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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Technology

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Yesterday our nation reeled from a senseless attack on innocent people. I know here at home, we were desperately reaching out for answers. My husband had family in Boston and I had friends who were participating in the race. We were scrambling to make sure our loved ones were okay (all is fine, btw).  We mourn as a nation, as humans. We are grateful for the brave people who ran toward danger to render aid to the suffering.

There were nurses, doctors and other medical professionals participating in the marathon. Despite the fact they were at the end of running over twenty-six miles, they still dove in to assist those injured in spite of their own exhaustion and pain. Carlos Arredondo, who lost his son in Iraq, bravely jumped a security fence into a pile of fallen bodies and immediately rendered aid.

I am awed, humbled and amazed by the many stories of everyday heroes.

Image of Carlos Arrodondo via The Washington Post.
Image of Carlos Arrodondo via The Washington Post.

Yet, in the midst of all this chaos, one story in particular caught my attention because, oddly enough, it made headlines along with all other reports piling in from the blast site. My husband and I were searching for breaking news to see if any of our loved ones might be among the victims when I saw this:

Kim Kardashian Attacked on Twitter  for Self-Promotion During Boston Marathon Tragedy.

I’m not a political analyst and I’m not law enforcement, but I do teach social media. This headline caught my attention because it brought up a new angle I’d not previously contemplated, a new dark side to social media for us all to be wary of. I hesitantly bring this up today, but only because I believe this story is such a powerful cautionary tale for all of us who use social media. We must be responsible and authentic.

A World of Instant

We live in a world of instant communication and connection, and social media is a double-edged sword. Last year, social media saved lives and helped keep my family safe during a sudden outbreak of 22 tornadoes in one day.  Since our power was out, all we could hear were sirens but we couldn’t tell if they were warning our area, or somewhere nearby. I rushed out front to listen closer, and that’s when I heard that unforgettable freight train sound and watched an F-2 lower out of the blackness.

With no power, we had no way of knowing what might be headed our way….and the tornadoes kept coming and coming, one after another. Twitter is what kept us informed. We huddled in the bathroom and used my cell phone to watch Twitter.

Once the power returned, I got back on Twitter to return the favor. One woman who follows me had taken a moment to peek at her Twitter feed at work. I’d just tweeted that yet another tornado was on the ground in Dallas and headed straight for them.

Later, I found out the woman worked in a virtually windowless building and they had no way of knowing DFW was experiencing a tornado outbreak of historic proportions. Had I (and others) not tweeted the warning, the woman and her coworkers wouldn’t have known to seek shelter mere minutes before they were hit.

I bring this up to show that social media is amazing, wonderful and powerful, but we have to be careful how we use it. I’ve talked at length about how I am adamantly opposed to automation, particularly automation that is meant to “appear” as if there is a real person present.

The World Can Turn on a Dime

News breaks in an instant. These days, when disaster strikes, the public knows within minutes, often before anyone even knows what’s really transpired. Social media is used to relay instant news, connect family to loved ones, warn of further danger, etc.

A Perfect Storm

When we preprogram “chatty self-promo” messages, most of the time, people won’t notice, especially if the person injects real tweets in between. Yet, the world can go so dark so quickly, that chatty self-promo automation can become an instant nightmare. Kim Kardashian tweeted her condolences to the victims of the Boston tragedy, but then a little over 20 minutes later tweeted:

“Check out @krisjenner on @QVC’s PM Style Show at 7PM EST tonight!”

Fans were livid and went on the attack. According to the article (linked above) via Hollywood Life’s Emily Longoretta:

One tweet read: “America is in the midst of a tragedy right now. F— you.”

Another similarly responded: “WE DNT GIVE A F— RIGHT NOW KIM.”

Shortly after Kim’s tweet, her mom Kris Jenner sadly followed her insensitive lead.

“Dolls! Don’t miss me tonight at 8pm ET on @QVC! I’m debuting my gorg new scoopneck tunic on PM Style!! Join me!” Kris wrote on her Twitter, receiving a backlash just like Kim. However, then she removed it.

To me, it is clear that some intern probably just got fired. The Kardashians have a legion of media people to clean up the PR nightmare, yet this highlights a point I’ve been trying to make for some time now.

People are on social media to be social. Ads, promotion and automation from people are resented in general, but they can spark a wildfire of backlash if automation meets with poor timing as it did in the case of the Kardashian family.

I don’t think most of us believed the Kardashians were actually tweeting those promos. I feel the Kardashian fans, for the most part, just accept that promotion goes along with “keeping up with the Kardashians.” But when that automation met the perfect storm of tragedy? It was ugly.

I believe the ill-timed self-promotion eclipsed the genuine condolences Kim offered the victims, and that’s very sad.

Not Everyone Understands the Ins and Outs of Twitter

One thing we are wise to consider is that a lot of regular people use Twitter, but many don’t understand it the way those of us building a platform do. Many people don’t realize it’s possible to automate, so when they see in ill-timed tweet in the middle of disaster, they react as violently as they would toward someone trying to sell vitamins at a funeral.

We Take a Risk

Humans remember the negative far longer than the positive. If we automate, we are gambling that we can run to Hoot Suite and shut down the chatty auto-tweets before we “tweet” something that makes us look like insensitive jerks. It’s a big gamble with high stakes. What takes years to build can only take seconds to destroy.

Boston, We Love You

I am grateful for Twitter. It kept us and others safe last year in the tornado outbreak. It’s allowed me to reach out to friends in Boston and be there for them, to make sure they’re all right. I think social media is a blessing, but only when we use it with love, wisdom and prudence.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Boston. We love you, support you, we mourn for you and we are here for you.

Technology can feel a little like THIS...
Technology can feel a little like THIS…

*blinks groggily* Geeze, Kristen, what did you put in that candy? I promised I’d write a guest post for your blog. You didn’t have to kidnap me to make it happen. Methinks you like the Candy Van just a little too much.

That van was a BARGAIN. Getting my $250 worth.

Besides, I only drug my favorite people. It’s like a CLUB…bonded by candy and Stockholm Syndrome :).

Didn’t want one of my guests feeling left out. No Candy Van War Story to share. Oh, here’s some water. Might help wash the sedatives out of your system. 

Take it away, Jami!….

WordPress.COM vs. WordPress.ORG — Which Is Better for Us?

Image via Bill_Owen Flikr Creative Commons
Image via Bill_Owen Flikr Creative Commons

Okay, let’s see if I can focus my eyes enough to explain the differences between the WordPress.com and WordPress.org blogging platforms. Yes, one is .com and one is .org. Yes, it’s confusing. Don’t worry, we’ll deal.

  • WordPress.comFree by default, but with limited customization options. They make their money by placing ads on our sites and selling upgrades that increase customizations to some extent.
  • WordPress.org Requires a hosting company to run the free software. Hosting companies charge a monthly fee to “host” your data on their servers. Depending on the hosting company, you can do nearly any customizations you want.

If you’re already feeling a splitting headache coming on (like I currently have— thanks, Kristen) from the thought of all this technical information, you might want to catch up with my previous posts.

Earlier, I shared some of the reasons I focus on WordPress and not Blogger for our blogging platform. And I did a guest post at Writers In The Storm blog (with no kidnapping required, I might add) explaining what a hosting company is and why they’re important.

We all need to work together. Image via Wikimedia Commons
We all need to work together. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Why WordPress.COM Is a Good Option for Some

When we’re first starting out with our blog, we understandably might not be ready to commit any money to the venture. We want to see how this blogging thing works for us, figure out whether we’ll be able to think of topics, and decide on a direction for our blogging voice.

For this reason, many of us want a free blogging platform, like WordPress.com. If we go this route, WordPress.com is our hosting company. Our blog posts (and all our other site data) live on their servers and visitors connect to our site by using WordPress.com’s network. To make money for all that equipment, WordPress.com offers paid upgrades, from a custom domain name to design help.

The only upgrade I’d recommend for WordPress.com would be to pay for a custom domain name. By default, internet addresses (otherwise known as the URL) of sites running on WordPress.com include “wordpress” in their name: http://ourname.wordpress.com. (Like how the URL of Kristen’s blog is http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com.)

Some think having “wordpress” in the URL can make us look less professional. If we want, we can upgrade to a custom domain and our URL would then be: http://ourname.com.
WordPress.com’s default (meaning free) settings will be enough for many of us.

We can choose from over a hundred free themes (the template for the design of our blog). We get free access to great integrated contact forms, comment systems, blog email signups, etc.

However, depending on our goals for our website/blog, we might want or need more customization. In that case, we’d want to consider using WordPress.org instead.

Why WordPress.ORG Is a Good Option for Some

While the WordPress.org software is free, we have to pay for a hosting company to store the data for our website blog. So people often call WordPress.org the “paid option.” Technically, it’s the self-hosted option, meaning we get to pick our hosting company.

Going this route means we’d usually have more freedom with our site to do the customizations we want. WordPress.org offers almost 2000 free themes, and many premium themes are available as well.

Our domain name would be whatever we wanted, but we’d need to obtain it ourselves (some hosting companies will help us with this step).

In short, going with WordPress.org means more freedom—and more responsibility. Domain names, picking a good hosting company, being careful to not let our site be hacked, oh my.

In a way, WordPress.com is like going with a traditional publisher who will do some of the work for us—but leave us with less control—while going with WordPress.org is like self-publishing, where we have to do everything ourselves. So it can make sense to stick with the free WordPress.com if it does everything we want it to do.

How Can We Know which Path Is Right for Us?

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Image via Wikimedia Commons

We should pick a hosting company (I use TechSurgeons.com) and go with WordPress.ORG if we want to:

  • Use plugins (for Google Analytics, email newsletters, controlling the “related posts” listed at the bottom of a post, adding more sidebar widgets, better SEO (search engine optimization), better sharing to social media, etc.)
  • Use a custom theme
  • Make changes to the programming code
  • Add a store
  • Use direct links for purchasing
  • Post Adsense ads
  • Use affiliate links
  • Prevent ads from showing up on your site (WordPress.com can display ads on our site)
  • Use a different commenting system (like Disqus)
  • Add more features to our website (like a forum)

On the other hand, we should go with WordPress.COM if we:

  • Do not care about any of those above options (customizations, adding a store or links to sell things directly off the site, widgets, forums, commenting systems, preventing ads, etc.)
  • Just want a basic site that we don’t have to worry about

What If We’re Still Not Sure?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons
Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

It is possible to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, and some hosting companies can help with that transition. So it’s not the end of the world if we start one way and then change our mind. However, old links, credit with Google for our site’s popularity, etc. might be messed up along the way.

We have to balance our current needs and ability to pay with a guess at our anticipated future needs. That means we might not be able to do what we want right now. Or we might guess wrong. But I hope this post gave you some ideas for how to start making that decision. My hosting company offers potential clients a test site for a month if they want to play with WordPress.org.

If you have specific questions about which route would be best for you, I’ll be doing a one-hour live Q&A session on WANA International’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 11th at 7 p.m. Eastern time. On my blog today, I have more details about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and links to more information.

I’ll also keep an eye out for questions in the comments here (assuming Kristen doesn’t slip anything else in my candy stash *hugs chocolate close*).

Okay, I’ve Decided—Now What?

If you’re thinking of setting up a website or blog for the first time, I’m offering two workshops through Kristen’s WANA International at the end of April. Registration is currently open for these two workshops designed for those with no knowledge of WordPress, websites, or blogs. Interested?

Readers of Kristen’s blog can use Promo Code “jamisave” to save $5 on registration. Sign up for only one of the workshops:

Thanks for having me here, Kristen! And next time, all you have to do is ask—no kidnapping necessary. I promise, my friend. *smile*

Jami takes away all my fun. Without kidnapping, I only have a toddler and the Bubble Guppies.

Do you have questions about WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Do you understand what makes them different? Do you have other suggestions for how to decide which path to take?

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Author Jami Gold
Author Jami Gold

After discovering a chemical compound that makes chocolate even more awesome, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her familyóand zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blog,†Twitter,†,†Facebook,†Pinterest,†LinkedIn, and†Goodreads.