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Week 12: Additional Tools

As the term has come to an end, this will be my last post on this blog. The module was great fun and even if I had previous knowledge about most topics, I still learned a lot and got to try out many interesting and useful tools. The last lecture introduced a bunch of new ones, let’s have a look!

E-Publishing & Word Processing

Sigil

Sigil

The most common file format for eBooks is .ePub, which is basically a way to store text using the markup language HTML. Using the free open-source program Sigil you can easily create your own ePub files without needing any knowledge of HTML or CSS. (If you want to learn about these languages however, CodeAcademy is the place to go!) An alternative to Sigil is iBooks Author by Apple, however this application restricts the output to the iBook market place.

Calibre

Calibre

To read eBooks, you can use the free eBook reader Calibre. Looking for eBooks to read without spending money? Try Project Gutenberg!

Scrivener

Scrivener

If you are willing to invest money to further your writing career, the commercial word-processing software Scrivener provides you with a management systems for documents and other useful tools for e.g. screenwriting.

Other resources to help you organize your writing visually are Scribus (open-source, page layout software) and WriteLaTeX (learning & writing LaTex, a document markup language often used in academic writings).

If This Then That – IFTTT

Lastly, a resource I personally found very interesting: IFTTT. This automation service lets you link up a magnitude of social media services via ‘Recipes’.

If This Then That – https://ifttt.com

If This Then That – https://ifttt.com

If you use many social media channels, this will definitely make your life easier. Tired of updating your profile picture on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram separately? Just create a recipe, make one of the sites the ‘trigger’ and the others the ‘action’. This is just one of the many possibilities for this site, so be sure to have a look!


I hope you enjoyed my blog these last twelve weeks and had fun with the module, too. Good luck with exams!

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Week 11: Social Media

This week’s lecture was on social media and how to effectively use it to promote your website.

Social Media Icons

Firstly, let’s take a look at the term social media and how it differences from traditional media. Traditional media, such as newspapers, the radio or television, act as a broadcaster to spread information. They reach you, but you cannot really reach them. Social media however gives you the opportunity to be both the broadcaster and the audience, and makes it easier to interact with both other broadcasters and your audience.

Nowadays, every big company uses social media for promoting themselves and interaction with their community. But the question is, which social media service should be used, and for what?

  • Facebook is very useful for publicity and community building. You can create a page dedicated to your website, friend other people or like pages with similar topics to build a network. Your user base will probably visit Facebook more often than your website, so you can use your Facebook page to announce whenever there is new content on your website. You should also make use of it’s ‚Insight‘ feature to find our when, where and by whom traffic is generated.
  • Twitter ist becoming more and more popular for customer service and direct interaction with your community. Since there is a rather small word limit, it is more useful for short announcements (with link-backs to your website, shortened with the Bitly service) rather than actual content. With the use of #hashtags, you can reach a wider audience and also observe what users have to say about your site or topic.
  • Linked-In is a professional networking site where you can showcase your work history and affiliations, and interact with other professionals.
  • Flickr and Instagram are photography-based social media services. Instagram has a more casual approach and is not too focused on image quality, whereas Flickr is a platform for professional photographers.
  • YouTube and Vimeo are the two big video platforms. YouTube is arguably more popular, but also has a bad reputation when it comes to comments, while Vimeo is more of a platform for actual filmmakers and thus a better place for constructive criticism.
  • Audio Boo and Soundcloud are audio-sharing services.
  • Delicious, Digg and Reddit are link-sharing sites.
  • Tumblr, Diaspora and ello are popular for micro-blogging and can be used in many ways.

Whatever kind of social media service you decide to use, it is important that all actual content ist posted on your website first, and then posted in excerpts (with link-backs) to your social media pages. This will guarantee that your website is the central hub of your network.


Image Source: graphicsfuel.com

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Week 10: Search Engine Optimization

This week we talked about search engine optimization (SEO), in other words how to make your website more accessible to search engines.

Search Engine Optimization

There are several ways you can improve the reach of your website in terms of SEO. Firstly, it can be divided in On-Site and Off-Site SEO. As the name implies, On-Site SEO consists of changes to the actual website to make sure it is found by search engines when people search for the topic it deals with. Off-Site SEO mean promoting your website through external means, such as social media or paid advertisements. Of course, both should be used to create the best effect.

On-Site SEO

SEO which does not make use of paid marketing strategies is called organic or natural SEO, while the opposite is known rather as Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

However, both pay attention to the kind of language which people use to search for the particular topic. This is known as Keyword Research and basically means that the kind of words people are likely to enter into a search engine are the ones that should appear on your website a lot. Keyword tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner and WordTracker can be used to measure the value of a keyword.

Keywords can and should be used about everywhere – website url and name, headings, posts, pages, tags and categories. Even links and images can be optimised through the HTML ‘title’ and ‘alt’ attribute. Most importantly, keywords relevant to each site should be present in the page’s title and first paragraph.

Off-Site SEO

You can further promote your website by submitting it to web directories, such as DMOZ, and to Google Web Tools & Analytics (or OpenAnalytics, an open source alternative). Another big factor in Off-Site SEO is the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. They can also be used to interact with your audience and build a network with high ranking sites of a similar topic.


Image Source: www.w3consultation.com

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Week 9: Copyright

In this week’s lecture, we learned about copyright, copyleft and various resources for finding free material.

Copyright, Fair Use & Public Domain

Copyright, a form of intellectual property, refers to the ‘right to copy’ and usually lies by the creator of the original work. If ‘copies’ are made, the original is called the underlying work, and any reproductions are derivative works. However, a derivative work must have a substantial difference from the underlying work to become its’ own original and thus, have those modifications also be protected by copyright.

Even copyrighted works may be used in the context of Fair Use, which includes news reporting, teaching, research or library archiving. Copyright can also expire or be forfeited by the copyright holder, which results in the works becoming Public Domain and thus allowed to use without having to obtain the rights.

Copyleft

Copyleft on the other hand is the practice of using copyright to allow people to distribute copies and create derivative works, as long as those operate under the same license. The GNU General Public License and the Creative Commons License are popular examples of this.

There are different Creative Commons Licenses, ranging from only allowing to share the original work (while giving credit, and only noncommercially) to being able to distribute and modify the original work even in commercial context (while still giving credit!).

Creative Commons Licenses

Resources

  • The Internet Archive: Digital library providing free access to a number of archived webpages, books, films and more
  • Free Music Archive: Digital library of high-quality audio files which are free to use for all
  • Project Gutenberg: Free eBooks
  • Google Reverse Image Search: By pressing the camera icon on the google image search you can search for instances of an image on a webpage, either by providing a URL or uploading the image itself
  • Citation Machine: Generates citations in a chosen style (e.g. APA) for books, articles, websites, and other content

Until next week!


Image Source: www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk

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Week 8: Digital Image Management

This week we learned about image formats & how to use them.

Firstly, there are several distinctions which can be made for image formats, namely if they are bitmap or vector graphics, and what level of compression is involved.

Bitmap Image vs. Vector Graphic

A bitmap or raster image is a dot matrix data structure, which means the image is made up out of tiny pixels. This means it is not easily scalable and has a fixed size in which it is portrayed correctly and the pixels are not visible as singular objects.

A vector graphic however are made out of geometrical primitives, such as points, lines, curves and shapes. Therefore, it can be scaled to any size and still look like it is supposed to.

Uncompressed, lossless or lossy compression

Uncompressed file formats store all the original image data and are therefore quite big in file size. Lossless compression makes use of eliminating redundancy in the image to save file size while still being able to reconstruct the original completely. Lossy compression sacrifices information which is deemed irrelevant for the human eye to reduce the file size even more, this however makes the reconstruction impossible and can cause artefacts in the image.

Image formats

  • PSD (uncompressed) is the Photoshop File Format, stores all information about layers, transparency and transformations.
  • TIFF (depends) can be compressed, both lossless and lossy, popular with graphic artists and for print.
  • DNG (uncompressed) is a RAW image format with a wide colour gamut, use less file size than TIFF even uncompressed.
  • GIF (lossless compression) supports animation with a limited palette of 256 colours for each frame.
  • PNG (lossless compression) supports transparency.
  • JPG (lossy compression) is able to reduce file size significantly, but due to its nature of lossy compression can cause artifacts; still popular with sharing photographs.

Until next week!


Image Source: help.adobe.com

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Week 7: Presentations

This week we talked about digital presentations and what to look out for when creating & giving them.

Resources

Prezi_logo_transparent_2012Firstly, let’s have a look at different kinds of presentation recourses available: The most common programs for creating digital presentations are Microsoft’s Powerpoint, OpenOffice’s Impress and Apple’s Keynote. A few less known, but still powerful online tools are GoogleDocs, SlideShare and Prezi, which we will be using for our second assignment.

Then, there is Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker for creating Mash-Ups of various types of media (video, audio, images), and Screenr, which is a web-based screen recorder and can be used for recording those Mash-Ups!

Creating Presentations

Now that you have various tools at your disposal, you can start designing your presentation. You should make sure your presentation follows a clear structure so it is easy to follow and will engage the audience.

  1. Set the scene. Give the audience a short overview of your presentation: What is the topic, why is it important to talk about it, and why are you in particular talking about it?
  2. Craft the key message. This can be either informative (you aim to deliver knowledge, so the key message is the most important message) or persuasive (you aim to convince the audience, so the key message is the reaction you want to trigger)
  3. Identify the audience’s questions. The body of your presentation should serve to answer the top questions the audience has after hearing your key message.
  4. Write assertions to answer the audience’s questions in a convincing and concise way. Back up your assertions by stories, statistics, endorsement and/or explanations.
  5. All the content should lead back to the key message. End your presentation with, again, summarizing the topic with the most important message and create an impact.

Good luck!


Image Source: prezi.com

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Photography Assignment #4

This week’s photography assignment was to take part in one of the Retouch Challenges on retouchpro.com. I chose #47: