Hooray/Dammit, I’ve Been Plagiarized: What to Do When You’ve Been Ripped Off

Kim looks very stressed out, after finding her work had been plagiarized

Yesterday, I discussed how to find out if you’ve been plagiarized, or at least had your stuff used without permission, but with your byline intact.

When that happens, it’s not uncommon to feel both flattered and angry at the same time. Jason Offutt called the feeling “flangry.” On the one hand, you’re pissed that your stuff was stolen. On the other, you’re flattered that it was good enough to steal.

Kim looks very stressed out, after finding her work had been plagiarized

Flangry: adj. The combination of being flattered and angry, after finding some jackwagon stole your work and passed it off as their own.

Regardless of how you feel, it was wrong of the other person to take it, and you have rights. Here are the steps to take if you’ve been stolen from, especially if they removed your byline, and tried to pass it off as their own.

(Remember, plagiarism is when someone passes your work off as their own; copyright violations are when they use your work without permission, but may leave your name intact.)

1) Immediately create a PDF or screenshot of the page.

On a Mac, select Print, and then set the output to be a PDF instead of a printed page. On Windows, if this option isn’t available, download CutePDF and output the page to a PDF. Next, save an html copy of the page. And if you have it, save it to Evernote. If you’re a designer or photographer, and one of your images is being used, take a screenshot. You need to do this, because as soon as the plagiarist gets a hint of what’s going on, all stolen content will disappear, and you’ll want proof of what happened.

If they have already removed the content, do a search for the original phrase that brought you there, and then hover over the Google results. A preview window should pop up in the side bar, as well as the word Cached. Click Cached, and you’ll see the older version of what Google has in their index. Print that to a PDF or take a screenshot.

2) Start researching their other content.

The only reason I heard about the two instances where I had been ripped off this month is because the person who first found he had been ripped off that that other stuff might be stolen too. In both cases, they researched all available columns they could find and discovered the original authors. They also saved copies of every stolen piece they found, as per #1.

3) Contact other victims.

If you find that other writers have been stolen from, contact them and let them know what’s going on. You can do it as a group email, or you can do it as a one-to-one email. Explain the situation clearly and without a lot of preamble, but recognize that some writers may ignore your email. One author in this most recent case of plagiarism thought the initial email was spam, so he ignored it. It wasn’t until he got a call from a reporter for a newspaper story that he realized it was real.

4) Present a unified plan of action, and adopt the role as leader.

This may seem a bit unusual, but it’s important if you discover that several people have been stolen from. If you’re the only victim, then you need to lay out a plan of action before you do anything. If there’s more than one of you, there should be one point of contact between the publisher and/or editor, and the group whose work was stolen. If the editor is being bombarded by 5 or 10 different people, then they may be less likely to be helpful. Be patient and cooperative, and the publisher is more likely to help you.

In the Jon Flatland situation, one of the writers went off-script and contacted the plagiarist directly. As a result, Flatland realized he’d been caught, and tendered his resignation via email admitting to a single act of theft, before his publisher ever got to the office. As a result, we (and the publisher) missed out on the chance to hear the plagiarist’s excuses, get an apology, and to royally ream the guy out.

This also means you need to hold off on putting the word out on social media and your own blogs until you’ve gotten some answers from the publisher. Trust me, this is so heinous a crime that a media publisher will drop everything to deal with it, because they know they’re facing some serious problems. You shouldn’t have to wait that long. Be patient, contact the publisher, and start writing your summary of the situation for your blog. Publish it when you get a final resolution from the publisher or editor.

5) Don’t start screaming about lawyers.

Chances are, if your stuff was stolen by someone in the traditional media, they have a boss and/or peers who all know it’s wrong. Journalists are trained not to steal. It’s the number one sin they could commit, so there are mechanisms in traditional media settings to bring them to justice. Instead, rat them out to their bosses, and they’ll take care of the rest. Ask to be updated on a regular basis, and pass that information on to your fellow victims. Chances are, the publisher will recognize the legal ramifications of someone on their staff stealing their stuff, and they will be eager to make everything right, just so you won’t sue them.

Instead, be patient, and wait for nature to take its course. If cooperation from the publisher is not forthcoming, or they refuse to cooperate, that’s when you pull out the big guns. Get a lawyer to write a nasty letter for you, and see what happens.

6) Use takedown notices and invoices for one-person operations.

Occasionally you’ll see your stuff used in someone else’s one-person operation. Whether they swiped your stuff without attribution, or your find it with your name and website included, there are times you need to defend your property and your copyright.

  • If they included your byline, ask them to take it down by including what it would cost to normally run your piece. Most people will comply if they think you’re going to charge them $150 just to run a single piece they copy-pasted; more if they took more than one piece.
  • On the other hand, there is some benefit to having a link out there that leads back to your website. If the site is not a spammy site, or it links to a lot of unrelated garbage, leave it up. You’re getting a little SEO (search engine optimization) juice out of it.
  • If they stole your stuff outright, let them know that you know. Give them 48 hours to remove it fully. If they don’t comply, get a lawyer to send a letter. Be sure to save a copy of that letter so you can use it later for future instances. (Get the lawyer’s permission to reuse it, of course!)
  • Also send a note to their ISP and/or web host. Let them know that one of their customers has posted unauthorized, copyrighted material on their site. Include the name, site name, and exact URL of the material, as well as URLs or copies of your original material. While SOPA may have died, most ISPs are still concerned about hosting stolen material, and will help the content owner. If they don’t, get the lawyer to write you another letter.

7) Suing for this stuff is hard

While you may think that a lawsuit for major theft is a good idea, keep in mind that it’s expensive and very difficult. And in most cases, it’s going after the wrong person. While the publisher is often responsible for the content of the newspaper, it’s the writer who did all the stealing, and tricked the publisher. You can sue the publisher, but they’re usually on your side (at least insofar as they don’t want to get sued and will cooperate with you to avoid it). So you’ll look like a real d-bag if you sue someone who tried to help you out.

Plus, there aren’t many lawyers who are willing to take these cases on contingency, so that means you have to come up with a few thousand dollar retainer to hire them. If you’ve only had a couple pieces stolen, it’s not worth it. If you didn’t actually lose anything monetarily or opportunity-wise, it’s not worth it. But if someone ripped off an entire book that went on to become a NY Times best seller and made the author fabulously wealthy — and you can prove your entire manuscript was stolen, because you registered it with the US Copyright Office (also read Wikihow’s “How to Copyright a Book“) — then, by all means, find an attorney and pursue it.

For the most part, people are honest. If they took something without permission, it’s because they don’t have a basic understanding of copyright laws (Tip: Just because you found it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free.) If you address it with someone — be polite, at least the first time — they’re probably going to be willing to do as you ask.

But occasionally you’ll find someone who knows it’s wrong, like a trained journalist, and they stole from you anyway. Follow these steps once you , and the action you think you should take. Hopefully you’ll never need it.

How to Find If You’ve Been Plagiarized

I’ve had my humor columns plagiarized three times in the last 10 years, the last two happening within 25 days of each other. The most recent one happened Monday, and ended with the plagiarist resigning his position as a newspaper publisher 24 hours later.

In the first case, I found out about it myself by doing some basic Google research. The last two, I was emailed because someone else did the same thing, and then did more diligent research, and identified a number of other humor writers who had been stolen from.

If you’re worried about your stuff getting stolen, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:Red-headed kid with a magnifying glass

1) Google unique phrases and sentences.

The way most people check for plagiarism is to do a Google search for a unique phrase. The lede sentence here, “I’ve had my humor columns plagiarized three times in the last 10 years” is unique — no one has ever used it, in fact — so I would pop something like that in the Google search box.

But, and this is important, you have to put quotes around the entire sentence. This tells Google, “I want to find only instances of these words in this order. If they’re not in this order, don’t serve me the results.” That means sentences that say cooking columns instead of humor columns won’t show up.

Check at least three sentences per piece, just in case one of them was edited. And don’t search for sentences that contain the following:

  • Specific locations: One of my plagiarists changed my city names to his city names so they would be more specific to him.
  • Specific names: Any semi-smart plagiarist is going to know enough to change your spouse’s name to their spouse’s name. Same with kids, pets, and friends.
  • Dates: Unless it’s something historic, don’t search for dates. If you talk about being in college 15 years ago, that will get changed to suit the writer’s personal timeline.

Pick unusual sentences that seem almost innocuous. A string of words that is both unique and unnoticed at the same time. “I snapped my computer lid shut and took a drink” is a safe bet, “”But I’ve never been to Tallahasee!” Gladys shrieked.”

2) Search with Copyscape.com.

I was playing around with Copyscape for a couple of days, and quickly hit my free searches per month limit. They only charge $.05 per search on the Pro plan, so it may be a good purchase if you’re especially worried about being ripped off. It searches all content on a whole web page, rather than unique phrases, and it looks for any matching or near-matching phrases, not just ones you specify.

You can also drop in blocks of text to search for, which is useful if you work with freelance writers or teach high school and college classes.

The same company also has CopySentry.com, which will do regular searches on pages you’ve already written. It does a regularly scheduled search for any possible matches, and emails you the results.

3) Put a copyright statement with your name on every piece

Admittedly, this is like putting a sign on your window that says “please do not steal my TV,” but this may have the desired effect on one or two people. It also gives you a leg to stand on if you ever have to defend it legally. After all, the thief had to remove the copyright statement in order to publish it, so they can’t argue “It was like that when I found it.”

Two caveats about plagiarism

1) It’s not plagiarism if your name is still on it. If you find someone has lifted your stuff and left your name intact, that may be a copyright violation, but it’s not plagiarism. You’re still getting credit for your work.
2) You can’t steal an idea. Someone else may have — and probably has had — an idea on whatever it is you wrote about. If you’re talking about “five ways to rock your next presentation,” it’s been done. If you’re writing about “paintings you must see before you die,” it’s been done. In fact, any idea you had has already been done. Unless you invented something that has never been done before, you’re going to have a tough time proving that you had your idea first. If this is the case, speak to an Intellectual Property attorney.

Once you’ve found out your stuff has been lifted, your first instinct may be to go on the warpath and hammer the thief like the fist of an angry god. Hold that thought. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what steps to take if you find you have had your stuff stolen. (Preview: It’s not to immediately confront the thief. There’s some work involved.)

Photo credit: jamesmorton (Flickr, Creative Commons)

5 Changes to Make to Your Blog After Google Panda 3.3

Google Panda 3.3 has caught some people off-guard and made a lot of SEO professionals freak out. After perusing SEOMoz’s discussions on the matter — these are the guys who do SEO for a living — it seems no one really knows what Panda 3.3 has done to their sites. I just know a lot of people aren’t happy about it.

There was one particular change, out of 40, that has everyone freaked out: “Link evaluation: We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years.

Now, no one knows for sure what it means, but chances are, if you have been relying on a backlinking strategy to increase your search engine ranking, or you’re painfully agonizing over your anchor text’s keywords, that may become a problem for you in a few days or weeks. We’ll have to see.

In Wednesday’s post, I discussed four changes Panda 3.3 is bringing to bloggers.

  • Improvements to freshness: Google can put fresh content in their results more quickly. Newer posts, articles, and pages are found more easily. This means the quicker you are in hopping on a trending topic, the more likely you are to win search.
  • Consolidation of signals for spiking topics: They can see when a new topic is spiking in popularity, and makes it easier to identify in realtime. If you search for breaking news, you’ll be able to find it sooner, and start writing about it.
  • Improved local results: They can more easily detect whether search queries and the results are local to you. If you search for “Topeka plumber,” and you’re sitting in Topeka, they’ll make sure you see those results first.
  • Link evaluation: This is the big one that’s freaking SEOs out.

Based on these four important changes, what kinds of changes can/should you make to your blog to take advantage of the Google Panda 3.3 update, as well as past updates over the last 12 months? These are five long-term changes you need to start making right now, and make as a part of your regular blogging habit.

1. Focus on local content whenever possible.

If you own a local business, or you’re a local businessperson, you need to write about your business in your city whenever possible. If you’re a real estate agent, write posts about real estate in your city. “How to Stage Your Minneapolis Home Before a Showing,” “Five Things To Fix Before Your Next Minneapolis Home Inspection.” Be sure to use the name of the city in the body copy too.

Learn the html schema code for your particular data types, and tag the appropriate content. (More on schemas in a minute).

2. Use the rel=author tag in your Author bio, point it at your Google+ profile.

First, make sure you have a Google+ profile. (There’s plenty of stuff out there about why you should be using it, so I won’t go into that here. Just know that it’s especially important to SEO now.)

Next, make sure that every blog post you write, whether it’s your own or a guest post, links back to the Google+ profile, and uses the “rel=author” tag. Here’s an example:

<a href=”http://bit.ly/xyLk6s” rel=”author”>Erik Deckers</a>

Hint: By shortening your Google+ profile link with Bitly, it gives you another analytics measurement point. If you really want to get creative, use campaign codes with each article you publish or guest publish, and you can see what kind of click-through traffic you’re getting from a post to your profile.

3. Use schemas whenever possible.

Schemas are a new web classification system created by Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Among other things, this is going to help with local search, as well as personal branding, because you can add your city and your name to your blog posts. This will help Google and the other search engines identify you and your town. You’re going to get a boost in local results and a boost on searches for your name.

There are a few hundred schema types, and you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to learn and use them all. In the meantime, there are plugins to use, and you can also identify a few useful schema tags for yourself to use on a regular basis.

For example, if you’re using the PostalAddress schema, to tell Google “this is my local address,” you would write:

<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>5348 Tacoma Ave.</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Indianapolis</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>IN</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>46220</span>

We’re starting to use schemas here at Pro Blog Service, but we’re still learning the best ways to use it, and are limiting ourselves mostly to the SchemaFeed plugin for WordPress. Suffice to say, schema is a giant, complex system, and by using it only for blog posts, it’s like using a race car to drive down the block. Still, we’re just bloggers, so what do you want?

We’ll have more about using schemas for blogs in a future post. For more information in the meantime, visit Schema.org.

4. Fix your grammar and punctuation errors

One of the changes that Panda has wrought, starting back when it was first introduced was, that it even started looking at grammar and punctuation errors. While Google has not said they are evaluating pages for grammar and punctuation quality, we have discussed in the past how they are looking at user-generated indicators — time on site, bounce rate, click-through rate — to determine the quality of a blog or website. If your page is filled with errors, and visitors don’t like reading what you wrote, they won’t stick around for very long, and Google will determine that your page must not be a good one.

The same is true for the quality of your writing. If you’re a good writer, or even a fairly passable writer, you have nothing to worry about. If your writing has all the quality of a 10,000 word conspiracy theory manifesto that was written at 3 am in someone’s parents’ basement, then you’re going to have problems.

5. Don’t worry so much about anchor text and backlinks

Like I’ve said, no one is sure exactly what Google meant by “we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years.” Some people think it means anchor text is no longer a factor, other people think it means they have devalued backlinks. Google already devalued backlinks when they first released Panda, but others have tested this and found that links still carry some weight.

We do know that Google has been seriously knocking many of these link farms and poor quality sites that did nothing but create thousands upon thousands of backlinks. Any SEO strategies that were built on this tactic are now (or soon will be) on the scrap heap, completely useless.

If you have been knocking yourself out trying to earn backlinks and you agonize over anchor text, you may want to pull back a little on it. Don’t give up on it yet, because until someone knows for sure which indicator has been shut off, it’s still a viable strategy. All we’re saying is don’t give yourself an aneurysm trying to figure out exactly the right keywords and placing all the right backlinks in all the right places.

While these five changes are rather involved, they’re going to be important in the coming months as Google continues to force us to focus more on the quality of our writing and content, and less on the automated SEO strategies that many people have been employing as a way to game the system.

If you’ve already been writing good stuff, and earning your links organically, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re good to go. Keep up the good work.

Four Important Changes Google Panda 3.3 is Bringing to Bloggers

Google Panda has been the bane or boon of every serious blogger and SEO professional, provided they can remember the difference between bane and boon (bane = bad; boon = good). While most regular bloggers and web people were unaffected, it was the power SEO users (and spammers) who were greatly affected by the changes. Many of the professionals saw their analytics and search engine rankings plummet after Panda was introduced.

Several days ago, Google’s newest algorithm update, 3.3 (codename: goddammit so much!), has given us 40 new changes for the month, ranging from improved local search results to improving SafeSearch results to tweaking the Turkish weather results.A panda bear

Some of the major developments that affect us as bloggers — Turkish weather results notwithstanding — are:

  • Improvements to freshness: We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.
  • Consolidation of signals for spiking topics: We use a number of signals to detect when a new topic is spiking in popularity. This change consolidates some of the signals so we can rely on signals we can compute in realtime, rather than signals that need to be processed offline. This eliminates redundancy in our systems and helps to ensure we can continue to detect spiking topics as quickly as possible.
  • Improved local results: We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
  • Link evaluation: We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.

(Note: these are just four of the 40. I borrowed their descriptions, and you will have to look through the entire list to find them. The one on Link Evaluation is near the bottom.)

Some basic implications I can see right off the bat:

  • Freshness = regular updates. Once a week is barely going to be enough to move the needle. You may need to publish 2 – 3 times a week.
  • Spiking topics means if you can stay on top of, and write about, trends the day they happen, that would help you be a big part of the conversation. Read David Meerman Scott’s ebook Newsjacking (affiliate link) for more information on how to that.
  • If you have any kind of local focus, start writing about your city and naming it when you can. Taht tells Google your content is locally specific.
  • Don’t knock yourself out on linking strategies. It’s important, but it’s a whooooole lot less important than it was two years ago.

This last improvement is what has a lot of people worried. We don’t know what exactly the link analysis was (Google never tells), whether it affects backlinks by shutting them down completely, turns of title tags within links, or whether they’re going to send a flaming bag of dog poo to your house if your anchor text and <H1> title tag don’t match. But you can be sure that a lot of SEO pros will be checking it out.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss five ways these four changes will (or should) affect your blog.

Photo credit: jlantzy (Flickr)

5 Ways to Deal With Jerky Comments on Your Blog

Sometimes you get jerky comments on your blog. Not just people disagreeing with you, but people who are being out and out A-holes. These are the people who leave snide, snarky, and mean-spirited comments on your blog, often cowering behind an anonymous handle.

How do you deal with those, especially if you’re a new blogger or have a corporate blog, and you’re just not used to seeing this kind of stuff?

1) Take it personally.

Yes, I know we’re not SUPPOSED to take it personally, and everyone who tells you this has either never had it happen to them, has grown immune to it, or is lying to you about sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom after someone pointed out a grammatical error in their post last week.

You will feel bad. You will get your feelings hurt. I completely understand it, so give yourself time to feel that. Afterward, remind yourself you’re better than they are, and the other person is just envious of your life, because hanging out in their mom’s basement in their Star Trek uniform doesn’t seem as glamorous as it did 10 years ago when they first started working at Burger King.

2) See if you can you learn anything from it.

Sometimes a mean or abrupt comment may have something to teach you. Maybe they said you can’t spell. Maybe they said you were being short-sighted about your ideas. Maybe they said your work was derivative and sounded an awful lot like someone else’s work. It may hurt, but it may also be a small hint that maybe you should work more on your spelling, think out your ideas better, or develop your own style or voice.

If you can learn something, great. Keep going through these steps. If there’s nothing useful in it whatsoever — and that includes printing it out and using it to soak up where your dog just puked on the rug — then, keep going through these steps.

3) Don’t respond.

There are trolls on the Internet. They get their jollies from saying mean and spiteful things to people because their lives are so pitiful and joyless that this is the only way they feel better about themselves. They’re still just bitter that they didn’t get that promotion to assistant night manager after 10 hard years, and they want to bring people down to their own level.

They figure if they can get you to respond, they’re somehow accomplishing something, and they feel better about themselves in a way that only trolls can. So don’t respond, don’t give them the satisfaction, and keep telling yourself you’re better than that.

4) Delete the comment.

There is no rule that says you have to leave a comment up on the blog, especially if the other person is being an A-hole. This is your blog to do with what you want. There are no blog comment rules other than your own, and no expectations that you leave up something you don’t want to. It’s not censorship to delete negative comments — it’s only censorship if the government deletes it — it’s you keeping your house looking the way you want to. You wouldn’t let an obnoxious jerk come to your house and sully up your living room. So you don’t need to let them come in and stink up your blog either.

If people want to be A-holes, let them continue to clog the comments section of their local newspaper. You only want people who can be supportive, or at least constructively critical. Delete away and don’t feel bad about it at all. If necessary, block the users from leaving comments.

5) Read all your good comments.

Sometimes, after you’ve been hammered, you need a pick me up. (Just please don’t go to Facebook or Twitter and ask for prayers and hugs.) Go look at your past comments where people have said some great stuff about you. You should be able to access your comments page from your blog’s admin dashboard. When you get slimed by an A-troll, after you delete their muck, go read all the awesome stuff people have said about you to cheer yourself up. Or go read your LinkedIn recommendations. Or, if you don’t have many of those yet, go to Facebook and Twitter and ask for prayers and hugs.

Yes, there are people who like being jerks and trolls. They do it on purpose, just so they can be hurtful to someone else. They want to be mean, and don’t have anything better to do, so they leave nasty comments on other people’s blogs. But occasionally, you’ll get a comment from someone with poor tact, but who actually means well. Learn to separate the people with communication issues from the actual trolls, and deal with them as you see fit.

It’s your blog, and you’re free to keep whatever content and comments on there you would like. Save yourself the headache and the heartache, and delete anything from anyone who pisses you off.

Ten Steps to Blogging Every Day

I’m always amazed — and irritated — at my colleagues who are blogging every day. I’ve tried that. I did it for a whole year once on my humor blog. By month four, I was regretting my choice. By month seven, I hated my blog. And by month 10, I longed for the sweet, sweet release of a sledgehammer to my monitor.

But I stuck it out. I made it the whole 12 months. And I saw a great increase in traffic. So much so that it is now about 80% less than what it once was, now that I’m publishing once a week. But I gained enough regular readers that publishing day (Friday) is the same level it was when I was doing the daily thing. That is, my regulars keep showing up and they keep reading. They just don’t keep coming back every day.

Tired marathon runner

Yeah, you'll feel like this around the 9th month

But if you want to blog on a daily basis, here are the 10 steps I took to make sure I made it all 365 days. (And remember, “daily” means “every day,” including Sundays. Be sure to take that into account.)

  1. Write certain evergreen posts that can be used anytime. Plug those in when you just can’t write that day from sickness, vacation, other plans.
  2. Write all posts the day before. That gives you an extra 24 hours cushion for that time you missed a post.
  3. Be prepared to use videos and photos. YouTube is a veritable cornucopia of blogging topics. Do a quick search, embed the video (when it’s permitted of course), write a few sentences of commentary, and voila!
    • Do the same thing with photos.
    • Depending on your blog platform, you may be able to email your posts in. Snap an interesting picture with your smartphone, attach it to an email, tap in a few sentences, and email it to your blog. You can always go back in later and expand it and clean it up, but at least you have the beginnings of the post.
    • (Note: Most blog platforms publish the emailed content as soon as you send it, so that won’t work to save ideas for later. Use Evernote for that.)
  4. Carry around a notebook and write down ideas as you get them. Nothing is worse than an escaped idea. And if you can start sketching out notes at the same time, do it. Even go so far as to make an outline. Think about the outline on your way to and from work. Then, when you sit down at your computer, the thing is already written. You just need to type it out.
  5. Go for brevity. Remember, a blog post is not a 750 word column. A post can be 400, 300, even 200 words. You don’t want to make a regular habit of writing short pithy 100 word posts, but you can slip them in once in a while.
  6. Break up longer posts. Got a top 10 list of something? Turn it into two top fives. A couple months later, take each item from that top 10 list and expand on it for an additional post.
  7. Set a regularly scheduled topic for certain days of the week. For example, on my humor blog Sundays were always videos, Wednesdays were always reprints of old humor columns.
  8. Find other outlets in your industry that are about your chosen topic. Pull from them for inspiration. Since I wrote about some of the stuff that stupid people did, I got a lot of inspiration and ideas from Fark.com. (And let me just say, the British Town Councils are ripe for the picking for a satirical humorist.)
  9. Schedule your blogging time. Make it the same time every day. If you don’t, you’ll have to…
  10. …get up earlier or stay up later. This is like pro athlete training. You have to do it every day and you have to make sacrifices. That means missing sleep on one end of the day or the other, especially if you were screwing around and didn’t get it done when you should have. A few days like this, and you’ll learn to stay on schedule.

Your daily blogging goal will not succeed unless and until you commit to doing it. I don’t mean, “yeah, it sounds like a good idea,” but then it’s broken like a New Year’s resolution, by late morning on the second day. I mean, you absolutely say you’re going to do it, come hell or high water. (And then the theme to Rocky starts playing, and you find yourself dancing around at the top of your courthouse steps with a bunch of computer nerds yelling and cheering around you.)

When I made that commitment, it meant a lot of bleary-eyed posts that were written at 1:30 am and had to be polished up the following morning. It meant a lot of scrambling around to find new post ideas, and rehashing a lot of old topics. And sometimes it meant putting up some less-than-worthy posts and ideas just so I could keep going.

All in all, I’m glad I did it. I had a sense of accomplishment when I was done. It got me noticed by a lot of people, and got my name out to some new people. And I find myself being drawn back to it. This blog post marks the third business day in a row that I’ve written something on this particular blog, after being sporadic from time to time.

Will I keep it up? I don’t know. Do I have enough to say that I can keep up the momentum? Definitely. Do I have the time? That’s a tough one. I have clients to take care of.

I do know that I’m skipping weekends.

Photo credit: Kit Oates (Flickr)

Using The Irony Mark or Sarcasm Mark

The reverse question mark, or irony mark, is used to denote irony and sarcasm.

The discussion and desire for an irony/sarcasm mark is one that has been making the Twitter rounds lately, and I may have accidentally stumbled upon the answer.

It seems the backward question mark, also called the rhetorical question mark or percontation point, has been the historic favorite, having been proposed by English printer Henry Denham back in 1580.

The reverse question mark, or irony mark, is used to denote irony and sarcasm.

The reverse question mark, or irony mark, is used to denote irony and sarcasm.

It’s an odd coincidence — but NOT ironic — that a 430-year-old mark may just find its usage in the 21st century, thanks to modern technology.

The problem is that twitterers and emailers have had a hard time denoting sarcasm, irony, and eye rollable statements. We’ve tried the :-| and the </sarcasm> marks, but every extra character takes up valuable space in a 140 character tweet.

So in our quest to show that we’re being snarky and sarcastic, social media people have been looking for a way to show their sarcasm in as few keystrokes as possible, which is why the irony mark can solve a lot of problems.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get to at the moment.

If you’re a Mac user, there’s no easy way to do it. The best way to get it is to open up the Characters box (usually command-option-T). Then search for character 061f. When it comes up, insert it or copy and paste it.

If you’re a Windows user, I believe you can type the mark this way:

  1. Press and hold down the Alt key.
  2. Press the + (plus) key on the numeric keypad.
  3. Type one of these:
    • 2E2E
    • 61F
    • 061F

(Windows users, if this doesn’t work, please let me know. I haven’t done Windows for about 4 years, and I don’t remember how to enter Unicode.)

If you’re a Linux user, I didn’t think you guys got humor, so I don’t know if it’s even available to you. (Kidding! Just kidding! Some of my best friends are Linux users.)

Or you can just copy it here and save it somewhere else, like an Evernote document.

؟

I understand that the SarcMark is making its way into use, but unfortunately, as a Mac user, I can’t use it. Right now, it’s a Windows-only app that lets you use the SarcMark with a few keystrokes. The SarcMark looks sort of like the @ symbol, but with a period instead of the letter ‘a’ inside.

I also prefer Denham’s backward question mark because it’s historic. It’s over 430 years old, even though it was never widely used. Because of its longevity, it’s the one that many “we need an irony mark” proponents are already suggesting.

This may help people understand what irony truly is. It’s not an “odd coincidence” or “misfortune.” And it’s certainly not rain on my f—ing wedding day! Irony is when a statement conveys the opposite meaning of what you said.

So — according to Dictionary.com — if I say “that’s nice” when you tell me you got a flat tire, that’s irony. It’s not irony when you got a flat tire going to lunch.

And now, thanks to the irony mark, when I tweet you and say “that’s nice؟” you’ll know what I really meant.