Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Odd Moment of Joy in a Writer's Life

Ok, so I did promise, didn't I?

I said that when my books arrived in the mail from Createspace, that I would pose with them and show you. It kind of didn't quite go to plan, as I got the first copy of Blaming the Child and I hated it. It looked naff, there were a number of things I got wrong and there was no way on this earth that you were ever going to see it. It went off for proofing quietly and I managed to stop myself gluing brown paper over its faulty front, but only because I trust my proofers to say nothing when asked never to mention it again.

Last weekend I posed like a complete wally with the new Blaming the Child, Demons on Her Shoulder and The New Du Matriarch, but only because I am a woman of my word.  I learned some huge lessons with that first proof and I might actually shelve it as an example of what not to do - now that I have calmed down about it. The others, I am thrilled with. Well, I was for a few minutes, but being a closet perfectionist I have done some fiddling and corrected some things...

So, without further ado, this is me and I am she. 

This is the place I seem to spend most of my life in - when I'm not working at my 'proper job' or doing life things that keep me away from my office. It's amazing how much time I do spend writing, editing, blogging, researching and doing the myriad things that keep my craft going. I sat one day last week after a morning at work and did 14 hours more or less straight, with a short interruption to fetch my daughter off the school bus in the township and a few bathroom breaks. I'm not convinced that anyone who isn't a writer would understand how all consuming it is. It's everything to me and yet nothing to anyone else. 

So why do I do it?

Because I'm a writer. And hey, look. At least I have something to show for my time. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Facebook Disclaimer - Missing The Point

The Facebook Disclaimer

Over the last few days, a disclaimer has been popping up on my friends’ newsfeeds, a carefully worded statement which refutes Facebook’s right to appropriate any of their posted items, be it photos, comments, articles or opinions. You may have seen it.

Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information, I do declare the following: on this day, September 2nd 2014, in response to the new Facebook guidelines and under articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, texts etc... published on my profile. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times.

Those reading this text can copy it and paste it on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright. By this release, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or to take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The actions mentioned above apply equally to employees, students, agents and/or other staff under the direction of Facebook.
The contents of my profile include private information. The violation of my privacy is punished by the law (UCC 1 1-308 - 308 1 -103 and the Rome Statute). Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are invited to post a notice of this kind, or if you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you have not published this statement at least once, you will tacitly allow the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile update.

I visit a forum that I know is frequented by many clever lawyers and decided to ask their opinion on it. Because after all, should I actually be posting this on my Facebook page? Am I leaving myself horribly unprotected when Facebook decides to show that ugly photo of me riding my horse in the paddock - I mean whose backside is bigger, mine or the horse? I am unlikely to be famous enough to have that photo of my cat snuggled in the bottom drawer of my office posted all over the net, but I guess I should be aware that it’s a possibility. 

The answer came back from the lawyers loud and clear and other people waded in with some knowledge. Forget it. It’s a waste of the effort it takes to cut and paste it onto your page. It is superseded by those damning little Terms and Conditions that you didn’t read but rapidly clicked ‘yes’ to in all the excitement of setting up your Facebook page. If you clicked ‘no’ then there would be no Facebook for you, so you didn’t really have much choice.

But there are two issues here that are flying under the radar.

The first is that most people don’t effectively lock down their Facebook pages in the privacy settings, so the irony is that anyone online could be scrolling their posts and nicking their photos with abandon. If you are happily posting on Facebook and see a little grey earth ball next to your posts, then you just posted to the whole world. Oops. Definitely get that fixed - unless you are happy for random strangers to get to know you vicariously. What’s the point of posting a lengthy, pointless paragraph citing irrelevant legislation when you’ve got your Facebook page open as a barn door?

The second is this issue of ‘The Cloud.’ Everyone who is ‘anyone’ is storing their information in The Cloud, pumping out their data and information gaily to be received and housed by an anonymous ‘someone else’ who saves them the problem of where to put their overwhelming stash of information. It sits up there like a virtual layer above our heads, compartmentalised like an invisible storage unit that only we can get to. Look again

Did you read your Terms and Conditions properly amidst your frenzy to get rid of your problem? Who actually owns what you so happily stuff up there and who else can do what they like with it, especially if you decide to stop paying to keep it there?

Google has an interesting set of Terms and Conditions, couched in the usual legal maze of phrases and confusing wording. They promise that your stuff is yours and they will only borrow it for the purposes of their own marketing. You can opt to have your name and profile picture chopped out of their advertising if you like...but everything else you posted is fair game. And, what’s more, they can load things onto your device to collect personal information about you for...well, what for exactly? To help you of course. What other reason could there be?

We may collect and store information (including personal information) locally on your device using mechanisms such as browser web storage (including HTML 5) and application data caches.

It’s like the hype over Facebook Messenger is a new thing. It’s taken the online world by storm and everyone is excited and angered by Facebook’s audacity.

Meanwhile, techs all over the world are quietly sniggering behind their hands. They tried to suggest that you didn’t let Google take over your business applications, but it was cheaper and hey, you were excited about it. Not many IT guys who play with this stuff for a living have apps downloaded all throughout their devices, not without investigating them properly first. 

When I got my Nokia smartphone a year ago, I couldn’t work out where my data was going or why my battery flattened itself within a few hours. “Windows 8,” the man in the phone shop sighed as he turned off my Skydrive and numerous other online apps. Every photo I took was being beamed into The Cloud and stored there without me even realising. My phone did a massive update recently and you know what? It turned back on all those applications; GPS, location, the little app that lets my phone interact with Microsoft without me knowing...

My Facebook apps button is pressed firmly off on my settings and will stay that way. I don’t play games and I never give out our credit card details to a social media site. My privacy is set to friends only - not even friends of friends and I won’t be posting anything on there that I would be embarrassed to have splashed worldwide. That goes for Google+ too. I might cringe slightly at some of the photos, wishing I’d paid more attention to my hair or that I’d known there was horse poo up the back of my leg as I stood smiling. You might see me with a wine glass, but you won’t see me rolling drunk and my life is probably too boring to create any kind of ripple worldwide. Unless I win Lotto, but then in order to do that - I would need to buy a ticket.

I’m not a tech - you can probably tell. Nor am I a lawyer. It strikes me that all this upset over a Facebook app that can potentially squirt out your private information worldwide is more than just a storm in a teacup. That teacup is bobbing around in a shark-filled ocean and everyone is monumentally missing the point.