Oh, look! It’s a strangely blurry photo of me in front of my shoe wall, in this month’s Company Magazine! You should all rush out to buy it (Or, you know, download the digital version for iPad, like I did, because I was too lazy to walk to the shop…) and then write letters to the editor demanding to see more from the redhead with all the SHOOZ. Because you know you want to.
This photo was used as part of a feature on fashion bloggers and their closets. As you can see from my (slightly paraphrased) quote, I declined to provide a photo of my ACTUAL closet, because, trust me, you do NOT want to see that mess. In fact, that walk-in wardrobe I mentioned is the main reason I want to move house right now, not even joking. Speaking of which, remember that house we liked? The one we totally weren’t getting our hopes up about, except we actually were, to the extent of driving past it every week and picking out furniture? THAT house?
Yeah, someone bought it.
Hey, remember that three-week long frenzy of activity, in which we frantically called our mortgage company, repainted the house and FINALLY got around to repairing the mess on the ceiling, caused by the Watergate incident (and which I’d always known we’d only fix if we were selling up), all with the aim of selling our house fast enough to hopefully be able to make an offer on The One?
Yeah, someone bought it on the very day we finally completed that process. OF COURSE they did.
We were gutted, naturally. On the plus side, though, at least I got to go around for a while going, “I TOLD you this would happen! I KNEW we wouldn’t get it! And I was right! Say I was right!” And everyone had to say I was right, because I totally WAS right. I’m hardly ever right about anything, so, at least I got something out of the whole thing. Apparently I’m on a bit of a roll right now, so if you have any predictions you want made, hit me with them! Magic Eightball Amber, she say outlook not so good…
Once I’d worn out everyone’s patience with my I WAS RIGHT proclamations, I plunged into a pit of despair from which I would emerge periodically to once again comb through the property listings and declare that it was no use, because we would NEVER find another house we liked even half as much as that one, and that what would likely happen now would be that someone would buy our house, but we would have nowhere to move to, so we would be forced to build a makeshift shelter out of old shoe boxes or something.
This went on for about three days, at the end of which we went to see another house, and…
We loved it. Uh-oh. Instantly I switched mode from “We will sell our house and have nowhere to go,” to “We will NEVER sell our house, and will be forced to live here forever, with my shoe collection gradually expanding to every room in the house, and my clothes one day exploding out of the closets and going running down the streets shouting, “WHY MUST SHE TREAT US LIKE THIS?”
So that’s where we’re at, basically. If we do sell this house, I guarantee we will do it on the very day the one we like is sold to someone else. And if we don’t manage to sell this house (Which is the most likely scenario according to my imaginary Magic Eightball), that other one will stick around forever. There will be other houses, though. At least that’s one thing we can take from the events of this week. And I have absolutely no doubt that I will obsess over them all, until finally we find the one that’s destined to be ours. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have some photos of walk-in closets to go and pin…
Well, folks, it looks like my house isn’t the only thing I’m (possibly, hopefully, maybe) leaving behind this year: last week I also made the decision to close down my beauty blog, Hey, Dollface!, so if you’ve tried to access it recently and have wound up here instead, well, now you know why. Welcome to Forever Amber! Here is a very long ramble about why you’re here rather than there, and what you can expect for the future…
(I’ve put this under a jump so those of you who couldn’t care less about the inner workings of my blog empire don’t have to scroll past another lengthy post!)
When I started this “photo a day” project, my main concern was that I just wouldn’t have anything to photograph. I mean, I work from home, I don’t live in a big, bustling city… there’s not a whole lot to see here, folks. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for anything (Well, I wouldn’t change the “working from home bit”. I’d DEFINITELY change where the home in question is located…), but it does mean my life isn’t all that interesting most of the time. In fact, that’s actually one of the reasons I started focusing primarily on outfit photos in the first place: just to have SOMETHING to talk about on the days there are no random acts of stupidity or McNaughtiness to report.
So I worried I’d have nothing to document in this “document every day of my life” thing I’m doing. Still, I guess that’s part of the point: to be more creative, to pay more attention to the little things in life, to ferret out the ways in which every day is different, even when they all feel exactly the same. With that in mind, this week has a THEME. Yes, I know, exciting, huh? Don’t worry, I won’t be doing this all the time (And in fact, I’m not sure how many of these roundups I’ll end up actually doing: I keep reading comments about how much people detest Instagram roundups on blogs, and it makes me paranoid, because of course everything anyone writes on the internet is OBVIOUSLY a passive-aggressive dig at me. I am THAT important. But at the moment I’m quite enjoying it, and am finding that it’s helping me get back into writing about things other than fashion, so…yeah.), but with this set of photos from last week, I decided to give you a bit of a “behind the scenes” look at what it’s like being a full-time blogger. It ended up being a lot of photos of my computer screen, which… more or less sums up my life, really, so I guess it’s kinda appropriate. Here they are…
9. The man behind the outfit photos
I’m sure there are lots of things Terry would rather do than take photos of my shoes, and yet here he is: my hero! I’ve told him that if he ever wants to start his own fashion blog, I’ll happily return the favour, but he just didn’t seem into it for some reason…
10. Choosing photos for a post
When I posted my last 365 roundup, Erika commented that she never seems to get the right photo on the first take, to which all I can say is: TELL ME ABOUT IT. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a complete inability to keep my eyes open while I’m being photographed, and if I’m not closing my eyes I’m probably going to be pulling some weird face, or waving my hands around or something. Again: Terry is my hero.
11. Desktop essentials
I try to drink a bottle of water every day (Yes, I know regular water is better for me, but I would forget to drink that altogether, so I figure this stuff is better than nothing…), but actually my blogs are fuelled by 100% caffeine. I have very dry lips(probably because of all that coffee…) so I always have some kind of lip balm on hand (Well, on lips, rather…), although I normally forget to use it. (Yes, I know some people think lip balm makes your lips drier. Mine are dry whether I use it or not, though, so I think I was just born that way, baby.)
When it comes to clothes and shoes, I only ever receive freebies I’ve chosen myself, and which the company in question (or more normally, their PR agency) have contacted me about in advance. The beauty blogging world is a little different, though, and I occasionally open the door to a mystery package full of samples to review on Hey, Dollface! On Saturday morning, I received a very exciting package from Clarins, which included this pink lipstick, which I’m looking forward to trying. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that this is actually my JOB…
13. Weekend work
Officially, I take the weekend off from blogging, but more often than not, I’ll end up spending at least a few hours working anyway – especially in the winter, when the weather prevents us getting out as much as we do in spring/summer. I got the glasses a few months ago: I’ve worn contact lenses since I was a teenager, but always have a pair of glasses as a backup. Because I spend so much time at the computer, my eyes get quite dry, so I try to wear the glasses a couple of times per week to give them a rest. Unfortunately for me, although I love glasses on other people, I absolutely hate them on myself, and am really self-conscious about them, so I never leave the house in them: in fact, apart from immediate family, I think the only other person who’s seen me in them is my best friend, and that’s purely because we lived together at university, and I used to sometimes wear them to study in. (And because there are no secrets between best friends, are there? She’s also one of only a handful of people who’ve ever seen me without makeup. Poor girl…) I bought these ones thinking the retro look of them might make me like them better than all of my previous frames, but nope: hate ‘em. I’m thinking next time I might go all-out retro and get a pair of 60s style cat eyes, with, like, diamanté and stuff on them: well, if I’m going to hate my glasses (and it looks like I am…), I might as well have some fun with it, right?
(And no, I will not be posting photos of me wearing the glasses. Even Terry could only bring himself to say they looked “fine” when I first got them: the above paragraph is definitely not false modesty!)
This is possibly weird for someone who writes about fashion for a living, but I’m never particularly interested in the red carpet: I figure pretty much ANYONE can look good with the help of an army of the best stylists and makeup artists a Hollywood budget can buy, so when it comes to celebrity fashion I’m actually more interested in seeing what they wore to the airport, say, when I know they dressed themselves and didn’t spent five hours in makeup first. I’m pretty much alone in my lack of interest, though, so most Monday mornings at this time of year are spent frantically refreshing my image agency account to see if the photos of the latest event have been uploaded yet, then putting together a post. This week it was the Golden Globes, so Monday started with an overdose of couture gowns. There are definitely worse ways to start the week.
AAaand, once again I find I’ve managed to write over 1000 words, on what is supposed to be a quick, image-based post. I’ll stop now. Tune in next time for the next thrilling instalment of “OMG, why can’t she just post the photos and be done with it?!”
(The full list of all of the times I’ve been copied online can be found here, for the benefit of anyone just joining us. I warn you, though: it’s a long ‘un.)
Well, actually, no, it hasn’t been a long time at all. All of those things have been continuing to happen (right down to yet another person deciding that hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to start a shoe blog and call it “Shoeperwoman”?) with roughly the same frequency they always have: I just got sick of writing about them all, and I’m pretty sure you would’ve gotten sick of reading about them too, if I’d taken it upon myself to record every last incident. In fact, maybe you’re sick of hearing about this already, in which case, this post isn’t for you, sorry.
Lately, though, I’ve come across a new development in the world of Ripping Amber Off Online, and it’s a fairly worrying one, too, so without further ado, let me show you this screenshot from a website I was alerted to by a Facebook friend this summer:
Last week, Sarah at Tumbleweed Twine wrote a wonderful post about her “blogstory”, i.e. the story of how she got into blogging. I always find this kind of thing fascinating anyway, but I can’t tell you how totally blown away I was to find that Sarah’s blogstory started with her discovery of my own Fashion Police (You can read her post here. You should go and do it now. I’ll wait here until you’re done…). There can be no higher compliment for a blogger than to have inspired someone else, so thank you Sarah, and in return, as per your suggestion, here’s my own “blogstory”.
(Note: because I’m greedy, I actually have two blogstories. Yes, two. There’s the story of how I got into commercial blogging, and there’s the story of how I got into blogging in general. To save time and keep it simple, I’m just going to concentrate on the latter, so this is really the story of Forever Amber, and how it came to be. Because if I tried to tell both stories, this post would be roughly the same length as a short novel, and then I’d have to write ANOTHER post about How I Got Into Writing Short Novels About Blogging, and … yeah. Let’s just get on with the show, shall we?)
I’ve always kept diaries. Well, I say “always”: I obviously didn’t come out of the womb shouting, “Quick, someone, get me a pen: I’m SO blogging this!”, although I expect one day that will totally happen to some poor blogger, and it will serve her right. But back to me…
I was given my first diary when I was ten years old. It was a green velvet number, and it was so incredibly awesome that I would only write in it with a fountain pen. I was kind of pretentious as a ten year old, to be honest. I kept that diary diligently, though, and I’ve basically been documenting my life ever since, in one way or another. (I actually published some excerpts from that first diary of mine in this post. Before you click on that link, though, you should probably be aware that my 10-year-old self placed a powerful curse on anyone who read her diary. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)
The paper journals eventually gave way to computer documents, but however I’ve done it, I’ve always had this compulsion to write everything down. When I was a child, I told myself I was doing this for the benefit of future generations, so that they could understand the uniqueness that was ME, spechul me. (Because yes, I expect one day many years from now, some future person will totally say, “Gosh, I wish we knew what it was like to be a moody teenager living a completely unremarkable life in the late 20th century. If only someone had written it all down!”) Then I told myself I was doing it so I wouldn’t ever forget all of these incredibly important, and yet not even remotely interesting, experiences I was having. Teenage angst is a terrible thing, isn’t it?
Ultimately, though, I think it was just something that became ingrained in me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like things haven’t really happened to me until I’ve written about them in some way. And so I wrote: first in a succession of ever-more-elaborate paper journals, and then in a series of password-protected Word documents which I have long-since forgotten the passwords to. (I don’t want to remember…) And because journalling was something I had always done, I was always fascinated to find out about other people who did it, too. I felt I had something in common with these other journallers: we all knew what it was like to pour our hearts out to a blank page that couldn’t talk back, and we were all probably just filled to the BRIM with angst, and imagination, and lots of profound thoughts that were just dying to be let out.
(I wasn’t, obviously. I was mostly just filled to the brim with emo song lyrics. Still am.)
Anyway, because I had this interest in diaries and diarists, one day I was aimlessly surfing the internet, and I decided to type “diary” or “journal” or something like that into the search engine. I don’t really know what I was looking for. I think I maybe expected to find sites about famous diarists, or something like that. Instead, I found an ACTUAL diary: or an “online journal” as they were called in those days. My mind was blown. I was so used to thinking of journaling as something secret, something to be hidden from prying eyes at all costs (This was why all of my childhood diaries had things like “KEEP OUT!” and “If you read this, I will know, and I will totally track you down and kill you, I MEAN IT” scrawled over their covers and title pages.) that I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that here was someone actually publishing their diary on the internet. I mean, CAN YOU EVEN?!
This alone would probably have been enough to suck me in, but as it happened, that first online journal I found had much more than that to make me want to read it. Its author, you see, was just like me. Yes, she lived in America and I lived in the UK, but we were the same age, and seemed to be into all of the same kinds of things: this girl read the same books as me and listened to the same music. Her journal was dotted with those same emo song lyrics mine was, and she seemed every bit as shy and awkward as I felt myself to be. Like me, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, other than that it would have to involve writing, because that was the only thing she’d ever really wanted to do. Hell, she even had red hair.
(Because I know people are probably going to ask me this: no, I can’t remember her name, or what her journal was called. She actually closed her site down a few months after I discovered it – er, I’m sure that had nothing to do with me – and seemed to disappear from the Internet after that, so I’ve no idea what happened to her. I like to think she’s living in a massive house with a dressing room and a walk-in pantry, though.)
As I read through page after page of this girl’s diary, it occurred to me that she was basically living my life, on another continent. She was the person I would be if circumstances had been different, and this was totally fascinating to me. Through her links page, I found other online diarists. Most of those weren’t even remotely like me, but this was just as fascinating, because now I was getting an amazing insight into lives which I wouldn’t even have been able to imagine before. That’s what “blogs” were like in those days. Most of them weren’t focused on any particular subject: they were literally just diaries of people’s lives, and I was completely sucked in by them.
I can’t remember how long it took me to decide to start writing online myself. I do know I did it because I was hoping that, in the same way I’d managed to stumble across someone I had more in common with than anyone I’d ever met in my “real” life, that other people might find me. Just as my teenage self had hoped someone would one day understaaaaand her (Look, I told you I was emo, OK?), I think I hoped that someone out there would relate to what I’d written, and that I’d make friendships, form connections with people, even although I’d probably never meet them.
My first website was hosted on free webspace, with ugly Angelfire banners across the top, and it basically broke all of the rules of web usability, having coloured text on a black background, and probably some scrolling marquees. We didn’t have things like Blogger or WordPress in those days (or telephone speaking devices or horseless carriages or FIRE. I hope you’re all listening to this, young ‘uns. You don’t know how easy you have it! Uphill, both ways!), so it had to be totally coded by hand (I taught myself HTML for this very purpose), with each new post a whole new page which was created and then added into the structure. It was a total pain.
(NO, it no longer exists. And if it did, I would burn it with fire, because seriously, people. Seriously.)
As much as I enjoyed writing that site, after a few months I got bored: not just with how fiddly it was to have to keep creating new pages all the time, but by the fact that there wasn’t really any possibility of interaction with anyone. There was a guestbook, but no comments, and while I did get the occasional email from someone who had somehow stumbled across it and read it, there wasn’t really any easy way for people TO find it, so I was essentially talking to myself. And “myself” isn’t really the greatest conversationalist in the world, to tell you the truth.
I’d been aware of Livejournal for a while, and it seemed like the answer to all of my online-diarist problems. Rather than creating all of the pages yourself, you could just type each new post into a box, hit enter and it would be published. There was a comments box on every post. Best of all, because of the way Livejournal was set up, with “friends lists” which allowed you to follow people, and be followed back, there was actually the possibility of people actually reading it. Which was the whole point, surely?
I loved it. I stayed on Livejournal for years, and made friends there who I’m still in touch with to this day. I gave it up just after Terry and I started planning our wedding. See, my journal was “friends only”, which meant it could only be read by people I gave access to. This was great in some ways, because I knew everyone who read it, and they’d all become trusted friends: this was a HUGE benefit to me when Terry was ill, for instance, because I knew I could be totally honest with those people about how I was feeling, and not feel like they were judging me for it, or nitpicking over ever single little thing I said. (I mean, they probably were. But they were all polite enough to keep those thoughts to themselves, if so.) I could admit to them that I was worried sick, without someone popping up and telling me I was “SO! NEGATIVE!” and that we should consider ourselves lucky that Terry even HAD kidneys to fail, because some people don’t even HAVE no kidneys, nuh-uh. So BE POSITIVE, OK?
At the same time, though, I think sometimes knowing exactly who your audience is can be a bit stifling, especially when it’s a very small audience, as mine was. You start thinking, “Oh, I better not write about THAT, because I know so-and-so isn’t interested in that. And I better not write about THIS, because I know such-and-such DOES like that thing, and he might be offended by me saying I DON’T like it.” And honestly? I wanted to write about my wedding. I knew most of the people who followed my journal wouldn’t be interested in hearing about wedding planning every day of the week, so I decided I would start one of those newfangled “blog” things everyone was talking about, and which seemed to be a bit like the old days of stand-alone, self-coded journals, except with all of the benefits of something like Livejournal: comments, instant publishing, and all that jazz. I would use this new “blog” of mine (That word was never used without the inverted commas, by the way. I remember we online journal writers all laughing about it and talking about how it would NEVER catch on. I mean, “blog” – hee!) for all of the wedding stuff I would surely become obsessive about any day now, and keep my livejournal for everything else.
So Forever Amber actually started life as a wedding blog. Or that was the plan, anyway. I very quickly discovered that I had no more interest in writing about weddings than my Livejournal friends would’ve had in reading about them, so it morphed into another record of my life, another variation on the green velvet diary, and after a few months, replaced the Liveournal completely. These days it’s become more of a personal style journal, partly because fashion became a much bigger part of my life than it had been before (that’s what happens when you write about something for a living), but also because, well, there’s just not much else to report these days.
I’ve no idea what this site will become in the future, but I do know it will be forever Amber. So, if nothing else, at least I know I picked the right name…
P.S. These photos were actually taken a few months ago: I’d gone a bit overboard with my Superdrug Colour Effects conditioner, and the combination of that, and the setting sun, made my head look a bit like it’s on fire in these photos, which is why I didn’t use them at the time. It wasn’t quite so bright in real life!
[Dress: ASOS (sold out in gingham, but new versions available in block colours here , wallpaper print here, and OMGPOLKADOT here) // Shoes: Carvela 'Assemble']
This is my 1,000th post here at Forever Amber.
I thought I would mark the occasion by writing my best post ever: one that would make you laugh, cry, and, I don’t know, maybe cheer?
Instead, here are some photos of me prancing around in high heels. No, thank YOU.
(No, really, thank you for reading this. Your comments are the only reason I’ve continued with this blog through 1,000 posts about my dog, my clothes and the random acts of stupidity I commit on a daily basis. If you’re still reading, or if you’ve just started reading, then thank you, and I hope you’ll stick around for the next 1,000 posts. Or, you know, the next few at least.)
If you read any of my other blogs, or follow me on any of the approximately 1,763,345 social networks I’m currently part of, you will probably already know that I’ve spent the last 24 hours shamelessly begging people to join the new Shoe Community over at Shoeperwoman.com, which Terry has very cleverly created.
If you DON’T already know I’ve been doing that, then all I can say is DAMN, people, where you been? Do you even GO here?
That’s also the main reason my posts here have been so sporadic recently: the new Challenge/Community has basically involved a complete re-launch of the site, and while Terry’s been busy with that, I’ve been busy rocking back and forth in the corner, going, “OMG, what if everyone hates it, WHAT IF?” These fears are only partly unfounded: last year we made a minor change to the layout of TheFashionPolice.net, and there are people currently using that site who STILL don’t think Terry and I should be alive today because of it (I’m only exaggerating a little bit), so, yeah, I was completely terrified.
Luckily, we seem to have (mostly) got away with it so far: it launched yesterday, and already has almost 70 active members, and only two complaints so far, so I think we’re doing not too badly. Obviously I’ve now cursed this project with my optimism, though, and will wake up tomorrow to a barrage of emails from people who’d like me to just go and ahead and kill myself, please. Which I guess will make a nice change from the barrage of emails about Kelly Osbourne’s hair. (Seriously, I got two of them on Sunday: both huge rants about Kelly Osbourne, both assuming that I have some kind of hotline to KO, or am somehow able to hold her down and dye her hair. Which I’m not, just to clarify. )
(Hilariously, one of the people who emailed me had an email signature which declared “educating others” to be “his life’s mission”. Maybe should’ve educated himself about who is Kelly Osbourne and who is Forever Amber, first, huh?)
Anyway! I was writing about the new community on Twitter, or Facebook, or TwitFace, or wherever the hell it was, and I sez to myself, I sez, “Amber, why are the Forever Amber readers missing out on this exciting piece of news? Why are you allowing the fact that most of them don’t actually give a crap about shoes to stand in the way of you pimping out your new community, like the pimpiest pimp who ever pimped?” And I thought, “You know, that’s true. I will write a post about it this very day.” And here it is. If you could try to look interested, that would be awesome.
So, folks, I have a new Shoe Community, which is the epicentre of the next Shoeper Shoe Challenge. (If you don’t know what that is, this post isn’t for you. Just scroll on by, soldier…) If you like shoes, you could join it. If you DON’T like shoes – and I’m told that there are, indeed, some people who have chosen to adopt this strange position, a bit like people who persist in believing that the world is really flat and that Justin Beiber is sexy – you could tell your shoe lovin’ friends about it instead. “Shoe lovin’ friends,” you could say, “Why are you not a member of the Shoeper Shoe Community? Are you crazy?”
Oh, and the fact that the Shoe Challenge is once again underway means that I’m back to doing this again:
I wear the green things so you don’t have to. You are very welcome.
Thanks to my position as the most copied woman on the internet, I get a lot of questions about how to deal with blog copying, so I figured it might be useful for me to write a post about it, to try and help other bloggers in the same boat.
(Is anyone else imagining a boat full of bloggers now? Can you even IMAGINE what that would be like? They’d all be Tweeting, and Instagram-ing and asking each other to take their outfit photos aaaallll day long!)
Then I thought, “Actually, you know what, I’m wordy. I will need a few posts to say what a better writer would probably be able to say in one. Please excuse this lengthy post, everyone: I didn’t have time to write a shorter one…
(This image has helped countless people sell pairs of those boots on eBay. If only I got commission!)
This is the first part of a short(ish) series, then, and I’m starting off with the first, and most frequent question I’m always asked about this:
How do you know when your content has been stolen?
Sometimes, of course, you just DON’T know. This is the thing that bothers me most. For every website I find which is infringing my copyright by stealing my words and pictures, there are probably lots more I DON’T know about. There are, however, a few different methods I’ve used to identify sploggers, plagiarists and image thieves, and probably quite a lot more that I haven’t used, and which you’re more than welcome to tell me about : every little helps, after all, in the war against thieving b******s.
(If you could all imagine me delivering that last line in the manner of Braveheart, please, that would be awesome.)
(Imagine me looking like Angelina Jolie, though, not like Mel Gibson.)
(Angelina BEFORE the whole “leg” thing happened, I mean.)
In a lot of cases for me, and in every single one of the “Amber Impersonator” cases (i.e. people pretending to BE me, as opposed to people stealing my content) it has come down to pure luck, and I’ve found out about it only because some kind person has emailed me to tell me about it, having either recognised my photo, or become suspicious about the person using it and done a bit of detective work. The same is true of the eBay sellers who use photos of me to sell their clothes, although some of those I’ve stumbled upon myself, purely by chance. (I’ll be searching eBay for “green dress”, say, and hey, there’s me! Damn. I have a lot of green dresses…)
Of course, some impersonators are too clever to hotlink the image directly from my blog, or not change the filename to something other than “Forever Amber”, and sometimes they’re going to use the image on a site where no one will recognise it. This is when you need to look to other methods to find the lowlife. Here are some I’ve used:
Google Images allows you to upload your image and search for duplicates, or images which are similar to it. For instance, I uploaded this image:
and here’s what I got:
Which tells me that this image ONLY appears here and on Shoeperwoman.com, which is also my blog: whew!
The “similar images” results were a revelation, too:
I’m similar to Showaddywaddy? SERIOUSLY?
OK, so obviously it isn’t perfect. But it is pretty good, and if you suspect an image might have been copied, Google Images will help you find out for sure. The big problem with it is that it’s down to you to do the searching: I have four blogs, and they contain thousands of images between them – I’m obviously not going to upload them all every day just to see if they’ve been stolen, so although helpful, this isn’t a complete solution.
Google Alerts is a system whereby you set up “alerts” for certain words or phrases, and are emailed every time that word of phrase is mentioned on the web: so you’d set up an alert for your own name, say, or your website name or brand. You can also just type your search term into the Google Alerts page and view results for that day:
(The book isn’t about me. I do sometimes have to use my wits, beauty and courage to climb to the highest position, though. OK, not my beauty. Or my courage, really. And I don’t often have my wits about me. Amber St. Clare would totally beat me in a fight, to be honest.)
Up until last year, I didn’t really use Google alerts at all. I’d tried it out briefly when I first heard about it, and had found that it would occasionally direct me to forums or blog posts where people were discussing me, and honestly, I’d just rather not know what kind of things people say about me “behind my back”, as it were. An eavesdropper rarely hears any good of themselves, as they say, and it just seemed a bit vain to want to know about every single person who dared to speak my name.
After the whole “Shoeperwoman” fiasco went down, though, I realised that I couldn’t really afford NOT to pay attention to Google Alerts. In that case, the copycat was actually trying to trademark my brand name: if we hadn’t found out about it when we did (and, again, I found out about that one because someone emailed me asking if it was me) we could have missed the window of opportunity in which you’re able to oppose a trademark application, and she’d have won the right to the name.
These days, we use Google Alerts for a number of different words or phrases connected to our blogs: they go to Terry, who has the joy of going through them every day and reading a bunch of stuff about shoes, and women’s fashion, plus the occasional forum thread in which people discuss how I don’t have enough shoes. (No, really.) Lucky Terry!
We’ve found that the key to using Google alerts to track down plagiarists is to not just restrict yourself to your name or your blog name, but to try to include other words or phrases which would identify your text: for instance, on this site, I don’t really tend to write my full name on all of my posts (I hardly ever do, in fact), or even the name of the blog, so if those were the only phrases I was receiving alerts for, it would be pretty easy for someone to steal the content without me knowing. Some people actually include specific words or pieces of text in every single post, for this very reason: for a while, each of my posts on TheFashionPolice.net and Shoeperwoman had a short piece of text which was automatically added to it, and which was the subject of the Google alert: we found Lin Shiudeng, and a few other sploggers using this method.
(Someone once posted this photo, with the complete text of the post which accompanied it, on their own blog. They cropped out my watermark, but put in a link back to me: when I asked them to remove it, they said they “thought it was an interesting story” and didn’t realise they weren’t allowed to just copy and paste it in its entirety.)
Copyscape is a really great tool which allows you to type your URL into a search box and find out if any copies of it exist on the web. As with the Google Images check, this could be laborious work if you have a lot of sites, but there’s also a paid-for version which automatically scans the web for copies of your work: I haven’t tried this, so I can’t recommend it personally, but it certainly sounds like a useful tool.
If you’re a blogger, you’re probably familiar with “pingbacks”, which are a system whereby when someone links to a post, you get a notification, normally in the form of an automated comment with a link to the other post. I’ve discovered several copyright infringements of my sites because of this: you wouldn’t think it would be the least bit helpful for people who steal content from you to link back to you, but here’s the thing: THEY DO. What I’ve found is that a lot of new (and some established) bloggers operate under the belief that it’s OK to use someone else’s images or text as long as they link back to the source. So they steal my image, they type “Image: http://www.foreveramber.co.uk”; under it, and I get a pingback telling me where to find it. Awesome.
Also, if you tend to deep-link to other pages on your site from your posts (i.e this post contains a number of links back to other articles on this blog), someone who copies and pastes the entire text will often inadvertently copy the links, too: I’ve found lots of copied posts as the result of a pingback from the infringing site, which hasn’t realised the copied post linked to other pages on my site: ha!
The message: If you’re worried about people copying you, check in your admin panel and make sure you have pingbacks enabled: not only will they help you find some of your stolen images, they’ll also tell you when someone has linked to you. Which is nice. When they’re not copying you, of course.
5. Your stats package
Most bloggers have some kind of statistics package which tells them how much traffic their site gets, where it comes from, etc: I use Google Analytics, but there are lots of different tools which do the same thing. Keep an eye on these stats, and particularly on where your traffic is coming from, because this is another good way to find out if you’ve been copied, especially in cases where your content has been copied and pasted in its entirety, or by a scraping script rather than an actual person. If someone has hotlinked an image, for instance, you may see an unusual amount of traffic going to that image on your server, in which case your stats package should tell you where it’s coming from.
The stats will also give you lots of other interesting information, like how many people have found your blog as a result of a Google search for the phrase: “I hate gingers, I hope they all die.” Answer: A LOT.
Aaaaand, that’s all I can think of for now. What would be really funny would be if THIS post was copied now, wouldn’t it? Don’t worry, it probably will be…
(Coming soon: how to stop people stealing your content in the first place.)
It’s been a while since I last caught(y) someone doing “a McNaughty”, so for the benefit of those just joining us, hi, I’m Amber and I’m the most-imitated woman on the Internet! You can find a full list of all the people who have impersonated or ripped me off here: read it and weep, folks! (God knows, I sometimes do.)
Anyway, as I was saying, it’s been a long time since I last wrote about my copycats, so you’ve probably been thinking, “Gosh, people must have finally given up on relentlessly copying Amber: that’s nice!” Or, I mean, you probably HAVEN’T been thinking that at all, but if you had, you’d be wrong: people have, indeed, been continuing to steal my images and text (mostly on eBay), it’s just that it happens so often that it’s not really worth mentioning most of the time. Until now, that is.
Sunday night, as you probably all know, was Oscars night, a.k.a The Worst Night of Amber’s Year. Because I have a website about fashion, I am obliged to write about the Oscars red carpet, and because I’m not a filthy rotten image thief, I buy all of the images I require to do this from an image agency. With money. Money that I work for, and which I can’t spend on shoes and green dresses once I’ve spent it on image licences for my website. Boo hoo, woe is me!
On Oscar night, however, my image agency messed up. I sat up late, waiting for the images to come in, and, when they didn’t, I set my alarm and got up early the next morning. And the images still weren’t available. So I freaked out, and then Gemma told me I could get (legal) images from the PR Section of the Academy Awards website, so I did that, then my own agency coughed up the goods too, and I spent basically the entire day editing photos and writing text to accompany them.
Then I got up the next morning and discovered that some other website had just stolen all the posts and republished them, so all of those hours of work, all of those images, and all of the money I had spent purchasing them, had not, as I had imagined, been done to benefit my own business and website, but had been done to benefit someone ELSE’S.
Which was… yeah.
It’s OK, though: I mean, they didn’t actually COPY me. Oh no. I mean, compare this, from my site:
With this, from the plagiarist, I mean “person who just happened to write exactly the same thing, but in Pidgin English, because that totally makes it OK”:
Occasional actress. My Few Days With Marilyn. Your woman. The night-time.
Let’s just admit it: this is funnier than what I wrote, isn’t it? Only I don’t think that was the intention somehow.
Oh yah, totally: thus boom about trend! I SO know what you mean! Except, not really. I don’t think ANYONE would know what this meant, if it weren’t for my helpful translation above, which has obviously been run through some kind of software designed to replace certain words with other ones.
(In other news, I think my next tagline will be “One ruffle lacking any seventies bedspread.” Catchy, no? Orange can make it!)
There’s even more, too: this company has copied lots of my posts – I actually don’t know the full extent of it yet, because I had to stop counting in order to come here and take the crap out of them – and posts from other bloggers, too. My guess is that they think the fact that they’re re-writing the text makes it OK, so here is a newsflash for them, and for anyone else thinking, “You know what: I’d like to make money from blogging, but I can’t be assed doing any work or investing any money in it, so I think what I’ll do is, I’ll let AMBER do the work and spend the money, and then I’ll just steal it!”:
NEWSFLASH: RE-WRITING MY CONTENT IN THE MANNER OF AN (ADMITTEDLY HILARIOUS) NON-ENGLISH SPEAKER DOES NOT MAKE IT OK TO COPY ME. Or anyone else, for that matter.
This is plagiarism, pure and simple. I’ve done the work, now this company is profiting from it. (And I found the copycat site because I was Googling for info on Oscars fashion, and it came up in the search results before mine. So this site is stealing my work AND my traffic, just in case you were thinking this kind of thing doesn’t matter, or that it’s an essentially victimless crime.)
I’m not really concerned about the images on this particular post, because they’re ones I got from the Oscars’ press section, and anyone who is registered there would have access to them. They’ve also stolen images which I paid my agency for, though, and that REALLY rankles with me – as it does when any blogger takes images I’ve paid for – because images aren’t cheap, and I hate feeling like I’m paying for something just so other bloggers can use it for free. I’m willing to pay for my OWN images, but I don’t see why I should pay for yours too.
(Incidentally, this is another reason why it’s not nice to steal images. Someone had to pay for them. They didn’t pay for them FOR YOU. And some photographer DIDN’T get paid for your use of them. Not cool.)
We will probably be able to get Google to remove our content from this site (we always have before), once we’ve worked out exactly how much of it they’ve used. I’m not going to link to them because I don’t want to send them the traffic, but if you’re thinking it might be called “Fashion Trends for 2012″, then you are thinking right: please don’t reward it with clicks! And if you wrote any coverage of The Oscars this week, or celebrity fashion in general, there’s a good chance your re-written content is on it too.
I leave you with one of my favourite automatic re-writes of my text:
I said I liked Flower Byrne’s “bob”. They said they liked her “frank”. And I said her dress was black, but what was I thinking? That dress is AFRICAN AMERICAN, people. I hang my head in shame.
(Is it wrong that I want to ask them which program they’re using to do this? I’m thinking my blog would be MUCH funnier if I ran my posts through it too…)
Just in case any of you were worried that my recent silence is a sign that the ghost which switches our TV on and knocks over our posters had taken more drastic action against Terry and I, I’m here to report that all is well. And, I mean, it’s not like there’s been any other spooky occurrences to suggest there’s a ghost in the house, maybe in the region of the front door, say:
(Um, please excuse the quality and shakiness of this video – I filmed it on my phone, late at night. I was also probably drunk.)
Seriously, he stood like this, staring intently at absolutely nothing, repeatedly that night. And no, there was nothing outside (that was visible to the human eye) and no mysterious sounds (that our human ears could pick up), so the question remains: WHAT DOES HE SEE? Is it dead people? And are they likely to try to posses us any time soon, I wonder?
Actually, there’s a small part of me right now that’s secretly wishing there WAS a ghost in the house, or that I could become possessed by a demon or something (Note: Not really. That’s not an invitation, o spirits of the netherworld! Begone from this house!). It would at least break the monotony, and give me something to write about here, wouldn’t it? Because here’s the thing, not that you particularly care: I haven’t bee quite lately because of ghostly presences in our home, but just because there is absolutely nothing to see here, folks, move along please. I have, of course, been continuing to blog elsewhere, because that’s what pays the bills, but actually, I think that’s part of the problem: I write about fashion at The Fashion Police, about shoes at Shoeperwoman and (occasionally) about makeup at Hey, Dollface! and it doesn’t really leave much left over to write about here.
Of course, this blog has always been that most awkward of genres: the personal journal. It’s supposed to just be about my life. But really, all that’s been happening in my life right now is that I write about fashion, shoes and makeup, and… that’s it. So things may be quiet around here for a while. Or, then again, they may not, because normally what happens is that I promise I won’t be blogging much, and then I suddenly discover that I have so! much! to! say! and you’re stuck with even MORE of me, instead.