Copyright: What it is, why it is important

    Advert for my coaching businessOne of the trickiest things in online publishing is the question of copyright – especially with regard to photographs and other kinds of illustrations.

    Collins Dictionary’s learner section has a simple way of defining copyright:

    If someone has copyright on a piece of writing or music, it is illegal to reproduce or perform it without their permission.

    Oxford (a premium version but here is the link) is a bit more complex:

    The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.

    In other words: someone, a real human being or beings, made something. It belongs to them and they have a right to be paid if you use it. Continue reading

    Project management for beginners

    A long time ago I did a four-day project management course at the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town. At the time I was on the staff at a large news website, and working with technical teams in various aspects of changing or launching websites. Project management was happening all around me.

    These days, I am project managing the production of a book for a local publisher, and glad of the skills I have gained over the years.

    Some projects are obviously much more complicated than others: the construction of an office block is a lot more work than the construction of a small garden shed. But the same principles underpin all of them.

    Project management is a big field, and I absolutely do not pretend to be an expert. However, there are some fundamentals that might be a useful starting point for anyone who is about to take on project management for the first time

    THE FUNDAMENTALS

    1. There are three key strands in any project: time, money and scope (the size of the project, and how many features it has). They all add up to quality (or lack of it). A project manager needs to keep an eye on all three elements, and understand which of them takes priority in any given project. If it doesn’t matter when the garden shed is finished and ready for occupation by the wheelbarrows, then you can take a relaxed view when the client decides they want the garden shed to be a double-storey. If budget is the most important factor, then you must keep the scope rigidly in check so as not to increase the cost. Project management is essentially a balancing act aimed at an end result that is a quality-driven as possible.

    2. Relationships are key. Conflict or poor communication can derail a project faster than any other factor, so the project manager needs to make sure that all parties are equally respected, valued and kept informed of all the things that affect them. The person who is expected to lay the foundation for the garden shed needs to know what day it must happen – and should feel that they are an integral part of creating the whole.

    3. Keeping track of all the elements is next on the list. Whether it’s a complex spreadsheet or a battered notebook, there must be one central place where all the strands are held together, and a calendar (physical or digital) with all the milestones noted. All this documentation needs to be maintained and changed as things go along.

    4. Understand that something will go wrong. Add in time to allow for things going wrong. If you think it will take two weeks, assume that it will actually take three weeks. Seriously – there is no getting around this. Unexpected things will happen, and your plan will change.

    Filter, filter, filter – the key to email organisation

    Picture of full inbox, empty outbox (email)

    Picture: pxhere.com

    Organising your email is probably one of the most written-about topics there is.

    There’s a reason for that: unlike snail mail, email is cheap and instant – so people send lots of it. It’s also a way to keep tabs on things, and to record important conversations, and so on. But mostly it is a way to have a world of trivia appear on your computer screen, all day and every day.

    Many approaches to email self-help focus on how to control the emails that have landed in your inbox. A good article that covers much ground in sorting out email overload problems is this one: Email overload: here are 6 approaches I’ve found useful for managing my inbox. (And read my tips on how to write good emails.)

    THE FIRST STEP

    That article touches on an important step to take before you start dealing with the avalanche: get the system itself to do most of the work. You can use almost any email system to take an incoming mail and put it in a place, or a folder, where you deal with it if and when you want. And you can sort the important messages (from your boss, or clients) from the unimportant (newsletters that you want to scan at some point). Continue reading

    A tip for working with multiple tabs in a browser

    Last week, I wrote about my system for getting things done.

    This week, I thought I would share a tip for keeping a lid on PC chaos – specifically, how to stop browser tabs from multiplying to the point of madness.

    It is apparently possible to have 9 600 tabs open in a Chrome browser. That’s too many!

    Message saying too many tabs open

    Picture: davidak, Flickr

    When your job involves looking at multiple sites or using multiple browser-based tools, it’s easy to end up with so many tabs that you can no longer see what they are. That means you may end up clicking many, many times to find what you want.

    This is my system.

    I know that there are certain sites I will use often. I open them in the same order every day, and keep them in the same place. So email is always in the top left hand corner. Then Twitter and Facebook pages manager. As I open sites relating to a piece of work (writing a blog post for instance) I open them all to the right of those first three. And when I am finished that piece of work, I close all those tabs and start again.

    As simple as that.

     

    Five tips for a happy email life

    Scrolling idly through Facebook (in a way in which I had sworn I would not do), an article about the best way to end off an email surfaced.

    The article is long, and too detailed… so I will tell you the punchline: the recommendation is to end emails with the word “Best”, followed by your name. It is said to be one of “the safest possible choices, inoffensive, and almost universally appropriate.”

    Hmmm.

    My own favourite – “Regards” – is either hateful, or nice but too formal, according to these experts. Continue reading

    Journalism “legals”: when is something in the public interest?

    keys on keyboard

    Picture: Pixabay

    A Mediaonline article published this week does an excellent job of laying out some of the legal considerations governing the publication of sensitive material in South Africa.
    The article carries interviews with the people involved in looking at the legal ramifications of Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keeper, (one of whom is my sister Gill Moodie) and notes that while something may ordinarily be dangerous to publish, the factor of “public interest” can come into play and make publication justifiable:

    The next step is to ensure that what the journalist/author intends to publish is of public interest. This is vital because it can be used as a defence in a number of instances. De Klerk explains, “The law protects privacy for example, but privacy can be overridden if there is an overriding public interest present”.

    In other words, you could argue that you published something defamatory or illegal because you believed it was in the public interest.

    But what is “public interest”? Continue reading

    Twitter’s 280-characters just too many? Here’s a way to cope…

    Twitter logo

    Twitter logo: Picture: Pixabay

    I am in two minds about Twitter’s decision to allow 280-character tweets.
    One the one hand, when only 140 characters were allowed, I often felt that I could do with just an extra few characters to get in an extra hashtag, or a telling phrase.

    And I think that the imposed brevity meant people often substituted a short hashtag for actual meaning, as seen here:

    Looking for inspiration during #NaNoWriMo2017? These classic authors have you covered.

    What is #NaNoWriMo2017 anyway? Turns out it is National Novel Writing Month. That tweet would be better like this:

    Looking for inspiration during National Novel Writing Month? These classic authors have you covered. #NaNoWriMo2017

    The extra characters which Twitter now allows mean that it is now possible to put in just a little extra background, where needed, without resorting to mysterious and irritating hashtags.

    Continue reading