jeez .. $77 for a free list of writing sites?

So there I was, skipping round the web, updating my FB and making rude comments, and landed on this advert for freelance writing.

First flag o'danger? "No experience necessary". Yeaaaaright. 

Second flag o'danger? $77 membership per month. What the .. surely there is some marvellous new opportunity here of which we knew nothing. But no ...

Third flag o'danger: "Start Getting Paid To Write Today!" Today? You get paid today? You start writing today? You start thinking about writing today? You think about writing and start getting paid today? No, no, no, no, and no.

See, what they're doing is suggesting that if you pay them $4.95 as an introductory fee, you will immediately begin a freelance writing career with no experience. Imagine that! What it actually is, is a resource list of websites where you apply and bid and take your chances, and if you're lucky and you can write, you can make money. So they get your money, and you get ..... nothing, particularly if you have no experience, apart from a list of sites that you can pick up anywhere free as air.

To elaborate: in their Top Jobs of the Month they list Suite 101 as a possible source. Now, at Suite, you need to apply and be accepted before you can start writing. They have a strict vetting process and not everyone gets in, so that idea falls flat on its back, out cold, and doesn't get up before the count.

So, let us return to the drawing board. What's this? "Get paid to write at eHow". Well, since Demand Studios owns eHow and supplies all the material, you're going to have to apply to Demand Studios. See above for Suite applications and add "ditto". Rinse, and repeat.

If I was a really, really cynical person I might suggest that these guys are fleecing people who  are desperate to earn money in the middle of a recession, by acting as a conduit to riches despite the fact that they're encouraging people with no writing experience. But I'm not, so I won't. That wasn't really me being cynical and wishing outfits like this weren't able to get their ads accepted so that people will get all excited about nothing and lose money in the hope that they will be instantly successful despite the clever little caveats on the site.I

If it was that easy, don't you think everyone would be doing it?

The Queen, Marmite, and the Face of Hate

Well whodathunk. Nick Griffin, Head Hoodlum of the BNP, has been denied access to Her Maj's garden party because guess what. He went round the meeja crowing about the fact he'd been invited. Her Maj's advisers decided that having the Head Hoodlum near the spoons and the other guests might prove to be a big issue. Not to mention, they say, that any guest who turned their invitation into a political event would feel an equerry's boot up their backside and be banned from the bunfight. So Griffin got all dressed up in his freshly ironed soup and fish for nothing. Awww.

Oh! And just to add a little kick to the occasion, there's a little aside in that article which reveals  that Unilever, who manufacture Marmite, and who were righteously displeased when Griffin used their product on his party political broadcasts, have successfully sued the BNP for £170,000. Griffin denies this of course. Well he would wouldn't he.

At least Her Maj and her guests can cluster round the cucumber sandwiches and scones without coming face to face with the Face of Hate. It could quite put you off your Darjeeling.

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easy as falling off a horse

Is that the time? Doesn't life flash past when you're trying to deal with it .. ho hum.

Anyway. After listening to the budget, and then yesterday watching England play marbles (badly) at Bloemfontein, there needs to be only one more thing to complete the hat trick to make it a truly flamin' June for the UK. Then July will be simply spiffing.

Been on the sick list for a while and am slowly crawling back into the saddle again. I may need to tie myself on just to be sure - just for a while - but these Fingers of Fun are limbering up ready to hammer out words of various lengths interspersed with carefully selected punctuation and drizzled with just the right amount of pith and moment. Time I started earning again after a few months of near inactivity.

This is a lovely quiet area. I have a lovely quiet flat. There are no crazymakers around (fans of The Artist's Way will know exactly what I mean). Library up the road, shop around the corner.

What is so odd is that writing is the only thing I ever want to do and yet - after this gap - I can barely put an article together. It's only temporary. Fear probably. That fleabitten, sadistic old hag of an internal editor making the most of the fallow period. However. I have plans for her. As well as some strong duct tape and a gag.
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stop press! cameron grasps age-old concept of elections

"If we don't deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years' time."

Thus is good old Dave attempting to win the trust and votes of a swathe of householders being targeted by the Tory Party in a last ditch rush to secure the comfy chairs in No. 10. Such is his utter faith in his ability to get real and grasp the fundamentals of what the populace really want, he has persuaded himself that his "contract" with the electorate, i.e. that they can vote the Tories out in five years if they don't get things right, is nothing short of groundbreaking. Actually it's nothing short of the bleedin' obvious.

Photo credit: Christian Guthier
CC Att.
They probably don't teach this sort of thing where he went to school, but here's the thing. That's the whole point of elections. To vote out the fools who've made a mess of things, to make way for a (hopefully) better shower of blighters. You don't get in and stay in by some kind of droit de seigneur.

It's that entitlement thing coming out, isn't it. That whole thing about the Conservatives being the only ones who know how to run a country (perhaps whilst leaning over a crenellation, declaiming to the peasants). Old Dave may not yet realise this yet, but privileged backgrounds do not a natural leader make, and if he thinks he's offering those householders something brand new and squeaky clean, he's either completely solid between the ears or he thinks they are.

Those of us who grew up the normal way, i.e. without using cutlery polished to a high shine by the butler, know what a democracy is supposed to be about, how it works, and how you get rid of the people who are making a complete pig's ear of running the country. That is, of course, unless the party you're trying to drag out of the front door is shored up by big business, millionaires, the banks, the aristocracy, and anyone else in whose interests it is to keep their collective feet on the necks of the lowest paid and least privileged, and to keep their own purses fat. Look how long it took to shift Thatcher.

Look at the legacy she left - and it will be more of the same but with different labels if old Dave gets the keys. Shudder.

BNP smears Marmite - shock horror probe

Marmite 500gThe party of hate has had its collective chin well and truly smacked. The BNP having commandeered Marmite, the love-or-hate-it yeast spread beloved of and reviled by swathes of Brits, and slapped it on their election videos as a sort of pathetic attempt at humour (don't give up the day jobs, guys), Marmite has got up on its hind legs and has said categorically that it is not aligned to any political party and the BNP should take it off their campaigning materials forthwith. Immediately even. If not sooner. And how dare they.

Not only that but Unilever are considering taking out an injunction against Griffin and his little racists.

I'd like to say Griffin's little mob is toast because a joke is there somewhere .. smear?  something to do with smearing Marmite's good name? oh never mind. But yes, if Unilever could see their way clear to slapping on costs for defamation or character assassination by association or loss of business because of negative publicity that would be fine by me.

let them eat quails' eggs and caviar

(Brilliant) Image credit: Mongo

There will have come a time in David Cameron's day today when he wished he'd stayed home to quell the serfs. Limping away from the podium at the first ever national televised political debate between the LibDem, Labour and Tory party leaders, the only  possible comforting solace for him, deriving from his  warm, cosy memories of Eton, might have lain in his having been soundly thrashed.

Eager to present himself as a man fit for Number 10, his accounts of meeting this person, and that person, and yet another person trying to get away before being used as a convenient soundbyte, seemed as though delivered by a freshly-moisturised-baby's-bum-faced boy sent to the headmaster's study eager to secure a prefect's badge and snitch on Carruthers Minor.

He reminded us eight times of his children in case anyone doubted his ability to do anything vaguely similar to the average human being in Britain, and spoke with breathless surprise of having met a black man in Portsmouth.  This man, he reported with astonishment - "even he" (Cameron's italics) thought the immigration situation in Britain was out of control.  You can see why Cameron would have been so agog, having been raised in the rarefied atmosphere of the aristocracy and finding himself talking  face to face  with a man who surely must have been an immigrant, what with having black skin and all and yet pronouncing on Britain's border controls. Imagine.

All was not lost however, despite what you might think. Having been trounced by the other blighters on stage, he was bolstered by the ministrations and support of the blue rinsed, the chinless and the squeakily and cleanly scrubbed acolytes who received him into their collective bosom. Valiantly they tweeted to a yawning void how well he did, how he won, how he came first in the debate. Later they retired to read of unicorns and a flat earth and a moon made of cheese.

Ding ding. Round two .... 

get your grubby mitts off my article

Gif from Free Clip Art

Plagiarism is theft. Those of us who write our own articles, research them carefully, spend time getting them just so, making sure they're accurate, with references given and sources cited, do not take kindly to finding chunks of our articles - or  complete articles - sitting on someone else's website under someone else's name.

It happens a lot of course, and there are many good ways of finding those sites where one's articles are pinned up without permission, and often all you need do is point out  the copyright violation and it's down within the day. Sometimes people really don't know what they can and can't do and will put things right lickity-split, and it's usually the case that your name is also there so they're not actually claiming ownership.

The problem arises when they're getting affiliate advertising income from your article, and thereby reducing the income that you should be getting. Not to mention that taking the whole thing is rather sticking their tongue out at your notice saying that republication online or in print requires written permission.

The most recent find was a cobbling together of someone's bits of information together with large verbatim chunks from one of my articles. After leaving a couple of comments over a couple of days, each one disappearing from view the next day, and my resorting to pointing out that Wordpress, their blog host, takes a very dim view of copyright  theft, it transpires that the "writer" was this guy's "employee". Looks like the threat of a DMCA letter made the point where a polite comment didn't, but I always try to give them the benefit of the doubt first.

Hopefully the "employee" (ahem) will be treading a little more carefully in future. Meanwhile I continue to keep an eye on my online work and protect my affiliate income.

There are some decent plagiarism checkers out there - the main one being Copyscape. There's also Article Checker, Google Alerts, Plagiarism Checker, and Plagiarism Detect. Many more of course but a regular check with two or three of these will keep the bloodhounds sniffing out the less scrupulous websites out there and rescuing your stolen articles.

Oh and I found the perfect dawg toon .. thank you
Jeff Bucchino, "The Wizard of Draws"!!

tories dance to whatever tune is played

David Cameron under CC licence
You could be forgiven for thinking that David Cameron has discovered a new seam of inspiration and social conscience since he first began shouting at the country to vote for him and trashing everyone else. After an initial burst on the economy and a desire to rein in the deficit, he has now started going on about people government. He quotes Kennedy. He echoes Martin Luther King. He goes on about a new kind of politics which is different to what's been served up in the past.

Now,  let me just think. Tories kept out of power for thirteen years. Check. Tories desperate to use any tactics that might appeal to a worn down and jaded population, no matter what they'll change after the election. Check. Suggesting change. Check. Community action. Check.

It would be laughable if it wasn't so blatant. Cameron is transparent in trying to cash in on the success of a far greater politician who, in complete contrast, is passionate about doing the right thing and has been walking the talk for far longer than Cameron has even noticed.

President Obama under CC License
Yes, we knew we'd heard those messages about change and community action before, delivered to a country that was desperate for change, for respect, for leadership that worked on behalf of the nation and not for its own selfish interests.  We've all heard Mr Obama making those election pledges to a nation desperate to hear them. We've all seen the pedigree of Mr Obama and his almost lifelong dedication to working on behalf of those who don't have a voice or any political clout.

Cameron just doesn't have that credibility. Not a whiff of it. Changing tack, altering political direction, adjusting message and mission several times throughout the campaign, so that you no longer have a clear idea of what the Tories stand for or if they will even stay with what they promise. Slagging off the opposition so as to make every speech he makes almost too irritating to hear - and that goes for all of them of course.

We're sick to the molars of political rhetoric that relies on bashing everyone else, right wing politicians altering their shape like changelings to try to fit what they think the public will be tricked into accepting, and forever forgetting the folk at the bottom of the pile. As for asking everyone to become part of at least one community action, that might sound vaguely noble if Cameron had spent much of his life spending his time helping the disadvantaged, the poor, the homeless. But he hasn't. He hasn't lifted a finger to champion the underprivileged.

He might be interested to learn, by the way, that vast armies of people already volunteer their services and make communities tick. As for suggesting neighbourhoods could buy up post offices threatened with closure - expect more post office closures under a Tory government. And maybe he doesn't realise that community initiatives take more than a couple of meetings and a plate of sausage rolls - they take years to implement because it's not community apathy but government intransigence that leads people to take action to make things happen.

Really, does the man have the smallest clue about life in this country?

Obama, in distinct contrast, has every idea how his country works and what it needs. That's why he was successful in winning the Presidency, because he walked the talk, never trashed the opposition, and gave his life experience in the communities as an example to others to make his country a better place.

Cameron is such a poor shadow of someone he wishes to emulate in the hope that no-one will notice.

no toffs, no Tories, no chinless twits

Cameron must be doing the face palm thing round about now. Just when you're trying to frighten the country by saying a hung parliament will be the ruin and death of us all, and the thought of winning the coming election is making your voice sound cracked and desperate (please! please please! vote for me! I really really really want to be PM!), along comes Chris Grayling and ruins the political image you've been cultivating so carefully.

Grayling thinks it's perfectly acceptable for people with"genuinely held religious beliefs" to refuse B&B facilities to gay couples. When did we last see something like this? Oh  yes. No blacks, no Irish. And what's a "genuinely held" religious belief when it's at home. Would a B&B owner have to provide written confirmation that they are indeed of the faith which underpins their smallmindedness? If I was gay I could have fun with that. "I don't believe you're a Christian at all. You'll have to prove it." Wheel in the Archbishop of Canterbury as moderator and then see them sweat.

Image: rafanandra under CC license
Anyway, back to Grinning Grayling and his gang. Tories appear to have about as much in common with the common man and woman as a pig does with a bar of Fairy soap. What with , nepotism and the vast private incomes of some of this crowd you can guarantee that their focus will be on them and their needs, and not on the majority of people in the country who can barely make ends meet any more, let alone provide luxury pieds-a-terre for families of ducks at the taxpayers' expense.

It's these little slips - like the Grayling gaffe - that give them away at inopportune moments and reveal them to be who they truly are. We can only be grateful for the galloping gob of the Shadow Home Secretary for reminding us what they stand for. Their own interests, and their own small minded bigotry.

That's not to say the other parties have much to say for themselves. The Labour Party is spinning on its own axis, and the Liberal Democrats are refusing all dangerous liaisons and will probably end up third again. Anybody else hasn't got a cat in hell's chance of making it half way along the racetrack let alone crossing the finish line.

However, none of the other parties are presenting themselves as something that they're not, and what you see is pretty much what you get. I'd rather that any day, than risk the prospect of even a single day under the self serving residents of Smith Square.

don't let the door hit you on your way out

Eugene Terre'Blanche, white supremacist and passionate campaigner against rights, reason and human decency, met his end on 3 April 2010.

St Peter, warned in advance of Terre'Blanche's application for admittance, has spoken frankly.  "Are you nuts?" he said. "The last thing we need is Mr Congeniality shooting the place up. Although, I'm rather looking forward to staring this guy in the face. Seeing as I'm black."

When asked if Hell might be a more suitable place for Terre'Blanche, who allegedly became a born again Christian in prison several years beforehand and yet continued to beat and harass members of the black community, St Peter was not hopeful. "We've had talks with the Lower Reaches. The draft administrative details of his particular eternal damnation are going to put serious strain on the availability of fire and brimstone." He added, "however, there's always the option of doubling him up with Hitler."

constant work and content writers

Image: Suzanne Bosworth

Finding a site that looks after its writers and encourages them to charge the going rate for their work is like finding a frozen lemon sorbet in the middle of the Mojave Desert on a hot day.

Constant Content is not for the faint hearted. The vetting process is tough and the editor's red pen is in more use than some new writers may be used to. Many and loud, and sometimes high pitched, are the posts in the forum from writers whose work has been rejected, and who have been politely told that their work needs to improve before they can have their articles accepted. Grammar, spelling, clarity: the whole caboodle is top priority here and buyers pay for exceptional work. Those whose standards just aren't up to the job don't get to reapply.

Every single article submitted for sale is checked by the editor, and not every article gets through. It may be something as simple as a mix up in punctuation, or it may be something harder for someone to find and correct, such as incorrect use of language or even a single word, but proofreading is up to the writer and copy must be ready for publication when it hits the editor's desk.

The benefits of the site, however, are worth every drop of blood let in the writing of an article. Regular sales to buyers who recognise and value good writing, depending of course on the kind of subject areas you tackle. If you post it they will come, whether it's within the next two minutes or the next two months, or perhaps within twelve, so the idea is to amass a good library of your own articles ready for browsing by buyers looking for exceptional content. There is of course the steady stream of buyers posting their requests for work. No bidding. I'll repeat that. NO BIDDING.

If you have excellent writing skills and you're looking for online writing gigs, Constant Content could be just the place for you. Come on. Come and have a look.

robin hood's very merry bankers

What does everyone think about this Robin Hood tax. Call me a cynical sceptic, but if this tax is made law, I can expect just about every bank to find a loophole, transfer all their trading arms overseas and put two fingers up to their customers and the government.

Given their reluctance to forego their vast bonuses for a job incredibly badly done and not even turn a well coiffeured forelock at the thought, how likely is it that they're going to become saintly philanthropists overnight? Not a chance. It is not those filthy rich rats who will be paying this tax, it'll be you and me who are going to end up paying it via megahiked charges, that's who.

It works well in theory. Banks pay a 0.05% tax on all their business transactions so as to raise (by the latest calculations) over £100bn pounds annually to further finance the NHS, education, global warming initiatives, and overseas aid.

Oh I can definitely see that happening. Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas.

The saving grace of the campaign, by my standards at least, is the casting of Bill Nighy as the banker in the campaign video. That at least takes my focus away from my lack of trust in the banking system for about three and a half minutes.

"infamy! infamy! they've all ..

... got it in for me!" Thus might Ms Pratt muse upon her swift decline from the dizzy heights of anti-bullying charity status, her Trustees swarming off the boat like rats off a proverbial.

Personally I have no reservations about her having stood up for herself in the past against people who thought they could push her around. It's not a stick to beat someone with, that they have done so; many in the Conservative party (oh and the Daily Mail - yawn - surprise) appear to think it's not OK to do it more than once. Surely the fact that she had to resort to making official complaints suggest that workplaces are not ideal and that bullying, racism, sexism and everything equally unacceptable still goes on despite efforts to eradicate them.

No, my gripe is her opening her big mouth and chewing up the people who sought help with bullying in the workplace, and who phoned her charity because they trusted the charity not to go public with the information. Opening her big mouth made the situation even more difficult for those employees - they went to her charity because clearly they weren't being helped at work. Opening her big mouth sabotaged the efforts of other anti-bullying charities, because now people are wondering if their worries will be made public too. Opening her big mouth showed she was prepared to put her own interests above those of the people who trusted her - thrown to the wolves is I think how the cliche goes. She betrayed people's trust and added to their existing problems. Then complains that Number 10 is bullying her.

If that wasn't bad enough, what's even worse is that she is going to release confidential emails (on the unpaid advice of Max Clifford) to prove what she's been saying. Nice work, Ms Pratt. Never mind the dread and the worry of those who confided in you, you're going to splash their names all over the press.

Nice work, if you're a Tory out to nail the Prime Minister. Oh come on, course she is - or at least, a Tory gopher.

I wonder if she is laying herself open to legal action, you know, breach of confidentiality and all that, and Max Clifford could represent them once he's tied up the loose ends with Ms Pratt. What an interesting thought.

Anyway, here's a nice little tome for Ms Pratt should she find herself without anything to read on the bus. The section on confidentiality will be completely new to her of course, but I always say you're never too much of an expert to take on new concepts and to stretch your horizons. If she just takes that section slowly, one word at a time, she could grasp the basic fundamentals.

As for the Trustees who have skipped off the boat, they might have done so a lot earlier had those emails about improper practices and capitalising on people's distress been acted on sooner. The employees who sought Ms Pratt's services might not now be chewing their nails and believing they can't trust anyone any more.

One dreads to think what kind of pressures they're going to be put under now at Number 10 from Human Resources, who should have been more "robust" (I planned to use that word at least once in this post .. ROBUST) in how they dealt with day to day pressures among staff. Disciplining managers ain't enough. You need to instill a working atmosphere that allows open communication and nip things in the bud before managers start bawling out their staff. Just a hint.

Photo: Laverrue under CC Att Licence

another star bows out - alexander mcqueen

It's a tough way to go. Who knows how things were. People don't last forever do they, and we all go at some point, whether by our own hand or courtesy of the old ticker that finally does its last tock.

People like McQueen add colour and vibrancy and inspiration if we have minds open enough to acknowledge it. He added spectacle, dash and in your face extravagence and he paid attention to the people he saw in the street and showcased them on the catwalks with his outrageous clothes. None of this fake mystique. He just grabbed ideas with both fists and flung them out for us all to revel in.

Wherever you are now, Mr McQueen, I hope they've got the antlers ready. Their gain. Our loss.

Just to remind ourselves of the man's creative genius and vision, here's a replay of the famous Kate Moss hologram from 2006.

who is writing college essays for money

What's with this growing trend for college students to pay freelance writers to write their college essays for them?

Why do some writers think it's OK to help someone cheat though their college course, deprive a student of the chance to learn or to deal with their coursework load or to get their college certificate or degree honestly?

Just recently there was someone asking for exactly this service on one of those freelance writing sites. Not only was this person a medical student but he had been caught out for plagiarism in his first effort at this essay and was now desperate to get someone to rewrite it for him so that it would pass TurnItIn. The onus, incidentally, was on the writer to access TurnItIn via the student's personal code, and check themselves that it passed 100%.

There are two issues here. The first is the ethics of the thing - cheating, lying and barefaced deception are being provided as a gift-wrapped service by someone calling themselves a professional writer. Professional? I don't think so. "Professional" means more than the fact that you earn your money writing. It also means a professional attitude towards the profession: following personal policies of honesty and integrity in one's writing, avoiding plagiarism like .. well, the plague, respecting the work of other writers by acknowledging sources.

The second issue is that clearly colleges are not keeping up to date with the students - why are students resorting to cheating? Is it that easy to hand in work written by someone else?

Are the students overworked? Are they trying to keep two or three jobs on the go as well as studying? Are they just plain lazy and want an easy way through their course?

Option three seemed to be that student's motivation. Given all the alternatives to cheating, i.e. talking to his tutor, asking for an extension, talking to the college counsellor, or writing the damn thing anyway, he said it was his choice to spend his money how he pleased and he wasn't bothered about doing the work as long as he could turn in an essay that would pass TurnItIn. This student, may I just remind you, is training to become a doctor.

Maybe colleges and universities need to check a little more thoroughly to make sure that an essay has actually been written by the student who handed it in. Isn't that rather easy, if you just ask a student about his sources and references?

ghostwriters ghostbusted

Just shows that when you're doing dodgy work that you're getting paid well for but you think no-one will ever find out about, they will. Here's an interesting piece on the Public Library of Science website: Ghostwriting: the Dirty Little Secret of Medical Publishing That Just Got Bigger that exposes the grubby work of medical ghostwriters hired to write biased material based on the diktats of pharmaceutical companies. To quote, it was material "written by unacknowledged professional medical writers in which the message, tone, and content had been determined by the company but the paper was subsequently nominally “authored” by respected academics—in sum a coordinated and carefully monitored campaign of ghostwriting."

Kill Bill Evil Nurse Costume (Size:Med/Lrg 8-12)Nobody really expects squeaky clean ethics throughout the world and as for a moral imperative guiding all of us as a cohesive global community to bigger and better things for the good of humanity, it ain't gonna happen.

But come on. Somewhere along the line, medical writers gained some practical background and experience in a medical field in order for them to find work as medical writers. This may seem like a frivolous point to them, but surely there would have been an expectation that they adhered to codes of ethics in those medical employments? What happened to those ethics in their transition from doctor or nurse or allied health professional into a medical ghostwriter who for thirty pieces of silver will cheerfully write lies for pharmaceutical companies.

Well yeah, apart from naked greed.