Right Reading

concept to publication

Month: January 2007

Testing Goodwidgets Photo Stack

I coughed up my two bucks for the pro version of GoodWidget (Stack), and it works great, except I think you need to pay per stack (you can change the contents of a stack but I don’t think you can have two running without paying twice). These photos are now from a walk in Sunol Wilderness, just to check the ability to change stack contents. Click on the images to shuffle through them. Source: goodwidgets.com.

Miss Turnstile

miss turnstileYeah, the title is an On the Town allusion.

The photo shown is from a series of turnstile photos by Bill Sullivan. The photos were taken as people were leaving the NYC subway.

An interesting project.

via Swiss Miss

200+ U-Turns

Google Maps offers the following:

u-turns

Click image for more info.

From Manuscript to Finished Art Book in Four Weeks

MASTER OF BAMBOO coverI’m writing this from yet another press check. Yes, I put this 144-page full-color, complicated art book together in a single month. I received materials in January and I’ll have finished books next week.

While the speed of this job is remarkable (museum art books often take a year or more to put together), what I wanted to talk about was the design of the book. In the spaces between checking forms here at the plant, I’ve put together an overview of the book’s elements and their design. (This is a fairly extensive piece.) Check it out!

(BTW, I’m too tired of this to give it another round of proofing. Please let me know if you find broken links, missing images, typos, etc.)

NoFollow revisited

Wikipedia announced recently that it is going back to adding the “nofollow” attribute to its outbound links in an attempt to keep people from gaming the system to leach linkjuice off the the site for personal gain.

According to Google, “when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.” So the theory is that by denying linkjuice Wikipedia will stem article spam.

NoFollow has always been controversial, and the response to Wikipedia’s decision has been mixed. Rand Fishkin at SeoMoz (which has also instituted NoFollow) says Wikipedia has finally made the right decision. But he offers surprisingly little to defend that position.

Peter Da Vanzo at blog.v7n.com says the decision has scant significance:

Here’s a question: why do people assume that if Wikipedia adds nofollow, then the links won’t count in search engine calculations? It wouldn’t take much for the search engines to make Wikipedia a special case, and ignore the nofollow tag, if that isn’t the case already.

And another: How do people know that Wikipedia was passing any (real) PageRank or authority before? There are many pages which aren’t using the nofollow tag that also aren’t passing any measurable PageRank and/or authority, probably due to some hand tweaking.

Barry Welford thinks search engines are running up against Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle:

In a sense, Wikipedia is correcting the fallacy in the whole Google PageRank approach. It’s like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. There are some things you can’t measure. If you try to measure them then they’re not the same. Once Google says inlinks will boost a web page’s relevancy, then of course everyone, often supercharged with dumb computer programs, generates as many inlinks as they can.

My opinion? I don’t like NoFollow. I think it amounts to trying to get a free ride by benefiting from links without paying the cost for them. In fact, I’ve added a plug-in that removes the default NoFollow from my blog comments. If anyone wants to comment, I can approve or deny the comment, so the onus is on me to decide whether the link should stand. If commenters have added something of value then I think they deserve any link benefit I can give back to them (my home page, btw, is currently PR6).

I also feel that NoFollow will have little if any effect on the value of Wikipedia contributions. Even with NoFollow, links still bring traffic, and since Wikipedia is likely to continue to rank high in the SERPs, scam sites will still benefit from Wikipedia links if they can get them. In fact, a lot of the spam links submitted to this blog already have the NoFollow tag embedded. By instituting NoFollow, Wikipedia probably hurts honest sites more than scammers — just the sites that took Wikipedia to the top of the SERPs by linking to them in the first place.

So put me in the camp of the sensible Philipp Lenssen who writes at Google Blogoscoped:

What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance — normal links, not “nofollow” links; this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well — but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). That’s why I find Wikipedia’s move very disappointing.

Perhaps the most interesting response to the news came from Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim. He is adding NoFollow to links to Wikipedia from his site.

UPDATE, 24 JAN. Andy Beard has made a Wikipedia NoFollow plug-in, and Aaron Pratt offers a good commentary.

Comments on Getting a Book Published

how to publish a bookReader Rod Clark, who is editor-in-chief of the literary journal Rosebud, left — as a kind of lengthy aside to a comment on another post — some thoughts related to my my “How to Get a Book Published” tutorial. I had a place to capture these comments at my old blogger blog, but I haven’t been maintaining that blog since setting up WordPress here on my own site. So I’m porting those comments and his over here, and changing the comment links on the tutorial pages to refer here.

I’m always interested in what readers think, and posting here promotes community building. I will also answer e-mail, though not always promptly.

MyBlogLog, yes or no?

MyBlogLogYahoo recently purchased MyBlogLog for $10 million. Some blogs I read have been touting the service. The idea, I guess, is to put a face to the sometimes invisible communities of blog readers. You could say it’s a kind of Facebook or MySpace service for blogs. For example, a MyBlogLog widget puts the images of subscribers on their blog posts, or enables the blog site to show visuals of the most recent visitors.

I have kind of mixed feelings about this. I can see its value if you’re really trying to develop a network. (And why spend time on a blog otherwise?) At the same time, I like to retain some degree of privacy. Well, I signed up, but that’s about it so far.

I know some of my readers use MyBlogLog. Are you happy with it? Should I be spending time on this? (I sure don’t want to work as hard at this as this guy does.) So, should I build a community? Install the widgets? What do you think?

The basics: The Complete Guide to MyBlogLog(ing)

UPDATE: I’m not a big user of such sites, and I should probably work harder at network building. But I dabble a bit in Technorati, MyBlogLog, and BUMPzee, and I’ve come to like MyBlogLog the best; recently I put a “recent readers” badge on this blog. The statistics MBL offers are a nice feature, and I prefer the interface.

I’ll take that score

I was lucky to get it, I think.

Plus, I am awesome.

How about you?

You know the Bible 85%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses – you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Kissinger confesses, says it really is a case of blood for oil

In a startling admission, Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed piece in — of all places — the Khaleej Times (Dubai), says:

American forces are … in Iraq not as a favour to its government or as a reward for its conduct. They are there as an expression of the American national interest to prevent the Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology from dominating a region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend.

(In related news, I was in khaleej once, and all I got was a crummy post-graduate degree.)

Free Banksy

Banksy began as a graffiti artist. Much of his early work was stencil-based because that allowed him to complete his projects faster. But in recent years he’s moved on to subverting traditional art by adding modern, often pointed, humorous, and satirical elements to familiar paintings by Monet, Hopper, and others.

Christina Aguilera is the proud owner of a Banksy, described by the Independent as “a pornographic picture of Queen Victoria in a lesbian pose with a prostitute,” for which the pop star paid 25,000 GBP (currently about US $49,000).

But now you can own a Banksy for free. In response to the pirating of his art, Banksy is making high-resolution images of his work freely available on his website. Enjoy.

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Link: Banksy on Wikipedia

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Video: Banksy’s graffitoed elephant

Eight New Blog Features

now reading library pageSome readers might have noticed that I’ve added a few new features to the blog. Specifically (starting with left sidebar and proceeding to right sidebar):

  1. Flickr badge.
    The flash badge at left enables clicking through to my most recent photos at flickr.com. I like the way it’s not static. But will it start to look like the blicking, scrolling texts of the 1990s?
  2. Book of Days link
    It may only rank ninth among my pages (actually I think that’s because it’s really about 38 pages, so the hits are spread out–I’m certainly not going to take the time to add them all up) but I still have a fondness for the daybook, which was the first feature I added when I began to break out of resume website mode about ten years ago. Since I’ve discontinued the Book of Days RSS feed (as too much work) instead I’ll try to update this link to the page that includes the current date (in other words, about every 10 days).
  3. Social bookmark link
    I’ve had this on my html pages but only now added it to the blog. Saves a stroke or two in adding the site to your del.icio.us bookmarks, or wherever. (I don’t like the way some sites give you about a million icons with every post.)
  4. Now Reading
    This is an interesting plugin from Rob Miller. If you like it you can download it here. It’s a database program for storing books. When you enter a book it pulls a thumbnail of the cover from amazon. If you click on a book it takes you to the library page for the title, where you can post reviews and the like. It has a lot of features that I’m not interested in using, so I stripped down the templates. (I had trouble making the library pages work with my theme, so I just removed the right sidebar from those pages.) I’m integrating it with some of my book reviews. I keep meaning to post more of those but I hate doing that kind of mechanical stuff–plus back in the day I put them all on a zip disk that went bad, so it would involve a lot of key entry. Someday …
  5. Duly Quoted
    Links to one of my quotation pages (currently Ava Gardner).
  6. Moving on to the right sidebar we find, first, a link to my bio and my e-mail information (anti-phishing format). This is something every blog should have, right? I guess I just overlooked it until now.
  7. A big honking subscribe button
    (The search box isn’t new. It only searches the blog. The full site search is at the bottom of the sidebar–does that seem okay?).
    Some say bigger buttons get more clicks (try it). It sounds just stupid enough to be true. But I can’t deal with the standard orange color in my scheme, so I’ve changed it to rightreading blue.
    UPDATE: I’ve scaled this back a notch so it’s not quite as in-your-face.
  8. Top 10 Currently Popular Pages
    Based on my awstats reports, these are my most popular pages this month. Only number 10 is a surprise to me (but it’s a pretty big surprise). I’ll try to update this as it changes with future monthly reports.

So there you go. Have I added features of value or just cluttered up the page?

Boz’s London

Here‘s a cool web feature for lit types. Clicking the map (the image above is a detail) takes you to a section of an 1859 map of London. Once at the map detail you can get further information about that part of town. For example, you can click a “dictionary” button, which takes you to a description of that location taken from the 1879 Dickens’s Dictionary of London by Charles Dickens Jr. Or you can see an aerial photo of the area today, from Google maps.

The site is the brainchild of David Perdue. It’s a good illustration of how disparate data can be related to create, in effect, new content. Nice job!

(via Splodinvark)

Amy Arbus’s NYC in the 80s

amy arbus photoThe Morning News is showing some of Amy Arbus’s images of New York City fashion, 1980s style. You know, when the city actually had a sort of alternative scene. Or, as interviewer Rosecrans Baldwin says,

Now that Manhattan is only habitable for the rich, New Yorkers love to look back to the mad ‘80s, when the Bowery was dangerous and apartments were affordable…. Between 1980 and 1990, The Village Voice ran photographer Amy Arbus’s “On The Street” photo-column, a page documenting downtown’s most vibrant, creative dressers and personalities, and now the greatest hits have been published by Welcome Books.

Sample photos and interview here

More about StumbleUpon, and stumbly friends

Earlier I mentioned that I was getting a lot of incoming traffic from StumbleUpon (about 1500 visits each of the past few weeks, to be numeric). So I’ve been doing a bit of stumbling myself, and I like the diversity of topics and sites that are represented (compared, for example, to something like digg, which has an exceedingly narrow focus and is ruled with an iron first by a ruthless cabal of YTMs (young tech males). As a next step I’d like to add a few stumbling friends and see how that goes. Any takers? I’m called xensen.

By the way, StumbleUpon rates some profiles “R,” for what seem to me kind of silly reasons, so you have to put an age in your profile to “prove” you’re eighteen and see those pages. I was feeling a bit Laozi when I did this, so I put in the oldest age they would allow, which turned out to be 90. So, what would happen next year, when I would turn 91?

Night Canal, Bruges, Belgium, Dec. 20, 2006

night canal

For this image from my Bruges in December 2006 photoset (click image for larger view) I lightened and brought out detail in the dark areas using the following workflow:

1. duplicate background layer
2. desaturate new layer
3. invert desaturated layer
4. gausian blur new layer (a lot)
5. change blend mode to soft light
6. adjust levels, curves, hue/saturation

This is a wonderful trick for bringing out detail in the shadow areas of underexposed photos. (BTW, I set my camera to underexpose slightly because information can be pulled out of dark areas but areas that are burnt away are just gone.)

I also sharpened using my usual method:

1. duplicate background layer
2. set blend mode to overlay
3. adjust transparency to about 55%
4. apply high pass filter

This sharpens the image in a nondestructive way, and the image stays sharp when resized.

No flash or tripod was used. The image was taken after dark (at 9:33) with an f-stop of 3.5 and an exposure of 1/8.

By the way, my flickr site is very lonely. No one is making any comments. I guess it’s not getting any visitors. 🙁

BibliOdyssey

BibliOdysseyAnother entry for “blogs we love.” I just discovered BlbliOdyssey (“Books, Illustrations, Science, History, Visual Materia Obscura, and Eclectic Bookart”) recently, but it only takes a few minutes to get hooked at this site, which collects pages from illustrated manuscripts and books. (It’s marred only by the unfortunate placement of Google adsense ads directly under the main header.)

The site is curiously terse. I wonder who the host, “PK,” is. Can anyone enlighten me?

This is also the first site other than my own FriscoVista that I’ve seen that uses del.icio.us tags for site navigation.

Merry 2007

How can it not be merry? We are so much smarter than we were a year ago. Just consider the BBC’s list of 100 things we now know that we didn’t know last year. (Check out their site for more info.)

Some of the new knowledge includes:

  • Urban birds have developed a short, fast “rap style” of singing, different from their rural counterparts.
  • The lion costume in the film The Wizard of Oz was made from real lions.
  • The Pope has been known to wear red Prada shoes.
  • Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.
  • A domestic cat can frighten a black bear to climb a tree.
  • Music can help reduce chronic pain by more than 20% and can alleviate depression by up to 25%.
  • In a fight between a polar bear and a lion, the polar bear would win.

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