Who are you sharing your Facebook posts with?

Musical accompaniment is ‘She’ (live) by Alice Phoebe Lou – this is used as the end credit song for Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr story, about the inventor and film star, and has been Oscar-shortlisted for Best Original Song.

For all its faults Facebook is pretty good at helping you to decide who can see the posts you put on your timeline and it lets you adjust your privacy settings easily.

Below are screenshots of the most common options –

On the left, the globe = public – anything you post to your timeline with this option means it’s available to everyone (whether or not they’re logged in to Facebook, it’s very public). The middle one that looks like two heads = friends and this will be visible to any of your friends. The gear icon on the right indicates the post has been shared with a restricted group of your friends, or some other custom setting.

Note that if you tag a friend (by writing @ theirname [without the space] in the post) then your friend’s friends will ALSO be able to see your post (the icon looks the same as the friends one though).

To access and amend these options when writing your new post click on the grey option in the screenshot below. Mine says ‘Friends’ as that’s my default setting, yours might be different. When you click on it it will go blue and all the options will appear.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 12.56.47.png

There are lots of options to pick from – if you want to throw a surprise party for someone pick the ‘Friends except…’ to hide it from them, or you can choose the Custom option and select which friends will be able to see the post. You can also create preset groups here too (I think I created a ‘Gig’ one, looks like it, bit surprised if I created a theatre one though [though I do recommend Travesties at the RTC if you’re in New York]).

You can check any previous post you’ve published to see what its options were.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 13.05.53

I think that once you change your posting settings for a single post then Facebook may tend to default to that option for your next post – so you may need to keep an active eye on things.

I’m afraid I have no idea what happens if you comment on someone else’s post – it may depend on the privacy settings they’ve set for their post (you can see the relevant icon at the top of their post, next to the timestamp). If you’re commenting on a page then I think your comment’s ‘reach’ or visibility will be the same as the default setting for the page. If anyone knows…

Further reading
Block quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information


Getting reimbursed for social media images used in newspapers without your permission

Every few weeks I see a flurry of tweets about someone whose photo, which they shared on Twitter, has been used online (and possibly in print) in a newspaper without their permission. Quite often someone from the newspaper in question has asked if they can use the photo and then the paper has gone ahead and used it even where permission was denied.

There seems to be no currently known or effective way of preventing such unauthorised re-use but a handful of people have reported retrospective success in getting paid for use of the photo as well as additional payment for its unauthorised use. This post points to some of those successes and information about what your rights are – note however that I am not a lawyer, always seek advice from appropriately qualified people if you need it.

If you take a photograph it is automatically yours in terms of copyright and sharing it on social media doesn’t grant anyone else automatic rights to re-use it. Pictures posted to Twitter or anywhere else are not automatically “in the public domain” even though they are public and available to be seen by everyone. The phrase ‘public domain’ has different meanings in different contexts but in legal / copyright terms it does not simply mean ‘displayed in public‘: “The legal term public domain refers to works whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, have been expressly waived, or are inapplicable” – Wikipedia. If you’ve posted your photo somewhere you get to decide how it’s used.

Generally for practical purposes it’s usually fine to embed the image elsewhere because doing so links back to the original post with credit. Presumably people could object to this of course (I am not aware of examples). Ironically in this post I have embedded tweets above which contain images that were used without permission by one newspaper…

Note that online newspapers can also benefit from advertising revenue, which may depend on the number of page visits – so your image may also be contributing to their income.

If you are asked on Twitter by a newspaper to use your image, take a screenshot of their tweet and of your reply, showing context.

How people have responded to requests to use their images
This 2017 post outlines a disappointing phone call with newspaper staff about images used without permission and the photographer includes a copy of the letter they sent. The blog post hasn’t yet been updated with an outcome but there’s an interesting comment from ‘Frank’ who recommends that people speak with a lawyer before contacting an infringing party. They point to a 2011 article from Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland called “Stolen photographs: what to do?” – this is probably worth reading first, before contacting the paper.

• Two people who got paid after contacting a newspaper that used their images
This blog post (from 2012) outlines how a photographer recovered payment for the unauthorised use of his images – he also recommends remaining polite and professional, and suggests watermarking images (see Watermarking note below). Another post (also from 2012) had similar success in getting payment and a link added into the infringing article which pointed back to their website.

• One person who got paid after instigating Court proceedings
This, from just a few days ago (28 Feb 2018), is a nice story of persistence, but did involve learning quite a lot about the legal world before being able to proceed. I was particularly interested in the bit about the Tomlin order, which I’d not heard about before.

For people using smartphones to take images of ‘stuff happening’ that then becomes newsworthy there are apps that let you add watermarks and comments. I presume these can also be removed later, presumably by you (but perhaps by newspapers) so I might suggest screenshotting the image first and sharing that instead. For iPhone users on iOS 10+ there’s apparently something helpful within the Camera roll that lets you write on your pics.

Incidentally as far as I’m aware a screenshot also has minimal EXIF data.

Further reading
Freelance fees guide – Photography
Photographer wins $1.2 million from companies that took pictures off Twitter (2013) and the background to that story.
Can we use your photo? (9 March 2018) Articulate

For journalists
How to: know when to use photos from social media (2011)

The image accompanying this post is ‘CC0’ licensed which means that it can be used without attribution, but in case you want to use it too I got it from https://pixabay.com/en/copyright-media-warning-exclamation-40846/




How to save a Word doc as a PDF

It’s File / Save As…

Screenshot 2018-02-25 16.17.31

Then a window like this will appear…
From File Format options, choose PDF.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 16.13.18

In the screenshot above, from a Mac, the file location is accessed through ‘Favorites’ (seen on the left). The PDF will be stored in the same location as your source file, unless you specify otherwise.

On PCs the PDF will often immediately open once created unless you switch that setting off.

You can save Excel files and PowerPoint presentations as PDFs too (probably anything in the MS Office suite). For other file types the option give might be ‘Export as PDF’. See Zamzar below for converting other things to PDFs.

Further file conversion fun
PDFEscape is a free online tool that lets you do lots of things with PDFs. It’s aimed at Windows users but it seems to work fine on a Mac too. I’ve not used it to edit the text inside a PDF myself but have used it to combine two PDFs into one file: Converting a single A4 PDF into two A5 copies on one page

Zamzar will let you convert files into all sorts of formats (it’s amazing, never failed me yet). It works for documents, images, music, videos – even books, compressed files and CAD files (list of conversion types). You upload your file, it does the conversion then emails you when it’s done and you can download the converted file (which is later deleted from their servers).







When someone dies: capturing their voicemail messages

tl;dr version: play the message on one device while recording it with the voice memo on a smart phone or Vocaroo on a laptop, email yourself a copy / save the file on computer.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/microphone-stage-sound-1222302/

Well this’ll be a cheerful post 😉 But it was inspired by this lovely tweet from James O’Brien.

My dad died in Nov 2016 and at the time I was too all over the place to actually manage to record the last voicemail message he sent me a few days before (I’d spent the day with him the day before he died and spoke to him on the morning of the day he died so the voicemail message was from a few days earlier). I was very glad that I’d had the presence of mind earlier in the year to make a recording of a message he’d left me – he’d been ill and I think it had been in my mind that I might not have that many opportunities to record him. I’m glad I did. Sadly I didn’t think to do the same for my mum.

Here’s my dad, leaving a voicemail message on my phone, telling me about a BBC Four programme I’d have enjoyed about the London to Penzance overnight sleeper train which I’d travelled on the year before.

Although this particular post is about preserving sound here’s one about capturing text messages.

Before people die…
My advice is to ask your loved ones to record something, or capture their voicemail messages as you go along, as this person has done. Whatever you do don’t leave the voicemail message on the phone in case of accidental deletion.

If your loved one has a Wikipedia page they may even want to record something to append to their wiki entry! Find out more at the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project.

After people die…
It really seems to me that as soon as someone dies and you go through the process of registering the death etc etc that someone official should suggest capturing any old voicemail messages (texts too I suppose) as their capture is very time-limited. It would be great if phone companies and phone manufacturers made it super easy for people to access a better-quality recording. Meanwhile, here’s my rather old school way of doing it.

1. Making a recording of someone’s outgoing voicemail message
When you ring someone and they’re not there this is the message you hear from them before you leave your message. To record this some kind person (Pete Keen) has created a free online tool which will let you download the message as an .mp3 – see VMSave for more.

2. Making a recording of a message that someone’s left on your phone
I literally played the voicemail message through the speaker on my landline phone and held my iPhone microphone up to it, recording the message you can hear above with the already-installed Voice Memo app. It took a couple of goes to get a good recording, ensuring the right positioning of the microphone next to the speaker.

If the deceased person has left a message ON your iPhone (ie you can’t record it from the same decvice) then I’d suggest some borrowing someone else’s phone that has a voice memo recording facility, playing it on speaker phone rather than topping/tailing the microphone and speaker. If you have a laptop or computer with a microphone then you can use that to make a free recording with Vocaroo.

The recording results in an .m4a file which you can email to yourself from the phone (you can also use iTunes to move it around too) and you can listen to it on iTunes or the free VLC player and I’m sure plenty of other things too.

For sharing it with others possibly the best thing, beyond emailing a copy, is to download (or do it online) free Dropbox and add the file there. You can then share the link with anyone, only those with the link can access it but it is technically public. I have a sound-related blog and I pay an annual fee which lets me add any file (curiously WordPress dot com blogs don’t let you upload sound files without paying!) so that works for me. Much more public ways to share a sound file might include Soundcloud and things like that.

See also this postCapturing / sharing voice memos from iPhone and WhatsApp – it contains instructions on how to capture a voice message originally sent by WhatsApp and also has screenshots of the process involved in using the iPhone voice memo and sending the resulting file by email.

I’m hoping to find out other, better ways of making recordings and update this post – if you know of a simple method (that people who don’t have professional recording equipment could do) please let me know.

Further reading



How to add alt-text descriptions to pictures on Twitter for visually impaired people

I’ve seen a couple of tweets and Twitter threads in the last couple of days that have gone a bit viral, highlighting that everyone can set something up in their Twitter settings to make things easier for visually impaired users. If you switch ON the option to be able to caption your photos then, whenever you upload a pic to Twitter, you can click on the image and add a text description. This description doesn’t show up in your tweet (it doesn’t impinge on your character limit) but is useful for those using voice software.

  1. History
  2. How to set it up
  3. Write good descriptions

1. History: Twitter rolls out the ability to add alt text in 2016, initially just for phone apps I think, then later it rolls out to everything.

2. How to set it up

Full info in How to make images accessible for people but for desktop users (like me) the steps look like this, below.

a) Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and scroll to the bottom of the panel on the left, click on Accessibility.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.12.14

b) Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Compose image descriptions’

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.14.00

Example of what it looks like when you upload a picture to desktop

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.22

Click anywhere on the image to Add description and write your text in the box that appears.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.55

3. Write good descriptions: Lovely thread from RobotHugsComics (h/t ScottKeir) with suggestions of what to actually write in the description window.



• Block quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

I’ve realised that I’ve already switched off the Platform app setting on Facebook’s App Settings page. In the ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ panel on the left in the pic below mine says Disabled. For the ‘Apps others use’ panel on the right I’d previously unticked all the options so in fact this the subject of this post has probably never actually been a problem for me!

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.17.09

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.11.58











Further reading