Why I don't like Tumblr: mystery cephalopod islands

While preparing the latest Scumble round-up of science-art, I wanted to include this amazing image:

© an unidentified artist - who is it?

It was "liked" and shared via Google Reader from someone I follow.  Note, there's no visible signature on the image. It was shared from here, a Tumblr blog, and it looks like it originally was posted here.

My purpose here is not to single out this specific Tumblr blogger. Tumblr makes it easy to reblog an image, even one that has no attribution to its original creator. And this very cool surreal image of an island town built on an octopus has been reblogged and liked 535 times. Without the artist getting any credit at all.

The problem is not the Tumblr software, it's the culture of re-posting without respect to the image creators that has developed on Tumblr. It's so quick, most people posting images don't write anything at all, no title for their post, no comments on why they liked it, nothing.

There is some hope that this disrespect is recognized in the Tumblr community: Reblogged To Give Credit seem sto care. (Check out the url.)  There are others too.

As readers of The Flying Trilobite know, I sometimes advocate for better image attribution on blogs. It's a problem. Images are treated as important and noteworthy, but their creators are often treated as unimportant and worthless.

I realize I am being a hypocrite for re-posting this image yet again - indeed, in the past I've parted ways with my Art Evolved peeps on whether or not it's a good idea to post unattributed images in the hopes of repatriating their ownership.  But I thought I would try to re-post it the same way Art Evolved does on occasion: in the hopes of finding out from my readership if anyone knows who the talented artist is behind it. So far, my Google-fu fails me. I've tried "octopus island", "cephalopod fantasy painting" and about 10 other combinations, and no luck.

One of the Tumblr blogs had an interesting link I hadn't seen before: to a site called TinEye which searches for images and tells you where their being used. I put Darwin Took Steps into it, and TinEye matched the image to me as the most likely source.
Unfortunately, no joy for the Octopus Island.

Anyone recognize the artist behind this?
Any other artists find more trouble with Tumblr than other platforms?

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

5 steps to proper image use on blogs - a #scio11 tutorial

Something that David, John and I brought up today in our session about Science-art - and elsewhere here at ScienceOnline - is the need to properly credit images used on blogs. Here are my quick tips on doing it properly, to give image creators the credit they deserve. 

This stuff is my opinion after a number of years as an image-maker online. I don't think there's a gold standard anywhere or a law that the Internetz Police will bust you over. 

  1. Go beyond Google Images or Wikipedia to the original photographer, illustrator or artist.
  2. Check for a Creative Commons Licence*.
  3. Ask. Just ask if permission is unclear. 
  4. Credit the photographer, illustrator or artist by name.
  5. Link back to their site.

Saying "Credit: Google Images" is like saying "Credit: Someone on Earth".

If you search for more than 10 minutes online and cannot find the original creator and are desperate to use that specific image, perhaps put it up and ask your readers for help identifying who created it.  A knowledgeable blog readership on a niche topic will often know. 

Be prepared to take an image down if asked.

*A note about Creative Commons Licences: it means some sort of sharing is allowed, but the most restrictive licence still says a) You must credit the artist b) You must not alter the image in any way and c) You must not make any money from it.  It's one of the reasons an artist may allow free use on a blog, but ask for money if it will be in mainstream media.

These are my opinion on the subject of credit: thoughts? 


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

How not to deal with uncited images.

So as I enter gracefully into blogging-middle-age (like a swan, I know) one of the pitfalls of discourse for me is how to address an uncited image on another science blog. 

I'm a bit passionate about the issue. (See herehereherehere, and here.) Most science bloggers cite their sources and papers, yet many lift images wholly from Google without a thought.  

Last night, while looking at a relatively new blog, I saw some artwork I recognized as probably being by Nobu Tamura. It was. A quick Google search for the species, and on Wikipedia, the first link, revealed that Mr. Tamura has granted the image of Cynognathus open under Creative Commons, free to be used and posted -and even modified!- provided he is given credit.

Image © Nobu Tamura.  From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cynognathus_BW.jpg">Wikipedia. (See?  That was easy.)

I commented on the blog. I said something like, "The Cynognathus is by Nobu Tamura, and should be credited.  All the cool kids are citing images."  I can't tell you exactly what I said, because my comment has been removed.

The blog in question also has a bit of tweaking to do, apparently:  my comment appeared as black text on a black background, with only links to Tamura and one of my own posts about citing images appearing as orange hyperlinks. So I thought, hey, these guys are on Twitter: I'll say something there.

I said: "Hi, @bloginquestion . Could you plz cite images properly? & my comment appears as black text on black b/g." With a link to the post. 
Then it gets weird.  They sent me 3 direct messages saying it was inappropriate for me to comment on their blog if I had a problem, inappropriate to tweet about it (should have direct messaged) and that it IS cited on the post and they're sorry I didn't see it.

Only...it wasn't cited. The only citation was "Photos from google.ca images". Umm, yeah, that's not even close to credit where credit is due. I have the screen capture to prove it.

Nobu Tamura's artwork is cited now, but none of the maps are.

I couldn't direct message them via Twitter (they are not following me), so I sent a couple of more public messages. Then, I realized they've now blocked me on Twitter!

I sent an email to one of the blog hosts after looking it his address on their Facebook page. It's their prerogative to block me; perhaps I could have somehow handled this with more tact than a blog comment and public tweet.  There's been a bunch of words of support from many science bloggers on Twitter and Facebook about this to me, and thanks.

Being a science-blog killjoy or meter-maid is of little interest to me, roving around handing out tickets. "You parked that image here without a credit. You're fined a minor public shaming".  At the same time, when I see the art of someone I admire being used to enhance a post without a shred of proper credit, I feel I should say something.

Private emails do little to raise consciousness about the issue - the comment is not just there for the blogger and commenter, but for all the subsequent readers.

What should I have done differently?  How do I raise the issue without throwing science bloggers under a bus? Do I remove them from my personal Facebook friends?  It feels weird that they're blocking me on one media (Twitter) yet they can see all my stuff.

Oh, and do make sure you go through Nobu Tamura's deviantArt gallery.  This man is a paleo-illustrating machine

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.  Except that one up there of the cynognathus.
That's © by Nobu Tamura.  See?  Again. Easy.

Print Shop

Glimpse at image credits on science blogs

Thanks to those who tweeted and commented and posted about this morning's rant. To follow-up, I had a look at some science blogs, and who is citing images.

I'm not out to be a big jerk and point at exactly which blogs I looked at, so instead I've done this by network.
Looking at Scienceblogging.com between about 11:45-1245 est today, I looked at the first 12 blog networks listed, and then looked at the 5 posts under each heading. And then I made this table:

click to enlarge

A few notes:  

  • I tried to use a colour-code from green (properly linked and cited) to red (what are you thinking?). 
  • If the image was clearly the author's own, (a photo of them, perhaps) I included that in the green bar, as a properly cited and linked image. 
  • I didn't count videos. 
  • I only counted images in the body of the post, not the sidebar or banner. 

My thoughts:

  • Weird the Scienceblogs.com posts had no images whatsoever in that small random sampling. 
  • Not enough science bloggers use paintings or illustrations. I'm available for hire.
  • Wired came off looking good to my eyes.
  • I ain't gonna point to anyone.  But a couple of these had the Research Blogging badge on the posts with zero image citations or links.  Are we to automatically infer we have to go back to the paper for those? 

It'd be interesting to do this periodically to see the trends look like.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Print Shop

Why don't more science bloggers cite their images?

A rant.

This is a particular gripe of mine that I have brought up from time to time on various other blogs.  Seems only fair I bring it up here.
I wish more science bloggers would cite their images. The illustrations used are often completely uncredited, as if they are unimportant embellishments to the articles.  If they were unimportant, than they are unnecessary for a blog post.  I think most bloggers realize images are valuable hooks and enhancements of their points, yet they treat them like stickers to plaster on their primary-school binder.

To be fair, all the blogs I linked to above quickly linked the images - they're great bloggers I enjoy reading.  It's an oversight: a common one. 

And It isn't only science bloggers, I know.  Most science bloggers will go to the trouble of citing and linking the sources for their articles, however. Why not a quick caption?  A link?  A citation in the footnotes? 

 An illustrator has gone to school, is scientifically literate and works hard to contribute, and receives no credit.

Drives me bonkers.

Earlier this year, I attempted to raise some awareness by making this little badge:

Maybe I need to start a once-a-week list of bloggers who go to the trouble of linking and citing artists and illustrators. Or finding a way to graffiti their comments. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Print Shop

The Art Thief vs the Dinosaur Bloggers

This story concerns online art theft, copyright infringement, a plucky band of bloggers, and dinosaurs.

How Not to Steal Artwork Online 
The Art Thief vs the Dinosaur Bloggers

Dramatis Personae:

  • ART Evolved, the online paleo-art blog and network of approximately 20 paleontology-inspired artists and illustrators who blog.
  • deviantArt (known as dA), the massive online art sharing site.  When I say massive, as of August 2010, dA has over 14.5 million members and over 100 million pieces of art uploaded into it (Wikipedia). For those in the science community unfamiliar with it, it acts like Facebook and Flickr, but heavier on the painting and drawing than photography with lots of manga and comics and inspired amateurs. 
  • Dr. Manabu Sakamoto, aka Mambo-Bob, an artist contributor to Art Evolved and paleontologist at the University of Bristol. He blogs at The Raptor's Nest
  • *theSpinosaurusGuy, aka Brenden, a dA user. 

The events:
Early yesterday morning, Manabu emailed the rest of the list of Art Evolved members about something all artists fear:  someone else was posting his artwork online and taking credit for it. This person, known by the dA pseudonym of theSpinosaurusGuy (real name listed as "Brenden") had posted about 12 of Manabu's dinosaur drawings on deviantArt and was taking credit for them, watermarking them with his pseudonym and posting dA-enabled widgets in his gallery saying they were not to be copied.

Another artist on dA who is also familiar with Manabu's work had alerted him.

You can see Manabu's artwork here in his online gallery.  Click on Allosaurus-top view for example.
You can see in the screen-captured images below, theSpinosaurusGuy clearly claiming this as his own.  Note the same Allosaurus top view drawing on the left. 

Click to enlarge.  Note the watermark on the right-hand image, claiming that as his own as well.
Note the watermark and the "artist's" comment.

It's theft.  Pure and simple.  It's not a re-use, or a fan homage to Manabu's art.  It's not a gallery where theSpinosaurusGuy collected his favourite pieces of art (dA does have that feature, and everything is clearly labeled as the original artists' work.) He is not claiming to be Dr. Manabu Sakamoto, he is instead claiming the artwork as his own labour.

Manabu doesn't have a deviantArt account.  A number of other dA members do however, and with a minimum of discussion, we acted as individuals, but part of a group helping our respected peer.

I started by making a brief comment on the Albertaceratops, the feathered raptor, the top-view Allosaurus and a few others.  DeviantArt is very aware that this type of behaviour can and does occur, and has a mechanism to deal with it.  Next to every posted artwork, there is a "Report a Violation" link, which allows you to write a brief description of the complaint, and provide a link to evidence it's a violation.

I filled about 6 of these out.  I also left comments beneath each one with links back to Manabu's gallery so others could see for themselves:  deviantArt is a very social site, you can add friends, comment and click "favourite" on art have nested conversations.  I left the comments so new visitors would see that theSpinosaurusGuy wasn't the artist he claimed to be.

The Art Evolved Network reacts:
Letting Manabu and our Art Evolved peeps know what I'd done, I came back a couple of hours later to find that theSpinosaurusGuy had blocked me from making further comments and labeled me a spammer. Of course, the comments I'd made were all deleted.

But it didn't matter.  You see, Peter Bond, of Bond's Blog and one of the driving forces behind the current Pink Dinosaur charity drive is also a dA user, and started to comment on the rest of the ones I had missed. And what Bond did was brilliant: he replied in the nested comments to previous commenters who had unwittingly praised the thief. Now, all of the people praising the work knew Spino-Brenden was a fraud.

While that was done, I had received automated messages from the dA moderators that they had removed the 6 pieces of art I had complained about: within about 4 hours! Not bad for a site with approximately 1.5 million comments daily!

Discussion in the Art Evolved emails was heating up.  More members of Art Evolved, like Ville SinkonnenRaven AmosTrish Arnold and Nima Sassani jumped in and continued to post messages. Ville and Trish posted journal entries on dA about it, Peter re-posted Ville's, and I posted a critique of one of the works. Journals and critiques can't be deleted by the offender.

And we were civil:  let's be clear here, I think all of us recognized that theSpinosaurusGuy is likely somewhat young and naive about art, copyright and social media. This was not a pile-on with the intent rip him a new one.  Most of us called for the artist to stop deleting comments, feel ashamed, and give Manabu an apology.

More artwork was removed by the dA moderators (go moderators!) Some of theSpinosaurusGuy's former dA friends started to chastise him on his message wall. As I write this, only one of Manabu's drawings, a ceratosaurus, is still on the site.  Another dA user, not affiliated with Art Evolved has found that a computer-generated Barney the Dinosaur parody actually belongs to another artist Spino-Brenden has stolen from.

Message to theSpinosaurusGuy:

Once the jig was up, dude, if you're reading this, you should have apologized and taken them down immediately. Comments like the ones in the screen-capture below just enraged everyone.

    Click to read the jackass-ishness.
As I said before, I suspect you are younger than many of us in Art Evolved, and probably in your teens.  DeviantArt is a great place where you can find a niche for almost anything and have positive contact with people, and maybe that's what you were looking for.  

And I get that.  One of the ways to appear as a respectable, sensible adult is to take responsibility for your mistakes. It's still not too late.  You'll continue to take some heat from some people on dA no doubt, but suffer through it, and become what you admire.   
What this means:  
There's a reason I asked Manabu and our Art Evolved peeps if I could write about this experience.

You see, the online world has changed things. Now, there's a niche for artwork of every kind, and lots of people with similar interests can find each other quickly.  And while dinosaurs are granted a certain fondness and awesomeness in popular culture, there's a relatively small niche of artists passionate enough about them to be really into it.

Theft is going to get found out.

All of us on Art Evolved experienced a point in time where we made a decision to go online with our artwork.  It's a tough decision, and everyone frets to varying degrees about what will happen if our work is stolen.
  • We slap copyright symbols on it, and some of us put obscuring watermarks on the images.
  • We employ Creative Commons Licences, or rail against Google ImageSearch for making it so easy.  
  • We vary on how much we protect our artwork, and how much we like to share it.  
  • None of us is likely to know if an indie punk band in Vienna has downloaded our Diabloceratops for their gig posters.  

So if you're an aspiring artist looking to get into paleo-art or any kind of image, and you're nervous about making a big enough name for yourself online, here's some stuff you can do.

  • Don't steal. 
  • If it's a fan homage, say it is.  
  • Don't re-post someone's stuff without asking.  
  • If they have a blanket statement saying it's okay, make sure you link back to them and give them credit.   
  • Always give artists, illustrators and image-makers credit. Always.
  • Just ask.  Always ask if it's cool.  Most illustrators love feedback.
  • Use the © symbol a lot. State what you want. 
  • Blog.  Post comments elsewhere.  Reciprocate.
  • Become friends and peers to others with similar interests. 
  • If you can, be part of a network or group online. 
  • "I got yer back" is one of the most heart-warming statements you can utter to a friend. 

If someone steals your work, 
  • make a fuss. 
  • Go through proper channels. 
  • Be civil and intelligent when you dialogue. 
  • Ask for help from your support network.  

I encourage anyone to put their artwork online.  And becoming part of a network makes everyone stronger than without it.

Thanks to:
All of the Art Evolved crew for giving one of our own your support and for carrying yourselves maturely. 
To the deviantArt moderators for reacting quickly.
To other dA artists for shaming the behaviour and not shrugging their shoulders. 
And to Manabu for agreeing I should write about this.

-Glendon Mellow
[All above opinions are my own.  Cross-posted on both Art Evolved and The Flying Trilobite]
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All opinions above are my own.
Artwork in those screen captures is by the talented Manabu Sakamoto © 2010 of The Raptor's Nest.

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Print Shop

Image-Citation Citation - update

I've created a new, more compact, easier to understand Image-Citation Citation image for recipients to put on their blog, at the request of the commenters (thanks, peeps!)

Please feel free to forward to those who deserve it, and link back to the original post so we can keep a growing list. The url to link to easily is http://tinyurl.com/imagecite .

On a related note, art director extraordinaire Irene Gallo, who blogs at The Art Department has called out for more artist recognition in her post Who's awesome? Or, credit the artists!

Hit the link to read her thoughts and for more on the topic of artists' credit.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Image-Citation Citation!

As I write this in early 2010, I must state I freakin' love blogs. As an artist-illustrator who blogs original content, one of the things I love most is when bloggers cite the artist, illustrator, graphic designer, photographer or image-maker who created the pictures that adorn their blog posts.

It doesn't happen enough. Too often, images are pasted on by a blogger to help make a point without recognition to those who work hard at creating image content. It's taken for granted that many images are freely used online (whether they are allowed to be or not). Artists' recognition shouldn't be neglected.

Images educate about new concepts, beg to be shared for their cheekiness and insight, and enhance the blogging world. We know this. Time to credit those who take the time to give image-credit where it is due. I hope this meme will spread through the blogosphere.

May I present, The Image-Citation Citation!

Share and award this blog award to bloggers who take the time to cite, backlink and applaud the people who create original images. Giving this award
doesn't mean you've read every blog post the author has penned since the phrase "web log" was used: it means you acknowledge those who regularly acknowledge our bloggy artistic treasures and jesters.

Download, right-click & save or request a copy of this image from me in another form or with a blog colour specific background, and I'll see what I can do. Email your award to the intended blogger with an explanation and backlink to here. I'd love it if you'd comment who you've awarded it to and why on this post, and backlink it if you are a recipient announcing your accolade.

To begin, I award the Image-Citation Citation to:

1) Lines and Colors by Charley Parker, for making the citing of image-makers a joy every post.

Not Exactly Rocket Science, by Ed Yong, for above average journalistic attention to citations and sources.

3) Infectious Greed by Paul Kedrosky, for taking the time to consistently show his infographic and illustration sources through labels and links.

Who do you award the Image-Citation Citation to?

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Edit, 21 Feb 2010: I've created a new, more compact, easier to understand Image-Citation Citation image for recipients to put on their blog, at the request of the commenters (thanks, peeps!)

Please feel free to forward to those who deserve it, and link back here so we can keep a growing list! The url to link to easily is http://tinyurl.com/imagecite .

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***