Own Your Own Work

The red type is from a Tower Constellation with Elite Gothic type; the black type is from a Smith-Corona Galaxie Twelve with Elite type. They are more or less the same machine, so we let them work together.

Transcribed below.

So you’re a content creator, which is what we call writers and artists and musicians when we want to emphasize that what they are creating is only filler for the vessel that holds their content, and you wish to keep control over the content you have created. But you know that you do not really own your work if it can be taken away from you at the whim of a faceless corporation.

You may have certain historical examples in mind.

Yet we live in an electronic age. If we want to communicate our thoughts to the world at large, we have to do it in electronic form. Doesn’t that leave us at the mercy of those faceless corporations?

Not necessarily. There are still some things you can do without the aid of Big Tech. But even if you are locked in the embrace of proprietary software, you can still take sensible steps to keep your creations safe.

  1. Assume the worst.

Even the most reliable and straightforward tech companies can goof. Do you write in Google Docs? Some years ago, Google Docs users of all sorts found themselves locked out of their own work for violating the terms of service. There was no violation: an update had introduced a bug that incorrectly flagged some documents as abusive, whatever that means. It was a goof–but the goof revealed that Google is examining every word you write to make sure you are not writing something evil. Algorithms, not human beings, decide what is evil enough to lock you out of your own work. It happened once; assume it will happen again. Assume, and prepare.

  1. Keep more than one copy of anything you think is important.

If you have one copy on line and another on a local drive, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose access to both at once.

  1. Use open file formats whenever you can.

If the software you use suddenly makes an unreasonable demand or sends you a ransom note, you can pick up your files and go to some other software.

  1. Keep files in more than one format.

This is a little easier for writers than it is for illustrators or designers, but even the most complex proprietary formats can usually be exported to PDF for printing, and much can be recovered from a PDF. Even better if you can export to a format designed to be editable, like SVG.

  1. If there’s anything on social media that you don’t want to lose, keep copies in a form that you control.

Copy the text into a text file, download the picture, or whatever it takes to make sure the work won’t be lost if the corporation that hosts it makes an unexpected decision. If all else fails, most devices make it very easy to take a screenshot.

6. Remember paper.

So far, paper manufacturers have not imposed terms and conditions on the people who mark up their product. Buy paper now, while that’s still true.

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What Is This Place?

There is a certain amusing dissonance about a site on the Web whose theme is writing by making marks on paper. But that is not the only dissonance you will find here. This is a supplement to Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine, and we’ll have long digressions on random subjects, instructional articles about writing instruments, and even poetry—but everything will be written out on paper, and only then published to the electronic world at large.