back to you in X of my (topic or topics, usually unrelated) websites, your link will be placed exactly here:

http://whocares page rank 3
http://whateversville page rank 2
http://bumble-f page rank 2

If you agree, then please link to me using these details:

TITLE: (keyword stuffed)
URL: (a specific page on their SEO seeking domain)
DESCRIPTION: (more keyword stuffing)

Please don’t forget to send me the title of your website after you
place my link so I can do the same in less than 24 hours, otherwise you can delete my link from your site.

Arg!

You can rest assured that these requests are 100% spam, no matter if they correctly contact you about one of your own sites. Here’s the proof:

1) These requests don’t even make sense because, generally speaking, my sites are so far off their topic they do not serve their best SEO manipulating interests. A human would recognize that.

2) The fact that they want you to go ahead and post a link to them first isn’t just rude (the one requesting should always place first and then notify, asking for notification of the recip), it’s them counting on a (however small) percentage of those emailed to place the link, giving their sites either a quick bit of juice &/or, counting on people forgetting to verify the promised link(s), giving them free un-reciprocated links.

Just delete and move along with your day.

The View From Here

Last week I became an official View Brand Ambassador, part of the Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime. This means you’ll be hearing more from me on The View and while I will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items for &/or to facilitate my commentary &/or reviews, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to participate in the discussion about and promotion of one of my favorite shows — yup, one of my favorite shoes, not just a daytime favorite.  It doesn’t hurt that we’re supposed to get some face or ear time with show producers either.

In short, being an ambassador for the show means I now have a legitimate reason to watch shows uninterrupted and a larger motivation to talk about them too.

So consider this post a disclaimer — and warning of things to come, both here and at my other blog, Motherhood Metamorphosis. (Heck, it might even show up at other places, depending upon the topic!)

If you’re a fan of The View, right now Mom Central has an exciting contest: The View Sweepstakes. The prize for one lucky winner? A trip to New York City to watch a taping of The View! The sweepstakes is open until February 28th and I encourage you to enter — but I hope I win!

PS If you join Mom Central, befriend me here!

Add Your Voice to NOW’s Call for Open Internet

Add Your Voice to NOW’s Call for Open Internet

Support the Internet Freedom Preservation Act!
take action

After taking action, please support our work.

The Internet has allowed NOW to connect like never before with members and allies, potential supporters, students and educators, government leaders and countless others who can help advance equality for all.

The Internet offers a platform for dialogue amongst feminists who might not otherwise have a chance to strategize together. It empowers women by providing them with information about their status, threats to their rights and opportunities for advancement. It presents a tool for democratic participation by allowing women’s rights advocates to easily petition their elected officials and keep tabs on their records.

Without a doubt, the women’s rights movement benefits immensely from the unprecedented power of an open and accessible Internet. But, can we rely on the big companies that bring us the Internet to preserve its open nature? The simple truth is: No, we can’t.

Action Needed:

Write to your Congress members today, and urge them to support the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 3458). This bill will make “Net Neutrality” — one of the guiding principles behind the open Internet — the law of the land. Take action NOW.

Background:

Every day, the Internet becomes more and more central to the way we communicate and access media content here in the United States and around the world. The big companies that deliver the Internet to us — like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon — stand to gain an enormous amount of revenue in the coming years, and they are looking for even more ways to pocket big bucks.

How exactly would they do that? By charging fees that would allow some websites and content to download via an exclusive fast lane, while those that can’t afford these fees are relegated to the slow lane. Some websites and applications would be blocked altogether, as the phone and cable companies decide which content and tools they want to offer us.

Take Action NOW!

In fact, this is already happening. AT&T censored streaming video from a Pearl Jam concert. Comcast has blocked Internet software, and Verizon prevented a reproductive rights group from sending text messages to people who had requested them. Clearly, public policy is needed to ensure that the big companies can not discriminate on the web by censoring and blocking information we need to advance the issues we care about.

The beauty of the Internet, and its great innovation over conventional, mainstream media, is that it is open to everyone. An unlimited amount of information is available at everyone’s fingertips when they access the web. Similarly, we can add our own content and voices to the web in a way that is not possible with radio, television and other traditional media.

But hundreds of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, employed by the telecommunications giants, are trying to change all that. Organizations like NOW could find their online efforts seriously impaired by this move to partition off (dare we say segregate?) the Internet.

Net Neutrality must become law to ensure that the Internet remains open to innovation, democratic participation, and a free exchange of ideas. The Internet Freedom Preservation Act is designed to ensure that this dynamic medium remains free from discrimination.

Don’t let big business turn the Internet into another version of cable TV. This is OUR Internet, and we can save it.

Take Action NOW!

take action and then donate

Don’t Make Me Go All Carmen Miranda On Yer Arse

carmen-miranda-costumeThis misleading use of Carmen Miranda’s name and garb is simply a means to lure you in and have you read & participate in the following news:

Today, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Twolia, Alessia of Relationship Underarm Stick is participating in the Hope For Healing blogathon, raising awareness of domestic violence & money for supporting victims of domestic violence. You can help too: Comment at, link to, & Tweet her blogathon posts!

Use of Carmen Miranda costume is also a promise-slash-threat: Failure to read & participate in the following news, shall invoke the powers of moi — I shall show up at your home at 4 A.M. loudly impersonating Ms Miranda. I warn you, I neither dance nor sing so keen; your neighbors will not be happy.

So exercise your (albeit, twisted) Carmen Miranda rights — to be free of my impression of the lovely lady — and participate in the conversation about domestic violence. All jokes aside, it matters.

Something I’d Like To Share With The Class (Blog-Ola, FTC, etc.)

high-school-student-passing-note-to-classmate-sitting-behind-her-vintage Last Monday (July 27, 2009), during our road trip, I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, in which they covered the issue of “Mom Bloggers” and “Blog-Ola.” I’ll skip my general dislike of the term “mom bloggers” applied to any woman with children (“mom bloggers” should only be applied to moms who blog about parenting & mommy issues; it’s a rather inappropriate & dismissive term when applied to those of us discussing non-parenting issues) & get on with the real hub-bub, bub.

“Blog-ola” is payola, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re paid in cash or product.

The dealio-mc-bob isn’t really new, but apparently had the 1,500 attendees of the 5th Annual BlogHer Conference in Chicago in heated debate. Companies give stuff to bloggers with hopes that they’ll get positive press & reviews — that’s nothing new, either; it’s the basic principal behind review product, review copies, etc. And there’s nothing inherently bad about that either. But apparently the internet is rife with the following unethical folks:

* Those bloggers & reviewers who feel either obligated or so free-stuff-happy that they are writing positive reviews &/or giving gobs of press attention to products &/or companies, regardless of the quality of the stuff they receive. If you don’t believe me, check out the show’s transcript.

and

* Those companies & persons (publicists, PR folks, etc.) who feel that bloggers & reviewers work for them when they send them “free” review items. Don’t believe me?

Here’s the most recent & most flagrant offense.

Recently, when I gave a just-deserved negative book review (for a book that calls those with Autism “cursed!”), I sent the link to the publicist/promoter (along with my synopsis, as appropriate) & was sent the following in reply:

I haven’t read your review yet, however, honestly I wish you wouldn’t post a negative review about this or any other author.

To which I replied:

I can understand your disappointment, but I won’t remove or change the review.

I clearly stated from the onset that I was skeptical of cures and while you & the author may feel her story is not intended to be read as a guarantee for others, I can accept that. However, I find the references to autism as “deathly ill,” demonically possessed” and “cursed” more than inaccurate or mere opinion, but unacceptable. I’m aghast that anyone would write such a thing. What’s more that you would, especially after my email about being skeptical, insist upon only favorable reviews; that’s unethical.

I have a responsibility to honestly review books/products, and that is what I have done.

If you’d prefer not to send me any more emails/invitations etc. because you dislike my honest opinions/reviews, that is your decision.

To which she replied:

The purpose of a blog tour is to promote the book and encourage people to buy it.

I fundamentally disagree with blog hosts posting a negative review. I would never ask a blog host to post something they don’t agree with on their blog. If you don’t anything constructive to say…stay silent.

My post was constructive; it warned my readers of the dangers of such a horrible book.

Her email continued:

I know too many authors who also review books professionally. Their stance is to not post bad reviews. It will come back around. It’s kind of an unwritten rule of the industry to not slam a fellow author. Guess blog hosts don’t live by that rule.

So…for this blog tour book…we’ll agree to disagree. It happens.

I would love for you to be a part of future tours…under the condition that you post the interview, and if you can’t that you let me know and post nothing. Deal?

No, Karen, we most decidedly do not have a deal. (And, yes, Karen, I do have the right to publish our email exchange; you courted me as a member of the press and so I have the right to quote you until/unless you state things are off the record.)

First, I did not “slam an author” — I corrected her inaccuracies (found on page 72), her inappropriate implied “cure” (page 110), and her labeling those with Autism as “cursed” (page 111). In fact, I was so incensed by what the author wrote, I could have been far more scathing in my review; but I remained as fair as I could.

Secondly, where you get all all mixed up, Karen, is your confusion over our relationship. It maybe her purpose to promote & encourage people to buy the book; but it’s not mine. Mine is to honestly review the book sent — a book that, in this case, I specifically discussed my reservations about prior to agreeing to receive the book. It doesn’t matter where the book (or product) came from, those rules don’t change.

And that’s what the FTC is concerned about, the ethics of all this.

Oh, and one more thing… Sometimes companies think they can get your free publicity with just the promise of product. If I read one more call for bloggers to post a review and then the first few (or those with the most comments or whatever) will “win” a review copy or review product, I swear, I will scream.  Loudly. You cannot, should not, review something you’ve never used/viewed/read; if you do, you are advertising (and lying about use) and that’s where the FTC comes in. Or should come in.

Let me help you, dear blogger who wanted to be treated like a member of the press, to act like a member of the press. Do not to fall prey to Blog-Ola or payola and/or the bullying of persons & companies who would have you do so. Here’s a simple reminder: You do not work for publishers, publicists, companies or individuals that send you review product; you write/review for your readers, and they deserve honesty.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll have nothing to fear from any FTC investigation or legislation.

Think back to those notes passed in school. You cared about what was written on them because you trusted the person who sent it to you. You would have been upset if the note was sent to you because Susie was paid, in cash or product, to do so. Even if the teacher (FTC) never found out, Susie lost a trusted friend (your blog reader). So stop participating in these forms of payola.

Image Credits: High School Student Passing Note to Classmate Sitting Behind Her via AllPosters.com.