Is All Content Free Game or Does Original Thought Still Count for Something?

Okay so I know it’s a free for all on the web, and no idea is original…but in my mind there are some things that draw the line, like making money on other people's content.

I recently came across a tweet, “How to Turn Other People’s Content Into Your Content and Profit!” and of course there was a link. Just the title made me think, what kind of scam is this, and of course curiosity got the better of me and I had to click it. If, by the end of this post, you really think this is a groundbreaking moneymaking idea, I’ll give you the link if you ask for it.

Whenever someone starts following me on twitter, I take a look at their bio and the kinds of things they post. If they have ideas, information, or expertise that I am interested in then I’ll follow. I still don’t understand how one can weed through the content when following every Tom, Dick, or Harry. I’m really not about quantity but quality. If at some point I'm found lacking because I didn't have enough twitter followers, so be it.

I use the same quality control when it comes to travel, and life in general. I never found the need to hit every city and landmark just to check a block. If someone says, "I can't believe you got all the way to India and you didn't see the Taj Mahal! You really missed out." I'm okay with that. My encounters in places like the Sundarbans, where I met smiling villagers and through personal interactions learned they were Bangladeshi in their hearts, went far further than crossing the Taj Mahal off a list. In the Sundarbans, villages were arbitrarily divided by the British when they partitioned India in the 1940's. Today the Bengali Taka is used more prominently than Rupees, and family members live on both sides of the boarder. It was an interesting blend of tiger preserve and small friendly village meandering along the tributaries of the Bagmati River. I would never trade my experience there for a visit to an expected site.

“Where have you been?” Is a usual question in youth hostels around the world. Many travelers have rich full stories of amazing adventures and experiences, but some travelers are the “Been There, Done That’s.” These are people who pride themselves on being able to list off every name, place and monument they’ve seen. The BTDT's move through places so quickly collecting cities and activities in an attempt to establishing themselves as a travel authority. They can regurgitate names and places like the Taj Mahal, and yes they have seen them, but they don't always fully experience their surroundings in their rush to check the block and move on. I never had a checklist. To me it mattered more how my travel experiences were transforming me, giving me insight into a world that I could never have known had I not taken an interest in it and stepped outside my home, my country and my comfort zone to experience something else.

This guy’s idea about using other people’s content kind of reminds me of the BTDT's. Their lists of places to go and things to see seemed to come from all the "must sees" other travelers talked about around campfires, coal stoves and cold beers. The BTDT's then proceed to move through the list in order to become an authority on travel. But I give the BTDT's credit, they actual had the adventure. They had to be on the road experiencing it and something had to be driving them.

On the other hand, the video advice seemed a very lazy, and boarder line plagiaristic way of gaining content by doing it upon the backs of people who had a real passion for the subject or content that they originally posted. In this three minute video, the author? Filmmaker? Idea stealer? Is saying that his newest latest thing for driving free traffic to his sites is video. And the first thing he flashes up on his YouTube screen is, “How to turn other people’s words into content and profit.” He proceeds to explain his process - go off to sites, read content, pay close attention to those that are highly ranked and commented on, and then read them 3 or 4 times, paraphrase the content, and create a video. He says this is a quick way to establish “authority” on the topic.

WOW authority on the topic that you picked at random because lots of people liked it? Not because you had any interest in it? Or any original thought or idea to say about it? Or even any expertise on the topic? Again, at least the BTDT's have been to those places and something drove them. They are not lazy, though they may not be as deeply introspective as other travelers. I do take issue with making money on other people’s content, especially in the way he actually describes it in the video.

It’s one thing if other people’s content causes thoughts and ideas to ignite. That furnace of creativity we all have is stoked by many different influences. If the final output whether it be written in a blog entry or spoken in a video is the product of research, passion and thought provoking words by others so be it. But it is another thing to simply cruise for popular topics that you may not have any interest in, read it 3 or 4 times and then make it into your own content by paraphrasing. He really does state his process this way in his video. He back paddles a bit in his comments to my comments on his blog, but the fact remains that in his 3 minute video he is promoting something that, in my opinion, sounds like lazy plagiarism.

I believe that if you have writers block, by all means, find ways to help stimulate your thought process. But using other peoples words and content does not substitute for your own, and you certainly shouldn’t be considered an authority nor make money on that. It can be a struggle to come up with content, there is no doubt, but in the end expressing your own ideas and thoughts is much more rewarding than regurgitating what others believe is most popular.

I'd rather experience the Sundarbans verses signing in on the Taj Mahal guest book, and I certainly won't be making money by paraphrasing others.

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Don't Be Caught Pointing Your Feet in Nepal: What Is Proper Twitter Etiquette?

Etiquette is different from country to country just as I would assume it is from social media outlet to social media outlet. While in most of SM it seems to be covered under the 80-20 rule, there are specifics I'm still not sure about when it comes to DM's and RT thank you's. I just hope the bottoms of my feet aren't pointing out at too many people.

I remember traveling in Nepal and learning that it was an insult to point the bottom of your foot, bare or otherwise, at people. You might ask yourself, well how the heck am I going to point my feet at people? But you know how when you sit with your legs crossed, the bottom of your foot points out? Don't do that. And if you have your feet up on a chair or in my case the engine cowling on a bus...big no no.

When I was trekking in the Langtang valley, I discovered that my High Tech boots did not fit their description. It took 7 days through tea houses, zigzagged trails along steep inclines, and prayer flag lined walls to get to the last village, Kanjin Gompa. (A Monastery there makes the best fresh yogurt and honey in the world...mmmm.) But this should only have taken 3 days. My baby toe on my right foot was so infected I couldn't even put my boots on by the time we arrived at 3870 Meters. My boyfriend at the time, a huge hiker, was often spotted far up ahead of me on the trek waiting in fields as I did my best to hobble up the mountain with a heavy pack on my back.

When we reached the top, Christof wanted to head over a high pass and down through Helambu but there was no way I was going to make it up to 4610 meters in my condition. I sent him on his way with other travelers and hired a Sherpa to carry my pack back down to Syabrubesi so I could catch a bus back to Kathmandu where we'd meet up in a week or so.

That's when my breech in etiquette occurred. The owner of the tea house in Remche helped me down to Syabru and put me on the bus explaining to the driver that I was severely injured (You may not think a baby toe was a big deal, but my whole foot was swelled up twice the size and I figured I was probably going to have my toe cut off when I got into Kathmandu.) The driver let me sit upfront to elevate my foot on the cowling of the engine inside the bus. This was usually a de facto bench for the old and handicapped but here I was, young American sitting there with my leg stretched out across a highly coveted location...and my foot was pointing out.

An old woman sitting next to me was smacking me for about an hour and jabbering in Nepalese to her neighbors about how rude I was for observable reasons. Finally, when the bus stopped for a 10 minute break, I took my boot off to look at the swollen mess my foot had become. As I unwrapped the bandage and the woman saw my gorgeous purple ballooned foot all of a sudden her posturing changed. She started to pet my arm and croon in softer tones, and turned to all her neighbors to inform them that I wasn't as much of a jerky American as she originally had thought. (This is all supposition on my part, since I don't speak a word of Nepalese.)

So I'm still unsure of the etiquette on twitter when dealing with direct messages and retweets. What is the deal with direct messages on twitter when you start following someone? For the most part they look automated to me, somewhat spammy, though every once in a while I get one that I think, "WOW that person really cares who I am!" And I wonder if they do... or did they just craft their 140 characters really well.

I ask myself, should I send a DM to everyone I follow? I don't really want to be spammy, if I think they are canned responses, I'm sure other people do as well. In my first days encountering twitter I got a DM to the effect of, "You and I both know this goes out automatically, enjoy my tweets, I may or may not follow you..." Well love you for your automated honesty. But when really should you DM? Even if I bothered to DM everyone who followed me and they were individual messages, they'd probably think my message was well crafted SPAM. So what is the proper etiquette?

I have the same conundrum when it comes to retweets. Do you thank someone for the retweet? If you are just retweeting someone else and then a third party tweets your retweet, do you thank them for that? Or are you really just taking credit for someone else's hard work finding that great article that you then passed on?

I don't want to point my foot in the air at anyone, but I also don't want to cause someone to yell at me for my supposed breech in etiquette when really I'm just stumbling around trying to get the hang of all this.

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Gythio, Guatemala, and Gabon: Are There Do's and Dont's Of Social Media?

Today I came across a blog called "Facebook Etiquette 101." Upon reading, I immediately flashed back to people on the travel road dispensing blanket advice without understanding that there are many different journeys going on around us. Not everyone's rules or advice may be useful in every situation.

In my exploration into SM, I find many blog entries that call themselves things like "Facebook Etiquette 101", the do's and dont's of twitter and so on, all trying to lay down the rules of use in SM. While I agree with some of their "rules" which are really just ideas, experience, and I would think...common sense, it still seems like these rule-givers are wasting time trying to nail jello to the wall. Many people use social media for different purposes and no single reason can be quantified as the right one.

I met many people on the travel road who dispensed their expertise in the same way some bloggers do, not taking into account that there is more than one way to follow your path. Some information was useful and other advice I took with a grain of salt, much like reading blogger points of view. But in the beginning of any journey, whether it be through an unfamiliar country, or into an unknown medium, opinions can stifle creativity if you are unsure of what you are doing. I think it's good for the novice (me) to be wary of taking rules and advice as law. And I think it's important for the so-called expert to look at the bigger picture before stating that there is a definitive list to follow when embarking on a journey into the unknown.

On my second long trip abroad I was in a small Greek coastal fishing village called Gythio where I met a wonderful Canadian couple that I traveled with for a week or two. I wanted to venture to Africa but they kept emphasizing the dangers telling me horror stories of thievery, malaria and the difficulty I would encounter as a woman traveling alone. I allowed them to scare me into a different direction. Though this was my choice, by listening to all the dont's, I allowed someones opinions to play on my insecurities as a novice traveler and derail my plans for Africa.

While I agree with some points made in "Facebook Etiquette 101," for instance I, like the writer, used to be annoyed by surveys and games like mafia. That doesn't mean he's right to say people shouldn't use these features. I try to remind myself that one person's trash is an others treasure. Just because I don't want to know what Disney character I most resemble, or who my hot famous lover should be, doesn't mean others shouldn't have the right to possibly compromise their personal information to phishing scams in order to find out for themselves. What I have discovered I can do, since Firefox is my preferred browser, is to download the add on for Greasemonkey and then use FB Purity to suppress the quizzes and games. A few easy steps and there's no longer a need to create rules for others on SM just because I'm not interested.

This author also has a different definition of personal information than I do. He didn't want to hear details too personal about other people's lives. Though I don't want to hear that someone is on their fourth trip to the bathroom, I don't mind hearing them lament about their divorce... as long as it's not the only thing they ever comment on. Other's may have a different idea of what kinds of things they don't want to read by their don't read them. Many of the author's points seem to subjectively limit people because they don't use this medium the way he wants.

Years after my encounter with the Canadian couple I vividly remember an instance in a Guatemalan cafe where an American I was traveling with, we'll call him "Joe," got under my skin with his absolute statements and advice. We were sipping cafe con leche talking with 2 Dutch girls about their upcoming trip to the USA. Joe fancied himself a savvy shoestring traveler after an 8 week train-trip through 15 European cities, sleeping in train stations, eating bread, and spending as little as possible. Since, at that point, I'd spent cumulatively 2 years traveling 12 countries, we had very different perspectives on travel.

As we talked to the two girls he gave very authoritative statements of, "don't go there, don't go here, you have to do this, you have to do that." I was so aggravated because I instantly remembered the nice people, with their good intentions, scaring me away from going to Africa. Though he wasn't scaring them, he was telling them where they absolutely had to go. I was annoyed because he didn't even know who they were or what they were interested in so what made him an expert on what they should see? I guess that's why I prickle a bit when I read one opinion telling everyone else to use SM only the way they would.

Both in your social media use and travel advice, I think it's more about making suggestions not telling people what to do or trying to lock others into a set of parameters. We always have a choice when people are using SM in a way that annoys us. We can un-follow, un-friend or ignore, but we are truly the only one's we have control over regardless of how others choose to express themselves.

In general my only suggestion in SM is to take a look at what you are doing and ask yourself if you'd want to read, follow, or friend the person writing it, if the answer is no maybe you should go back to the drawing board. If the answer is yes, then anyone who's not on the same wave length doesn't need to be part of you SM community.

In travel I tried hard to give people a rounded view and remind them that if they ask for my opinion that's all they are getting and it isn't the be all end all way to do things. I think it's exactly the same with Social Media and any 101 course.

I'll leave the rules and the do's and dont's to others.

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The Synchronicity of Connecting Through Social Media: As Exhilarating as Bungy Jumping

Ever since I started making connections through, and dabbling in, social media I feel the way I did when I was reading Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski. It's the same tingly feeling I had when I first went bungy jumping off the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand (141 feet above the Kawarau River!)

I know. What do reading a book on leadership, writing blogs, twittering, facebook, and bungy jumping remotely have in common? Well I'll tell you. They are all about experiencing, listening, sharing, learning, connecting, and jumping off into an abyss while hoping for positive results.

In Synchronicity, Jaworski talks about his personal experiences. He meets people in the right place at the right time to lead him along his life's path. Maybe I like him because he meanders as he finds his way, but mostly I think I like him because he digs for the deeper meaning in his interactions. Though I read the book at least 7 years ago on a recommendation from Dr. Tom Hill, a great motivational speaker, I still remember having those ah-ha moments as I moved through the pages. Ah-ha's are always a tingle of excitement for me. It's as if I'm glimpsing the full picture. I believe in synchronicity and everything coming together to move us along the path of discovery on our life's journey.

This is why I find social media so fascinating. I meet people on twitter and facebook that I'd never bump into in the grocery store. Through our interactions I get that ah-ha feeling. It's the same exhilaration I felt the first time I steadied myself on the edge of a bridge, poised to jump off of a perfectly good solid surface into the unknown, attached to nothing but a giant rubber band. As I began to free fall and felt the ground rush toward me I kept thinking, "What have I done, what have I done, what have I done." Then all of the sudden the cord caught, I bounced back into the air, never allowing me to smack face first into the river but instead I felt as if I was floating on air. (At least going up...going back down again was that same terrifying ground rush) That tingly floating-on-air feeling is the same thing for me when I meet that right person in the right place that moves me along the path.

I've had those ah-ha feelings a lot lately. Up until recently I'd read new home sales training books by Myers Barnes, heard about his amazing seminars, but never had the chance to meet him in person. I wasn't going to bump into him at the grocery store. A friend told me to "friend" him on facebook so I did. Now his status updates are an uplifting part of my day. They are those little ah-ha's that keep me on my path of learning and improving. He reminds me of what I used to teach to teenagers. Now I'm reincorporating these lessons back into my daily life. (something I tend to forget from time to time when caught up in the everyday) As Myers and I started to interact on his facebook updates, I realized I was getting the opportunity to share insights with a great mentor who I never would have met if it weren't for social media. That is what social media is all about. Interacting and creating relationships.

Today, in a webinar from Mike Lyon's Social Media Boot Camp, I had one of those ah-ha moments. The subject was blogging. While I'm a novice blogger, and know I have much to learn, it was great to meet and interact with, Sarah Yaussi, blogger and editor for Big Builder. She had many insights to share from time management and implementation to execution and return. On a personal note, I was flattered to find that not only had she read my blog, but also liked it! And wrote about it! (if you read my hummingbird entry you'll know that I didn't know anyone was even reading it.) Again I just felt like I'd made another connection with an amazing person I wouldn't have likely met if it weren't for social media.

Though sometimes those connections we make through social media may seem to be just a tiny thread, there are moments when we can see they actually are stronger than we think - bouncing us up in the air rather than letting us fall on our faces.

I'll keep looking for those synchronized connections that give me that little ah-ha tingle letting me know that I'm on the right path as I keep exploring social media.

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On Twitter Act As If You Are In A Small Village in Guatemala

Twitter is very much like a small village in Guatemala.

My time living in Todos Santos in the Cuchumatan mountains in Guatemala reminds me a lot of this venture into the twitterverse. When I first arrived in this small Mayan village, 2.5 hours up a winding dirt road into the mountains, I didn't know anyone, I didn't speak the language, but I knew I wanted to learn.

In my travels my goal was always to learn about the culture, and in this case also learn Spanish and hopefully take some beautiful pictures along the way. Back then I fancied myself as a freelance photographer (and got paid very infrequently for it so I don't know if that made me more of a hobbiest or not very driven as a business person) But I've always been all about the experience and not the money. If it was about money I'm sure I would have been much more like the photographer that visited for a weekend from a big unnamed magazine conglomeration.

I'll explain. When I first moved to the village and began living with a local family to immerse myself, not only in the language but also in the culture, I was very hesitant to take out my camera. Because Todos Santos is so remote (and I hope it is still this way over 10 years later) all the villagers dressed in traditional Maya traje, the village specific clothing that is woven usually by hand and each pattern and color is very specific to the village. Other villages had assimilated more into western dress but Todos Santos, at the time I lived there, was very grounded in its traditions, clothing and culture.

Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful pictures, but I didn't take any of them. I didn't want to walk into this close knit group and just start shooting up the place with my camera without knowing anyone. First I had to learn to communicate and get to know people. Then as I started passing them in my daily travels I'd exchange a few words, buy fruit from their stands, sit and chat outside their tiendas and eventually I started to take my camera out and ask for permission to take a picture. Because they now knew me, they didn't mind. And my family that I lived with was very generous in letting me take pictures of all aspects of their lives.

One weekend there was a big buzz, head shaking, and frowning faces. People were annoyed and I soon saw the cause of their agitation. There was an entourage of westerners clad in khaki
with cameras slung over their shoulders, complex lights, and vests full of accessories. They were firing away as if in formation, leaving no man, woman or child standing. Todos Santos was touted as a unique place because they had not become westernized and because of that have been a stopping place for many a wood-be photographer. But this was different, this was a definite agenda and no one was asking for permission. At least not politely. I'm sure they had to get model release forms. But still the people were not happy and they were telling me so.

Twitter reminds me of this experience because when I first joined twitter, I initially started to observe. I'd listen and watch what other people did and then slowly as I got to know the twitter village, began to add some of my own information to it. Not in an obtrusive way, but in a way to get to know people. To see who else had similar interests and so on. Hopefully gaining more credibility as I go, and being less intimidating to the locals.

Some people on twitter are like those big wig photographers who came in for a weekend, tried to get as much material as they could, and then move on to their next location. I find myself at times bombarded with sales messages on twitter, and I feel like the villagers when they came to me saying they were upset about the photographers. Just as the photographers didn't earn the right to take pictures of the villagers, I don't think some twitterati have earned the right to ask for my money no matter how altruistic they think they are being. When someone starts following me and all I see are calls to action on their products, services or seminars, I cringe away just like the villagers did when foreign cameras were stuck in their face with no warning.

I think there is a place on twitter for selling your services, but I really don't think it should be just about every post you put up. I know I'd like for people to buy houses in my communities, but I also knew instinctively when I started on twitter, that this couldn't be my constant message or people would start shying away just as the villagers tried to get away from the gringo's with cameras.

When you join a small village like Todos Santos, or even a big village like the twitter nation, you still need to tread lightly and respectfully and think about how you would want to be treated.

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The Hummingbird Effect, Taking Place On My Blog

Starting a blog for me is much like the first time I hung up the hummingbird feeder when I moved full time into my house, Fiddler's Green, on Gwynn's Island in Virginia.

Fiddler's Green is the first home I've ever owned. At first it was a house on the water to retreat to between sailing jobs. Later I moved there full time after a shoulder injury put me ashore and landed me into my first job with New Home Sales. Actually, Fiddler's Green is where old sailors go to die.

The legend says old sailors sling their paddle over their shoulder and walk inland away from the sea. If they don't go to hell they go to a sailor's paradise called Fiddler's Green. I loved the lyrics to the sea chanty check them out if you like,, and decided to give this name to my home away from the sea. But anyway back to the hummingbirds.

So when I moved in and began settling in to a life on shore instead of at sea, I decided I wanted to see hummingbirds. My neighbors all said if I hung up a feeder the hummingbirds would come. Not knowing much about birds, fish yes, but birds no, I took their word for it, and purchased a beautiful hanging sculpture of a feeder with 4 different globes to fill with sugar water for the birds. A few weeks later, I was out on the porch looking out over the water as the sunset, talking on the phone with a friend telling her how fruitless my efforts were to attract hummingbirds. I'd hung the darn thing up nearly a month ago and had never seen a bird, instead the sugar water was just evaporating from the globes.

As I talked I decided to take them down and dump the sugar because, while not attracting any birds, the ants were fat and happy. I took the globes inside but the sculpture framework was still hanging there. As I stepped back out on the porch I saw a little bird flying at a million miles a minute hovering where the globes should be. I was so shocked I scrambled inside to get the globes and put them back up. All of a sudden I realized there were several hummingbirds flitting around the trees waiting to come in for a snack. I was so surprised and pleasantly enchanted that I kept the globes filled all summer and was mesmerized by the hummingbirds.

I had to deal with some destructive raccoons, but that's another story.

I liken this to my blog, because at first my thinking was that I needed to start blogging in order to learn more about social media and put myself out into the SM ocean. I'm not going to lie, I was hoping for followers so I could establish myself somehow someway into this whole big whirl of activity on the web. But as I started up the writing and decided to interweave it with my travels, I realized I was writing it for myself. I didn't really need to attract the hummingbirds, I just wanted to get my thoughts down.

All of the sudden, out of the blue, when a friend on facebook told me she liked my blog, I realized wow, some people are actually reading this! Quick get the globes... no not really, but I'm enjoying creating the secret potion that goes into the globes. It's a few parts examination of social media, a few parts talking about my job and a healthy dollop of my travels and myself. It's just the right mixture for me to enjoy what I'm writing about.

I'm sure the raccoons will eventually come out but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Or blog about it as the case may be.)

I've added a counter so I can get an idea of how many hummingbirds are coming for a snack.

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