Van Gogh tilt-shifted

These Van Gogh tilt-shift images by Serena Malyon are amazing.


She’s done a great job with the technique too, really creating a sense of depth. Some of these almost look holographic. Too much tilt-shift effect work just involves blurring the top and bottom of an image, with no thought or artistry.

Algorithmic ads sink ships

I wonder if advertisers will ever figure out a smarter way of algorithmically placing ads on pages? Or if a video has millions of views, is it worth advertising against, even if the content goes against your message?

Also, this is the first time I’ve seen a ‘contains content from’ notice on a YouTube video. Interesting approach. Continue reading

Posted in Web

How to gracefully promote yourself online

I think I may start a series of posts where I digest articles that may (or may not) have some good information in them. This particular article, ‘How to gracefully promote yourself online’ (CNN), sounds like it may have something insightful in it, but you’d be forgiven if you gave up after reading the first eight paragraphs of nothing much.

Allow me to summarise via the medium of bullet points:

  • Test your PR campaign on family and friends first. 
  • Proofread it first though.
  • Only reach out when you have something to say.
  • Be upfront about how often you will send out email.
  • Be ethical with contact information.
  • Make newsletters ‘unboring’.
  • Thank your customers/fans.

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Tweetcarts: Can we have some of these in Cardiff?

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This is a brilliant idea – food trucks that move around and advertise their presence on Twitter! Examples from the states include @Whiffies (deep fried pies?), @kogibbq (Korean BBQ tacos, with over 74,000 followers!), the wonderful looking @RickshawTruck (dumplings), @DumplingStation (more dumplings) and @cremebruleecart (‘better living through dessert’). I’m sure there are others.

Can some dumpling chef start one of these in Cardiff please? (And if you do, try and think of some clever ways to use Foursquare / Gowalla / Facebook Places as well as Twitter.)

EDIT 19.09.2010: Our very own mobile Twitter entrepreneur @big_blue_bike just pointed out to me a brilliant variation of this from Copenhagen: A Coffee Bike!

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South East Wales Local Exchange Trading System

Update 2012.01.11: Since this post was written, SEWLETS have (wisely) rebranded as Cardiff Taffs Community Currency.

South East Wales Local Exchange Trading System

SEWLETS is all about getting back a sense of community spirit. As a group we exchange all kinds of goods and services with each other, using community credits. You might earn credits by painting a fence for a neighbour, then you could spend those credits getting computer help from someone else in the group. So the circle goes on, always helping people in our community. Our credits are called “Taffs”, and you should value them at about one pound each. LETS are already popular across the UK, including Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh and several areas of London. If you value community spirit then this will be just the thing for you!

via sewlets.org.uk

Discovered via a tweet from Guardian Cardiff, this is my first exposure to the idea of a Local Exchange Trading System. It reminded me of a great science fiction story I read years ago: “…And Then There Were None” by Eric Frank Russell. It’s the final story from a novel where a starship is visiting different human colonies in the hopes of establishing an empire…

The final planet, K22g, has developed an unusual social system. The population call themselves Gands (after Gandhi) and practice a form of classless, philosophically anarchic libertarianism, based on passive resistance (“Freedom – I won’t!” and “Myob!”); and a money-free gift economy based on barter and favour-exchange, using “obs” (obligations). To perform a service for somebody “lays an ob” on them; they can then “kill the ob” by returning the favor.[1]

via The Great Explosion – en.wikipedia.org

SEWLETS are using a Drupal plugin called Local Currencies for functionality:

Local Currencies (Complementary currencies) is an all-embracing and flexible package which includes a mutual credit engine, transaction forms and displays, including several views and blocks. It can be used as a digital back end for paper money projects, or to run an entire LETS or Timebank. With a little tweaking, it can manage currencies conforming to a wide range of designs.

via drupal.org

Interesting stuff. Sadly without signing up there’s no way to gauge how much of a community there is (the forums are certainly quiet). Some kind of dashboard on the front page (ideally showing a thriving community of people trading various skills) would make a huge difference. Maybe I’ll sign up when I have some free time and report back…

Follow SEWLETS on Twitter

Unitarian Jihad

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We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

by Jon Carroll articles.sfgate.com

Hilarious, and worth reading in full. :)

(via @huwlynes)

What the hell(vetica)?

What the hell(vetica)?

Helvetica parentheses comparison I was just knocking together a new title graphic for this blog, when I noticed that the parenthesis in Helvetica bold were asymmetrical. Perhaps I only noticed because I was working at a very large size, but the difference is significant and it really stood out.

Google didn’t give me any immediate answers, so I guess I’m going to have to do some proper research on this. Best guess: It looks better at a smaller size somehow.

Breadcrumb navigation in the URL bar

Breadcrumb navigation in the URL bar

I propose that the URL bar be modified to fulfill a significant purpose for the user other than just displaying long strings of characters mostly irrelevant to, and mostly ignored by, the user. A user should be aware of his location on the Internet at all times, and of any relevant information that he has requested or transmitted in getting there. The way the URL bar presents that information is completely inadequate.

via Making the URL Bar Useful Again: Where the breadcrumb should have been all along – uxmag.com

Some smart thinking here, and some excellent opposing views in the comments. I can see something very similar to this really working. It would need to be something the browser could figure out itself though, based on the logical arrangement of the site itself, and not by using the extra markup proposed here.

I can see how you could use this space for some neat shortcuts – like logging in through a drop down, or searching within specific sections of a site. Also, when you get a 404, the URL bar could present some navigation options to get you back on track, maybe even by displaying a drop down list of pages you may have been looking for.

Set music free

Musopen: Record and release free music without copyrights.

A group of classical music lovers have successfully appealed for funds to release copyright-free versions of symphonies by four famous composers. The money will pay for an orchestra to record the music on an “all rights basis”.

The project, Musopen, aims to deal with a problem caused by the way copyright laws work. Although the actual symphonies written by composers in, for example, the 19th century are long out of copyright, there is separate protection for every individual performance by an orchestra. That means that in most cases, the only recordings currently in the public domain are very old performances generally recorded with poor quality equipment and plagued with hiss and crackle.

via tech.blorge.com (via slashdot)

This is such a brilliant project, and another fantastic example of Kickstarter helping people make great ideas become a reality.

Paris, Photoshopped

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I’ve been working on another batch of my unprocessed Paris photographs tonight, and thought I’d share this one in its before and after states. I usually don’t do this much work to my images, but I thought this one would be worth a bit of extra effort. As you can see, I’ve shifted the elements into more pleasing positions and removed some distracting elements, then tweaked the colours a little.

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Clever website imitates a Google search results page

Michael Jang Photography

Michael Jang Photography imitates a Google search results page with his website.

This is such clever idea, although I think perhaps a photographer would be better off selling himself with his pictures, not his web presence. I actually think it would work a lot better for a social media/SEO type. Nonetheless, I like what he’d done, and is planning to do:

[…] “It is not what it seems,” said Jang, “Along the top and right are ‘ads’ all linking back to photo projects and videos.” As expected of any website, Jang provides his e-mail contact, links to his Facebook, Flickr and blog — all disguised as Google search options in the page header.

Ultimately, Jang intends to cede control of the links featured on his site. “Rather than totally control the content I want more transparency,” said Jang. The site “will link to anything about me, so sometimes there might even be threads that are less than complimentary.”

via wired.com (story found via PetaPixel)

101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design

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It’s been a long time coming, but a year after v.0.9, the new Design with Intent toolkit, DwI v.1.0, is ready. Officially titled Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design, it’s in the form of 101 simple cards, each illustrating a particular ‘gambit‘ for influencing people’s interactions with products, services, environments, and each other, via the design of systems. They’re loosely grouped according to eight ‘lenses‘ bringing different disciplinary perspectives on behaviour change.

via Design with Intent

Download the lens cards here. They come in Architectural, Errorproofing, Interaction, Ludic, Perceptual, Cognitive, Machiavellian and Security flavours.

(found via Contentini)

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Wikipedia’s comedy synopsis of ‘Baby Got Back’

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The song opens with two young females discussing the physical appearance of a third female, in particular her buttocks, which they find unfathomably large.

In the opening verse, Sir Mix-a-Lot professes his affinity for large buttocks and his inability to disguise this fact from others. He goes on to describe other desirable physical attributes, such as a trim waistline, tight-fitting garments, and unblemished skin. Though the song does not contain a distinct narrative, the author does visit recurring themes, such as female body image as depicted in media, male attitudes toward dating and relationships, and the author’s own sexual prowess.

In later verses he expresses his exasperation with the entertainment industry’s portrayal of the ideal female form. He soundly rejects the notion promulgated by fashion magazines that diminutive buttocks are more desirable. His critique of the women who appeared in contemporary music videos is particularly scathing, likening their appearance to those of prostitutes. To further illustrate his point, he stipulates that the purported ideal proportions of 36-24-36 (measuring the bust, waist, and hip circumferences respectively) would only be pleasing on women with a standing height no greater than 63 inches.

Mix-a-Lot also briefly touches upon the roles that ethnicity, nutrition, and physical fitness play in determining the shape and size of the female buttocks. He recommends that any exercises performed should be limited to the abdominal area. He cautions against a fitness routine strenuous enough to diminish the heft of the gluteal muscles. Though he offers no broad dietary guidelines, Mix-a-Lot contends that the dish “red beans and rice” is an important food staple for maintaining healthy buttocks.

Various lyrics address the fact that some men find no intrinsic value in large buttocks and consequently express a lack of interest. Mix-a-Lot makes clear that he would eagerly strike up relations with any woman overlooked or discarded by such men. The remainder of the narrative is fleshed out with the author’s various attempts to entice women into enjoying a ride in his luxury automobile. [3]

Baby Got Back – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Via codinghorror who says: “I suspect this backdooring (omglol) of humor into Wikipedia through song synopses won’t be tolerated for long.”

Probably, but I had to back this one up here! :D

Updated 2013.01.19 to change the attribution link to the appropriate Wikipedia diff page, instead of the current edit, and to tweak my post title.

Penguin design piracy by @PradiGClothing

This is the first example I’ve seen of someone ripping of my work and profiting from it (or at least selling it).

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myspace.com/pradigclothing

I think he’s actually made some pretty nice tweaks to it: The sketched look works really well, he’s improved the beak a bit and the positioning of the feet. The plaster is a nice touch too. It’s still clearly mine though.

A cute, chubby cartoon penguin, by Foomandoonian

Cartoon penguin character

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The 80-20 Rule

Pareto principle

Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Juran developed the principle after observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

The 80-20 rule is also a common rule of thumb in business, i.e. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

via Use the 80-20 Rule to Increase Your Website’s Effectiveness – sixrevisions.com

A great article, but I notice the Six Revisions page has some clutter itself. Not anything like as bad as most big blogs though.

This is actually one of the reasons I like this default Posterous ‘Clean Sheet’ theme so much, and I hesitate before adding any extras (even the AdSense ads I wanted to put on). Now I look again with a more critical eye, I think I may remove some of the sidebar links I stuck there when – I doubt they get much use.

Also, what a lovely pie chart!

EDIT: It’s interesting how this seems to contradict the advice from this SEOmoz landing page case study.

Posted in SEO

Use Blekko to ‘slash the web’. What?

blekko is a better way to search the web by using slashtags.

I don’t know what that tells you, but the name and the tagline for this new search engine conjure up some pretty nasty images for me, and tell me nothing about the service. Blekko is a nonsense word, and you may think one invented word is as good as another, but Blekko sounds like something you need to clean up. And ‘slashing the web’. I dunno, that sounds nasty. Luckily they go on to explain…

slashtags search only the sites you want and cut out the spam sites. use friends, experts, community or your own slashtags to slash in what you want and slash out what you don’t.

Blekko

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