I want to write about Swaps and I want this to be upbeat and positive.
I have been in some bad ones, (haven't we all) and don't want to dwell on the negative.
I have also been in some amazing swaps where I was the receiver of a box , that once opened, made me feel overwhelmed with love and affection.
What's the difference?
*Bad ones are usually late, if they arrive at all and seem to be put together without thought. Random bits of detritus from around the house or maybe even items meant for the rubbish bin but re-gifted to fulfill their swap agenda.
*Good ones are usually on time, if not early, wrapped in tissue, if not wrapping paper, so that it feels like care was taken. Even a tea bag or a chocolate bar becomes special when wrapped.
*In some cultures, wrapping is as important as the gift and much thought is given to the color and symbolism evoked when wrapping and presenting a gift.
Idea: Using brown paper from grocery bags and a bit of raffia with a dried sprig of eucalyptus (or any bit of nature) is nice and a pleasant surprise when opening a swap box rather than something just put together and mailed.
Find it: Stores like Dollar Tree and Big Lots and Dollar General are great places to look for inexpensive tissue, ribbon, wrapping paper and bows.
Idea: If the swap has a theme, which most of them do, then stick to the theme by keeping it color coordinated or even do a little artwork on your tissue or wrapping paper to make it match. Like stamping- if you feel you can't draw then stamp a design or carve a potato and stamp with it. Cut pictures from magazines to glue on- it looks great to have flowers or cupcakes or whatever decorating the packages- as long as you do it to all of them then the impression is one of unity and the message is clear- They thought about you and you are special because they took the time to make it nice.
After all, why are you doing the swap anyway?
What is your agenda?
The Swap Mama is in charge of the swap and she normally will post the swap information on her Blog letting everyone know the Swap Rules.
The Rules should clearly state:
* What: The Swap Theme
*Who is eligible to participate- (some swaps limit to USA because of postage rates and if you have a Blog to share the swap experience)
*Where: The email address to contact the swap mama or if you sign up on that particular post.
* When: Deadlines: For signing up and for mailing out swap packages.
* Why! Why indeed?
This activity called Blogging has brought about a new facet to our communication- Anyone who has access to a computer can now make the decision to Blog and participate in Blog Cultural Events like Meme's, Blog Awards and Swaps.
Try to explain these concepts to someone who has never read a Blog.
The blank stares and questioning looks are enough to make you shut up and change the subject.
Non Bloggers just don't get it.
Friends/Relatives/Husbands/Wives/Significant Others/ may not understand that you are swapping things that you have spent hours of your time and creativity on, along with purchased items that (they would love), to possibly receive something of lesser value or monetary worth.
So Why do it?
1. Because it gives you a challenge.
When the Swap Mama lays out the theme it must spark something within you that makes you want to sign up!
Sometimes it gives you something to look forward to- like a Birthday or First Date With a Hottie.
2. Blog Badges! Dress up your sidebar!
Or it could be that you want the credibility of having participated in a swap. Some swaps require that you have successfully participated in at least one other swap. You prove this by wearing your flare and linking to your post on that particular swap.
They usually have a button or widget that can be copied and pasted to your Blog Sidebar, linking you to the hostess Swap mama and letting your blog Visitors know that you like to swap.
If the swap you are considering signing up for doesn't have a button or widget, email them first to ask- it could just be an oversight in the Swap Mama's enthusiasm for hosting a swap or they may not know how to make one.
3. Because you love getting gifts in the mail.
The anticipation of a swap package is like Christmas morning when you were a kid or your Birthday. It is a delicious mix of anxiety and impatience and happiness tickling the back of your mind with a big pink feather of a thought- what will you get?.
4. Because you love to give.
We all know people who love to give- the ones who can always be counted on to be generous and thoughtful. They are usually more comfortable with giving than receiving. I won't go into the psychology of this but I will say that sometimes you can give too much! By making your swap package so nice that there is no way that the other person can match it so they don't even try!
You have just shot yourself in the gift horse by being too generous, too extravagant and the poor recipient has no way to match your expectations!
Its tough to give just a little when you are big hearted Hannah and want to have a wonderful swap encounter.
You are trying!
You don't know them- they are a stranger- do you even want to be friends with them after the swap?
Is the swap the important thing, here?
Is it really about reaching out to another human being with love and kindness? Or is it about the increased stats and visitors you'll also receive by being a part of the swap?
* Maybe you are doing this swap to get your name on the list of the Swap Mama's Big Blog and you need and want the traffic to increase the stats to your site.
*I never thought about how to attract more readers beyond making sure Google, Blogger, Tecnorati, My Space and FaceBook were all covered. Web Feeds and alerts let the peeps know you have just Blogged.
They are the breadcrumbs to lure the bluebirds of happiness my way. I want more readers but don't actively pursue them.
*Then I went about actually investigating ways to get more readers- one of the ways is to host an event and make all the participants link back to you- this is why its a wonderful Web- it links and grows larger with each new click, because other Bloggers share that information and new people come to read your Blog.
It isn't bad, or shallow, its just good sense, if your Blogging wish is to get the word out about your stuff- if you have a small, homey Blog then you probably don't care- if your main goal is to show pictures of Junior to Grandma 3 states away.
So that brings us back around to why.
Maybe you collect ATC's or Doll Quilts or Paper Dolls and you get in swaps so that you have a chance to participate with other Artist's whose work you would love to own but can't afford.
* The theme of the Swap is what hooks me- I wanted to have a wall full of wonderful Doll Quilts and now I do!
Its a gamble- you never know who your partner might be!
You may have so many disappointing experiences that you vow to
Never Swap Again, at least until the next one grabs you!
As soon as you are notified with your swap partners information- it is polite to go and shake hands and introduce yourself.
Email them and say hi.
Let them know that you are friendly and available to discuss the swap.
If your Swap Mama has gathered info for you then now is the time to confirm it- like favorite colors and likes/dislikes.
If it is a secret swap then you must not tell and so you can't email them and say hi!
This covert type of swap is good and bad.
If you are a good swap partner then you will sneakily go investigate their Blog and maybe Flickr site (if they have one) and look for clues as to what they may enjoy receiving from you.
If you are a bad swap partner you won't take the time and are just gonna give what you want and hope it's enough or that they will like it.
It may be a secret swap and you may get to be friends after the swap because the other person appreciates the time and effort that you took to give them a nice box.
If you Don't Want To Give- Don't Do The Swap.
If you Don't Have The Time- Don't Do The Swap.
If you are expecting something awesome then sometimes it might be better to choose to swap individually with someone.
* I once was so knocked out by some doll quilts that I emailed the Artist's and asked them if I could swap something for it and we worked it out- I made them aprons and they swapped me quilts!
* Swap Unto Others What You Would Have Them Swap Unto You.
Yes, it's as simple as that.
The Golden Rule.
Communicate- if you are going to be late then email them and tell them- once the Due Date has come and gone and they are left sad and lonely by their forlorn and empty mailbox it's TOO LATE TO APOLOGIZE!!!
Most people will forgive you and will be relieved to know that you are going to give them something.
Now, of course there are variables- you may have a legitimate reason for being late- *I tend to put too much time in and am late because of that or am doing too many different projects all with different deadlines and I get overwhelmed and jammed up.
I figure that when they finally get that swap box from me they will be so thrilled that they will forgive my tardiness.
*Sometimes the Swap Mama's extend the deadlines or allow you to drop out and then they should cover your swap partner by either making something up themselves or posting that they need some swap angels to intercede and help out.
Personally, in my opinion, if the Swap Host has initiated the swap then they are responsible for making sure that all the players have gotten something in return.
There is nothing sadder or more disappointing than not getting your swap package
*I Blog about Swaps and Invite my Cyber Friends to Join in The FUN. It isn't fun when I have led them into a transaction that isn't reciprocal.
The Unrequited Swap.
If you are still reading this then you are waiting for me to talk about the bad swaps and I really don't want to.
Don't make me relive the disappointment.
Suffice it to say that someone ran out of time, money, enthusiasm or ideas.
*Once I opened a swap box that looked like she had cleaned her sewing room and given me the discards along with the swept up strings, threads and buttons from her floor. Now, she was from another country (Italy) so I cut her some slack, but she didn't make "the theme object" very well- in fact it wasn't even what the theme was- I don't think it translated well in her language.
After having that bad experience I still felt good about what I had made and sent (to Australia) and that was enough.
So, if you are bored, or need inspiration or just love giving then by all means find a Swap and do it. Join Swap Bot and have at it!
Think about why you want to participate and what it means to give, to share, to trade.
A fair swap should be equal in value if not time and that is tough to juggle when they should go out before the deadline and you don't know what you are getting until you have actually received it.
So, go with the Golden Rule and you can't go wrong.
*Any more suggestions- Please leave a comment and I will add them here.
It is my personal belief that Blogging can make the world a better place by allowing us to meet and become cyber friends with folks from all over the world.
To learn to be giving when it's not in your nature may take a lifetime, but rewarding in the end.
If we give our time then that means we care because we all have the same amount of hours in each day.
To spend them on someone else is unselfish and loving.
We should be able to control how we spend our free time and if we use it by making things to give to "strangers" then it is because we want to.
It gives us a good feeling inside to give.
So maybe not having an expectation is the way to successfully give a gift but remember a Swap is just that.
This for That.
You do have an expectation that you will receive something nice.
If you don't, then tell your Swap Mama and let her know- don't just say oh well and be unhappy- give the Hostess a holla and see if she will make it better-
Fair is Fair.
Now, with that off my chest and with a lighter heart I am going to go work on some of my last swaps of the year.
I just wanted to put this out there for your consideration- if someone Googles Swap Etiquette maybe they will read this and have a better understanding of some swap guidelines.
Lets keep the good spirit in swapping instead of allowing the bad ones to ruin the Hope for Shared Joy that they Bring.
Thanks for Listening,
I forgot to cover this but it's important too- when you get your swap box then please let the person know. Take the time to email them.
Some swaps require you to post about it or add pictures to The Flickr Group if there is one.
*I swapped a doll quilt once that was never shown on the Flickr Group and that led me to believe that she must not have liked it- whether that is true or not is debatable but that was how it made me feel.She might have forgotten or didn't have batteries for her camera- But she never did and that made me feel disappointed. I wished I had not spent so many hours on something that I feel certain is not loved or wanted. Her tastes were probably much simpler that the collaged chaos I gave her. Not every swap is going to Rock, no matter how hard you try- that's the risk you run in signing up, so just be aware of it.
For me the process of creating is what makes me the happiest- it isn't about what I get in return, it's about the image of their face lighting up with delight when they look at something I made just for them.
When I write that it all just sounds so crazy.
oh, the calamity!