Common Sense Image Use

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[Editor's note: I'm delighted that Maureen Taylor of the Photo Detective blog has agreed to provide this guest post for GeneaBloggers readers.]

Images and blogs are a natural partnership. A picture illustrates a point or becomes the focal piece of a column. It advertises who you are. No doubt about it, images enhance the ability of your blog to connect with your readers. There are some common sense image usage tips to keep in mind before you start placing pictures everywhere.

  • Condition. First and foremost, use pictures that are easy to see and in good condition. Take advantage of photo editing tools such as the free site http://www.picnik.com to remove marks and sharpen the image. If you want to draw attention to a detail, crop the image and then include both the full size picture and the cropped version. If you’re deliberately showcasing a picture with problems it’s a good idea to tell folks exactly why you’re using a less than perfect photo. Similarly, if you’ve enhanced an image mention that as well.
  • Size. The larger the image, i.e. resolution and size, the longer it takes to download the image and for folks to see your blog post. There is a high annoyance factor possible here. It’s important to remember that not everyone has a newer model computer and that some areas of the country still rely on dial-up Internet access. The other problem with image size is the storage limits of your blog program. If you post a lot of images all the time you’ll eventually need to upgrade your storage space.
  • Resolution. Don’t put high-resolution images online. Resize your images before posting by compressing tiff format images to jpgs. The best dpi for the web is 72. You really don’t need anything larger. If you use a higher resolution image there may be unexpected or unauthorized usage later on. This doesn’t prevent online copying, but at that resolution, print quality is awful.
  • Copying. Watch for right-click copying. You can copy all kinds of things on the web by right-clicking with your mouse (control-clicking on a Mac). Should you? No. It’s an ethical thing. I use a photo site that allows me to turn off the right-click option. You also can put a watermark on images to discourage reuse. It’s an option in many types of photo editing software and that’s what many photo stock houses do. Unfortunately I don’t currently know of any blog software that allows you to turn off right-click copying.
  • Permission. If you find an image on the web that you’d like to use, see if you can find the owner. Ask their permission before adding their image to your blog.
  • Living Persons. Don’t use pictures of living people, unless they give their permission. There are articles in the news about improper usages of images on FaceBook, but it’s only a matter of time before that misuse happens to bloggers too.
  • Protect Identities. If you want to publish photos of an event, either have folks sign a model release that states how and where you’ll publish those images, or don’t show faces. I recently used a photo of a group of kids at one of my workshops. I focused the camera on their artwork instead of their faces. Each child held up their poster board so that their faces were completely covered.

Go ahead. Use lots of pictures and illustrations in your blog. Just make sure you have great looking images and permission to reproduce them. Wordless Wednesday is my favorite day to follow the blogs.

Maureen Taylor writes the Photo Detective blog.  © 2009, copyright Maureen Taylor

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The Importance of Daily Blogging Prompts

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Daily Blogging Prompts are a series of “prompts” which bring the community of genealogy bloggers together.  Basically a theme is set – such as Tombstone Tuesday, one of the most popular – and bloggers who want to participate can do so by posting about the subject at their own blogs.

By way of history, when GeneaBloggers started as a website, there were only two blogging themes – Tombstone Tuesday and Wordless Wednesday.  Over time, members made proposals for other topics such as Black Sheep Sunday, Madness Monday and Treasure Chest Thursday which have also been successful. Keep in mind that it takes time for a new blogging theme to gain traction which is the case with some of the newer ones.  Still, these prompts have added value to the genealogy blogging community and bloggers are creating excellent content using them.

A Way Of Involving New Genealogy Bloggers

New comers to the world of genealogy blogging love blogging prompts.  Here’s why:

  • It isn’t always easy to come up with ideas for blog posts when first starting out.  Using Daily Blogging Prompts are a big help – that’s what newcomers say.
  • An instant sense of community and belonging is experienced by the new blogger.  They can find a commonality with other genealogy bloggers.  The roll-up widget posted here at GeneaBloggers for each theme allows bloggers to easily see the other posts around the same theme.
  • Regular posting and a certain rhythm to posting  develops over time.  Bloggers like to get in a groove and a routine just like with any other task or process.

Not Just For Newbies

Participation in Daily Blogging Prompts has never been mandatory nor does not posting mean you aren’t a “good geneablogger.”  Most of our members know that GeneaBloggers doesn’t have a lot of rules and restrictions – we leave that to real life.  We’ve built a unique community where participation is welcome in these activities and all other ones for that matter.

There is a wide range of bloggers who use the Daily Blogging Prompts – some long-time bloggers, some new, some who participate consistently and some who don’t.  It’s all good.

Can’t I Create My Own Blogging Themes?

Recently, footnote Maven made some very good points in her post Set Up A Blogging Editorial Calendar related to daily blogging themes.  In the section Self-Motivation for Bloggers, she states that while the Daily Blogging Prompt prompts are great for bloggers, folks should also feel free to create their own prompts.  I whole-heartedly agree!

I think that as bloggers we evolve over time.  As a new blogger, we are uncertain of the terrain, so we use the same prompts, memes and carnivals that other genealogy bloggers do.  Over time these prompts help build our “voice” and our writing style.  We gain confidence as we get feedback in our post comments and we feel comfortable making comments on the posts of others.

It is only natural that a genealogy blogger would set out on her or his own and develop their own series of prompts.  These are series of posts on a regular basis to which readers can look forward.  Look around and you’ll see Amanuensis MondayTuesday’s Child, Tombstone Thursday, and more.

New Blogging Themes

With that said, several members have asked for the creation of two new blogging themes. So here they are:

  • Follow Friday – this theme has been suggested by Earline Bradt of Ancestral Notes and it is a take off on the popluar #FollowFriday meme on Twitter.  The concept: recommend another blogger, a specific blog post or a genealogy resource to the genealogy community.  If you’ve found something or someone helpful, post about it/them and tell others why they should be followed.
  • Surname Saturday – this too started out as a Twitter meme as a way to get surname out so others on Twitter could see them.  For this new blogging theme, the concept is: Post about one or more of your surnames – talk about the origins, talk about their geographic locations, etc.  Anything that would help you bring more attention to the surname, especially if you have hit a brick wall or need assistance with research.

Starting tomorrow, Friday, October 23, 2009, we’ll have summary pages with roll-up widgets of posts for Follow Friday here at GeneaBloggers.  Then look for Surname Saturday and it looks like our week will be filled! You’ll never have a shortage of blogging topics, right?

Conclusion

Consider joining your genealogy blogging colleagues on any of the Daily Blogging Prompts if you haven’t done so already.  They’re fun, they can make us think about our memories, our ancestors and our research as well as help us interact with other bloggers.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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Your Blog’s Welcome Mat

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How welcoming is your blog? What impression does it make on new visitors?

I ask this because on Saturday, October 11, 2009, I will be giving a presentation entitled Become A Genealogy Blog User at the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, CA.  And during this one hour talk, I will be not only highlighting many different genealogy blogs in our blogroll here at GeneaBloggers, but my handouts will also list over 50 genealogy blogs and their URLs.  It is likely that attendees will go home and visit most of these blogs at some point after the presentation.

And if that isn’t incentive enough to think about shaking out your blog’s welcome mat, consider that many web surfers make very quick decisions as to whether or not a blog or website are useful.  As Mother said, first impressions are important!

I will have more posts on this subject soon – specifically on how to create a permanent landing pad area right below your banner and right above your latest post.  A landing pad can give a quick glimpse as to what your blog is about, your best and most popular posts and more.

While I work on these posts, consider some of these tips and tricks:

  • Where Are You? Not knowing where a blogger is based or the geographical area of their genealogy research can cause confusion for new visitors or force them to disregard your site as unimportant to their own research.  Create a simple text widget or add a map for your side bar.
  • Add a Search Engine. Many blog visitors won’t take the time to go through your entire blog to look for information.  Add a search engine widget similar to the one here on GeneaBloggers. For instructions on setting up Google Search and using the link on your blog, see this post on Bootcamp for GeneaBloggers.
  • What Are Your Surnames? Sure Google and other search engines will pick up your blog posts with the surname in them, but having them on the front page of your blog gives them greater page ranking abilities for your site.  Again, a small sidebar widget perhaps linking to the tab or label for that surname would be useful for visitors.
  • A Simple Welcome.  Here’s a great example of a welcome mat at Everything’s Relative – Researching Your Family History: Cindy has created a graphic for her sidebar which reads “Did you land on my blog because you searched for a name that’s here?  If so please contact me at CindysOffice@aol.com.  I’m always looking for cousins and exploring possible family connections!”
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Welcome mat photo used under Creative Commons 3.0 License courtesy of King Dumb at Flickr.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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