Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 21, 2011

Visual Mashups (and Mishaps) – Learning Cheap Design, the Hard Way

Today I’m trying out Windows Journal and its handwriting feature, plus Adobe’s online pdf maker, plus other options on my mother’s Windows 7 system computer (like the suddenly discovered “Snip” [partial screen capture] function …which Apple’s had a version of for years!) . This is all just “playing around”, to learn, to explore an experimental design process or inexpensive butm innovative method.

In thinking and creating visually, lately I’ve been feeling old-fashioned and “left behind” (back off , all you Tim LaHey and Kirk Cameron fans). So as I move toward actually developing marketable digital communication and social network marketing skills, let’s see if I can learn by doing (as opposed to reading the instructions, which most men both old AND y0oung are bad at…).

First we can try to embed this sucker, see what that looks like:

This is supposedly a link to my free-trial one-time test doc, uploaded to Adobe subscription/PDF conversion service, averaging ~$9-10/mo.   (that link’s dropped in here by using “Add media/URL” via a Wordpress-provided button… I suspect it will not work).

OR let’s try something else below, also from the web… the same private URL at Adobe–i.e. a .tif file uploaded by me, and then converted to pdf by Adobe– eventually snipped by me from my within an InternetExplorer window:

This image was originally in color, including some of the handwriting, but Adobe grayscaled it. Not sure if that's normal, or something I accidentally chose.

Not great, but it’s something at least. For the record, the above image was not viewable by saving it as a .tif file and then trying to open it directly in WordPress (tif= the only option the WinJournal offered, besides its own .jnt formatting). WordPress tolerates a lot of visual formats, but .tif ain’t one of ’em.

OK. Now let’s try a snip directly, on my desktop (not online), of the original Journal page, a process where snipping saves in four possible formats ( .mht, .jpg, .gif, .png) :

Now that's more like it! This is a PNG file, uploaded from my desktop.

Still the questions remain: what’s the cheapest way to get multi-modal, high control hosting? What’s the best way?

What am I doing wrong, or poorly? (technically, in the blog, …since applying that question more broadly — to my whole life– might send me to the bottom of a bottle or to other scary places looking for answers…)  Where does one learn the more subversive, DIY or punkish sorts of methods, when the glossy corporate or other high-cost business/publicity/marketing models are out of reach, or maybe just wrong for your project? How do people “game the system”? What are considered survival skills in this field.

Then there’s the reality of what a Twitter page or blog can’t do, compared to a full fledged website with bells and whistles, let alone a many-armed synergistic beast with games and products for sale and character tie-ins, like Mickey Mouse and his minions…

Speaking of Twitter, here’s a funny little FAQ note about WordPress adding the new gray “Follow” button you see below (to replace the former “Subscribe” widget)… a recent improvement to this, my free blog-hosting platform:

3. Will other subscription features also have their name changed? We are carefully studying the impact of different names on existing features. We only change names when we have evidence it helps our bloggers and the benefits outweigh the annoyance of the change. We don’t change feature names to be fashionable or to emulate other services that might rhyme with “critter” or “shmacebook”.

Ummm… I think they’re kidding themselves that they have not caught the Twitter bug at least a little bit. Anyone with a brain can see that thanks to Twitter, “follow” is the trendy word-of-the-hour for suspicious but curious websurfers (“Who do you follow?”) Therefore its a trendy sort of hook for content providers trying to acquire and hold Generation Twit’s short attention span (i.e. the leaders, shysters and opinion-makers, those looking to be followed by the Twits, whose livelihoods may in fact depend upon being followed).

Twitter, for the record, is a service which I still don’t use, but that stance is getting harder to justify. In other words, it’s very tempting to FOLLOW the tweeting crowd of lemmings, one that values quantity –like a steady flow of  generally shallow 140-character informational “pokes”, bad jokes, and adolescent text-based sound-bites– rather than quality (i.e. creation and “publication” of full-bodied articles with complex, analytical, and stylish content ).

Maybe I’m an elitist for still wanting people to think– especially to think critically about what they are being told (or sold). Maybe people are so stressed and stretched that they can’t think too deeply without feeling overwhelmed. I can’t pretend to understand what makes most people tick anymore. I’m just trying to keep ticking myself, and learn to do so at a pace that is undoubtedly three or four times the pace we  used to work and play and live and move within when I was a young twit myself.


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