Tag Archives: wordpress

Bloggers and Echo Chambers

A blog is not a democracy, by which I mean that the blog owner has a right to determine it’s content, including whether to approve comments or whether to allow comments at all. As with one’s home, bloggers have the right to decide what is and is not acceptable. The home owner can decide that a guest expressing racist views should leave immediately, as, indeed can the website owner.

As a blog owner I endorse the right of site owners to run their sites as they see fit. If you don’t like the views being expressed and/or the other content of a blog (and the blog owner refuses to publish your perspective) you are at liberty to start your own site on which you can express whatever opinions you like (providing that you do not break the law by so doing). Having said that, I have always operated on the basis that a comment will be approved on my blog irrespective of whether or not the person commenting agrees with me on a given matter, provided that such disagreement is expressed in polite and measured terms. I don’t want newauthoronline.com to become an echo chamber in which only voices which mirror my own are heard. Such a place would lack vibrancy and I would not be comfortable running my blog on this basis. We can all learn from others perspectives and not permitting differing views leads, very quickly to a sterile environment. I won’t allow comments of a hateful nature (for example anyone who wishes to justify the Third Reich will find himself in my spam folder). However, other than such extreme instances I will publish all comments unless they are spammy in nature.

Some six months or so ago I commented on a post. My comment was not approved and the matter slipped to the back of my mind. I was therefore surprised on opening WordPress earlier today to see a response to my comment (the response not appearing on the site but being sent direct to me), in which I was accused of being “ignorant” and my comment having the potential to “hurt” the site’s readership. My comment was measured and politely expressed and so far as I can see the site owner’s refusal to publish it flowed entirely from the fact that they disagreed with my perspective. I am confirmed in this view by the fact that while the post in question had many comments, all of these where in total agreement with the views of the blog owner, in other words an echo chamber. As I say above, bloggers have the right to determine content, including whether or not to approve comments. However by only allowing comments which slavishly agree with their perspectives the site owner risks creating a tedious echo chamber. This maybe good for their ego but it is not good for free and open debate.

Kevin

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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Authors

On 25 May, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. “What has this to do with authors?” I hear you ask.

In essence, the GDPR gives individuals much greater rights to have access to any information held on them and to have it provided (free of charge) on request. There is also a right to be forgotten/for data to be destroyed at the request of the person to whom the data relates.

My understanding is that anyone who has a blog to which people subscribe via WordPress (or similar platform) will not be affected as the responsibility for handling the data rests with the blogging platform (E.G. a person can hit the unsubscribe button at any time on WordPress and be unsubscribed without the blogg owner needing to take any action). If the platform hosting your blog is hacked (heaven forbid that this should happen) responsibility for any data loss rests with the blogging platform (not with the author).

However if you hold email addresses or other personal data on individuals on your own systems then you will, in all probability be affected. Basically anyone subscribing to an author newsletter needs to give their explicit consent (you can’t just subscribe them) and its important that there exists an easy way in which they can unsubscribe from your newsletter and request that their data be deleted. Many authors use Mail Chimp who are, I understand making strenuous efforts to ensure that anyone subscribing to your newsletter via their systems is protected/aware of their rights. However, its good practice to acquaint yourself with the coming changes as non compliance can result in a hefty financial penalty.

There is a good introductory article here, https://authorblberry.com/2018/03/12/what-gdpr-means-for-authors-and-bloggers/.

Not so glorious spam!

Before proceeding further, I would like to make it crystal clear that I value all my followers irrespective of how you follow this website. The majority of my followers choose to follow this blog using the WordPress Reader, while others subscribe via Twitter or Facebook. A small percentage receive posts via email. Its important to me that those who have neither a WordPress blog, a Gravatar, don’t use Twitter or Facebook have the opportunity to easily access my content, hence the presence of the button enabling people to subscribe using email. Indeed I subscribe to many sites using the email button and (as I’ve already said) value the ability to receive posts by email.

Turning to the matter in hand. Approximately 10 days ago I noticed a steady increase in email subscriptions, all of which emanated from the outlook.com domain. I was, of course delighted to have new followers (who wouldn’t be?). I did, however think it somewhat odd that all these new subscribers where subscribing to Newauthoronline using the same domain (outlook.com). Yesterday (Saturday 21 January) all became clear. I received an obviously spammy comment from a user at the outlook.com domain. I duly deleted said attempt to spam my site. As of now I have received 9 spam comments (all of which have been deleted). Every one of these attempts to spam came from entities using the outlook.com domain which does, I feel sure explain the unusual spike in email subscribers using Outlook.

I have no intention of removing the ability to subscribe to newauthoronline.com via email. There are many good reasons why a reader might choose this method of subscribing, including not wishing to utilise social media/not having a WordPress site and/or Gravatar. I will continue to treat each comment received on its merits irrespective of whether it comes via a Twitter, Facebook, WordPress or email follower and I’ve no intention of changing this practice. I will, however be keeping a sharp eye out for unusual activity such as a spike in subscribers from a particular domain whether that be Outlook or any other provider. Of course I have had spam comments from WordPress users. These are, however extremely rare but, again I shall be keeping a weather eye out for spammy comments irrespective of their source.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I welcome all subscribers irrespective of how they choose to subscribe. The vast majority of people who follow this (and other blogs) do so for genuine reasons. Likewise the overwhelming majority of comments are from those who truly wish to have their voice heard/make a contribution to a post. Finally, I don’t assume that anyone who uses the outlook.com domain to subscribe is upto no good. You are welcome to subscribe using that or any other method – but not to spam!

Kevin

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Blogging From The Perspective Of A Poet?

Licence to use image obtained – Copyright: 3dlabs2015 / 123RF Stock Photo

What are the pros and cons of blogging from the perspective of a poet? To answer this question one needs to consider matters which touch wholly on poetry, and issues pertaining to blogging more generally. The below should be read baring in mind the caveat that (to state the blatantly obvious) poets are individuals and what works for one will not (necessarily) work for another. With that caveat on the table, here are my pros and cons.

Pros

1. Publishing your poetry on a blog brings it to the attention of a wide audience. The poet gains followers who, in turn spread the word regarding the poet’s work, thereby increasing the blog’s following and enhancing the exposure of the poet’s writing.
2. Having a blog allows the poet to publicise upcoming poetry readings and, of course provide links to their published works (if such exist) on platforms such as Amazon.
3. One of the questions asked when I signed up for an Audio Book Creation Exchange (ACX) account was along the lines of “do you have a blog/website and, if so how many followers do you have?” From the perspective of ACX, they want to know that books published on their platform will sell and a person with an online following has an obvious advantage when it comes to selling books, as (to state the obvious) the more people who are aware of your writing (poetry or otherwise) the greater the number of titles you are (potentially at least) likely to sell.
4. Having a blog enables poets to connect with fellow poets thereby building up a community of like minded individuals.

Cons:

1. Responding to comments can be time consuming (time the poet could be spending writing). One can, of course disable comments on a WordPress blog (WordPress being my platform of choice). However (in my view) a blog without the ability to comment is a dead thing. Comments equal vibrancy and engagement which is why I positively welcome them.
2. Blog followers do not (necessarily) equate to book sales. People follow blogs for many and diverse reasons and some (having subscribed) will forget about your blog and never comment and/or like posts.
3. If all (or significant numbers of your poems) appear online, why should readers buy your books? (they have, after all already read your poems online).
4. Poems published online may (as with any other form of writing) be stolen. One can (and should) include a Copyright Notice on your site. This will, however not prevent the possibility of theft.

Conclusion

If I were not of the view that blogging is not of advantage to me as a poet, I would cease to blog. The fact that I continue to publish and engage online demonstrates that I believe the pros of blogging (from the poets perspective) outweigh the cons.

My Experience of Organising A Book Launch

As many of you will be aware, I held a book launch for my recently published collection of poetry, “My Old Clock I Wind” on the evening of 5 July.

I am pleased to report that the evening went well.

There were, however a number of “lessons learned”, which I have set-out below.

I hope this post proves helpful to others considering a physical (as opposed to a virtual) book launch.

Pros:

1. The venue (a pub called the Railway Bell) is within easy reach of Gipsy Hill station, making it simple for those attending the launch (and using public transport) to access it.

2. The venue being a pub, meant that it was easy to arrange for the provision of alcohol (and other drinks) to my guests. I provided wine and orange juice, while my guests had the option to purchase additional refreshments at the bar.

3. The management where extremely obliging and went that extra mile ensuring that things ran smoothly.

4. There was good audience interaction with a number of interesting questions being addressed to me.

5. I sold (and signed) a number of copies of “My Old Clock”.

6. People stayed on afterwards for a drink in the pub garden which was most convivial.

Cons:

1. I advertised the event on my blog and Facebook. In addition a number of bloggers, friends and acquaintences very kindly shared the launch on social media including Twitter, Facebook and reblogs on WordPress.

This was all very much appreciated and I would like to send a big thank you to everyone who took the time to share the event.

However, despite all the publicity (including the news releases sent out by the publisher to local poetry/literary groups), those attending where all known to me either as friends or acquaintences.

It was, of course wonderful to have the support of close friends, however having new faces at the event would have been the iceing on the cake.

WordPress provides an effective platform for building and cementing a following and I greatly appreciate every single person who takes the time to follow, like and comment on my poetry and other posts.

My blog has enabled me to reach out to people all over the world and form valued connections with those with whom I would never otherwise have become connected.

However the vast majority of my followers are not in the UK so (although many of them generously shared the event) they could not (for obvious reasons) attend.

Consequently while WordPress is a wonderful platform it possesses limitations as regards getting “bums on seats”.

Facebook didn’t yield any new faces at the event (despite it having been advertised on local Facebook groups), which appears to further underline the limits of social media as a means of drumming up support for events.

2. I scheduled the event at too early an hour (6:30).

Given the London rush hour and issues with transport, I decided to hold off until approximately 7:20, which meant that most people had then arrived.

In retrospect I should have specified a starting time of 7 pm (with the expectation that most people would arrive between 7 and 7:15) and I will certainly do so the next time I organise such an event.

3. While beer and books are a fantastic combination, beer on books is not!

On entering the pub I enjoyed a quick pint prior to the event starting.

I had hung my bag of books on a hook under the bar (they where in a padded envelope within a carrier bag).

I managed to spill some of my drink into the envelope but luckily (and much to my surprise) none of my Fosters got onto my books.

Next time I shall keep my books well away from alcohol or any other liquids!

4. Any profits made from the sale of books require to be balanced against money expended in the provision of refreshments.

However even where spending on refreshments comes close (or even eats into any profit made), one has to consider the benefits obtained from the publicity generated by the event.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the event was a success.

People enjoyed my reading, there ensued an interesting discussion following the reading and a number of books were signed and sold.

While it was wonderful to see so many old friends there, it would have further enhanced the event where new faces to have appeared alongside them.

As previously stated, I possess a loyal blog following and I’m grateful to all my followers for their ongoing support.

However given that most of my followers are located outside of the UK they can not (for obvious reasons) attend book launches and other similar events.

I will look into streaming events live the next time I launch a book enabling the event to be seen by as broad a range of people as possible.

(“My Old Clock I Wind” is published by Moyhill in paperback and ebook formats and can be found here, http://moyhill.com/clock/

A blog dedicated to rhyming poetry

I recently came across “Rhyme”, https://rhymepoetry.wordpress.com/about/. The blog aims to promote a love of rhyming poetry and it’s owner invites readers to recommend poems for possible inclusion on her site.
For anyone who enjoys rhyming poetry, I recommend checking out this blog.