MapleStory – 10th Anniversary

Had enough of Facebook games? There are a lot of other options for free web games. Maple Story is celebrating 10 years as a free game on the web. It’s cute too. I haven’t played for awhile but checked back in today and took screenshots of my character’s profiles. I’d forgotten there were this many of them. I thought I only had two or three.

Join MapleStory, the global version of the amazing action-oriented side-scrolling MMORPG that has captivated the world! Battle dragons, discover dungeons as an anime-inspired wizard, warrior, thief or bowman capture epic loot, make new friends and discover the wonder of Maple World absolutely FREE.

Source: MapleStory – A Free Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game

msdragonlea msdragonzelda msgrzzellda msmerrillia msmerrydragon msmissprunella

Yahoo! Profiles (and Avatars) are Going Away

Yahoo! is phasing out their Profiles. You can’t look up someone else and, I couldn’t even find my own to see what I had written about myself. (Though Yahoo! recommends I save anything in my “About Me” and “My Interests”, I can’t even get my profile to load up at all).

yahoo profiles

I thought I would look up my Yahoo Avatar but that put me back on the “Going Away” page for Profiles. So, it seems the Avatars are also going away.

Maybe Yahoo is using logic in removing things which have not been greatly used. But, I think they have it wrong.

Why not bring the Yahoo Profiles and Avatars into the new world of social media instead?

Connect Profiles and Avatars to Tumblr and Flickr. How much more colourful and interesting they could have made those sites/ services with the addition of the Avatars and an expanded profile. Yahoo Profiles (with it’s long running database of users) could have rivalled About.me for giving people a profile page to connect all your accounts and people in one place.

yahoo avatars

So why didn’t anyone at Yahoo do this?

I don’t know. But, it does seem Yahoo prefers to buy and then bail out on a lot of sites and services. There must be some business or marketing sense to it, I hope. I don’t see it. I do see what could have been wonderful as a web profile being lost instead. For no great reason other than taking the slow road to nowhere.

I looked at Yahoo Groups this week, just out of curiousity. At one time I ran email lists and newsletters through Yahoo Groups, when they were called something else and before then when they were MailCity and eGroups which were bought by Yahoo. But, the Groups are pretty silent now. Why aren’t bloggers using Yahoo Groups to run email lists? It’s free. It’s easy to set up and work with. It’s reliable… isn’t it? Hard to be sure when it looks so stagnant and neglected.

Why Yahoo!. Why?

I don’t want to see Yahoo! die. I’ve been watching them slip away for years though. No one seems to be excited about the possibilities any more. They almost seem content to slip into obscurity.

Found my Old Blogger Profile

My old Blogger profile, found as far back as I could get on the Wayback Machine. I had a site on Blogger before 2004 but made the mistake of deleting it, thinking it didn’t matter. Really wish I had left it up. I don’t even remember my first account now to try to find it. Can’t keep everything! Even the Blogger profiles are gone now. Instead you just get taken to your Google Plus account. I wonder what happens to people who didn’t open an account.

 

Don’t Make Twitter a Dead End for your Profile

I found a blog, Dime Store Chic, had a lot of fun reading several posts, reposted a few of them. Then it came time to decide to keep the link bookmarked, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook and join on Google+. If I like a blog I always follow it with whichever social media they seem most active on, or add the link to my collection of links so I can find it again.

I picked Twitter first because it’s the one I like, it’s active and I can get a quick look at what people are doing now, today even. This is what I found:

dead on TwitterWould you follow this Twitter account?  I doubt it. First of all, the first impression is dull and all just automated links back to her own posts. Second impression, I noticed there isn’t even a link to her own blog in the Twitter profile. So she is really hurting herself without knowing it. Can you tell the name of her blog from anything here? No. No link and not even a name to tell you what it is about. All I see are links with no personality.

Maybe she doesn’t like Twitter. Maybe she finds it confusing or too much to deal with. So, why have the account at all then? Would it be better to have this account or none at all? I think none at all would be better than this. We can’t all be experts at everything, or find time to maintain every least aspect of web publishing. So, pick and choose what you can and will do. If you don’t have time to do more than stick up an automated feed on Twitter, just skip it and save making that first impression blunder. Leave Twitter until you have time, or help to figure it out.

Moving on to her Pinterest account. I don’t pick Pinterest to follow people usually. But, I thought here she would make a better impression. She has a lot of images on her blog after all. But… no. There are six boards created on her Pinterest profile. Four are blank, empty. Only one is active with over 170 pins. If she took down the dead end Pinterest boards her account would not look so abandoned.

Google+ and Facebook were dead ends too. That’s four for four. I was actually disappointed because I liked her blog enough that I would have followed at least one of her social media accounts. Instead I wondered if I had found an old blog. I went back to check and her latest post is this month, this year.

I am not writing this to pick on one person because she is not the only one who sets up social media accounts, promotes them on their site and then leaves them as dead ends for readers to find.

I think they just don’t understand how to use social media, or don’t have the time or don’t really want to be that involved in it. So, stick to just a blog then. Don’t set up these dead ends at all. Ignore people who say you MUST have Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and so on. If you don’t really want to create and maintain social media leave it off your profile if you can’t, won’t or don’t maintain them.

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)

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.

How to Become a Contributing Writer to a Publication

atworkWhen you want to be a published writer and you don’t have a lot of writing to show an editor or publisher, choose a small publication and become a contributing writer for them.

Contributing usually does mean you aren’t getting paid in cash money. There might be some kind of trade of services or goods. You may get a percent of ad revenue for instance. Don’t deal with promises for future payment and avoid publications which have not begun yet. Too often those promises don’t come true. A publication should have a few issues in print or online so you can see what they are doing. Also, if the publication never gets off the ground you will have done all that writing work and not have any writing credit to show for it.

Getting paid is one thing to look at when you choose a publication. The other important thing to know is, do you keep all rights to your work? Those two things are the first things I want to know when I look at a publication which I am considering. You should always have the rights to your work – especially any work you have not been paid for. Never write for a publication which wants all rights to your work and does not pay for your work and those rights to using and keeping it.

Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Take time to brush up on your language basics: spelling, punctuation and grammar. Never underestimate the power of a few good words. If you want to sell your skills as a writer, make sure you have them.

Get second opinions. Ask editors to read your work and give feedback. If someone points out an error, learn from it. Make a note of it, a real physical note which you can keep right on your computer to remind you. As you work on fixing each error you will learn and become better. Never assume you aren’t making some kind of mistakes.

Treat yourself to a book about writing. Not character development but how to write. I mean those old rules we were taught in school and have forgotten since then. It may not seem like a real treat to work on your grammar, spelling and punctuation. But, it is nice to know you’re doing it right. Especially, when you contact publishers and you want to put your best foot forward.

Know the Publication

Pick a publication you would like to write for. If you’re just getting started aim a little low, give yourself a good chance of getting the job. Not because you want to sell yourself short, but think ahead. Getting this experience will give you a writing credit and a lot of experience which you can use to help sell yourself to the bigger, fancier and better known publications.

Before you contact a publication find out who the editor is. Get their name and make sure it’s current information. Then read the submission guidelines on the site. Even if you want to apply as a staff writer you should know the guidelines, know what they are looking for and what they expect. Writers guidelines can tell you a lot if you take the time to read through them.

Read all the back issues or online copies you can. Develop a feel for the publication the tone and voice the writers use. What kind of advertising do they run? As much as you want to write for your readers, publications will cater to their advertisers too.

Find out what you get as a byline. For an online publication you should get an author resource box, or a profile. However they work out the details, you should be getting your name and contact information in the publication when you write for them.

Writers Need a Portfolio

Give yourself a web presence, an online portfolio to show your past work, your skills and give some information about yourself. Keep it professional, an extension of your resume.

Add social media links, if they are safe to add. If your usual Twitter posts have been personal, start a fresh account for your business as a writer. Keep them sorted out, don’t merge them and take the chance on having something sneak out which you can’t control and may not want to explain.

If you can, print up business cards for yourself. Then when you send in a letter to the publication you can include your card. This gives them something they can keep with all your contact information. A business card may get kept even when they add a resume and cover letter to the recycling bin.

Last of All, Ask for What you Want

Once you have studied the publication, written your resume and cover letter, and sent them by snail mail or email… don’t forget to follow up. Actually talk to someone and ask them for the job. Remind them who you are, give them all your contact information and thank they for taking time to talk with you.

If they ask you for a query letter with an actual idea they want written, great! Get to work on it. Do the research, find the sources of information and put together a package showing what you can offer them on that topic. Meet their needs.

Don’t stop asking and applying with publishers and editors. Instead of dwelling on a negative reply get to work on your next query letter for someone else who could say ‘yes’.

Good luck and best wishes.