Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

So keeping with the introspective nature as of late, with Meet the Blogger day and all the talk of resolutions you hear this time of year, I’ve decided to take the Pet Blogger Challenge.

I started blogging in the fall of 2010 and first participated in the Pet Blogger Challenge just a few months later in 2011.

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

Actually, the first Challenge in 2011 was the only time I’ve participated.

In January 2012 I was on a no-computer-screens doctor’s order, due to surgery to repair a detached retina. I have no excuse for not participating in 2013; January just happened to fall during a long period of non-blogging that occurred for no good reason I can recall.

But I’ve been marginally more diligent since then, so why not accept the challenge once more?

It’s kind of hilarious to go back and read my first response to the challenge. So much naiveté and optimism. Though, truthfully I don’t expect a lot of difference in my responses as I go through questions.

We shall see.

1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I’ve been blogging since September 2010, so for almost 3½ years.

The Soapbox is primarily about Moses and Alma, Newfoundland dogs living in Calgary, Canada with yours truly, the Husband, and a couple of cats. I take pictures of our local adventures, our travels, and write about the minutiae of life as a dog owner. Kind of like Seinfeld (I wish), with more drool and no studio audience.

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Every once in a while I’ll take a break from the dog stuff and share some scuba diving photos, or write about local current events, politics, or other random things like different kinds of restaurant patrons and a list of annoying things about weddings.

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

I think I’ve finally grasped and acknowledged that 75% of the work of producing a blog is to follow, read, and comment on the blogs of others who you admire and enjoy. It definitely takes more time and a regular commitment to give back to those who read and comment here, but it’s important. And I’ve discovered lots of good blogs lately – both established and I’ve just been out of the loop, and new bloggers.

That doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but I think it’s a necessary and inevitable realization of most bloggers. A milestone, if you will.

Besides, there’s a whole community-wide conversation going on in the Blogville, and if you read regularly, you’ll never get writer’s block.

I don’t think I’ve answered the question.

I suppose I have managed to churn out some decent content and page views myself, which does make me proud. My post on being an introvert with very visible dogs seemed to speak to a lot of people, and my post on whether or not to shave your dog (including awesome decision tree!) got a lot of shares and hopefully spared some Newfs from the clippers!

This photo got shared by the online magazine She Knows, which also made me happy (even if the caption is a bit silly - I didn't write it).

This photo I took of Moses got shared by the online magazine SheKnows (link in right side-bar), which also made me happy… even if the caption is a bit silly – I didn’t write it.

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s the 2011 Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

The Soapbox started as a one-way dialogue. It was meant to be rant-filled and instructive (hence the title).

But, even though I still like my blog title, and it’s established if only in a very tiny way to my small population of regular readers, I acknowledge it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect the content of the blog.

Oh well. It’s mine and I’m not changing it.

The Soapbox has become a much more personal chronicle where I write about things I didn’t necessarily think I would. It’s easy to write hastily and flippantly, but as an introvert, sometimes it’s difficult to be candid.

The Soapbox has definitely gone from a more sterile, careful voice to something more frank and conversational.

4(a) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?

I’m certainly not in a position to provide any valuable advice, but I always learn things from other bloggers – whether they’re the ‘big names’ with thousands of followers or bloggers newer than I.

I would recommend just reading as many other blogs as possible, as I mentioned above. And comment on them in thoughtful ways – which is good for both you and the writer.

ACTUALLY… on that note: I would recommond bloggers quickly re-evaluate your comment platform. This comes from a reader’s perspective, not another blogger’s. Elaborate CAPTCHA codes are a pain in the ass, and sometimes I’m sure my comment is discarded because I miss having to enter a code after typing my comment and hitting submit. This happens on some Blogger/Blogspot sites, but not all. Or those terrible Google-only comment forums. The. Worst.

The easy commenting and following functions of WordPress are a key feature that keeps me loyal to this site. I’m not saying everyone needs to switch to WordPress, but I bet there would be more comments if commenting was easier for non-bloggers and bloggers on other platforms.

That’s really the only general improvment recommendation I can give.



(b) If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Not a challenge, but I do have a general question: I’d be curious to know when everyone (who has done so) decided to make the move to a privately-owned domain. I’ve been considering dropping the ‘wordpress’ from my URL for some time now, but remain undecided.

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

If I obsessed over stats and page views, I probably would’ve stopped blogging a long time ago.

This post I wrote about Jake Gyllenhaal carrying his dog around way back in 2010 continues to be a top traffic-getter for me, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

And, obviously I’d get more hits if I wrote more and more regularly. I think Hyperbole and a Half is the only blog I know of that’s earned the credibility to post very infrequently and retain a huge reader base (and deservedly so).

6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

I don’t spend much time publicizing at all. I’m very lazy. This is unlikely to change.

I may throw out the odd Tweet, but I don’t even share posts to my personal Facebook page. I am in a couple of Triberr groups, but I have mixed feelings about Triberr; I’m not sure it generates that much additional traffic and it does monopolize some Twitter feeds to the point they look robotic. Personally, I don’t like to approve Triberr posts if I haven’t read the blog entry myself. However, the benefit of Triberr has been discovering other new blogs written by tribe members.

Also, blog hops are always a fun way to generate traffic, expand visibility, participate in a common theme, and come across new and interesting blogs.

Sure, page views are nice – I don’t completely ignore them – but it’s not what drives my interest in producing content.

7(a) How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?

Definitely based on the comments. And not just the number – the quality. If someone takes some time to write a few sentences, share their own experience or perhaps a perspective I didn’t think of when writing, I consider it mission accomplished.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

(b) How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

Hold on just a second – people write in themes or features? I definitely don’t do this – if I abandoned my general dog theme, there’d be nothing here.

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

If the post asks a question, I’m extremely tempted to answer it. (Light bulb moment: this probably means if I want more comments myself, I should ask more questions of my readers.)

Otherwise, if I’ve got a relevant story or experience to the post, I’ll share.

But, as I already complained about, I won’t comment at all if the commenting form is onerous.

9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways? If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

I don’t do either. I’m not certain I’d be interested in giveaways – seems like a big time investment. And I’m sure being Canadian takes me out of the running for some of these opportunities.

When I answered back in 2011 about sponsorship, I mentioned I was concerned that would come with censorship. That’s still a fair comment, I think. But I might be able to be coerced into product reviews in exchange for free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff?!

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I was going to say “I’m notorious…”, but technically I think you have to be well-known to be considered notorious. In any case, I frequently take a step back from the Soapbox when I’m busy with the “real” world, when I don’t want to write anything, or if I don’t perceive myself as having anything to say.

I’ll be inspired again usually by something that happened in real life that I think would lead to a good post. Although, sometimes just one of the regular blog hops like Mischief Monday or Wordless Wednesday is a great prompt to get back at it.

And, as I already mentioned, I think being well-read is a good cure for writer’s block.

Walking Mo. As you'd expect, a lot of my posts are initall on dog walks.

Walking Mo. As you’d expect, a lot of my posts are spurned by or during dog walks.

11(a) Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

You bet – several over the years. They’re generally unplanned and one lasted as long as 3 months, but it’s fine. This is just a hobby for me, and I worry to take it too seriously would kill some of the enjoyment.

Besides, the hardest part is catching up on your blog reading, not your blog writing! (Because when I step away from the blog, I tend to step away from WordPress altogether.)

(b) Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

Nope. The thought never occurred to me. Despite taking the odd break, I do always assume I’ll get back to it eventually. I don’t expect to maintain the Soapbox forever, but I have no plans or inclination when it might end. And rather than a defined ending or up and quitting, a slow, painful, unplanned death is far more likely, anyway.

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s silly to have to make changes just because December is over, and even sillier yet to hold off on changes you want to make until January 1st. I continually update the Soapbox as I see fit, and as a purely recreational pursuit, I have no specific goals for readship or income generation.

This hesitation to set specifics also comes from unknowing – I wouldn’t know where to begin, not being sure of what’s reasonable or possible.

A good goal, however, would probably be to try to post every month of 2014, but I’m hesitant to put even that in writing lest I fail. Maybe I’ll just try to keep up the momentum of the last few months. If I don’t, I’ll just have to answer to myself the next time I respond to this challenge (which, at this rate, won’t be until 2016 anyway!).

Actually, here’s a goal I can divulge: I want to continue to work on my photography skills. That’s more of a personal goal than a blog goal, but the blog serves as a good excuse to work on it. The Husband got me Lightroom for Christmas, so I definitely would like to master photo-editing with it. You all get to bear with me as I stumble through it.

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Click here or here to visit everyone else who rose to the Pet Blogger Challenge this year.


I was going to write a blog post, but instead I…

… had homework to do.

… had to take Alma to dog class.

… decided to watch Hemingway and Gellhorn.

… had to clean the house, since the cleaner took a week off. (#firstworldproblems #whitewhine)

… had to brush the dogs (related to the foregoing excuse).

… took a nap (note: intentional).

… fell asleep (note: unintentional).

… actually participated in social events with other human beings.

… decided to read some blog posts instead of write one.

… had to take the dogs and the new camera out and play “hometown tourist”.  See for yourself:

Moses and an artsy bench

Moses again.

Thirsty Moses

Alma and a new friend

Alma and… you guessed it

At the library

Having a seat

Seriously? We’re still doing this?

Besides, with all the seriously messed up headlines in the national news this week, who doesn’t need some light photo entertainment as a distraction?


I’m Baaaaack!

It was just this morning that the Doc gave me the go-ahead to ease back into my technology-dominated lifestyle, so you can see I’ve wasted no time returning to the Soapbox.  It’s been a long month!  (Despite my frequent rule breaking over the last couple weeks.)

Belated sharing: Moses and his Christmas present

And with the time off comes so many unwritten blog posts.

I missed showing off the spoils of my winnings in the Shutterfly Christmas cards from the wonderful My Brown Newfies (pack that away for next year’s holidays?).

I missed the obligatory New Year’s post – whether it be about resolutions or the equally common stand against them.

I’ve missed trying to figure out exactly wtf Triberr is and how to work it (sorry Tribe members, I’ll get on that – where the heck is Jeff Probst, anyway!?).

By mere days I even missed out on the Pet Blogger Challenge, which I participated in last year (do I get my sidebar logo revoked?).

I’ve yet to even mention that January is Train Your Dog Month (who decides these things?), and I’ve had to repress the unexplainable crazy person urge I have to post photos of my dogs online that aided in the creation of the Soapbox in the first place.

And while I’m sure I’ve left a dark, lonely void in all your hearts with my hiatus, I’ve missed out even more being unable to keep up with regular reading of my favourite blogs.  Or – offline – reading the great books I got for Christmas, including Inside of A Dog.

Suffice it to say I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Alma liked (disemboweling) her Christmas present, too.

But it’s good to be back.

The pups on a walk from a couple nights ago. While it’s nice to get back at ‘er, I have enjoyed the extra time with Moses and Alma. And yes, that’s green(ish) grass.  In January.  In Calgary.

A Soapbox First

Holy!  My first guest post!

That’s right, today I’m filling in over at the great blog Rescued Insanity.

I would like to thank Kristine for asking me to guest blog while she takes a well-deserved break.  It really is an honour.  And just goes to show her dedication as a blogger, as some of us out there (*ahem* yours truly) just let their blogs wane and gather dust when they are busy or away.

In any event, I did my best to include all of the key ingredients you typically find in a Rescued Insanity post: good writing; interest; humour; education; food for thought (literally, or not).

As I told Kristine, I tried my best not to drag her good name through the mud.  And I must say, the other guest bloggers that have been revealed to date have really set the bar high.

You can decide how well I kept up on those expectations.

Click here to check out Rescued Insanity.

Moses & Alma in Montana

My 7 Links: Blog Introspection

Kristine, over at Rescued Insanity, passed her curse on to me.

I kid, of course.  When I first read a My 7 Links post at No Dog About It, I thought it was a great idea.  It makes bloggers think about their own work, and is a great way to get highlights from blogs you haven’t always followed or had time to dig through the archives of.

For example, I’d likely never otherwise find Kristine’s post, Modern Day Dragons, about the $20 bounty Nova Scotia’s provincial government has placed on coyote pelts as a (uninformed) method of population control.  I definitely don’t remember that making the news out here when it happened in October 2010, and is just another example of uneducated, reactionary legislation; it reminds me of BSL.

My 7 Links was spearheaded by Tripbase Blog as a way to unite bloggers, resurrect old and dear posts, and share lessons learned, though 7 links, one in each category.

Since Kristine nominated me, I will forge ahead without further ado.

1.  Most Beautiful Post

The winning post here is completely unrelated to dogs.  In May I found myself at our nation’s capital and fancied myself a photo-tourist, and shared some of my favourite shots as a Wordless Wednesday edition.

When I started blogging (still less than a year ago) my posts were admittedly word-heavy. More like long articles, less like punchy blog posts, and had few pictures to dazzle the eye.  I have since been working on including more photos and fewer suffocating details.

An Ottawa photo from the Memorial Chamber I didn't share in the original post.

2.  Most Popular Post

I let WordPress determine this one for me.  Aside from my home page and based on hits, my Letter to Mayor Nenshi and Calgary’s City Council is by far my most popular post.  In it, I ask the city to enact a bylaw similar to that of Richmond, B.C.’s and several American cities, banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.  It attracted the attention of both animal welfare advocates and corporate Petland.

3.  Most Controversial Post

I was going to fudge this one and pick another pet sale ban post, but I can’t do it.  Yes, that discussion is controversial, but it’s not the “most” controversial, and I can’t bring myself to lie even if it will lead to backlash.  My most controversial post is, by far, In Defence of Cesar.

At the risk of being harshly judged and losing some blogging friends, I will sum up that post like this:  I do not hate Cesar Millan and I go so far as to identify some positive consequences of his fame.  The post sparked a heated debate and a link to it travelled around online to people who had very harsh words for it – and me personally.  “Debate” might even be too favourable a term, because reason left the forum early on in the comments.

I learned (at least) two lessons from that post:

1.  One controversy at a time.  I had the Cesar talk and the pet sale debate with Petland going on at the same time and it was draining and frustrating – especially since I think responding to reader comments is important.  However, too little rational discussion and I stop replying, which ended up being the case with the Cesar topic.

2.  Too early.  I’d been blogging for less than 3 months and then I came out on one side of a very controversial topic.  It wasn’t well thought out, but I can’t bring myself to deactivate the post.  It’s a transparency thing.

4.  Most Helpful Post

I sometimes write posts to specifically be helpful or provide information.  Like trying to get your dog to pee in a particular place or information on raw diets.

But based on what people are searching for online and what brings non-subscribers to the blog, I think my most helpful post has probably already been the recent That Summer ‘Do – a post specifically dedicated to NOT shaving your dog in the summer.  Lots of people out there in cyberspace seem to be Googling information on shaving double-coated dogs, and if my post talks them out of it, I consider it undeniably helpful!  I’m sure their dogs think so, too.

5.  Most Surprisingly Successful Post

Easy:  Why, Jake Gyllenhaal, Why?

People who don’t walk their dogs or, worse, carry their dogs around is a pet peeve of mine.  And it seemed to me that in every photo I saw of hunky Mr. Gyllenhaal and his dog, the dog had nary a paw on the ground.  So I flippantly wrote about it, completely unaware of how many people out there Google variants of “Jake Gyllenhaal + dog”.   This post definitely brings in the most search engine traffic and is always in my Top 10 most viewed stats.

6.  Most Under-Appreciated Post

There are a couple that didn’t quite get the reception I thought they would, but I think most-so is In Defence of Big Dogs, written as a frustrated Newfoundland owner who likes to travel with her dog whenever possible.  Moses may be drooly, but he is very well-behaved, and it still bothers me that some dogs get more extensive travel privileges simply because they are smaller.

Though, I admit this post was written early on, and is therefore word-heavy and picture-light.  I understand (now) that blog readers often see large paragraphs and move on immediately.  But I just can’t bring myself to delete the post and start from scratch, even though I know I could do better.

7 .  Most Proud Post

Another easy one; I am most proud of my post Bloat / Gastric Torsion.  I wrote this long before the blog existed and as a way of making sense of an unexpected bloat experience we had with Moses.  Now I cope with experiences like that by blogging about it; it’s very cathartic.  At the time, I found myself frustrated with the conflicting information out there surrounding canine bloat, so I decided researching it and writing about it was the best way to make sense of it myself.

In a way, the bloat research exercise, together with the other pre-blog creation To Ban the Breed?, eventually lead to the creation of the Soapbox, as a way to share these things I had spent a lot of time on and thought would be useful and interesting to others.   Though, both of these posts I do consider under-read and under-appreciated, I acknowledge they are more like informative research articles and less like blog posts.

Moses meets a starfish during low tide in Vancouver - he bloated that evening.

Now I have completed my self-asssessment, my duty is to nominate up to 5 more bloggers for a 7 Link Assessment of their own.  And I did check the list to ensure I was passing it forward, not circling back.

The lucky nominees are (in alphabetical order):

2 Brown Dawgs – this is a purely selfish nomination, because I haven’t had time to read all the archives about Thunder and Storm as much as I’d like, and am curious to see highlights I may otherwise miss.

According to Gus – probably not a fair nomination because they’re off living the dream, travelling around North America on the ultimate road trip, but I couldn’t resist.  Lori’s such an amazing photographer, I’m dying to know what’s she’d pick for Most Beautiful Post.

Gone for a Walk – a very versatile and eclectic blogger – I’m very interested in what the 7 links would be.

My Brown Newfies – another selfish nomination of a blog I have quickly become a regular reader of.  This nomination isn’t just because the blog is about a couple of awesome Newfs… or is it?

The Daily Toki – speaking of great photographers!  Best of luck to you when you narrow down to just one in the first category.

Wordless Wednesday 2: Stand-Stay

In the event anyone ever asks me what the point of long term sit-stays, down-stays, or stands is, my immediate response is always this:

For the photo ops.  Obviously.

Sure, there are many other reasons, but c’mon.  Priorities, people.

And a prime example serves as this week’s Wordless Wednesday.

Caption this.

Wordless Wednesday 1: Now, with words!

I’m not sure if it was through Twitter or by following other bloggers, but when I first learned about Wordless Wednesday, I thought it was a very interesting idea.  Many bloggers have adopted the trend, and all you simply do is post a funny or interesting photo, and leave it up to readers to suggest the appropriate caption.

It sounds fun, easy, and ingenious.

Therefore, I am herein jumping on the bandwagon.  Not with weekly intentions, but instead as I see fit or as I come across or take an intriguing photo. I often think my blog is a little word-heavy, anyway.

And after yesterday’s post, I’d really just like to lighten the mood for a moment.

Granted, this has already become a rather wordy Wordless Wednesday, so let’s have at ‘er!

Your mission: caption this photo:

Nope, it’s not a dog photo.  I surprise even myself sometimes.

iPad & Katy Perry: The Wonders of Internet Search Terms

One of my favourite things about blogging with WordPress is the Site Stats page they provide.  It tells me how many clicks were made on my blog each and every day, and on what pages.  It also tells me what other websites bring traffic, and how much, to my blog (Facebook, Twitter, other blogs, etc.), and also what external links people click while reading my blog.  There are lots of ways you can analyse your readership, whether by week, month, post, or what have you.

And while I do find these statistics endlessly interesting, I think my absolute favourite part of this service provided by WordPress is the Search Engine Terms function that tells me which phrases, when entered into a search engine, direct people to my blog.

I find the results in this category highly entertaining, very informative, and also an interesting reflection of what people are looking for on the internet.  And I don’t know if maybe it’s against some top secret Blogger Code to disclose these sorts of things, but I’m going to go ahead and share some of the interesting things I’ve discovered so far, in my short few months of experience.

For example, the search terms function has taught me that writing about Jake Gyllenhaal that one time was probably the best move I could’ve made for attracting unsuspecting blog guests.  It seems almost daily people are searching for “dogs of Jake Gyllenhaal”, “Jake Gyllenhaal, dog lover”, “Jake Gyllenhaal dogs”, “good pictures of Jake Gyllenhall” or some similar variation, and it is this very subject that has brought the most aimless surfers to my blog – much to their dismay, I’m assuming.

The next most popular is my article on bloat, which pleases me.  When I was looking for information on gastric torsion myself, I was frustrated with what I did and did not find, and, not to toot my own horn too much, I do believe I’ve put together a pretty good resource for inquiring dog owners.  So that’s good.  On the other hand, the people who searched for “xray sex” and “bloatness of tummy during period” and wound up at the Soapbox were probably more than just a little disappointed.

And then there are the miscellaneous, diverse search terms that cause me endless wonder and curiosity, and really provide quite the emotional rollercoaster.

“ban flexi leash”:  This one came up yesterday, and my immediate thought was ‘hooray!’  Someone agrees with my distain for these stupid things!  Then I thought, what if the searcher is actually worried about a possible ban because they love their flexi-leash too much?  Ick.

“back alley bitches”:  Ha! I’m guessing this isn’t actually intended to be dog related.  Sucker.

“learn how to talk like a Torontonian”:  Ummm… I think you pronounce it “Tranno”.

“chow chow Winnipeg Kijiji”:  My knee-jerk reaction here was frustration about people looking for dogs on Kijiji.

“outlawing puppy sales in stores”:  Yes, please!  Happily, quite a few similar search terms on this very subject have directed people in my direction.

“can I return opened dog food at petland”:  The person who wrote this and I would never be friends.

“backyardsoapbox”:  Geez.  Get it right.

“how to report possible puppy mill Calgary Alberta”:  I really, really hope this person found the information they needed (call Animal & Bylaw Control!) and reported their suspicions.

“steamy men and women”:  This lonely person was definitely let down.

“train him”:  Referring to a dog… ?

“dogs with guns”:  This one actually comes up a lot and is a little alarming.  Is someone out there arming a canine militia?  Should we be concerned?

“how to surrender my dog Richmond bc”: And this one just plain broke my heart.

Darn. Not in the Top 10… yet.

Is My Blog Copyrighted?

If even fleeting, the issue of copyright can strike the mind of many of us who post our thoughts, opinions, work, research and information online.  Who can use it or share it?  And to what extent?  What rights extend to my intellectual property?

Well, first I’ll do away with the issue of plagiarism, which is simply someone taking something you’ve written and posting it as their own.  It’s wrong ethically and legally, and while hard to pursue online, you can often seek retribution simply by having the plagiarized content removed (forcefully or not).  Anyone with post-secondary research experience should have had the fears of plagiarism planted deep, and there are many ways to prevent the suggestion that someone else’s idea is your own by making reference to quotes and proper citations, or hyperlinking back to the original material.

But copyright does not just mean taking credit for someone else’s work; it also relates to unauthorized use and reproduction.  Hence those copyright warnings at the beginning of DVDs – we do not have permission to duplicate the movies fully.  Such is the case with published books.  You can’t go purchase the latest best seller and take it to Staples to photocopy the whole thing and distribute it to friends (I have doubts photocopying would be significantly cheaper, but you couldn’t scan it either).  This process impacts the financial gain the writer/publisher receives from the publication, and they could reasonably seek recovery in the form of costs from you for this action.  Fair enough – you’re stealing.

On the other hand, you are allowed to copy excerpts and quotes from publications without having to pay for them as long as you’re using it for reasons considered “fair use”.  Fair use qualifications include commentary, criticism, parody, research, news and education.

So what about my blog?  I’m not a published author; do I have these rights?

I sure do.  According to this super helpful website, everything is copyrighted essentially as soon as it’s written.  Canada, the United States, and many other countries follow the Berne Copyright Convention, giving authors and artists immediate protection for their work, my blog included.  WordPress and other hosts offer an option to include a copyright notice on posts and pages, which will serve as a helpful reminder to anyone tempted, but isn’t strictly necessary.  The only way you’re not covered is if you specifically denote your work to be public domain.  And just because something is online does not mean it’s public domain.

Personally, plagiarism, yes, would bother me; I put the work in and I want credit for it.  If you find a way to capitalize on something I’ve written, kudos, but I want the benefit, and I’m not inclined to share.  And credit is easy to give.  You can even recopy a whole post of mine if you like, as long as you link back here or give my blog credit (though I do know many bloggers strictly opposed to complete entry recreations whether or not they get credit, so make sure you check for a policy before reposting an entire work of someone else).  To give credit to an original author is a simple request – and an obligation.  Heck, you can take a post of mine, break it down, criticize it extensively, and I’m happy as long as my words remain my own.  I’ve even got one post where I’m asking you to copy the whole thing and sign your name to the bottom, and please feel free to do so.  Thankfully, I’ve not yet experienced a need to be concerned about plagiarism, which either means people are generally very respectful and diligent, or perhaps that I need to up the ante in quality (mimicking is the sincerest form of flattery as they say).

What About Facebook?

Before I started the Soapbox, I used Facebook Notes to post my entries.  Do I own that or does Facebook?

Well, Facebook Terms of Use seem to be ever-changing these days, with increasing privacy concerns and copyright concerns (especially about photos, it seems).

The first order of business, and self-protection due diligence, is privacy.  If you don’t want everyone to access your information or ideas, observe how you share them.  Check your personal settings and consider where you’re posting: public groups, applications, a friend’s page, a public figure’s page, etc.  If you don’t want just anyone to access something you’ve got to say or share, you yourself are the first step of appropriately managing your own affairs.

As I read the current Facebook policies, it seems that our ideas and work remain our own and there is a system in place for Facebook to maintain that.  If you feel a third party has infringed on your copyright, there is a complaint process in place, and it does not seem that Facebook automatically takes ownership of anything you post there.

But what happens if I were to devise the most clever status update ever, and everyone copies it, but I want all the credit?  Well, tough.

First of all, get a life.

And secondly, at the time of writing, the Facebook policies specifically state (and as a user, you’ve consented even to these policies if you didn’t bother to read them) that “You understand that information might be reshared or copied by other users”.

Furthermore: “Information set to ‘everyone’ [such as in a public group or celebrity profile] is publicly available information, just like your name, profile picture, and connections.  Such information may, for example, be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported, distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations. Such information may also be associated with you, including your name and profile picture, even outside of Facebook, such as on public search engines and when you visit other sites on the internet.  The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to ‘everyone.’ You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete ‘everyone’ content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook.”

So there you have it.  I could take your hilarious status update, post it as my own or even post it on Twitter without giving credit and that’s just something you’ve consented to by my being able to view it and copy it in the first place.  This is how the 24 hour news cycle is able to quote posts on pages, profiles, and groups – and even Twitter.  What this has to say about the quality of journalism there is another issue altogether.  And if you are given credit by name, then you really have no complaint, as the plagiarism aspect is removed and you really have no copyright.

And this is why I started the blog.  My copyright here is much more secure than my Facebook Notes, with the added benefit of expanded readership without having to add hundreds of thousands of Facebook friends.  Thankfully, my Facebook Notes only really included topics like canine bloat, which is really information I’d like to get out there as much as possible, with credit and acknowledgement being a fringe benefit.

And Twitter?

Good question.

Luckily, the re-tweet option generally means you will receive credit for your tweets.

The Twitter Terms of Service state that your content is your own responsibility (you own it, but the consequences of it are also yours).  But while your tweets are always yours, by using Twitter you’re also giving Twitter a non-exclusive right to copy, reproduce, and distribute them.

While an argument may be out there that the 140 character limit of Twitter excludes tweets from the length and creativity requirements for copyright, the Twitter policies acknowledge that tweets are intellectual property of the user, and they do have a complaint process in place for anyone suspecting plagiarism.  However, I think unauthorized use is a non-existent complaint considering the nature of Twitter itself and the re-tweet function.  You would spend more in legal fees arguing that than would be worthwhile.

So there you have it: social media copyright as I understand it.  The bottom line is often to remember that there are real people behind those screen names, so real life standards apply to online actions.  No, I don’t have an LL.B. behind my name, so don’t quote me if you’ve got a serious legal issue.  That’s not a copyright concern; I’m just clarifying my lack of liability (look what our litigious society has come to).