Monthly Archives: April 2009

Easy, Free Tool To Create Scrollers For Your Website

Create Professional Scrollers Without Scripting

Create Professional Scrollers Without Scripting

Give Away of the Day is on a tear lately, with one great offering after another. Today, Monday, April 20, they have SoThink’s JavaScript Web Scroller Creator.

It creates horizontal or vertical image scrollers, news scroller, ads, events, image slide shows, etc.

You’ve seen similar scrollers on eBay (Auctiva’s scrollers are an especially popular way to showcase additional inventory) and Amazon (which uses scrollers across the bottom of the details page to highlight additional items you might want to buy). Scrollers are a great way to keep visitors on site and a great way to create no pressure upsells.

Web Scroller requires no JavaScript experience. The software has an easy to use graphical interface. All the scripting is done behind the scenes. Web Scroller integrates with Dreamweaver and FrontPage.  It can also be used as a stand alone application.

This is another piece of software worth downloading and activating, whether you need it today or not. Once you see how versatile it is, you will need it.

Microphone Comparison

The Best Sounding Mics for Screencasting

The Best Sounding Mics for Screencasting


Betsey Weber and Matt Pierce of TechSmith (the makers of Camtasia) have done an excellent short comparison of several microphones for screencasting, including a lapel mic, freestanding USB mics, a headset, and even a webcam.

Matt reads the same short passage from Alice in Wonderland with each microphone. The entire screencast lasts less than two minutes, so it is very easy to keep the previous microphones’ sound in mind as the test progresses.

For anyone who has tried out different microphones, it will come as no surprise that the Samson C03U Multi-pattern Condenser Mic (direct to computer via USB) and the Audio Technica AT2020USB Condenser USB Microphone were the clear winners.

I wish they’d also been able to test the pricier, but universally praised, Rode Microphones Podcaster USB Microphone. But you can’t have everything, every time, and this short test is truly helpful.

Once you accept that sound is at least as important as visuals in your screen casts, these side by side, hearing is believing comparisons will narrow your mic choices right down. Cheap headsets that plug into your computer’s sound card just don’t get the job done.

If you are upgrading your microphone, don’t forget the desk (or floor) stand and pop filter. Together, they will only add another $30.00 or so to your purchase. If your budget permits, you might want to get a shockmount as well.

10 Ways To Customize You Tube

10 Ways To Improve You Tube Playback

Improve You Tube

You Tube has introduced a raft of changes in the last few months. Most have led to better looking videos.

Today, MakeUseOf.com posted a cheat sheet of URL tricks that will allow you to take advantage of this improved video resolution when when you embed videos on your own site or blog.

We’ve mentioned some of these before. Here’s a round up of the most useful from previous posts and from MakeUseOf’s list:

BETTER QUALITY

1 Switch to High Quality on You Tube by adding ‘&fmt=18? (stereo, 480 x 270 resolution) to the end of the URL. For High Definition, use ‘&fmt=22? (stereo, 1280 x 720 resolution).

2. Embed Higher Quality Videos To embed HQ videos on your own site,add  “&ap=%2526fmt%3D18? to the embed code. For HD, add “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22?

IMPROVE THE YOU TUBE PLAYER

3. Hide The Search Box. If the new Search Box makes you crazy, just add ‘&showsearch=0? to the embed code.

CUE UP THE RELEVANT SECTION

4. There is no need to suffer through an overly long video just to find the relevant 30 seconds. You can cue up the desired parts of any video by addding #t=XXmYYs ( Change XX mYYs to the correct minutes and seconds where you want the video to begin palying. ) to the end of the URL. For instance, if you want a video to begin 2 minutes and5 seconds in, add #02m05s to the URL.

5. Embed only the part of a video that you want. Just append ‘&start=30? to skip first 30s of the video. In general you can modify the value after start= to the number of seconds you want to skip the video for.

DUMP RELATED VIDEOS

Tired of You Tube luring viewers away from ur site? Get rid of the Related Videos bar that shows at the end.  Add ‘&rel=0? to the end of the url part of the embed code.

Visit MakeUseOf to read all 10 suggestions.

Save 40% and Get Better Pictures with Photoshop Elements 7

If you do any photo editing work – whether as a hobbyist photographer or as a web site owner – you know you need Photoshop Elements.

Photoshop Elements 7

If you’ve been waiting to buy – you are in luck. From now until April 23, Adobe is selling Photoshop Elements 7 for $59.99 when you buy direcly from Adobe. You won’t find it cheaper.

For the average amateur photographer, Photoshop Elements offers almost unlimited possibilities, without the steep learning curve and complexity of the full version of Photoshop.

Would you like to create a banner or a Web 2.0 style Buy Now button for your web site? Elements is the program that can do it. Maybe you are a scrapbooker, looking to showcase old and new family photos. Then you’ll want to try out some of Elements many templates. Or maybe, like me, you just take photographs that are OK, but never quite as good as I’d hoped. Photoshop Elements can add vibrance and depth, contrast and color correction with just a few mouse clicks.

Once you’ve used – or played with – Photoshop Elements for awhile, you’ll never believe you got by without it.

Below is a photo effect I created in Elements.

 

Frame Break Out Effect Created with Photoshop Elements

Frame Break Out Created with Photoshop Elements

Wouldn’t you like to delight your family and friends with vacation pictures that looked like this? You can – it only took about 5 steps in Photoshop Elements.

Remember – the sale is a limited time offer directly from Adobe. Celebrate the end of tax season and have some fun using Elements 7 to stretch those dollars.

stretched dollar

 

Original dollar bill by Stewart Altered under Creative Commons License

Distance and Perspective

It's All About Perspective

It's All About Perspective

When you finish a project – whether it is a 10 second YouTube video or a 300 page book – set it aside.

You are too close to judge. The good, the bad, and the parts that could be better will all look different tomorrow.

Today, you’ve poured your soul into your work. The mind sees what the heart desires.

With distance, today’s glaring defects fade into the background. Stunningly clever phrases lose their luster and are revealed as distractions.

With time, emotions cool and you can view your work dispassionately, as a stranger will.

Does this shot work? Does that sentence really make sense? How can I edit this three hour mess into a tight, coherent 45 minute jewel?

Cuts that could never be made in the heat of creation are easy to identify six weeks later.

Of course, that means you cannot leave everything to the last minute. If you are an adrenaline junkie who thrives on the pressure of deadlines, you have made the decision to trade the rush that comes from averting disaster for the quality that comes with calm reflection.

Is that a trade you would make consciously?

And, lest the perfectionists get too smug, remember: at least the deadliner gets the work done.  60% of something good is still better than 100% of nothing perfect.

How do you balance your need to get it right and get it done? Have you gone back, after a year or more, and looked at an old project and barely recognized it because it was so different than your memory?

Photo by ExtraNoise Released under Creative Commons

Do These Things Really Work?

Breaking Free

Breaking Free from Preconceptions

A friend in Boston was buying garden seeds. As the cashier rang them up, she picked up a packet, shook it, and asked suspiciously, “Do these things really work?”

The cashier wasn’t asking about the brand or the germination rate – she was asking if you can really grow a plant from a seed.

I knew a man who grew up reading Winnie The Pooh. Somehow, in his youth, he became convinced that honey came from bears. When he learned it came from bees, he was flabbergasted.

When I was small, I thought, after learning the words to Silent Night, that the Virgin Mary was married to a jolly, bearded, fat man in a red suit named Round John Virgin because that not only explained the otherwise inexplicable presence of Santa Claus in most Christmas scenes, it was right there in the song: “Round John Virgin, Mother, and Child.”

Go ahead and laugh – but when you’re done think about how little we understand about the world around us. We rely on accepted, conventional wisdom for the few things we really need and let the rest slide.

Like the Winnie the Pooh fan, we tell ourselves stories to explain those things we don’t understand. Like the cashier, we remain skeptical of outlandish claims. Like me, we hear what we expect to hear, and if we don’t, we change the sounds until the words make sense.

How does anyone separate myth from marketing and marketing from reality? It’s a wonder we can communicate at all.

Photo by aussiegall Released under Creative Commons License.

Admit You Are Good

Take time to appreciate every day perfection

Why are we astonished by every day perfection?

Naomi Dunford has a post on IttyBiz today called Talking About The Nice.

Naomi exhorts her readers to market a product by emphasizing the good points, rather than obsessing over how to hide the weaknesses. Certainly, that’s a fine idea. But it also made me think of how infrequently we identify our own good points – our talents, achievements, accomplishments – while we obsess over every mistake and failing.

Here’s a story from my email today:

Every quarter, I teach a one day workshop on self-publishing. One of my former students has her book all ready to be published. It is written. It is formatted. It is layed out very professionally. The book has an attractive cover. And, best of all, the book is aimed at a very profitable niche.

So what’s the problem?

The author cannot get alternating odd and even page headers to work.

She’s about ready to give up entirely because she is so frustrated. She feels like she is failing. All over a minor, technical detail that will have zero impact on her readers.

Listen up, folks!

99% of projects fail because people never finish them.

Hell, most people never even start. To write a book and then do all the additional work of the editor and the designer is a great accomplishment.

To see any project through to the end is an achievement.

Don’t look for excuses to berate yourself.

Take the opportunity to pat yourself on the back. Celebrate all the perfect things you’ve already done.

Photo by Kjunstorm Released under Creative Commons License

Don’t Make Your Customers Feel Foolish

The Jokes On Me

The Joke Is On Me

April Fool’s Day (April 1 in the USA) is an internet institution. At no other time of the year are the frat boy roots of computer science thrown into such stark relief.

Dozens of major web sites roll out practical jokes: some clever, some stupid, precious few worth the time or resources devoted to them.

A few of these practical jokes backfire badly by making the customer the butt of the humor. “Ha ha! More fool you – you fell for it!” may work well as a schoolyard bully’s taunt. As a customer relations strategy, it fails miserably.

Before you jump onto a bandwagon, be sure it is not rolling towards a brick wall. Otherwise, you might discover the joke’s on you.

Photo by Mykl Roventine Released under Creative Commons License