Sunday, December 03, 2006

Thoughts on Blogging

I have pulled back a bit here in talking about personal life and my kids, I don’t know if you have noticed. A couple of things have happened that make me feel less like sharing. For one thing, I am a computer teacher and when I teach my students about using the internet one of the cardinal rules is Don’t Give Out Identifying Personal Information. Don’t ever use your real name or say where you live. We had a victims’ assistance group come in the other week to talk with the 4th, and 5th graders about the Internet. They showed a little film about some kids meeting a guy through a chat room. He was supposed to be another kid wanting to sell them video games and he turned out to be a really evil child snatcher. It was so creepy watching that with them and hearing their innocent questions. Why is it bad for grown ups to pretend to want to play kids’ games? Why did he want them? What is he going to do to them? Questions it is so hard to answer without introducing them to evil. We tell them that most of the people in the world are good and kind but there are some bad guys out there. The bad guys are sometimes very clever and willing to work hard to seek out victims. One of the things our visitor said is that all it takes for a person to find you on the Internet is your zip code, your gender and your age.

I watch my site meter and every once in a while I see some really creepy person has been searching for something horrid and somehow found my blog. I try not to use any red flag terminology in my writing but it is impossible to completely avoid it. I read a lot of parent blogs where people talk about all sorts of body parts and functions and then post pictures of their cute kids. If you do that, do you watch the traffic to see who is looking at your kids? Do you just figure it is unavoidable and ignore it? I can’t stand the thought that icky people might be browsing and find a picture of my kids. I am horrified to think that predators might find my school through my blog and target the kids here.

For these reasons I have tried really hard to keep all identifying information out of this blog. I notice that most librarians, writers, editors and book people use their real names. A lot of parents reveal names and locations and post pictures of their kids. Most teachers don’t use real names. We just can’t take the chance of exposing the children to the underside of the Internet. If you know my name, location or the name of my school or have pictures of us please don’t ever use it or post it or refer to it anywhere online. Really. I’d appreciate it so much!

In the past couple of weeks I have found my name in a couple of places I didn’t plan to have it posted. I asked to have it removed, but I know it is still in the caches and search engines somewhere. Once something is up it is impossible to get it completely erased. I don’t ever mention my school by name but I have seen it linked to me in places where I was unaware that it would be revealed. Once you have registered for hundreds of different sites (yahoo, Amazon, bookcrossing, Flickr, to name a few) your real name is out there. If you Google yourself you might be surprised to see how many times you have been identified. I have also seen parts of my blog posts, reviews of different books, linked or reposted in a couple places. Not that I mind that. I like getting the exposure and referrals that that brings. I like getting more readers interested in book reviews. But it occurs to me that anything I write or post is open to copy and paste… including my Haiku, pictures, personal rambling…. I am not comfortable with those possibilities. Another book reviewer recently found that her reviews on Amazon were plagiarized by another librarian in her blog. I read about a woman whose pictures of her kids were taken and posted by another woman claiming to have adopted them. There are no limits to what people can and will do.

There is one other completely different reason I feel funny about posting pictures of my little boys. Since they are both adopted, they have biological families out there. Their first parents probably use the Internet. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be reading a mommy/adoption blog and see pictures of the child you gave birth to, gave up to adoption, and miss terribly – posted on someone else’s blog. I think it would be a stab to the heart. I don’t want to do that to my boys’ first families… letting them stumble across a picture of a child who looks the spitting image of his grandparents or uncle or something on a stranger’s blog. Can you imagine? I just feel like they should get to see the pictures first, before the whole world can browse them.

So anyway, I have been pondering what I really want/need this blog to be about. I really like writing about the books. I also love writing about my personal life and my kids and I love reading all your comments. (I always feel a little disappointed if I get on after a day away and there are no comments at all. I need to hear a response!) I am just not sure those two things (books/personal life) should be in the same blog. I am thinking about splitting into two blogs. One for the librarian/teacher and one for the mother/woman. The trouble is, I am not sure I have the time to keep up with posting in two places. I really don’t have time to read blogs much anymore, and I have fallen way behind in keeping up with your blog. I only read adoption/parenting blogs on the weekends and some evenings. I don’t have time to comment on a lot of what I do read. So what makes me think I can post to two blogs? I think of a lot of posts I never write just because there is no time. Also because I am trying to keep a line between my thoughts on my reading and the rest of my personal life. I would like to write more about adoption and single parenting but I don’t want to put that in with my more professional writing. I think I have two audiences (at least two, maybe more). I notice I get very few commenters on the book posts. Most of the commenting is on posts about my kids and adoption. I have a lot more I could say about adoption (and my kids) but I feel a little uncomfortable going on about it if most of my readers are coming for the books. Since my co-workers, family and school families read this blog, I am a more reserved than I would be if my readers were people I don’t know in real life or professionally; other parents interested in adoption and raising kids.

Well I would like your opinion. What do you like reading here the most? Do you come for the books or the adoption stuff? Would you like more Haiku and garden pictures or do you want to read about transracial adoption? Would you follow me to a new blog about my personal life? Or do you think it works just fine to have them all mixed up but a bit vague on the details? Also I would really like to see comments on how you feel about the wildness of the Internet. What do you think about posting pictures? Identifying information? If you post your real name and pictures of your kids, why? What do you know about security and the Internet? Can you share any tips? Please let me know what you think!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading about your personal life and transracial adoption.
As for security on the Internet.
*Nobody knows the town I live in.
*All names have been changed.
That's about all I can do. If some creepy guy went to my post because I had "penis" in my post. Oh well..he's creepy and after seeing it's just a non-interesting Mommy blog, he probably won't be back. I don't worry too much.

Liz B said...

What do you like reading here the most? I like all of it, honestly. I like the books; but I also appreciate the "adoption stuff" because you raise and address important questions.

Would you follow me to a new blog about my personal life? I follow all my blogs via bloglines so it would just be adding another feed; the answer is "yes."

What do you think about posting pictures? I'm a bit torn about pictures; I have a flickr account and do have some personal pictures up there. Am I putting too much info out there just via the photos themselves? Most of them are just at flickr, and I rarely have also posted them at my blog.

Identifying information? If you post your real name and pictures of your kids, why? My real name: because it's at one of the blogs I contribute to because it's the professional one; I want credit for it, both at work and in the professional world. I includ it on my resume, etc. In other words, I want people to know. As for photos, as I said, mostly they are on flickr; I have pics of my neice & nephew but I don't use their real names (I don't think I've ever used a real name for any family member.) My sister knows the pictures are on flickr and so far she is OK with it.

What do you know about security and the Internet? It is tricky; there is a belief that we bloggers are a small world and we "know" each other. Each time I've met someone in Real Life (always at a public place that is professional, like a conference) there's been the joke from people that will they be who they say they are? A joke but with shades of concern. How do we know? On the library end, it's easier because other librarians also see this as a professional voice. Yet every time I see someone getting to my site because of searching "sex chair" I get icked out. But, the stats also remind me that there are more people reading than the people I "know." I get a lot of books from publishers & authors, and sometimes I use my work address as a contact instead of my home.

Can you share any tips? Please let me know what you think! I like the balance that you have; you've never mentioned the names of your sons, or other overly identifiying info. The photo issue...I admire the people who just use photos of their kids where you cannot see the face. But I know I break that rule with flickr, believing that not many people see that account.

art-sweet said...

The people who find my blog via strange search terms generally don't linger. I agree - a minimum of location information and no real names and you should be okay.

I like both the adoption stuff and the book stuff together!

Susan said...

You raise some important issues here. I know someone who used to post a few flickr photos of her child. Until one got "favorited" by someone she didn't know and whose intentions appeared to be, well, bad. I don't post pictures of my child and never will. I'd recommend to everyone to get the kids' pictures off of the Internet.

I do post under my real name. I used to review theater for an online guide, have written for magazines, and my name has been out there for years. I've written and compiled a couple of gift books.

As for children's own stories and personal details, I think the stories belong to the children themselves. I try to keep a balance on my site; I'm not sure if I succeed or not. As a parent I love reading about other folks' experiences with their children, but I ask myself how will my child feel if, years later, he reads what I wrote and what I shared with the public.

I enjoy reading your book reviews--I have to add that! They're very thoughtful.

joy said...

I like your blog as it is. I mean, I come and read all parts of it. I enjoy reading about your family. I like your poems. I'll read your book reviews sometimes.

I know what you mean about comments. When I write something, I want to know somebody read it. LoL (duh) Or I wonder if others found (what I found funny) to be funny to them. I'm realizing I may not know though...that's okay too.

Go with your heart, what you feel you want. We readers will read. :)

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog today, so I can't comment on the best posts. But I know what you mean about privacy. I use my real name, but kind of wish I hadn't set it up that way in the beginning. I don't post my state or any identifying information. I know people can get that from Site Meter, but that's only if I visit their site.

I don't have a child (I'm adopting). But I hosted a child and I called him by a nickname. I never stated where he was from or what agency I was using. I think nicknames and only non-identifying things are best. Most of the photos I've posted of him are ones where you can't see his face.

Anyway, that was a long-winded comment to say I know where you're coming from.

Don Tate II said...

Well, I'm probably guilty of giving out too much information. I'm a very careful person, but I've decided that I'm not going to worry too much. There are simply too many things I shouldn't do, say, eat, drink, you name it. In that case, I'd live in a closet. I did decide to keep my Devas T. blog professional most times, personal sometimes, and I completely let my hair down at an anonymous blog.

MaeDay said...

""""Well I would like your opinion. What do you like reading here the most?""""

This is a hard question because I like the variety of your blog. I don't read all of the book reviews. Since they are though so much a part of you I would miss them.

Love your photos with or without a Haiku.

Am often touched by your thoughtful , from the heart, posts on spirituality, your personal life and of course the subject of adoption.

""" Would you follow me to a new blog about my personal life? Or do you think it works just fine to have them all mixed up but a bit vague on the details?"""""

Would follow you to a new site but would be delighted if you made a few alterations to this one instead.

Years ago I had a slime ball posting me. Since then I very rarely post even my real first name or reveal my home town name, etc. I don't have little ones but if I did I would be very nervous about posting much information about them..

"""""I can’t imagine how it would feel to be reading a mommy/adoption blog and see pictures of the child you gave birth to, gave up to adoption, and miss terribly – posted on someone else’s blog. I think it would be a stab to the heart.""""

I feel that way too about son's amom's feelings. I am guarded about how much personal info I share about his adoption, our relationship etc. I would not want to bring her grief via a public discussion/forum/blog.

Whatever format you choose to continue with, I'll be by to read.

MotherReader said...

I've enjoyed your combination approach, and I like hearing about your experiences and concerns with transracial adoption. However, I do think that you have a real thing going with reviewing book about children of color. I have not seen anything like that out there in the kidlitosphere and I think you would have more of a voice in that arena if your blogs were seperate. Book blogs are reluctant to link to you when there is a lot of personal stuff. I've debated myself whether to put a link to you under "books" or "parents." Either way, though, I will keep reading.

As for identifying info, I always use my webname out and about, though it isn't hard at all to find my real name. I never name my kids and I never post pictures of them. It just seems safer.

Amanda/MayhemMama said...

What do you like reading here the most?

I really like the book reviews, and have purchased probably 10 or 12 books based on your reviews. I don't comment on them often because otherwise I'd always be commenting, "Oh, that looks interesting" or "I'll have to get that one." But please keep the book reviews! I also really enjoy reading about your experience as an adoptive/single/transracial parent. Knowing more about that part of your life and thoughts contributes, I think, to your book reviews. I can read reviews on Amazon, but if I don't know the reviewer, there's no good reason to trust their review. Does that make sense?

Would you follow me to a new blog about my personal life?


What do you think about posting pictures?

I'm not sure about pictures... When I read blogs, pictures really help me feel more connected to the writer. It's hard to imagine blogging anything about my life, and not including pictures. But you're right-- once something is "out there" it's out there for good. For myself, I try to post non identifying pictures. If I do post a full face picture, I take it down after a few days. I don't have a flickr account.

Identifying information? Do you post your real name, etc?

Amanda is my real first name. I never use my last name or the real names of anyone else in any blog posts or comments. I live in Washington, but I try to be careful about not saying anything or showing any pictures that would identify my location more specifically. However, I realize that if I comment anywhere, the other blog author could see my location by my IP address, and he/she might not necessarily keep it private.

This is the longest comment I have ever posted anywhere! I hope you can find a level of openness and privacy that works for your family.

cloudscome said...

Thanks so much for all these great comments! You have given me a lot to think about. I have been wondering about the linking patterns, as MotherReader mentioned. I realize that more adoption blogs would link me if I were more about adoption and more book blogs would link me if I were just about books. If I want to get a larger audience I should have a clearer identity. That's what I have been contemplating. I do want to have a professional, librarian type presence and also a single transracial adoption mama voice.... I'm thinking things through. More opinions?

suz said...

I personally like your adoption stuff. You are a mom who gets it and we need more of them. I can understand the concern. If you have read me recently, you know I was vistied by someone who may be related to my daughter. I shared it with her. I always write with intent with the very real awarenss that what I share, say, etc. could fall into the hands of people (or eyes) that intend to do me harm.

Deb said...

I'm a transracial adoptive mom, and a major bibliophile both. So, naturally, those are the parts of your blog I enjoy most! I have found it immensely helpful to have your booklist, and a very large number of the books you review end up on my wishlist or in my cart at amazon! I appreciate your caution with the personal information on line; especially information that could put your sons at risk. It's a scary world we live in. I would follow two blogs, but I also think you can continue the way you have been. It is, after all, YOUR blog!

Anonymous said...

As someone who was able to meet you in person because you did say where you lived, I'm very happy you shared that information. I LOVE to read about your personal life, the boys, see photos of your gardens and I love children's books dearly even though I often don't have time to read all your book review posts. In short, I really like ALL aspects of your blog. If you were to have another personal blog, I'd want to read it, of course.

As for photos of our children, I go back and forth between being quite stressed that I'm posing them, to being nonchalant about it. I haven't been checking my stats as carefully as I should have been and that kind of scares me. I really don't have formed opinions on these issues... I sometimes think I shouldn't use my boys' real names, but as I use mine, I ended up doing it. Were I to change my mind, I would have a lot of work to change every single post, but I'd do it.

I wish I could do what Dawn does with photos -- password protect those entries, but I can't afford to have a paid server blog... and don't have the skill to work with it on wordpress.

I now I'd have more things to say, but I came to your blog looking for your post about Santa Claus (I finally checked Afridiemum's blog after q few weeks and saw your comment there), and I ended up here, commenting a lot as usual :)