[SL] Blogger Support

Skin Fair 2015 and some blogger thoughts and jottings..

Skin Fair 2015 is almost upon us, which means bloggers will be running ragged around both sims discovering gorgeous new skins to write about and share with our readers prior to the mad crush on opening day, Friday 13th March. It can be a crazy time because Skin Fair is always one of the most exciting events that take place in-world, and the pressure is certainly upon bloggers to write and share the very best that is on offer at the event.

Some (but by no means all) of the brands at Skin Fair offer bloggers the opportunity to request copies for evaluation on their blogs.  Like most of the bloggers in this group I have requested some copies for myself to feature on my blog, Kittywitchin’, but I’ve been careful not to ask for too many.  There are so many brands exhibiting at the event that if I endeavoured to cover them all I just wouldn’t make a very good job of it, so I’ve found the method that works best for me is to request review copies from designers that I’m not totally familiar with.  This means I get to feature a brand I’ve never discussed on my pages before and opens my eyes to a new designer that I get to excitedly share with my readers.  Such fun!

A darker thought: It’s interesting to note that when Skin Fair kicks off you seem to find a lot of new blogs appear on the internet. Ones that have remained dormant for a long period of time suddenly seem to spring back to life; indeed people who have walked away from blogging suddenly seem enthused about the topic again. Is it crass for me to assume that some of these bloggers are doing so for personal gain? After all, a quality skin doesn’t come cheap. But enough of such speculation. I can understand why blogging may seem attractive to a rampant Second Life shopaholic looking for an easy fix.  Spotting the latest must have items and sharing them with an audience to effusive praise probably seems like a wonderful way to spend your day, but therein lies the problem.  Blogger success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of hard work and it’s a huge commitment.  There’s a reason why there are so many blogs out there with just a select few being the most notable, most talked about and generally most loved.  These are the blogs that are taken seriously by the people who produce them, who have taken the time to write great copy and possibly most important of all, have created beautiful photographs to accompany the blog posts. Get the balance right and you’re on to a winning formula.

Like everything else in the virtual universe, blogging has changed a lot over the years.  When I first experimented with blogging it was because I wanted to write about my virtual environment and share my enthusiasm for it.  I also wanted to hone my writing skills and use my blog as a creative outlet.   It didn’t take me long to realise that blogging is actually incredibly hard work that presents just as many difficulties as it does opportunities.  That trend continues to this day, but there are changes afoot.

For example, there’s a real craze now for content creators to advertise for bloggers, something that you would never have encountered a few years ago.  Personally I’ve nothing against it;  I’ve applied to a small number of creators myself in this way and I’m sure it’s a great way for them to discover new blogs that they would like to be featured upon. But it’s not without problems.  For a start, when you apply to be a blogger for a certain brand it goes without saying that you are obligated to them. They may ask you to blog a few items every week, or just a few times a month, but either way if they have requirements that you can’t fulfil then it is unfair to willingly receive their goods without any intention of blogging them. Of course, real life intervenes from time to time but if you constantly find you have no time to blog the items you’ve received then it is only fair that you let the creator know.

The other problem with blogging by application is the unwritten rule that you’re going to be effusive in your praise about the items you receive.  What happens if your favourite content creator sends you something to blog that you absolutely cannot stand? What do you do in that situation? It’s not an easy one for sure. I guess in those circumstances you would have to be polite and advise them that you would be unable to feature that item on your pages, but ultimately this could damage your working relationship with that brand.

There can be a lot of unnecessary pressures placed upon bloggers to fulfil requests and meet deadlines and oftentimes this is only possible if blogging is your #1 priority. With that in mind, I urge you to consider your sanity, as well as your work-load, before anything else.  As tempting as it is to apply to every single advert creators publish, I strongly recommend that you only apply to those whose product range fits in with your general blog ethos.  It’s my belief that it’s not fair to request to join a blogging list and then once accepted not blog the items sent.  You should be respectful, and bear in mind that the items you’ve been sent have value.  The whole point of you blogging for a creator is to feature a product, generate a buzz and increase their sales.  I think that this point can easily be forgotten by both creators and bloggers alike!

While we’re on the subject, another recent trend I’ve observed is for labels to advertise that they are only willing to accept bloggers who have achieved a certain number of Flickr views on individual photos, or their Flickr feed overall.  This is a big ask, and I guess it’s a way for creators to ensure that they’re targeting the widest audience possible. Unfortunately this means that a lot of new bloggers will miss out because they won’t fulfil the criteria requested.  This is a shame but it’s a good lesson for all of us to learn; never expect freebies and understand that curating a successful blog takes time and dedication.

Blogging success can be measured in a lot of ways, such as how many hits you have on your blog, how many patrons you have and if you get invited to the right events and parties, but ultimately to be a successful Second Life blogger, your fundamental reasons for blogging are perhaps the most important of all.  You won’t be successful if you create a half-hearted effort just to get freebies.  Designers and creators aren’t dumb and they can tell when someone is blogging from the heart, and with integrity.

So back to the topic at hand. Here are some tips I’d like to share with my fellow bloggers for getting the very best out of Skin Fair 2015:

  • Take your time. Previews last until Thursday (with the event opening on Friday), and it lasts just over a fortnight. Give yourself time to explore both sims fully.  If, like me, you SL in your evenings after work perhaps give yourself one evening to explore the sims fully.
  • What are you looking for at this year’s Skin Fair? Are you the kind of blogger who concentrates on one particular kind of skin? Can you perhaps stretch your own blogging boundaries a little and feature something on your site that is a little unique? For example, do you wear tattoos? If not, there are some available at Skin Fair this year, why not give some a try!
  • But even though there’s nothing wrong with trying something completely new, DON’T go for skins that you normally wouldn’t wear in a month of Sundays. You can’t be objective and give a fair review to something that you actually don’t like very much!
  • Only request blogger packs from as many designers as you can reasonably handle during the event. Do them justice, and you may find yourself added to their regular blogger roll, which would be nice!
  • Don’t rush your blog posts; keep your quality constant. It’s not a competition between bloggers. Give each product the spotlight that you think it deserves.
  • If you spot an issue with a skin why not discuss it first with the creator before writing about it on your blog? In their rush to get ready for the event they may have missed something that they’re only too happy to be informed about before go-live.
  • Be respectful, BUT you deserve to be respected too. If you feel uncomfortable in your dealings with a particular individual at the event then don’t pursue it further. Move on, no drama is needed. Let’s keep it a drama free zone!
  • Most importantly of all ENJOY Skin Fair. It’s an amazing experience and each year surpasses the previous.  I think that 2015 is going to be a bumper year with lots to experience and enjoy.  Remember that there’s a lot of hard work gone into producing this event, not just from the exhibitors but also from  Kira Paderborn and Voshie Paine who are the team behind Pale Girl Productions that produce the event. They’re equally deserving of praise.

Last but not least, I look forward to reading all of your blog posts related to Skin Fair 2015, here’s to a fantastic event that we all enjoy with lots of wonderful new designer discoveries made!

Social Networking: Plurk and Avatar Social Network

asn and plurk - I

In previous articles I have gotten into the use of Flickr and how to use it to expand your audience of your blog and this time I will cover two other Social Networks that are both heavily used by Second Life residents – bloggers, creators, artist and designers: Plurk and Avatar Social Network.
Maybe you have heard of them, maybe you are even active on one (or both), but I am sure a lot of fellow bloggers are not.

asn and plurk - I

Yes, it is really named that way. People on Plurk are called ‘Plurkers’ and just like you tweet on Twitter, you well…plurk on Plurk.
Plurk (it is free)  is best decribed as some kind of Twitter, as the updates..sorry, plurks, are brief, usually accompanied with an image, link to a blog or a youtube.  The socalled:  micro blogging.

There are also mobile apps for Plurk, making it a very fast, dynamic environment and depending on how many friends or fans you have it may get overwhelming when not keeping up.

The big difference with any other social network isn’t so much in the stream of updates but the lay out/ook and feel of Plurk.
Plurk, unlike any other social network I know, makes use of a so-called ‘river’ timeline. Your wall, or Timeline (TL in Plurkspeak) does not follow the usual vertical stream but a horizontal one. Meaning, when you scroll, the Plurks do not go down, but from left to right.
This is surely something you have to get used to and you would not be the only one getting discouraged and cross eyed  from looking at it.
But if you will give it a chance and take the time to get familiar with this rather peculiar way of scrolling, you may find Plurk is in terms of content actually quite nice once you have found some friends and fans to follow.

Plurk 2

A screenshot of my Plurk timeline

Lots of creators, blogger and artists (Second life has an official Plurk account too!) Plurk their work, or sneak previews of work-in-progress even, you will see tons of links to the latest events, blogger applications, questions and answers about everything when it comes to blogging, photography, tips and tricks on viewers and photoshop and what is happening in the fashion- home and decorating scene.
Now. I am not saying Plurk is for everyone as there is of course – as in all social networks – another side which you will have to learn to accept or ignore. The drama, gossip and such. It happens. It also, of course, depends on who you follow but it is inevitable that at some point – when active – you will see it. I am not judging and saying this is a bad thing, I am just saying that there is drama on Plurk. Sometimes.
But there is, thankfully, way more fun and things to share and things you always wanted to know, people you will meet, and that makes up for the occasional not-so-nice moments.

So, for the bloggers here..if you are looking for a community, a network where bloggers, creators and consumers come together to share their experiences, their work and yes..their real life too in some cases, you may want to give Plurk a try.
Not by just spamming links to your blog, participation is key – as in all networks!

Avatar Social Network, or ASN

ASN is what the name says it is: a social network designed and set up for Avatars, not limited to Second Life – as the IMVU community has found its way to ASN as well – but by using filters you can limit what you see.
Specially since Facebook every now and then removes avatar-accounts, people have found a safe place to replace their SL-Facebook.
ASN has the look and feel of Facebook, with your wall, a profile banner, the option to create and join groups, the way you do a status update and friending people.
You can add photo-albums and write blogs and there is a forum for discussions and banter which would not fit on your wall.

ASN - 2

A screenshot of my ASN profile page

The big difference with Facebook is that ASN is actively and heavily moderated by the owner of ASN (Arkad Baxton) and a team of moderators. Even your status updates, when not complying to the rules (they have rules, read them here) can be removed even without someone ever having compained about it.
The rules are simple by the way: just keep your ASN presence ‘family friendly’ and play nice.

ASN - 1

A screenshot of my ASN mainfeed


If this is not your cup of tea and you love to stir up things and drama, then I would say….nah, don’t go there.
However, if you are interested in shared experiences, blogs, have questions or just like to chat about with other SL residents in a friendly environment (PG and all) then yes, it is certainly worthwhile.
Finding ‘friends’ on ASN isn’t hard, you will see ‘new avatars’ and you will see on the mainfeed (you have your own wall, a wall with your friends and a complete wall) and sending out a friendship request is as easy as on Facebook.
You can login ASN by using your Facebook or Twitter account, or create a new one, it is all free.  There are also inworld parties/meetings in the ASN location in SL and you can join the inworld Avatar Social Network group for updates and social activities.

I will end this post with wishing you lots of fun with blogging and maybe see you on Plurk or ASN, feel free to look me up there!
(Caity on ASN and Caity on Plurk)

Happy networking!


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