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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To Post or Not To Post: The Verdict Is In


I am Ninja Stealthy
Turns out, I’m scary good at staying hidden. I’m not easy to find, even if you know some stuff about me and are a pro at locating people online.

Apparently, random last name changes and frequent moves, while simultaneously failing to properly register to vote or drive, allows for a lot of privacy. Who knew? I should start my own Writer Protection Program.

Now the story as to why I do all this is more convoluted and has absolutely nothing to do with trying to keep off the radar. That was just a happy side-effect.

When I posted last week about using my kids’ names and pics in blogging, I already felt pretty confident in my verdict. I would use them. Maybe not constantly, as they are not the primary focus of my blogs, but yeah, I’d use them when the post called for it. What’s the harm?

Turns out, people who know more about this stuff than me know what harm there is.

Now maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe they are. Maybe the whole world is mad. Whatever. I’m a mom first, and my kids’ safety takes priority. Yes, they are ridiculously cute. Yes, I want to show them off. No, I do not want weirdoes to fixate on them. I may be hard to find, but still.

Right now, I’m not totally famous. (I know, it’s a shock to me too each morning when I wake up from my Twilight meets Harry Potter dreams, but it’s true. I’m not.) But let’s just add a ‘yet’ there for fun, shall we? Because, who knows? I mean, I am a writer. And if you’re reading this, then you hopefully don’t think I suck. I’ve got books that are almost ready for the light of day.

See? Mommy first!
And, I’m a big picture kind of girl. Always have been. Now, J.K.Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, they hit the spotlight immediately, it was not a building up process. They did not blog their way to fans and fame. So their lives (and children) weren’t spread all over the internet when they hit stardom.

Mine would be. If I posted as planned. Then what? My few hundred or few thousand blog hits and followers could skyrocket. And my little girls would get more attention. And the creeps would come crawling out of their hidey holes.

No. That’s not going to work for me. Not at all.

So here’s the deal.

·         You can be found by a non-privatized URL. (They can see your name, address, email and phone number just with one click, for free. Seriously, I saw mine. But the number and address and name were all wrong, ‘cuz I’m sneaky like that!) So, pay the nine bucks or whatever and privatize.

·         Keep your Facebook stuff private for just close friends and family. Or delete the kids’ names and pics. Think about it, with a name, a picture and a way to find your address, predators can become “friends” with your kids in no time. They can even look at your Facebook family tree and say “Hi , I’m a friend of your Aunt . How are you? Want some candy and a puppy?”

·         Don’t use your real birth date, age and current location online. (Apparently, you can be found easily this way. Also, if they know your age and birth month, they can get the year and search you out. Unless you’re sneaky like me. But very few are. I’m thinking of offering a free consultation to the FBI.) This is my favorite, because I just became a 23 year old woman living in the South of France. Cool eh? Easiest move of my life.

This is not where  I live
·         Be careful not to mention specific locations of where you going on a daily basis. If I live in New York, and don’t want you to know it, but I’m always references the New York Public Library, well, that might be a giveaway, don’t you think?

·         Watch your online activity. Google yourself once a week and scrub any info that points a big red finger to where you live. (Like commenting on too many local blogs.)

·         Keep an unlisted phone number and put your utilities in a different name if possible. (I know, we’re starting to sound nuts here, but this is just for extreme measures if you’re like, Stephen King or something. Though, he’s so scary I doubt he gets many stalkers.)

And finally *drum roll please* don’t use your kids real names and pics in your blogs.

Life Is A Play
There, I said it. Happy? My kids are all picking “stage names” to be used by Dmytry and I when we blog about them. I will no longer use their pictures and am in the process of changing my Facebook setting and removing things. (It’s also good to note that if you have an open FB page, you can privatize an album and only make it available to certain friends, which is what I’m doing with our kids’ pictures.)

Is this too extreme? Maybe. I had to look at my life, my priorities and where I see my career headed. Also, I’m raising kids with a man who will also be famous someday. Two famous writers in one house? That’s a lot of attention. We need to keep our kids safe. So, we will take most of these measures.

Thank you to all who have shed light on this subject and given me advice. It was well-received and appreciated.

Tell me what you think. Am I going over board? What has been your experience with this?

11 comments:

  1. Tell us how to pay the "nine bucks" to privatize?

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  2. It depends on who your URL is hosted by, or purchased from, like mine was godaddy, so I have to go to my account info and look for that option and add it. Not sure how it's done with other domain hosting services but you can call customer service with your provider if you can't find it.

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  3. Very good post Kimberly! You covered all the important bases and are making educated choices as to the information you're making public.

    Cristina: GoDaddy and most other registrars offer masquerading services so that you don't have to make your real info public. I do the same for my web hosting clients. For the local ones, I even let them use my mailing address for further stealthiness.

    -TG

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  4. Thanks TG, I'm glad I got the important bits in. Anything you think is overkill? Was just trying to include all I learned. Some I may not do, but a lot I will.

    Also, was unsure how to handle things like other family members who post pics of my kids on FB (like their bio dad who has tons up and full names all for 300 of his closest Mafia War friends...)

    I'm thinking changing their names and leaving the country would work. Thoughts? :)

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  5. How would I make certain FB albums private? I've been nervous about people seeing my daughter's pics and have been considering deleting them but this may be a better option. Thanks!

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  6. This is great, Kimberly. I am glad you decided to keep your kids private! Safety, first, is a fantastic reason.

    Second, and one many adults do not seem to consider, is that just because *you and Dmytry* want to be famous doesn't mean your children do. Putting their info out there now is unfair because kids cannot make their own decisions about if they want to be famous, or not.

    I say, let them decide to put themselves out there (or not) when they are mature enough to do so and are able to understand the consequences.

    Until that time, you are smart not to do it.

    Good for you! I'm proud of you!

    XXX Go-Go Rach

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  7. I definitely removed pictures, but I'm just not convinced about the names. My kids are in their teens - like Rach said, I'm sure that makes a difference - so that would have made more sense to me when they were younger and you might have been able to convince them to follow you just because you knew their names (I doubt it, even then, except the one of them who isn't allowed out of our sight, the sneaky little...)

    The fact is, my kids love having their actual names on the blog. Speaking of famous, they think they already are. I don't do everything just because they dig it, sure- they'd love it if the blog was wall-to-wall pictures of them for instance. But I factor it in.

    Also, I agree that each of us is really striving to be a celebrity - that's what landing on the bestseller list would be all about - but it's in fact celebrities whose kids names I'm more likely to know. Like George Foreman, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Wil Smith.

    I still to this day don't get what anyone's going to do with my kid's name. Lots of people know their names. I'm sure of the thousand or so sets of parents at their schools for instance there are at least a couple of creepy pedophiles, and there's a yearbook with everybody's name and picture in it right there.

    Of course, that's just me. Seems to me I've got the same security problems either way, lots of frank discussions and constant supervision, that's how I play it. But I'm only explaining myself, I'm not here to argue with anyone - scrubbing their names certainly can't hurt.

    I wouldn't call it overkill, though like I pointed out last time, if we're worried about stranger abductions, we're talking about lightning strike odds. It doesn't happen very often, and scrubbing your online activity squeaky clean won't by any means eliminate that terrifying but still highly unlikely threat. The same real world security protocols are how the threat gets addressed whether it comes from online or from the school or from down the street.

    But again, I'm listening. I'm frequently guilty of underkill, and if anyone wants to set me straight, I'm all ears.

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  8. thanks Rach! And well, it's not so much we WANT to be famous as we want to be successful and sell lots of books which sorta lends itself to being famous this day and age. Fame is not the goal, it's sort of a necessary evil to succeed as authors the way we'd like. And you're right, the kids need to decide how much they want that for themselves.

    Tom, as always you raise good points. I don't know the answer. I know that the celebs you mentioned are actors. I personally am not well-versed on famous authors' kids. They seem to stay out of the limelight pretty well.

    I really don't know the answer. But given my kids are so young, it seems better safe than sorry applies here. Would love to here from TG or anyone else with expertise on your POV on this though.

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  9. JJ~ This is the advice my friend Will gave me to make albums private. I haven't done it yet, but I will try it this weekend likely.

    "go to drop down menu on the top right where it says account. Go to privacy settings. then press "customize your settings". at the bottom, press "edit album privacy". you'll have to upload your album BEFORE you can do any of it. then, for the specific album, press the drop down menu and select "customize." in the window, press the drop down and select "specific people." from there on, just type in whoever you want to see and press ok :):"

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  10. Hi Kimberly!

    *GASP* I knew what you meant, but I should have chosen my words more carefully. I was encompassing all of your goals into *FAME*. Please forgive me for the inherent snark in my previous comment. I want you to know I did not mean it the way it sounded at all. I enjoy reading your posts and support you as a person and very talented writer.

    XXX
    Go-Go Rach

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  11. Go-Go Rach,

    Hey babe! No worries. I understood. I just worried that my word choice may have been misleading to others so I took the opportunity to clarify. It's not fame I seek, but it's inevitable if I'm as successful as I hope to be. though fame for writers is different than for actors I think. Especially for the families, I don't think it's as high profile, so it's a good point you made to keep the kids under the radar until they decide what they want. Especially if/when Dmytry and I are both well known.

    And thank you for your support of both my blogs and your awesome comments. I'm loving getting to know you better and enjoy your feedback.

    As Always, YOU ROCK :) xoxo

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