Category Archives: Technology

Ultimate Collection of Free Stock Photo Sites

Here is a fabulous collection of sites where you can search for amazing free and of good quality vector images and stock photos. Have a look at these sites, and share any great free stock photo sites with us all in the comments.

Some of the sites listed offer free stock photos only for personal use, all photos are the property of their respective authors check their policy before using their collection.

Free digital photos

freedigitalphotos.net – This one requires an attribution to post free images, but not a required login. –

I am a firm believer in giving credit where it is due anyway and these guys have tons of great stockphotos for bloggers.

istockphoto

Setup an account at istockphoto and every week istockphoto.com offers a free image of the week that you can download. These might be useful for your blogposts. ( I do this quite often.)

istockphoto

They have beautiful photographs there and if you are like me and prefer to buy in bulk, see if one of the RetailMeNot coupon codes works for the plan you want: IStock – RetailMeNot.

Bing Images

Search for clip art
Click or tap the License drop down menu, and pick the licensing option you want.

(Tip from Microsoft) If you’re looking for clip art pictures, type “clip art” as part of your search (e.g. dog clip art or border clip art).

bing-images-free

Please NOTE: I have not tried all of these. I copied this information from another blog that has been down for a while now. I had it bookmarked in my browser because I would often search for free or cheap photo stock for blog posts. For reasons unknown, the Softalize site suddenly became unavailable since early 2010. So I decided to go re-post it here to share it with you because I have found it so helpful.

Again: PLEASE READ the disclaimers and copyright info before downloading and using anyone’s images on anything for your personal use or business!

Everystockphoto

Everystockphoto

Photobucket

Onexposure.1X

Onexposure.1X

EyeFetch

EyeFetch

Stock.Xchng

Stock.Xchng

Stockvault

Stockvault

Photo.net

Photo.net

Life

Life

PopPhotos

PopPhotos

PBase

PBase

Openphoto

Openphoto

Freerange

Freerange

This was originally posted by extinct blog called Softalize, originally posted April 14, 2009 titled: “16 Ultimate Collection of Free Stock Photo Sites” and has now been improved and reposted by me. <3

@BarackObama @MittRomney @GovGaryJohnson on Twitter

I wrote about the politicos and their successful (or not-so-successful) use of Facebook in: Smolitics: Politicians on Facebook. It’s time to take a look at some Twitter stats and see who is more popular on Twitter!

Smolitics: a person or idea’s popularity/performance/ or general acceptance on social media.

Twitter Smolitics for the Three Most Popular Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates of 2012
Note: There is a 16 day lapse between the first and second dates collected because I collected these stats at 4:30pm EST on both dates.
There is almost an 18 ½ day time lapse between the second and third day collected because I collect the data just before 7:30 AM EST on Tuesday Oct. 23.
Dates Collected -> 9/18/2012 10/4/2012 10/23/2012
- Democratic Candidates -
Barack Obama 19,883,416 20,524,381 21,249,142
Joe Biden 154,878 178,115 285,650
- Republican Candidates -
Mitt Romney 1,137,759 1,275,938 1,556,597
Paul Ryan 260,009 271,829 308,420
- Libertarian Candidates -
Gary Johnson 57,463 70,617 94,041
Jim Gray 219 233 258

The following bar graph shows the increase in the number of followers for each candidate on the dates specified.

(Some browsers and smaller screens tend to make this image hazy. For a clearer view, try clicking on the image to view it separately.)

Obama’s large stats make this graph incredibly difficult to depict completely accurately with a small bar graph. Here is a closer look at the other candidates and how they compare to each other.

So, you have to ask: “Why does Judge Jim Gray only have 258 followers on twitter?”
– The first and obvious reason is that the last tweet he sent was July 31st, and before that was May. He seemed to get into the Twitter thing on March 4th! But his zeal for it apparently waned and he decided against hiring a Social Media expert to utilize this for him.

A social media expert can make or break your social media marketing strategy. For instance, what if he hired a very ambitious person to run his twitter campaign and they tweeted something for him like:

“I support the legalization of #marijuana.” While making it absolutely clear on his twitter profile that he is a Vice Presidential candidate for the #election2012.

I have to smile at that idea, because it could possibly help his popularity or just as easily hurt his campaign. Can you hear the right wing screaming tweets then? “He only wants to lead our country to drugs and and immorality!!” – add in a misspelled word or two.

– Yes, his campaign would have to be handled in a very serious manner. :)

QUESTION: Will social media popularity predict our elected officials?
– Even though many would probably say yes to this, the answer is still: probably not. However, it is important to know the three big reasons why it’s not a good assumption to say that the one who has more Twitter followers will win… (at least, not yet):

  1. Not everyone who will be voting (e.g. many senior citizens), has a Twitter account.
  2. Lots of people too young to vote can (and do) follow candidates on Twitter.
  3. And finally: All social media is GLOBAL. People all over the world are following Twitter, Facebook and YouTube campaigns of the future leaders of other countries.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
More people of all ages are installing Twitter apps all the time and those young, passionate citizens are turning 18 – the first 2 gaps are closing.

Which candidate is aggressively using Twitter and “Promoted tweets” the most right now?
It looks like @GovGaryJohnson:

Promoted Tweets Gov Gary Johnson

A search on the hash tag #President and produced this promoted tweet by @GovGaryJohnson. (Click for larger view.)

Promoted Tweets 2 Gov Gary Johnson

A search on the hash tag #election2012 and produced this promoted tweet by @GovGaryJohnson. (Click for larger view.)

Smolitics: Politicians on Facebook

Social Media and Its Influence on Politics:

Facebook and its influence on business, children, and even our health has been studied and written about to excess. And yet, I find very little from anyone really digging into its influence on politics. (Please leave a comment with links to articles if you know of any good one’s!) To make this article easier (and OK, more fun for me) to write I made up a new word for the use of social media to a political advantage.

Smolitics: defined as a person, place, or thing’s popularity,performance, or general acceptance on social media.

Last November, I posted the following question to my Facebook friends: “Will the candidates with the most Twitter followers and Facebook page likes win this election?” (See the bottom section titled: “My Facebook Friends’ Opinions” for my friends’ intelligent and enlightening commentary on the subject.)

With the presidential elections coming up, questioning the correlation between a candidate’s popularity on Facebook and Twitter vs. his (and sometimes her) chances of being elected is more interesting than ever!

QUESTION: Will social media popularity predict our elected officials?
– Even though 62% of my friends said yes to this, the answer is still: probably not. However, it is important to know the three big reasons why it’s not a good assumption to say the one who has more social media support will win… yet:

  1. Not everyone who will be voting (e.g. many senior citizens), is a member of Facebook.
  2. Lots of people too young to vote can (and do) “like” a candidate.
  3. And finally: Social media is GLOBAL. People all over the world are following Twitter, Facebook and YouTube campaigns of the future leaders of other countries.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
More seniors are getting on Facebook and those young, passionate citizens are turning 18 – the first 2 gaps are closing.

Facebook Smolitics: At a Glance:

To see who is doing better according to Facebook all I had to do was observe, collect some numbers, and then figure out some “trends” to find out who was the most popular and whose popularity is rising.

The following table shows the number of “likes” I collected from the fan pages for the three main candidates for presidency. The numbers were collected for four weeks on the dates posted in the top row.

Dates Collected -> Tues. 9/18/2012 Thurs. 9/27/2012 Thurs. 10/4/2012 Wed. 10/10/2012
Obama 28,708,230 28,941,859 29,262,662 30,662,814
Romney 7,054,316 7,509,552 8,202,792 8,826,419
Johnson 251,311 265,086 278,818 291,473

My bar graph below shows the number of likes each candidate had on the first day (labeled Week 1). I began collecting numbers on 9/18/2012 and then collected the increases of each candidate once a week. The dates these numbers were collected for the week are specified.

If all we had to do is look at and compare the number of “Likes” for each candidate’s Facebook page, we could quickly conclude that Barack Obama is the more popular of any candidate and he will be re-elected as the next president of the US. But there’s so much more too it. Let’s look closer first at the dramatic increases these numbers each week.

It was predictable that the number of “likes” would climb as we are getting closer to voting time. The following numbers show that this prediction is accurate.

Average Increase PER DAY:

1 & 2 2 & 3 3 & 4
Obama 25,959 45,829 233,359
Romney 50,582 99,034 103,938
Johnson 1,531 1,962 2,109

(These numbers were calculated by taking the number of increase in “likes” divided by the number of days between the dates specified on the graph to your left. There are 9 days between the dates of weeks 1 and 2, 7 days between weeks 2 and 3, and 6 days between weeks 3 and 4.)

QUESTION: Do the politico’s care about their own smolitics
YES! And Facebook is a great example. Look at those numbers increasing!

The fact that Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (voting day) is rapidly approaching isn’t the only reason that these numbers are rapidly rising. You can bet that the candidates have many highly paid smolitical experts blazing the parallel, electronic versions of their campaign trail.

Prime Example: Mitt Romney’s team has purchased multiple keywords for searches in Facebook. To see what I mean, just type in “obama” or even “presi” (the beginning of the word president).

Try it yourself! (FYI: Sponsored ads rotate, so you may not see this every time.)

I took screenshots of mine. Click the thumbnails pics to view a larger image of the sponsored ads my search showed me below:

Romney's facebook sponsored ads

What popped up underneath when I typed "obama" into the Facebook search box.

Romney Keyword Presi on Facebook

What popped up underneath when I started to type in "president" into the Facebook search box.

Numbers We Don’t Know:

It’s already been said that not everyone who votes is a member of Facebook, and that many of those “likes” could come from those too young to vote.

So how does an e-campaign trail blazer know that their campaign is successfully reaching voters?
<- Look to the left and click to enlarge this example of a vital tool utilized for a politician's smolitical campaign.

We (the non-admins of any fan pages) aren't privy to these numbers. But in the insights of these Facebook pages those social media experts are viewing this info daily. It filters people who "like" the page by age (and of course you must be 18 to vote in the U.S.) and by country (the importance of this sort of goes without saying).

I hope you knew about these insights already because all companies executing successful social media marketing collect and utilize this data. Having these numbers for a politician's fan page would definitely help argue the importance of smolitics wouldn't it?

Final Questions

QUESTION: (For citizens of voting age) Is “liking” a politico’s fan page as good as voting for them?
– Of course not, you are allowed to be fans of either page, neither page, or both.

Why would someone not “like” either? – Because of the old social rule: Avoid topics of conversation that include religion or politics. – People have a kind of bravery to speak their mind on outlets like Facebook. If they think you disagree with your “liking” a certain candidate, you can bet it’s going to be made known on Facebook in clear view of all your other Facebook friends. (Don’t you hate that?) So some just avoid the confrontation altogether… This is the type of person who would not wear his/her team’s jersey in another state.

Why would someone choose both? – Either they are still trying to decide on who to vote for or they are like the previous person who chose to vote for neither and are trying to agree with everyone.

QUESTION: Because of all the numbers we don’t know, does it matter which presidential candidate has more fans on Facebook?
– YES! The more likes you have the more support you seem to have. Isn’t that what political campaigns are about…getting support?

It’s the same for anyone who has a Facebook Fan page, they want as many validating “likes” as they can get.

My Facebook Friends’ Opinions

17 voted:
Yes

5 voted:
No

5 voted:
Who cares? / Maybe

 

 

  • Facebook ThumbnailDavid· Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    Seeing as how the younger generation has affected the results of the past few presidential elections, whether they voted (Obama) or didn’t vote (Bush over Gore), and them using Facebook and Twitter as frequently as they do, it definitely could play a major role in getting information to them from candidates. they usually won’t follow/like someone/something that they dislike/disagree with; and if they follow/like a candidate, they’re probably registered to vote. having said that, I know a lot of people who are registered to vote and don’t do anything with political candidates on social networking sites, but I don’t know of any who aren’t registered to vote and like/follow any of these people. so, if they like/follow someone, they probably will vote for them, and in turn whoever has the most likes/followers has a better chance at winning the younger generation’s vote. which we’ve heard many times over recent years, “Get the younger generations vote, and you’re likely to win.” · November 8, 2011
  • Facebook ThumbnailSherra· Answered Choose this if you are afraid to commit to a yes or no. ;) Who cares? / Maybe
    Social Media can get the message out and get great feedback for political candidates, but it’s the voice of the voters who TURN OUT and VOTE on election day who matter…· November 8, 2011
  • Facebook ThumbnailPaul Jr. · Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    It’s worth noting that an incumbent candidate has an advantage here as they’ve presumably had a longer period of time to engage the public socially and attract followers. · November 8, 2011

    • Facebook ThumbnailAmber’s Reply
      Exactly – it’ll be the ones who at least have the appearance of being “accessible” and willing to face feedback (good or bad) head on. November 8, 2011 at 1:50pm
    •  
    • Facebook ThumbnailPaul Jr.’s Reply
      We’ll see how Facebook “friends” translate into likely voters. Seniors were traditionally the best investment for voter turnout, but make up a smaller proportion of social media users (although their numbers are starting to grow). The differences thus far are staggering: Herman Cain has ~25,000 likes compared to Barack Obama’s 23 MILLION. That said, perhaps one senior who isn’t on Facebook and will actually VOTE is worth 1,000 hipsters who “like” Barack and won’t. November 8, 2011 at 2:19pm
  • Facebook ThumbnailMary· Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    Interesting theory…it will be fun to check it out in 2012 · November 8, 2011

    • Facebook ThumbnailAmber’s Reply: I know! in 2012 – can you imagine the influence that Facebook will have? Seeing who your friends and people you sincerely respect are voting for… it can’t be denied that this will definitely be interesting to see what happens. · November 8, 2011 at 1:53pm

The Final Chapter for Books with Pages?

Are published and printed books way past their prime?

With more instant access to internet news sites, eBooks, YouTube videos, blogs, and Wikipedia articles every microsecond the need for books in print is declining.

Tie-in from yesterday’s post “THE END” for Bookstores & Libraries?
Considering the direct proportional relationship between the reduced demand for printed versions of books minus the number of books that are purchased online and factor in the rising cost of running large retail bookstores in this economy, we shouldn’t be surprised that the result is entire chains of bookstores filing for bankruptcy and public libraries reducing hours (or closing altogether). Should we?

e-Learning and e-Content

Why is e-learning so boss? The best answer goes back to that old “knowledge is power” saying. We have so much knowledge available at our fingertips that we are on the cusp of the most opportunistic evolution of human intelligence mankind has ever seen. This could be very good, but it could just as easily go very wrong.

Have you seen this “There has never been a better time to learn” commercial for the new iPad 2?

It makes you wonder less about why there are so many rumors flying around that textbooks will eventually be replaced with iPad-like devices. Doesn’t it?

Questioning Electronic Sources

Arguments for and against getting information via internet resources are numerous and multifaceted to say the least. I read somewhere a long time ago about how Google is changing the way we think or learn. I can’t remember which… but it’s probably both.

The weakest link in our chain of knowledge is the validity of our sources. Am I right?

Getting access to accurate information online can be tricky because there are billions of sources contributing to the world wide web (which is where most of do our browsing). – And what a tangled web we weave right? And almost anyone can release an eBook or whitepaper. As a result, verifying sources and the currency of the information is crucial.

Anonymous eSources

Think about the last thing you looked up online. How did you know that you got the answer/result you needed? Have you ever accepted an answer as fact that was posted on a forum or even one of those “yahoo answers” pages? Places like Wikipedia are edited all the time by anyone who wants a username.

Compromised eSources

Countless websites (even government ones) have been hacked at one time or another. In light of that how can you be sure that any information online can be trusted? (Ok… so that’s kind of extreme.)

Well Disguised or Imposter eSources

It’s also not wise to just look at a web address and see if it looks reliable because anyone can go to godaddy and register any domain name that is available. I went to godaddy just now and saw that TheExpertofEverything.com is available. Not that I wanted it, I am just making a point. I am definitely not the expert of everything (I’m more like the student of everything I think ;)), but 5 minutes ago I could have owned the expert’s web address.

Questioning Published Sources

Answers from printed books can also be just as easily proved inaccurate concerning many subjects.

Published Content – Out of Date & Less Accessible?
At the time of publication, content would have been sent through rigorous validation processes by editors and copyright experts. Published content can sometimes be difficult to get a copy (especially older content or content with a small target market) or by the time you do get a copy, the information could very well be outdated information.

To conclude this post I would like to state that I am not partial to either printed or electronically obtained information. There is still a place for both in my world, but as for the rest of you…

Where do you think it’s all going?

“THE END” for BookStores & Libraries?

Are large bookstore chains (once alight with the business of happily putting independent bookstores out of business) obsolete?

My photo of the Borders Bookstore that closed in the Castleton Mall of Indianapolis.

Seeing this bookstore closed for good reminded me of the movie: “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). The film was about the big bad super store (Fox Books) causing the charming little independent bookstore (Shop Around the Corner) to go out of business.

During the movie, one of the superstore owners says, “Aww, another independent bites the dust.” Then another owner says “On to the next!”

That part of the movie echoed with me as I took this photo which is when I decided to write a post about it.

The thing is, I am a fan of change. Of course I won’t even try to claim that it’s always easy (heh, if you only knew), but most of the time I think we don’t fully appreciate a situation until something changes and it no longer “is”. Sometimes, when we are lucky, we find out that the changes are for the best.

Brick and Mortar Bookstores & Libraries vs. Online Bookstores & Libraries

Inventory Selection

Libraries are great about having an enormous selection of books (even those out of print) are available to borrow even if they have to request a loan from another library.

Of course, the drawback of the library is simply that you have to give the book back. Sometimes it is preferable to own a copy. For example, my mother-in-law has a library that many small schools would be envious of, but she is always scouring eBay and used bookstores to buy copies of the readers that she had as a child.

The limitation of the selection of books at a bookstore verses the virtually limitless selection of books that can be bought online is a big draw back for the brick and mortar bookstore. To make up for that, many have incorporated the option to order a book for you that they don’t have in stock. This isn’t much of a solution for the bookstores though because it’s just as easy for most people to go to amazon.com or half.com and order what they need skipping the trip to the bookstore altogether.

The biggest con of online shopping or an online library is of course: the genuine value of face to face interaction.

Story Time

One thing that cannot really be duplicated at an online store is the simple age-old service provided by libraries and bookstores around the world: story-time.

Reading a book to a group of children is a rewarding experience. You have an opportunity to tell a story that they otherwise might never have heard.

Think about the powerful responsibility of this truth along with one of my favorite quotes from “You’ve Got Mail” about the heroine working in a bookstore with her mother.

“I started helping my mother after school here when I was six years old. And I used to watch her. And it wasn’t that she was just selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever it was (that) they were going to turn out to be. Because when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does…and I…I have gotten carried away”

- Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) from the movie “You’ve Got Mail

Sales Associates

Bookstores often have sales associates that can be very helpful. Even online booksellers have toll free numbers and sales staff ready to chat with you and answer questions that you may have regarding a book you are looking for. And yet there is something more valuable about being helped one on one in real life isn’t there?

I have noticed that it is especially nice to find knowledgeable sales associates in the children’s section of a bookstore.

We were at a Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bloomington, IN not long ago and my nine year old was discussing in depth books by Rick Riordan, Erin Hunter, and other authors she favors.

You see my daughter is a very good reader and has difficulty finding interesting books that are appropriate for both her age and reading level.

So when a saleswoman named Carrol proved to be extremely helpful because of her knowledge of the books my daughter learned of new authors and books with similar styles. We ended up going home with a few new books that she devoured right away.

Another unexpected perk of the visit was that we earned a free book after completing a form with 10 of the novels and authors that she had read over the summer. (Carrol knew that she had read that many because of their in depth discussion.) And I just noticed that she was reading that free one for a second time the last week.

Exposure to New Titles and Topics

Unfortunately some of the facts considered as the pros and cons of buying books online verses a bookstore often fit into both categories.

I really enjoy just browsing books on a web store or in real life to find books about things I didn’t even know I was interested in trying until I saw a book about it.

Do you know what I mean? Like I was on thinkgeek.com‘s book section and saw this book about how to pick locks. Its really something I never considered doing, but then I saw a book about it and it made me picture myself picking the lock off of one of those old-fashioned treasure boxes and made me want to check it out. :)

The other side of the argument:
Then again, why would I need to waste my time looking into subjects I know I will never ever find useful? At least I haven’t any real future plans to go lock picking or treasure hunting for that matter.

In conclusion of my post, I feel as if I have been typing a novel about this subject myself and have yet to scratch the surface of this economical situation. All I can say is, I won’t be surprised to see more and more bookstores close and will post more tomorrow about see fewer and fewer printed copies of books being sold.

Shopping Cart Solutions for Online Business

Free and Low Cost Online Shopping Cart Services

Q: Who are these services actually solutions for?
A: Brand new online businesses or very small businesses (solo-entrepreneurs) that make fewer but larger transactions.

Free Online Shopping Cart Services

I have worked with those “free” or should I say the services that initially charge no monthly fees like the beloved (<-I'm sort of rolling my eyes as I'm typing that) PayPal or Google Checkout. The catch is that their processing fees are really quite outrageous!

  • Pros
  • Low Initial Investment
  • A Bit Lower Transaction Rates for Larger Transactions
  • They can process credit cards without your having to sign a contract with a cc processor.
  • Doesn’t require an extremely high technical skill set, but a fair amount of HTML and the ability to add a little JavaScript code to your website or blog site is required
  • Cons
  • Outrageously High Per-Transaction Fees

Once your company gets established you should begin looking up your own checkout solutions.

More Costly, Yet Quite Commonly Used Shopping Cart Services

Lots of small and startup businesses use shopping cart services like 1ShoppingCart.com or eCommerce solutions like the ones available from Yahoo! Small Business for there online order needs.

  • Pros
  • Doesn’t require an extremely high technical skill set, but a fair amount of HTML and the ability to add a little JavaScript code to your website or blog site is required
  • Cons
  • Very Limited Customization
  • Requirements
  • You must additionally purchase your own credit card processing service.

Money Saver?
If you already have a self-hosted website, it might be a waste to spend $30+ dollars a month on highly proprietary solutions with such limited customizations like the ones these companies offer.

Free Self-hosted Shopping Cart Solutions

Q: Who are these services actually solutions for?
A: Small to Large Corporate Size Businesses

Two that I have worked with are Zen Cart and OpenCart <- this new one that I have found very robust as well.

  • Pros
  • Nearly Endless Customization Abilities <3 <- Developers love this pro.
  • Possibly Low Initial Investment – if you are developing your own website that is…
  • They can process credit cards without your having to sign a contract with a cc processor.
  • Cons
  • You must additionally purchase your own credit card processing service. (Shop around for this, I think even places like Sam’s Club and Costco have very very low cost merchant services for cc processing.)
  • These services require advanced experience with HTML, PHP, and managing MySQL databases. (Pretty much anyone who works professionally developing WordPress can use these right out of the box so to speak.)
  • Requirements
  • Like all opensource systems, you must be ready and able to keep your systems up to date
  • More Self-hosted Security like SSL certificates for transactions made directly on your website.
  • You must additionally purchase your own credit card processing service and possibly purchase additional extensions to connect with your cc processor. This is a one time probably around $25 to $50 fee verses monthly fees for 1shoppingcart

If I have forgotten anything, or mixed up any points here do let me know and I’ll give you a shout out. <3