Losing your Sense of Self?

bwpollThis is an old poll I created when I used to write for a network called BackWash. Still a good question to think about.

If you had to give up or lose one of your senses, including common sense and the possibility of a sixth sense or the other standard: hearing, smell, taste, sight or touch, which would you pick?

I think the idea of losing our senses haunts us all our lives. We see someone who can’t see or hear and we think about how it must be to live without that.

Then we get older and another fear is losing our mind, our ability to think and do things for ourselves.

Animals don’t have a sense of self, scientists say. It’s a test they try on animals – putting them in front of a mirror to see if they can understand they are looking at a reflection of themselves. I’ve seen cats go crazy, hissing and pouncing, trying to threaten (or feeling threatened) by what they see as a strange cat who hisses right back at them. Pretty scary if you don’t understand the concept of a reflection. But, they can do the same with the image of a cat on a box too.

I don’t know if not having the knowledge of reflections and photography or graphic arts should leave us to assume these animals don’t have that sense of self.

How could you prove an animal does have a sense of self? How do you know you have a sense of your own self? Do you even understand the idea of what having a sense of self is? Maybe that is the sense (not on my original list) which you might give up. How different would you be without it?

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)

Create a Favicon to Brand your Site or Just do it for Fun

How to create a favicon.ico for your site or blog.

FavIcon is a favourite icon.

Basically, you create a small graphic (16 X 16 pixels, tiny in fact) which will show up in the address bar when someone looks at your site. It will also show up in their bookmarks, if they bookmark your site. Using a favicon will help brand your site and give it a polished look. Plus it gives those us of who are addicted to tweaking and twiddling with their sites, something else to do.

It’s not hard to create a favicon. Once you save your tiny graphic as favicon.ico you upload the file to your site, it should be in the root directory so it’s easy for web browsers to locate. Then you add the code between the head and /head tags in your HTML code. Note: If you run the Thesis WordPress theme. One of the features is a favion option which uploads your favicon for you. Your theme or template may have the same option, check first and save yourself the extra work.

How creative can you get with such a minuscule image? See what you can do. The smaller you make your file the blurrier it gets. See the example image which is one I use for my personal site. When it is condensed and compacted down to a favicon size you really can’t tell what it was meant to be. So, that wasn’t a great image to create a favicon with.

Have fun, let me know if you load a favicon. I’d like to see what other tweakers and twiddlers come up with.

Wikipedia has a page about Favicons.

favicon code

Choosing an image to convert to a Favicon

As you can see from my example, a favicon is very tiny.

Choose the image you want to convert into a favicon wisely. It should have very basic lines, a very simple uncomplicated design.

Stick to one or two colours (white works well). Adding too much colour will create a blur when the image is compacted down to size.

The image you choose needs to fill the image space, cut away any extra background before you convert it to a favicon.

Create your Favicon Image on the Web

TinyWeeFiction

TinyWeeFictionHow much can you put into a story of 140 characters? Take a look at TinyWeeFiction and try it out. Bonus if you can come up with a web graphic for it too. (I didn’t, the one here comes from the site for TinyWeeFiction).

I laughed at the idea of zombies. Now I’m picking up my ears and counting my fingers just like the rest of them.

I might have  a million books. If I built a fortress with books I could live in their pages forever. Send ice cream.

How does snow look so pure, clean and soft when it falls but have such a huge impact once it lands?

There are three. Can you work on some ideas for tiny fiction?

Count your characters online.

Technical Writing

Suite101 is closing and removing their ecourses from SuiteU. I’ve copied some of them here so they will not be lost and future/ current writers can still learn and benefit from the ecourse.

Technical Writing

By Thomas Martin

Introduction

 

Technical writers have been around for a long time. In some ways, you can even look upon the illuminated manuscripts from medieval times as early technical writing! I mean, they do instruct the faithful in the mysteries of establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth or failing that, how to find enough salvation to convince St. Peter let you past the “Pearly Gates.”

However, the job title of technical writer has only existed since the late ’70s or early ’80s. Until then, the programmers who coded the software or the engineers who designed the products wrote most of the documentation.

Read moreTechnical Writing

Lo-Res Graphics

Lo-fi graphic, low-res graphics, text mode visuals, ASCII art, ANSI art, pixel art, Unicode, Twitter art, Facebook art and all the other forms and styles of creating simple graphics.

Otromatic, 8 bit graphician.

Raquel Meyers – Lo-fi graphics mixed media artist.

ASCII Arena

8 Bit Today

8 bit collective – 8bitcollective is the first completely open chiptune-related media repository and file sharing community.

What About Infographics?

Are you into infographics?

I think it’s good to have a new way to show your point, visually rather than text. But, I’m not a big fan. Usually the graphic is too small for me to read them without squinting at the monitor. If I can’t resize it I often can’t read the fine print.

Anyway, there are pros and cons for everything. If you were going to make an infographic what would be about and how would you pull it together? Go ahead and try one, just for the heck of it!

ScoopIt: Infographics

Infographics Archive

Visual.ly

Data Appeal

How To Resources:

Turn Your Words into Link Bait

It’s all about offering extras, those little things that make one blog stand out from another. Give people something extra.

Take the information you want to write about and present it in a unique and interesting way.

  • Use a quiz as part of your post. Highlight information and confirm your message.
  • Give a widget with your RSS feed.
  • An infographic (becoming a trend) can give your information in a visual way.
  • A hand drawn post. Write it long hand, add some lettering, illustrations, etc and take a photograph you post to your blog.
  • A web comic is visual and uses humour.
  • Start a blog tour. Invite others to join and set a date for the tour.
  • Try a blogging marathon. Set up how often and how long you will post for.
  • Create avatars for readers based on their blogging personality.
  • Audio like a podcast people can listen to.
  • Video posts (though I’m not a fan of anything in a big, clunky file).
  • Turn your blog into the focal point of a community for people in your niche. Bring everyone together to talk.
  • An ebook. Turn your post into something that can be downloaded and read offline.
  • A mini directory post. Pull together all the great resources you can find and turn them into a directory of information.
  • A social web application or blog plugin, etc. For those who have (or get) the know how.
  • Create a (WordPress or other CMS) blog theme/ template and offer it for free.
  • Go with a little controversy. Debate the less popular side of a pro versus con.
  • Start an event. Like ProBlogger’s 31 Days to a Better Blog.
  • Create a seasonal/ holiday web graphic (add text with best wishes/ seasons greetings) free for the taking.
  • Interview a popular blogger, someone well respected in your niche.
  • Run a contest. Make sure you have a prize worth winning and you get our winner to confirm they did get it.
  • Give out awards. Pick the ‘best of’ in your niche and create an award they can take from your site.
  • Promote another blogger, someone who inspired you or had valuable information.
  • Write a yearly round up with the best, most inspiring, etc. blog posts you’ve read in your niche.
  • Ask for information. Ask your readers to ask their friends/ readers/ followers too.
  • Write about how you solved a problem, step-by-step. Use illustrations.
  • Run a survey. Ask for feedback and opinions about your own site or the topic you write about.
  • Create an index of authorities in your niche and give links to each of them plus their Twitter  and RSS feed links.
  • Review a book or other product available. Pick something useful/ new to your readers.
  • Thank someone. Write a post thanking another blogger for something. Don’t stop at just one.

Small packages bring good things. Turn what began as a plain text blog post into a small, contained unit of information like a quiz, infographic, widget, web comic, web graphic or something else small and simple which can easily be shared through social media and links.

Wikipedia: Link Bait

Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. Matt Cutts defines link bait as anything “interesting enough to catch people’s attention.”

Resources:

Blue Glass: Overlooked Linkbait: The Value of Widgets, Quizzes, and Other Interactive Content.

Sam Tilston: How to Write Linkbait

ProBlogger: 20 Linkbaiting Techniques

Smashing Magazine: Golden Rules of Linkbaiting

Keep an Image in your Sidebar

Even if you don’t use an image with each post you should have some kind of image on your site that represents you (and your site).

I’ve been working on Scoop.It (and lately on Snip.It too) as a content curator for a few topics. One thing I have noticed is how often I can’t get an image to go along with the post I’m making. When there is an image with the post I’m linking to I can usually add it to the post I create. Sometimes the only images which come up are nothing relevant, or just a link to the site’s page on Twitter, Facebook or other social media. Not something which illustrates the post they have made. As a last resort I will use the site’s own graphic for link backs rather than have no graphic/ image at all.

It should be simple enough to stick up an image which lets people link back to your site. Whether the image is used to link back to your site in a list of links or to link back to a specific post being referenced, it helps to draw the eye of readers when you get a link from another site.

Just add the image to your sidebar. You can add the code to link back to your site, or have it linked to your About page. There are other good options but those are the two I thought of first.

If you’re curious… these are the topics I’m curating at the moment. Subject to change as I weed out my ideas, focus on the topics I really want to spend time on and see which of them generate interest in others/ readers. Nothing is so simple as just collecting content to please yourself. I think we all need to keep our ideas growing and we all look for that tiny smattering of applause in some form.

Scoop.it:

Rural Exploration
Urban Exploration
Creative Writing Inspiration
ASCII Art

Snip.it
I’m working on personal interest ideas on Snip.it. They aren’t as developed as I’d like yet but Snip.it is growing on me and, as a site to work with, they are great. Very interested in performance, ideas and the people who join up. It’s a small network that could become important if they can keep it from the sploggers and others like them.

Sneeze Pages Create an Index of your Greatest Content

I’m working on creating a Sneeze Page as part of SITS Girls 31 Days to a Better Blog Challenge.

With as many posts as this blog has it will be a pretty massive job to put them into topical index/ subpages. It’s something I could easily let myself put off indefinitely. But, I’m going to give it a try. First, some research.

ProBlogger: Create a Sneeze Page for your Blog [Day 18 – 31DBBB]

Benefits of Sneeze Pages:
3. It can help create a ‘Sticky’ Blog – I’ve not seen stats on this but it is my suspicion that a person arriving on your blog for the first time increases the chances of coming back to it the more great posts that they view on it. Get someone to read 10 great posts that you’ve written previously instead of 1 and you’ll exponentially increase the likelihood that they’ll subscribe and become a regular reader.

Types of Sneeze Pages

  • Themed Sneeze Pages – these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme.
  • Time Related Sneeze Pages – these pages are based around a defined period of time. They are usually a ‘best of’ post that highlight your key posts from that period.
  • Retro Sneeze Pages –  shows off a number of posts from your blog from a particular point in its history. The most common way to do this is to do a post highlighting posts from the blog from a year ago.
  • Series Sneeze Pages – many bloggers use the technique of writing a series of blog posts that allow them to explore a topic over a period of time with lots of interlinked posts.

Small Business Trends: Convert New Readers with a Sneeze Page

As you put the page together, don’t just make it a series of links. Instead, you’ll want to create some new content to describe what each link is about and the benefit for the reader should they click through. Writing a few lines of content for each link will increase the page’s usefulness because you’re giving people a sneak peak at what they can find. Once you combine your links with your descriptions, that’s your Sneeze Page.

Steven Sanders: Create Blog Stickiness with Sneeze Pages

Using Sneeze Pages Creatively

Sneeze pages don’t have to be pages. A landing page may be a better method. These are called Social Media Landing Pages.

Don’t re-link old posts one right after the other though. This could cause others to get suspicious or even stop clicking the links, which is utterly ineffective. Take your time. Span a couple of old posts over a 2-3 day time period. I like to call this “sporadic sneezing“.

Next, my own conclusions and plans:

Interlink the posts you use on your Sneeze page, make sure readers can easily travel from one post in the series to the next and then the next. It will be extra work, but they should not have to return to your index page to find the next post in the series (unless that’s how they want to read them).

The most popular Sneeze page I have noticed are the week end round up posts. The blogger looks at other blogs and sites and links back to the posts they most enjoyed, noticed, or found useful. Doing this type of Sneeze post gives your readers an idea of what you read, who you are and the type and quality of resources you can find. It also gives some link love to other bloggers. So pick the blogs you link to with care.

You can have a month end or year end round up of your own posts but this seems a bit time absorbing when we already use tags and categories. Readers should be able to find your topical posts through tags and categories or by using the search feature on your site.

From what I have read and my own discoveries and explorations online I think the best use of a Sneeze page is to promote your niche itself. Think of a question readers are most likely to need answered. You can research how people come to your blog, what were they looking for when they arrived? You can post a reader survey, ask them directly. What were they looking for? What would they like to see more of? Use this information to write new content geared to your readers and set up the information/ posts with their own index page which will become your Sneeze page.

Give it an eye catching graphic with a text description and place it in your blog sidebar. Don’t stop there, spread the link around, as well as the graphic. Grow your own link love using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, other bloggers, ad networks, link exchanges and web forums. How about adding the link to your business card, make sure it’s a short link (easy to type without mistakes).

A Sneeze page can be a useful index of specific content on your blog, it’s also a way to direct readers to content they might not think to look for as they read your current selection of posts. So give them more to read, show off your best stuff and create yourself as a resource worth coming back for.

See also: