The Making of a Book GIF

Just to preface this post, I did not create a GIF of an entire book (but that would be a cool, if slightly useless, thing to do). Rather, I’m making some book-related GIFs today. I’m a sucker for a great GIF, and after I downloaded the Rapid Burst Camera app on my phone today, the obvious thing to do was make a GIF.

So I grabbed the closest book (The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen), and went to town. Not bad, eh?

turn a page

Just as the name suggests, Rapid Burst Camera takes a bunch of pictures really quickly, which gives you all the raw material you need to make a GIF. From here, there are a couple of options for creating your GIF.

Making a GIF with Rapid Burst Camera
The quickest option is to use the GIF animator that’s built into the Rapid Burst app. There are number of limited options including size and frames per second. Select what you want, wait while the app processes the photos, and out comes your animation.
Pros: Quick, easy, no fancy software needed.
Cons: No fine-tuning or control over the size of the GIF. If your file is larger than 500k, many websites including Tumblr and Facebook will only display a still image, not the animation.

Making a GIF with Photoshop
I used this method to make the GIF above. Start by downloading the photos to your computer. Then open a new Photoshop file, and drag all the photos you want to use into the new file. Each will appear as a separate layer. At this point, you’ll want to adjust the image size (Image -> Image Size). I reduced the resolution to 72 dpi and the size to 500 pixels wide. Using the animation panel (Window -> Animation), you can then create a slide per photo and adjust the amount of time per slide. To further reduce the file size, I deleted a few frames here and there. To save the GIF, go to File -> Save for Web & Devices. You’ll get a window with more options on how you want to save the file. I chose GIF 64 Dither under Presets, then reduced the dither a little more to bring the final file size below 500k. Gizmodo has good a tutorial on making a GIF from a video file.
Pros: More control, better outcome.
Cons: More steps, takes longer.

I hope to see more book-related GIFs on the web as soon as you all read this post!

Square App Accepts Mobile Credit Card Payments

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Square has arrived! Yesterday, the mobile-app-cum-credit-card-reader launched in the United States for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android. By downloading the free app and plugging the free “square” credit card reader into the headphone jack of your smartphone, you can accept credit card payments. Your customers can leave you a tip, sign with their fingers, and receive an electronic receipt via email or SMS. The app also includes access to a secure online dashboard that displays analytics and documentation of all your sales.

The only fees the merchant pays are a percentage of the sale plus a few cents per credit card swipe.

Square was launched by Jack Dorsey, the cofounder and chairman of Twitter, who was inspired by a glass blower from St. Louis. Because the glass blower could only accept cash payments at his studio, he would lose potential customers (because who carries that much cash around these days?). Square works for bookstores, babysitters, politicians collecting campaign donations, dog groomers, plumbers on house calls, and anyone selling anything.

In my opinion, Square is a game changer. It means that more people can start selling their products and services themselves, out of their homes, on the go, or wherever they happen to be.

I’m tempted to download the app and get the card reader, and I don’t even have anything to sell!

Social Media is Not a Trick Question

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I’m attending the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this week! Yesterday, I got sunburned walking around in Nob Hill and near the Golden Gate Bridge, and now I’m in a dimly lit conference room listening to Aliza Sherman talk about social media strategy. (If anyone knows any good places to get breakfast around here, I’m all ears!)

I was struck by something she said in her presentation. She asked the audience, “Who are you trying to reach with social media?” Her question was followed by a deafening silence, so she responded, “this isn’t a trick question.” Of course businesses are trying to reach people who will buy their products, she said.

At many tech conferences, whenever speakers ask questions like these in reference to social media, they are looking for someone to say something that sounds old-school so the speaker can bash that person for not knowing anything about social media. You mean you want to sell people stuff on social media? That’s not how it works, idiot!

Well actually, that is how it works. However, we should rephrase this. Instead of saying you want to sell through social media, think about trying to grow your business through social media. There is a difference. You engage in social media not only to find existing and new customers, but also to tell them about your company, get their feedback, and build great brand awareness…which hopefully leads to more business.

The thing that companies struggle with is that social media usually operates a few steps away from a direct sale. Just because a company is on Twitter doesn’t mean its followers are going to be converted into paying customers.

Aliza suggests identifying several direct actions you would like your followers/fans/friends to take, other than buying something from you. Maybe you want people to give you feedback on your products. Maybe you want them to comment on your blog posts, or watch your video. Maybe you want to identify new business partners or employees from your community.

While not direct sales, these actions are no less important for a business.

It is important to make the distinction that social media is for business growth, not just sales. Sales are certainly a part of your strategy, but not the only part.

Digital Economy Bill: Friend or Foe?

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Well, the UK has done it. They’ve passed the Digital Economy Bill amid a cacophony of opinions both for and against it.

I wrote a piece for Publishing Perspectives weighing both sides.

In my opinion, this bill gives too much power and discretion to the British government. When no proof of copyright violation is needed to block a Web site or an Internet connection, the potential for this bill to be abused is too high. I do want authors and artists and musicians to be able to make money from their creative work, but this bill should have included a more controlled method for determining what Web sites and users violate copyright.

Everyone’s a Web Junkie

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If you ever again wonder whether you are the only person who checks their Facebook page at work, or if you think you watch too many YouTube videos, or if you think you tweet too often, think again. This video from creative agency JESS3 called “The State of the Internet” has some mind-blowing statistics about how many people are using the Internet for good and evil. Watch it!