25 January 2015

Before You Blog

This is not a post about where to host your blog or what service to use. Blogger and WordPress are two free sites to use--both have their advantages and disadvantages and neither are particularly difficult to use.

This post is about a few other things potential bloggers should think about.

What to Keep Private

Once you post something online, it is potentially there forever should someone go looking for it hard enough. Decide before you even start blogging about whether you will mention any living individuals and what details you will divulge about those individuals. You may also decide to not mention any generation more recent that your parents or grandparents. It's your decision, not someone else's. Personally it's easier to only mention the dead and leave it at that. Of course, you can mention yourself but don't post any details you are not comfortable with the entire world knowing.

It's "My Information"

We aren't going to discuss copyright here, but remember that facts cannot be copyrighted. If you post that Johann Ufkes was born in 1838 then anyone can use that fact--even if it took you $45,000 and twenty years to discover it. If you are going to be "mad" that someone else "used" a fact that you discovered, then it's best not to make that fact public on your blog. Users of your blog should credit you with the discovery, but they don't have to do that. 

Bloggers do have copyright to the text that they create--when it's facts combined with analysis and discussion. Usually anything longer that a few sentences requires permission for someone else to use. Keep in mind that not everyone will ask permission and staying on top of other blogs for "stealing" of your information can almost become a full-time job.  IF it's going to send you into cardiac arrest if someone reposts your paragraph without quoting you then seriously consider whether you want to blog or not.

The same thing goes for pictures. One way to reduce some use of your scanned images of pictures is to post them at a lower DPI than is best for online viewing and not for printing. Also consider adding some "blank space" to the scan where the identity of the people and the source can be put so that it appears as part of the image. If you don't care if people "use" "your" picture, then post them at a high enough DPI that they can be printed nicely.

There's not a right and a wrong answer to these questions---it's what is your level of comfort that is the concern.

Online Publication is Not Permanent

Don't consider online publication or blogging as the permanent way to preserve your information. Web hosts will come and go. Archive.org's "Wayback" machine may catch and preserve your information--or it may not. Online publication, from this writer's perspective, is a good way to share information with others and let others know what families and individuals on which you are working.

You Don't Have to Blog Daily

It's not necessary to post something every day. Blogging is best done when you have actually discovered something or have something to say. Sometimes that's every day and sometimes it's not.

I'm not a Writer

You don't have to be. Look at other blogs...there are several bloggers out there who aren't writers. Your goal of a genealogy blog is to share something about your journey, your family's history, and the research process.

You're not Going to Get Rich

You will not support yourself with your genealogy blog. Accept this now.

If we have time going forward we'll discuss a few other details of the blogging process in future posts. 

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