Most bloggers read other blogs and get ideas from them, and sometimes use those ideas to jump-start a post of our own. For example, when I did my Five Things Friday this past week, I noted I shamelessly stole the idea from Megan. At the moment I decided I was doing a post similar to what Megan was doing, I had the opportunity to take either the right or wrong path. I believe I did the right thing, but wanted to give some thoughts about how to avoid doing things wrong.
There are few worse things as a professional than having your work stolen. I have had the wonderful experience TWICE of having to battle for control of intellectual property I created – one time successfully and the other time my company decided not to pursue action. And as a writer on the internet I had a review of a game I had written about on a USENET group in the pre-Web days turn up in a print magazine verbatim with a different name on the review. I sent an alert to the editor, but never got it resolved.
I have also been noted and cited in the works of others, and had others contact me about my work based on seeing references to things I had done. That is an incredibly gratifying experience because it shows that others read your work, hold it in high regard, and use it as a basis for further exploration.
The reason I mention these is because had the infringing people come to my company and asked permission things could have been settled easily, with all of us winning.
Here are a few thoughts about how to make sure you are doing the right thing when it comes to ideas and items from other blogs:
0. Link to the Original Source
I almost forgot this one, as it seems so obvious – when you see something that inspires you, link to it! Send that blogger some love! If you take an idea without even providing a link … you are not much better than a scraper site.
1. Encourage Traffic to the Original Source
Going back to my Five Things Friday last week, I encouraged everyone to head to Megan’s site because the way each of us does things is very different. There was basically no overlap in style or substance – each of us focused on very different topics and handled the way we wrote about the links in a distinct manner. In other words, there is nothing in my post that diminishes the value of visiting her site.
That is a HUGELY important thing, and something you should always think about: when I post this, am I enhancing the traffic of the site that gave me the idea, or am I taking away from it.
I think it is easy for those of us with small blogs to think it doesn’t matter … but doing the right thing ALWAYS matters!
Another way to look at it: once someone reads your post, is there any reason to visit the original post? If not, you are essentially plagiarising.
And that final idea? I got it from a site called ‘me and my diy’ last week when I was looking for etiquette tips about addressing my #2 point below. And that is just the beginning – in her article, Debbie Thompson provides loads of examples of how to do things right or wrong, references, and other things … if you are interested in this topic, her article was the best thing I found last week!
(see what I did there?)
2. Don’t Steal Images
If there is an image on your site that isn’t either your creation or public domain, you are potentially stealing someone else’s traffic. One of the best examples I can think of is from the site T-Rex Runner, who took a great picture you have probably seen online at some point of the shirt a guy ahead of her in a race was wearing.
I had discovered her blog through another blog earlier in the year, so when I saw the image on a Facebook group and then on a Buzzfeed post, I contacted Danielle as well as the Buzzfeed author and worked to get proper attribution. If you don’t know the whole story or don’t follow her blog, check out the link … it is a pretty cool place.
Also last week I did the I Am Enough post, and included a graphic from Arianna’s Random Thoughts, because I thought it was beautiful. It took me 3 seconds to create the source link, so others could check out her site. Now I follow her blog, she follows mine, and it is great.
More recently I think about the huge infographic in the Five Things Friday post about nutrition in fruits and vegetables. When I saw that initially I knew I wanted to share it – but the article I found it in lacked a source link. In other words, although the person notes they ‘found it’, they don’t provide a link.
When you use an image – especially one loaded with information – and you don’t provide a link to the source, you are mis-representing the content as your own (even if there is something on the image itself). In the case of the vitamin infographic, Graphs.net actually provided an embed code on their site to make it easy to share correctly.
One thing that is important – most sites want you to provide a LINK, but NOT to directly reference their images (unless they provide an embed code). In other words, if you like one of the crazy pictures of my eye-cicles mid-winter for some bizarre reason, save it and upload to your site, but then link back to me. Make sense?
3. Differentiate … or Re-Blog
If you love something you saw, but cannot figure out how to do your own thing with it in a way that doesn’t raid the traffic from the original blog – just reblog. At a couple of other sites I’ve written for we call it ‘link love’ – you have friends who do something cool, so you just write a quickie post highlighting what they are doing and sending your readers their way. Most bloggers appreciate this and return the favor.
But if you choose to pursue the topic, made it your own! As an example, another one of my favorite blogs is Harold Shaw’s Runnah.com, because of the unique way he communicates in his posts – he comes at a number of running related things much like the rest of us, but then twists it through his view of the gear, the numbers, how it fits with everything else. Then he closes with the perspective that ‘The Reality is that … ‘ and looks at what he has talked about in context – whether it is about what shoes he likes, races he will run, weather conditions, aging or whatever. The topics are the same as many of us, but the style and storytelling is unique.
4. Create Hybrid Ideas
I tried doing ‘Five Things Friday’, but that wasn’t happening regularly enough for me. Then I saw people posting their running playlists – but since I don’t use music when I run that wasn’t for me. But then something occurred to me – I LOVE music and so the idea of doing a ‘Friday Playlist’ that was list-based and focused on a specific musical idea was born!
5. Space Things Out … Or Let them Die
Here is a thought – if you ARE going to use an idea from another site, and your perspective is close enough that no matter what you do there will be overlap with the original author, ask yourself … does this have to be posted NOW? If not, stick it in drafts and then look at it again in another couple of weeks. Maybe it will become a hybrid idea, maybe you will reblog, maybe you will have a fresh perspective … or maybe you should click the ‘Move to Trash’ link.
We all want to gain readers, especially loyal and active ones. We hope for engagement and those trying to make money want raw numbers. And for those bloggers in particular, doing things specifically to increase readership can be a attractive lure. But as bloggers it is our voice that is of value, our ideas and what we bring to our blogs and those we visit and comment on.
We can be positive voices by helping ourselves and others through proper linking and attribution, or we can be a negative force by stealing hits from others. Even if it is unintentional it is not a good thing – so try to be sure you give credit where it is due, make use of ideas but send others to the source, and be a good community member through honest sharing!
What ideas do YOU have on this?!?