Thursday, February 22, 2007


I use a fair amount of stock photography in my work and while I've always liked and used the heck out of which is subscription based (about $500 per year) my fiancee has turned me on to a new stock photo site, that I think is even better. It's called and it's much more than a stock photography site, it's a community. Community sites are a dime a dozen, but what sets apart is that this is a community that produces some amazing original stock photography, illustrations, Flash animations, and video that is not only high-quality but inexpensive. runs on a credit system. All the artwork is provided by an extremely active community of artists who get paid for their work directly. Anyone can contribute once they fill out an application and get accepted (your first samples are reviewed by a panel). This is a welcome quality control system, and is working well.

To use the service you buy however many credits you want and then you use them pay for whatever you download. Photos are 1 to 6 credits depending on the size you want. Illustrations (vectors thank you!) are mostly 5 credits. Video is 5 to 20 credits. Flash animations seem to vary a bit, but the ones I've seen are usually 1 credit.

The site itself is very Web 2.0 and to delve into all the cool features would take an awfully long post, but the short list would include:
  • User ratings
  • Tagging
  • A great Lightbox utility
  • Forums
  • A creative network
  • A blogging tool

Not only do I get a lot of use out of the site, but I have often started simply surfing around to check out all the cool stuff available. I can't say I've done that with many other commerce sites.

Pipe Down: Fun with Yahoo! Pipes

Well, I've finished my first Yahoo! Pipe. I decided to create a feed that pulls from several "life hacking" blogs and limits results to posts containing lists of tips (which I often find myself drawn to). I rounded up feeds from a list of popular life hacking blogs like Lifehacker, 37 Signals, and WebWorker Daily and told Yahoo! Pipes to Fetch them. Then I connected that to the Content Analysis operator, and then connected that to a filter. I had to set the filter up to permit only blog post titles that contain keywords common in "Tips" type posts. I chose: "tips, top, some, favorite, best, steps, and ways." This was based on reading through several of the blogs and noting what words commonly appeared in the titles of "tips" type posts.

Lastly, I told it to sort by Publication Date and filter out duplicates. Here's the result:

It worked pretty well. A few non-tip posts made it in, but for the most part it did what I'd hoped. I remain very excited about Yahoo! Pipes and will mess with it as much as time allows. It's still beyond non-techies, but I can see this becoming a powerful tool for Webmasters who want to display targeted content and power news junkies who want to create truly unique "newspapers." Yahoo! Pipes plus a newsfeed aggregator like Netvibes or Protopage equals the world's greatest online newspaper.

Autumn: For Anyone Who Has Been Obsessed with Finding an Answer

I think this is one of the best blog posts I've read. Partly because it's exceedingly well-written and partly because I identified strongly with the writer, Nick Tosches' unyielding passion for fulfilling what, on the surface, seems like a relatively simple quest. I've lost so much time over the years to finding answers to things like using Outlook to send formatted HTML e-mails, finding a freeware app to convert video, etc. sometimes only because I know it's out there and I refuse to give in to failing. Nick takes it to an extreme understandable only by those possessed with "The Quest."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Xbox Meets Toll Basket

The other day I was pulling up to a tollbooth on I-294 in Chicago and the car in front of me ceremoniously dumped an Xbox into the toll basket. I wish I had taken a picture. In any event, I have no idea if this was supposed to be some kind of statement against Xboxes or Tollways but it was one of the stranger things I've seen in a while. In case you're wondering, I just threw my change into the basket with the game console. Who knows, maybe they were hiding evidence in plain site.

Web Ad Attack

This morning I clicked on a link to a story in Forbes about the best and worst selling cars of 2007. I was first met with a splash ad for Symantec which could not be skipped. I waited for it to finish and went on to the story where I was immediately met with a loud video for an investment advice book from Fischer Investments along with the requisite banner ads. In addition there was one of those annoying pop-ups for a Forbes survey that moved with me as I scrolled down the page.

This is a lousy user experience. I understand that needs to make money, but this is overboard. I didn't even read the story because I was so annoyed and I'll likely think twice about the next link I see to Forbes. Here's what I think:
  1. If you force people through a splash ad, let them skip it. Most of the time they won't find the "Skip Ad" link until they've seen most of the ad, so you don't lose much eye time. But at least give the option.
  2. No self-starting video ads. Present the ad, with the embedded video and let me click on it if I'm interested.
  3. Pop-up ads are bad enough, but one that follows you around like a hungry little yelping puppy is just amateurish. Just don't do pop-up ads.