There is an Ice Hockey Photographers Association Niche

Everything has a niche if you just keep looking for it on the Internet. I love finding little groups, even if I don’t have an interest in them personally. It’s just so great to find them existing.

Today I found: Flickr: Ice Hockey Photographers Association

What niche could you be working on? Something interesting to yourself and a group of 2 or 3 people at most? The odd thing about these micro niche topics is how they grow. You start with one person, other than yourself and think that’s nice. But, once people begin to find your niche it just grows and grows.

I began my own niche group on Flickr (years ago). I didn’t do a lot to promote it and there was no SEO involved as far as anything I did. But, my group has over 600 members. Sure some will be forgotten accounts and so on. But, even half that many members is quite amazing for a little niche.

Pick a niche of your own and try it. Put up a free site to start with, post about it on social media and begin making posts to the site. Add photos, add ideas, etc. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Zine Making

Have you ever put together a zine? Do you even know what a zine is?

A zine should be creative with art too. Maybe some fiction or cartoon drawings. Personal essays and rants and artistic commentary all belong in a wide variety of zines I have seen and admired.

If you were going to take on the experiment of publishing your own zine, what would you make it? Once you pull together a plan think of a great name for the zine.

You may never actually put together a zine but you could take an hour to imagine yourself as a trendy, arty, underground or indie publisher of a zine.

What to do With Your Old Cookbooks

blowtorchI like cookbooks but in the digital age they seem to be taking up space and not really being used any longer. Most of the time, when I think of something I want to make I find a recipe online. It’s fast. It may not be the best way to get a really good, reliable recipe, but they usually work out.

Anyway, I’m not a rule abiding, strict recipe follower. I tend to add and subtract to my own tastes and depending on what I have available. This is another reason I like finding recipes online, I can look through a lot of similar recipes and find one which works for the ingredients I have on hand and my food style (I really don’t like mushrooms and onions make me sick).

A cookbook can’t compete against finding a recipe online in that way. But, I still have several cookbooks around. Some are vintage and I can’t quite part with Aunt Emma’s Ukranian cookbook, which includes her personal notes. I’ve also got the old cookbook which may have been my Great-Grandmother’s. All the family cookbooks come with notes from past women (and the odd man too) in our family.

Still, I have a dozen or so cookbooks which I bought many years ago and have not looked at in several years now. I don’t have a really good reason to keep them.

Why Keep or Collect a Vintage Cookbook?

As I mentioned, family history, is a big reason for keeping an old cookbook.

An old cookbook also gives us a taste (literally, if you follow the recipe) of what people made and what they ate in another time. As long as you can understand the language and measurements, anyone can get the old ingredients and try making a dish from hundreds of years ago. By cooking an old recipe you can have a real taste of history. (Or as near as we can get to it with modern ingredients which are chemically infiltrated/ enhanced).

People may collect cookbooks in a specific genre as well. If you grew up in an area or knew your family originally came from another country you would be curious to know what they ate and how they ate it. Cookbook collectors keep books with cooking from regional and ethnic time periods. Or, you may have heard about southern deep fried cooking for years and never tried anything, except in a restaurant. An old cookbook lets you do-it-yourself.

Collecting Old Cookbooks

Could you eat Like Your Ancestors?

Be Creative with Hand-Drawn Images and Scanner Art

Draw and Scan

Start with a scanner. From that one little flat box with a glass screen you can create web graphics from your own freehand drawings and even take it farther and make scanner art.
scannedart
One of the best geekery tools I have bought myself is the small (photo-sized) HP scanner. I splurged on it when I was having a tough day and wanted a pick-me-up, retail therapy. I love the scanner. I knew it would be a great thing for making art. but It’s even better than I expected. You can do more with a scanner than just scan photos.

I’m an amateur when it comes to drawing. I’m not far beyond the whole ASCII art and stick figure stage. However, there are so many things you can do with coloured pencils, gel pens, and different kinds of paper too. You don’t have to draw like an expert to create something unique, colourful and usable. Practice drawing, study some how-to guides for techniques and you will get better at it.

I always draw freehand. People who draw better than I do will start with shapes and sketches, the way most drawing guides and tutorials will show you. I don’t know why I’m so stubborn about sticking to freehand. But, I do like it.

Making Scanner Art

I also clip things out of magazines, sales flyers and the newspaper. The trick with using something you have cut out is to give it a white background. If you add a plain white sheet of paper behind the clipped out picture you will have a much easier time making use of it later. Plus, fewer of your jagged/ cut edges show.

Try placing more than one image (hand drawn and/ or clipped images) on the scanner, like a collage. Experiment and put them in different order, overlap some of them. You can always re-scan the image if you don’t like the first results.

You can add more to your scan than flat paper. I’ve taken everything out of my purse and put that on the scanner, artfully arranged and mildly edited. Have a look at the links to scanner art for some really unique ideas. Real scanner art doesn’t use a camera but often looks that good. It should be right off the scanner too, not touched up with the extra effects which I do when I turn my scans into web graphics.

Keep the window of your scanner clean. Check it for spots of dust or ink from your pens. Anything on that glass will show up on your scan. I use a soft cloth, the microfibre type made for dusting computer screens, so it won’t scratch the glass on my photo scanner.

Resize your Image and Add Text and Special Effects

Once you have your picture or drawing scanned you need to open it in a graphic program to finish it off. Mainly you will want to re-size it and save it to a file type that will work on the web. You can also add text to turn your image into a button, icon or blog header. If you really want to get into designing look at the special effects and other options included with your graphic software.

I used to like the graphic program that came with MS FrontPage, it was simple and straight forward. Now I run Ubuntu Linux (instead of Windows). I’ve started using Gimp and trying various web image editors. Most of the web image editors will give you the basic features you need to turn your image into a web graphic.

Now that your image is scanned and resized, and you have saved it to an image file (.png, .jpg or .gif), it is now an official image. You can load it to anything you like: your blog, your personal site, an email signature, an avatar for your profile, a blog header, any where you can use an image. Images can be tiled for a background or wallpaper. The trick is to measure your image so the pattern matches up.

So, there’s the story of my web graphic ability.

Scanner Art (Scanography)

Pencil Versus Camera

pencil vs camera From my painstaking research (mostly just luck) I found the name for the style of drawing called Pencil versus Camera. Ben Heine (also on Tumblr, 500PX and Flickr) is given credit for the original idea and the style of illustration which uses drawing with photography to create an image where both versions work together. You need to see it, my description just isn’t that good.

Pencil Versus Camera group on Flickr  – A group for others who want to try the pencil versus camera style.

Quantity and Quality for Traffic and Readers

Originally posted to HubPages, March, 2013.

It seems I’m going to be one of those HubPages writers who does things the long, hard way. The way that takes it’s own, sweet time getting here.

I don’t know why I like giving myself hard goals to reach. But, it seems that I do. I set myself the HubPages writing goal to have my traffic badge for the 100K by (or closely after) the end of this year, 2012. But, I’m not getting any flash in the pan wonder traffic posts. So, it seems I am just going to have to keep making my own steady, slow progress.

I might not get 100K by the end of the year and that will be ok too. As long as I feel I am still making progress I will stick with it. It’s only when something seems to have stalled out completely that I begin to think I should be reconsidering the plan. I do tend to stick with things long after the flogging a dead horse idea though.

Don’t think I’m some doddering newbie type. I have paid attention to SEO schemes and even the scams. Most of them are not for me. I have a line drawn where my ethics kick in. If I cross it I just don’t see the point of continuing on. Once you cross your boundaries you’ve lost your original feeling of value in the project and accomplishing your original goal loses it’s worth too.

You Can’t Write for Traffic

What you may not know; there is a difference between traffic and readers.

Readers are the real people who visit your posts, sometimes read right to the end and occasionally leave a comment. Real readers are the people who want you to know they were there. Then there are general readers who maybe didn’t find what they were looking for, thought you could have had a better post or just didn’t quite catch on and stick with you through to the end of your topic.

All kinds of readers are good. Even those who just lurk and don’t let you know they are out there.

Then there is traffic. Traffic is just a number. That’s how I see it. Traffic doesn’t have a face, it may not have a home with a family and goldfish named Henry. Traffic can be something less than human, more likely traffic is a machine, or software and does not have a face at all.

By now you may have realized that traffic doesn’t read your content. Traffic doesn’t care that you spent extra time to pick just the right word. Traffic doesn’t care that your photo illustration was your own photo or that you waited all day for conditions to be just right for that photo. Traffic doesn’t care that you checked all your spelling, grammar and then proofread your post again.

Traffic just cares about keywords and how they can use yours.Traffic is Google, traffic is people looking for content to claim, traffic is a feed reader that no one may actually read… and so on.

You can’t write for traffic. Or, you shouldn’t be writing for traffic.

Build Your Readership by Finding Readers

If you want to build readers you need to go looking for them. Don’t wait and hope Google will come to you. Google is big, like a mountain. The mountain is not likely to come to you.

Today, while writing a post about women and friendship, I found a very interesting site, Finding Dulcinea. It calls itself an online library. Why is this interesting? Look at the site yourself. Chances are you will find something there to read, to find out more about, to spark your interest in some way. It’s a site with information and ideas. Not a web directory, like the ODP, but a gathering of ideas and information, like HubPages itself.

At Finding Dulcinea you can find articles to link to in your own posts. You can find new ideas to write about. You can find more information to add to posts you are writing, plan to write or have already published on HubPages. You can also find the people who wrote those posts!

Finding the person who wrote a post that interests you is a start to finding readers for your own posts. People tend to be interested in the same things, related ideas and information. Follow your writer, track down other sites he or she writes for. Can you find them on Twitter, Facebook or do they have their own blog? Who do they follow? Chances are you will find a lot of great resources.

Keep track of the resources you find. Use them for your own posts. Use them to continue on and find more resources and people. All of the people you find are perspective readers. You just have to help them find you.

Look at the list of resources you have created.

How many are Twitter accounts you could follow?

Don’t just quietly follow someone on Twitter. Announce yourself! This is so important and yet almost no one actually does it! Why not? I get a lot of new Twitter followers and I have to spend my own time to find out who they are and decide if I want to follow them back. How silly. How often do you really think I spend time doing this? Not too often.

If you decide to follow someone on Twitter send them a Twitter post and tell them how you found them, why you are following them, etc. Announce yourself, tell them who you are and give them a reason to choose to follow you back.

How simple was that?!

You can use the Twitter example for any of the social networks. Just adjust as necessary. The concept is the same.

Don’t be spammy. Make sure the note you send is catered to the person you are sending it to. See it from their side/ angle. Why should THEY want to follow YOU? What do you have to offer them?

Be a Realistic Joiner

It’s a good idea to give yourself an established Internet presence. Join things. Join the main social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and StumbleUpon. Even Facebook, though it’s lost a lot of it’s usefulness due to overtraffic (too much useless stuff).

Try a few others. Try Scoop.it where you build collections of content and share them with other people on the site and through your Twitter feed. Snip.it, and sites like it, let you branch out. You need the original account on Twitter and etc but you can post through Snip.it. It saves some steps and keeps your other social accounts from running dry. Less maintenance is a good thing.

Don’t be a joiner on sites that require a lot of participation, unless you really can give that kind of time and energy. Pace yourself. Don’t become just another dead account. If you can’t be active at least weekly, or a few times a month, don’t keep the account. Or, leave a note in your profile with links people can follow. You may be back some day.

Don’t Forget the Less Than Virtual and Digital World

Con’t forget, the Internet isn’t everything. It’s not the world.

Look around you offline, in the less virtual world. Are there local groups you can join right in your own town? Or, could you be bold, brave and daring… offer a workshop, start a group yourself and bring people together (in the real world) yourself?

People who have actually met you are very likely to take an interest in your work online. They are more likely to go to read your stuff and they are more likely to want you to know they were there. So, you will get readers who comment.

What can you do in a real, local way to find readers?

Sell your arts or goodies at a flea market, a farmer’s market and have business cards available? Hold a garage sale one weekend and put up a display about your topics and see how many people will take away a sheet with information they can read at home? Talk about your hobby/ interest at the local library and offer people a bookmark with your link printed on it?

Find out more about marketing your content offline. Also look up the phrase guerrilla marketing. Keep in mind your own ethics when you read about how far others have gone. But, you can get a lot of ideas that just might work from the crazy ideas of others.

Vintage Office

So much is advancing, crowding out the old typewriters, file cabinets and even the lowly trashcan may now have evolved into a recycling bucket instead. What vintage treasure do you keep in your office? There must be something. I know I cling to a few things which remind me of times past and the people who worked and wrote there. I used to have a pencil sharpener which my Grandfather bought me when I was a kid. But someone took it. They claimed their children were going to use it but, I just never saw it again.

Flickr: Vintage Office

How to Reach Beyond HubPages

Note: This was originally posted to HubPages, February 2012. I’m no longer writing at HubPages but the advice to people who write for network sites is still true and worth knowing. 

To my fellow HubPages writers,

I’ve been writing with HubPages for a few months. I had joined years ago, but I wasn’t writing Hub posts until recently.

My writing experience online comes from other sites, other writing networks and my own sites which I create, maintain and promote. I have moderated forums, email lists and newsletters. I have guest posted and I have accepted guest posts. I have begun working as a content curator. In the past I have been a web directory editor for The Open Directory Project and a less well known directory, BOTW. I have written for known and unknown sites like LockerGnome, Suite101, BackWash, have any Hub writers heard of these? Chances are you have not.

HubPages has become it’s own little microcosm, it’s own little closed in and sheltered world. The traffic here is mainly from inside the network or Google. This is not really a good thing.

Google is like a bird, picking at bits of food in a huge log on the forest floor. The Google bird just snips up one snack at a time. It doesn’t dive in and find more or tell anyone else to come and see what great snacks there are in this tree. Everything Google finds becomes part of its database and someone has to search for it in order to find you. In Google, your content is just a little bug waiting for another bird to dig for it, with the right words.

There are so many other sources for traffic! Most Hub writers are not using Twitter, for instance. Twitter is simple to use. It would also let Hub writers talk outside of HubPages which is a good thing because it promotes HubPages – outside of HubPages. Twitter is only a beginning… StumbleUponTumblrPinterest, Snip.it, Flickr… Are these foreign lands to you? Then it’s time to set your eye on the horizon and explore them.

You can promote your Hub posts in so many fresh, new places. Places you will enjoy exploring, places you will find new ideas to write about, meet new people with your interests and interesting sidelines to your interests.

Start your own blog on WordPress.com or Blogspot. It’s free in those places. Link to your Hubpages account, post links to your latest Hub article and invite discussion. Yes, you want people to comment on your Hub, but they have to get there first. Post the best Hub comments on your blog, as a way to lure readers from the blog onto your Hub post where they can add to that discussion. However, don’t use your blog or any social media as just a way to promote your HubPages account. That is a slippery slope.

It takes time to use social media or a blog well. They should never be used as just a feed for your Hub content. Why would someone read a carbon copy? Have original content, things you don’t post at HubPages. Post ideas you find and may write about. Post updates to old Hubs you have written and, of course, link back to the original Hub content. Post about a bad day, post about your new achievements and goals you are setting for yourself.

Each place you land in, establish a presence in, will bring you new readers and give HubPages new life outside of itself. This will bring traffic from outside of HubPages, those places where most people have never heard of HubPages or think it’s not worth visiting. Reach out there and change their minds.

My Hub Traffic Comes From…

hubtraffic

I like to see where my traffic came from, more than the actual numbers. This is my Hub traffic. Image captured mid day, January 20th.

I don’t know if there are rules about posting traffic stats on HubPages. I don’t mind to share mine, to show my work.

My Hub traffic reaches out past Google. I get traffic from my own blog where I have added a link to my HubPages account right along with my Twitter, StumbleUpon and etc. accounts. I put in time on Scoop.it, content curating for topics which relate to the Hubs I write. While I do link to my own posts there, I also link to some of yours on HubPages and other sites.

On my blog you will see a wider variety of traffic sources. Some of these come from comments I have left on other sites and blogs. Some are networks I have joined. I also exchange links with other bloggers, web writers and friends online. I even get a little traffic from a writer’s network which is now abandoned by the owner.

So you can get traffic from a lot of places, even those which aren’t especially active. The key is in the focus of the site, especially in the case of a small or inactive site. People wind up there, with the focus of whatever the topic or niche is. If they find your link, chances are you will get clicked on because they came looking for your kind of content.

My Blog Traffic Comes From…

blogtraffic

This is taken from my main blog, Word Grrls. Also, mid day, January 20th.

 

Street Photography: Fashion Photography of the Ordinary

I see a lot of street photography when I look at photographs and sites that interest me. But, I never really felt they were interesting photos until today when I found the photos from Vivian Maier, vintage street photography.

Looking at those ordinary people from the 1950s was fascinating. I started with one photo and then clicked for another and another and another. Soon I had spent 20 minutes looking at street photography. I was surprised. Then I realized, street photography is like creating a snapshot of our lives, a time capsule that can be opened any day.

Without knowing the people I could see the character and the role they played in life. Seeing their background was more important than it seemed at first. The background shows other people, fashion, buildings, products for sale, and so on. Without seeing a date on the photograph you could guess when the photo was taken and where (in a general way).

I have new appreciation for modern street photography and street photographers now. We don’t have time machines so we have to record our own history as we live it.

 

Street photography gives us a look at ourselves, in our current time and (with vintage photos) our past.