Jun 282013
 

There are a lot of guides to using Twitter out there, but I really feel like sex bloggers are a smaller group. We talk to each other a LOT and we even talk to the manufacturers and companies that are germane to our needs (see? Texas taught me a new word). I don’t know of many other sectors of bloggers where the manufacturers and bloggers can be on a first-name basis so often.

With the Exodus of Eden, there are a lot of people coming over to Twitter who are new to Twitter and/or new to blogging as well. Here are some tips and tricks to help you use Twitter better for you and your blog without irritating your followers. Disclaimer: I’m crankier than most people. I’m one step away from being a full time Grumpy Old Man. What I find to be annoying, others don’t mind. YMMV.

Tricks:

1. When you’re trying to help promote other bloggers/companies in a tweet, don’t start the tweet with their username. Doing so will mean that the only people who will see that tweet are people who also follow who you’re mentioning. To see what I mean, go visit the Twitter full profile of just about anybody. You’ll see tweets in their timeline that didn’t show up in your stream, because they were directly talking to someone you don’t follow. Instead of typing “@Username is having a contest!”, try adding in another word or just a period. “.@username is having a contest!” will ensure that everybody sees that tweet in their stream.  Sometimes I’ll see people also do this if they’re in a conversation with someone and they want everyone in their timeline to see the response. Do so sparingly and in the right circumstances – if you do this consistently and I have to see every tweet, every conversation, even if it’s not important and doesn’t involve others I follow, I’ll mute you.

tricks1

2. RT = retweet. This shares someone’s tweet. Do this if it’s informative, funny, whatever but don’t do it excessively. If you’re using Twitter via Twitter.com, when you click on “retweet”, it doesn’t show up as RT @username: tweethere. This is useful if that person’s tweet is using the full 140 characters. Doing RT @username tweethere uses up characters. You can see the two differences below in how it’ll look on your stream and others:

RT1
RT2

If you like doing RT the old fashioned way (the way Twitter.com used to do it) but the whole thing won’t fit, you can do MT instead of RT. MT= Modified Tweet. I only learned that this week!

New in 2015 is quoting while RTing which looks like this, and is, IMO, the best way to do things if you want to say thanks, comment briefly, etc instead of doing a manual MT.

RTwQuote

3. Depending on which Twitter client you use, often when you reply to someone, if they have @’d someone else, that other person will automatically get included in the tweet unless you delete their name. This is great if you’re all having an ongoing conversation or you want everyone to see your response. However, take note. Have all parties actually gotten involved in the conversation? If not, at some point in the conversation stop using the name of the person who isn’t participating. Otherwise their Mentions will be bombarded.

4. When you do a sex toy review, tweet the link and call out the company by their Twitter name so that they’ll see the tweet and your review. This is one of many ways to engage with companies, which may end up benefiting you. But, again, don’t start the tweet with their name, unless you throw in a period before it.

5. If you follow someone who abuses the RT function or tends to RT stuff you don’t care about, you can turn off RTs via Twitter.com. Of course, this only works if they use the auto-RT feature (example 2 above).

6. If you’re using Twitter.com primarily, be sure to click on the “Notifications” tab often. Here you will be able to see which tweets got the most mileage and action, but you’ll also be able to better see every tweet directed at you. This is also the only place you’ll see a tweet to you that is from someone you don’t follow.

7. Use the “favorite” as a way to essentially let someone know you saw their tweet/response, liked it, heard it, whatever. When you favorite a person’s tweet, Twitter tells them. But maybe don’t favorite ALL the tweets.

8. Try to install a Sharing plugin on your blog. This makes it as easy as a few clicks for people to share your posts. Share-a-holic is a great plugin that brings all social media options to the party for you to customize. 

9. Curious as to who is following you? Click on the number of followers that shows up on the main Twitter.com page, right under your profile. Curious about who UNfollowed you? Sign up with Who Unfollowed Me and check back every few days or week.

10. To see how relevant your links are, sign up with Bitly and use it to shorten all of your links. It’ll track them and tell you how many people have clicked. You can also find this out using Twitter analytics, but you’ll have to do it through Twitter.com (click on the bar graph icon underneath your tweet). If you like to use a Twitter client like Hootsuite, you won’t be able to see that.

 

Tips:

1. #FF – Follow Friday. You don’t have to list out everybody that you follow. That kinda defeats the purpose. Have a topic, a group, a reason. Do a few groups. But don’t do more than 3 or 4 tweets like this. It gets annoying for those who do follow you. It IS a great tool to use for finding like-minded people to follow and it is a great tool to promote the people and companies you like, yes. Just don’t go overboard.

2. Speaking of #FF…..don’t retweet every #FF mention you get. If you want to thank the person who gave you a #FF, please do, but you don’t need to also tweet your thank you to everybody else included in that #FF group.  Doing this stuff makes you look a bit like a braggart. Doing it right:

tip3

3. And again, speaking of….you don’t need to RT every plug or compliment you receive. Sure it’s great and nice to toot your own horn sometimes. Absolutely. Just….easy on it, okay? We already follow you and like you. We already know you’re great!

4. Mix it up. Don’t do too much of just one thing on Twitter. Don’t feed Twitter every photo you reblog on Tumblr. If people want to follow your Tumblr, they will do so. Don’t fill your tweets with little other than links to your blog posts. Again, yawn. And for the love of pete space out those contest tweets. 75% of your followers don’t give a rats ass about them.

tip1
tips2

5. ENGAGE if you want people to follow you. Yes, say witty things. But also just talk to people – respond to their tweets, ask them a question. On the flip side though, if your tweet stream is filled with nothing other than replies to people that I don’t follow? I’m not going to follow you. You don’t say anything! Of course, you may not always get a response to your response, and that is the nature. It doesn’t mean you’re being ignored.

6. IF you have locked your Twitter account for more privacy, then ONLY the people who follow you can see your tweets. This means that if you tweet someone directly who does not follow you OR if you’re jumping in on a conversation and one of the people doesn’t follow you…..they will never see your tweets. @’ing someone directly doesn’t mean that they will see your tweet regardless of privacy. You’re locked. Period. This also means that you can’t enter a contest, unless the contest haver follows you back. They’ll never see your contest tweet….but also, neither will anyone other than your followers.

7. Don’t auto-DM people who follow you with a sales-pitchy impersonal thanks. It’s generally hated.

8. Make sure that the email address you used to register with Twitter is one you use frequently so that you don’t miss DM’s, but with the way Twitter.com has updated you will easily see a number next to the DM icon (an envelope) and most Twitter Clients are pretty obvious when you get a DM.

9. Try not to ever DM someone with something that would cause you or your reputation harm. If you want to snark about someone or give out your phone number, take it to email. Because the one time you don’t want that message to be public is the one time you’ll screw up. This happens more to mobile users than anything else, I’ve found. It’s harder now to do this with Twitter.com.

10. Finally…..watch what you say. It’ll be archived somewhere even if you go back and delete an old tweet. Rants and inappropriate comments have lost people a lot more than just a little respect. Also? When drama ensues, someone has screen-capped it. Blush Novelties didn’t realize this, nor did that awful glass company.

I forgot one. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I do use Who Unfollowed Me, and I get email notifications of new followers. But here’s the thing with Twitter….follow someone because you like them. You like their tweets and want to keep up with their goings-on. But don’t follow someone just to get them to follow you back. And especially do not follow and unfollow and follow again and unfollow again because you’re trying to get them to follow you. There will always be people you follow that will never follow you back and vice versa. It’s not always personal. So quit being twitter-passive-aggressive.

Nope I forgot two. Sometimes people are passive-aggressive and sometimes Twitter glitches. Sometimes Twitter will stop following accounts despite you not telling it to do so. You’ll think to yourself “I could have SWORN I was following her” only to find out that somehow, you’re not. Also consider this before you get offended that someone unfollowed you once (and if you do get offended, you’ll need to get a thicker skin).

 

Questions about Twitter?? Ask me! Have a tip of your own to share? TELL US!

 

 

 Posted by at 9:30 pm
Feb 102013
 

copyrightThis isn’t the first time I’ve written about scrapers, and I’m sure most of you have heard about this happening. I’m going to do my best to help you figure out what to do and how to fix it the next time you see your fellow bloggers tweeting about yet another site who has stolen blogger content.

Usually what happens is that an unscrupulous site will use a “scraper” program which copies the content of your RSS feed word for word, link for link, and automatically posts it on their site. Sometimes they will not do anything at all to your post; it goes up on their site, links photos and all. The (slight) upside to this is that if anybody is reading this site, they’ll click on the links and eventually get back to your site. But that’s really not enough of an upside. They are using your post as free content to pad their site for SEO purposes which will in turn net them more advertising.

Sometimes they will put your post up and the post title will link directly back to your page, not to the post on their site. These assholes believe that that is “attribution” and they’re in the clear. No. I recently had to deal with such a jackhole who is still following my blog. Despite my comments on his site to remove my copyrighted shit, and his eloquent email that I quoted on Twitter, and despite me reporting him to HostGator and his posts being removed, he still is trying to add me to places like GooglePlus. FYI: RSS feeds do not at all give someone like him permission to use your content. Their blog/site is not a feed reader; a feed reader is the only thing allowed to publish an RSS feed like he had done. They will also try to call this “re-blogging” and it is not. See: Ethical Blogging Practices

Sometimes they will remove your photos (or if there were none, add their own) and replace them with porn-y pics. Sometimes they’ll take it a step further and replace any links in your post to links that they choose, or they’ll add in extra links for keyword farming. This is what ScandalShack.com did to Mina and many other bloggers back in 2011.

ZOMG But It’s Duplicate Content and Google Will HATE Me!

When they talk about “duplicate content” they’re usually referring to it happening from within your own site. Like you search for a review on the Lelo Mona and it shows up on Google once due to it being a recent post and the title is in your sidebar, a second time under the category “Reviews”, a third time under the tag “vibrators”, a fourth time under the tag “Lelo” and so on. But when it comes to “duplicate content” due to being scraped, 9 times out of 10, Google knows that your post showed up first and is the real post. You won’t be penalized for it.

Says Google:
Before diving in, I’d like to briefly touch on a concern webmasters often voice: in most cases a webmaster has no influence on third parties that scrape and redistribute content without the webmaster’s consent. We realize that this is not the fault of the affected webmaster, which in turn means that identical content showing up on several sites in itself is not inherently regarded as a violation of our webmaster guidelines. This simply leads to further processes with the intent of determining the original source of the content—something Google is quite good at, as in most cases the original content can be correctly identified, resulting in no negative effects for the site that originated the content.

But that’s not why I care – I worked hard on my damn content and I don’t allow others to use it and indirectly profit from it or claim it as their own. I own the copyright. Even if I didn’t have copyright notices out the yingyang here, it’s an unspoken thing, this whole “blog” copyright business. I created the content, I own it. Just like anything on the internet. Creator Owns All.

The Hostess With the Mostest

The entity that will be following the laws of DMCA is the host of the site. Not the domain registrar. Sometimes, though, figuring out who is hosting it isn’t that easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. The tried-and-true method is to use a site called who.is. But what happens? I’m going to use the site who most recently scraped me and I stupidly tried to engage with the site owner (it never, ever works…trust me), the one I mentioned above.

What you'll see when you do a Who.is on a domain

So who.is talks about a lot of stuff there, and what do you see first? GoDaddy. Nope, that’s not the host. That’s the registrar – who they bought the domain from. Many places don’t use the same company for both hosting and domain registration. The word “host” is never used here, but it’s hiding down there in the “nameserver”. Hostgator. Ok, that’s easy, they’re a major hosting company.  Whatever it says in nameserver, basically, just type that in as a site and it usually will take you to a hosting company.

What you'll see when you use Whoishostingthis.comBut in searching for a better way to locate a host, I found another site: Whoishostingthis.com. Supposedly this site will tell you exactly who is hosting the site, in plain English. Except…maybe not. For the site above, it claims WebsiteWelcome is the host. Typing in that as a site comes up with a text-only page that tells you to email abuse@websitewelcome for any copyright complaints. Weird, right? So I did a little Google-fu and find that WebsiteWelcome is indeed related to Hostgator. They are a private reseller label or something. But I had already contacted HostGator and they responded appropriately, meaning they are the  host. If a company is not the host, they will respond and tell you that they’re not. Half the time they’ll tell you who IS.

Let’s try another. Don’t ask me why but as I sat there trying to think up a random, porn-y site address the first thing that popped into my head was midgetporn. So that’s what I went with. Who.is says that the nameserver is he.net. Typing that in takes me to a site that appears to maybe be a little out of date, Hurricane Electric hosting. They don’t have anything obvious up for copyright claims/DMCA takedowns; it takes a lot of digging. They don’t list a contact for that in their contacts list; I had to go locate their Terms of Service under the Legal page to locate their copyright claims email.

But what if I had gone to Whoishostingthis.com? Hmm. They tell me that the (likely a reseller) is “V Entertainment”. Just like above with the WebsiteWelcome company, typing in ventertainment.com gives me not much – but it does give a contact form for “issues with any of our member  sites”.

Hosting Reseller: The problem with using Whoishostingthis.com is that they’re listing the reseller. Many times the reseller IS the site owner, or is just as shady as the site owner. You need to go to the nameserver for maximum effect.

Private Nameservers: You might come across a private nameserver, which would look like ns1.midgetporn.com. A realistic case: I looked up another popular type of spammy site, the work from home arena. Literally, I who.is’d workfromhome.com. Bingo! Their nameserver? name-server.com. Go there and you’ll see a basic holding page which just contains more spammy advertising links to related things. So what about the who.is on name-server.com? It’s more of a circlejerk, but you’ll see the same registrar as the workfromhome – ENOM. Given all that, I would start with the registrar if workfromhome.com was scraping or stealing my content. I would hope that they could point me in the right direction.

I Have No Fucking Idea Nameservers: Twice I’ve dealt with sites where the nameserver wasn’t easy to pin to a host. Once it was Moniker Services for the registrar but monikerdns.net for the NS and I don’t even know how I found their host. I’m sorry. I’m hoping someone else will be able to shed light in comments.

NOW WHAT?

Ironically, you don’t want to push the host to take down their whole site. Why? As a rep from a hosting company once told me, if they take down the site, the site could potentially be back up online in as little as 10 minutes with the person going to an “unscrupulous” “Russian or Chinese” host. And then, apparently, you’re screwed? But if they just take down the page(s) in question, eventually the site owner will stop targeting you, usually fairly quickly.

Also, you can’t report content theft unless you are the owner of the content being stolen. So if you find something of Violet Blue’s, you can’t tell the host to remove it. You don’t own the original, she does. They only want to hear from you.

Many places will have a form online for you to fill out. Some have nothing but an email address. In that case, fill out a standard DMCA form letter and send it to them. With Hostgator, I had to fax them. Who faxes in this century?? Apparently HG does. I wasn’t about to trot off to Staples so I found one of those free, online fax services that will send it for free if you agree to embed advertising. You’re not the one receiving the fax so it doesn’t matter. Hostgator sent me a canned response within minutes of receiving the fax. When the requisite 48 hours for the site owner to Do The Right Thing has passed and they have not, in fact, done the right thing, HostGator emails you to tell you that they’ve forcibly removed the content and you’re done. If your content is on a blogspot blog, that’s the easiest DMCA you’ll ever do, since there is a link in the nav bar above all Blogspot blogs that allows you to report content theft/spam/etc.

Below is a list of some hosting companies and how to contact them, borrowed from PlagiarismToday.com. The post containing links to various sites and hosts is horribly outdated, written years ago, and is missing a few hosts (like HostGator) but there are so many hosting companies that they cannot all be listed. I’ll list whichever ones anybody comments with and update this part.

Blog Networks

Blogger/Blogspot = Google
DeadJournal (see last item) (email)
LiveJournal (email)
Typepad (email)
WordPress.com (email)
Yahoo! 360 (email)

Domain Hosts

BlueHost (See: Abuse department) (email)
DirectNIC (See: 20.s) (email)
Dreamhost (email)
Enom.com (email)
Godaddy
(email)
HostGator
iPowerWeb (email)
MediaTemple (email)
Midphase (email)
Network Solution (See: Copyright Complaints) (email)
Rackspace (See: Copyright Infringement Notice) (email)
Register.com (email)
Surpass Hosting (mail)
Westhost (email)
WildWestDomains
(email)
Verio (email)
XO (email)
Yahoo Web Hosting (email)
YellowFiber (email)

How To Stop a Predator

You can’t prevent RSS scraping. There used to be a WordPress plugin called nomoreframe, but it works no more. The bots found a different way. So basically you just need to add in things to your RSS that mention copyright, link back to your blog, etc. These things, though, will only help you out if they are scraping your RSS feed. If they are taking the long way around which involves copying your text content and replacing links with ads and adding in porn photos, then there likely isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent it. You can only hope that they leave in at least one link.

Why? If you have enabled ping/trackbacks on your posts then you will get notified by WordPress or Blogger when something links to you. For awhile there I was turning off pingbacks because of things like Pleasurists and e[lust], I don’t like to see those things clogging up the comments section. I suspect some people leave them as a way to show that their post was well-liked, a vanity thing, but as a reader and blog owner I find they just add visual clutter. So I have the trackbacks on again but I don’t ever publish them. If it weren’t for the trackback I wouldn’t have known that the illustrious B T Phillips was stealing my content.

©Feed: “Extends the feed! A report of copyright, a digital fingerprint and the IP of the feed reader can be added. In addition, some search engines are scanned for the digital fingerprint in order to find possible content theft. The feed can be also be supplemented with comments and topic-relevant contributions.” This is the primary plugin that I recommend. You can add links back to your page, a copyright notice, and the digital fingerprint will help you find sources of scraping (but it will also show allowed sources, like feed readers).

 

If you have dealt with a host that isn’t listed, please comment and let us know. I’ll add it in. If you use any other methods for prevention, control or hunting people down, tell us your best methods.

May 132012
 

The bane of a bloggers existence some days is the evolution of the Scraper. The Scraper is someone who has set up a website solely to garner advertisers. They have numerous sites like this and they obviously don’t have time to write their own content, so they “scrape” illegally from others. It’s only scraping, though, if they are stealing your entire post1. Many times these scrapers have automated the process and will scrape directly from your RSS feed. I’ve added on anti-scraping plugins to WordPress which put in things such as unique keys (so that I can search for that key and find who else is using it) and copyright / anti-scrap notices in the post – they alert the reader that if they’re reading the post anywhere other than Dangerouslilly.com, it has been illegally scraped and please contact me.

Even worse, however, is when a fellow community blogger or sex toy manufacturer/retailer uses your content in entirety without permission. Some are just completely uneducated as to the rights and wrongs of blogging, but really….we all started out in the same clueless space and most of us have gotten where we are just fine without violating copyright, stealing content or plagiarizing, ever.

What is Copyright?

According to Wikipedia, copyright ‘is “the right to copy”, but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.’

A few years ago when I was dealing with a site that took harassing me to a new level, which included posting my photos without my permission, claimed that all was well and fair in the copyright world simply because they had attributed the photos to me. Nope, sorry, that is not the only condition that must be met. Especially not since I have this copyright notice at the end of every post and at the bottom of my main page: “All text and images on this site require permission before they can be used anywhere. To obtain permission click here to contact me”. Notice how I’ve stated that all text and images on this site require permission before they can be used anywhere? Yeah. That’s kinda the whole key.

Permission.

Consent?

eh. fine line.

There’s an article on Sexis about bloggers and copyright – not necessarily our own copyright but talking about how we steal things. Namely, photos. Some are more guilty than others of course but the fact is, copyright violation in terms of using a photo in your post is pretty rampant. Not just sex bloggers, but any blogger. So while attribution doesn’t equal permission when you’re talking about using someone’s entire post, attribution can equal permission when you’re dealing with photos. It will simply depend on what the copyright holder allows. But if you found the image on Google because hundreds of others have used it without attribution, what can be done? The best we can do is protect ourselves with watermark copyrights on our own photos, and when we use a photo that we know actually belongs to a fellow blogger, retail store or manufacturer…..attribute it. Ask for permission if it is a blogger.

Microblogging vs Blogging

Now, here’s the rub: With the over-saturation of social media sites where you “share” stuff with your followers, you “reblog” on Tumblr, you “retweet” on Twitter…you have a blurry line of kosher sharing when it comes to blogging. When you reblog and retweet on Tumblr and Twitter respectively, you are copying what someone said and providing attribution. The line is blurred even further with Twitter, where “copyright” doesn’t really seem to exist. I mean, how can you possibly lay copyright to a Tweet? On Tumblr it’s a little different I suppose, but many people treat Tumblr as blogging. So if I posted a photo on Tumblr and nowhere else, I still retain my copyright. That photo is my intellectual property and if you post it on your own Tumblr without an attribution link, then you’ve effectively stolen content.

The fine line lays in the type of sharing. Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, even Facebook are all considered forms of “microblogging“; places where the “reblog” is common practice and accepted. Standard Blogging is vast and varied; we’re accustomed to WordPress-based sites, Blogger, LiveJournal, etc but there are many other places as well. Somehow, the concept of “reblogging” seems to have bled over (incorrectly) to regular blogging with the prevalence of microblogging.

Product Reviewing and Ethics

In the past I went toe-to-toe with Lelo when I noticed that suddenly they went from quoting excerpts of reviews to pilfering entire (but slightly modified to remove retailers links and in some cases, had no links to the review itself) review posts. They’d never told anyone reviewing products (given to the reviewer by Lelo) that this would be done; they never asked for permission; and in fact they did this on reviews where the product came from retailers! After raising a fuss like I am wont to do, they apologized and removed it all and now only have excerpts (with links).

I’ve noticed that niche sex toy maker Duncan Charles has been lifting entire reviews2, as well, and what’s worse is that they have ignored emails. Back when I posted about Lelo, Shanna Katz commented that it had happened to her a lot over the years as well.  I was offered the chance to do reviews for Nexus and at the time I viewed their site, I noticed that they had full text of reviews with no hyperlink. They had a text-only site address, though. But I wasn’t cool with having my entire review posted so I turned them down.

Ethical Blogging Practices

~Reblogging is NOT copying someone else’s entire blog post without their permission, throwing up an attribution link and calling it well and good. I see this as copyright violation and content theft. Also, just Bad Blogging Manners.  You can quote something from my post, with an attribution and link, and that is a horse of a different color. You can share a photo I’ve posted here via Tumblr, with an attribution and link, and that’s just fine.

~Posting someone’s photo without an attribution is content theft and copyright violation. I don’t care if the click-through link goes to their blog, the attribution line  (and link) is absolutely necessary.

~Creative Commons licenses on someone’s blog does not mean you get to skirt copyright basics or do away with attribution. Creative Commons exists to allow someone the flexibility of letting people know that sharing and even revamping is fine (with attribution) but it doesn’t dissolve copyright.

~And please…don’t EVER think you’re doing someone a favor by putting their content on your site. It’s insulting, it’s copyright violation, and it will earn you a very bad reputation.

 

 

  1. I’ve oddly run across scrapers who are more like news feed, where they take an excerpt – presumably for search engine content?- but not the whole post. This is usually done after they’ve been caught for full post content scraping.
  2. Of course since all the reviews lifted seem to obviously be reviews originally published on EdenFantasys, the only people that DC has to listen to is EF
May 052012
 

“Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message”
–Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lay, 1999. More Words of Wisdom

Journalists and book authors were once held to impeccably high standards in terms of grammar, spelling and content matter. Somehow our society has degraded on the whole to what feels like a 4th grade level. Sometimes it’s even worse thanks to the prevalence of “text speak” in situations where it is so very inappropriate. Hyperbole and a Half said it best (regarding coping mechanisms to avoid exploding in a ball of white hot fury): “When someone types out “u” instead of “you,” instead of getting mad, I imagine them having only one finger on each hand and then their actions seem reasonable.  If I only had one finger on each hand, I’d leave out unnecessary letters too!”

Scenario 1: I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey recently out of journalistic compulsion given all the drama and controversy surrounding it. While I can appreciate the overall sentiment to the book, the author’s absolutely horrid writing skill and dreadful lack of editing (and seeming inability to pick up a Thesaurus) ruined the promising plot and eclipsed even the awful and baffling fictional depiction of a BDSM relationship. Read the reviews on Amazon; some annoyed readers took to looking up the word count for certain things on their Kindle edition. I don’t care to do it for myself but someone else did! The repetition of words is distracting to the point of ruin. I’ve seen many media bits about this book/trilogy that laud it as “well written”. This is well written? Seriously? I have many more thoughts on this book but that is meant for another post. Jeez. Oh my…!

Scenario 2: I was reading the report on CNN about the Army nurse captain who died during a Skype call to his wife. The original story has now been fixed but when I read it it was:  “(CNN) — An Army captain’s wife witnessed her husband’s die while the couple was engaged in one of their regular video chats”” Oh CNN, why? Who should be blamed here? The writer or the editor or both?

Scenario 3: I like my erotica. Let me rephrase that: I like my well-written erotica. I do not expect something to be at the level of Anne Rice or whatnot but I do expect that you’ve read through it before hitting “publish” to pick out any spelling errors. When someone relies heavily on spell-check it is obvious! There is one erotica blogger/writer that I read despite the annoying spelling errors they refuse to care enough about. I notice the errors because of the tone of the prose; each error sticks out like a sore thumb. It causes me to halt in my reading like a needle being yanked off a record to figure out what word they meant to use. Oddly enough if it were a transposed letter, like writing “soemtimes”, then I would be more likely to not notice. But when one leaves off a letter (not/no, off/of, and/an, an/a, too/to) or screws up too/to/two or your/you’re or simply uses bizarre swaps like the/that it comes across as lazy writing. Unintelligent writing.

Scenario 4: Recently I’ve been editing on-site sex toy reviews before they go live. I fully understand that everyone has to start somewhere. Even I cringe at my early reviews for the tone and my childlike enthusiasm for some things. However….some people should not be writing reviews. Of any type, in any place. In fact they should please just stop writing altogether. Some of the reviews are so bad it’s difficult to edit them for better grammar without resorting to re-writing them entirely, which I’m not willing to do. I wish now that I’d copied the original bits from some of the particularly bad ones just to show as evidence.

 

I realize that most bloggers are not being paid for their words. But whether it’s a blog post or a sex toy review – don’t you care about how you look to others? A spelling error or two I can forgive. I’ve done it. But when it is consistently done then I stop respecting you. If it is done to the point of distraction then I’ll just stop reading your blog altogether. I also realize that many people are purposely writing to mimic the way they speak. This is fine to a point. And I’ll admit that comma placement still confuses me sometimes but when I see people obviously abusing it to the point where even I think it’s too much, I have to wonder about their intelligence. I’m not a “grammar Nazi” and I’m not a college English professor. I’m just a reader who wants to read words that make sense when thrown together in sentences and paragraphs. I don’t expect perfection; I just expect simple readability.

Read through your blog post or product review before you publish it! If you need to, read it out loud to aid in finding typing mistakes, run-on sentences or missing words. Polish up on comma placement (you don’t have to put a comma in a sentence for every time you would pause in speech); bookmark sites that have a list of commonly misspelled words such as lose vs loose or breath vs breathe (the latter is one I always screw up); stop using “alot“; learn possessive vs plural; and for the love of Pete if you’re writing about sex toys it is SILICONE not silicon. Another bizarre mistake I keep seeing is forgetting to use a question mark to cap a sentence that was obviously started in the tone of a question. Something I personally should learn to fix is something called “writing in the passive voice“. It’s how I speak and therefore how I write. Not enough importance is placed anymore on simple things such as apostrophes in contractions or capitalizing “I”. Another trick to figuring out if your personal speaking/writing voice comes off stilted/weird/wrong to others is to read through your writing and be sure to pronounce every word fully. Example: “…the reason for that is that Mary thinks…”1. Say it the way you speak naturally. Do you change the second “that” so it sounds more like “thet” or “thit” and it rolls off the tongue quicker? Now read it again where both “that”s are the same and rhyme with “hat”. It sounds weird, right? Redundancy!

Mark Twain: “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

When you write in the passive voice or have run-on sentences longer than the average paragraph….with lots of ellipses….with alot of redundant phrases ….. can tick of even the most forgiving reader2. There are a lot of helpful sites3 that can make you a better writer. Letting out this rant and researching the links for common mistakes has opened my eyes to things I do wrong, too, so I’m not proclaiming to be a perfect bastion of the English language here!

I also recognize that true blogging4 contains many moments when your text is your voice – or rather, your speaking voice replacement – and that writing in your speaking voice is more acceptable there (to a point). I’ve done it a lot and I’ve seen plenty of others do it in ways that personality, dialect and humor/emphasis shine through wonderfully. But when you write a post that you want others to take seriously, you should take a moment or three before publishing the post to the public. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to showcase a blog post as my Editor’s Pick on e[lust] because of the subject matter but bypassed it because the writing was just atrocious.

And finally, remember this: we are largely an online-only community. Your written words are your clothes, your power, your voice, your facial expressions and that by which we measure intelligence, personality and even attractiveness. Does your writing portray you in the best light? Please don’t underestimate the power and sexiness of intelligence.

  1. Changing that to “the reason is that Mary thinks..” says the same thing in fewer words, less awkwardly
  2. See what I did there? Ha! I kill me
  3. the one I’ve linked to in the paragraph has many very useful, quick and easy to understand posts about common mistakes
  4. As opposed to journalism style writing, professional writing, or sex toy / product reviews
Jan 242012
 

A good look around and you’ll notice that I hold nothing back when I dislike a sex toy. I’ve seen a few bloggers in my time who disagree with this; they try to find nice things to say OR simply won’t review at all if they hate it.  We all know certain companies get their knickers in a twist over negative reviews. But I have so many reasons why I think negative reviews are incredibly important.

When I first started buying sex toys I was buying them from a couple of sites who I don’t think let a negative customer review go live. It was nothing but moderate-to-glowing. And then when I’d buy the toy with high expectations, only to be grandly disappointed, I’d be pissed. I’ve come across this phenomenon more and more. When I had 3 really bad experiences in a row with Shari’s Berries I finally went to the site and wrote out long, informative (complete with photos) comments on the items. Those comments never got published. Instead, the only comments and ratings are all glowingly positive. Bullshit.

I’ve seen arguments for the anti-negative-review people along the lines of “just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it can’t work for someone else” and I will agree to that. But when you sugar coat things in a way that would make a cupcake jealous you’re only helping out the company. You are not helping the people for whom you presumably write the reviews: the clueless mobs who are absolutely overwhelmed with all the choices1. I was one of those people. Many of us were. So please, place yourself in the shoes of the old, sex-toy-noob you and think “How would I feel if I had spent $125 of my own money on this toy after reading this wishy washy review only to find that there are faults galore?” Your opinion is valid. Your opinion matters. I want to hear your opinion in all of its bluntly honest glory before I drop the money on, well, anything really. Your review that details out just the facts, because you couldn’t like it enough to praise it, isn’t telling me anything.

There are degrees of negativity in reviews of any kind. I’ve read them all myself, not just in sex toys but in computer parts and accessories, clothing, you name it. You can always tell when someone is just pissed off at a defective item (or they didn’t read before buying) vs it’s an actual problem that should concern you before you buy. My utterly scathing reviews of items such as the Lelo Tiani or the JimmyJane Form 3 are not scathing because they didn’t work with my body. They are scathing because I’m pissed. You want me to pay WHAT for a toy that doesn’t even do what you claim it will, or do it WELL? Just like I won’t let you buy a damn jelly toy, I won’t encourage you to spend the equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries on a sex toy that feels like another brick in the wall. The Lelo Isla – is it pretty? Sure. It’s pretty. Does my vagina care about pretty? Does pretty give me an orgasm? Nope. Nor should “pretty” also equal “to get the bitch clean you’ll need 20 minutes of your life, a toothbrush, and the edge of an old credit card”.  I think that I do a pretty good job of noting that my extreme dislike of the vibrations or the size or the design didn’t work for me personally and that they could work for someone else. And I feel that I can still note that and give a negative review. Because if I were the one looking at reviews to figure out what 1 sex toy out of 100 I should drop $100 on, I want the truth. Does your truth equal my truth? Not always. Not frequently, even. But if I can see that you as a reviewer have the full spectrum of reviews from “ZOMG LOVE” to “DIE IN A FIRE” with plenty in between then I trust you. And I’ll work my way through your writing and reviews to figure out if we like the same thing and whether or not I would agree with your assessment of “Wow, this baby is STRONG!”.

So let’s say that you are someone who doesn’t like to write really critical, negative reviews. Why? Who are you helping?

Are you afraid that the company you review for will get upset and not give you anything else to review? If so, fuck them. They’re unethical.

Are you not brave enough to be a dissenting voice? Stand up. Be heard.

Do you think that you won’t make any affiliate sales? Then you care more about the money than anything else and that’s sad. Here’s how to commission-perk a negative, shredding review: Suggest two or three other alternatives that you think are better.

The truth, even if it’s the awful truth, isn’t mean. Oh, sure, you can be. But for the love of orgasms, tell me the fuckin truth! Is it wimpy and mediocre and nothing special and not really worth $139? Tell me. I will have $139 worth of greater respect for you.When you hide your negative review from seeing the light of day you are doing yourself a disservice but mostly you are doing every other potential buyer a disservice. Shame on you. You KNEW it was a piece of shit and you didn’t tell me?? I’d like my money back, please, from your pocket. Yes, that’s how much it pisses me off.

Hi, I’m Lilly, and I write nothing but no-holds-barred honest sex toy reviews. I call a spade a spade, and name it out for being crap no matter if it’s $39 crap or $139 crap. Crap is crap and you shouldn’t have to buy it. You, the person who is searching Google for reviews and information on sex toys in general, on dildos for beginners, on Fleshlight vs Tenga, on the We Vibe 2 vs the We Vibe 3….. YOU ARE THE PERSON I REVIEW FOR. Nobody else.

okay maybe my clitoris a little bit.

 

  1. not at all dissimilar to the experience you get when you’re sick and you’re standing in the cold remedy aisle looking at 60 products that are all somehow nearly identical but totally different and you just want to sit down and cry. No? Just me?
Jul 082011
 

I write this post with full knowledge that I’m going to offend or at least bruise egos of many bloggers. Our blogs are our homes and how we decorate them says a lot about both us individually and the nature of our blog.

I get it. I DO. My first two blog themes were very dark and sexy and gothy and  I cringe, CRINGE, when I look back at screencaps from those days. Why? Well let’s ignore first that my original banner on my blogspot blog was fucking hideous, and admit that I did the whole all-dark-all-the-time and had white text on a dark background. With the blog design that came before this current, bright (in comparison) color scheme was yet another dark and gothic fantasy world – but I’m still proud of that design. I and CoyPink‘s hubby, Alec, worked quite hard at that and I’m still proud of that header with its clickable words. At least I’d wizened up though and made a compromise – dark on the side, white for the posts. Perhaps some things in my sidebar were still a little hard to read for some, but it was a big improvement over the first real design.

What I hate and why I hate it:

1. You can convey a sexy sex blog without all being in the black/gray/very dark jewel-tones color scheme all the time everywhere. A little goes a long way.

2. For the love of pete please realize that for many people white/light text on a black/dark background is VERY hard to read1. As is a very bright colored text on a very dark background (red and blue are the worst). I’ve actually had to stop reading a blog because the color choices hurt my eyes so much.

3. Fun fonts are fun. But fun fonts should be used sparingly because they can sometimes be hard to read. Especially when they’re white text on dark background. They should be limited to the blog name in the header and at most the blog post titles or sidebar heading titles. Something that is bigger than your standard 12pt font – a crazy font will be easier to read when it’s larger.

4. Not knowing and respecting the width of your theme’s sidebars and body sections. Learn how to trim down the size of YouTube embedded videos. Keep your photos in posts to half (3/4 at most) of the width of your post body section. And please pay attention to all that crap in your sidebar. You probably CAN change the size of the items, you just don’t know how or don’t think it’s a big deal. It is. At best it just looks like crap, at worst it covers up text in the post body section.

For some of you reading along I might have just inadvertently told you that your blog, your very own blog, hurts my eyes and makes me cringe. I’m not saying this to offend you personally but to offer the wisdom of someone who’s been around the blogging block a bit. Having a blog that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read visually will not only increase your readership but keep them on your blog to explore. I’ve seen some blogs recently that I’d truly like to explore more but I can’t – I absolutely can’t deal with the color and/or design. Don’t take just my word for it, I’ve not designed nearly as many websites as AAG has. I’ve added her comments in below.

My suggestions for making changes:

1. You don’t need to know much about code to make color changes in your existing theme (the only people who can’t do this are the free WordPress bloggers who aren’t able to get into the CSS stylesheet, I do believe that the newer Blogspot dashboard allows you access to the code, be it html or CSS). If you utilize the Firefox browser and then use this add-on called Firebug, you can bring up your blog, turn on Firebug and see the code. You can then go through it and start “turning off” lines of code to figure out what that line of code affects. This won’t actually change your code – just what you see. (I hear that the latest version of FireFox and FireBug make it so that if you’re self-hosted your changes in FireBug CAN be permanent but that’s not my point here). So scroll through it and try to find the sections that are usually labeled “post”. Using this helpful website, pick a new hexadecimal color and replace it (black is #000000 (zero’s, not O’s), white is #ffffff, occasionally coders will abbreviate those two to just #000 or #fff). This way you can change what the post portion of your blog looks like without having to ditch the theme that you like. You can keep the dark background on the sides and top and bottom just have the posts portion be readable.

2. Use your header and graphical design of the blog theme to express your individuality and sexuality, within reason. Also make that header clickable so that it can easily take a reader back to your home page.

AAG sez: a) Reign in the individuality just a wee bit – the header can be sexy but probably shouldn’t be, for example, a close-up lifesize image of your asshole. (yes, this was a true story)

3. Changing to a hand-writing or script-y font just to be different can lead to your blog being even harder to read visually. Sure, it’s different. It’s “you”, even. But it makes me run away very quickly.

AAG sez: a) bear in mind that not all operating systems will display various fonts (used in the body, not in images of course). Check them here.
b) keep in mind that a font that’s awesome today may be passe tomorrow. ask for feedback2
c) Pick a contrasting color for links that does something different yet recognizable upon hover. Check to make sure it doesn’t do something weird after the link is visited. Check this on various browsers as some display visited links differently.

3. Using a lot of banners & buttons and graphical wonders in your sidebar(s)? Consolidate, and change their size so that they’re all the same (or at least so that they fit into your sidebar’s size allotment and don’t spill out into posts or the outer edge). Easy size change tip: When you post the html code into the text box, erase the “height” marker and change the “width” number on them all3. Caution: only go down in numbers, never go up – it’ll look pixelated and cheap.

4. Don’t use lots of colors and/or font styles in one post. It looks high-school-ish (to me), is distracting, doesn’t flow, and doesn’t always translate very well into feeds (why not? see #5). I even run into the problem with my blog that a certain paragraph-styling looks one way on my blog but completely different in the feed.

5. If you insist on having a colored background for the posts section for all that is blog-holy please take caution in forcefully changing the font color of your writing. If the font color is hard-coded into the CSS stylesheet then it will still appear as black text on white background in your feed. However when you go and force the change in your post editor box it will show up in the feed as the color you changed it to – and guess what? Unless it’s a dark color, it’s going to be damn near impossible to read it for those who use feedreaders to keep up with your blog. You think I hate light text on dark background? Bright & light text on white background is even worse!

6. Don’t use a font that is too small. I’ve been to a couple of blogs where the font size is small even for my 21″ widescreen monitor – ok, it was also white on black, so that added to it. But find the Goldilocks Font4 for your theme – again this is a change that can be made utilizing Firebug and changing the CSS stylesheet – not too big, not too small, not too hot and not too cold.

I could have screencapped or linked to examples of some of the things I’ve mentioned above in a “don’t do this” sort of way but that’s not the angle I’m going after here – I’m not doing this to be mean or pick on a person. This is just about good intentions turned into bad designs. And just because you have violated my personal font/color mantra doesn’t necessarily mean that your blog design is terrible. It might be really awesome in every other way….just hard to read. If your answer to this is a shrug and “hey subscribe to the RSS feed, it’s plain black text on white background, just like you like it” then you’re missing the point. Don’t you want your readers to interact with you and each other? Don’t you want someone to pour through your archives and become a fan or friend? That won’t happen if they get to your site and their eyes bleed.

Comments are wide open. You can tell me to go to hell and why. You can tell me that you agree with me and give some other helpful suggestions or “Don’t”s. You can say “hey I think I might fit a bunch of these Do-not-do things, can you look at my site and give me your honest feedback?” and I will be happy to do so tactfully. I’d suggest a feedback site that at one point helped me really tweak this current layout and design thanks to honest & anonymous feedback on the design, but I got yanked for being “porn” as did another blogger; you can certainly try your hand and see how long it takes you to get flagged (given how easy they’ve made it to flag for adult content, don’t expect to last long): Feedback Roulette. You look at other people’s sites and tell them what you honestly think, good and bad, and then others do the same for you. Or….just ask me here.

 Go for it.

 Resources:

Color Scheme Designer – This tool allows you to input your primary preferred color and get many options. Various hues of the color, complimentary color, and a whole coordinating color scheme. For best use, enter in the Hex value of your primary color on your blog (next to the RGB work lower right of the wheel).

Colorzilla – An add-in to Firefox that allows you to find the Hex color (or RGB values) of any color on any web page.

Firebug – The most important add-on for Firefox to help you tweak your CSS stylesheet (if you need any help figuring out how to use it, please feel free to email me)

How to make your Header/banner clickable – This tutorial is geared towards WP users (self-hosted). For Blogger users I believe you can set that attribute in the Design Dashboard.

  1. Please note that I did not say everybody. And I’m sure someone will comment and say that one group of people or they personally prefer what I am saying is hard to read. That’s fine, go ahead. But when the majority of websites are primarily light-colored, that is when it becomes really hard on the eyes – switching from the contrast of the two.
  2. She’s on Twitter, if I were you I’d show it to her first. Just never Papyrus or Comic Sans.
  3. Why erase the height and only change the width? By doing it that way you are allowing the html to automatically proportionally re-size the height to match up to the new width. Otherwise you need to figure out on your own what is height-weight proportional and no I’m not talking about swinger club and adult dating site body requirements ;)
  4. And no I don’t mean the actual font named Goldilocks, sheesh!