Inspiration from Pinterest

I joined Pinterest. It’s a closed beta so you have to ask for an invitation. I was sent mine within 24 hours so it’s not a long wait. I like the site. I know there are others out there with the same theme, the same plan. But, there is something about Pinterest that makes it stand out for me. For one thing I don’t see a lot of sploggy links. The photos on the boards really are unique and interesting. When I found the site I knew it was going to be one I would be coming back for.

Some common sense rules sent in email (below). I like what they wrote about setting the tone for the community. It’s very true! I don’t think everyone thinks about this when they begin their “shameless self promotion”. I hope Pinterest can keep their community.

A few tips to get the most out of Pinterest:
– Install the bookmarklet. It lets you add a pin from any website with just one click.
– Follow a few more pinboards. After all, Pinterest is as much about discovering new things as it is about sharing.
– Pin carefully! As one of the first members of Pinterest, your pins will help set the tone for the whole community. Use big images, write thoughtful descriptions, and pin things you really love. Also, no nudity 🙂

A good plan for any site or network you belong to:

Pinterest Etiquette: Try to…
Be Nice!
Be Creative. The best pinboards mix products, art, recipes and images from all across the web. Try not to pin everything from a single source.
Give Credit. If you blog about an item you found on Pinterest, it’s nice to credit your fellow pinners by linking back to the original pin.

My account on Pinterest.

WordPress Snow Where Ever you Go

I’ve begun using WP Effects to bring a few stray snowflakes to my blog this month. With WP Effect you can set it to have a massive snowstorm or just a trickle. I thought a trickle was enough. If I look out my window chances are I can see more snow, if I want to. I don’t mind the snow really. It gets rid of a lot of bugs and other living and sub-living things. A harder Winter gives me an easier Summer with my asthma.

Anyway, I thought I would make a list of snowy plugins for anyone who likes the idea and wants to do the same. I found WP Beginner has done the same but only mentioned one plugin, there are actually a few and each is a bit different (of course).

  • WP Effects is the snow plugin I am using right now. The snowflakes are big, they remind me of those huge soft flakes that fall when it is pretty mild outside. I like those Winter days. This plugin will also let you choose other image files or add those you make yourself. You can use them for falling leaves, raindrops, lucky clovers, as you desire. With WP Effects you can set the amount of snowfall to blizzard or a single snowflake.
  • Snow, Balloons and More – This one also lets you choose different images files, snow speed and other options. One good feature I like is being able to put the snow on a timer and have it turn off for someone who is staying on your blog to read awhile. The snow could be distracting for a reader so this is a good thing.  This same page has a link for a fireworks and birthday balloon plugin as well. A very feature rich plugin.

Plugins for snow only:

  • Snowstorm shows you how to customize the script yourself. You can give your snowflakes a blue tinge, set them to twinkle and set the amount of snow to be falling. The flakes here are small white dots, some might like the smaller image. The plugin author also offers a script to have Christmas lights along the top of your blog. They will all break if you hover your mouse over them.
  • Javascript Snowflake Generator – Not a lot of information about the script other than a screenshot. It works just fine and was updated in November (2010) but I don’t know if it has any extra features to make it more adaptable.

You can set up a plugin which gives you snow people on your blog. They load once and then give a Merry Christmas and go away. Very cute.

As an extra, I just noticed that Island Paradise, one of the few Facebook games I still play, has just added snow to their game. It looks very pretty. How long does it take you to become saturated with pretty? I know there will be some people complaining about the use of snow in the game or on weblogs too. Some people just are that way, overly critical and Grinchy. I don’t take them seriously until it’s been snowing at least a week on my blog. Then, they might have reason to feel it’s snowed long enough. Still, it is up to me to decide how much snowfall there will be. I still like it!

You Don’t Need an Image with Each Blog Post

Why are you adding an image/ graphic/ photo to your blog post? Because someone said to do it that way? Because people are visual and need the extra stimulus? Because the print magazines (or some popular blog you read) does it that way?

Rethink that plan. The images added to blog posts for the sake of adding images to blog posts are over done. Unless they really add something, like instructions, or some other practical purpose, they just add to the general clutter. Blog readers are becoming both ad blind and image blind due to the overload of useless stuff thrown at them.

  • Your words can (should be able to) stand on their own. If not, rewrite, rather than illustrating something that isn’t there.
  • Your blog does not need an image just for the sake of having an image.  Is adding an image worth a slower load time, a cluttered layout? How many times do you read a blog and see images that fail to load?
  • What does the image really add to your post? What does a random image stuck into your post say about you? Does it say you are creative, crafting a well thought out post, or just another blogger following the pack mentality?
  • If you are not creating your own images you are giving a lot of time and space to promoting the work of someone else. You also risk having the original artist objecting to the use of the image, or the way it has been used.

So, what do you do to keep your blog visually orientated and appealing? Don’t be afraid to get creative, it doesn’t have to be a great work of art, it just needs to be something meaningful, interesting and relevant to the post you are making.

  • Use your own work. Make your photos, graphics or images a feature, worthy of having their own post.
  • Start your own weekly/ monthly web comic. Stick to a schedule that suits you.
  • Doodle something. Use your own hand drawn illustration, it will always be uniquely you.
  • Take a look at text art. Use your keywords in a new way. Just don’t go crazy with it. Moderation in all things.
  • ASCII art is a retro text art and takes time to work on. Don’t steal the ASCII art you find online any more than you would another image.
  • Add an image of yourself, the real person behing the blog to illustrate the posts you write. This is, at least, sincere content and gives readers a real connection to you.
  • Go back to basics, give the odd post it’s own unique background. Don’t over use this either. Think of it as a highlighter pen for your best post of the week/ month.
  • Use subheaders to break up the text. Bold a sentence that sums up your post. You don’t have to stick to basic black.
  • If your blog looks bland to you and you want to add colour change your font colours, try out some jewel tones in blue, green, or red.
  • Add a graphic file with your signature to the bottom of your posts instead of using an image at the top of the post.
  • Skip images. Christmas is special because it comes once a year. Why not use that theory for images you add as well. Make them something unusual by not using them everyday.

Text Art on Twitter

The biggest struggle with posting ASCII art anywhere was always the formatting. Trying to get your work to use a fixed width font so it doesn’t come out all warped looking. Also, making sure you added carriage returns at the end of each line of text. If you missed one you would soon find out if you posted it somewhere outside of the Notepad file you created the art in.

I don’t know how the Twitter art is posted. That may be as complicated as making the art itself. A lot of the Twitter art seems to be design versus a picture/ image. The designs are nice. But, as an ASCII artist from the olden days, I am biased to love artists who use text to make images and manage to get them to post.

For a quick look at the most recent text art on Twitter search for the hash tags:

  • #140Art
  • #TwitterArt
  • #SymbolArt

140 Artist on Twitter and the site 140 Art.com

tw1tt3rart on Twitter

T_witterArt on Twitter

twart1st on Twitter and Twitter Artist’s blog

Newmoticons on Twitter and a tumblog.

ASCII_Art on Twitter – Not really ASCII Art but Twitter art and text art.

Daniel Rehn has a Twitter Art list.

TwingDings for Twitter

TwitClipArt – Twitter Drawings Library

Squidoo: One Line Art for Twitter – A good start to practice with. Try other ASCII art sites to find more one line art or begin creating your own.

Picons: Your Personal Icon

Picons are an old idea that can be new again. A picon is a personal icon. Much like the favicon created for a site or blog, the picon is for yourself. Another chance to use the popular self branding plan. Have you already got a picon which you use to represent yourself, an avatar? If so, just shrink it down to be icon sized.

From a FAQ about picons – They’re small, constrained images used to represent users and domains on the net, organized into databases so that the appropriate image for a given e-mail address can be found. Besides users and domains, there are picons databases for Usenet newsgroups and weather forecasts. The picons are in either monochrome XBM format or color XPM and GIF formats. Picons in all formats are constrained to be 48 by 48 pixels in size.

Steve Kinzler has the Picon FAQ  which is linked above and a  Picons archive on his site. The FAQ was last updated in 2005. Seems we could be bringing picons back into fashion. Picon yourself today!

Simple SEO for Your Site

Have a look at URL Appraisal for fun, mainly. See what it says your domain is worth. I think anything not on it’s own domain is already going to score low from this SEO based site. WordGrrls was appraised at $512.80.

I had a look at what they recommend for simple things you can do for SEO (search engine optimization). Two of them are things I am going to work on today:

3. Take advantage of alt and title tags in your URLs and images. When creating an image or link within your HTML, you have the option of including a TITLE attribute in URLs and an ALT attribute to1 images. Use these fields to add additional text about the link/image. This text is picked up by search engine spiders and can add to the keyword content of your pages.

7. Make sure you take advantage of meta tags like keywords and descriptions. Many sites often overlook meta tags. There are a large number of these tags you can add to your html pages to help give search engines a better idea of what’s in your site. Two tags in particular, the description and keywords tags, allow you to write a description of each page and also list relevant keywords contained within your site. Use these on every page of your entire site.

I may go the lazy way and see if I can find a plugin to play around with the meta tags. That way I don’t need to look at my HTML code to add a few words or change a spelling error I am bound to notice once I’ve had it up for a few weeks.

For the titles with links, I’m pretty sure that is set up for you in WordPress already. I’ve just ignored it up to now. So I will vow to do better. It is just adding a description to the link you are typing in. The description you type in will appear if someone hovers their mouse over the clickable link. It is a good thing. You may have noticed it on other sites and wondered how they did that. Now you know! it would be nice if Blogger picked up on this too.

Macro Photos for Your Site

Take a photo of something up close. If your camera can take macro shots do that. Work on getting the focus exactly right, it makes a huge difference.

It is surprising how much you see when you can really study the detail of something you might see every day. Macro photos also make very unique and interesting background images. Could you take several and offer them on your site? Never a bad idea to offer a few freebies when you can. Especially when the freebies really are free and really are worth having.

Homesick for the Home Planet

You’re on another planet, the Ambassador to Earth for a bunch of aliens who are very nice but all look a lot like fish. As a gift of thanks for all your work on their behalf, the Prime Minister for one of the alien countries has given you what looks like a snowglobe but can actually show you images of Earth, changing each time you tip it. Sitting in your hotel room one night, all alone, having just finished your dinner of what looked a lot like fish food, you get out the snowglobe. It makes you homesick, more than any other time in your life, to be so far away from all that you know.

Write about being homesick, the things and people you miss. What would you have brought from Earth to the other planet? What one small thing that you take for granted would you miss the most?

Don’t Bore Yourself

When your writing bores even you it’s time to get a grip and make something change. Here are ideas from – “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves.

Lazy Writers

Play word games, experiment with language, audition words. Use the thesaurus, appropriate a set of paint chips from Home Depot and study the names of colours, take sensory inventories, practice dialogue, eavesdrop on conversations, read Raymond Carver, Pam Houston, Don DeLillo, Lorrie Moorre. Reread your work and mark doors and windows. Open and enter during writing exercises.

Same Old Territory Writers

Free-write using the writing exercise prompts, writing only new material for the next month. No rewriting or editing allowed! Ban those characters from any further appearances in any stories from now on. Send them to the Retirement Home for Overused Characters. Flip everything: gender, age, profession, politics, hair colour, diction, intelligence, geography, sexual preferences, Everything.

Holding Back

Ask what it was exactly that made something terrible? In what ways was it difficult? What did the pain feel like? Use concrete details and specific images. Use words that describe the terrible, difficult, painful. Write through the cliché with a fresh simile or metaphor. Ask what a broken heart feels like, looks like. What other body parts are affected and how? Find fresh images. Go to your own experience, bring to mind a memory of a time you were brokenhearted, when you sobbed like a child, when you flew into a rage: describe your behaviour and your feelings. Take the time to stay with the feeling and write down what you experience.

Playing Safe

Write what matters. Be a passionate writer. Don’t waste time writing about anything you don’t care about. Also, for a reader to be involved in what she’s reading, something must be at stake. There must be some kind of tension in the writing to keep the reader’s attention. Crank up the heat, put some obstacles in the way of your characters. When a writer is playing safe you can bet the censor or critic is somehow nearby.

Too Comfortable

Just like the antidote for Playing Safe, this writer needs to create some tension, crank up the heat, experience a little confusion. Recommended: change the time and place of the daily writing practice. Raise the bar to more pages everyday. Switch genres, try something new. Don’t fit so easily in the groove, feel the bumps and ridges, the sharp edge. Let your writing surprise you, keep you awake at night. If a writer is too comfortable, you can be there aren’t any risks being taken. No risks = boring writing.