Curbside Classic Writer’s Guide
CC is a collaborative site that exists in substantial part to encourage and facilitate readers to share their CC finds and tell the stories of the cars that interested or affected them in some way or another. If you’d like to join the ranks of the CC Contributors, here are all the tools and information necessary.
This Guide is broken into two parts; Part 1 includes the detailed step-by-step instructions to drafting your own post using Word Press, and Part 2 covers general Content Guidelines and related information.
Part 1: Step By Step Instructions For Creating A New Word Press Post:
In order to have access to the “back end” of CC to create your post, you need to have been upgraded to Contributor (or higher) status. You must have registered with an account at CC, and then notify me with your user name so that I can upgrade your status.
When you’re logged in, go to Site Admin, and now that you’re an Author/Contributor, you’ll have more access from the Dashboard back there. On the left sidebar menu, look for Posts, hover your cursor over it to access the Posts submenu, and click Add New (Post). There’s also an Add New button right up at the top in Posts.
You’ll then see a “blank page” awaiting your input (above).
VERY IMPORTANT: At this time, DO NOT switch from the default Visual Editor to the Text Editor (the two tabs on the upper right corner of the upper menu bar). The Visual Editor (not to be confused with the Image Editor) is a What You See Is What You Get (WYSWYG) Editor, which has a number of automatic functions, simplifies the creation of posts, and shows the post in a close approximation of how it will look on the final page. The Text Editor is strictly html, the underlying software language of web design. It does not include certain automatic functions, like centering images, adding a gray border around them, etc.
Contributors using the Text Editor, either accidentally or purposely, have been by far the biggest source of recurring (and highly annoying/unnecessary) issues. If you use the Text Editor, and don’t know how to make the post conform to our standards, it may not be accepted for publication.
The Text Editor can be very handy for fixing certain issues with a post, such as getting rid of html codes for font styles or spacing issues, but it should only be used if you know what you are getting into, or experienced with html. Unfortunately, even experienced html users who draft their posts in the Text Editor all-too often forget to compensate for the automatic functions of the Visual Editor, so even if you’re familiar with html, please use the Visual Editor.
Headlines: The headline goes in the obvious place, and just follow the usual format (All Headline Words Start With Caps).
Curbside Classic: 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air – The Bat-Winged Wing Ding
Curbside Classics start with that, a colon, and the year Make and Model. Then a hyphen and a subtitle. Here’s your chance to be creative: give it a shot, or leave it blank, and I’ll do it. Strictly speaking, headlines are the Editor’s prerogative, so your headline submission might get changed.
Non-CC posts have their own headline lead-in: CC Outtake, Automotive History, CC Capsule, COAL, etc…
Categories: Go to “Categories” on the right sidebar, and check the one(s) that apply, but only the one (or two), not just any you think might vaguely apply. The fewer the better, preferably just one. In the case of a CC, that would be “Curbside Classics” and “Curbside Classics American Brands “, or other categories as are appropriate to your post.
Tags: They can be helpful to an internal search/organization, but in reality we don’t use them. Our search by Google does an excellent job of finding posts. So generally it’s left blank.
Then start writing your text, or copy and paste your text from any other source.If you’re pasting in text from another source, it’s possible that code containing info about font style/size and spacing may be copied over too. That can sometimes create problems.
A straight copy from a Word doc. or such usually is just fine. But if it’s from something like an e-mail body, or some other sources, it may look weird. If there are unusual breaks, try to delete them. If it’s still looks odd, you might have to go into the Text Editor, and look for spurious html code at the head of each paragraph and delete it. One can switch back and forth between the Visual and Text editors.
Insert Read More tag: You’re going to add a hard “page break”, the Insert Read More Tag after the opening paragraph by placing your cursor at the end of the first paragraph and clicking the appropriate icon on the menu bar just above the text (below headline). After the hard break, I recommend inserting an extra blank line before you add more text or pictures.
Note: The most repeated mistake is to forget the “Insert More Tag”. (hard page break). If you forget it, the whole post in its entirety will show up on the front page. Not cool.
Insert photos or images: create an extra blank line above or between text paragraphs (Enter), and place the cursor there.
Note: We always start with an image at the very top of every post, followed by the opening paragraph. The image should be of the primary subject, so that a reader scanning the front page instantly has a visual idea of what this post is about.
Look for the Add Media icon just above the menu bar on the left side, and click it. Click Upload Files,
and then Select Files, which will allow you to upload from your own files the image you want to upload and insert, by clicking it and then Open.
After the image has fully uploaded, you will see it in the Media Gallery, as well as on the upper right.
Attachment Display Settings: Now go to the lower right corner and set the three options for Attachment Display settings to: Alignment: center. Link to: Media File. Size: 600 x XXX (450, in this case). Once these settings have been set, there will be no more need to reset them for this post and subsequent posts. If these are not set properly, images may not be centered, and will not pop up to larger size when clicked on by the reader.
Then click “Insert into post” (blue button on bottom right of screen), and the image will appear in your post.
Update: the following section on Image Sizing/Image Editor is largely no longer necessary if the Attachment Display Settings have been correctly set. I’m leaving it here in case it is necessary to go back and make changes to your images size, etc, after it has already been inserted. But there is useful info about image sizing in general.
Image Sizing/Image Editor: Note: This is one of the most crucial, and sometimes confusing aspects to the whole process. Although the maximum size that an image can appear on the published page is 600 pixels width, CC does allow larger images to be uploaded, so that when a reader clicks on the image, the larger size will appear on their screen. This is a useful feature for those with small screens, etc., to see the image in greater detail.
The maximum size that CC supports is 1200 pixels width; much larger images would begin to tax our server. You don’t have to upload a larger than 600 pixel image, but you are welcome to.
If your original image is larger than 1200 pixels wide, CC will automatically reduce it to 1200 during the upload. If you’re uploading very large images, the upload may take longer, and possibly time out, meaning the upload will be aborted. The preferred option is to reduce your images to 1200 before you upload them, via various free image editing software (like Photoscape).
When you have inserted an image into the post that is larger than 600 pixels width (like the one above, which is 900 pixels wide), it then needs to be reduced using the built in Image Editor. This will reduce it to 600 for the published page, but the larger image as uploaded will still appear as soon as a reader clicks it on.
Image Editor: (left) click on the image. The Image Editor menu bar will drop down, at the top center of the image. Click on the Edit (pencil) icon.
Click on the Size menu (arrow).
Select Custom Size, and then enter 600 in the Width box. The Height will automatically follow proportionately. Now hit the blue Update button on the bottom.
For large vertical (portrait) images, it is often better to reduce the width to less than 600, otherwise the image will appear to be dominate the post excessively. Of course, if you want an image smaller than 600 for stylistic reasons, that’s fine too. 600 is the maximum width size in order for the image not to be cut off on the right side on the published page.
Having reduced the image to 600, it now looks like this. But note: the spacing of images and texts in the Visual Editor (as being composed) is not quite the same as how it will look published.
At any time, hit Preview/Preview Changes, in the upper right corner, and a new tab will appear that will show you how it will look when published. Note that the image is centered (automatically), and has the CC-requisite gray border around the image, and none of it is cut off. This image is now properly inserted and sized.
Captions: I’m not a fan of the captioning images using the built-in caption function, because it tends to mess up spacing, and I just don’t like the look. I prefer to describe what is in the image in the text below the image (always below, not above). But if you want to use it, write the caption text as shown above.
It will look like this.
If I add a caption to attribute/credit an image, I prefer to do it by a line of text, centered and italicized, like this. (Image crediting/attribution will be covered in Part 2).
Continuing to draft your post: Write or paste your next paragraph of text, or all of it, if you prefer to do that first before adding images. Add a blank line (Enter) above the paragraph where you want to insert an image or video.
Inserting a Video: In this case, it will be a video. Copy the url (web address) from the browser of the video you want to insert, and then just paste it in that blank line, and the video will appear. If the video is already in another website, click on the YouTube icon to see it directly at YouTube, and get the url from there directly.
Finishing up the text/body of the post: Continue to create/paste text, and insert images until finished. It’s best to end with text, and not an image, so there’s some break between it and the Google Ad that appears at the end of each post.
Featured Image: The last thing to do is to is “Set Featured Image”. That will end up as a thumbnail along with the title on the “Recent CCs” menu, as well the image when the post is on the second (or more) page. Pick which shot you think would work best, but use one that has the normal 4:3 aspect ratio, otherwise it will not appear fully. I generally use the same image as the one very top of the post.
Click on the Set Featured Image, and it will take you to the Media Library, where all uploaded images reside. Presumably the image you want to use will be there, having been uploaded for the post. Select it (click it), and click Set Featured Image on the right lower corner.
The Featured Image will now appear there.
Preview Your Post: In order to see how the images (and all of your post) will look when published, you’ll need to check it in “Preview” (Under the Publish Section top right), because the picture’s relative size is not quite the same in the Post Editor. In Preview, pictures should have a gray border on all four sides. If the picture in Preview doesn’t have the gray border on all four sides, it’s (presumably) too big. The right side will be cut first. Reduce it until you see the right border in Preview, or even smaller.
Images are normally inserted centered (default), but if for some reason it’s not, the Image Editor can also be reset for Left, center or Right.
Also, check to make sure that there is appropriate spacing between all the images and the paragraphs of text. It doesn’t look good if there’s not a blank line both above and below each image.
Media Library: All pictures uploaded will also go to the Media Gallery automatically. So if there’s something not right, or whatever, delete it from the post and reload it from the Media Library instead of “Upload Files”.
Update Your Post: It;s recommended to hit Update from time to time, so as to reduce the risk of losing any of your work due to a system error or human error. If you do lose something, the system does do automatic saves every so often, and your latest changes may be saved in a browser save, which you may be prompted to in the case there is a difference between your latest save and an error.
Missing Cursor: For some reason, it sometimes goes AWOL. Hit Save Draft, or Update (if you’re editing it after Publication). That will bring it out of hiding.
Problems with Image Uploads: If you have weird delays or time outs or the image won’t upload all the way, hit “Save Draft”, and that often clears up the issue.
Editing: I (or one of the other Editors) will try to check posts for obvious historical and grammar/typo issues, but the goal is for all Authors to be self-publishing, and responsible for the look, accuracy, grammar, etc of your posts. If we spend too much time editing, it takes us away from our own writing. We try to walk a middle path: fix the obvious, and accept that some minor mistakes and typos might slip through.
Editing A Piece Already Edited or Posted: Just make the changes you want directly in the text, and hit Update, Or Preview Changes, to check them first.
Part 2. Content Guidelines: CC is not static and will undoubtedly evolve. But the core of the content is of course defined by the subtitle: Every Car Has A Story. That’s obviously a very big tent. And if you’ve visited the site for a while, you’re undoubtedly familiar with all that entails, everything from cars themselves, personal histories with cars, unique finds, cars in tv and movies, and all sorts of other vehicles other than cars too. If it’s connected to wheeled objects, and it makes for interesting reading, it’s fair game, so there’s no need to explain it further, except for a few general guidelines and a few limitations.
Our content is roughly broken into long and short posts. The long ones are (of course) the Curbside Classics (CC), Automotive History (AH), Auto-Biography (AB) Cars Of A Lifetime (COAL), as well as any other features like CC Travelogues, etc.
What mainly separates the first three from the Blog posts is that they are our feature articles; longer in length, more in-depth, and with more original content and thought.
These posts will be archived in their respective Portals on the right side of the front page. That’s a key distinction from most automotive blogs: we are building a library that readers will find directly, or through google searches.
There is no hard and fast minimum or maximum length to these features. I’d suggest that 500-600 words might be a minimum. Typically, CCs and such tend to run about 800 – 2000 words, but I recommend staying to the lower side of that unless the piece is really well researched, written or compelling in some other way.
Curbside Classics: The core product. The preference is of course for cars found on the streets, driveways and parking lots, and still being used. One of the core aspects of CC is to document and honor the older cars that are still out there earning their keep. Authenticity is the watch-word. I personally avoid car shows, and the perfectly restored garage queens that one sees plenty of on sunny Sundays. But because car shows and such offer so much opportunity to shoot cars otherwise hard to find, we have started a Car Show Classics category as well as Museum Classics, etc…
Curbside Classics cover the full range from very objective to highly personal. A balance of that is ideal, but either direction can work well. If you have a more subjective/personal/contextive approach to a CC, then don’t sweat the historical facts too much. And if the focus is historical, and you can really add something to that, super. But if you just found a car, and lack either of those, just regurgitating some facts from Wikipedia for a CC is not quite enough. Google is your friend.
Regarding originality: We just want to respect other serious auto history sites’ efforts, and not just plunder. There are so many angles to take on any given car, so try to avoid that. The point is to try to either add to the collective knowledge, or explore a new angle.
CC Photographs: Here’s a few basic pointers. The minimum is shots from these angles: frontal, but usually not directly head-on. That works in some cars, but I’ve generally found that having a bit of an angle is better. Front-quarter, side rear quarter, and a rear, also with some deviation from perfectly straight on. Some cars like straight-on front and rear shot; many don’t. Let the car speak to you, or take plenty of shots and go through them at home.
The main thing is to get some decent, clear, high-quality shots. Most phones now do an adequate job, but beware of low-light situations, as well as glaring sunlight.
I always try to get an interior shot from the passenger front side window. You have to get the lens right up to window, and may have to cup it to avoid reflections. I understand that you may be uncomfortable doing this on certain streets. If you can’t get the interior, you can probably find it on the web.
Speaking of, please feel free to use additional pictures from the web for historical perspective within a CC. oldcarbrochures.com is an excellent source, and they claim no copyright. Other photos snipped from the web can be given a credit in the caption line (more on that later); I usually try to give credit, but the reality is, that any photo on the web may well have been passed around a couple of times already. But if it comes from an obvious original source site, credit them, and don’t take more than you need from any one site. Otherwise it feels a bit like plundering.
Re-sizing Photographs: Resizing means to reduce the file size of your shots so that it is easier to handle, as well as to not overload our graphic-rich site. We have set up CC so that it will automatically reduce all uploaded picture files to a maximum of 1200 pixels. But if you’re uploading very large picture files into CC, it may take a while. If you reduce them first, uploading will be faster.
I generally reduce my pictures to 1200 pixels width before uploading to CC. The pictures as they appear when published will be around 600 pixels or so. But if pictures are uploaded at larger sizes (up to the 1200 maximum), then when readers click on the image, it will instantly appear in its full (uploaded) size on their screen.
The question is how many readers click on a picture to see it in its full size? A fair number do. It’s your call. If your pictures are of good quality, I’d certainly suggest giving readers that option. I recommend at least 800 or 950 pixels, unless your images are modest-poor quality, in which case 600 will do.
If you’re not equipped for with either cropping and reducing, I recommend downloading a free editing software, like Photoscape, which I use. Its Editor is easy to use for both functions. Photscape’s Combine function is also a handy way to put two car shots together for a comparison. And it’s easy to fix shots that have a color imbalance or such.
Shooting: Of course, in addition to the basic car shot angles, go for details that catch your eye, or make the car distinctive. And if you want to do a Clue, it’s good to have some close-ups to crop from.
These are the basics; there are plenty of resources out there if you want to improve your photography; one of these days, I may take advantage of them myself. My earliest CC shots are atrocious; what was I thinking?
Two more points on shooting in the street: don’t be timid, or intimidated about it. If the car is on a public street or public parking lot (please note that many parking lots are actually private, if they’re on private property), you have every right to shoot it. And that goes for the license plate too. A few folks seem to harbor some unfounded paranoia about license plates being seen on the web. Sorry; but cars (and plates) are part of the public street scene, and photographers have been shooting cars on the streets for almost forever. Don’t want your car or plates shot? Keep it in the garage, and never drive it again! Or get license plate covers. But feel free to blank out the plates if you want. Photoscape or such offers a paint brush to make it easy.
Occasionally, some folks might get antsy about your intentions and come out of the house: just smile and wave your camera and say you have an obsession about shooting interesting old cars in the street. They just want to know there hasn’t been an accident or you’re trying to steal it. And almost always, they’ll be happy to share something about the car.
Automotive Histories: Pretty self-explanatory. If there’s a subject vaguely related to cars, but it’s not about any specific car, like technology, engines, design, or other aspects of automotive history, then it goes in this category. You’ll probably need to get images from google or such. And it probably wants to be a bit more thoroughly researched. The point is, if you don’t have access to cars to shoot on the street, or want to cover other subject matters, don’t let that stop you. It’s a wide open field.
COAL (Cars Of A Lifetime): A regular CC feature. If you’d like to do a series, let us know, and we’ll get you in line. But one-off or random COALs can run anytime, so help yourself.
Blog Posts: Anything that doesn’t fit in the feature categories.
CC Capsule: Find a car you want to share, but not feeling ambitious? Typically 300 – 500 words, and at least 4 or 5 shots or so.
CC Outtake: Single or just a few shots that are somehow noteworthy. Funny, odd, pathetic, pathos; something to catch the interest of the readers.
Contributors/Authors: There are two levels of access to the back end of CC: Contributors and Authors.
Contributor: If you are an occasional Contributor, or new to CC, you will be assigned Contributor status. Your posts will be “Pending” after you have saved them (need approval before being scheduled or Posted). We check the Pending file from time to time, it’s a good idea to you can send me an e-mail letting us know it’s ready for review and scheduling.
Authors: If you are an author, you schedule and Publish your own posts. The way to do that is to check the Calendar (in Posts), and then carefully set the publication timer to the date and time that is open, and then hit Publish. If you make a mistake, or Publish a post accidentally, you can re-set the timer, and Update it. Just change the date for a later time to get it off the front page.
Essentially, we all create our own schedule for CC. And that’s how the Editorial Staff knows what’s scheduled. In order to review and edit, please schedule 48 hours out, or more.
Scheduling/Programming: The daily featured CC is scheduled for 1 AM (Pacific Time). Subsequent posts are scheduled at two-hour intervals, beginning with 6AM. Note: The timer works on the 24 hour day. Feel free to schedule your CC any day that the 1AM slot is open on the Posts Calendar for a given day.
There is no reason we can’t have two full CCs per day, if enough content is flowing in. But if you schedule a second CC, please have it be as complimentary as possible; (different, and to balance the other). And schedule it for later in the day, like 8, 10 or noon. We strive to balance our posts between old and newer, as well as domestic and international brands. The same goes for CCs scheduled during a given week. Please try to help us prevent too much similarity.
I especially recommend not too many cars prior to the fifties or so. We love them, especially the significant and interesting ones. But we’re not really a “classic car” site in the usual sense, and the biggest demand is for cars of the seventies, eighties, nineties and newer. Our readers particularly like being able to relate to the cars we post about, so they can share their experiences and opinions.
If you’re going to write up an older/”classic” car, do it because you can bring it alive, or say something compelling, not just because you found it.
Needless to say, we may change the publication date (and time) as needed for the best flow of the site. We will try to notify you of that.
Clue: If you want to do a Clue, please try hard to make it difficult enough. Most Clues seem to be guessed almost instantly. It’s best if you shoot some close ups for the Clue ahead of time, so that you have some material to work with. Otherwise, crop something from the biggest size picture. Schedule Clues to run at 3PM or 4PM the day before. If you’re not able to update the Clue with the winner, it’s not a big deal.
Copyright/Legal Stuff: As long as CC does not compensate its writers, we do not have or claim an exclusive publication right to your work. As a courtesy, we naturally expect that you won’t be having the exact same work running elsewhere at the same time, except perhaps at a personal blog or such.
We do have an over-all copyright on what appears on our pages, to protect others from stealing our/your original work and re-running it without permission. Of course, enforcing that is another story.
As to pictures from the web, here’s the general rule of thumb: If the picture can be copied it’s reasonably ok to use it. If you want to be really polite, do so with a link back to the site where you got it. That’s the general blogging protocol, because you’re actually helping them, sending possible new visitors to that site. And since you’re using it in a new, original post, it’s technically “fair use” under the copyright laws.
Any shots you encounter on the web that were originally publicity shots don’t need to be credited, as they have no copyright and were intended to be distributed widely.
But many pictures didn’t originate at the site where you found it; many pictures have been passed around numerous times. That’s why I don’t attribute pictures if I have reason to believe that they are not original to that site. But certain sites, like Hemmings and such are a bit touchy. It’s ok to use one, but link back to it.
Update: the use of images on the web without attribution has become so rampant that I have largely stopped trying to do so. It’s ever-more difficult to know who is the original source. And increasingly, folks who post images to the web accept the fact that they may well be used by others.
Increasingly, google image searches will lead to Flickr or other picture hosting sites. The users can institute a highest level of protection for their pictures (copyright protection fully enabled), and that won’t let you copy it. Respect that. But if it does let you copy it, I would feel ok with using it in your post, with an image source and link just below the image (as with other originating sources).
That’s the general web protocol, Almost all the time, folks are actually pleased to see their pictures given exposure on a large site like ours. That’s a major reason they put their pictures on the web. In doing this for over five years, I’ve never had a complaint, except for a couple of times.