Monday, May 19, 2014

Blogging Responsibly - It's Personal

Sometimes I forget that when I blog it's visible to more than just my fellow bloggers. And then something happens, like a friend or family member bringing up something I blogged about. For me, the wake up call to really pay attention to what I was posting if it had to do with a real life topic, such as a historical incident, were blog comments from people that weren't bloggers, but someone who had a personal connection to something I'd posted about.

Natalie Wood
By unknown photographer (ebay)
[Public domain],
 via Wikimedia Commons
You see, my topics for the 2012 A-to-Z Challenge and the 2013 A-to-Z were The Wild West and History's Mysteries, respectively. Several of my posts during those challenges caught the eyes of people who knew more about the topics than I did. One was a post about the mystery behind Natalie Wood's death. I heard from someone who had written a book about her death, and had worked with the captain of the ship they'd been on when she died. The post that drew the most attention, though, had to do with the outlaw Clay Allison. Oddly, he's someone I find few people have heard of, yet the tales of his outlaw days cause Billy the Kid to pale in comparison. I find him fascinating, and I had a lot of fun writing the post about him. 

Bearing in mind, of course, that this was during the A-to-Z, so research time wasn't what it might have been for a regular once per week post, I spent a few hours reading up on Clay Allison. There were some fantastic tales about his escapades, but what got skirted over in the information I found was the reasons behind what he'd done and how he'd become an outlaw. And a good percentage of the information out there was likely false, stuff made up in the publications of the day. 

Photo of Clay Allison courtesy of Find a Grave member John "J-Cat" Griffith
I was in it for fun, though, and posted the various tales and information. I hope that there were folks who did research on their own after reading about him, those whose interest was piqued by hearing his tales. But at the same time, I perpetuated the myths that were out there, too. And a few of his descendants contacted me in the blog comments. They were nice guys, no flaming or accusations, and they thanked me for bringing him back into people's awareness. But their comments reminded me that I was posting about real people, people who had family or acquaintances who were still around. Yes, I'm sure they're accustomed to reading the stuff that's out there, and I even got a book recommendation out of it so I can get more information on a subject that interests me. And I'm not going to lie. I'm enough of a wild west buff that I geeked out internally about being contacted by his descendants. But a subject I enjoyed reading and writing about was personal history to them, not just a story.

So my reminder to you is the same as the reminder to me: When you're posting away, thinking this is just a blog, not a newspaper or novel, remember that there's always someone out there for whom the subject could be personal.

Have you been contacted by someone with personal ties to a subject you've blogged about? How did it go? Are you aware of Clay Allison? Who do you think was responsible for Natalie Wood's death? 

May you find your Muse.


  1. That's wild his descendants left comments. I wouldn't have thought about that happening, bu I'll remember that it can.

  2. Yeah, that was unexpected for you, I'll bet! Would have been so for me. It would have been a bit like if I wrote a post about Ned Kelly (Aussie outlaw) and his current-day family members posted comments about it. ;)

  3. I've never had anyone comment on any research . Not that I can remember anyway.

    Hugs and chocolate!

  4. Hmm, this is an interesting reminder that anyone could be reading our posts! It was good that they were nice about it. It's not the first thing you think of when writing about historical subjects!

  5. I've never heard about Clay. Interesting...

  6. Very cool. I guess they have search alerts about his name appearing on the blog. I would have been excited.

  7. I'd guess Robert Wagner. I liked Natalie Wood. Dislike Wagner, bad actor, IMO.

    You're so right, Shannon, about accuracy and even including sources. I write posts on occasion, inspired by newspaper articles and try to be cautious and respect the info and copyrights. Sometimes it is a judgment call as to whether the info is the truth, even Wikis. If it sounds a bit 'off' or hard to prove, I try not to include it, giving readers the link so they can judge themselves.
    Thanks for the warning.

  8. Howard Mackie, the writer of Marvel's Ghost Rider comic in the early 90s, left a comment on my review of the movie. It was pretty wild.

  9. That is a great reminder. Careful research and careful blogging are important. I find it very exciting that relatives of Clay Allison contacted you. Glad it was a good experience.

  10. Wow. I'd have totally geeked out myself. This is a very good reminder though that what we do IS public. I really did enjoy the posts I was able to make it to for your series last year :-)
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

  11. That's amazing! I actually plan on going back to read your A-Z posts from last year because they were so amazing. Now I'll add the Wild West to the list also. My boyfriend is gonna take me to Tombstone one day (he just doesn't know it yet) because I'm completely fascinated with it. But you make a good point. A lot of people post without thinking. It can even be a form of cyber bullying. "Wow I saw this really ugly dress today!" Post a picture or describe the dress. A reader sees it and thinks, "Oh... I didn't realize so many people thought it was ugly. I hope the rest of my clothes aren't as horrible..." It's so easy to do, just by accident.

  12. That's a good reminder Shannon. It's not just dead history. On my Film Sketchr blog I've gotten many comments from family, or the artist, asking me to change things or corrections. Most of the time it's pleasant and heart-warming, but Jean-Pierre Dorleac (costume designer for Battlestar Galactica) was insanely rude and insulting to me.

  13. Interestingly this just happened to me. I had written a post about a historical church in Pittsburgh and someone associated with that church (the first white child born in this area)back in the 1800s.

    But for me, it was a lovely note from a man who is related to this woman. In this case, he was delighted to see the post and thanked me. Fun fun!

  14. Alex, it was kind of awesome.

    Trisha, very much so! Something I never would have considered.

    Shelly, if it ever happens, it will be a surprise!

    Nick, absolutely not! Current affairs? Sure. But not history.

    Donna, he's worth reading about. Interesting guy. Fought for a cause. Had his issues, too.

    Susan, that's what I figure. And I was!

    D.G., that's what I think, too. I'm Team Wagner for the murder. As far as what you do with your posts, I think that's the most you can do.

    Andrew, wow! Pretty cool! If I keep posting about The Crow, maybe the creator will contact me? He's going to be at Denver Comic Con this year.

    Lee, me, too!

    Tina, definitely. I had sunk into a certain comfort level, feeling like I was talking directly to fellow bloggers, really.

    Rachel, wow, thank you for the compliment, Rachel! I definitely want to go to Tombstone. I was such a freak about it in school that a friend took pictures when she visited Boot Hill. And I agree on people posting without thinking. We feel free to criticize online, figuring the people won't see it. Even if they won't, it's not okay.

    Maurice, behaving the way Jean-Pierre Dorleac did is a good way to lose fans. It's too bad he was so rude. Sorry you had to deal with that. Exciting that so many have contacted you, though!

    Julie, how cool!