Posted by: cindystephenson | June 10, 2010

How many photos does it take to get that perfect shot?

If you’re a photographer I wonder if you can relate to this?

You’ve shot a roll of film and taken it in to get developed. Anticipating some great shots, you eagerly flip through your prints to see what they’re like.

More often than not, I’ve come away with a few I really like, but for various reasons, many just don’t cut it.

Digital cameras have certainly made things easier, in terms of getting immediate feedback. You can take your picture, “chimp it” through the LCD monitor, and if you don’t like it, delete it.

Since switching to digital, I take many more pictures, but I’m not sure they’re better than the ones I shot with film. So a few weeks ago I enrolled in a photography class taught by Mitch Stringer at our local college.

In our class last week, we had an interesting discussion on the percentage of shots pros take that they consider to be keepers.

Mitch recounted how for last years Super Bowl, an event that lasted 2 1/2 hours, Sports Illustrated recruited 12 of the very best sports photographers. On average, their equipment was worth $50,000 – in other words – lots of very expensive long lenses. Collectively, those 12 photographers took 16,000 shots. Of those, how many were considered Sports Illustrated quality? 75!

Image of Tracy Porter, New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV

Shooting sports is tricky – you’ve got to know where the play is headed and when they’ll be there. According to our instructor, if you’re shooting a baseball game, include the baseball in the shot. Same with tennis. Hard to do I know.

Image of Rafael Nadal, 2010 French Open Final

When you’re flipping through your prints, or scanning through them on your monitor, be aware that on average, pros will consider 1.5 – 1.7% of their photos to be keepers.

I came home from class that night feeling inspired to get out there and practice. I also know that this is a journey and the more I progress, the fussier I’ll get in terms of which photos I keep and which I delete.

Photo credits:

Heinz Kluetmeier/SI (photo of Tracy Porter) and Bob Martin/SI (photo of Rafael Nadal)

Posted by: cindystephenson | May 5, 2010

Ten reasons why I’m excited about WordCamp Victoria

Would it be corny to say I’m really excited about WordCamp coming to Victoria BC on May 15, 2010?

For the uninitiated, WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other. WordCamps are open to WordPress.com and WordPress.org users alike.

Buoyed by the success of our first WordCamp Victoria last fall, Paul Holmes is again at the helm, and has assembled a stellar panel of speakers, generous sponsors and willing volunteers. Registration this time is capped at 120 and seats are going fast.

Here are ten reasons to consider attending:

  • At $40 for the day, it’s a real bargain.
  • The different streams offered are meant to accomodate differing levels of interest and expertise.
  • Not into formal presentations – there are lots of opportunities to chat with others and exchange information in an informal way.
  • You’ll come away brimming with new ideas and things to try.
  • It’s a great opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and developers within the Victoria area.
  • You’ll increase your skills and knowledge.
  • You’ll get some great SWAG – like those coveted WordPress pencils.
  • Your support will help ensure more events like this in Victoria.

So… are you coming? I’d love to see you there.

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Posted by: cindystephenson | January 30, 2010

Avoiding those activity traps

I’m re-reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits he espouses is to “begin with the end in mind”.

He invites readers to go through an exercise where you close your eyes and imagine you are at a funeral. Lots of people you know are there – family members, friends, colleagues, and people you know from various community organizations They are speaking about the person who has died. Then for the kicker – it’s your own imaginary funeral.

Covey then invites you to consider what it is you would like them to say about you and your life. What kind of husband, wife, father or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of friend? Look carefully at the people there and think about what kind of difference you would like to have made in their lives.

This is his metaphor for “beginning with the end in mind.”

It’s incredibly easy, through the busy-ness of life, to get caught up in activity traps, working harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success, only to discover your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. It’s also possible to be busy – very busy – without spending time on things that really matter to you.

If you were to carefully consider what you wanted others to say about you in the funeral experience, you would have YOUR definition of success.

Knowing what really matters to you makes it easier when deciding what to spend your time on.

A strategy that works for me is to set aside time to periodically consider those activities that are going to help me get there and commit to making time for them.

Committing to spend time on those gives me a real sense of satisfaction and of being in control. It’s very empowering. Hard work and not easy, but rewarding.

Photo credit: Garry – www.visionandimagination.com

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Posted by: cindystephenson | January 19, 2010

The rewards of volunteering

image of footbridge

I serve as the communications manager for a government agency. I also volunteer public relations support to a local non-profit school dedicated to supporting students with learning disabilities.

The staff and board appreciate my services – or so they tell me ;-). It’s mutual however, because I get an awful lot out of it as well:

  • I’m treated as a valued member of their management team
  • I’ve met new people and made new friends
  • I’ve honed my skills and experienced what it would be like to work as a PR consultant full time
  • I’ve also made a number of contacts which may help me down the road

I didn’t think about any of this when I initially offered to help. I’d recently completed a six month intensive program in public relations through Royal Roads. It was a great program and I was anxious to put in practice some of what I’d learned. I happened to share this with a friend over lunch. One thing led to another, and I ended up volunteering and am happy I did.

I could  list more benefits, but you get the idea. Helping others helps YOU!

If you are presented with an opportunity to volunteer your time to a worthy cause think about how you will be helping others, but remember that you will be rewarded for your efforts too.

Photo credit: kevindooley

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Posted by: cindystephenson | January 13, 2010

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Ever wonder about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

When I first started blogging I decided on the WordPress platform, but didn’t know whether I should use WordPress.com or .org, nor did I really understand the difference between the two. This was a personal project of mine so I couldn’t just dial up the IT folks. I had to figure it out on my own. WordPress.com seemed much simpler so I settled on that. However,  I wondered at what point I would want or need to switch to WordPress.org.

Then along came Raincoaster and a helpful presentation at WordCamp Victoria!

WordPress.com features:

Easy to use, but no extra plug-ins or customizable themes:

WordPress.com is free and I found it relatively easy to set up. Everything is taken care of including setup, upgrades, spam blockers, backups, security, etc.  But to keep it simple, there are certain limitations. You must use one of their existing themes, and you can’t add plug-ins. (These are add ons that help your browser perform specific functions like viewing special graphic formats or playing multimedia files.)

Tags give you more Google juice:

Tags let you assign words or short phrases to a post to make it easier to classify what the post is about. WordPress posts can have up to roughly ten tags.  The Global Tag listing at WordPress.com aggregates all published posts attached to any particular tag. According to Raincoaster, tags are the biggest advantage of WordPress.com and why you get more Google juice with WP.com than WP.org.

You can fund raise and sell things, under certain conditions:

You can add a PayPal button and sell your products if you are an artist or an author. Non-profit groups can raise awareness and money for a specific cause.

No RSS stats or Google Analytics:

It’s difficult to know how many people subscribe to your blog on WordPress.com because it’s not compatible with Google Analytics. However, you can get good stats by getting a Feeedburner account – it’ll give you RSS info. And you can also get some stats on your readers via Quantcast.

Social bookmarks:

Want to add a row of social bookmarks to your blog post? I really like Get Social, and it works on WP.com.  It was developed by a cool dude, Hillel Stoler who lives in Tel Aviv.

Widget tips:

Consider adding a “Recent Comments” widget – it’s great for loyalty. People like to see their comments in the sidebar. And instead of “Top posts,” which is dictated by WordPress, you can use a text widget and create a “Favourite posts” widget – and you get to decide which posts to include.

WordPress.org features:

Requires more technical knowledge to set up and run:

With WordPress.org, the software is free, but you need to install it and upgrade the Read More…

Julien Smith will be our featured speaker at Victoria’s Social Media Club on January 20th!

Julien Smith is co-author with Chris Brogan of Trust Agents, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller that has been singled out on Amazon.com as one of the top 10 business and investing books of 2009.

To quote Julien and Chris:

“This book is your guide to a new form of power broker–web natives who trade in trust, reputation, and relationships using tools you may never even have heard of. You will learn what you need to look for in such an agent for your business or how to become one yourself. Trust Agents is your guide to the deep end of meaningful relationships on the web.

Our goal is to help you build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust.”

Since its launch in August, Trust Agents hit:

  • the New York Times bestseller list (#13)
  • the Wall Street Journal bestseller list (#8)
  • the Amazon top 100 list (#30)
  • the Amazon Best Books of 2009 list (for business and investment).

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Event details:

  • Wednesday, January 20th, 6:45 – 9:00 pm
  • University Canada West, 950 Kings Road, Victoria BC
  • $5.00 admission

Sponsors:

This event is being held in conjunction with the Third Tuesday cross-Canada tour, and we are grateful for the generous support of  Joe Thornley and Thornley Fallis, Morningside Estate B and B, Level Ground Trading, University Canada West, and of course our speaker, Julien Smith.

*** Please note that we are holding our meeting in January on the third Wednesday, and at a new venue.

Photo of Julien Smith: Chris Brogan

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Posted by: cindystephenson | January 2, 2010

Why I enjoyed Twitterville (and think you will too!)

Twitterville, by Shel Israel

If you’ve heard all the hype but are still not convinced there’s any real point to Twitter, Shel Israel’s book called Twitterville may be a good place to start.

It’s written in the same easy to read style as Naked Conversations, his book on blogging which he co-authored with Robert Scoble.

Shel describes how Twitter started out as a way for the Odeo team to keep in touch with their software developers, how the idea quickly caught on amongst the staff and their friends, and how the team successfully launched Twitter in March 2007 at South by Southwest (SXSW) on a shoestring budget.

He then goes on to offer plenty of practical advice for businesses who want to become respected members of the Twitter community. And through numerous examples and interesting case studies, he demonstrates WHY companies need to be involved.  His examples include business, government, non profits and personal branding. He’s very encouraging, and does a good job of demystifying Twitter.

For those who have been on Twitter for awhile, you’ll enjoy reading about some of the great Twitter stories:

  • @JamesBuck, a University of California photojournalism student and new to Twitter, who tweeted the single word “arrested” after coming to Egypt to photograph the food strikes. Word spread on Twitter, someone contacted the U.S. State Department, and within 24 hours, Buck’s government had intervened and he was released from jail.
  • @JKrums (Janis Krums), twenty-three, of Sarasota, Florida, who was on a ferry near where US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, and took the now famous photo.
  • @cathybrowne, who while sitting at her computer in Silicon Valley, advised Portland media that @JeanAnnVK (Jean Ann Van Krevelan) who she followed on Twitter, had been stuck onboard an American Airlines flight in Portland for several hours without reprieve, waiting for a break in the weather before taking off.
  • @JessicaGottlieb, a “mommy blogger” who was offended by a Motrin ad targeted at new moms. #MotrinMoms became the top Trending Topic in Twitterville that weekend and the controversy spread to other social networking sites and mainstream media before Motrin became aware of it on Monday morning.
  • @scottmonty, chief social media officer for Ford, who held off a mob of misinformed Ranger fans and deftly averted a PR crisis.
  • @ConnieReece, now chief social media officer for New Media Lab in Austin, Texas, who used Twitter to raise tens of thousands of dollars for cancer patients through the Frozen Pea Fund

The Global Language Monitor recently announced that “Twitter” was the top word of 2009 based on its annual global survey of English words and phrases that appear in the media and online. Twitter came in ahead of, in order,  “Obama,” “H1N1,” “Stimulus” and “Vampire.”

As a communications tool, Twitter has gone from zero to ten million users in just over two years.  Twitterville is a great way to learn how you can best jump onboard and become part of that conversation.

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Posted by: cindystephenson | December 16, 2009

Why Google’s Real Time Search is a Potential Game Changer

Google launches Real Time Search Results

Google recently announced it was adding live updates from social networking sites such as Twitter and FriendFeed to its search results page. That means that in addition to news headlines and blog posts, you can also see a dynamic stream of real-time content.  Click on “Latest results” or select “Latest” from the search options menu to view a full page of live tweets, blogs, news and other web content scrolling right on Google.  Depending on the topic, the live search results may show up ahead of a company’s official website.

This is a nice feature if you’re looking to find out what people are saying about a current hot topic.

Challenging however, if your organization or business is the subject of that conversation.

image of reporter writing in notebook

What does it mean from a reputation management perspective?

Say someone has a beef with your organization and decides to vent on Twitter. Others join in reporting similar experiences. Until now, this would have stayed on Twitter. Then someone else, unaware of the first person’s issue, searches on Google for your website to get product information. In addition to the product information, they may also see the live twitter stream of complaints.

If you’ve ignored social networking sites until now, not sure of their benefit, or reluctant because of the time involved, this move by Google has changed the game. You can no longer sit back.

A good way to start would be by familiarizing yourself with three sites that help you track what people are saying: Twitter Search, Monittor, and Social Mention. Twitter search lets you see what people are saying on a particular topic in real time; Monittor is a Twitter search engine that lets you track three phrases at a time and limit your searches to a specific geographic region;  and Social Mention has a feature whereby you can receive updates of mentions by email.

These are all good ways to monitor what others are saying about you. Make it part of your routine, the same way you monitor traditional media sources. And it’s a good way to break in to social media.

Photo credit: alex-s

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Posted by: cindystephenson | December 2, 2009

Why Tiger Woods should ‘fess up and get on with it

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has been in the news lately – for all the wrong reasons.

And he has so far offered no real explanation for the bizarre circumstances surrounding his car crash early Friday morning.

Many are curious, but say he is entitled to the privacy he has requested.  I disagree.

Tiger Woods reportedly earns $110 million (US) a year in endorsements. Everything from his own line of Nike clothing, TAG Heuer watches, Gillette razors, NetJet planes, to Gatorade sports drinks. I believe he owes it to his sponsors to explain the events that occurred and address the issues, or risk tarnishing his own brand and those of his sponsors. Broadcast networks may be impacted as well, particularly if he pulls out of more tournaments.

The longer he waits, the harder it will be to turn things around. The story will continue to gather momentum, and be a bigger story than it has to be.

In PR lingo this is called taking control of the story and getting out in front of the issue. By not talking, he is allowing others to speculate on what happened and dominate the conversation. Quick response is key.

Tiger would do well to take a page out of David Letterman’s playbook. Instead of a vague statement that left many questions unanswered, Letterman broke the story about his own infidelity and even cracked a few jokes at his own expense.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Posted by: cindystephenson | November 26, 2009

How to get more traffic through the images in your blog post

Images are an important component of your blog post because they add interest, often reinforcing your written message.  They’re also a way to attract the search engines to your site.

When you upload a photo to your blog, most blog systems will give you the option of adding an alternative title. Often the existing title, if you’re importing a photo you’ve found on Flickr for example, is just a string of numbers.

I’ve tended to skip over this step, but won’t anymore, after hearing Ross Dunn’s SEO presentation to our Social Media Club last night.

The problem according to Ross is that a string of numbers is not search engine friendly.

You’re better off to use a more descriptive title such as:

  • image of man reading newspaper, or
  • picture of person at computer.

Man reading newspaper

There’s a much greater chance that this will get picked up by sites such as Google.  And in addition to the SEO benefits of a descriptive title,  visitors to your site who have images turned off will appreciate it, as will those who use assistive technology to surf the net.

Use a title that’s meaningful, and don’t stuff it with keywords.

With your images appropriately titled, people searching for specific images may end up coming to your site. If it’s inviting and your popular posts are easy to find, there’s a good chance these passersby may stay and look around.

Good luck, and I hope this gets your blog some additional traction.

Photo credit: pedrosimoes7

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