I've recently told a few people that they should start their own blogs. I love it when people I've become friends with start their own blogs, and I love discovering new blogs. I like to follow what's going on in people's lives, hear about what they are going through, be able to share with them in their experiences by commenting.
But let me offer this bit of advice for those about to start a blog: Check the name you are going to use to make sure that someone else isn't already using it.
Blog names are different than email addresses, domain names or even handles you may use when commenting somewhere. Blog names are an integral part of a person's branding, a distinctive name that a person uses to identify themselves and represent their product/service. Whether or not you think branding is/will be important to you or should be important to anyone else, it does become important.
I gave a lot of thought to what name I wanted to use when I first started commenting on other blogs three years ago. I wanted something that reflected me and was at least somewhat unique. I came up with the handle caramama. When I started my own blog a few months later, it was natural for me to use that name and call my blog "Cara Mama." I did a cursory search around to make sure no one else was using that name, because I did want it to be unique. So I started using it; I made Cara Mama my online home.
Less than three months after I started blogging, I read a post on Girl's Gone Child's site that really got me thinking. Wow. Did I check the variations on the name Cara Mama? Was I thorough enough in my research to be sure I wasn't using someone else's name? I knew that if there was another out there with a similar name who'd been around longer, I would change my name. I felt it would be the right thing to do. So I quickly googled and searched and did true due diligence to make sure that I was in clear. Fortunately, I was.
In the years that followed, there have been a lot of new blogs that have come onto the mommyblog scene. Also, the laws, regulations and general etiquette surrounding the online world and blogosphere has evolved. I have paid cursory attention to it, mostly to be sure I stayed on top of the new FCC laws and make sure I wasn't stepping on anyone else's toes.
Recently, I happened upon another blog using an extremely similiar name to mine. One letter off, similar. She is another parenting blogger also in the DC area who had started her blog last fall. As Rebecca put it, I'm sure it was a case of "great minds think alike." But I still felt a little put out.
I have spent almost three years building my reputation, my branding, using this name. People know me by this name, know that I do get togethers in this area. This name of mine, this blog title, it is my trademark, my brand. As her name had become tied to her reputation and brand. Unfortunately, I realized that I had been getting traffic intended for her blog (those hits weren't from typos after all!), and even had some Twitter traffic that was meant for her. I think it's logical that other people must have been getting her instead of me.
I reached out to other bloggers who know way more about this stuff than I do, who have been through this issue themselves. They gave me great advice, advice that they have used themselves. It became clear to me that this is no longer just an issue of being respectful of other bloggers, as it was when Rebecca wrote her post. It is now an actual legal issue. So I discussed this issue with a lawyer who has specific knowledge in this area of law.
I emailed the woman, and after some back and forth, she has changed her name. I appreciate the fact that she did, knowing the effort it must have been. Although we seem to have different audiences, this will help clear up any future confusion that might have been.
This was truly an unfortunate situation. I am blogging about it in the hopes that it saves other people from going through similar situations, as Rebecca's post had got me thinking about this issue back when it could have been me who was using someone's online identity.
The blogsphere is a big world, and it has plenty of room for all those want to join in. Every old and new parenting blog can have a place, an audience, and room to grow. Just please be sure to check your name thoroughly, learn the laws (trademark, copyright, etc.), learn the regulations (FCC and any others) and be sure you are respectful and courteous with the others in the blogosphere, just as you do/are in the world around you.