Saturday, 21 July 2012

Losing our way in an online world




Today I wanted to bring you something different. As bloggers we all experience times when we really don't know where we are going, we feel like rudderless ships just drifting through, but we tend to not share how we are feeling, we keep it inside.

Todays post is a post from someone who I am sure you all know. It is Sam from Make Up Advice Forum. http://makeupadviceforum.com I love Sam, I find her knowledgable, friendly and she always talks a lot of sense. I wanted to share her thoughts with you, I know that it has helped me as a blogger. and I hope it helps you.


Over to you Sam x x



Firstly, I want to say thank you to Kellie for giving me airspace on her blog to chunter on for a bit.
I really do believe that she says whatever we’re thinking (but aren’t brave enough to say), and allowing me to share with you, on her website, is a massive honour.
I can’t really remember when I first ‘met’ Kellie on twitter. It feels like she’s always been part of my world. There when I wake up in the morning (how she’s made me snigger and giggle into my intravenously ingested coffee!), there throughout the day. There to laugh at ICarly with (if you’re not a mother to a preteen, ICarly is the best thing on kid’s TV!), and there to pick you up if you’re feeling a bit blue.
I like to hope that I sometimes pick her up when she’s a little blue, but I doubt I’m as much of a rock and support as she is.


Thanks K, you’re incredibly special.


Anyway, back to why I’m here.

I apologise in advance for typos, grammar issues and anything else that goes hand in hand with brain working faster than my fingers can type!
I’m spilling my heart a little here, so if this does tend to wander and stray, it’s because I don’t believe in self editing, and as such, I haven’t proofed or even reread it (probably, I’m writing this before I write the piece.... hmm, anyone else confused?!)

Anyway, my point is, this is a bit of me that’s coming straight from the heart to the fingers to the blog you’re reading now.

I want to open up about losing my way in the online world.

For nearly 7 years, I’ve owned an online forum for makeup artists and makeup lovers. I’ve been involved in online cosmetics for far more years than that, but having a space on the web of my own has only been for the last 7.

Back in the day, forums and messageboards were really the only way to communicate with like minded people in a virtual world. There was no facebook, no twitter, no social media in the modern sense. Just forums dedicated to various specialist interests.
Like most who find a niche, I stumbled upon it, and quite quickly, we became very popular with girls wanting to do their own makeup for weddings and parties, or freshly let out to play makeup artists wanting some support.
Over time though, like most things, the site adapted. We’re currently on our 4th incarnation of the forum, and even now I’m looking to what is around the corner.
About 4 years ago, before blogs became anything other than an online diary for the writer, I felt that we needed a more professional place to write product reviews, and give makeup breakdowns.

Again, it was fairly unusual, and we seemed to have stumbled upon another niche market.

However, a couple of years ago, I began to lose my way in the online world.
As fast as we and other similarly styled sites were paving the way, so to speak, blogs and dotcoms were popping up all over the place.

The need to differentiate MAF from other online sites was imperative, particularly as our forum participation started to dwindle, and we needed to constantly think of new things to keep people interested, and coming back to us (it’s a commercial enterprise, I’ve got to make a living somehow!)
But it was a little under 2 years that I really began to lose my footing and wander blindly out into no man’s land.

At the time, December 2010, I was pregnant with my 4th son, and had just had the first of 2 threatened miscarriages. I was advised. Nope, told actually, by my consultant that I had a choice. My 3rd son was born premature after 3 threatened miscarriages, and basically my choice was to step away from the online world, rest and keep my baby safe, or lose him.

Not really a choice, so I obviously stepped right back. I removed myself from Twitter, facebook, the forum, the website, everything. After 4 months, when I was 30 weeks pregnant, I was given a reprieve. Not that I could come back to work completely, but that the chance of having another prem baby was reduced.

Stepping back into the online world was like waking up on another planet.
Overnight, blogs had popped up everywhere. And very few of them looked like traditional blogs anymore. (This lovely blog here to me, is a ‘traditional’ blog!). Most of them looked like my site! It was a whole new world, and perhaps, one might say, a more level playing field.

I slowly started to get a little more interactive, but felt rather lost, and then when Oliver was born (on time, and safely!) I chose again to take time off to enjoy him. In all likelihood he’s my last, and having never taken much time off with the others, I really wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.

Announcing to the world that I was returning to work a week before the Summer holiday’s wasn’t the best move in the world, but you know, baby brain and all that....
Inundated with requests from PRs and brands to feature their products, I seemed to be working round the clock, day and night, and juggling motherhood, and a job as a working makeup artist.

I seemed to be writing all day every day, something I’ve never done before.
Again, I felt like I was floundering, and although I’ve never been one to ‘break the news first’, I felt like I was competing. With whom, I’ve no idea. Myself? Blogs? DotComs?

Before I knew it, I was trying to write an article a day. Some were good, some a bit meh, and others were just filling a gap.

When this transition happened, I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s been something I’ve been increasingly aware of over the last 3 months, since my son turned 1.
Now, given that I’m the boss of me, my advertisers aren’t brands or products, and I’m not beholden to anyone to set dates and deadlines, what sort of craziness is this!
I’ve lost focus of the forum, yet I can’t seem to find the time to give the members enough of me.

I’d lost focus of what I wanted to achieve from the website.

I’d lost focus of where I wanted to see myself.

Fortunately, with some help from friends and online acquaintances, I’ve now found my way.

Why beat myself up and try and get an article bashed out every day, just because other dotcoms and blogs do.

Why try to be ‘the first’ to break the news, when it risks an embargo breakage and a relationship with a brand/pr?

Why put undue pressure on myself to ‘fit in’ when all its achieving is a lacklustre performance and quite frankly, some potentially rubbish features.

I’ve never written articles or features or reviews, asking for comment. We have the forum for that, but trying to be as impersonal as a magazine, yet as regular as a blog has battered my head about somewhat!

I do know where MAF is headed, it’s an exciting road that I’m stepping onto, and you know what. It’s okay to be different to other online outlets, whether they’re blogs, dotcoms, personal websites, or those things that printed magazines have online (apparently not blogs, or magazines. What the heck are they?!)

I've always been different, why I tried to fit the mould I don't know.

It's not me, it never has been.

I think I'll go back to doing what I do best.

My own thing.



Sam.
http://makeupadviceforum.com/
@makeupadviceMAF on Twitter



Thanks Sam, I find it an honour that Sam wanted to share this with me, I nodded and agreed through reading it all and knew it would have a good home on my blog. As bloggers we DO lose our way, we can sometimes forget why we started doing this in the first place, our perspective changes or sometimes the world just changes around us.

I would love for some of you to share how you feel about it all, do you struggle to find your identity, or sometimes find your voice isn't quite saying what you really want it to?

How has blogging changed for you since you started?


Let me know.


Big Fashionista x x
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36 comments

  1. Well done for "saying it out loud" if you will. I find myself in a similar position frequently. Because I've a particular message I feel strongly about getting across I find words hard at times and find I'm second guessing myself more and more.
    Though I'm new to the blogging world / community I can say it is difficult to maintain a somewhat professional attitude, especially when health is an issue.

    It sounds like you did the right thing for you and your family by stepping away when you did and you're right, in these days technology can change in an instant. It's how we cope with that, that makes the difference.

    Best of luck with your new direction. Great guest post Xx

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    1. Thank you AF.

      I wanted to have a look at your blog before I replied, and what you're doing is, as you say, a particular message and an important one.

      I just talk makeup and still stress myself out, but talking to friends, colleagues and on here has massively helped.

      Perhaps if we were all a bIt more transparent, it would be a little less stress.

      S x

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    2. Thank you AF.

      I wanted to have a look at your blog before I replied, and what you're doing is, as you say, a particular message and an important one.

      I just talk makeup and still stress myself out, but talking to friends, colleagues and on here has massively helped.

      Perhaps if we were all a bIt more transparent, it would be a little less stress.

      S x

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    3. Make up chat is stressful enough, I find those posts the hardest! (the beauty ones) you're doing a great job and thanks so much for having a look xx

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  2. Thank you Sam and Kellie for a really interesting read. I think it is very easy to lose your way online and be drawn into the competitiveness. I had a period of self reflection a few months ago. I felt stressed about 'owing' posts and I also felt disconcerted by the constant purchasing I was doing in order to feed my blog.

    So, I took a step back. I don't post everyday, I don't keep up with all the new releases, I only buy what I want for myself and I'm very selective about which samples I will accept. Of course, this means I'm a less interesting read for some people, but this is ok as my blog isn't a commercial venture and I have no interest in making it my job.

    To my shame, I still feel a little sad when I see my stats are beginning to drop. It was always such a thrill to see the figures rise but I know it comes at a price. So, I remind myself that I am being ridiculous on a regular basis!

    I started off blogging as a way to keep my brain active whilst I was at home with the children but that need isn't as great anymore. To be quite honest, these days I want to switch my brain off a little bit of an evening! Dialing it back has definitely been a good thing for me. I think all bloggers need to ask themselves 'what am I doing this for?' every once in a while.

    Jane xx

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    1. Thanks Jane.

      I know a lot of my problem was that in the early days, MAF was the only thing of its kind and I guess I got complacency cocky. So when I stepped back then returned it was such an eye opener that I felt enormous pressure.

      Fairly regularly people say I must be superwoman to juggle 2 businesses, 4 children a home etc, but I'm really not. I don't think I've juggled all that we'll in recent times.

      Not to the extent where my boys are bringing themselves up I hasten to add, but the work life balance hasn't exactly been balanced...

      Thanks for commenting, you were one of the first to welcome me back when I was on that first break when pregnant, and it made my return all the easier.

      X

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  3. Oh Sam I do love you (& you Kellie) - your honesty is so refreshing. I feel like I've lost my way a bit the past month too, that the pressure, self inflicted or otherwise, was outweighing the pleasure. I still feel it all, but I've slowed down a little, focused on the things I want to focus on rather than just those I feel obliged to. I always feel like I'm neglecting something or someone - family, friends, work, blog, home, me!!! Today I'm not gonna switch on the laptop before tea time & just enjoy being with my kids. Their smallness is slipping away fast!

    I think what you've achieved is amazing & I have so much respect for you. Thanks for making us all feel human.

    Sorry for writing another blogpost in yr comments Kellie! ;) mwah!

    Nic xxx

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    1. Thanks Nic

      It's sad that others have the same feelings but also nice to know that I'm not alone in how I feel.

      I love how we're all becoming slightly less competitive too.

      X

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  4. I really miss having the time and space to be as immersed in my blog as I was, but it won't pay my bills unless I'm willing to be a whole lot more immersed and commercial. Which I'm not!

    I wrote recently about how I started the blog at a time when I'd recently moved as a way of 'getting out there' when I was feeling fairly isolated. I also wanted to explore the possibility of life as an MUA. Have something of me and my creativity, rather just all about the kids. And I've loved doing it. But what became blatantly obvious was that it would take me away from my kids at the times they need me most. That what I wanted for myself had outgrown the original vision and just wasn't possible without being detrimental to them. I'd had a need to get out of the all encompassing motherhood, to be the artistic me again, but to really take it where It needed to go, in the end wasn’t a sacrifice I was willing to make on their behalf.

    So the MUA in me has to stay as a sideline, whilst I peruse something that gives me time to be with the kids when they need me. And I’m loving it. I wanted to be part of the community when we moved here, and felt lost not knowing people not having the everyday chat with several people on the way home from school. Being on line filled that whole. 3 years after moving I now have 5 different commitments on my time that I didn’t have 6 months ago and a course to do in September. My stats are in free fall and I still hate that. I don’t like that I’ve only posted once a week and have so much to say and no time to say it. I’m definitely mentally better off for being out there in the real world though. xx

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    1. I felt so bad when I had to take time away and was really nervous about coming back, and that's probably why I over compensated.

      I look at my shelves groaning with products to try mad wonder at the sense in it all.

      Hopefully my new direction will help!

      S x

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  5. Hi Sam,

    I totally get where you are coming from. I too have the large family, own business etc and the blog.
    It's utterly exhausting and I have days/weeks where I feel like I literally cannot catch a breath. I find myself living for the weekends and then thinking: I really should blog. Well lately I've been trying to keep everything in perspective. I say 'no' to almost everything and I prioritise family, work, give and makeup then the blog.
    You can be a wonderful wife, a wonderful mother an a wonderful businesswoman, but I truly believe you cannot do all 3 things at once.
    I have no witty ending or 'in conclusion' - just total empathy.
    Yours, perpetually exhausted, Cx

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    1. Indeed you know exactly what it's like with a large family and juggling your own business with everything else.

      You seem more sorted than me, so perhaps next time I just need to come and seek your advice!!!

      S x

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    2. I don't think people realised what an effort people do put into their blogs sometimes. It isn't as simple as just writing something down is it?

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  6. Ooh Sam.. so much of this resonates with me. My children aren't little any more but I still find I'm the one sitting in a meeting secretly worrying if the M&S dinners in my bag have been out of the chiller cabinet too long, still having to be home at a certain time to feed the dogs, let the plumber in, organise the window cleaner, get the washing on and etc, etc. The internet is all consuming and if you 'live' and 'work' there, everything around you goes to shit basically. I find myself continually making choices about which bit of my life has to be left in a poor state (house, holiday booking (we have no holiday booked), phone calls to family and so on) because as Mrs H says, you cannot do it all. One person can't live three lives, you can only live the one. Right now, I am ambitious for my blog, I want it to work and am prepared to go the extra mile, work nights, have a scruffy house etc, because it is worth it. I love doing it, love the on-line world but am oh so aware of what I've lost as a result of it. The gain outweighs the losses but I've no doubt it won't always be that way. Luckily, my family are all pretty independent but if I'm needed there's no contest.. it's family every time BUT if I can possibly squeeze in a blog post as well then I do!

    What is great about on-line is that it is constantly evolving, it literally never stands still and to keep up you do have to show up practically everyday. Something that nobody really talks about is the on-line 'zeitgeist' that you really have to be around to feel, but it is that feeling, those nuances, that you can pick up that are lost if you stay away too long so I totally understand why you feel as you do. It's baffling, unpredictable and all-consuming; staying ahead is like being continually in a race and nobody can sustain that single-handedly for long. I feel like I'm limping to the finish post every single day.. but there's no denying it - what you get back is phenomenally worth it. I think. :-)))

    You're a fabulous on-line writer; I've had the pleasure to know you for a while now in real life and you are the perfect person for keeping it real, being professional in everything and your stamina is outstanding. You aren't lost, you are at a junction. Once you find the right turning you will settle and feel happier.

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    1. Thank you so much Jane.

      Just had a little sniffle to myself and thank you for puttingy terminology right.

      I'm at a junction not lost shall be my new mantra!

      S x

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  7. Great post Sam and very personal, thank you for sharing it. I actually feel a lot of sympathy towards beauty bloggers - I specifically choose to not feature beauty reviews because as much as I love make-up and skincare, it's not something that I feel strongly enough about to devote my time to.

    For me, I've always just loved writing. I write stories and lists that nobody will ever see. My blog is somewhere I post pictures, book reviews, recipes, nail polish bits and bobs - because that's what I love to do. I genuinely don't do it for other people.

    I don't know how beauty bloggers do it - there are SO many beauty blogs out there now and it seems sometimes like everyone's scrambling for the same review, the same products, only who can do it first, do it bigger, with better photos - to be perfectly honest I read blogs because of the writers. Not because of the products. A blog might make me lust after something, but it rarely makes me go out and buy something.

    The beauty box thing in particular used to get on my wick when it came out, to be honest - 15/20 of the same reviews within hours of each other. I wish people would write for themselves more. Stay true to your own personality and you'll never lose your way.

    I love plodding along at my own pace and if someone reads, brilliant. If someone doesn't - well I enjoyed writing it. I couldn't imagine being under that amount of pressure, or the crushing worry that people have already done the posts that I spend ages writing, only they've done it before me and better than me.

    Stick to what you know, stick to your personality, and be true to yourself.

    For the record, I don't think that the current trend of having beauty-only blogs will continue much longer. I think it's fairly obvious that you have to have serious dedication and the initial interest will wane (and is waning already). S x

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    1. I hear you on the beauty box thing. For a long time it completely put me off ever being remotely interested in them. Not I suspect what the prs were after!

      For me the site was an extension of my day job as a makeup artist and much ad I'd lover to write about other things, I'm not that interesting and other than my boys life is beauty!

      I do adore reading lifestyle blogs too, there increasingly becoming a real daily pleasure!

      S x

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    2. I hear you on the beauty box thing. For a long time it completely put me off ever being remotely interested in them. Not I suspect what the prs were after!

      For me the site was an extension of my day job as a makeup artist and much ad I'd lover to write about other things, I'm not that interesting and other than my boys life is beauty!

      I do adore reading lifestyle blogs too, there increasingly becoming a real daily pleasure!

      S x

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  8. I've been looking forward to this post!

    I started blogging because I talk to much and just wanted an outlet. I don't have kids and my husband is a workaholic, I work every hour that I can and I too find blogging very demanding. I've only been blogging for a short time but in that time I have seen many bloggers come and go and this is testament to how much dedication this seemingly "fun" occupation is.

    I've always been a bit of an outsider and have the competitive spirit of a marshmallow. Who would have thought that these traits would actually "help" me in the blogging world!? I am that girl who when everyone is talking about a serious and engrossing subject will start talking about potatoes, I am clearly wired wrongly upstairs! But in all honesty, I have not as yet felt any pressure to conform, compete or be anything else that who I feel that I am (this may change depending on which side of the bed I get out of or the direction of the wind). I blog about what I want to blog about and am selfish enough not to feel bad, guilty or worried about it.

    Maybe it is this lack of competitive spirit (or dare I say drive) that prevents me from being a more "successful/popular" blogger? I know that I have sacrificed a larger readership in my selfish ways. Over the years, I have had readers more interested in beauty who have left derisive comments at my more eclectic posts and other readers who hate my makeup posts. It used to make me feel so sad but then I came to the conclusion that just like in real life it is IMPOSSIBLE to make everyone completely happy all the time and so I take the selfish route and think...THIS MAKES ME HAPPY and hence my jumble of mash up blogging!

    The other sacrifice I have made (I hate to admit this) is down to this degree of monomania I have about my shop and blog. It's become such that I never really switch of from either or both. Thankfully I have very supportive people around me to seem to believe in what I am doing.

    The balance is so hard to find and that fine line is always just inches away from my toes.

    My mum used to say to me "of course you will loose your way if you are always watching what other people do, you have to keep your eye on your own path so you don't walk over a cliff". She was right in a way...but life is never that simple, neither is human-nature.

    I think what you are doing is brilliant and I only have real respect and admiration for you....you phenomenal woman you!

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    1. Thank you so much!

      I adore the online world because of people like you. It's been a delight to start chatting to you on Twitter over the last few days, particularly ad I'm really nervous of talking to new people, so thank you for making it easy!

      O think we're all phenomenal women we just have to remind ourselves of it now and again!

      S x

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    2. Thank you so much!

      I adore the online world because of people like you. It's been a delight to start chatting to you on Twitter over the last few days, particularly ad I'm really nervous of talking to new people, so thank you for making it easy!

      O think we're all phenomenal women we just have to remind ourselves of it now and again!

      S x

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    3. I agree with what you say here. Sometimes I feel the pressure to fit in and think I should deal with more mainstream subjects but it's my blog. My rules.

      I've found my voice and I am going to shout with it x

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  9. This is a refreshing post and an unspoken topic (though weirdly seems a more popular topic of late). I think people get so disheartened by lack of views or comments and get rather competitive.
    I know I felt rather lost when I started my blog. In fact I struggled a lot with it, then plucked up the courage to start asking why I found it such a chore. The answer was of course staring me in the face. I didn't enjoy it, it was time consuming and another thing to add to my social media. I too found this pressure to get ratings up or just some ratings, I wrote in a style which was more like my contributing work in magazines (far more indepth), it was like I wanted to be some blog-tastic blogger. What was I thinking? I'm a MUA and have been for 18yrs so of course I love my job and have a lot to say in terms of products I work with. I began to write in a style that was less 'try hard', I eventually found my voice and could ease into sharing products I like to use. No, I am not a born novelist so haven't the vocabulary of a Oxford graduate but I can write about make up and my work. Ratings? They have gone up so I know I am on track and like Sam, I know I was the one putting an immense pressure on myself to blog about the latest what not. There are endless, sometimes elitist conversations on Twitter, often during #bbloggers that are like there is some virtual rulebook everyone must adapt to, and if you don't you're not playing the game and not worthy. Well, I never use this sort of language but BOG OFF! It takes a lot of confidence, courage and esteem to put yourself out there in the public domain which allows everyone a voice. I shall repeat this quote yet again "There is a place for us all, just know your place." And enjoy it! As Brit Beauty Blog said on her recent post 'we are not saving lives'. This is the beauty of beauty/fashion etc, it's a bit of escapism!
    I really do enjoy your forum Sam not only do I know the effort you put into it but I genuinely like to ponder through your product reviews (and comment), you have a vast knowledge, I wonder sometimes, it is like you are the 'all seeing eye'. I look forward to more and more from you Kellie.
    Thanks again and for allowing me this ramble!!
    xx

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    1. I think you're spot on with the whole rule book thing. It's a crazy world but I think it's an 'I want to follow the pack' mentality that makes us all a little nuts at times!

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  10. I think one of the joys of the blog sphere and social media is that we can speak in our own voices instead of being 'professional' - and I think that will also influence the printed and broadcast media too.

    It's a liberation.

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    1. Having your own set of rules certainly is, and I'm sticking with that now!

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  11. I personally think that anyone who does a blog daily is amazing. Let alone with a large family and other commitments as well.

    I can see how easy it is to lose oneself whilst doing so. This is perhaps why I blog so rarely, plus I'm just far too disorganised.

    I honestly admit I have never read your blog or forums Sam, but I have bookmarked it to peruse whilst at work (I often catch up on blogs whilst at work, I am a bad person).

    So from someone who is always amazed by bloggers, I think you all do a fabby job.

    xo

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    1. It is difficult and I am constantly surprised by people who think we do it just for freebies. That is impossible. And the ones who do quickly get found out by having no readers.

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    2. Totally agree.

      I started the forum as an extension of my job and wanting to help other people, then requests by brands made it evolve and perhaps some of the pressure came from that direction too?

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  12. Fab post and inspirational to all of us who have either struggled to write anything some days/weeks or struggled to balance everything all spinning about in our lives. I am firstly so pleased to hear all was well in the end with your baby boy, that must have been such a difficult time! And thanks for talking openly and honestly about how difficult things can get "online" at times, it is true, it takes a lot of creativity, thought and effort to post blogs regularly, it can be fun and therapeutic but also hard work x

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    1. Hi Gem

      Thank you. He's a delight and at that wonderful age of discovery. Mostly the stuff on my desk...

      The day he discovered my nail polish drawer was the day I gave up working during his waking hours!

      I now plan well in advance and stick with it. It's taken a lot of the pressure off.

      S x

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    2. Hi Gem

      Thank you. He's a delight and at that wonderful age of discovery. Mostly the stuff on my desk...

      The day he discovered my nail polish drawer was the day I gave up working during his waking hours!

      I now plan well in advance and stick with it. It's taken a lot of the pressure off.

      S x

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  13. Thanks for sharing Sam. You know I'm not a writer/blogger but we've shared many an email where I've been having a 'wobble' - you've always been such a support.
    I genuinely take my hat off to you - I find juggling a business and family impossible 90% of the time!
    I'm really looking forward to hearing about your plans - I'm sure it'll be amazing! x

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    1. Julie you've been just as much of a support to me!

      I can't wait to really get going with the future plans. Just got to get the Olympics out of the way first!

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    2. Julie you've been just as much of a support to me!

      I can't wait to really get going with the future plans. Just got to get the Olympics out of the way first!

      Delete
  14. Really great and honest post. There should be more posts like this.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Much love: http://missvictoriam.blogspot.co.uk/ - If you want to follow back if you don't already. I am trying to get my followers up at the moment so I would really appreciate it.

    xx

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