I honestly had no idea how many devoted readers I had. I knew how many people stopped by. I knew how many people 'subscribed', but the actual numbers of truly devoted readers are never usually close to that.
With the disconcerting 'photo stealing' problem I was having with my blog, I thought the best answer was to just go private. I couldn't think of another way to deal with it. But I had no idea what a pain in the ____ it would be. I knew it would be a struggle to add all those email addresses individually to the 'allowed readers' list. I knew it would limit who could see my blog, but I really thought I had about 100 really devoted readers at best, so it would work. I was wrong. Within the first two hours of closing my blog, I received over 80 requests from readers who wanted to keep reading. By the end of the first 24 hours, the number was over 400 and I couldn't even keep up with responding to all the emails. By this morning, I just gave up. My inbox was completely overrun. I even had people contacting my business to gain access, when they couldn't locate my personal email address.
So first, thank you. Thank you that there are so many of you who actually enjoy reading what I write. I was truly dumbfounded, and it has given me a renewed commitment to writing more often and keeping people informed. I had gotten lax, because I didn't think too many people were interested. (Not many people comment, so I assumed not many read.) I was wrong, but in this case, it was nice to be wrong!
Now to the dilemma. I watch my blog carefully, and I noticed that someone spent 3-4 days downloading all of the photos of me and some of particular others from my blog. But not only that, they had done searches on my blog for very specific and troubling things and these two things worried me. People take photos all the time, but it is usually one or maybe two. And it is usually from a person I recognize or someone who wrote and asked first. That I don't mind. I use photos from other sites too, but I either ask permission, or I make sure it is available through creative commons license, or is in the public domain, etc. It is not only rude but illegal to use someone's photos without their permission (unless they have listed them under creative commons, etc..which I do myself on flickr, etc.)
This person also took a particular interest in photos of D, which REALLY bothered me.
I have spent a good part of today going through my entire blog and removing any posts or photos that I would not want someone with ill intents having access to. It was a long slow painful process, and I need to go back and check more. But for now, I feel like I can open the blog back up, as long as I post this too:
To Whomever spent several days taking so many of my photos, I want you to know that I saved your IP address. I've also paid to have it traced so soon I will have your name and phone number. I will not use it, but I want to have it as insurance. Am I curious as to why you wanted so many photos of me? Yes. But am I more concerned about your taking all the photos of D? YOU BET. I am watching you, and I am checking every day to see if you come back. If you do, I expect you to behave and NOT take my photos without permission. Ok? And if you had any ill intent, WATCH OUT. If I think anyone is out to harm my family in any way, I am RUTHLESS.
To all my other readers, I don't want to scare you off from using my photos for good purposes. Here is what I think is fair:
If you have followed my story for years and simply want some of the photos for your own personal viewing, and do not intend to ever share them, you have my permission to use my photos. You do not have to ask.
Next: I sometimes like to have photos of the people and children I am praying for. I post them above my computer or but them in a book by my bed. If you wish to take a photo for this reason, again, you have permission.
Next, if you know me well and IN REAL LIFE and we are FRIENDS, you can take any and all photos you like for your personal use (not public use). YOu have my permission.
However, if I do not know you in real life and if your reasons are other than the ones stated above: DO NOT TAKE MY PHOTOS WITHOUT PERMISSION. Just ask. If you tell me why you want them, I will very likely say yes. I just need to know. It's only fair.
Lastly, I have allowed many people to use my photos for their nonprofit organizations. Some have needed photos of orphans. Some needed photos inside a Russian Orphanage. Some were trying to collect donations for Orphanage #5 and needed photos to help tell the story. In all these cases I said yes, but...I WAS ASKED. If you want to use some photos for public use for a good purpose, just ask.
I apologize to everyone who had to go to the trouble of emailing me or messaging me to get permission to view the blog. Once I had done about 80 emails, I got burnout and stopped! It became evident that this would not be the solution. So I decided to just insure my safety by paying to trace the person's IP, and then removed anything that could be used to hurt me or my family, and I'm opening it back up. Once I get D home, I will repost all the things I have removed.
I hope everyone understands. I strongly encourage other parents to get a program that allows them to 'watch' the activity on their blog in detail, too. It's a great security measure, but it's also fun to see how people get to your blog, what they do once there, and what posts seem to be most popular, etc. It costs, but its worth it.
Thanks everyone! Oh, and PS: Many of you will know what this photo means! If you don't, just know it means Good News!