blogging resources

Are You A Blogger? Here Are 5 Props Perfect for Autumn

Are You A Blogger? Here Are 5 Propers Perfect for Autumn | Writing Between Pauses

Blogging can be hard business. Taking photos is one of my favorite and least favorite parts of it. Sometimes, I really thrive. (I really hit my strive last December.) And sometimes, I’m like, I forgot how to use my camera. (The last, like, 5 months.) I keep a running Amazon wishlist of props that I like; things I see in photos that I love and want to try, or things that I think would add interest and help my photos be a little more visually appealing.

I thought I’d share a few of these props for Autumn, because we could all use a little inspiration sometimes.

1. These Color-Changing Twinkle Lights

These would be perfect for Autumn (orange! purple!) or for Christmas (multi color!), but they would also be kind of pretty for just putting up in my office. I love using twinkle lights in photos because they can help improve the light situation, plus they just look really pretty. These ones are incredibly affordable and really long.

2. Photo Backdrops

Browsing tableux or flatlay backdrops on Amazon is actually a part-time job, it feels like. There are so many options. I personally love these ones because they come with a storage solution (!!!) and you get a huge variety with your purchase. Back in the day, so many bloggers ordered marble vinyl to put on foam whiteboards or pieces of wood. Now, we can just buy a few sets at once. How times have changed!

3. A Ring Dish

Having little dishes, or bowls, in your photos, especially beauty photos, can take the photo from a basic product photo to a scene. I like buying small, cheap ring dishes to use as props. You can use them for anything (jewelry, rings, candy, make up, whatever) and you can find tons of designs. I like this one with constellations, but there are some with beautiful autumnal patterns.

4. A Scarf or Fabric to Add Visual Interest

Want backdrops but don’t want to spend $35 on backdrops that you’re not sure if you’ll use? Let me let you in on my secret: I often use fabric. I have a ton of plaid scarves that I use as photo backdrops throughout the year. I also usually buy a yard or two of fabric that I like if I see some that I think would work, like plaids or small patterns. This is a great affordable options for backdrops: use something you already own or spend $5 instead of $35.

5. A Small Ring Light

Light in Autumn is always a problem. By the time I’m ready to take photos, the sun is gone, it’s dark outside, or it’s pouring down rain. This mini ring light holds your cell phone, but you can also use it as a lighting source for your photos. Use it to film Instagram stories or IGTV videos, then use as a lighting source when you need it. It’s only $13!

Have props you love? Share your tips & tricks in the comments!

What Have We Learned From Pipdig?

What Have We Learned from Pipdig? | Writing Between Pauses

I feel like the blogging community has been in an uproar for the last 10 days. But for those who don’t know what’s going on, on March 29, a dev and blogger named Jem posted this blog post, detailing malicious code she discovered in Pipdig’s plug-in and themes. I won’t detail everything Jem wrote about here, but needless to say, the blogger community was quick to discover her post.

Pipdig has been a popular theme provider for bloggers, specifically in lifestyle niches, for the last few years. I know many who self-host on Wordpress immediately went for Pipdig themes as they were easy-to-use, highly customizable, and came with outstanding customer service.

Throughout the Pipdig ordeal, many bloggers originally called to Pipdig’s outstanding customer service as a sign that perhaps Jem was mistaken about the code. (Long story short, code doesn’t lie and many, many developers backed Jem up. In fact, Wordfence, one of the premier Wordpress security blogs, happened to post about the same Pipdig issue at nearly the same time. They also shared some valuable information afterward that showed that even Blogger themes were effected by the code.)

As with any issue in the blog community, it felt like there was lots of back-and-forth for the first few days. A lot of the bigger, top tier bloggers went silent pretty quickly—they defended Pipdig, then dipped out of the conversation. Tempers were lost and a lot of people doubled down without really knowing what they were talking about.

The complication with all of this is that very, very few bloggers (especially in the niche that Pipdig primarily served) know how to read code. They relied on Pipdig to provide them with good customer service, to help them install their themes, and to do so in a way that was trustworthy. And unfortunately, Pipdig betrayed that trust because they behaved in a way that unethical very secretly, knowing that very few of their blogger customers would be able to catch them at it.

For many bloggers, this left them feeling naive—and as if they had been called stupid by the devs trying to explain it to them. There is absolutely no shame in not understanding code or technical language when it comes to code. However, bloggers can be quick to forming opinions without having a full picture and it is natural to want to trust an “industry giant” like Pipdig.

However, my thought is this: there were just too many experts telling me the exact same thing and I knew that absolutely none of them have a horse in this race, so to speak, in that they aren’t Pipdig competitors. Many of them had never really been involved in the lifestyle blogging community beforehand; they really didn’t even know it existed and if they did, they didn’t realize how robust it was, and they definitely were not prepared for the sheer amount of push back that they got. They were just professionals trying to do their due diligence and help people.

At the end of this post, I’ll have some valuable resources for Pipdig users if they still need to switch themes or uninstall the plug-in. As well, there are so many devs on Twitter offering their assistance to help bloggers remove Pipdig products. Again, if you need help understanding what’s going on, I highly recommend reading the Wordfence and Jem blog posts thoroughly.

For now, let’s talk about what this Pipdig fiasco has taught us.

1. The “Blogging Experts” Have Agendas

This doesn’t discount their expertise necessarily, but clearly some of the top bloggers in the lifestyle niche, and those who peddle classes and ebooks for sale that they know everything about blogging, have agendas that aren’t necessarily always going to fit with what is most helpful for other bloggers. I don’t want to name names here, but a lot of the biggest bloggers in the industry were quick to defend Pipdig, then went absolutely radio silent as more and more evidence came out and more and more developers started saying the same things. Many of them still haven’t said anything—which is fine! If that’s their bag, that’s their bag. But it makes you wonder why, exactly, they aren’t saying anything?

These same bloggers will be the first to throw other companies under the bus and tell their followers, or those who buy their advice, not to use them. They will sell their ebooks and online classes and give very strict advice on what to do for blogging, but when it comes to using a service that is maliciously using bloggers to do their dirty work, they go absolutely silent. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it?

The truth is, affiliate networking among hosting and theme providers has become increasingly common. I was actually just reading a blog post about how it is one of the best methods of affiliate marketing to build income from your blog, so it wouldn’t surprise me if many of the first to defend Pipdig (and then go silent) were affiliates who received income from referring people.

So what do we learn? If someone styles themselves as a blogging expert, and they make income from that styling, they may have an agenda. They may have partners that they don’t disclose. They may not be as authentic as they say. After all, it is still the internet. As much as we think we know all these bloggers, the truth is that we absolutely do not know these people. Just as none of us knew what Pipdig was really doing, none of us know what these experts are up to. Remember to do your own due diligence when it comes to their advice and who they back, because sometimes they don’t have the blogging communities best interests at heart.

2. The Blogging Community Has An Echo Chamber Problem

One big bloggers posts a Tweet about Pipdig and every medium tier blogger RTs it, then every small blogger RTs it, then every new blogger RTs it, and none of them think to actually read the blog post or look at the evidence. Partially because they don’t understand it (again, not their fault), but mostly because they trust those who have been blogging longer, or more successfully, or whatever.

It becomes an echo chamber. The biggies say this, so we believe it, so we all repeat it. And everyone who posted an opinion otherwise—those like me who work with developers, or those who understood code, or simply those who were willing to take an independent third parties word for it because they had nothing to gain or lose from it—was treated really, really terribly.

It goes without saying: Pipdig was a vendor to bloggers. They were not a friend, or an associate, or a best buddy. They were a vendor. They made money off small bloggers, and medium bloggers, and big bloggers. (And some of those bloggers potentially made money from everyone as well!) Pipdig might have had good customer service, but good customer service doesn’t mean anything when it comes to malicious code or unethical business practices. Some of the biggest companies in the have good PR; it doesn’t mean they aren’t shady.

The echo chamber of the blogging world is stunning and shocking even at the best of times. One person posts something and it becomes the opinion everyone must hold, or is afraid to not repeat. We all hate the follow-unfollow game on Instagram; we all blame the algorithm; we all do this, we all do that. It really is exhausting to keep up with the opinion we’re supposed to have. Because we’re bloggers, right? We’re all the same.

That’s right, I didn’t think so. It’s time to stop letting one single, popular blogger speak for all of us and damage the community as a whole, especially when they might have an agenda.

3. Pipdig Became “the Way To Have A Blog”

This is a big controversial, but all the Pipdig themes looked the same. Yes, they were highly customizable for users, but rarely did they ever get customized in a way that separated them from each other. Pipdig sold relatively affordable themes that fit the way bloggers thought their blogs should look.

Just like the blogging community has become an echo chamber when it comes to opinions, many people deferring to other people instead of critically thinking, the blogging community has also fallen victim to thinking they have to do X, Y, and Z before they become “real” bloggers. You need a self-hosted Wordpress website. (You don’t.) You need a Pipdig theme that looks like everyone else’s. (You don’t.) You need to take your photos a specific way. (You don’t.) You need to do this, that, and the other thing just like so-and-so tells you. (You don’t.)

There is no one way to blog. There is no one way your blog should look. It goes without saying, but blogging is highly personal… but we’ve all fallen victim to the pressure to look a certain way, or do certain things, to make ourselves successful.

I would consider myself a slightly successful blogger; I’ve been plugging away at this a very, very long time, so I feel a bit like an elderly person in the game, but I’ve gotten to this point (a small income, some sponsorships) without ever doing anything anyone told me to the letter. I am not self-hosted on Wordpress. I don’t have the same theme as everyone else. I don’t spend hours focusing on Pinterest or any other social media platform. I just let it happen, write posts i believe in, and let Google do the rest.

Getting a Pipdig theme was often treated like a goal post for blogging—and this made them into a giant that people didn’t want to see as an actual business, but rather just a goal. Pipdig was, to repeat myself, a vendor. That’s it. Nothing more. And they used bloggers to behave badly. There is no one way to have a blog so please, let’s not replace Pipdig with some other giant now.

Resources

If you have any additional resources for those who have a Pipdig theme, or the Pipdig plugin, or are available to assist bloggers when switching, send me a note!

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles | Writing Between Pauses

If you haven’t heard the news, I’m re-launching my newsletter! It’s called the Pause, a no-nonsense newsletter all about blogging, from the perspective of a busy mom who doesn’t really have time to mess with jargon, paid plans that don’t pan out, and much more. If you’ve ever dreamed of starting a blog, or have a blog but feel lost in the massive landscape of blogging advice, this is the newsletter for you. You can sign up here.

Before that, however, I feel like I should put my money where my mouth is. For my day job, I often write about the data of marketing; I like to have evidence for the things I say and what I decide to do. That’s just how I am (aka I have to have a reason for saying something). Sometimes, this is pure data. And sometimes, this is based on experience.

I’ve been blogging since 2009. That’s right: 10 years this year. It feels like it’s been way longer than 10 years, but also not nearly as long as 10 years! 10 years ago, I was 20 years old, living in a dorm, and idolizing Gala Darling. I remember the days of personal blogs that absolutely exploded (Gala Darling being one), people who monetized their personal lives before "being an influencer” was even a thing. I remember the days of lookbook.nu and those websites, fashion blogging using photos taking on a point-and-shoot in my dorm room (or propped on a retaining wall in my college’s quad, which is very embarrassing to think about now).

There are years I blogged a lot (2012-2013), and years I barely blogged (2014-2015). Years where I thought for sure it was time for me to quit blogging (2015-2016) and years where I couldn’t imagine not having a blog (pretty much the rest of the time). I love blogging. And I realized I loved writing about blogging too.

This isn’t a blog about blogging. I find those a little annoying, especially when run by people who haven’t managed popular niche blogs before. That’s why I wanted to restart my newsletter; I feel like that’s a much more personal, easy format to write about blogging without coming off like a jerk.

However, I have written a few posts about blogging—and I wanted to put these all in one place for anyone who is curious about my perspective about blogging. I’m definitely a hobbyist; I think longterm careers in blogging are difficult to come by. However, blogging can be a great resume builder and it can be something you are really passionate about, alongside your current career or life goals.

Without further ado, here’s everything I’ve ever written about blogging.

How to Plan Social Media for Your Blog

3 Ways to Achieve Your Blog Goals

How to Write Better Instagram Captions

3 Ways to Improve Your Flat Lay Photos

5 Tips for Starting a Newsletter

30 Ideas for Your Blog

4 Tips for New Bloggers

7 Tips for Starting a New Blog

5 Must-Have Blogging Resources

Should You Use An Editorial Calendar?

Improving Your Blog in 4 Steps

Here Are 5 Steps You Need to Know to Write Killer Blog Posts

4 Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

Even better, I have an entire board dedicated to blogging resources on Pinterest. You can check it out here.

If you haven’t signed up for the Pause, of course, you can do that here. The first issue comes out March 2 and it will be the first Saturday of every month after that (unless, of course, you ask for more!)