More efficient blogging and social networking

I’ve been trying to be on the ball with the social networks and it is time consuming…

I don’t even use that many. I can say I only really use Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and I’ve only ever posted something to the first two.

I do want to post more, and I do want to network more, but I realize that a lot of the posting would be repetitive.

Like, photos I post to the blog should or could go in Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and be tweeted as well. So could a link I found interesting go in my Twitter account, my blog or Facebook wall. A post I make in this blog should at least be mentioned in Facebook and Twitter to make it known to contacts in those networks. Videos would go in YouTube, my blog and Facebook. And so on and so forth…

The point is this, it can be done as it is, by hand and going to every service and repeating the posts in each, but it’s a pain and very time consuming, too. I’ll look into automating this stuff. I’m pretty sure there must be WordPress plugins that allow one to post whatever one writes in the blog, in the social networks one has accounts with. If not, there should be someone developing it now!

I found a web browser that supposedly integrates a few of these things, named Flock. I came across it while browsing Flickr, when I noticed a legend that said something like “posted with Flock” or some such. I downloaded it, installed and tried it. It is okay. I can’t say I managed to streamline any of the posting, though.

The option to configure a self-hosted blog seems to have a problem, because I entered the login data and it didn’t work no matter how many times I tried. The del.icio.us account never got saved, even after several logouts and ins to allow the browser saving the login data. No success. So live bookmarks didn’t work. Although I’ve told it to keep me logged in to the services, I keep having to login. So, it’s a work in progress, but it has one redeeming feature: the Media Bar!

I love the Media Bar! I find it very helpful to browse very fast through the media streams of my contacts. It allowed me to go over years of photos of some of my Flickr contacts in a matter of a couple of sessions. I had stopped following them because of how time consuming it was, but now it’s simpler. It’s nothing that couldn’t get done with a webpage using frames, etc., but I had not done something like that or found such a thing yet, so this was nice. Same thing with Facebook’s friends as well as other things that may have media streams, like a YouTube search, for example.

The only problem I have with it is that sometimes I get the feeling the stuff is not always date ordered, and that if I refresh or close/open the bar, the stream goes back to the beginning and I have no way of going back to a very old photo without scrolling several “pages” of media in the bar until I get to where I was, and I noticed the media is a bit different from the previous time, which made me wonder about the randomness mentioned before. But I still like this feature despite it needing a bit more work.

I was hoping to find a Firefox extension that created this media bar, but I didn’t find it. I hope someone develops it. But I also hope Firefox didn’t have the RAM issues it has…

Anyway, for those blogging and socializing online that may have the same issues I mention here, I will post new findings on this topic in the future, because I plan to work them out. I want to make good use of these communication lines, but in the most efficient way possible.

Online color tools and resources

Well, finallly a third post here! I keep thinking I have to have a good topic to talk a long while about for each post, but I guess shorter ones are okay too. I doubt I’ll manage to microblog (e.g. Twitter) though. :)

Yesterday I was looking for a color while designing a book cover, and needed to find a good color to complement the one I was using in the title. I had used some great color tools in the past, free online resources that have saved me trouble when working on website templates, but couldn’t remember their URLs. I have always relied on the search engines to find them.

Well, yesterday, rather than arriving at one of the tools I already knew, I got to a new (at least for me) website that I thought was very nice and did a great job: Color Hunter.

It helps you create and find color palettes made from images. I had seen other tools do just that, but for some reason, I really liked this one. I wasn’t generating a palette for this task, though, but it was still helpful because searching the color returned the palettes that website had generated from Flickr photos which had that color.

Now, that is just a new find, I’ve been using another great website I had found in the past to deal with colors is Colour Lovers. It has been a great source of inspiration and solutions in this subject.

This website features collections of palettes and also background patterns, created by its users. Sometimes they are very nice, sometimes not really, but its still a very cool resource to use when dealing with colors.

I like that it also has a section that deals with websites and magazine covers to check palette trends, as well as a tool to create palettes.  It is much more than that, too. It features a community of: color lovers, what do you know :D. Think of it as a Flickr for colors, kind of.

Now, one more tip for those dealing in colors. Sometimes I need to know what the value of a color in an image or website is and I could take a screenshot or just copy the image and then open it up with PhotoShop and use its color picker tool. There is a problem with that: it takes a lot of steps to do something that should be quite simple.

Enter Firefox‘ add-on ColorZilla. This thing makes it very simple to pick any color being displayed in the browser. Its just is as simple as PhotoShop’s, so there is hardly a learning courve. I love saving myself all the steps I needed to go through before, including having to launch the damn application which gets heavier with every release.

I guess that’s enough for this post. Now that I mentioned the Firefox Add-on, I felt tempted to start listing other graphics related add-ons I find helpful, but I’ll restrain myself for the time being and probably take them on in a future post.

Hopefully you found this information useful.

Comment and share!

First thoughts on Picasa

Well, I haven’t been posting in this blog as often as I’ve thought, although I write a lot of drafts in my head during the day and I never get them past the editor… Oh well, on with this one or it’ll get filed away as a mental draft too.

I think I want to talk about Google’s Picasa. I’ve installed it two or three days ago and I have been very pleased with it. It did take a bit of hard drive space, as I feared, but I guess I will live with it for the time being. What I really ought to do is back up all the stuff in my computer, making plenty of free space and stop worries about that.

For those that don’t know what Picasa is yet (I didn’t know much about it until recently), go to Picasa’s homepage and read about it. Also, there are a couple videos posted by Google in YouTube, which cover version 3 and 3.5:

I haven’t explored all the features yet, so far I wanted it to organize my photos. To my surprise, it also takes care of videos, which will probably make me shoot videos a lot more now, knowing they’ll be as easy to manage as photos.

I like the scrolling, which feels smooth like the iPod Touch’s, and the thumbnails don’t lag like Windows Explorer. Selecting photos is simple, with several options like ctrl-click to add individual items to a selection, or shift-click for a range, as well as selecting areas. Batch actions aren’t complicated either, drag-and-drop makes some actions pretty fast and intuitive.

I love how you can filter photos by album, people, keywords, and then only work on the matching set of files, combined with the features mentioned above.

Like I said, I didn’t particularly explore the features set, like editing or uploading yet. I did find that you can add more features like uploading not only to YouTube or Picasa’s Albums, but also to other services like Facebook or Flickr, with the proper plug-ins (or whatever they are called in Picasa). I imagine there are some for other web apps, like WordPress, which I could do a quick search for, but am lazy at the moment.

The feature that I liked the most, organization-wise, has been people tagging. You can name the people in your pictures and then use those tags to filter the photos down to the set of individuals in them. Like a certain photos folder and then clicking on your kids face, will show just the photos in that folder where your kids were tagged. Pretty nifty when you have tons of pictures and you need to find the one you want to share.

This comes with a little disadvantage, though, you have to tag them. Picasa simplifies it to a certain extent, though. Right after adding the photos to the application, it’ll scan them to find faces. It does a pretty decent job, but it’s still far from perfect. It’ll find faces of people, but also faces in pictures inside the picture, like the ones on the shelf at the back or a street ad poster; statues will also be picked some times. At the same time, several pretty obvious faces will be ignored, and some not-so-obvious ones as well. In other words, if you want to do a complete job, you will have to go through each picture and add manually the missing people.

Anyway, after it scanned the pictures and found some faces, it will attempt to group them by person. It displays them in an “unnamed people” group where you’ll proceed to name the groupings. It’s a good way to save some time, although you’ll later have to go to each person’s set of faces and confirm they are all correct, because you can’t preview what Picasa grouped as a same person (not that I found how) and will only find out after you named him/her. You can batch confirm they are right or not, you can also move wrong picks under their right name quite easily.

To make things simpler, if you have a Gmail account, you should log in to it from Picasa and it will pull your contacts list. This will give you a drop-down list of options under the field where you name each person, making the process much faster: type the first letters and then arrow-down and enter, or click on the right name. If the name is not in the list, just finish typing it and press enter, you’ll be prompted a box where you can create a new person and it will later show in your options list too.

People tagging is great, but very time consuming, so either you not do it at all, or you half do it but I don’t see the point then, or you do it fully spending tons of time to it. First thing, then would be to decide whether you really need it or want it, and if so, don’t try to finish in one go unless you love looking at pictures and typing for hours on end and have nothing else to do. What I am doing is spending a bit of time each day, trying to complete a full folder of photos at a time, and making progress in order so I don’t skip one set by mistake. If I continue, I will eventually finish some day.

I haven’t checked if you can export all this tagging with the pictures once you back them up in a disk, but if Picasa doesn’t do this yet, I’m quite sure it will get implemented in the future, or so I hope. After all, this just seems to be the first version with the people feature, so it can only improve.

As I try new things and have more to share, I may post them here.

Share this post, comment on it, please participate! That will keep me motivated to do more. :)