Thursday, 30 August 2012

Is monetisation a dirty word?

Above: Quality advertising Bangkok style
What do you think about adverts on blogs?

I'm in two minds whether to mention this or see if someone else does...  I've been dipping my toe in Adsense for the last year - with adverts so discreet neither you or anyone else has spotted them (in the invisible space at the bottom of the right hand column.) They don't earn mega-bucks... but they could!

Here are the easiest ways to earn money from your blog (or website):
  • Become an Amazon Affiliate - join up and get the codes to insert an array of Amazon ads - from hyperlinks for individual items to all-singing banners and the little search engine gismo on the top right of this blog. They pay a generous 5% commission if anyone buys through your links (and it'll soon be Christmas again folks!) but only after you reach a £30 threshold.
  • Join Google Adsense - again options include anything from a line of text to full bells and whistles. You get a few pennies for certain numbers of people clicking on the ads, not just buying stuff. You can screen out ads on sensitive subjects (e.g. sex, religion, folk-dancing) or things you don't want to promote (e.g. gambling, loans, the Daily Mail). But again, you have to earn £60 before you get anything.
  • If you're a member of certain other sites (eg Topcashback) they sometimes pay commission to promote their sites. Only do this if you honestly think they're ace (I do, by the way) or your credibility will be shot!

Personally, my brain edits out adverts - except those horribly distracting moving banner ones (like on this short fiction site where they jump around at the side of the story for God's sake!) - so I won't have noticed if any of you have adverts on your pages. But I've added some - still quite discreet - to test them out and may keep tweaking. I'm aiming here more at casual visitors to old posts, not regulars, but you don't get the option to only put them on old posts... not that I can find anyhoo.

Question:  've been thinking about how much I like blogging but can't justify the time spent on it (my only income is p/time £7/hr  - I make almost nothing from writing). But is it 'wrong' to do it at all? Or I could have more than one blog - one for the usual random stuff, and another, more focussed on e.g. writing which would be more monetised.

What does anyone think? *braces herself for diatribes*

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Retro gismo flashback

My previous post got me thinking about having lived through the dawn of this digital age ... cue fuzzy flashback...

I was first in my class to have a calculator and when I started work (as a mere child) in the early 80s computer programs were loaded manually from reels of tape with holes in. The 'computer' was actually just a terminal linked by a modem to the bank's national computer centre. I worked there on the staff help desk after panic set in when they introduced terminals with screens!  The actual computers took whole rooms to house the sort of memory you now get in the average mobile phone.

(An avant garde friend had an early mobile phone as big as his head - and that was pretty big! When he went to the bar we'd run out to the telephone box and call him to ask for crisps.)

Our home's first remote control device was for a video recorder, but was attached by a lead! I used to carry around a cassette recorder (pictured above) before the Sony Walkman, and can vividly remember the first time I heard a CD - Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega.

Apart from a brief foray with a Commodore 64 and flirtation with an Amstrad wordprocessor, I first saw a home PC in about 1990, but as late as 1995 at the local newspaper we sent stories via an Olivetti keyboard and modem. At the printer, stories were quite literally 'cut' and 'pasted' onto mockups and the lines between them were put on manually using teeny tiny rolls of sticky tape with a line down the middle.

By 1996 I had a  PC (a 256 with 4MB memory) and an email address - but I only knew 2 other people with emails! You couldn't imagine in those days that one day you'd own something like an iPad. It is not only music player and recorder, calculator, word processor, camera, means of communication, publishing device and video player. It's also camera, movie studio, orchestra, art studio, reference library and GPS.  I've just been using Facetime (Skype for iPads) to talk to a friend working in Azerbaijan. And it used to take 6 months for a letter to reach my missionary uncle in deepest Congo but he has a satellite powered laptop now and I can wave to him on Google Earth... up to a point.

Care to share some of your 'old tech' stories - what was your most exciting new gadget in the 'old days'?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

'Wherefore art thou, Romeo?' she texted.

"Heart of Darkness? I dunno - I'll just check my GPS"
Modern technology really messes with your plots.

I was reading somewhere how the end of Romeo and Juliet would have been completely different if they had just texted each other. And it made me think of other great stories that would have been different today: Jane Eyre could have come to Mr Rochester's side if she'd been following him on Facebook... or subscribed to the local newspaper's RSS feed. If Frankenstein's monster had blogged about how he felt, he'd have been hunted down by paparazzi and chat-show hosts, not irate villagers.

It isn't just the classics either - I know quite a few writers who have had to set their stories in the 80s and 90s because recent technology would bugger up the story. My own first novel - which currently resides both literally and metaphorically 'under the bed' - will always have to be set no later than the early 90s because the reclusive main character would never have to face the world if he could communicate freely by email and share documents over the internet.

So if good fiction means presenting your main character with problems to overcome, often compounded by miscommunication, misunderstanding and lack of information... does this mean modern technology is solving all our problems, clarifying our relationships and supplying us with all the answers?

I'm not sure it does, but do you think it is quietly changing the nature of the stories we tell? And how would other famous stories have panned out given access to Google, YouTube and Twitter?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A fridge poem

The Fridges of Madison County

There are some that hum
and shudder in a corner
and smell of old vegetables
like an elderly relative.

There are some that gleam
pristine with their displays
of solitary items - sparkling water,
asparagus - like a museum.

Some are neat and white
everything bagged and tagged
with forensic precision
like a television chiller.

There are some that tilt
under the weight of stuff,
bursting with possibilities
like a ticking bomb.

But some just sit there
gigantic, almost silent,
full of festering leftovers
like unfinished arguments.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

First Attempts at Animation

Martin P Uppet.. movie star!
I know I said I'd be doing posts about my new iPad... but I've been too busy playing with it to write about it! The bottom line is - it's the best thing I've ever owned and if you locked me in a room for the rest of my life with one (and wifi) I'd be perfectly content. The only thing it doesn't do is make a cup of tea... although I'm sure there'll be 'an app for that' soon!

But what I will show you for now, is my first proper short film... it's only a minute long, but it's a start. I made it using my two new favourite apps - iMotion which turns the inbuilt camera into a stop-motion camera, and iMovie to add a soundtrack, effects and bring it all together.

Martin P Uppet is quite a character in our Wallasey Children's Library - he has lots of adventures with his best chum Suzanne and even has his own Facebook page. So I decided to film what happened to him while she was off...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Am I sure?

Why do people keeping asking me if I am sure?

Do I appear unusually indecisive?
Scene: A shop, any shop
Assistant:  £9.99 please
Me:          Here. Thanks
Assistant:  Would you like a bag?
Me:          No, thanks
Assistant:  Are you sure?

What am I supposed to say? 'Well I was sure a minute ago, but since you’ve stopped me to recondsider I’ve lost confidence in that certainty. You know, I think I may have a bag after all.'

Do I not sound sure? Sometimes, maybe - but not about bags! Computers used to do it too, though they aren't so bad these days... Am I sure I want to close down / save changes / move away from  this page? No, I'm a child that doesn't know my own mind, and now you've made me question myself, Microsoft* - YOU tell me what I should do!

A cup of tea is worse...

Scene: My house, your house, any house

Anybody:  Would you like a cup of tea?
Me:         No, thanks
Anybody:  Are you sure?
Me:         No, thanks
Anybody:  It's no trouble
Me:         No, I'm fine, thanks
Anybody:  We're all having one

Aha! You're asking because I gave The Wrong Answer aren't you? I finally get it! Like Father Ted's Mrs Doyle you're going to ask me and ask me and ask me until I damn well accept the hot beverage, the making of which makes you feel whole. 

The correct answer is: I'd love a cup of tea. How kind of you to offer!

* At least Microsoft doesn't do this:

Me:     Close down
Laptop: Are you sure you want to close down?
Me:     Yes
Laptop: It's no trouble staying open
Me:     No, that's fine. I'm closing down.
Laptop: A lot of people like to stay open.
Me:     SLAM!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Fifty Shades

I don't own a Kindle and, as a library assistant, will defend to the death books made out of real paper, but I did download the Kindle app so I could read eBooks by blog chums Fran and Frances.

So if I happened to buy the eBook Fifty Shades of Grey just to see what the fuss is about, at least no-one will know! Of course it's not great - it needed an editor, if only to cut out the numerous times our heroine says 'Holy crap!' - but I'll plow on for the sake of  'research' and of course I can't 'flog it' later on Amazon - a downside of Kindle I hadn't thought of!

And don't say I could have just borrowed it from the library... the waiting list is lengthier than Mr Grey's schlong and every day more furtive-looking women come in and whisper: 'I don't suppose you have...?'

If you want a flavour of the book before you 'submit' to reading it, there's a hilarious critique of the book on Cassandra Parkin's blog and I have a related idea of my own, which I'm sure you're 'gagging' to hear about... but I'm going to make you wait.

p.s. I'm about a third of the way through now, so I may be a little 'tied up' for the next few days, and have to keep you in suspense...

I blog with BE WriteFrom my iPad

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bloggers Beware!

I'm thinking it's ok to use this given the spirit of the message
Let me direct you* to THIS POST from Roni Lauren about using pictures from the web on blog posts.

I'm as guilty as anyone for spotting a great pic and sharing it... with a link to where it came from if known/ appropriate. My rationale was: 'it's just little me, I'm not doing any harm' so was really disturbed to read about Roni being sued for real money by a photographer despite immediately withdrawing it.

...but I could get sued for using this sort of viral pic
So, like her and her followers, I'll be working my way back through my archives and replacing pics. And I won't be sharing funny ones I find like these topical ones. I have been trying to use my own pics more and Roni has some great links in above same post to where to get legal pics.

Expect more home-grown graphics now!
I'm also wondering about my own rights - I found two of my poems on a poetry website I've never heard of - can I sue them? Is it a neat money-making idea to persecute the unwary? It seems mean to me when they are not profiting from it, but Wendy Cope makes the point in this post in The Guardian that poets are particularly vulnerable to having their work, being smaller and so easier to copy, treated as free stuff and reproduced on other websites without even their name on.

I'm really going to miss 'sharing' random pictures, but will try to be creative with my own... watch this space!

* My thanks to Donna B. McNicol of My Write Spot for pointing me in the right direction on this!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Physical jerks and tear-jerkers

The only sporty pic of me ever - Fun Run '85
I don't 'do' sport.

When I was at school 'gym' was a kind of Guantanamo Bay of torture apparatus, with it's ropes and bars and stress positions and all that s t r e t c h i n g. But team games were even worse. For someone with perpetual double vision, ball games were a nightmare - which of the two balls to catch with which of my four hands? When Janis Ian brought out 'At Seventeen' in 1975 it became my anthem as one of 'those whose names were never called, when choosing sides for basketball.'

I grappled my way through my teens, fumbling clumsily through vicious netball matches and running away from the sticks and stones... er pucks... on bleak hockey pitches. So sport was always a BAD thing, and To Be Avoided (except for a brief spell when I took up 'fun' running ... two words which shouldn't even be in the same sentence). 

No, I'd rather watch a nice weepie instead... and it's only in the last few years I have realised that it's the same thing!  No-one ever explained to me the emotional buzz you get when someone wins... or loses!  Now I get it! Watching 20-year old Chad de Clos fighting back the tears the other night as he stood on the podium having beaten his idol Phelps, with his mum and dad going berserk in the stands... that was better than the last five minutes of Lassie Come Home!

And if you can watch this moment from the 1992 without blubbing you aren't human!