Thursday, July 29, 2010

Not Just Any Name

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.


Cloud said...

Good advice!

I've yet to come across any other Wandering Scientists, but I sometimes really wish I had gone with something other than "Cloud" as my blog name. There are good reasons for why I chose it, but still... I couldn't get that for my Twitter handle, so on Twitter I'm @wandsci.

Also, if you are going to care about traffic at all, it is probably not a good idea to start your blog name with a W. People's blog rolls are alphabetical.... Oh well.

nej said...

My iPhone does not like your blog. I gotta figure out why...

This is something I NEVER would have thought about considering. I began my blog to shut up all my friends who said I should write. Actually, one friend insisted that she was going to just start publishing my emails to her if I didn't do it myself. I never expected to actually have "traffic" and quite honestly, I don't know how much traffic I really have. Ok, I just checked - I get about 250 hits a post. I don't even know what that means.

But man, FCC...really? You check that? Would you do it if you were just blogging to blog?

I did search Yippie Chronicles and there wasn't anything like it. The karmachic was a throw back to my very first email address ever when email was this crazy thing college professors insisted you use to ensure that your assignments were stamped with the date and time they were turned in. And then nej are just my initials. So yeah, I wish I'd given it all more thought for consistency's sake, but then again, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I should probably take it more seriously though, huh?

mom2boy said...

I am *not* a blogger in any sense of anything to build a following or identity with. I keep an online journal. The name I picked to comment on AskMoxie seemed relevant to the topic and it was easy to keep when commenting on other parenting blogs. My twitter name (ActuallyAndreaA) is my post-separation, mouthing off into the void name since my bff is the only RL person who knows about it - and I'm a terrible twitterer (tweeter?). I have too many different sorts of FB "friends" to ever integrate all three. I like the separation.
Out in blog land, I sort of feel like I did in high school, I just watch and am entertained by the cool kids. :)

Melba said...

I never thought of this either! I just did a search though and other than some Australian restaurant with a similar-ish name, I think I'm ok. :)

@nej, how do you check how many hits you get?

caramama said...

@Cloud - I can only imagine how many "cloud"s there are! I personally love Wandering Scientist and wandsci. I think it's such a neat description and very fitting for you. I didn't think about the alphabetical blog rolls, though. That's a tough one.

@nej - My understanding of the FCC regulations as they pertain to blogging is really about advertising, reviewing and discussing products. My understanding is that in boils down to disclosing clearly in any post about a product if you (the blogger) were compensated in any way. There might be more to it, but that's all that I've seen that affects me. At this point. Probably does not affect you at all at the moment. I've found Susan Getgood's information on her site very helpful about FCC:

@mom2boy - In blog land, I also feel like I did in high school. I talk a lot to all sorts of people and have been making some good friends. And I also like to watch the cool kids to be entertained and ocassionally chat with them. It's nicer though cause I find that the "cool kids" are genuinly nicer and friendlier than some of the cool kids I went to high school with. Mom-101 did a hysterical post last year (referenced recently again this year) about Bloggers v Popular People, including a chart comparison. It's really very funny:

@Melba - I think you're okay with the Australian restaruant. ;-) I personally use Google Analytics for tracking my hits, when I actually look them up. I find it fascinating to see where people are reading me from and what search terms happen to bring them to my site.

caramama said...

Darn, I'm usually good about my html and making links work. Let me do better this time:

Susan Getgood's site

Mom-101's Bloggers v Popular People post

Mom101 said...

I'm now getting google alerts for about 67 versions of ____Mom101.


Take hear that you are the one and only Cara Mama to me!

Zenmoo said...

Well, I did check for Zen Master Moo as a blog title, but neglected to check my username of Zenmoo. Not the best choice - the Zen Moo is a cow shaped mp3 player by Creative! It's funky and multi colored... Cool I guess!

-goofydaddy said...

amazingly, I'm the only goofydaddy out there! are the rest just seriousdaddys? idk, glad I don't have to worry about it, but I probably wouldn't care since I don't advertise or anything like that. not much traffic either.

caramama said...

@Liz - Aw, thanks! You will always be the only Mom101 for me! You were my first parent blog (after Ask Moxie), and no other version of Mom101 will ever come close in my heart.

@Zenmoo - I love Zen Master Moo as a blog title. Very cool, and it sounds original to me!

@goofydaddy - No other goofydaddys? I guess they all must be too serious. I'm glad you're not!