Going Ad Free on WordPress?

When I first started my blog with WordPress, their policy was that they would try to be as ad-free as possible, but that to keep the site a free service for bloggers, they would occasionally and unobtrusively add ads. At the beginning, I never noticed the ads, but as the number of blogs and the cost of doing business has increased, so has the number of ads. (At least it seems that way.)

I can go ad-frimagesee for $30 a year, but I don’t know if this is a necessary expense. The ads, including videos, generally appear at the bottom of individual blog posts. Sometimes the ads seem disruptive and not at all in keeping with my posts, but I don’t know if this makes a difference to readers. Many readers are also WordPress users, so they understand about the ads, and I’m not sure it matters about people who stop by accidentally, hoping for . . . whatever it is they were hoping for.

So, is it important to go ad-free, or do people simply take the ads as a matter of course?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fair Use, Copyright, and Images

I have a friend who freely uses images she finds on the internet to pretty up her blog posts, and at the bottom of each post, she always adds the caveat, “No copyright infringement intended.” That cracks me up because of course she intended to infringe upon the copyright — she blatantly and purposely used the image without permission. That is an infringement. Saying that no infringement was intended does not negate the perhaps illegal use of the image. Even giving credit or providing a link to the original photo doesn’t make the infringement legal.

Yesterday I spoke of “Fair Use” and copyright as pertains to song lyrics and told you how many words of a song written after 1923 you can legally use in your work. (None. That’s right, none. You can use the title, paraphrase the words, write your own songs, or purchase the rights to use the lyrics. Those are your only options. You cannot use a single word of the lyrics without permission.)

Fair use also applies to images, not just written works. Fair use laws allow using bits of copyrighted materials without having to obtain permission, though what constitutes “fair use” is murky and subject to interpretation by the courts. (And oh, just so you know, all original works are protected from the moment of creation, so if the work was never filed with the copyright office, if the work lacks a copyright symbol, the work is still protected.)

According to the US Copyright Office, there are four factors to determine what is fair use:

copyright1       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2       The nature of the copyrighted work

3       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

You can use of some images, such as images public domain images created before 1923 (unless they have subsequently been copyrighted). And you can generally use images in product reviews. Using a product image, such as a book cover, an image of a vehicle, or cold cereal, is necessary for a helpful review. Since the image is not the product and the owner’s rights are only minimally infringed upon, your use of the image falls under fair use.

Some people who post images on the internet do allow you to use their images with only attribution as payment (and they will state as much on the site where the images are posted, generally under a Creative Commons License). Also, many royalty free photos are available from various sites, such as Free Stock Photos, but you need to read the small print carefully to find what each photo requires of you before you use it.

If you use an image of an original photograph or work of art, even if you attribute it to the author and even if you link back to the original, you are in violation of copyright laws unless you have the artist’s permission to use the image. If you don’t have permission, you can be sued. And yes, bloggers have been sued over the use of images. One blogger I know used a photo she found on the internet, thinking it was okay to do so because it is general practice among internet users to adorn one’s blog with such images. When the owner’s lawyer contacted her about the matter, she removed the photo and thought that would be the end of it. But she was wrong. They sued her — and won. She is still paying them off. (And she still owes hefty attorney’s fees.) She was lucky. Others have had their sites removed from the internet in addition to all the other legal hassles.

So, if you do not know for certain if you can legally use an image (and the only way to know for sure is if the image is posted with such information), then don’t. It’s not worth the risk.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What Is Your Subconscious Obsessed With?

So often when I am at a loss for a blog topic, Facebook comes to the rescue. Today, was such a day. A friend posted a link to a quiz, “What is your subconscious mind obsessed with?”, and I was bored enough to play along.

Like all such quizzes, there were several questions I found impossible to answer, such as what is my favorite cartoon. Considering I don’t ever watch cartoons and have no idea what any of the cartoons were, I just randomly picked one. Another question was food. I have no preference, really, so I again, I just randomly chose. Same with my favorite day of the week. Who has a favorite day of the week? I never even considered such a thing, so I chose Wednesday because today is Wednesday and I had dance classes. Some of the other questions offered options such as “other,” which made it easy not to choose any of the silly options. I did have a hard time with one question — choosing a quality — because I admire most of the qualities, but I chose loyalty as the best of the lot.

My results weren’t at all what I expected. Apparently, my subconscious is obsessed with the need to be loved. They results said, “You need to feel the warmth and appreciation from the people around you. Without a friendly reminder of how much you are loved or appreciated you start to feel as though things have gone awry with the people around you. There’s nothing wrong with this immense need for love. Be proud that you are so compassionate and caring that you respect and welcome these emotions. Not only do you need to be loved, but you enjoy the act of loving as well. You are kind and compassionate. Even simple interactions reveal your tender heart. We’re all humans and need to be loved; you however, have an extra special sense of gratitude when it comes to being loved.”

Seems sort of pathetic, really, being obsessed with the need to be loved, so I redid the quiz. Chose a different cartoon at random. Chose a different food. Chose Tuesday as my favorite day of the week, and perhaps it is my favorite day — that is when my week truly begins because Tuesday is when my dance classes begin for the week. I even chose a different quality — intelligence this time.

I waited eagerly for the results, hoping for something less pathetic than an obsession with needing to be loved. Happiness, maybe. (Most people seemed to get happiness.) Or knowledge. I’ve always been on a quest for the truth. Some people got sadness, which I wouldn’t have been surprised to get. Some got sex or food or responsibility. (Responsibility would also have been a good fit since I am responsible for my 97-year-old father and his house.

So what did I get after all the changed answers?

The same thing: the need to be loved. Sheesh.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Happy (Belated) Bloggiversary to Me

I seem to be losing track of dates lately. Not days of the week, of course — I am always aware of what day it is to make sure I don’t miss a dance class — but the days of the month seem to be escaping me.

I’d planned to do a grief update at four and a half years, and although yesterday’s post was coincidentally about grief, the fact that it was my four and a half year anniversary didn’t even register. Nor did it register that it was the 27th. The day that my life mate/soul mate died — the 27th of the month — has always brought with it a special awareness, and yesterday that awareness went missing. It’s possible, of course, that subliminally I did remember, hence the mention of grief, but it could also be that I was simply reaching for a blog topic and seeing a friend reading Grief: The Great Yearning spurred me to write what I did.

Another blog post I’d planned to do was my blog anniversary post. On September 24, 2007, I posted my very first bloggerie, and September 24, 2014 came and went without any sort of awareness of the 7th anniversary of this blog.

Still aballoonsnother post I’d planned to do was a concurrent celebration — the anniversary of three years of daily blogging. During the first four years of blogging, I posted only three or four times a week, but on September 24, 2011, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and I continued to post every day once that initial commitment was fulfilled. I was particularly interested in this anniversary because I’d planned to rethink the daily blogging — it’s not always easy to post every day, especially now that the traumas of my life are settling down a bit so that I have less to write about. (And, of course, I’m dancing more, so I have less time to write.) Yet, subliminally, I must have made the decision to continue, because here I am, still blogging each day.

When I started this blog, it was a way of getting a head start on promotion for when/if I got published. After I got published, it was supposed to be a way of promoting my books. But, as I’ve learned, blogging, like all social networking efforts, has minimal effect on book sales.

[Social networking only helps create a web presence. What makes a huge difference in sales is playing Amazon’s algorithmic games, trying to get on one of their seemingly endless bestseller lists and letting the algorithms catapult you to stardom. But, silly me, I am carrying on my own private war with Amazon (I think they exert too much control over the book business) and so, to use a very trite and quite disgusting metaphor, I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face. Facebook works to a certain extent if you join a zillion groups and frequently post links to your books in those groups, but that isn’t networking --- it’s spamming.]

Although promotion is no longer a factor (well, not much) in keeping up with this blog I do like writing and publishing my articles. I feel safe here, and that feeling of safety gives me the freedom to say what I want, no matter how personal. Four and a half years ago when my life mate/soul mate died, his death catapulted me into such a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. And even though grief is mostly leaving me alone now, I’ve continued the policy of writing about the various traumas and conflicts of my life.

It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges come my way, this blog will be here for me, even if I do forget my bloggiversary.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I Am Darkness!

A friend did one of those ubiquitous quizzes that show up on Facebook on an almost daily basis, and not having anything better to do (except find a topic for today’s blog post since I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about my possible epic walk), I did the quiz to find out what element I am. Most of the questions had no meaning for me, so I did the best I could. For example, one question was about colors that speak to me, and I don’t have any favorite color — what fascinate me are the way colors complement and contrast with one another. And even if I did have a tendency toward a particular color right now, such as purple, it wasn’t listed. So I just went with the best answer for the moment. And of course, none of the deadly sins pertain, while all of the virtues do. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.)

So what is my element? Darkness! I wasn’t aware that darkness was an element, but what do I know. According to the quiz maker, I’m not reflective enough. (I guess that makes sense in a “pun” sort of way since black absorbs everything and reflects nothing, though I thought I had a tendency to think too much.) They said:

Your element is DARKNESS. You are often misunderstood and judged quickly. Yet if people only took just a bit of extra kind effort to you they would see something wonderful. Mysterious yet much more simple then others misperceive. You get many things that just don’t click for others. You see the truth for what it is and you embrace it while others sugar coat it. You have low tolerance for ignorance, though you may come off a bit arrogant yourself. You could stand to reflect a bit more and you will find a lot of your isolation issues are due to self-sabotage. Though you may enjoy your alone time, no one truly enjoys being alone. Don’t fool yourself. That aside you are a rare beautiful truth in this world of fake.

I’m making fun of the quiz and of myself for taking it, but there is much truth in their analysis. Or at least I hope there is. I like the idea of being mysterious. And I like the idea of being a truth. I guess that’s my arrogance coming out.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Why We Read Blogs

At lunch with friends today, one woman said she was computer literate, but admitted she didn’t understand why anyone would read my blog, or any blog, actually. Another friend said she read my blog because it was interesting. I was glad she supplied a response because my mind had gone blank — why would anyone read my blog?

People unfamiliar with blogging often equate these web logs — these online journals — with the diaries many of us kept as children. “I had oatmeal for breakfast. I went to school. Bobby pulled my hair. I did my homework then Mom let me watch television.” Deadly dull lists of activities no one, including us, ever cared about. Admittedly, many bloggers do relate the minutiae of their day, but mostly people talk about what is important to them.

One online friend, a woman who lost her soul mate a month before I lost mine, started a blog to chronicle her new life. She’s about to become a nomad, living and traveling in a small motor home. Among other things, she will be searching for a new life, a new place, maybe even happiness. Her blog tells of her preparations, and once she’s on the road, that blog will tell of her adventures.

Many online author friends blog about their available books, their publishing experiences, the books they read and review, the stories they are writing.

People with expertise in various fields give advice. Literary agents tell authors how to get published, hikers tell about their experiences in the wilderness, mothers give advice or seek support with raising children, businesses blog about their products, crafty folk share patterns and photos of finished projects, techno-types discuss the newest technology.

And me . . . I write about myself — my ideas, my hopes, my experiences, what I’ve learned from those experiences — and anything that captures the attention of my magpie mind. I write this blog because . . . well, because I am a writer. Nothing seems real to me until I’ve put it into words, though I am learning to be in the moment, to be alive without needing to explain to myself what I am feeling.

Until the past few months, most people who read this blog have been online friends or strangers, which was — is — wonderful, but now people I know in real life are also reading this blog. There is a quiet joy in being told, “I read your blog last night.”

Of course, that’s more about why I write this blog than why people read it. I’d planned to talk about how important stories are, how stories connect us, how the life stories people choose to share with us show us our similarities. I’d planned to say we read blogs for the same reason we read fiction — to live and learn and grow vicariously. Not all of us might be able to live on the road, for example, yet we can all share in the struggles and triumphs of those who do. In the end, I decided not to focus on the storytelling aspect of blogging. The truth is much simpler than that. As my friend said, we read a particular blog because it’s interesting.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Wow! I’m Rich

I just received the following email:

Dear Sir/Madam,
As part of our contribution to poverty alleviation and encourage self reliance in our immediate communities
and the world at large, we at Bankgiro Loterij are very pleased to inform you that your email address attached
to E-Ticket No. 011-9085555(*3-**) has won you the sum EUR 2,725, 000 (Two Million Seven Hundred and
Twenty Five Thousand Euro) in our first ever promotional Sweepstakes conducted on Saturday 24th April, 2014.
This program is sponsored by consortium of software Firms here in the Netherlands.

For more information and remittance procedures, please contact BankGiro Promo Unit with your above
E-Ticket Number, Your full names and your telephone number on the contact details below;

Cas van den Ende (Mr)
Directorate for claims,

NOTE: Your full winning details will be provided to you upon your response to this notification email. This is
for security reasons and to avoid the abuse of this program by unscrupulous internet users. We strongly advised
all beneficiaries to please call us or visit our office/website for further information. Lottery tickets are still on
sale for our EUR 12.5M lottery draw coming up soon.

What really cracked me up was the phrase: “for security reasons and to avoid the abuse of this program by unscrupulous internet users.” Aren’t we lucky to have such thoughtful scammers?

Promotional Absurdities

Promotion gets absurd at times. Every day, almost, I get an email from Twitter telling me I can promote my books on Twitter. All I have to do to optimize my presence on Twitter is to buy Twitter ads. Yep. That’s what they say. But here’s my question. If those ads are so effective, why isn’t Twitter using Twitter ads to promote their promotional services instead of spamming me? Apparently, as annoying as spam is, it works better than anything else. At least for Twitter. Me? I unsubscribed from their emails.

A couple of years ago I got an external drive for my computer. It’s a great way to back up files. The program automatically updates the drive, so I never have to think about it. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. In reality, it uses so much memory and CPUs that my computer runs slower than . . . me. (I sat here for a moment trying to think of a clever simile, and that’s the best I could come up with. Sheesh. At least the simile has the merit of being true. I do run slowly when I run, which is as seldom as possible.) Still, I’ve managed to make the drive work for my needs. The strange thing is, every few days I get an email from the company trying to get me to buy another external drive. If the drive worked thsmileye way it’s supposed to, I’d never need another drive since files are simply updated, not rewritten. So why the constant barrage of promotion? Perhaps they know they sold me a crappy drive?

Today someone posted a link on one of my Facebook groups promoting their promotional services. The promotional article began with things you should not do to promote. All of my FB groups are promotion-free zones, so here’s a tip — before you promote in certain groups, be sure to check that such promotions are acceptable. And if promotion is not allowed, do not promote. I deleted not only the link but the person who posted the link. Problem solved . . . for me, anyway.

Every day I get dozens of requests to download someone’s ebook for free. These authors seem to think that because the book is free that their telling me about it isn’t promotion, that they are doing me a favor by allowing me the opportunity to read their less than immortal prose. To me, such promotion is every bit as bad as the authors who scream at every opportunity, “Buy my book.” I suppose commando tactics work, but not for me. A lot of these authors are on Facebook, and I have no qualms about unfriending such unfriendly folk. Who needs the aggravation?

Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe these are all reasonable ways of doing business. But I would never resort to such tactics.

Well, almost never.

Buy my books. Please.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Resume Worth Writing

For years, I’ve been doing social networking for a company on a largely volunteer basis. Recently they asked for my resume and were quite miffed when I didn’t send it. The truth is, there is nothing in that potential resume that would help them in any way — it would not affect the work I do, would not change my results, would not even give them any bragging rights if they were trying to get funding since I’m basically self-educated and self-employed.

I’m not sure what they expected to find on that resume. I’ve never set myself up as an expert in online work and promotion. Although I know how to navigate the internet, how to create blogs and profiles on networking ripplessites, even how to develop an online presence, I’m self-taught in this as with everything else in my life, and none of these skills show up anywhere in my work history.

Actually, I’ve never set myself up as an expert in anything. I am what you see. This, to me, is the beauty of the internet, especially blogging. If you are an expert in some facet of life or business, then it makes sense to splash your credentials across cyberspace, but if all you are trying to do — as I am — is to make sense of life, love, relationships, death, purpose, aging, then the only credentials you need are to live, think, write. Online, you are what you do. Your words are who you are. Whatever you are in offline life is immaterial. Failures don’t count. Clothes don’t make the man or woman. Possessions have no substance. Physical limitations disappear. A wall full of degrees doesn’t automatically make you better than the person with a high school education. If you act like an illiterate slob, then that’s who you are. If you act like a grande dame, then that, too, is who you are.

Nowhere else in the world does this sort of egalitarianism exist. I do understand that offline we need those various ways of categorizing people, though now that I think about it, they are just as unimportant offline as online. If you have a car that gets you where you need to go, does it matter what the car is or how much it costs? Outside of your job, does it matter to anyone but you what degrees you have? If your clothes keep you warm, if you enjoy wearing them, does it matter if they are brand names, off-rack, handmade, or thrift store castoffs? If other things in life are more important to you than your bank account, does it matter if you have much money or none at all?

I suppose the problem with the request for my resume is it reminded me that on paper I seem like a failure since so many of my business ventures didn’t work out, but I don’t believe in failure as something separate. It’s all part of life — the good and the bad, the financial successes and fiascos. And more to the point, where on a resume is there a place for life? I loved totally, grieved profoundly, affected many lives, laughed and cried, learned, and even in my deepest sorrow found that life was worth living. Now that’s a resume worth writing!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Scheduled Obsolescence

I’ve grown up with planned obsolescence, so that idea is nothing new to me, but scheduled obsolescence took me by surprise.

There are various types of planned obsolescence. Psychological obsolescence is common in the fashion and automotive industries. Each year, the companies create new designs to make last year’s designs psychologically less appealing, though the product itself is still usable. Physical obsolescence is prevalent in other manufacturing fields, where the designers decide how long a product should last and then only use materials geared to last that long. (In a way this makes sense — if a vegetable grater, for example, goes dull after a year or two, there’s no real reason to make the thing out of expensive materials that will last long after the product has outlived any usefulness.) Often, manufacturers even go so far as to use inferior materials that will make the product wear out faster and speed up replacement time.

Some people argue that planned obsolescence encourages competition and improvement while others claim it increases waste. I don’t believe in waste, though I do understand the need to keep the economy going — if everyone was like me, the economy would have ground to a halt years ago. I mean, how many people out there bought a car forty-two years ago and are still driving it as their one and only source of vehicular transportation? (If you guessed the car is a Volkswagen you’re correct. Back then, Volkswagen bragged about not believing in planned obsolescence, which has worked in my favor.) And then there’s my poor hair dryer that died just this morning — it was only twenty-five years old! If you’re smart (or thrifty) you can often bypass planned obsolescence by doing such things as unplugging lamps and other electrical equipment rather than using the cheaply-made and soon-to-break on/off switches. As for fashion — well, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what was in fashion, either today or twenty years ago.

In some cases, planned obsolescence worked in my favor. Planned obsolescence (thank heavens for spell check! I have mistyped the word obsolescence every single time I’ve used it!) helps keep products cheap. When my camera died after only a couple of years (oddly, the screen burned out right after I took what turned out to be the last photo of my now deceased life mate/soul mate), it would have cost more to repair the camera than to replace it. And when that second camera died in a tragic fall shortly after purchase, I was able to get a replacement that works better than either of the others.

But I’m getting off track. As I said, I’m used to planned obsolescence, but last night I came up against scheduled obsolescence. The end of support for Windows XP made me interested in when support for Vista, my current operating system, will end. I discovered that the end had been scheduled for April 10, 2012, but that they extended it to April 10, 2017. Whew! I still have three years! By then, of course, my computer will be so outdated and so slow I will probably be glad to update my whole system. Or maybe technology will have changed out of all recognition making me want to hang on to this poor machine until its last byte. If nothing else, I could use it as a word processor, unconnected to the internet. That way any vulnerabilities won’t be a problem.

Still, it does seem strange to have the exact date when my operating system is scheduled to become obsolete.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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