Online courses: Don’t be a troll and be rude to your customers

trollsAs anyone who has spent time with me knows, I love to learn. I have taken countless courses over the years, some great, some not so much. I have done university degrees, specialist courses in library work, editing, web design and even a short writing course on the Isle of Wight. The latter wasn’t just great though, that was an amazing course. If you want to do a residential course I would check out Felicity Fair Thompson’s!

Anyway, I thought I would try out some of those online courses that you hear about. I’d tried Coursera in the past and that was actually very good but the course that got my attention was one where I would have to pay some money.

The course I was interested in was around $500. I think this is an inordinate amount of money for an online course. Now I don’t like to do anything immoral or illegal so I thought I might be disappointed in my desire to try the course. By the way I do not intend to say what this course was or what platform it was on. I don’t think that would be fair as I have a problem with the tutor not the course itself and definitely not the platform! The actual course itself was actually quite good, the tutor’s attitude however had a little to be desired. Although anyone could probably work out what the course was with a bit of searching! I’m not one to disparage other people’s skills.

So given that I won’t do anything dishonest or illegal what was I to do? What any cash strapped ex-librarian would do. I searched for a coupon. Lo and behold the tutor himself had put a link on to a forum with the course reduced to about £10. Awesome. So I bought it.

The course was about YouTube. The reason I took it was that I have very little experience of the service. Sure I’ve put up a couple of videos but it is years since I set up the account.

I watched a few of the lectures and there were a few times when I thought, “This guy’s a genius”. Other times, my brows would furrow and at others I just smiled and thought well, that’s obvious.

If you boil the course down, it’s basically informing you about the creative commons section of YouTube and how you can edit the videos on there to monetize them. It tells you to use Titles, keywords and thumbnails. There is some stuff about analytics but that’s basically it.

So you take those elements and you look at how much that applies to libraries and my other experiences. Well, titles and keywords relate to libraries in a big way. The library world (OK the IT world does as well) calls it metadata. There is a lot of information on that on the web and I have had a lot of experience using these. There is also a crossover to being an author. The guy waxes lyrical about thumbnails which are basically the book covers of the video world. As every author (should) know your book covers should be clear legible, eye-catching and make a statement. This is exactly what this guy advocates.

So my views at this point of having a quick pass through the course and skipping bits that I already know about was that it was useful, inspired in some areas but then I realised that it didn’t have some fundamentals like how to set up a new YouTube channel. I could work this out but I have paid for this course, not full price but other people have. So I ask a question on his forum:


I saw somewhere it said you can have more than one identity but nothing about setting one up. It seems to jump straight into descriptions and tags etc. I have to admit I skipped some of this. I spent 11 years dealing with titles and descriptions as a Librarian so I know a little about those.

As you can see I ask about setting up a new identity (channel) and I just explain that I skipped some of the course because I knew about the concepts because of my occupation.

Why did I do that? Well the lecturer bangs on about people not going through the course and not understanding because of it so I wanted to explain that although he could see from the stats that I didn’t go through those parts of the course (which by the way was irrelevant to the question anyway but he mentioned that he got annoyed about that in the course) but that I knew about them from prior experience. I would like to point I wasn’t being confrontational and in fact was trying to be helpful for other students. He did after all say he liked feedback in one of his courses.

His response:

You definitely need to fully study and understand titles, descriptions and tags, please – they are crucial to your success and have nothing to do with libraries.

Please see lecture 1.


So I’m starting to get annoyed here. “I need to fully study and understand titles, descriptions and tags?” Hellloooooo, I explained why I already understand them. His bit about nothing to do with libraries explains his ignorance of library work. Just in case though, I went through his extremely boring sections on metadata (boring, because I already knew about them), and yes, he didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. So I responded. I probably shouldn’t have though.

I beg to differ, I have a masters degree in metadata and information science as most qualified Librarians do (It’s rare to just have a BA degree). I have made websites and published books, inputting descriptions and tags using this information. In libraries we use catalogues (Library management systems) where you have to put titles, descriptions and keywords or the patrons do not find the books that you have catalogued. If you know nothing about library work, you really shouldn’t make assumptions. I did watch some of your video on the subject and it was really like teaching a proverbial granny to suck eggs. Although other parts of the course I did find extremely useful

I did finally work it out, I just thought you might have appreciated the feedback that some pointers for creating the channel in the first place would be helpful.

So there you have it, my full explanation, surely he would just let it be. I’ve told him how my experience related maybe not all of it but how some of my experiences relates. But no, wait, he says something else:

Oh dear!

You made me chortle!

Without cheating, by suddenly bothering to study the course, tell me how you would headline this video for YouTube, please. It’s currently called

“Understanding The Relativ Index”

[Name taken out to protect identity] – a relative of Mr. Dewey, incidentally … cousin on my Mum’s side of the family

So the guy had a family member who came up with the Dewey Deceimal system that died before the internet and therefore he knows enough about library work to assume that it is unrelated. I wonder if he knows about the Library of Congress cataloguing system? 🙂 Oh and he now wants to test me? Bleeding hot underworld, I have to respond. My husband is shouting, “Don’t do it he’s a troll!” from across the room, but he is really getting under my skin at this point. Should have listened to hubby!

Then you really shouldn’t insult librarians. There is more to knowing about library work than knowledge of the DDC. I understand that you might get frustrated with people asking questions. I once had to continually reply to emails about tags and labs on Gmail because they knew of my book on Gmail. I don’t believe we are getting anywhere with this conversation. I just expected a link in an answer. I wasn’t expecting a veiled insult on my profession as well. I shall of course let my colleagues know that they nothing of taxonomy and other metadata and they should resign from their positions in the government and business as soon as they can. Really, do people think that all Librarians do nothing but shelve books and say shhh! all day?

I do think those sections of your course is useful to those that have never studied or worked in information science but insulting the intelligence and knowledge of people who apparently deign to be your student is ridiculous. Your course is good but not everyone is a newbie to *all* the concepts you teach.

I believe your reply “bothering to study the course” rather than to actually just accept feedback is classed as trolling and I won’t be giving this conversation any more of my time.

Now I haven’t read his response, I read one line and he still won’t acknowledge that he is not the only person in the world that could possibly know about metadata outside of his course. He can’t seem to grasp that concepts are applicable across different fields and while he is obviously clever, he has a blind spot that makes him think that is applying wisdom that only he could possible know. Now there are a great many things I have no knowledge of (hence the courses I enroll on) but I have my experiences and I have my training and also his training now so I have a rounded picture of what he is talking about. He only seems to know what he has found out and doesn’t want to open his mind to find out how it can be applied elsewhere.

With regard to metadata, specifically keywords, I’m going to give a tip that I’ve known about for years and I won’t be charging $499 for it. You can find out what people are searching for in Google by using their keyword planner at Remember YouTube is owned by Google and videos will come up in Google searches. Applicable to YouTube videos, books and anything you sell on Amazon.

Find out what people are searching for and how many are searching for it. Use these words to plan your titles, your descriptions and your tags. See, it’s not that hard is it? Oh, but I forget I’m not supposed to know about it. Strike that last paragraph from your minds…

Crash Course for making print book cover designs for CreateSpace

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00066]

If you are a budding self-publisher you’ve probably heard of CreateSpace. They do have cover creators in their book making process but it is nice to have something original that you have made yourself. This is a crash course which by it’s very nature can’t give you the ins and outs but does give you helpful tips and the principles for making a great design.

First you need to download a template from CreateSpace at: This means all the margins, dimensions and bleeds are done for you.

To-do this you need to have a few basic details.

  • Interior Type: Black and White
  • Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5 (the size of your book).
  • Number of pages: ? (how many pages will your book be once it is completed. Remember it is very important as your images will have to compensate for a reduced or increased spine size).
  • Paper Colour: Cream (thicker paper as well as more yellowy paper. Also note that some people with dyslexia read easier on cream paper.)

Note, if you put say 312 pages in, the file you actually download may say 320 pages. This is because of the bleed size. (They cut bits off the end of the printing process).

Once you have your template, open it in a graphics programme. This can be Gimp or Photoshop or some other flavour.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00066]

It is very important you rename the first layer, template. The next thing you have to do is create a new layer. Don’t do anything to the first/template layer. Just make sure that it is at the top of your layer list. This way you can toggle the view off and on so you can see how your design will fit on the printed paperback. I’ve given you an example of how I did it on the left.

Put your background pictures on the new layer.

Explanation of DPI. Your images MUST be 300 dpi for printed book covers. They also HAVE to be at least 8.5 INCHES high (if that is the size of your book).. I have been sent 300dpi images which are only a few centimeters big. The best way to explain why this is unsuitable is to imagine you are holding a piece of material about 2cm by 2cms with a picture on it. Now try to stretch that piece of material up to 8 inches. That picture is looking a bit stretched now isn’t it? It physically cannot be done without the picture suffering badly and when it is printed it will look awful.

Once you have put your background images in you can bring the template higher up the layers list so you can see which bits of your beautiful cover will be chopped off. Adjust as necessary. Remember to delete the template or move it below all the other layers when you have finished.

Put your text on and save. Voila you now have a cover.