Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Can we talk about SHARING?

Please don't steal my dog.
Sharing is always good, right?

You're probably not aware of it, but there's been a bit of a kerfluffle on Facebook regarding some pages that are sharing recipes from food blogs.

When conversations arise on these sites about why these sorts of shares are not right, people will often jump into the fray and say, "Didn't your mother teach you that sharing is good!?"

Well, yes, but ...

Imagine this scenario. Your child looks out the window and sees that the little girl next door has a lot of people in the back yard, laughing, playing on swings, and having a good old time. Your child asks if he can go over there.

Well, sure, honey, if you're invited.

The gate is wide open, and your child is welcomed. When he comes home that evening he says that the little girl next door baked cupcakes and invited everyone over to share the cupcakes. And she's going to be making more cupcakes tomorrow and the next day.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Cooks.
And he says, "Can, I do that, too, mom?"

Well, sure.

So the next day, your son goes next door - the gate is open, remember, and the cupcakes are being freely shared - and he brings all the freshly-baked cupcakes home and invites a whole bunch of people over to enjoy the cupcakes.

You have a crowd in your back yard, and your son is very happy. He makes plans for future parties that will be even better.

But now the little girl is looking out her window and wondering why no one is coming over to visit. She looks sad. She sees the crowd in your back yard and climbs the fence. "These look like my cupcakes," she says.

"No, they're not your cupcakes any more," your son says. "You shared them with me and now I'm sharing them with all these people. They don't have to come visit you any more because I have your cupcakes, and I have lemonade from the stand on the corner and I have cookies from that kid three doors down, and later on I will get hot dogs and hamburgers from the guy across the street who is always grilling."

And then to sweeten the pot, he has moved a swing set and pool into your back yard, and there is a brand new basketball hoop out front and a whole array of balls, bats, mitts, hockey sticks, and roller skates in a big pile.

Would you be pleased?

Probably not.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Days.
So you have a conversation with your son, and he says, "I'm not really good at baking, but I'm really good at sharing. All these kids wanted their food shared with the neighborhood, and moms are always telling us to share our toys, so I'm helping all these kids share!"

And all around the neighborhood, children are looking out their windows, wondering where their cupcakes and cookies and toys went to, and they why no one is in their back yard any more.

The guy who lost his hot dogs and hamburgers is just all-out angry and stalking though the neighborhood with a barbecue fork in his hand looking for the culprit.

And when the children go to school, they hear other kids talking about these great cookies and lemonade and cupcakes, but no one thanks them for making the cupcakes and cookies and lemonade because all the kids are talking about the little boy who gave them the food. What a great guy he is!

Do you see how unfair that is?

Wouldn't it have been better if the little boy didn't steal all the food and toys, but instead he organized a tour of the neighborhood, where he brought friends over to the cupcake girl and introduced them, and then he showed them where the lemonade stand was and where the cookie-baker lived?

She will share Tiger, but you can't take him home.
Maybe the guy with the burgers doesn't want to share at all, but there's nothing wrong with knocking on the door and asking politely.

See, that's what was going on with the pages on Facebook. They were publishing photos and recipes from a great number of blogs without asking permission.

Since the recipes were published in full, there was no reason for anyone to visit the original bloggers. Sometimes there would be a link to the original blog, but often there would be no acknowledgement at all.

Bloggers stumbled upon these Facebook sites when they saw their own recipes coming through their news feed from unknown sources. Or friends notified them.

Then a lot of bloggers got mad. Some left messages on those Facebook pages, some filed DMCA reports, and some just curled up in a ball of hurt.

There were some people who thought the bloggers were jealous, whiny troublemakers. Some honestly didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

There are always arguments that a link is good enough, even if a recipe is published in full because, "if I see something I like, I'd go to your blog to see what else you have."

Photo courtesy of Vintage Kitchen.
As bloggers, we know that is not true for the vast majority of people. Most people will see one recipe on a page, then move on to the next recipe on the same page, and then the next. They won't click to see the original blog, because there are plenty of recipes to look without ever leaving that one Facebook page.

It's good for the page, but not for the bloggers who created the recipes.

On some of those Facebook pages, there were recipes that had been shared hundreds-of-thousands of times. One very popular recipe had been shared over 900,000 times on Facebook, but the blogger saw no increase in blog traffic.

We bloggers are not greedy or selfish. We open our doors and invite you in and give you our recipes that you can use, print, or copy for your own use. We invite you to share links. We don't want to lock down our blogs with copy-deterrent software that will make it difficult for our fans.

But we do not expect you to walk out with the silverware and the mixer and the dog.

Photo courtesy of From Cupcakes to Caviar.
If you want to SHARE a recipe, please do not publish the whole recipe. Tweet a link on Twitter, pin a photo on Pinterest, stumble a post, link or like on Facebook, put links on message boards - we LOVE that sort of sharing.

Please note that some bloggers do not want their images shared without explicit permission. Personally, I'm fine with having an image shared if you link to the blog post it came from.

But when you republish an entire recipe, there is no reason for anyone to come and visit us in our own home. We like meeting new friends and sharing with them. We get lonely when our visitors go away.

We bloggers get very frustrated when we work hard on recipes and it seems like no one stops by to see them or leave comments, particularly when we see those recipes becoming popular without us. We get hungry when someone has stolen all of our cupcakes. And the dog would have a hard time adjusting to a new home.

It doesn't hurt anyone to share correctly. YOU still look like a genius for finding a great recipe, and WE get to make new friends.

Sharing my cupcakes.
I know that someone out there is forming the argument that cupcakes have a value that is lost when the cupcakes are stolen from the owner, but republishing recipes from blogs does not harm the owner financially.

But in many cases it does.

Many bloggers have ads on their sites which pay the blogger a teeny amount for every person who visits the site.

One less visit isn't a big deal, but in the case of a recipe that is shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook - well, those visits to a blog could be a significant payment for a blogger.

Or at least enough to buy some fancy new ingredients to blog about.

And some bloggers aspire to work with big-name brands or maybe even write a cookbook some day. Those brands and publishers want to work with bloggers who are popular. They don't care if a recipe has been shared on Facebook a biz-quintillion times. They want to know how many people visited the blog.

Every visit that is funneled away from a blog and captured by another site is money or opportunity lost for that blogger. Meanwhile, other sites are profiting from the work done by bloggers.

Please share responsibly.
Even bloggers who don't have financial motives are losing out when recipes are shared in full. We read comments on those sites that say, "Oh, your macaroni strudel meatloaf pie is amazing! We LOVE YOU!!! Post more of YOUR yummy recipes!"

We feel sad and hurt because the person who posted our full recipe is getting the accolades and we're not even getting a nod in the hallway for creating the recipe, writing the blog post, and taking the pretty photos.

There are legal reasons why you shouldn't share full recipes, which I've already discussed here and hereI just wanted you to know why we get sad and hurt and angry when we see someone else publishing our work. Please share a link to this post, if you feel it's appropriate. And visit the bloggers who graciously allowed me to use their cupcake photos.

More reading: http://diannej.com/blog/2013/04/food-bloggers-fight-firestorm-of-abusive-facebook-pages