Artists toss around a lot of terms to describe work, especially on social media. While we all know what they mean in general, it may be unclear exactly what each one means in terms of the work that is done and the obligation everyone involved has to each other. Here are a just a few common work terms in the arts, and what each type entails.
Gig (May also be called a set, or if the person is a spoken word artist, a reading.)
When you hire a musician for a gig or set, a spoken word or a literary artist for a reading, this means they have agreed to share their work with your audience for pay. You pay them the agreed upon fee. If that fee is to be $0, that should be made abundantly clear from the beginning, before anyone signs up to share their work. If that fee is to be any amount of money, you owe that artist that amount upon the completion of the work they agreed to do.
The only time it is acceptable to withhold this fee is if the artist did not do the work you hired them to do, if they failed to show up, refused to perform, or arrived too drunk or high to produce their work. You still owe the artist the fee you agreed to pay them if members of your audience didn’t like the music or the poems, you don’t like the artist as a person, or you decided mid set that their art wasn’t suitable to your establishment.
An artist asking you to collaborate, often shortened to “collab” in contemporary speech, is asking you to partner with them. They do not pay you. You do not pay them. The two of you are going to work together on the project. Any money or other benefits gained will be split between you, according to whatever agreement you make before you start.
Get this agreement in writing. An actual contract or agreement signed by everyone involved is best. At the very least, work out the details via email, so that everyone has saved, printed records of what each person agreed to do.
A “pitch” is an independent artist asking you to give them work. You will most commonly hear this from writers. The person may reach out to you proposing that they write an article about a local band for your guitar magazine, or cover a music festival for your newspaper or community webpage. When someone sends you a pitch, they are asking you to hire them to complete the project they suggest, and pay them for it.
Once you agree to the person’s pitch, you are obligated to pay them for the work when they produce it according to the agreement. The article or other project is not free just because it was the artist’s idea to create it, and not yours. If you do not want to pay for whatever the artist is pitching, turn down the pitch.
Open mic or showcase
Artists participating in an open mic or showcase can be thought of as swapping their work for the guaranteed audience the venue provides. This is where the term “the wage is the stage” applies. No money or other goods change hands in most cases, but the venue owner or manager gets entertainment for their establishment, and the artist gets their work shown in front of anyone who attends the open mic or showcase event.
Although the artist is not typically asked to pay to participate in an open mic or showcase, they may be asked to pay at the door for anyone who is accompanying them but not performing, and expected to purchase food or drinks if the venue is a restaurant, cafe, or bar. Artists and their entourages need to pay and purchase without complaints or snark. Supporting the businesses that support the arts is an important way to keep the arts alive in your community.
Free content library
Video clips, articles, photos, and other pieces of work included in an online collection or library labeled “free” is just that, free. It means you may use the content on your own webpage or in your print publication without paying the artist. When using free content, remember to respect the artist’s stated rules for use, and respect their work. Using something offered to you for free is different than stealing it. Never alter the work to make it appear that you created it unless you have been given direct permission from the artist to do so.
In situations where none of these terms are being used, it is perfectly acceptable to bring them up yourself, and to ask questions until it is clear to everyone what type of work the artist or artists involved are offering. Asking “Are you asking me to collaborate with you on this article, or is this a pitch?” Or “Are you looking for strictly paying gigs, or are you open to playing at an open mic or a showcase?” is perfectly acceptable.
We all know the basics about avoiding danger on the internet by now. Most of us would not think of posing in front of the address sign in our front yard, posting the photo a public page, and tagging ourselves as located in our hometown. It is rare to find someone who would show a stranger a picture of their new credit card, or believe that new internet acquaintance who “just wanted to know what an identification card from your country looked like.”
But there are still common internet behaviors that can be dangerous, and many of them are something we have all done at one point in time. We do these things without thinking about the possible consequences until it may be too late.
Typing “Amen” or something similar on posts asking us if we believe in Jesus.
This warning is in no way meant to disparage Christians, or to discourage anyone from expressing their love for Jesus online. I am a Christian. I was saved in late September of 2016. I would be more than happy to share my testimony of what Jesus has done for me with anyone who wishes to hear it. But liking and commenting on memes asking me to declare my devotion to Jesus is not the way to do this. The people who create and initially post these are not true followers of Jesus. They are scammers. These posts are nothing more than “like farming” scams.
First, the scammer gathers likes and comments. Once they have hit their goal number, they then edit their original post, embedding malware that infects your computer and gives them access to your information. They may also sell your name and any other information on your page to other scammers.
Show your love for Jesus by sharing Bible verses, the livestream of your church service, or Christian memes on your own page.
Making a political statement by posting pictures of guns or gun collections, marijuana related products, or other attention getting, high value items
Those who support the legalization of cannabis derived products and those who hold a special fondness for the second amendment are often…not always…but often…on opposite sides of the political spectrum. But if they choose to post extensively about their interest/issue thoughtlessly, they open themselves up to the same problem. That is, announcing to anyone and everyone who sees the post that you have items in your home that are worth a lot of money.
If you must express your love for one or both of these things, or anything else that both draws attention and costs money, do it with memes, fundraisers, statuses, and pictures of you posing at events or in front of stores. Don’t post large, expensive collections of anything from inside your own house.
Revealing work, relationship, or health issues in space that is accessible to strangers
While this may not be dangerous in and of itself, it can certainly lead to danger. Nothing is going to happen if Jim Bob Jones the tenth from Battle Mountain, Nevada knows you have depression, can’t stand your boss, are tired of your wife’s overspending, or wish your friends would stop borrowing your car all the way out in Rutland, Vermont. But revealing vulnerabilities online and in public can catch the eye of dangerous people. And many of these people know precisely what to say to gain a stranger’s trust on the internet.
Post whatever you need to post wherever you need to post it, just remember what you shared and where. If you’ve been open about your struggles lately, and suddenly the perfect new friend appears, proceed with great caution.
Jumping in too quickly in online groups
Online groups can be a true blessing for many people. They can help you get support for an issue, find others who share your interests, sell your unwanted items, and learn new skills. They can also make your issues worse, introduce you to people who just add stress to your life, and get you scammed.
Anybody can start a group on social media about anything. The person moderating your support group for a recently discovered health problem could be a doctor at the top of their field, with specialization in treating your issue. Or they could be a freshman down at your local community college who first heard of the problem yesterday, when they were goofing around on YouTube to put off doing their math homework. Screening methods, moderation, and others’ reasons for joining can vary too. Join any group you want to join, but hang out for a while. Read a few posts, and make sure this is a group you would truly want to share things in before posting anything personal.
“Exposing” those who have done us wrong
Exposing companies, business owners, fellow artists, and others who have professionally or personally wronged us in some way often feels like we are doing something to serve our fellow musicians, actors, sculptors, photographers, writers, and other artists. And we certainly shouldn’t just keep quiet and let scammers and other shady types have at our community. But publicly telling off everyone connected with your every bad experience can be dangerous to your career.
Reserve “exposures” or “calling out” for those who are truly engaging in dishonest or unsafe practices on a regular basis. Indulging in an online rant against the manager of every venue where you had a less than stellar experience does not help your fellow artists. It scares us. We don’t want to work with you, and we don’t want to recommend you to our contacts who might hire you, because we’re afraid of the public shaming we’ll get if the slightest thing displeases you.
None of us are perfect online or offline. We are all going to post things we later realize we shouldn’t have shared, mindlessly click on things, and make comments we know we shouldn’t have bothered making. Just take a step back more often than not. The internet is indeed forever, and that post you just had to comment on, that meme you just had to like, or that opportunity to join or respond to something will probably be there tomorrow, or an hour from now, or ten minutes from now, after you’ve thought it through.
Tutors are great resources if you need to catch up, clarify, or supplement your learning. They can tailor subject matter to your learning style, break down concepts more than your classroom teacher, suggest resources you may find more useful to your particular goals and needs, and even help you when you’re advanced in the subject and need a new challenge. Tutoring may supplement your education whether you are in a class or self-taught. But there are a few things tutors do not, or at least should not, do.
Tutors are not there to do your academic work for you.
A tutor’s job is to teach you how to do the work in the class, not to complete the work for you. Never approach a tutor with a test or a quiz. This is no different than copying answers from someone else in class, or having a friend take your online test for you.
Your tutor is not your editor. They may suggest that you go over your paper and re-edit it for grammar, but it is not their job to sit there and fix all of your mistakes for you. They may suggest you add more detail on a certain subtopic. You still need to find and add that detail yourself.
They are not your research assistant. If you are struggling with research, your tutor will suggest places to find the sources you need. A tutor may go over your notes or your sources with you, and discuss the material. They will not compile a list of sources for you. Discussions with tutors are meant to generate ideas for your work. They are not discussing your topic with you so you can write down everything they say and insert it directly into your paper.
Unless the tutor is employed by the university or school, they do not have access to your syllabus, your teacher’s lectures, or your assignment instructions.
Taking a specific assignment to a tutor for help is perfectly acceptable. But if you are going to expect help on a specific assignment, you need to provide the directions, and any notes from your classroom instructor as well. An independent online tutor has no way of knowing that the person who teaches your English class offline at the community college in your hometown expects you to use at least four sources for each paper, or doesn’t want you to include a counter argument paragraph for this unit, unless you either provide them with a copy of your directions or notes, or tell them. Make sure they have this information at the beginning of your lesson. Showing up with a vague request, letting them help you for fifteen minutes, and then suddenly announcing that you need to complete the assignment according to certain requirements only wastes your time, the tutor’s time, and your money.
Tutoring is not childcare.
Childcare workers and tutors have completely different jobs. Your childcare provider or program may offer homework help or learning activities, and your tutor should provide a safe, healthy space for your child to learn, but the tutor is not there to save you a trip to the daycare center, or give you time to run errands or finish up at work. Tutoring is intended to meet needs related to academics and learning. Group activities, meals, snacks, exercise, and entertainment may be provided for your child through some tutoring programs, but this is not true of all of them. Always ask rather than assume.
Never leave your child alone at home in front of the computer with an online tutor, reasoning that the person will watch them. They can’t. The online tutor has no way to monitor anything they can’t see on the webcam, or step in during any situation that may come up offline in the house while you’re away. Your child will still be home alone.
Your tutor is not your therapist.
A good tutor will listen to your academic struggles in their subject, and help you work through solutions. It is absolutely appropriate to share frustrations with learning a new type of citation, or dealing with a classroom teacher who does not seem to care that nobody understands his lectures, or trying to learn a quickly evolving subject with an outdated textbook.
But the tutor is not there to provide mental health care, even if the tutor is a licensed mental health professional doing some tutoring in Psychology or Social Work on the side. If you know, or suspect, that a serious mental health problem is impacting your learning, make an appointment with a licensed mental health care provider who will accept you as a client of their therapy practice.
The tutor is not there to enhance your personal or social life.
Sometimes, friendships, even romantic relationships, develop between adult tutors and their adult students. As long as everyone directly impacted by the situation is an adult who fully consents to whatever type of relationship that may develop, it is nobody’s place to judge. This does not mean the tutor agreed to work with you because they really want to go out with you, flirt with you, adopt you as their new sibling, or fix you up with their best friend.
Behave as you would if you were hiring anyone else to provide a personal service. You wouldn’t just assume your hairdresser or the sales clerk who helped you find the right shoes to go with an outfit you bought would want to meet you for a drink or join your squad at the club tonight. Approach the tutor in the same way.
And just like any other service, it is perfectly reasonable to refuse to rehire a tutor, continue with a program, or even end a session immediately, if it is the tutor who is doing something unprofessional or making you feel uneasy in any way. It is also perfectly acceptable to politely refuse to rehire a tutor who just isn’t suited to your learning needs. Between local programs, individual tutors in our community, and online tutoring services, there are plenty of tutors to choose from. Don’t be afraid to search for the one that’s best for you.
Online tutoring is a service provided by Artist Cafe Utica. The site owner/writer does independent writing tutoring through the website “TutorMe.” This site functions like an Uber for online tutors. Email email@example.com or comment on the facebook post where you found the link to this article for more information or to arrange tutoring.
Adult students, and some parents visiting their child’s online or offline school, may see tutoring services offered through the school. Those who do not have tutoring offered through their own, or their child’s, school may know of an independent tutoring program offered locally or online. Finding tutoring is pretty easy. But everyone is not clear on what tutoring is meant to do, or when they or their child should look for a tutor.
Tutoring is appropriate for people who are bad at a subject or skill.
While this may not be the politically correct thing to say these days, the truth is that some people are flat out bad at certain subjects. This does not make anybody better or worse as an overall learner, and certainly not as a person, than anyone else. You might be a genius at both your music, and in your other career as an auto mechanic, but struggle to write the papers you need to write to pass the business classes you’re taking in preparation for owning your own garage someday. Or you could be gifted in academics overall, but just not great at math. Hiring a tutor in writing or math can help you over those hurdles.
When you don’t seem to learn the way your instructor teaches, a tutor can help.
You should be able to reach out to your instructor, and count on them to clarify concepts, break things down, discuss the material taught in class, or offer you general advice in their subject area. But there are times when, through no fault of yours or theirs, your learning needs and their teaching methods just don’t match up. Someone who is strictly a visual and hands-on learner is going to have some trouble in an offline lecture class. A student who learns best by listening to a lecture, reading, and taking notes may find themselves struggling to follow a teacher who uses a lot of visual aids in class. And while a good teacher will do anything they can to help you, they can’t redesign their entire class for you. A tutor will be able to take the concepts or facts you need to learn, and present them, or help you find resources that present them, in the ways that you learn best.
Hire a tutor when you seem to have missed something you were expected to know in class.
Tutors aren’t just for those times when you’re struggling to learn. A tutor can help when you arrive in class and realize there are things you simply haven’t learned. There might be a class most people in your school take before this one, even though it isn’t a prerequisite. A tutor can help catch you up on concepts “everyone” keeps referencing.
In some cases, your teacher may have designed the class with the assumption that everyone would know certain things, or have certain skills, on the first day. If it seems like the whole class falls into this category for you, it may be necessary to transfer to the class below it. But if it’s just a few ideas, concepts, or a set of facts or two, a tutor may be able to help catch you up.
Tutoring can be a way to turn things around if you did not work as hard as you should have in previous classes.
As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes the reason we’re struggling in school is our own attitude. If you skipped assignments, ignored your instructor’s lectures, tutorials, outreach, and other material, refused to participate in class discussions, didn’t bother studying for your exams, or just sat there and let everyone else do the work in a group project, your bad grade is indeed your own fault. There’s no getting around that. But there is a way to fix it. A tutor can help you catch up on all those concepts and skills you didn’t feel it was necessary to learn last year, or last term, or last week.
Tutors can help supplement your learning.
Deficiency in some form is the most common reason for hiring a tutor, but tutoring is not strictly for those who have fallen behind or struggle in a subject. A tutor can also supplement your learning when things are already going well. They can discuss the topic of your paper with you, offering insight and ideas you may not have thought of or heard about in class. A tutor may be able to recommend, or help you find, quality resources for additional learning in the topic of your course. They may even be able to help you jump ahead a bit, teaching you things you would learn in a more advanced version of the course you are taking.
Enrollment in a course is not necessary to hire a tutor.
In order to use tutoring services provided by a school, you will need to be a student, or the parent of a student, at that school. But an independent tutor may be a great resource for those who are largely self-taught. YouTube content creator Lindie Botes is a well-known polyglot. She has taught herself multiple languages, as a hobby. But even someone that devoted to language learning hires a tutor when she chooses a particularly challenging language. You may want to hire a tutor if you, or your child, is doing well in a subject but needs more of a challenge, or if you are teaching yourself, and think you could benefit from some input from an expert in the field.
Tutors can help focus, catch up, or enhance your learning. They can offer insights, input, or feedback you may not get in class. A session with a tutor may even spark an idea for a whole new project, or even a whole new direction in your studies.
Utica resident Ray “Pinky” Velazquez knows musical talent when he hears it. Velazquez began working in music in 1972, when he started DJing for the Impanema at 240 West 52nd street in New York City. He would later become the A&R Man and disco consultant for Vanguard Records from 1979-1984. During his time with Vanguard, Velazquez grew to be an expert in mixing records and scouting talent, and has signed R&B, Rap, Rock, Alternative, and Reggae acts, even working with a Rap group, “Spectrum City,” that would later become Public Enemy.
Today, Velazquez uses what he learned during his time as a DJ, mixer, and producer to help others. He is currently in talks with local businesses and organizations, mainly Phoenix Media.
“Cassandra Harris-Lockwood and I are trying to reach out to the community, to assist, lead, and inspire the youth,” he said, referring to what he describes as a process of building and putting ideas together with the owner, founder, and CEO of Phoenix Media. “Kids are dealing with violence in school, broken households. It’s a more challenging environment for the family. We want to make it better, to give youth and their families a little bit more of what they’re looking for, a little bit of hope.”
Velazquez offered a bit of guidance for young people…or people of any age..who feel called to the music business.
Define success for yourself
As with any other career field, people may have different goals in music. Most of us, from the most dedicated professional to the most casual hobbyist, would not turn down their favorite internationally known band’s paychecks, but being an international star is not truly the goal for everyone, and Velazquez stressed that it does not have to be.
Some people may truly feel called to work for international stardom. They may have a large income as a goal in life, or wish for a glamorous lifestyle. Others may be happier using their musical skill to entertain and inspire others in their region, or their local community. Some may want to teach. Others may want to promote other artists, or write songs for others, or be a part of technical components of music production.
“You have to ask, ‘What is right for me and my life?’ he said. “It may be money. It may be fame. But it may be something else.”
Be realistic about the music industry and your goals
Whether your goal in music is to make hit records for decades, open for your favorite band, have your favorite band open for you, play a local or regional club every weekend, or teach music at the high school, Velazquez noted that it is important to be realistic about the work it takes to become skilled in music, and about the music industry and the variety of circumstances that would have to fall in line to meet the goals you’ve set.
“The music business is a very large, very scary, very competitive business for a new musician,” he noted. “You have to understand the process. It’s never easy, never pretty the way people think it is. It takes about twenty-five years to be an overnight success.”
Velazquez added that this is true no matter how talented you might be. “The more talent you’re sharing, the more challenges you’re going to have,” he said. “ Use common sense. Make sure you’re ready for whatever challenges come up. Adjust your skills and keep moving. Try to enjoy the process. There is never a guarantee of anything.”
Educate yourself about your style or styles of music
Those whose goal in the music industry is to teach music at the college or university level will probably need an academic degree. Unless you have documented extraordinary achievement in music (like a grammy or past membership in a band that changed the entire field) you are going to need at least a Master’s degree to enter academia. Formal, academic education is not needed for most other goals. But that is far from the only type of music education.
“ Become serious about your craft. Read about and research your field,” Velazquez said. “If you’re going to play Reggae, learn about Bob Marley. Learn about his struggles, find out what he did to get into the music business. You have the God-given field of the internet. Look around. Absorb information.”
Seek mentors and collaborators with goals that are compatible with yours
Because the arts is such a competitive, constantly shifting, and difficult career cluster, it can be tempting to frantically approach anyone and everyone in the arts. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt to make connections with other artists in general, or to make learning all you can about the arts, or the music industry a part of your education, Velazquez emphasized the importance of working with those whose paths you would like to follow in your own career.
“Communicate with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish,” he said, noting that this does not mean you should spend all your time writing emails to rock stars if your goal is to achieve international fame, or that simply talking to a record producer or songwriter means you’re going to be one.
“You may not be able to talk to Elton John” he said. “But you may be able to connect with someone who worked on one of his albums, or who knows someone who works for the record label that records Elton John.”
Always remember the importance of music to the world
Despite the difficulties of the music business, Velazquez urges musicians and anyone else in the field to never give up. He encourages everyone to live life with hope, and to keep the impact their work has on the world in mind.
“Music creates an opportunity to express yourself,” he said. “It’s a connection to the universe that pulls people in like a magnet. People are alone. They’re looking deeper inside themselves to create meaning. Music does that.”
Velazquez further reminded those who are farther along in their music career to remember the importance of goals, education, mentorship, and service to others.
“If you have more experience, try to share that experience with those starting out,” he said. “Put out that hand that says, ‘I care about you. I believe in you. I’m willing to help you carve out that path. You have potential.’ Give back.”
Ray “Pinky” Velazquez is certainly giving back to the community in Utica. His insight into the impact of music on individuals and on community will be a blessing for any organization he works with, and any program he helps to develop. Be sure to keep reading Artist Cafe Utica, and The Utica Phoenix news magazine, and listening to Phoenix Radio: 95.5 FM: The Heat for current information about Velazquez’s local projects.
Photo courtesy of/property of Ray "Pinky" Velazquez
Tragedies seem to be on the rise this summer. And while there are a lot of people out there doing all they can to help, there are always those who will use a tragedy to run a scam.
“Heartstrings” scams are scams that prey on their targets’ compassion, kindness and/or sense of justice. The scammer presents him or herself as someone who has suffered some type of tragedy or injustice. Faking cancer…in themselves or in a child or a spouse… is a common ploy. Some heartstrings scammers fake disabilities, or pretend to be someone who has recently survived domestic violence or natural disaster. They may set up a fund to help pay for treatment or therapy, or ask for items for a new home or baby that does not exist. The funds of course, go right in the scammer’s pocket. The items typically wind up sold for cash.
Get a free gaming console while helping a grief-stricken parent
You’re on social media, browsing your favorite marketplace, yard sale, and swap meet groups. The ads range from reasonable, professional posts by people flipping items as a side hustle, to blurbs from people trying to get rid of single items or announcing offline yard sales, to those ridiculous offers from people who expect others to pay near retail price for an item that is clearly used. But then, you notice this one:
“My son died of cancer last week,” the post reads. “He was only six years old. I bought him a PS5. He never got to open it. I want to gift it to someone that needs it. It hurts my heart just to look at it.”
Even if you have no desire to own a Playstation or any other video game equipment, you feel like reaching out to this person, who is being so generous in the midst of their own unimaginable tragedy. They could have just dropped the PS5 off at their local thrift store, but they want to bless someone else. At the very least, you want to send a message of support and condolence.
Resist the urge, no matter how moving the story. There is no grieving parent. This is just another round of a particularly tasteless, cold-hearted “heartstrings scam” that has been in play for at least two years. The small child who died of cancer is just one variation. Sometimes, the son was in college, died in a car accident on the way home, and never got to open his gift. In other versions, it’s a daughter who was killed on the way home. Only the PS5 that the grieving parent cannot bear to look at remains the same.
Anyone who reaches out offering to take the PS5 that is causing the parent so much heartbreak is promised the gaming device, but asked to send a small amount of money to cover the cost of shipping. Once the money is sent, the scam is successful. The victim never gets the PS5, and they never get their shipping costs refunded.
Help Ukrainian refugees
The war in Ukraine is not the lead story anymore, but it is still on your mind. You probably know someone from Ukraine, or someone who has family and friends living there. You know the people in Ukraine are still under attack by Putin and his forces. You’ve been thinking of ways to help, perhaps talking about doing something with some friends.
Shortly after a post or chat about Ukraine, you get an email that looks like it came from a well-known charity organization, reminding you that they are still collecting donations for the people there. This must be a sign that you are meant to help right now.
It isn’t. Today’s scammers have the means and the dedication to create pages that look identical to the webpages of established charity organizations. They can duplicate logos, information, even the exact wording of the real organization’s website.
Never donate through an email, text message, or social media message you have received. If you feel called to help the people of Ukraine this summer, your best option is to donate through an established, local organization like your church or the nearest chapter of a national or international charity. If you prefer to donate online, go directly to the official website of the organization you want your donation to go through.
Help your loved one, who is on the phone begging for your help.
When you first see the phone number of your family member or old friend on your screen, you’re happy to hear from them. But the call is not because they want to catch up or have some happy news to share. Your loved one is in trouble. They need you to send them some money to get them out of a scary, dangerous, or otherwise unsurmountable situation right away. You are tempted to send them money, after all, this is them. The call is from their phone.
Hang up anyway. Hang up, and call your loved one directly to ask them if they just called you. This may be a “vishing” scam. The term “vishing” comes from combining “voice over internet protocol” and “phishing.”
This is the classic “grandparents scam,” in which the scammer pretends to be someone’s grandchild in trouble. In previous versions of the scam, the call would come from a strange number, with the “grandchild” ready with an excuse as to why they’re calling from somebody else’s phone. This more sophisticated version uses the ability to spoof numbers to make it appear that the call is coming from the phone of a loved one.
It may be tempting to think, “as long as some people get help, I don’t care if I get scammed once in a while.” And that is a kind and loving approach, but it does not truly help anyone. If you have $100, you feel called to use it to bless someone in need, and $50 of it goes to a scammer, those people who are truly in need still have that same need. They never got the resources that lost $50 would have provided. The goal is of course to keep yourself from being scammed, but also to prevent scammers from diverting funds that should have gone to fill a true need. And sometimes, a single extra moment of caution is all it takes to make sure the funds you use to bless others actually bless them.
Online learning became a necessity over the past two years, as it was not safe to gather in a classroom offline. Some people did well. Others had difficulty coping, and struggled to succeed. Anyone can force themselves to make it through an online course, but some people are better suited to online learning than others. The information below is directed at adult learners. Children and teens have unique academic, social, and emotional needs. If you are unsure about the correct learning environment for your child, speak to their current teacher or another expert in child psychology and learning before making decisions for them.
Online learning is best for people who are able to work with little to no direction from others.
Some people need a pre-set plan, direct supervision, and a lot of direction from a supervisor or manager to do well at a job. Others are able to start from the beginning of a project, plan the work, and create their own schedule. Neither of these types are “good” or “bad” at learning or anything else. They are just different personalities that react differently to variations in their environment.
In an online course, you will likely have due dates and deadlines set for you. Lessons will be pre-made. The work of each day, however, will be entirely up to you. Nobody will be expecting you to show up in a classroom every Monday night at 7 p.m. You will need to go over your schedule and decide for yourself whether or not Monday is a school day, and which hours are school time. And you will have to be disciplined and focused enough to stick to the decision you made.
Students who are comfortable working alone, but not in complete isolation, are best suited to online learning.
Virtual classrooms are not always as isolated as some people make them out to be. You will interact with other students and with your teacher. In-person interactions are not eliminated, but may be replaced with chats and meetings via Zoom, discussion boards, email exchanges, instant messenger exchanges, and other forms of online communication we are all familiar with from other parts of life.
But you will not be able to sit in a room full of people. You may not even be able to arrange to sit in a room full of people by gathering together with other online students. Zoom meetings, phone calls, listening to recorded lectures, and watching videos might disrupt others’ learning. You are going to need to spend at least some time physically alone in a room.
Those who express themselves better in writing than by speaking may prefer online learning.
There are opportunities to talk to people when you are an online student. Some instructors welcome, or even encourage, phone calls from students. You may be assigned group projects that require you to call or hold Zoom meetings with your classmates. In some classes, the instructor will even hold an in-person lecture or class that is traditional in every way, except that it is done through Zoom.
But in many cases, you are going to be asked to communicate with your teacher and your fellow students through writing. Much of the discussion in class is done through discussion boards. Email and messenger systems hosted by the school are common ways to talk to your instructor and your fellow students.
Those who consider their words carefully before they speak are better suited to online learning than those with a tendency to blurt or speak first and ponder what they said later.
The opposite should be true. Online classrooms should be the perfect place for that person who can always be counted on to say what others are thinking but are too afraid to announce. If they’re on a discussion board, they have to type and can’t just blurt things out.
What some do not realize is that many discussion board comments cannot be edited, and instant messenger messages cannot be erased. If you are talking to the class over Zoom, it is likely being recorded, and made available to anyone who wants to listen to it until the class closes. This makes what you say, gaffes and all, much more permanent than offline, in-person speech. If I say something rude, embarrassing, or otherwise inappropriate in room 203 of the nearest traditional university on Monday at ten, there will be no record of it, and half the class may forget it happened in a month or less. If I post that same thing on the unit 3 discussion board in my online class, it’s there until the class closes.
Taking a class online is best for those who are comfortable online, but do not already “live” there.
The person whose whole life revolves around the internet, the one who is always reading their facebook page, enjoys posting every detail of their life, and knows more about their favorite YouTubers than they know about their actual friends may seem like the ideal online learner. Some may indeed find an online class a natural extension of what they already do all day. Others may struggle, as the lure of their facebook, instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and wherever else they go online all day may prove too much of a distraction.
Online learning may help those who need to save some money
There are no truly cheap accredited colleges or quality training programs around anymore. Everything costs money, and school is no exception. Online classes just tend to be slightly cheaper than their offline versions. Even if the tuition and required materials cost the same, taking a class online saves you the cost of travel to and from campus, eliminates the need to buy meals or drinks between classes, and can lessen spending due to social pressure, such as buying new school clothes or meeting for snacks or drinks after class.
Online learning is not for everyone. But it can be an option for those whose personality and/or or life circumstances make it suitable. Before signing up for an online course, consider whether your unique traits and needs make it the right learning environment for you.
Artist Cafe Utica has always been a website for and about Utica artists, and it always will serve that purpose. There are just a few changes effective July, 2022.
What changes were made?
Previously, Artist Cafe Utica had three functions. It was a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and any other local artists who wished to add links to their work to the site. It was a place for local artists to get free content for their website, blog, social media page, magazine, or other publication. And it was a point of contact to arrange custom researched and written work done by the site owner on a freelance basis.
Only the custom work option has been eliminated. Artist Cafe Utica is still a place to purchase novels, music, and more from the site owner and other local artists. It is still the place to find free content for your online or print publication or space.
Why did you eliminate the custom work option?
There was not enough interest in the service. The income from freelance writing only averaged out to $72 per month for the first seven months of the year, with nobody expressing any interest in purchasing any content in the coming months. Work that pays out at $42-$72 per month isn’t lucrative enough to keep doing with today’s prices.
Offering custom freelance writing work in addition to hosting the free library of articles for local artists also seemed to generate a bit of confusion. In one instance a few years ago, someone contacted me for writing services, refused to order anything, and then sent me a text message “firing” me from the staff job I had never taken. More than one person has mistaken me for a staff writer of a publication I freelanced for, and sent me materials to be submitted to the publication, or not understood that I was writing a feature for a client and not for my own website. I found myself spending more time clarifying that I was a freelance writer offering services to clients than I spent actually writing material for people.
Does this mean your work will no longer be seen anywhere but on Artist Cafe Utica?
For the most part, yes. I do have one long-standing project that will continue. Each month, I write a column for Phoenix Media called “The Heat Beat.” It is a joint project between Phoenix Radio and the news magazine, “The Utica Phoenix.” They have been outstanding clients, and are a sister organization to For the Good, Inc, a non-profit that hosts numerous worthwhile programs that greatly benefit the community. This will be the only custom writing that I do going forward. Everything else will be posted to the “Library” section of Artist Cafe Utica, offered free of charge to anyone who would like the content.
What if someone wants an article about a certain topic?
Readers are more than welcome to request topics. A local artist could always request a topic, and then help themselves to a free copy of that feature once it’s posted. This works out in their favor, because something that would have cost them $125 can now be obtained for free.
How will you make money, if you’re not going to sell articles anymore?
The income from my independent writing, both fiction writing and nonfiction writing for and about Utica artists, was never my main source of income. In addition to being a novelist and arts writer, I am also a writing teacher. My regular pay from teaching writing goes into the savings account I use to pay myself each month, and cover my basic expenses. Income from my own writing has always been my spending money. And there are still two income streams open for that.
Copies of my self-published novels are still available through Artist Cafe Utica. I earn 70% of the purchase price whenever someone buys an ebook or paperback copy of one of my novels.
There is also a tip jar available. If you read and enjoy the free articles in our library, post a link to an article on your social media page, or take some content to use in your publication or on your website, consider leaving a tip by clicking on the link to the “Go Fund Me” page and making a contribution.
Were there any other changes made?
The Avon page was taken down. I am still an Avon representative. It is a great company offering outstanding products. Avon sales didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the site. Of course, artists can buy Avon. But it did not fall into the same category as “novels, music, and more for and about Utica artists” when everything else…including the “more” was some form of art and/or writing about the arts.
Will you be adding any other services?
At this time, there are no plans to offer additional services. Artist Cafe Utica will serve as a place to purchase novels, music, and more from local artists, and a place to obtain free content for any publication or website owned or managed by a Utica area artist.
The online extortion scam is a modern version of the classic blackmail scheme. The perpetrator either obtains or claims to have something damaging about you. They threaten to use that item or piece of information in a way that will harm you if you do not give them what they want.
Online blackmail is old news, but today’s version has taken on a frightening twist. In the older version, the scammer contacts you claiming to already have something damaging. They may insist they have hacked into your computer, or that a link you recently clicked on gave them access to your files. Those are easily dealt with by letting the site administrator of the website where the message was received know what is going on, and deleting and blocking the scammer accounts without replying. But in the newer twist, the scammer first gains the victim’s trust, and manipulates them into providing materials that are then used in the blackmail scheme. This is often referred to as “sextortion,” (sex, texting, and extortion), because the material the victim is either persuaded to send, or blackmailed into sending, is often sexual or revealing in nature. In an especially chilling twist, the FBI has recently reported a spike in these crimes aimed at teens and children.
Here are some warning signs:
Classic “catfishing” signs
The MTV show “Catfish” has some flaws. Host Nev Schulman often gives dangerous advice, suggesting scam victims befriend their scammers, behaving as though being scammed is something that can be brushed off, and giving the impression that romance scammers are just losers who deserve a second chance. In reality, romance scammers are often dangerous people, and being the victim of a romance scam can cause serious psychological and financial damage. But Schulman does deserve credit for publicizing the fact that people often pretend to be someone they are not on the internet, and the warning signs that this may be happening.
Never trust someone who resists meeting offline and in public in a situation where meeting would be the logical next step. There is no good reason why two adults in an online dating relationship but residing in the same town would not be able to meet for coffee, two adults discussing a job should not be able to connect for an interview before the job is accepted, or the parents of children who are chatting online would not be able to talk, or even meet up in public.
Look out for differences in the life the person presents and the one they appear to lead. Parents of babies do not have unlimited time to be on the computer. Nobody is tall one day and short the next. All who “catfish” are not planning extortion, but if you are seeing these signs, there is a good chance you’re talking to a person who is not online for the reason they claim, and their real reason may be extortion.
Pressure to move to another online space
Everyone has online spaces where they are more or less comfortable. Some people don’t care for chatting via facebook messenger, and would rather keep in touch with friends using old-fashioned email, or vice-versa. But when your friend of thirty years says, “Hey, let’s go on Facebook, so we can chat in real time instead of waiting for email,” it’s a very different situation than when someone you only met a few minutes, hours, or days ago wants to leave the platform.
Scammers…especially extortion scammers….want to leave the platform where they first met you because they want to get you in an environment where it is more comfortable for them to carry out their scheme. They may want to go someplace where it is easier to send and receive pictures, have longer chats, or learn your email address, location, or phone number.
Uncomfortable or inappropriately intimate conversation
Extortion scammers are fishing for information or material they can use for blackmail. One way to get this information or material is to get into an intimate conversation with their victim. And a scammer is going to want to get this information as fast as they can. They will often initiate, and pressure their victim into, providing personal information or materials.
Engaging in “sexting,” the exchange of sexual dialogue, messages, or photos as an online sexual encounter, is of course the most obvious. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you are happily monogamous with the love of your life, fully aware of the potential dangers of sexting, and/or someone who finds the whole idea of this behavior distasteful and would never do this. It is far from the only kind of private or intimate information that can be shared or obtained online.
Scammers who realize you are not going to “sext” with them can obtain other types of private information. They may pose as a platonic friend available for venting, a professional “mentor” who gets you to open up about your work history and finances, or someone going through the same health issues as you or a family member, persuading you to share private medical or mental health information.
Overly friendly and attentive behavior
A common warning sign among all types of scams, this one is met with the most resistance. It sounds like nobody can even be friendly and compassionate toward someone else on the internet without everybody accusing them of being a scammer.
Compassionate, friendly behavior is not a red flag itself. Friendly behavior becomes a warning sign when it is behavior that would read as overly friendly in any situation. Look out for the person who wants you to think they would do anything for you, even though they just met you, responds with a flood of compliments to anything and everything you say, or has all the time in the world to “mentor” or coach you.
Promises of rewards or benefits
In case you are still tempted to sit back and say, “MY child would never share anything private. They aren’t even interested in that part of life yet.” or “I’m happily married and would never betray my spouse in any way,” or “I do not go on the internet and share any of my personal life, intimate or not, with strangers,” know that the scammers already thought people like you would be out there, and planned for it.
Your child may be approached by someone pretending to be casting for a modeling or acting job, and told that they must send photos of themselves or information about their appearance for their “portfolio.” Or they might be made to believe they will win a prize for participating in “a silly dare” or “social media challenge” by someone pretending to be their own age.
Adult targets will see right through these, but far too many adults are willing to engage in online conversations with strangers about jobs and investment opportunities. And some of these strangers may be fishing for your banking information, your unfiltered opinion of your boss, or other information you would not want to get out.
Should these red flags begin to pile up, do not engage with the person any further. Block them from contacting you. Any explicit conversation with a child or teen under the age of consent, or credible threats containing information that could lead the person to a victim of any age should be reported to law enforcement.
While we spend more and more time socializing, networking, and working online, let’s not forget to look out for ourselves and each other.
Many of the most popular scams on social media today soon become obvious. The one asking for anyone willing to work a night shift looks like a local event seeking temporary stagehands until you read down the ad and realize they’re claiming you can sign up to work from home for Amazon doing simple tasks like packing gift baskets, and earn hundreds of dollars per week. Others, such as psychics, are apparently not so obvious, as people have fallen for their simple word association games and body language and tone of voice reading for longer than anyone reading this has been alive. Still others are just odd. They definitely seem too good to be true, but many believe them anyway, as there does not appear to be anything in it for the scammer.
This is known as the “blessing” scam. The post appears to be from someone goodhearted and generous. They offer to bless anyone who answers an easy trivia question, or lets them know what time they saw a post. People respond, reasoning that no harm can come from typing the word “food” when asked for a word other than “good” and “book” with two o’s in it, or telling a stranger what time you saw their post. And while no direct harm can come from even the worst person on earth realizing that you know the word “look” or that you saw a post at exactly 9:47 in the morning, the post does serve as a test to see if you will fall for the next steps.
As embarrassing as this may be to accept, you must have had at least a moment of gullibility if you honestly believed there were people out there giving away sums of money to total strangers for completing simple tasks on the internet. There have been instances in which someone was led by the Holy Spirit to bless complete strangers with money. But those situations unfold with the person spontaneously giving the money to the people they are called to bless, or contacting a church or established, well-known nonprofit and discretely arranging a donation to be used to bless someone. A person truly called to bless others in this way would have no reason to give them a test first, no matter how easy the question.
And that next step is where the scam takes off. Once the scammer sees people “liking” or commenting on the post, they can then go back and edit the original post to include a link that downloads malware to your computer. This malware can then be used to access your information, including your banking information. Since you showed the scammers you are not carefully examining things online when you fell for their pitch, they’re confident that you aren’t checking your accounts closely enough or often enough to stop them from making unauthorized purchases on your credit cards, taking out new credit card accounts using your information, or using your identity to open up other types of accounts.
Another popular like farming/blessing scam seems even more harmless at first glance. In this scam, you are not promised any type of blessing. You are asked to give a blessing, and the blessing does not even require you to part with with any money or material goods. All it asks for is a moment of your time.
A photo appears at random on your social media feed. The photo may be of a person or an animal, but the caption is always something that tugs at the heartstrings. “Nobody will say ‘hello’ to me because I’m ugly,” it might read. Or “Today is my birthday. I bet nobody wishes me a happy birthday today.” Sometimes it simply says, “I bet I won’t even get one share!”
Assuming no harm can come to them, and wishing to brighten the day of the person in the photo or the owner of the pet in the photo, people like, share, and respond with “Happy Birthday, Sweetie.” Or “Hello, beautiful girl.”
And just as with commenting “7:26” or “good” in the hopes of winning $3,900, you have now added your name to the list of people who are going to have malware installed on their page, and are probably not paying close enough attention to remove it right away.
Preventing these scams starts with paying attention to what you like, share, and comment on social media. Avoid interacting with these “blessings” posts, no matter how tempting it may be to think there is someone out there who wants to send you money, or how heartbreaking the photo or caption asking for your greeting or share may be. You are not ruining a generous person’s attempt at doing the Lord’s work. The people who posted that “money for your simple answer” offer have no intention of ever giving anyone any type of gift or blessing. And you will not hurt the feelings of a bullied child or lonely pet owner. Those photos are stolen. Their real owners have no idea they are even being passed around online, and will never see your share or greeting. Scroll past, without commenting, liking, or sharing. Should you notice a group or business page getting flooded with these, contact the group or page administrator.
by Jess Szabo
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica website