Joe Longobardi Photography

May 9, 2010

Another plug for plug-ins!

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 10:09 pm

Galleries for Art’s Sake!
The one thing that can be said about Content Management Systems is that they just call out for images! The web has become more visual than ever, and nothing can spiff up a site like a simple but effective image gallery to display everything from your kid’s art to photos of your trip to Botswana.

Image gallery plug-ins are widely available; are generally open source; and can add a little fun to any blog or a certain amount of depth to a commercial site.

Just about every site has its own plugin to upload one image to another site. Flickr, an online photo site, even has a plugin that allows for your newly posted images to appear on Facebook to share with friends.

And they more or less do the same thing. A generic list of what most of these plug-ins offer include:

  • Automatic uploading and hosting
  • Automatic resizing of photos
  • Complete analytic of your traffic
  • Support iPhone/iPod and smart phones
  • Management of the galleries is simple and straight forward
  • Sidebar Widget : Show a slideshow, random or recent picture at your sidebar
  • A slideshow of your images
  • Post to your blog from anywhere and even if your videos are at home on your PC
  • FREE! Open source! On the house!

So many gallery plugins are available! But let’s review a few I’ve found to be quite effective….

Talkin’ ’bout my… NextGEN!
NextGEN Gallery Plugin is one example of a visually appealing gallery plugin.

NextGEN Gallery is a fully integrated gallery plug-in for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option. It allows you to add image effects, custom templates for your theme. You can even move images between galleries. It also provides other useful functions like watermarking and zip upload. Plus, it can easily be installed as a widget.

Or how about support for video as well as still images? I know what you’re thinking: What? Are you insane or something? Yes, but that’s beside the point.

Check out Cincopa WordPress Plugin.  This plug-in creates an automated, fully customizable image gallery, slideshows, video and music playlists anywhere within your WordPress site. Choose your videos, images and music and display skin, pages or posts with custom overlay text and rotating thumbnail belts. It supports iPhone/iPod and smart phones. But does it support the iPad? Does anyone actually care?!


A real nice plugin is Picasna WordPress Plugin.

Picasna enables you to present your photos in a stylish and easy-to-browse way on a WordPress blog. You can upload photos to Picasa Web Albums which themselves are actually quite popular with commercial sites that allow for anyone to contribute images that are thematically relative (i.e., newspapers looking for photos of a snowstorm that swallowed up a city) and they will immediately appear on your web page.  You will need to apply for a Picasa account via your Google email account to upload photos, though.

Not so much a plugin, but something to consider: an open source program called Visual Lightbox. I’ve used it on my own site Joe Longobardi Photography to effectively display my images without too much scripting on my part. What’s great is that it can download photos from a Flickr account without having to manually insert each individual photo. Okay, that was a plug for me! One other plug (hee-hee!) for Flickr: The Flickr Slideshow plugin! Made specifically for a WordPress blog, it embeds slideshows from a Flickr photo set into posts and pages. Cool!

Can you say MORE Flickr?! Well, one plugin that I have found to be pretty fun is the Flickr Gallery Plugin! Check it out! (I know, I’m such a shameless promoter). This is a neat little WordPress plugin that allows immediate upload of your photos to your WordPress blog. Different arrays are available to alter the presentation of imported images (i.e, as single images or an entire gallery) to fit your page layout. All you need to do is apply for a Flickr API key (oh, and of course you’ll need a Flickr account). Of all the plugins metioned here, I find this the easiest to implement. Though not as graphically “astute” as say Picasna or NextGEN, the ease of updating in Flickr Gallery for me outweighs any bells and whistles associated with the former.

Still, if that’s too much, you can use something like Gallery Widget! A relatively easy to use plugin that, as the name implies is a widget! And we all love widgets!  In fact, here’s the most exciting video ever made on this very subject that will have you bristling with the anticipation of your next widget installation!

Enjoy!


April 25, 2010

It’s A Date!

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 9:44 pm

“Do you know where you’re going to….?”
Do you like the things that life is showing you? Well, maybe you need to update your calendar! Whether you’re a Mom and Pop establishment, a local school, artist or just the Über-Blogger of the Internet, an events calendar can allow you to keep people posted on what you are doing as well as allow people to make a note of some special event just by the mere wayward glance of a site’s sidebar.

WYSIWYG
Really, what more do you want from a calendar? Why have your readers or clients hunt for information? It shouldn’t be a scenario out of “Where’s Waldo: The Movie!” Just an archive of current and upcoming milestones that you and your followers can use to keep tabs.

So what calendar will best suit your needs? Something that serves as little more than a brief reminder of what day, week or year it happens to be? Now, WordPress offers Widgets that you can drag and drop to have some active calendar of sorts, but of course, it you want to modify and announce events with some flair, then you should try to incorporate a simple but effective events calendar. The editorial calendar plugin for example enables WordPress administrators and editors to manage the dates for multiple posts at once. This is a calendar created by Kieran O’Shea. Simple and straight forward, it’s my calendar of choice for WordPress. Easy to use, easy to update, easy to install!

Features include:

  • Monthly view of events
  • Mouse-over details for each event
  • Events can have a timestamp (optional)
  • Events can display their author (optional)
  • Events can span more than one day
  • Multiple events per day possible
  • Events can repeat on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis
  • Repeats can occur indefinitely or a limited number of times
  • Easy to use events manager in admin dashboard
  • Sidebar function/Widget to show today’s events
  • Sidebar function/Widget to show upcoming events
  • Lists of today’s events can be displayed in posts or pages
  • Lists of upcoming events can be displayed in posts or pages
  • Comprehensive options panel for admin
  • Modifiable CSS using the options panel
  • Optional drop down boxes to quickly change month and year
  • User groups other than admin can be permitted to manage events
  • Events can be placed into categories
  • A calendar of events for just one of more categories can be displayed
  • Categories system can be switched on or off
  • Pop up JavaScript calendars help the choosing of dates
  • Events can be links pointing to a location of your choice
  • Full internationalization is possible
  • Compatible with WordPress MU

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s not necessary to use all the features, but it allows for a mix and match depending on your needs. If you run a charter school for example that will have multiple administrators, then each admin will find what’s best suited for his or her event postings. If each administrator has his or her own calendar, well the sky is the limit, but of course that would probably result in multiple unique calendar pages, and it’s enough to keep track of one list of events from multiple posters.

As part of an ongoing assignment in cooperation with several colleagues, we were asked to incorporate a Google calendar into the website of Art Space Charter School in Asheville, NC. Actually, I’m not as big a fan of the Google plugin, but I suppose I need to play with it more. You’ll have to establish a Gmail account to gain access to a Google calendar, so follow this link for more info. I will say that it is VERY user friendly. Yep! What you see is what you get! I’ve started using mine recently and have already included some upcoming events.

Localendar (pretty clever name, huh?) is a WYSIWYG event calendar plugin that is open source and allows for multiple admins, though it seems a little less sophisticated. Plus, the free version ( yes, there is a fee for the upgrade) will bring up banner ads to your site.

Here’s a sample calendar created with Localendar.


 
Now, though they seem pretty straight forward overall when used as widgets,  events calendars can be an issue when customizing templates. The WordPress plugins are easier to deal with than the seemingly benign Google Calendar, but that takes some tweaking on your part!

Look, it can be a matter of taste, but as much as I like my hard copy calendar with old photos of James Dean hanging in the spare bedroom, a virtual calendar is far more utilitarian if your intent is to remind friends, clients, students and the various ilk of what’s happening. The extra benefit of allowing multiple admins is a fantastic way of organizing events on a grander scale.

Plus, it saves from having everyone scribbling notes all over James Dean.

Oh, and if you thought I was joking….

April 18, 2010

Templates! We got templates!

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 10:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Knights Template
Templates. We all love ’em. So versatile! So user-friendly. They come in all shapes and flavors! Designers love them; lay people adore them; moms cherish them; Dwarves mine them for their sparkle; kids just can’t get enough of them! Why, when I was a kid and my parents asked if I wanted ponies and clowns for my 6th birthday, I responded, “No, I’ll forego the ponies and clowns. If I can have templates for my birthday, I would be the happiest 6 year old ever!”

Okay, I may have exaggerated; I don’t really know any moms. But the great thing about templates is that so many free pre-existing templates are available on the Internet, ready to be downloaded and utilized. Even better is that many web templates are available for the most widely used Content Management Systems (CMS)! My CMS of choice by the way is WordPress. Yes, Blogger is very easy to use, but nowhere as versatile; add that many professional organizations use WordPress as well as Drupal and Joomla. So why not cash in, so to speak?

WordPress has the added benefit of having had so many templates designed specifically to be used with it. Seriously, THOUSANDS of free WordPress templates are available for anyone to use as is, or as a-template!-to be reworked to fit one’s preferences. The key of course is to filter through them to find the Holy Grail of templates!

For example:

Other templates do exist for Joomla and Blogger:

I rather like Blogger, but really, it’s WordPress that the kids love!

Why buy the cow?
Sure, you can create your own page from scratch, but why go through the pains when it’s so much easier to borrow from the sweat and toil of others (does that sound right…?). Really, it is much simpler to start from a foundation only because it can inspire the creative process rather than being bogged down from too much technical overload from the onset. Once you have a good framework, you can adjust things accordingly and still be artsy!

And speaking of art, I and my cohorts in crime are currently working on a new web page design for a charter school called Art Space. The new site is based on a preexisting WordPress template. Here’s an example reworked by the brilliant Allen Smith:
 

My choice for a template was more right-brained even for an art school:

 
This is my alternative choice:
 

But what do I know? I hang out with dwarves and hobbits and not enough moms….

April 11, 2010

“Dude, where’s my website?!”

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 5:16 pm
Tags: ,

“If you bid it, they will come.”
We no longer want our MTV (and who does?-No music, just “cribs”). Today, people want as much online exposure as God and mammon will allow! Some bemoan some false sense of exclusion: “I see all these sites online, so obviously it’s the result of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I want a piece of that action!”

God may wield the power to grant you a top ranking in a browser search, but it is money that makes the World Wide Web go ’round! And the mythological SEO we’ve heard tales about in our youth may have some basis in fact (think Beowulf, King Arthur or due process of law); but truth be known, what people are really seeking without realizing it is Search Engine Visibility or SEV!

Often referred to as SEO, Optimized Search is a technical process in which webmasters make adjustments to their sites in an effort to rank well organically on high-value keywords (e.g. Toyota becomes a top result for “bad brakes”). While some PR professionals participate in developing such programs, other individuals handle most search initiatives. Paid Search campaigns are managed by marketers who control search ad budgets. For Optimized Search programs, it’s typically technologists who are in charge.

The objective of SEO is to get your website ranked in the natural or “organic” section of search engine results. Because you have to earn your way there, being listed in natural search engine results is a sign of credibility. People trust natural search results, but unless your site is near the top of the search results, customers are unlikely to see your website.

Search Engine Visibility, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a set of marketing methods to promote a website in search engine results pages.

The three main methods are:

  • Search engine optimization, or improving rankings for relevant keywords in search results by adjusting the website structure and content.
  • Search engine advertising or paying the search engine company for a guaranteed high ranking or an ad displayed aside the results.
  • Paid inclusion, or paying the search engine company for a guarantee that the website is included in the search. SEM is the practice of buying paid search listings, different from SEO which seeks to obtain better free search listings. This is known as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. When you enter a keyword at a search engine like Google, you get back two types of results: paid search ads or “sponsored listings” and natural or “organic” results. PPC works together with Search Engine Optimization to give you immediate visibility in the sponsored listings, while you are building your natural search results. Companies even bid for clicks and keywords to maintain top ranking.

EIEIO
So that’s the technical stuff. What about the more visceral approach people take when looking for you on the web? “Hmm, sounds like this-maybe it’s spelled this way….” Someone could type in a word looking for chickens and come up with 16,900,000 results on Google (trust me, I tested it out!) Competitive rather than generic keywords and meta-tags are more likely to increase your visibility and ranking on a search engine.

What do I mean by that? Okay, let’s say Old McDonald had a farm. Mr. McDonald wants to advertise his farm. How do we achieve visibility? Well, for one thing, McDonald is not that uncommon a name. Think Mayor McCheese! Better yet, think Ronnie himself!

“Hold the pickles….”
Obviously, if someone mentions McDonald’s, the first thing that pops into your mind are fries, clowns and the Hamburglar. So how do we distinguish McDonald the farmer from McDonald the Clown?

Okay, both serve up cows. Well, maybe Old McDonald can distinguish himself by including his lack of kangaroo herds. Or that his chickens are free range rather than McNuggets. What we now have here is a Reputational Search. The premise and promise of Reputational Search is that any company, NGO or brand can apply a search mindset to tried-and-true PR tactics and, in the process, influence the search results around certain keywords.

If Old McDonald had a website, I suppose “EIEIO” would constitute an appropriate keyword. If we factor words like “farm” or “moo-moo here”, then sure, now we have a site that easily differentiates from pages that may have common tags such as “old”, “milk” or even “McDonald”.

Now we can better narrow down searches for a specific Mr. McDonald. Still, a reputational search is just that, and it’s something that needs to be honed and nurtured by active promotion as well as participation on other sites to let people know you exist! Effective? The above sub-heading reads “Hold the pickles….” Did you think McDonald’s? Actually, that tag line is from an old Burger King ad campaign. Hankering for a Whopper?

Or maybe you have a taste for kangaroo….

Save Face….Book!
But of course, it really does come down to something far more visceral and organic that one would be lead to believe. Sure, you can rely on marketing companies and Google to do the leg work for you. Pay per click. But there are far simpler and cost effective ways to gain a little visibility. Remember licking stamps? That bitter sticky taste left in your mouth after adhering it to an envelope? Then you had to lug that envelope on down to the post office to ensure it reached its intended destination? Well, that required a little elbow grease, and in a sense, that is what you have to do to claim some of that coveted visibility: You have to get on the computer and symbolically lick its screen! If you have a blog, you understand that a persistent presence indicates that you are someone who is conscientious enough to make the effort to be interactive. Active sites get crawled more often, so any updates to your blog for example will result in an update and indexing of your latest online presence resulting in greater rankings.

Many times the best Search Engine Optimization you can do is by just building & organizing your site correctly. Most of the time you don’t need to an SEO company to do that. You can follow this simple video series and learn how to do what you need yourself.

As for cost, that is going to be a sliding scale of time vs money. The less time you are willing to invest yourself the more money it will cost to have others do the work.

You need to be just a vigilant in your marketing. That’s where a Social Search comes into play!  With Google and competitors increasingly prioritizing social content from Flickr, blogs, Facebook, MySpace,Twitter and others in result pages, it is imperative that brands build out “embassies” in all relevant networks–places where employees, clients, specific demographics and acquaintances hang to develop and nurture varying levels of networking. This will ensure optimum visibility.

So maybe Old McDonald would find it to beneficial to get a Facebook page. Heck, maybe take it to the next level and get fan pages for his cows and chickens! Why? Well, if cows had opposable thumbs they could blog about their daily events or leave comments on other sites and include a link back to their own sites via a signature in their post, thus increasing ranking!

And how about that song? You know…”EIEIO”…. If his chickens and pigs made a recording of that children’s song and posted it on MySpace for musicians, then certain keywords could be triggered if someone searched “singing pigs”! You can bet you won’t find any singing pigs sittin’ on a McMuffin! Unless of course it was a Stephen King novel….

Coda
One other thing about PPC agencies. Never confuse hits with unique visits. Agenices can claim so many hits on your site, but it could be as simple as one unique visitor that views multiple pages on that site, with each page constituting a hit.

And one other thing, yet! People look to Content Management Systems to be a saving grace for establishing a web presence with little overhead(most are open source) and readily available templates that make designing a site a snap!  This is very true, but not all CMS’s are created equal. Many are designed to do one thing well-manage content!  But many lack search engine capabilities. Blogger in my experience seems to have this issue as it tends to create its own title tags that are not that search friendly. WordPress on the other hand allows for better management of keywords and is easier to search with the stroke of a key. As with sites that have too much embedded Flash content and Javascript that could undermine searches as search engine bots can not readily interpret the scripting, a CMS that is not well formed could be a hindrance if visibility is a top priority.

But anyway, that’s just a bit of a heads up as I improve my own knowledge of this subject. Now, who wants to do a sing-a-long?!

March 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Content Management Systems

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 7:45 pm

“It was the best of times….”

I may be ostracized for humming that old Styx tune in public, but yes, that was how I felt in my previous blog regarding the sublime and miraculous introduction to Content Management Systems (CMS).  WordPress! Blogger! Drupal! The endless array of open source CMS like manna from heaven! The ease and joy of uploading content and files in a simple and intuitive interface that only wants to be liked–That will do anything to be your virtual user-friend!

“It was the worst of times.”

But, oh, how things can so dramatically shift into a new paradigm! Like an angry mob wielding a guillotine, my new friends suddenly were no longer tolerant of my blissful complacency, and demanded that I face the harsh realities of PHP and FTPs!

First, I had to contend with CMSimple, an open source program that loads onto your server without the need for installation! Simple? You bet! Simple to use? Not so much.

CMSimple was, well, not that simple! Yes, it loads immediately without having to set it up. But you not only have to contend with an HTML template and a Cascading Style Sheet, but with its own proprietary content file in the form of HTML. But once you get the hang of that, redesigning an existing web site around the dictates of the templates and how they work symbiotically with the content of the software is not all that bad. Echo codes for establishing templates are easy enough to understand; and the logic and become rather intuitive with a little bit of hands on exploration. Pages are declared via headings (H1, H2, etc.), are really very easy to get. .Still, having to render actual page content via the CMS itself and not through the template takes a little getting used to.

Having sufficiently beaten my head against the wall (kids, don’t try this at home!) to eventually acquire some grasp of CMSimple, I then moved on to Website Baker, a PHP-based Content Management System and offspring of a German programmer.

WB (no, not the one with the singing frog) seemed promising in that there were certainly less files to handle–or so one would think. This time, I attempted to use it on my domain host. German engineering! C’mon, how can you go wrong? Ha! No such luck. Granted, WB was to a certain extent more user-friendly when it came to importing existing HTML files; yet was somewhat more involved when it came to actually mimicking existing web pages. Templates were not anymore involved as in CMSimple, but it certainly was riddled with glitches (which I’m assuming is partly user error and the fact that much of the online information available is in Deutsch.

Thus far, several users of Website Baker that I am aware of have noticed that the software is at best intermittent regarding how it renders the HTML. The echo heads are necessary to render the HTML templates, yet, I’ve seen templates rendered with even less than the minimum requirements. What??!! Sometimes it sings, sometimes it croaks (okay, yes, just like that singing frog)!

I am currently using Fat Cow as my website hosting for my domain joelongobardiphotography.com (don’t go there just yet, it ain’t set up!). Unlike some other hosting services such as GoDaddy, Fat Cow does not by default support Website Baker’s PHP sessions as they do WordPress or Joomla. So of course, you must customize your php.ini to get the CMS up and running. How? In my initial contact with a Rep at Fat Cow, I was instructed to painstakingly go through each line of the php.ini and make incremental changes to see what works and what will take down your system (don’t worry, you can reset the code to its default, which for me, is a good thing as I wouldn’t be able to find my way back even with a trail of breadcrumbs make out of neon loaves of shortbread!). But, after several days of emails and phone calls to Fat Cow, I did manage to resolve the issues, and now the site works very well! Basically, they went over the scripting and set up the software to allow for PHP sessions and setup the session path to correct for SQL errors (my fault!).  Kudos to the Moo Crew!

“If you refuse me, honey you’ll lose me….”

Which would I recommend? WordPress, Joomla, Blogger…. Maybe CMSimple as unlike Website Baker, MYSQL is NOT required as CMSimple system is a flat file database CMS system with all content held within one file. It features SEO Friendly URLs, integrated and online help, easy user and group management, the ability to add plug-ins, group-based permission system, minimal server requirements, admin panel with multiple language support, content hierarchy… Yep! Lots of stuff! Plus, there are no PHP sessions to contend with which according to some purists, is what truly distinguishes a true CMS from the pretenders! And backup of your files is automatic. Yay!

Maaaaybe Website Baker as it features easy to use interface; multi-level, multi-sectioned, modulated page support; simple file/media management section; template based front-end, which can be customized per-page; multiple user and multiple group login, and dispenses cappuccino (okay, I made up that last one)! As with WordPress and Joomla, it does allow for some nice plug-ins to make for a more dynamic site. And it has a feature called Droplets that is part of the Admin-Tools feature.  Click on the Droplets link and you will see the current list of installed Droplets. Clicking on a Droplet name will show some details, including the actual PHP code. Droplets also allow for easy embedding of external source files such as youtube videos by merely declaring a parameter you create yourself whereby the PHP code is then inserted. It really has a much nicer interface that CMSimple-a more professional appearance and a very logical access to all features.

Flash_Gordon

So why am I hesitant to recommend Website Baker if it’s actually a more user-friendly version of something like WordPress? Well, you really need to have a host that can support this CMS by default just to make life….Simple! And it you are interested in an open source program that actually was intended for people who have a minimum of web developing and programming experience, well, CMSimple is certainly simple enough. My own bias, certainly, but then again, the bumps on my head reserve me the privilege. Plus, manual backup in WB is strongly recommended which paradoxically brought this security breach to light within the last several days.

Personally, as a photographer, I’ve been happy with either WordPress or Blogger as they have features that make the presentation for photos a more pleasant experience for both viewers and newbie programmers such as yours truly! WordPress as well as Joomla are also used in professional circles, so you may as well learn either of these if you’re starting from scratch!

Installation of either program on a local server was never an issue-at least for me using Xampplite (fewer calories, more filling).

But anyway, if you decide on either of these Content Management Systems, I would advise contacting a server initially prior to purchasing their services as they may or may not support WB’s PHP sessions as they do the more popular WordPress or Joomla.

But, hey! So long as it doesn’t croak on you….Then again, there’s always Flash!

 

February 20, 2010

CMS for the Masses (Or: Are we happy yet?)

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 9:19 pm

Oh what a tangled web we weave-unless of course we practice good Content Management!
People complain about the weather, but they never do anything about it. We can send a man to the moon, but I can’t find a toaster with slots large enough to accommodate my bagels!

Okay, some things are just out of our immediate control. But what about incorporating a Content Management System (or CMS) in your workflow? Nice segue, eh?

If you’re like me, you can wrap your brain around html but just have no real passion for it’s rather, shall I say rigid Boolean quality that demands your deference? And what if you haven’t a binary bone in your body?

That’s where CMS comes into play. Even if you have no background in programming, and terms such as codec and Java XML sound more like a cup of coffee infected with the Swine Flu, rest your weary as I, um, parse out some of the more intriguing and accessible particulars of this very user friendly world of online applications.

Happy Happy Joy Joy!
First, the good news. Much of what’s available is open source. Free. No money down! Easy payments! Joomla, WordPress, Blogger, Drupal—all very popular programs that offer just about everything most casual users will require. Unless you need to upgrade for a fee to something more professional for you business, the basic packages pretty much can do everything. Writers, photographers, artists and various other practitioners of the commerce trade (does that sound right…?) all utilize various versions of CMS to promote, blog about and keep abreast of trends in their businesses. Want to promote your music? MySpace offers the same benefits with the addition of uploading music files. Sure, many people will use it with a less than capitalistic bent, but for many, it’s a quick and affordable means for a fledgling enterprise.

Secondly, even better news! They’re pretty easy to use (that user friendly thing I previously mentioned). If you have even used a program like Microsoft Word, well, it’s more or less the same thing. Text editing capabilities, add video, audio, photos, hyperlinks. Sure you can even edit in HTML mode, but why stress yourself? Still lost? Enlist the aid of the first fourth grader you come across, that should help get you started!

Templates! Content may be the soul of  CMS, but templates are at the heart of many of the open-source applications. Many of the free applications offer the ability to customize the html and CSS of their sites allowing for a more personal look– but that’s not the reason why many have embraced them. The very nature of many Content Management Systems is to allow people to become immediately interactive at the most basic level without the hassle of having to hard code. Templates make this all possible. Numerous aesthetically pleasing templates are available when you sign up for a free CMS, and with just little programming know-how, you can even alter these (well, save for WordPress which is not developer friendly) to fit your own particular vision.

Unlike templates of the past, CMS is dynamic, meaning great interactivity for visitors rather than static. Y’know, like this!!
Essentially, you can have a relatively interesting and visually appealing web/blog site for the mere cost of brainstorming a username!

But you didn’t believe me! Why didn’t you believe me?!
So before you starting bashing in your head, let me break it down for you. Here are some of the benefits of embracing the current wave of content management:

  • A quality CMS can help you streamline your publishing processes. It can allow you to develop an information architecture that is robust, yet flexible. It can allow you to manage your content efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • A good CMS allows non-technical authors and editors to easily and quickly publish their content. No need to know HTML!
  • A CMS makes it easier for you to manage who creates, edits and publishes content. Because it establishes defined publishing processes, you can allocate specific publishing rights to various individuals.
    By easing technical hurdles in the publication of content, a CMS can reduce the need for training, while facilitating more people to publish.
  • A CMS reduces time-to-publish! The quicker you get key content published, the more value it creates.
  • A CMS allows for the design of common and consistent information architecture (metadata, classification, navigation, search, layout and design). Inconsistent and poorly designed information architectures plague many websites.
  • Consistent management of metadata through content template structures. Of the many benefits this delivers is a significantly improved search process. Basically, if the appropriate metadata is captured on all documents, then people can find the right content a lot more quickly.
  • A CMS can facilitate better content security. It can control who is allowed to publish to the website, and who is allowed to see what content.
  • A CMS can allow you to more easily measure the success of your publishing efforts. You can track who is publishing what, how quickly content is getting published, whether the publication schedule is being adhered to, whether out-of-date content is being removed quickly enough, etc.
  • A CMS really comes into its own when you have a lot of authors and editors, based at multiple locations, publishing substantial quantities of content on an ongoing basis. Without a CMS, such an environment can become a nightmare to manage.

One great advantage is the overall consistency on how your content is rendered. Navigation and layout is more or less what every other CMS application utilizes, hence a consistent display on  all browsers allowing you to be concerned with uploading and monitoring your content without having to worry if people can adequately access and navigate your site.

Other cool things: The code is generally W3C compliant, so it meets rigid web standards (some sites are less reliable, and let’s keep it at that). It’s cost effective. Well, first off, you can get a free site (happy!), but you can then manage it yourself due chiefly to the general ease of use (user-friendly!!!! Joy!) And because the code is always updated to remain current, you should have little or no browser compatibility issues and maximum search engine optimization.

Ah, but don’t think all this equates to manna from heaven! It still does not negate the need to know how to manage and design and logical and orderly site. It still needs to be concise, not too busy, and allow readers to scan through your content while not straining their brains. To have an effective web presence you need to understand your business environment-conceptualize what you need to impart to people; have good design skills; determine your online and offline branding; and most important, copy writing that people actually want to read! And that’s important. I mean, I’m presuming you’re reading this, right? Heck, I can upload videos, photos, blog about my life and maintain full control of how the content is disseminated.  One man operation with the stroke of a key!

So, are we happy? Content? Can you manage your content….?

Okay, how about if we just break out in song?

January 31, 2010

Goin’ Mobile!

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Mo’ Bloggin’! Mo Bloggin’! 

MoBlogs. Or, to be somewhat more current (yes, even after three years, MoBlogging has taken on a more retro connotation!), Mobile Blogging!

Blogs were once the domain of the part-time but seasoned weblogger–Hunched over his or her laptop, basking in the dim of the early morning hours; holed away in a spare bedroom that doubled as a makeshift office space; parsing out and disseminating rants and earth-shattering revelations to a few but devoted followers.
 
Ah, but that was so last week! 

Today, blogging has now taken on a less bohemian and more cosmopolitan persona as individuals embrace their Smartphones as not just mere recreational tools for social networking, but as a means of increasing and cultivating business activities and aspirations by maintaining a streaming presence via blogging of their current activities. And this not only includes the upload of text, as there are vblogs (video blogs such as youtube)) and photo blogs (think flickr). Citizen Journalist can upload his or her latest capture from the streets to a personalized web site via a mobile hosting service that can allow for wireless transmission of information from-well, anywhere!

I’m In With the In Crowd! 

The early days of Mobile Blogging were rather rudimentary. Well, what do I mean by “early”? The original premise really hasn’t changed save for the addition of really cool apps, advanced data gathering software, GPS and better real-time interactive capabilities, voice-command and of course the utilization of Smartphones rather than cell phones. Oh, and QWERTY type pads! Factor in that all this happened in the last 4 years or so, and we really are now just witnessing the early days of this technology. 

So who’s incorporating this little niche into their repertoire? You name it! Advertisers; seasoned journalists; aspiring journalists; old school bloggers who have been blogging since their laptop days (you know, the Pleistocene Era….); high school kids; graphic designers; programmers. How about that guy who bails hay for his cattle? Heck, anyone with a camera phone and a Bluetooth can now transmit a quick snapshot of their kids and wirelessly transmit that to a digital frame ready for family viewing (“Gee, look how young they looked just 2 minutes ago!”). 

Mo’ Money! 

Lest you thought I forget, but yes, the financial prowess afforded by these tools shan’t be overlooked! 

The proliferation of free Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Blogger are affordable means of linking to a current web site to drive potential clients or just an audience of avid admirers! Add to that the power of being able to upload status reports, photos, videos, articles and coupons for gummy-worms via their Smartphone  and well, to an extent, it becomes an Existential process of projecting one’s consciousness–Wherever you are is the center of the universe! 

 

 

 

The ubiquitous social network Facebook for example offers Fan Pages for those who seek to initiate and inform people of an up starting enterprise, or to maintain and cultivate current and new business relationships. 

One benefit of all this? Income. By adding on a Smartphone–and the increase in free apps–to your already existing arsenal of business acquisitions, the overhead for vastly increasing your business presence is really-cheap!  Prices will continue to come down and the technology will only continue to improve. That’s a given.

And the various hosting services (free and fee based) that are available are rapidly increasing to cash in on the proliferation of these newfound sole-proprietorships. But for your convenience,  here are just a few links to some sites that offer more detailed information about Mobile Blog hosts than a less than formal blog can readily address: 

http://www.textamerica.com/ 

http://snapnpost.com/ 

http://www.blogger.com/mobile-start.g 

http://www.manilasites.com/ 

Examples of free Blog Hosts!

 
“I can stop in any street and talk with people that we meet” 

But beyond these more capitalistic motivators is the potential for creating stronger international relationships via the humanitarian potential of this technology. Many journalists have embraced smart phones such as the Apple iPhone as not only an alternative to the comfort features of traditional news outlets, but as a sustainable and viable means to the dissemination of articles, videos, photos and breaking news by the sheer portability of their handheld devices! The list of apps, available software for video, photo, and voice blogging and such nifty little add-ons as geotagging has taken the transient lifestyle of someone like photojournalist to a whole new level. The merging of Social Media with Social Revolution! 

Consider what happened in 2009 in the country of Iran. 

Outraged that their election may have been stolen, many citizens took to the streets in protest. Out powered by the police, and under a state of Martial Law that block information from leaving the nation, many of the citizens realized that to inform the world what was happening within the country’s border, they had to be resourceful. Dubbed The Twitter Revolution because of the mass dissemination uploaded to Twitter blogs, the citizen journalists of Iran employed their cell phones to record and upload videos, photos and text messages of what was occurring in the country. 

When the Island nation of Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in early 2010, journalists turned to their more advanced iPhones to record the events that unfolded in the damaged country. 

Though more recreational from their initial introduction, iPhones and their like, have gained greater acceptance by serious business-minded people. And the proliferation of manufacturers catering to this growing market has proffered more serious consideration of this latest “fad” as a legitimate and viable tool for any trade. 

With the increase of mobile devices, and the usual array of compatibility issues, we are now just witnessing the emergence of new apps as well as mobile websites that offer multi-search tools for mobile phones. These search tools automatically detect if you are viewing from a mobile browser, and help to minimize typing as you search. 

So it can detect whether you are on a laptop or a mobile device? Spyware? Come now, even China has been kind enough to include a few Trojan Horses in their software at no extra cost. 

It’s The End of The World As We Know It…. 

….And feelin’ pretty good about it. We no longer exist in an era of single-purpose devices. Yes, dedicated items such as mp3 players, game players, digital SLR cameras, camcorders and the old reliable laptop will be vastly superior to the multifunctional capabilities of a Smartphone that incorporates all these features. But as a portable office on the road, this convenience more than makes up for any image or audio quality you may sacrifice. And for the mobile blogger, it’s your office away-from your home office! 

And the key factor in all this is the interactivity of the modern information media. People expect and demand immediate gratification and instantaneous feedback via RSS feeds, online forums, and even wireless internet in a local coffee shop! Heck, there are even businesses that now blog real time updates on activities for their local clientele! 

Specialization of course can be derived from an all encompassing device such as the Apple iPhone. An individual for example now has easy access and entry in the world of journalism, or take guerilla marketing to a whole new level! WordPress, Blogger, Twitter-even Facebook and YouTube has allowed people to remain more connected to our environment, and there is no longer an excuse in alienating oneself from global events. Even the recreational photographer has access to digital camera fully outfitted with HD video! 

The new world of Web 2.0 and its vast arsenal of apps continues to bring together more individuals with common causes who wish to have an impact on the word. The available technology  such as Twitter, various CMS, Mobile blogs–even Facebook– has allowed for this greater freedom to express immediate concern once only afforded to those who ranked highly in the traditional news media, politicians and even celebrities. With the advent of interactive online blogs, an individual can wield an opinion with nearly as much prowess as William Randolph Hearst!
  


Pit falls? 

And we thought this was all so Utopian. Did I mention that you can upload that photo of the kids to Grandma’ digital frame in the time it takes to press “enter”? Well unfortunately, citizen journalism has a few obstacles to overcome–namely, the boundaries of privacy versus a free press. The Patriot Act that was implemented by the previous Third Reich has spawned a whole new air of paranoia, and the ease of employing iPhones to record and upload images of anyone and everyone has brought about some arguments for concern. Where does free speech and a free press begin and end in a public forum and is your privacy being invaded by these makeshift journalists on the hoof? 

And do you really want to see Granny water boarded as an unwitting participant in your globetrotting abandon? 

Hmm, I sense a new blog post in the making–better hit the road!

January 23, 2010

Change Agents

Filed under: 1 — thejoey @ 9:30 pm

Out With The Old—But Not Without A Fight!

What’s in a name? Well, in deciphering the semantics of today’s terminology, there’s the usual confusion and lag regarding the continuous redefining of terms. Okay, so for example, how does one define Multimedia? Digital Media vs Interactive Multimedia? Old habits die hard, even if they were just adopted over the last several months. And with the onslaught of new applications and the new and reused terms that follow, it does become difficult to keep abreast of an exponentially developing field.

Multimedia has been redefined almost to the point where one can see the holes worn through its very language. Once denoting more analogue connotations, in time it was associated with the world of Digital Media. But wait! You mean like CD-ROMs and dial-up Internet? Right! Well, think about it—did you even notice the gradual deviation from those latest “innovations”? How about floppy disks and zip drives?

And now we have Web 2.0! Was there even a Web 1.0? Well, kind of. But rather like how WWI had to wait around for WWII before it was no longer referred to as The Great War. Even Nu Metal had a predecessor with a legacy.

Today, Multimedia has become interactive. Web graphics, music, games, blogs, RSS feeds, CMS, forums—Twitter and Facebook!!!! It’s still digital of course. Heck, it’s even Multimedia! But it’s definitely not that old projector you wheeled into your high school home room to show the driving instructional film Red Asphalt!

So of course, those who have been in the graphics and programming fields for some time may find their habits difficult to break. For example, moving from ActionScript 2.0 to ActionScript 3.0? Wait! There’s a 3.0 now?! Embarking on this field as a newbie may have its disadvantages as you need to merge the old with the new– but at least you’ll know what to call it!

Be The Change (Agent) You Want To See!

Okay, we may still have some ways to go in reaching a consensus regarding the varying definitions and interpretations for the same technology. But what about the intended implementation of an application ? How do we agree upon the use of a technology that deviates from the norm?

In a society content with the recreational value of much of the technology available, finding a more altruistic purpose presents the usual time honored and highly resisted tradition: Upsetting the Status Quo!

Change Agents are individuals that see things as they can be rather embracing a linear and conventional interpretation of how history must unfold. Think Edward R. Murrow, Steve Jobs, Gandhi– Individuals who exceeded expectations by their unreasonable resolve to not make concessions.

In the fledgling days of film, many movie directors envisioned theatrical works as more than just forms of frivolous entertainment, but as means to enlighten, educate and inform the public. Documentaries! Radio evolved from primarily a music oriented media to news and talk. Television even came of age when broadcasts were transmitted via satellite to report world events as they happened!

The June 13, 2009 election held in the country of Iran and the revolt against probable election fraud that followed made use of cellphones to transmit information to the outside world. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Island nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010 brought the iphone to the forefront as a chief means of sending photographs, videos,  blogs and articles to a public hungry for information.

The very resourcefulness of people in the most dire of circumstances can evoke a positive upheaval in how we interpret and utilize new technology. Innovators will always be at the ready to upset  and redefine conventions. Beyound even the creation and altruistic intentions of a new technology is the human factor that takes it one step further by the will of the human spirit.

Change of course is a long and at times painful process in the mist of resistance. And yet, when those very innovations become conventions, the cycle starts all over again! And the term New Media takes on a whole new meaning in it continuous evolution.
 
“Do You Suppose He Would Give Me A Heart?” ~ The Tin Man

How will all this effect one’s direction when embarking on or continuing a chosen path in this particular field. Personally, I have become more enamored with the latest trends in technology primarily for the very reasons I previously stated: The potential to expand our awareness of the state of human existence and how we as individuals can strengthen this core bond to achieve a stable global community. In my continous development as a photographer that embraces a documentary approach, it is important to me to utilize the latest technolgy in a more organic and visceral manner.

Okay, that may sound almost naïve. But I’m certainly no Pollyanna! Over the next decade, we will be introduced to new technologies and paradigms that will only test our resolve in preserving our humanity. The latest technological advances added into professional cameras such as HD video and the ubiquity of Content Management Systems may seem like a rather odd pairing, but these are steadily becoming the tools of the modern journalist, designer and videographer. An though we are in an age of specialization, individuals must still don many hats to remain competitive in the marketplace as they continuously become more self-reliant in the modern era of Multimedia.

The above image was shot with a Nikon D90 equipped with HD video (should the need arise!)

January 21, 2010

Children

A Warm Day In Asheville

While trying out some new camera equipment on the streets of Asheville on what was finally a warm day in January, I came across a family of three that included a young daughter no more than four years old. The girl’s father proceeded to place her on the giant iron that sits across from the Flat Iron Building in Downtown Asheville, NC. Well, realizing the opportunity at hand, I asked the parents if it was okay to take a few shots of her. The mother obliged and I took a series of photos of the young girl as she smiled, waved her hands and covered her face in mock shyness, yet never taking her eyes off the camera. I handed the mother my card and offered to send her the photos via email.

The candid nature of street photography is a challenge I revel in, but every so often it’s nice to have someone model for you.

January 14, 2010

I Blog, And So Can You!

Blogging, It’s What’s For Dinner

Why blog? I mean really, WHY?!

I’m not deterring one from doing so. In fact, I adamantly encourage you to engage in this new social offshoot of a personal journal. Because for all intents, that is exactly what it is: A periodical update of your daily activities that, rather than being socked away under your underware in your dresser drawer, are paraded in full openness to anyone and everyone that wishes to immerse themselves in your most personal of zen moments!

But more than that, it has become more of an opportunity to advance your business aspirations by informing people on what you are currently engaged in at the moment. Maybe you have expanded your line of products, or have found some link that relates to your work and you wish to educate potential clients of the viability of what you are offering. 

The potential of online communication can never be overemphasized. It is quickly becoming the chief means of communication for those who wish to expand the awareness of a business. 

According to the most recent statistics there are, well, alot! Factor in that many sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace do not even officially qualify as blogs in many stats, and the some 112.8 million blogs tracked by Technorati since 2008 does not even include nearly 73 million Chinese bloggers. Add to that the almost 350 million people who subscribe to other people’s blogs, it is difficult to dismiss the potential and power of a blog by due to it’s ubiquity and popularity. Even Facebook offers “fan”pages for those who wish to impart a new product or service to others. I have one. It’s Joe Longobardi Photography. See? Betcha you’ll check it out! Buy my service and that’s food on my plate! 

The Experts

Blogging has become very important to many business—particularly new upstarts! It is means for engaging in social and networking activity. Sure, you can build a better mouse trap, but who’s going to know it exists unless you blog about it? Heck, there are fan pages on how to engage in social trafficking! Like these guys.

Experts  offer numerous  tidbits of advice on starting and managing a blog. They also offer many reasons as to why blogging is a benefit to any enterprise. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • A less formal atmosphere. It’s a more open way to communicate with customers and thought leaders in your business community.
  • The rapid, easy format of the blog makes it easy to publish a lot of content on different pages. Search engines love lots of new content with lots of internal links. I just described a blog.
  • A blog is a cultural idea creation device. The blogger creates ideas by thinking, reviewing the world, and communicating within their blog sphere.
  • Create links easily back to your web site if you leave intelligent useful comments on other people’s blogs.
  • Individual postings form packages of ideas. When the media ask you questions, you already have content and ideas to give to them.

They offer suggestions on how to improve your blogs as the following Illustrates: 

  • Content.Your Social Media credibility is tied to the amount of content you provide. If you’re actively involved, you come across as more conscientious.
  • Seeking Answers. Searching for answers is one of  the top 3 main reasons why people use the Internet. People use the search engines to find the answers to their most pressing questions
  • Blog Stucture.The basic structure of a Blog makes it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.  A Blog organizes your information  effortlessly for the benefit of your visitors
  • Backlinking, Plugins, Pinging, RSS Feed, Comments. The interactive nature of  Blogs is hard to beat. Plugins, Pinging, Backlinking, RSS Feed capability and the ability of people to add comments all contribute to its interactive nature.
  • The Whole World In Your Backyard. Blogs are universal. It’s a fact  that anybody who uses the internet can  access your blog. A Blog allows you to achieve a potentially infinite number of customers for your business.
  • Create Instant and Comprehensive Information. Posting on a Blog sends instantaneous  and comprehensive information to the web.
  • All Roads Should  Lead To Your Blog.The cornerstone of  your Social Media strategy is your Blog. All of your social media activities should be organised to link back to your blog.

 

What Interests Me….

….May not necessarily interest you. That’s a given. I engage in a photojournalistic approach to photographing families, events, life on the streets, etc. Once that part is done though, I have to put on my designer’s cap and start to assemble work that will appeal to people. Using that documentative approach to photography obviously is one method of influencing how I may want to lay out an album or a web page for someone. That’s what I do. Why deviate from a successive theme? There’s nothing wrong with finding your niche and telling people about it. Or in this case, blog about it!

Oh, and there’s still the old school method as the following photograph of a war protestor Illustrates. There are still times where the context of a presentation trumps the method.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.