Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Crediting Thing

I want to reply to Maya's blog post, and my reply is getting far too long for a comment, so I have decided to post it on my blog.

First - for background, you may want to read Jenn's blog post, as well as the forum post she was reacting to.

Maya's blog post is, to me, fascinating. I love to read about the history of digital scrapbooking. I wasn't involved those many years ago, and I wish I was. It sounds like it was a very exciting time! It's amazing how much has changed, how quickly. I think Maya very respectfully and thoughtfully addressed a 'hot topic' that not everyone has been able to keep their head about.

I have some points I'd like to make in reply to Maya, so I am going to quote her a few times. My intentions are not to 'bash' Maya but to respectfully state my ideas on these points. Also, I am not making any comments about Maya as a designer, or Maya's site, which I am not very familiar with but is by many reports friendly, professional, welcoming, and full of creativity. I am merely using Maya's comments a launching point for more conversation. And so I begin...

However, my biggest issue with her position is that she is that she is pitting designers and scrappers against one another into an US and THEM situation, and this is hardly fair or of any use to either group.

I don't think Jenn is creating an 'us against them' situation between designers and scrappers. For one thing there are designers and scrappers firmly on both sides of the issues. But more importantly, I see she is doing quite the opposite, she is 'pushing back' against an 'us vs them' that seems to already exist between two different groups at some sites (not yours Maya). I might feel differently about Jenn's blog post if it had been random, but it wasn't, it was in response to a posting of the 'rules of this hobby' that said we need to all credit down to the tiniest button. These kind of 'rules' set experienced forum member/CT teams/Designers against everyone else, creating an environment where people feel it is acceptable (nay, necessary) to admonish and shame people for not crediting. Maya, you have had that experience, but you come from a unique place of knowing the industry inside and out and probably being able to chuckle at yourself about it and then move on. But a new scrapper, or someone new to the community, doesn't have that, and that shame and embarrassment keeps them from coming back (or coming out of lurk mode and participating at all.) (As an aside the original 'rules' post was so upsetting to me I may never find my way back to that site, and it has been a place where I have spent a good many of my scrapbooking dollars in the past.)

The conversation has gone on at length, because those of us who reject those rules have been told that we are breaking copyright laws, which is not true. I have a strong personal sense that following the law is vital, and a just as strong personal sense that mis-quoting and mis-interpreting the laws to make people do what you want is actually a form of bullying. Crediting is the law if the designer asks for it, yes, but no one is breaking the law if they don't credit when it isn't specifically asked for, nor should they be threatened that they are doing something 'illegal' for not crediting a designer who doesn't ask for it.

Like Jenn, I too am a person whose skin may crawl at the idea that there might be any rules applied to my hobby . However, there are no rules applied to the creation of the art, or the creative process. The rules she is speaking of are applicable only in the publication of that art. So the rules are not about the crafting or creative process at all. They are about the community, and the publication of work, either in print or online.

I submit to you that there really is no way to effectively participate in this community, to learn from the tutorials, get feedback, play along in challenges, etc., without posting your layouts. Unlike, say, pottery, where we can meet in real life with a group and share tips and techniques without ever having to post an image online, for digital scrapbooking our community is online. And as being a part of the community is a big part of the hobby, the rules that are applied (or not applied) to the community are vitally important.

Does it help us when you credit us? Of course it does. Does it help the community when you credit? Of course it does. Does it help you? Yes it does. If you like a designer and you want her to continue working and creating more stuff that you enjoy, it really helps to support her.

I agree with you on all points. Everything I purchase, online and off, I purchase both to fill a need but also to support a business I appreciate and want to stick around. I also post credits on all of my layouts. The conversation has never been about whether it is a great thing to do, but whether it is right to require it. And also whether it is right to admonish people who don't credit/can't credit for any reason. People have differing levels of organizational skills and some just cannot do it, and it has nothing to do with being lazy or disrespectful (trust me, there are people I dearly love who are most certainly not lazy, but can not keep track of a shopping list with 4 items on it - apologies to my husband.)

What I would like to know then, is how does this community and industry continue to sustain itself?

The industry will sustain itself because of the community around it. Because people do share their layouts, they do share when they have found designers that they love, they do share new techniques, tutorials, ideas. Not requiring credit is not the same as forbidding credit. As hobbyists, we love what we do, we are often self-proclaimed 'addicts' and we will continue to make layouts, rave about supplies we like, and HAVE to have the latest and greatest new kits. Designers don't need to demand or require credit for us to give it - we LOVE giving it! By setting aside the 'rules' we create more freedom for people to come into our community, feel welcome, make layouts, share them, not worry if they missed crediting a button, and not worry about breaking an un-written code. We can do away with the people who ruin the experience by shaming people for not following rules. The more people feel free to just enjoy their hobby, the more they will create - and the more they create, the more supplies they use - and the more supplies they use, the more they will want to purchase even more of latest and greatest supplies. And that is what will sustain the community ... the community will. But not if it's not a friendly and welcoming one.

I did start out as a paper scrapper. And I went to some workshops where you were only allowed to go if you only used supplies made by that manufacturer. I was shamed out of a workshop in tears for using a tool I had brought with me, breaking a rule I did not know existed. I stopped going. I was looking for a way to be creative, and to enjoy some companionship with people with like interests. Instead I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and inadequate for not knowing enough to choose the 'right' tools.

Though clearly a different situation, this is a similar case - a group of people felt they needed to impose rules to protect their ability to profit from the people participating in the hobby. Instead, they alienated hundreds of customers and are still to this day perceived as elitist (I am quite sure many paper scrappers who read this will know exactly which company I am talking about, and I don't even have to hint at the name). They did exactly the opposite of what they were trying to do - they did not protect their ability to profit from scrapbookers, they pushed them away.

And there were hundreds of other paper scrapbooking companies ready to step in and say 'come to our workshops, use our products, and feel free to express your creativity without any rules.' And people did.

And the paper scrapping company went bankrupt. And many people shook their heads and said 'I knew that was coming.'

The irony in the situation here is that demanding credits will get you credits, but NOT demanding them will get you credits too - freely given, often enthusiastically, and without alienating anyone. And so, as we build our communities, and as we establish ourselves as designers (as some of us are trying to do), we need to be really clear: do we want to be the community/designer that large groups of people avoid because of our rules, or do we want to be the community/designer that everyone returns to and raves about because we are fun, flexible, and encourage creativity?

I know which one I want to be. Do you?



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22 comments:

Maya said...

Hi Jewel..

thanks for inviting me to your blog and to post here. I think we are on the same side here.

I don't think anyone should be forced to any of this, which is why I have never required it of my customers, my very first point.

I don't think I am on a different side from Jenn either. I simply don't want to be lumped in with the few people who make a fuss about these things.

I also wanted to share the history of the industry so that we could see how this process actually evolved, without making broad sweeping statements about designers in general and what I believe to be is a lot of misunderstanding.

You know much of this misunderstanding is partly responsible for the position that some designers have that credit should be mandatory.

In the end, what I want the community to understand, is that I am a designer who does not insist on your crediting me and that most designers I know are of the same mind.

I read Jenn's post completely and stewed with it for a day before responding. I feel the goodness of her intention but much was lost in the delivery. I invited solutions and I am still open to discussions of that nature.

We all want the same thing here...believe me. Let's just work together instead of taking a stance against one another.

Jewel said...

I think you are right Maya, that we are in agreement. I wasn't taking a stance against you, I hope I was making that clear. I really like knowing there 'roots' or how the crediting came about, and I think you are right that many designers don't know where it came from either. I think we can all work together to create a more inviting community - I know I am, where I am site admin, and I can see that you always have had an inviting community. I My hope with my post is to continue the thought processes, and continue the conversation in a respectful way so we don't lose site of the message because of the delivery.

Jennwhite said...

Jewel,
thank you for taking the time to write this!

I loved your paper-scrap analogy, very interesting. I remember when they shut down, and you're right, nobody was surprised. And you're right, that's exactly what we're risking here. The big corporations, who have learned from past mistakes, will swoop in and make it easier, funner (I know, not a word) and friendlier, and edge us out of the picture.

And Maya, I neglected to answer this in my comment on your post, but yes, there IS a solution. It's two-fold. And it's simple.

1. Designers MUST be upfront with their customers about crediting expectations. TOUs should be linked in product descriptions so we can 'try before we buy'. That allows designers who wish to require crediting to ensure that their wishes are known and followed. Conversely, designers who do not require credit can put a statement in saying 'if you post a layout on a sharing site, credit is appreciated but not required'. Site owners should insist on this as a matter of customer service.

2. We need to encourage non-crediters to post. We can do this by prominently (front page of the gallery) posting gallery policy to the effect of 'While crediting product sources is always appreciated, it is not required in this gallery unless required by terms of use or other arrangement such as Creative Team agreement'. That would be clear, friendly and accurate. Then we need to get the word out that we want to see what you have to share! And comment kindly on it, credits or not.

Seems to me those are a couple of simple adjustments that would allow designers to choose the degree of attribution they are comfortable with, and communicate that clearly with our users.

Is that unrealistic, what are your thoughts on either suggestion?

Jewel said...

I think those two things would be fairly simple to do. I know I am moving that direction with my own product descriptions.

I hope lots of store and site owners are reading all of this and will address the gallery idea, too :)

Mom to J & J said...

Great post Jewel and excellent discussion everyone!

Jewel said...

Thanks Kerry!

(Jen) scrapmommytn said...

That is so very well said Jewel!

Jewel said...

Thanks to you too Jen :) I am glad I make sense to people other than myself ROFL.

ChrisA. said...

I haven't been involved in all of this discussion and just recently read through the thread at DST and can see valid points that have been brought up. I've always credited and probably always will (once I get my mojo back LOL).

I like the suggestions that have been made and I'll make another one (I don't know if it is possible). It might make it easier for a scrapper to post credits if there was an industry-wide standard to naming the pieces of a digital kit: color, paper or element (staple, flower, etc.), designer name, kit name. Maybe using standardized abbreviations for each area. It would also make it easier to find on your hard drive just by doing a search and not having to tag.

Like I said I don't know if it is possible with the limits on character spaces on each type of software used, etc.

Diane said...

Beautifully put, Jewel, and Maya and Jenn. You are right, in the end, the community's enthusiasm for sharing their "finds" and favorites by giving them credit are what will sell products and keep customers happy, not requiring credits.

knittinjen said...

Umm, wow, I'm just a casual designer, but I think I am going to go re-do my TOU. I don't want people to feel offended or overwhelmed by them - I want people to love my stuff and credit and link it if they are excited about it!

One GREAT suggestion for crediting ease, though, is for designers to name things with their designer NAME in it. (and enough with the SS and SC - you know how many designers have these initials!?!?)

I started digi-scrapping in 2005, when very little was available, took a hiatus from 2006-early 2009, and WOW! Was AMAZED! And I went freebie crazy, and ended up deleting all the stuff with no designer name on it, because at that time (before realizing all the online communities had to offer in terms of sharing, recognition, atta girls, etc, that are so precious to me!!) I did not keep pesky little files like TOU requirements (or previews with designers' names haha) because I was just going to make and print my pages for my family's enjoyment. Once I realized I wanted to participate in online communities, I had a ton of kits with file names like "bow" and "red string" - ummm, I tossed (deleted) them all, because I could never credit. If the designer's name was part of the file name, I searched for that designer, found a TOU or at least a kit preview or something, and put it back in with the rest.

The interesting thing is, the stuff I deleted was not really all that high quality anyway. A designer who takes tons of time to create high-quality products generally wants people to know it is theirs. I name my stuff "knittinjen_kitname_describe" - so now I think I will change my TOU to say something more along the line of appreciated, but not required, and BTW here's a link to my blog, feel free to post it if you want. Anybody who has my files will always know they are mine because my name is on them, and I have absolutely no intention of running around the internet to see if people are using my stuff without crediting, so why bother with that in the TOU anyway?

thanks Maya, Jewel, Jenn, for giving me something very interesting to think about!

Jewel said...

Diane - thanks for your comment. I do agree we are a great community and we will continue to support each other :)

Jen - my problem with full designer names on files is, well, the file names just get too long. I know some times my file manater has hard time with long file names. Some of my programs even refuse to open files, saying 'the file name is too long'. I know, ridiculous right? Why should a program have that issue? But they do. So its hard to put my whole name on my file. Though I take comfort that something that says MGD_kitname_redribbon is better than the bazillions of files Have the just say redribbon.

When I realized I wanted to participate in forums, I deleted the huge 'papers' and 'elements' files I had created with combined kits, because I couldn't credit. Interestingly, last week I found an old backup that still had those huge files. I looked at them and found some real gems in there I was glad I still have! I think it's sad when we feel the need to delete those supplies because of the credit issue.

Thanks for reading, commenting, keeping the discussion going :D

Jewel said...

ChrisA - I think you are right, a standard would be good. The problem is that different scrappers want different things so its hard to know what the best would be.

For example - some scrappers want the word 'paper' on every paper, so when they search for it they can find it. Others want the colour on every paper. Still more want it to say if its solid or patterned. Or better yet, if its got hearts on it, put the word hearts in the file name. And many want the full designer name in there so they always know who designed it.

So you get file names that look like this

MadGeniusDesigns_kitname_heartpatternpaperpinkwhite

And once again we are in the area of names that are too long for some programs to open. Especially if the kit name is more than one or two short words.

On the one hand I think we could all just use our full designer name, kit name, then E1, E2 P1 P2 and so on, and leave the descriptive tagging to the end user ... but users have said again and again they don't want to waste their time tagging ... so we shorten our design name to initials, and we have people saying they want full designer names for ease of crediting ... both are valid points and one isn't better than the other.

So I honestly don't know what the solutions is. And that's why standardizing seems so impossible.

veejayr said...

Jewel - thanks so much for posting your comments and the links to the other discussions. This is a very intriguing topic and I love the open exchange of ideas. Hopefully, more galleries will see the wisdom of relaxing (if not completely doing away with) their crediting requirements and more stores will require designers to post their TOU's where they can be reviewed PRIOR to product purchase. Vicki (veejayr)

Robyn said...

Thank you all for your views. I appreciate all your thoughts on this matter. After reading this I will definitely be re-doing my TOU so that credit will be optional. I think when I first got into designing some years back I just followed along with everyone else and pretty much put in the 'standard' TOU. I'm thrilled if anyone buys and uses my stuff and I don't want to think that their creativity is going to be restricted by worrying about my TOU. If customers care to give me credit, that is wonderful, but equally if for whatever reason they don't, then that is fine too. Thank you all for being the trigger for me to change my TOU.

Jewel said...

Vicki - great to see you! I also hope for both those industry changes :)

Robyn - glad you read it all and found it helpful. I also followed the 'standard' TOU when I wrote mine, and have made a change.

Nathan1980 said...

Hi Jewel, its one of the finest posts I have read on this topic.great work. keep it up.

Dawn said...

As someone who has only found digital scrapbooking within the last few months, I thought I would second Jewel's post.

I personally have not posted to any layout challenges because of my perception that this community is extremely picky about crediting. I have seen so many layouts that I wonder if I will unconsciously use a design I've seen in the past or perhaps create from scratch something similar enough to something a designer has done and end up getting outed. It isn't worth it to me.

I have downloaded work only later to realize the designer hadn't used their name in the file or included a TOU. In such cases even when I love the work I delete rather than take the chance of offending someone. (Maybe the standard should be to assume crediting is appreciated but not required unless clearly posted.)

I will not purchase anything that I can't read the TOU beforehand. And quite frankly I won't go through with the purchase if the TOU is picky, not because I intend to unfairly use others work, but because I'm extremely concerned about slipping up. This a hobby and I don't need the stress. I also check the general feel of a store before I join their forums etc... If it doesn't seem open, I won't register.

Just the a few thoughts from a newbie...

Jewel said...

Thanks so much for your comments Dawn! I hope that we can work on creating some places where you feel more comfortable to participate and post. I completely agree - as a hobby I use scrapbooking to escape stress and worry, not add to it.

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Jackie said...

I can tell you that as a digital scrapbooking customer, I began this HOBBY for my own enjoyment. I used to buy art simply because I appreciated it. I have always been careful not to share my digital purchases with anyone and direct them to where to buy it if they like it. Truthfully, all the bickering over copyright has sickened me and I now will no longer purchase art from a designer that demands credit and I have now stopped posting anything I make to share. Having to credit every little pixel in my layouts has greatly taken the fun away from sharing my posts. I continue to buy art from those I love though and those that continue to allow me to enjoy my hobby with appreciation for my support in buying their art. I feel my hobby has been pushed into a way to create free advertising for the artists I use. I think there are many of us that respect copyright, but don't care to hear all the foul comments and bashing each other involved anymore. These negative demands have proven to push me away as a customer.

Jewel said...

Thanks Jackie for your comments. I hope that my post didn't seem like negative comments or bashing. And I truly hope you share your layouts again soon! I know there is a growing list of designers who don't require credit at DST, so I'm hoping you will use their stuff (and mine!) and share your layouts and get to take advantage of the community :)