Monday, December 31, 2012

A warning to Pinterest users: Redbook may steal your ideas

(UPDATE, 1/1/13: According to Jen, Redbook is promising to make things right, and according to Michelle, I got some things wrong. UPDATE UPDATE: And Jen got something wrong, too! See updates at bottom.)

The first time I ever saw anything from Pinterest I had no idea what the site was about. It was a photo of cakes baked in mugs. Ohh, I see, it's a place where people creatively use mugs - pint mugs? - to...ummm...make cakes? Which I suppose made as much sense as it being a place for people to discuss the works of Harold Pinter, which I also considered a possibility.

Michelle Hryvnak Davies, co-administrator at NEPA Blogs and Queen of All Media, Social or Otherwise, tried to drag me into the world of Pinterest last year when she added a Pinterest component to the NEPA Blogs media empire. Which I still didn't understand; by this point I had determined that Pinterest was some sort of image posting site (though there were already, like, a billion of those at the time) merged with a social network, all of which for some reason appealed overwhelmingly to those of the female persuasion. It also now was coming across as some sort of creative-works outlet, which seemed like an odd fit for a blog about blogging in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but whatever. Even when Michelle and local blogger Karla Porter went on Blue Ridge Communication's ComputerWise TV to do a full hour-long program on Pinterest I still didn't understand - though it didn't help that I fell asleep early on and woke up right at the end. I was exhausted from work. (See updates below.)

So gradually I've worked out that Pinterest is an image posting and sharing site merged with a social network, designed to allow people to share and showcase their creativity and see the creativity of others. Unlike, say, Flickr or DeviantArt these aren't just photos or artistic creations; these are, for the most part, creative projects that can inspire others to their own projects, or even be recreated by other people. Like, say, cakes baked in mugs. It's not just that, so NEPA Blogs can post our blog headers and whatnot and still not be tossed off the site, but it's mostly creative works, being posted and "pinned" and "repinned." Sometimes with attribution, more often - like photos on Tumblr - without.

There are a lot of creative people out there. A lot of people who invest a lot of effort into their creativity. A lot of people who deserve credit for their creativity.

And there are some people out there who want to skim off the best ideas, repost them, and claim them as their own.

Redbook magazine has just done that to one of the biggest names in blogging.

Jen Yates is the blogger behind the wildly popular Cake Wrecks site and the author of two books based on that blog. She also has a spinoff blog, EPBOT, that provides an outlet for her non-cake-related stuff. On this site she also features some creative projects and tutorials, the sort of stuff that finds its way to her Pinterest site. As with her blog, her Pinterest posts tend to have broad general appeal and are enormously popular.

In a recent article, Redbook magazine copied some of the most popular Pinterest posts, created  artwork from the posted photos in an apparent attempt to avoid copyright issues, and presented them without attribution.

EPBOT: Shame On You, Redbook Magazine

Now, this is a dickish maneuver to begin with. But what makes it entirely douchey - perhaps unintentionally douchey, but douchey nonetheless - is the fact that the project of Jen's that Redbook stole and reprinted without attribution was one that was scheduled to be presented with attribution in an upcoming edition of Better Homes & Gardens Good Housekeeping.

You may get the sense that bloggers - especially successful bloggers - see themselves as New Media hotshots who look down upon the Old Media, especially the "dead trees" media of newspapers, books, and magazines.  But nothing could be further from the truth. Most bloggers I know consider it to be the height of success to get your work presented in published form, on paper. Newspaper and magazine articles are considered incredibly valuable for getting the word out about your blog to new audiences, audiences that might otherwise never hear about your blog. So having the opportunity to get her work featured and credited in Better Homes & Gardens Good Housekeeping was extremely important to Jen. Now that may not happen at all, since Redbook has effectively scooped the article by publishing the details of the project first. Will Better Homes & Gardens Good Housekeeping cancel the article? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Redbook claims that it is planning a response to the numerous messages it has received complaining about this situation. Do they plan to make this right? Or will they hunker down and claim that once an idea is published to the Internet it becomes public  domain?

Whatever happens, be warned: if you're posting the fruits of your creative efforts on a site like Pinterest, you might just be making it easier for someone else to come along, steal them, and claim them as their own.


1. Jen has posted a response from Redbook that promises to make things right:

EPBOT: Redbook Makes It Right

Jen is satisfied with this response, so I guess we can put away the pitchforks and torches. For now.

2. Michelle pointed out that I have mashed together two episodes of ComputerWise TV from the past year: One which Michelle and Karla went on to promote the NEPA BlogCon, and one that featured Michelle by herself talking about Pinterest.

3. Jen misidentified Good Housekeeping, the magazine slated to feature her project, as Better Homes and Gardens in her original post. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

As 2012 draws to a close

It's weird: the Winter Solstice marks the point when days start to get longer, just like the Summer Solstice is the point where days start to get shorter. We're on an upswing now, but it doesn't feel like it.

I haven't been blogging much, at all. Not here, not on NEPA Blogs, not on any of my other blogs. I'd like to say it's because I've been writing, but I haven't been writing much. (One of the short stories that I wrote is being developed into a play by an award-wining playwright, so that's something.) I have been doing some art stuff for NEPA Blogs, creating headers. That used to take a few minutes per header with my old Adobe PhotoDeluxe software that came bundled with my printer. (Or was it my scanner?) But I lost that when I got hit with a virus a few weeks ago. A lot of people suggested I downloaded GIMP, but that has turned out to be a clunky, unintuitive program that tries to do a lot of things but doesn't make any of them simple. (You want to change the transparency of text in GIMP? Just follow these twelve steps, each of which involves learning a new facet of the program. You want to change the transparency in PhotoDeluxe? Just enter the percentage transparency desired in this little box.) So I worked on the next NEPA Blogs header for about four hours last night. It would have taken, at worst, a half hour with PhotoDeluxe, mainly because I wouldn't have had to throw everything away and start over each time I made a mistake.

When I worked at the DVD factory I wasn't blogging much because I would come home physically spent after working twelve hours a night on my feet and running, with nearly an hour in the car on either end. Now I spend eight hours sitting with an easy commute of ten minutes or less, and I come home completely exhausted. On each call we take, whether it's thirty seconds or two hours, we're supposed to "connect" with the customer. Technically we're just supposed to make some small talk regarding their travel and provide some feedback to the customer. In practice this can turn into an emotionally draining exercise. Doing that on call after call for eight hours or more gets to you after a while.

This may be my last post for 2012. I don't know. I'll have limited access to the internet for the next week or so. I'm working two hours tomorrow (it's a long story, and I could have had the whole day off, but I chose not to), I'm off on Christmas, working Wednesday and Thursday, off on Friday and the weekend, and then I'm working 10:30 AM-5:00 PM New Year's Eve and, I think, New Year's Day. (Unless that's a full eight-hour day.) I still have three hours of vacation coming to me.

Resolutions for the New Year? The usual. Being able to say "Oh, I'm a writer, and an award-winning playwright is developing one of my short stories into a play" may help me with one of those resolutions. Plus I will try to blog more, and write more. Blogging isn't dead, so I shouldn't act like it is.

Merry Christmas. Spare a moment to think about all those families that have just buried children they thought would be opening presents on Christmas morning. And in the New Year, why don't we resolve to make sure this thing doesn't happen again?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Funny postponed

I've been slacking off on posting lately. In part I feel like I've said everything I have to say here for the moment - not that I'm done saying, but I'm gathering up my thoughts for later. I continue to find this blog an incredibly valuable reference for reflecting upon the things I've said previously.

I've got some posts in development. One is "Some thoughts on rereading Harlan Ellison." There's a story there in just how I came to be rereading Harlan. I'm not likely to forget that post, and since I'm still rereading the book I'm rereading, it would be premature to write this now.

The other is something genuinely funny, and weird, and uncanny, even. A song that I thought - have thought, since the first time I heard it - was by a band that I didn't really like turns out to be by a musician I really do like. My perception of the song changed when I thought I was hearing a remake of the song by this other artist, and I decided that this version was superior to the original. Then I discovered that this was the original - the only version of the song. So the lame old version by band A and the hip new version by musician B are, in fact, the same song.

But I'm not going to write about it. Not today.

Today, December 14, 2012, eleven days before Christmas, a man with a gun - several guns - killed his father, his mother, several other adults, and numerous children in an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut. Eighteen, last time I checked. (Sorry: It's twenty children out of twenty-six people killed in the school.)

I had another post planned, "In praise of poor quality," noting that the relatively low body count in the December 11 mall shooting in Oregon (two killed, one injured, plus the suicide of the shooter) was for much the same reason as the relatively low body count at the July 20 Aurora theater shooting (twelve dead, fifty-eight injured, out of hundreds of potential victims - sitting ducks in a movie theater): jammed weapons, a common occurrence for the types of weapons used by the shooters in those two cases. But the shooter in the December 14 Newton, Connecticut killings did not have that problem. I'm not going to write that post now.

For now, this is as much as I can write.