Sharing Your Secrets?

secret Post by  Queen Bee

We all have secrets…secrets that we pinky swear we won’t share, secrets we never share at all.   But what about trade secrets?  Those aren’t just any old secret.  They are secrets with actual monetary worth.

If you’ve never heard of a trade secret, it is something you own and can sell or license as long as it is kept secret.  Once it is shared with the public, the trade secret loses all of its value.   The Independent Fashion Blogger Community is a fantastic resource for us bloggers to share and borrow inspiration and advice, but that openness goes against everything I’ve learned in law school.

I find myself torn between embracing the online opensource culture and vehemently protecting my new online business venture.  By sharing my trade secrets, they aren’t secret anymore and lose any value they once held.  And what sort of business strategy is that?!  Yet without the openness of the IFB community, my blog would not have grown to where it is now and I truly appreciate all that I have learned so far.

This dichotomy is causing a sense of confusion and guilt that I don’t know how to resolve. I’m asking you, fashion bloggers, how do you deal with this?  How do you participate in the IFB community without giving too much or taking too much?

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29 Responses

  1. Marie Denee

    I do not know if it is a secret moreso than ingredients…. everyone creates their own recipe for success with their respective blogs… what I appreciate is those who share some of what works for them… and I digest and take from it what works for me… I think that is what makes blogging so unique- each voice, own recipes, and openness to share!
    .-= Marie Denee´s last blog ..Chenese Lewis and Plus Model Mag break the mold with 18Plus =-.

  2. DesignerElla

    I could totally write a great sewing / bag-making tips blog, but I would be giving away all of my trade secrets. My hard studying. And I fear I’d lose all my special tactics that could set my future line apart.

    But with blogging, I don’t think there ARE any of those secrets. (Except for maybe people like Megs from the Purse Blog.)

    The info is out there, most everyone gets it from one source, – and you know, I WANT to help.

    Little known things can BREAK an entire business, shopping budget, fun… Like I WANT everyone to know ALL about – dun dun dunnnnnnnnn – the SANDBOX wayyy before even buying a domain or setting up a blog layout or annnnything.

    That is one killer if you don’t know this Google secret.
    .-= DesignerElla´s last blog ..Harem Pants: The Shape vs. Drape Debate at Vogue. Really? =-.

  3. Nicky Harris

    This is very interesting since I’m probably one of the older (age wise) Fashion bloggers around having brought up to firmly keep trade secrets just that. Secret. However I find myself increasingly embracing the new openess and am very happy to give advise freely to fellow fashion industry bods. I’m thinking that perhaps there are no secrets any more but nothing can take the place of experience and good old fashioned hard work. So no matter what secrets you share it is the application and use of them that is where it makes all the difference.
    I am now coming around to the idea of sharing. This is a new world we are entering and we need to embrace change and not retreat into a regressive introverted business world.
    .-= Nicky Harris´s last blog ..A Raggy Tale =-.

  4. Michelle

    I can see trade secrets in a position like Ella’s, where you have to protect patterns, formulas, etc. I don’t really see the value of trade secrets as far as blogging goes, though. A few days ago on the Problogger Community I read a post that said something along the lines of “Why do you think all of the blogging experts freely give away their secrets? They know that 95% of the people out there don’t have the time or the effort or the willingness to put it to use.”

    I totally agree with that; I think the only real trade secret with blogging is to work your ass off. There are tips and tricks to make things easier, yeah. I don’t see any problem in sharing those. After all, if your blog is going to survive and thrive, it’s got to be something someone else isn’t doing already – which kind of makes the whole idea of trade secrets obsolete. There’s an infinite market for bloggers. But if you start a blog and copy iCiNG (successful blog off the top of my head) in every respect, it’s probably not going to get very far, because it’s not authentic and someone else is already doing it.

    I don’t know if any of that made sense? Eep. I hope so!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Marvelous Monday! =-.

  5. grechen

    i keep no secrets – anyone who asks for my advice or help on monetizing their blog or anything having to do with blogging, gets it, no questions asked. when i first started my website in 2004 i kept totally to myself, not reaching out to other website owners (we weren’t bloggers then LOL) or interacting at all. i just didn’t see the point and i was worried about competition. but a few years ago, i really transformed the way i approach blogging and the fashion blogging community – reaching out more and interacting. now i see the value in sharing information and working together – i think there’s enough readers out there for all of us, and we all offer something different (or we should anyway, if we’re really bringing our personality to our blogs) so there’s no reason to worry about “trade secrets” in my opinion. i can’t even think of what blogging “trade secrets” would be to be honest….
    .-= grechen´s last blog ..eBay’s The Inside Source: FAIL =-.

  6. kurlybella

    interesting post. i tend to agree to a certain point.

    it’s one thing to have a blog about how to make shoes when the civilized world has been walking around with covered feet for the last few hundred years, but it’s another to show them how to make air pumped shoes that basketball players “should/could” wear, only to have a reader take a genius idea and become the next exec at nike when you’d planned to submit your resume and sample two weeks after you put your posts and all your detailed drawings up. so one has to be smart. but even then that’s not blogging trade secrets. and that should be common sense.

    so, i agree with grechen, blogging trade secrets DON’T exist.

    really, some people are just stingy, stingy with free information, like a squirrel with a nut. so, again, you have to be smart and look for it yourself. it’s not hard.

    HOWEVER, monetizing a blog?? oh, i’d give out blue prints if need be, but there are already guys like shoe, john chow and yaro doing so. that’s how i learned. and i also realize that just because horses are being lead to the water does not mean they are gonna drink. but i keep my tummy full of water.

  7. lisa

    This is so interesting because just yesterday a girl who was starting a blog asked me for advice and tips. The advice I gave her–make time for blogging, update frequently, use the “schedule” function to make time management easier–was pretty basic but has made a huge difference in my blogging. As one of the other commenters pointed out, the only trade secret to blogging that holds true for everybody is to work your ass off. That and have fun doing it. 🙂
    .-= lisa´s last blog ..VFW SS 2010: Kersh =-.

  8. Jennine

    heh, whenever i give my ‘secrets’ people just look at me like i’m insane. like michelle said, 95% of the people dont’ have the time or the willingness make it happen.

    but i do have to say, i do protect my contacts to a fault. a lot of people ask me either to make introductions or to outright give them my contact list, and to that i say no thank you. (unless it’s a friend that i’m helping out, or if they are paying me to consult, which I still don’t give them contact lists)

  9. reckless daughter

    I agree about keeping contacts to myself. Especially coming from my entertainment industry background, it’s amazing how many people will just use you to get to other people, information, etc. Friends, are of course, an exception. I’m also a bit confused by the concept of “sharing links” with strangers who ask. I would never send 50 of my favorite links to someone random. It takes a lot of time to research and discover those kind of things. A blogroll should be enough in my humble opinion 🙂
    .-= reckless daughter´s last blog ..minnie in wonderland =-.

  10. eyeliah

    I have been contacted by people for advice and help and I am always willing. I guess there are a few secrets I keep, but not many (and they are more personal than anything else). It is true, blogging is mostly lots of time and hard work, it’s not really a ‘secret’ lol.
    .-= eyeliah´s last blog ..Lay Me Down, Don’t Give In =-.

  11. Rosie Unknown

    I think that we should help one another out, to a certain extent. Stuff like helping people with HTML, giving tips for conducting a good interview, internet etiquette, that sort of stuff we should share. More content related trade secrets are really up to each individual blogger though.
    .-= Rosie Unknown´s last blog ..What I Wore: Club Monaco and Cat Ears =-.

  12. Retro Chick

    I think that blogging is now so inextricably linked with social media that those people who keep their “secrets” will ultimately end up failing as they won’t be connecting with people.

    That’s just my feeling though. I tried really hard to help a friend of mine who set up a blog, but I don’t think half of the things I mentioned were taken on board, wether that was through lack of time or dedication I don’t know.

    I guess the question isn’t about secrets being given out, but about how many people will bother to listen to those secrets and make use of them.
    .-= Retro Chick´s last blog ..Retro Chick Style Icon and Christmas Giveaway – Audrey Hepburn =-.

  13. Amelia M

    Blogs are all about communicating – that’s their fundamental purpose. And that’s their power. I think to withhold information is to sell yourself short most of the time.
    But I’d say it’s a case by case basis: if someone sends you an email asking for blogging advice, you’re more likely to be making a great connection than potential competition.
    Coming from a journalistic background as I do, there are certain ethical rules that ought to be followed – for example, if someone says something off the record; then it’s off the record, no matter what; and if someone says something to you anonymously, you have an obligation to protect that source. These ethics are more important than trade secrets, in my opinion. Integrity is everything!
    And lastly, maybe blogging can create a new world order? I know it’s niave to say such a thing, but blogging is still quite a new industry and, who knows, maybe the old rules of not telling secrets no longer apply?
    .-= Amelia M´s last blog ..Role model of the week: Carmen Rodi =-.

  14. IdStyle

    In almost any case, I usually believe that is is always better to help someone else, than not to. Most tips I can give are ones that someone else is bound to find out eventually anyways, plus who knows when the time will come that that person will be in a position to help me with something else that they are versed in. It is so nice to share / know / learn tips that make blogging easier or more efficient, but in the end so long as you aren’t giving away your own voice, that will always be the difference from one blog to the next. I have learned a lot of helpful information from the IFB and it;s members, but the number one tip / secret that it seems everyone believes is the key is in the content and that is each of ours alone, right?

    Plus, many bloggers are not monetized or at least not making thier entire living off it, so is there even a need to be ultra-competitive or beat out the next guy/girl? Maybe, i am being naive, or maybe i haven’t been around long enough, but I love the sharing and friendship based community that IFB has offfered me and I hope to be able to contribute back.

    That being said, I also don’t feel there is anything wrong with someone who wants to “protect” thier trade secrets, because who knows, they may have a good reason not to share certain ifnormation with the general public or community and in the end, everyone is entitled to keep or share thier secrets without judgement.
    .-= IdStyle´s last blog ..Links A La Mode: Personalizing Style =-.

  15. Jen

    I agree with the notion that working hard is probably the secret of secrets to a “successful” blog. I would second that with quality content being key as well.

  16. M.

    I talk about myself without never showing myself. I never publish any picture of my face, and when I share personal information, I never give name to things or persons. The reader can keep following the stories, but the thing is the exact details never matter that much…

  17. alixrose

    I don’t have many secrets, but when I first started out I did ask for help and I never found anyone who didnt do their best to help me out. It meant a lot to me and that’s what made me happy to be a part of the fashion blogging community. If someone was to ask me I would help out in any way I can, but what a lot of you said is true the secrets already out there. It just depends on what people do with it.

  18. Margaret

    I definitely agree with Jeanine. I will give advice about blogging, how to start, how to manage, etc. because I have gotten that help from someone else and I’m happy to help someone out. However, when it comes to my contacts, I definitely hold those near and dear. Those are things that I personally had to work to get and still work to maintain. Will I give networking advice? Absolutely! But that person has to do the work the same as me. Otherwise, how will they learn?
    .-= Margaret´s last blog ..An Instant Hair Makeover! How to Rock a Drawstring Ponytail =-.

  19. Renee

    I agree with so much of what has been said so far- trade secrets as far as the specific skills we have are one thing, but trade secrets in regards to writing a good blog are another thing entirely. I think that having a community resource that helps me be a better blogger is incredibly helpful. That doesn’t mean I will be using the content of the other blogs I follow. If I had a knitting blog, for example, I might post tips to help improve my readers knitting skills, but if I wanted to sell my pattern designs, I wouldn’t necessarily post them for all to see. For me, the communication with other bloggers is about making my blog better, but the content is still all my responsibility.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..The oh-so versatile LBD =-.

  20. julia

    Excellent, excellent topic choice! I think that even though you share a “secret” or two, even if you reveal a a step by step guide as to everything along the way exactly as-is to be duplicated, it will never be the same! Everyone has their own unique views and preferences, and each of us can implement the same process or steps, however it will come across differently each time. Take for example pizza — its essentially dough, sauce, and cheese, follow the recipe, and you will get a pie, but how many times have you had an amazing slice and a terrible slice of just cheese pizza? I think that b/c we have such a great community that is so supportive and sharing of everything that if we didn’t help each other out, who will? As long as you keep doing what you’re doing, the special way that you do with your unique point of view, it will still be your “secret” 😉

    • jennine

      juia i love this analogy, i’ve always said that about chocolate chip cookies. everyone has the EXACT same recipe (the one on the back of nestle tolhouse semi sweet chocolate chips) but everyone’s batches come out differently. it’s crazy!
      .-= jennine´s last blog ..Sharing Your Secrets? =-.

  21. julia

    haha thanks Jennine! I think it’s the Italian in me that must equate every analogy to something Italian 😉 Chocolate chip cookies is a good one too 🙂
    .-= julia´s last blog ..Wardrobe Wish List: Belted And Buckled Bootie =-.

  22. Alice

    Knowing the secrets gives you about 10% advantage. The rest is dedication, passion, imagination and hard work. Whenever I am asked for tips or advise I say to myself that if the person has all those qualities to benefit from the ”secrets”, then they deserve to know them.

    Besides, there is nothing more motivating than worthy competition.

    And the most important thing is that the only way for blogging to grow is to establish a friendly, growing community like IFB.
    .-= Alice´s last blog ..Jewellery vs. Accessories =-.

  23. queenbee

    You guys all brought up some great points! I’m glad to hear people have information they share and and others they don’t share. I was feeling bad about not sharing certain contacts and other information, but I see that even in this online opensource community, some things are kept to yourself.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to post! 🙂
    .-= queenbee´s last blog ..Comfy Sweater Dresses =-.

  24. Grace

    I love what Alice said a few comments above this one: “Besides, there is nothing more motivating than worthy competition”.

    How true. Why wouldn’t we want other bloggers to succeed? Isn’t challenge what forces us to grow? And besides that matter, blogging is all about community. The best way to build a community is to reach out to other bloggers, and I firmly believe that means helping out where you can.

    So I try not to have secrets I keep from my readers. Of course, as mentioned earlier, there is such a thing as integrity and we need to uphold that value when it comes to privileged information.

    Love Grace.
    .-= Grace´s last blog ..As If… =-.

  25. WendyB

    When it comes to my design business, I don’t give away client lists or design/manufacturing tips. I only give wholesaler/manufacturer names to other designers I think are truly deserving and who are willing to help me too.

    As for the blog, though, what’s really secret? Layouts and widgets can easily be copies. And I just put together a huge, detailed list of “online responsibilities” for someone else. Someone suggested to me that that list could be considered a trade secret. I wavered over it but decided that just because it’s written down (and a lot of it is common sense) doesn’t mean anyone will actually be able to DO it the way I would do it. So who cares if they know it. I can afford to be charitable.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..Outfit Photo by Bill Cunningham of the New York Times =-.