Google’s NikCollection – Photo Editing for FREE!

I saw a blurb on one of my feeds several days ago about Google making their Nik Collection (a photo editing tool) free.

You can read about it here.

The software, which was previously sold for $149, is now being offered for free by Google.

I, of course, tool whore that I am, immediately downloaded it.  However, I hadn’t had the chance to play with it until today.

NikCollectionBasically, it’s akin to other filter programs – you install the software, and if you have Photoshop (which I do), it adds a box when you open up Photoshop.

So I opened up an old photo file and started playing. 🙂

It’s very similar to Perfect Effects, though you can use this while in Photoshop, rather than having to open a separate program.  Handy!

SoftI didn’t try out all the filters, but I have to say, I am very impressed with the ones I did try.

With a few simple clicks, I was able to make some pretty amazing changes to the photo I was working with.

Unlike Perfect Effects, the Nik Collection offers a lot more options when working with the filters/effects.

This is the original photo I chose to experiment on.

After opening up Photoshop, and picking out a filter in Nik, this is what the photo looked like:

Soft Analog Efex Pro 2
Soft Analog Efex Pro 2

I love how the filter really brought out the texture of the fur.

The shadows are darker, and the background has a lot more texture.

I was able to adjust things like saturation and hue via Nik, without having to touch anything in Photoshop.

So if you like being able to add filters and effects but don’t like fiddling around with the all the little details, you can.  If you like fiddling around with all the little details, you can do that too. 🙂

Soft Nostalgic Film Efex
Soft Nostalgic Film Efex

This was another filter I tried, and I love how it looks.  Again, the filter helped to bring out some of the details in the original photo.

The name of the filter is ‘nostalgic’ in the Film Efex in Nik.  So adorable!

Though Nik can be used in conjunction with Photoshop, it can also be used on its own.

So if you’ve been looking for a program to help edit your photos, but didn’t want to pay out a bunch of $, Google has just made your day. 🙂

Did I mention it’s completely FREE?!!

Get your free copy here.

 

 

 

Social Media Time Suck

PennyHelp
Image Source: giphy.com

Ok, I admit it.

I’ve become addicted to social media.

There.

I said it.

Help me.

I used to have a life.

Seriously, though, social media has become a huge time suck for me.

(My life is fine, by the way, don’t worry.)

I’ve been trying out different social media platforms and trying to figure out which ones work best for me.

Some I like, some I love, some I absolutely loathe (I’m looking at you, Facebook!).

The Twitter

I love Twitter, though I’m not all that adept at using it yet.

I constantly forget to tag people (with their @ names), I can never think of a good hashtag for tweets, and I’m still trying to figure out lists.

I use TweetDeck to schedule tweets for my blog (is there a way to do that BEFORE the post is actually published?) and I follow quite a few SL hashtags.

Of all the social media I’m currently using, I think Twitter takes up the least of my time.

It’s easy to skim through and read what I find interesting and skip over the rest.

I can scroll through on my phone whenever I have a few spare minutes and I’m all caught up.

Facebook

I hate Facebook.

With a passion.

I get that it’s a nice tool to stay in touch with people.

But I just. Can’t. Even.

Nope.

I realize that I’m probably costing myself traffic by not having a FB linked to my blog.

I’ll deal.

It’s just not worth the hassle and the worry of getting deleted.

I could set up a page, I suppose, but then I would still have to use Facebook.

Which I hate.

So.

Nope. 🙂

Google+

I actually like Google+, though it is a bit confusing at times.

I was reading through my Google feed the other day, and my oldest said, “Mom, you still use Google+?!”

Like I’m old or something.  -.-

I like the ease of following other people.

I’m still experimenting with groups (or communities, or whatever they’re called), but I like it.

I have my blog posts published to Google, though I don’t get a lot of traffic.

That’s probably because I don’t spend a ton of time on Google+ either.

Other than my automatic posts, I don’t really comment a lot.

If I did, I’m sure my interactions and traffic would go up.

Flickr

I LOVE Flickr.

I also HATE Flickr.

It’s so confusing, and they are constantly changing things.

When I first joined, they had just done away with the ‘Pro’ accounts and everyone was complaining.

Now they have begun offering ‘Pro’ subscriptions again, and everyone is complaining. :/

I’m not going to spend the money for Pro, because I don’t see the benefit.

$50 a year for unlimited storage, no ads, and access to stats?

No, thanks.

I’m never going to use 1TB of the storage I get for free, and I rarely (if ever) see ads on Flickr.

I don’t generally use the home page, which is where the ads are located, I use the People and Photostream tabs.

And stats?

I personally think stats are a joke on Flickr.

I did some research to see if I could determine what counted as a ‘view’ for Flickr, because a lot of blogger apps want a certain amount of views.

Basically, any photo that appears in my people stream gets a ‘view’ from me, even if I skim right past it and don’t click on it to look at.

That makes no sense to me – I didn’t click on the photo, so I don’t get why scrolling past it counts as a view.

Plus, people ‘repost’ their photos to get additional views.

It’s too easy to game your stats, so it’s not really a benefit I want to pay for.

That said, I am totally in love with looking at other people’s photos/art.

I could spend hours drooling over photos (and often do).

Avatar Social Network

I like ASN.

It’s got all the good stuff from Facebook, without all the bad.

They don’t care what my name is.

I could be Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock, and that would be just fine with them.

I’ve met some really lovely people through ASN, and I enjoy using it.

It’s probably another platform that I am not utilizing to the fullest.

I think I need to develop a ‘system’ for using social media a tad better to help drive traffic to my blog.

*Adds that to to-do list*

I don’t generally log into ASN every day, because the app doesn’t play well with my phone.

But when I do log in, it feels a bit like coming back home. 🙂

Reddit

I must say, I really don’t care for Reddit.

The whole site is just – ugly.

Really ugly.

It’s like being confronted with a giant wall of text every time you log in.

I love to read, but – no.

Also, it’s a bit like the monkeys running the circus.

Every ‘sub’ has different rules, and you can be banned without warning.

(I’ve never been banned, of course, because I’m so nice and friendly all the time. 😀 )

It was all just too confusing, too overwhelming, and really, mostly useless to me.

I followed several SL subreddits, one of which has been inactive for over a year.

The two that were most active were basically just another place for people to post the same blog articles I was already reading elsewhere.

So, sorry Reddit, you didn’t make the cut.

Maybe next time. 😛

KoinUp

KoinUp is a photography sharing site, kinda like Flickr, but for virtual worlds.

There are quite a few SL photographers sharing their work on KoinUp, and I’ve found several that are just amazing.

I find KoinUp less impersonal than Flickr.

Since I do use Flickr, I try not to upload a lot of the same photos to KoinUp.

A lot of my extra dance show pics, for example, get put on KoinUp.

Or just random photos that I take.

It’s pretty easy to like/share photos, and everyone I’ve met so far has been really friendly.

KoinUp has a feature that lets you upload your photos to KoinUp and Flickr at the same time, though I’ve not used it.

I was also able to set up an RSS feed for KoinUp on my feed reader pretty easily.

I’m still trying to figure out if that’s even possible on Flickr.

If you know of a way to set up my Flickr ‘groups’ photos on a feed, PLEASE HELP ME!

KoinUp even has a way for you to sell some of your digital art, if that’s of interest to you.

I’ve not explored that option, but it’s nice that it’s there.

Second Life Social Network

This is a new platform, so I’ve not spent a ton of time on it.

It looks, at first glance, pretty much exactly like Facebook.

Which has led to some users questioning whether they are going to get in trouble for that.

They have said that they are working on changing the appearance, but for now, it pretty much works and looks just like Facebook.

Only, you know, you don’t have to use your ‘real’ name.  -.-

If it gets more popular, it would be useful.

I’m still waiting to see how Germany’s fight with Facebook over pseudonyms goes.

If Germany wins the fight, it might lead to a change in policy over at Facebook.

I’m not holding my breath, mind you.

If you like Facebook, you’ll probably like SLSN.

If you’re on SLSN, add me, I’m lonely and I need friends. 😀

SLUniverse

This site is probably one of my biggest time sucks.

It’s also, many days, just soooo depressing.

I probably should stop reading the PRS threads (Politics, Religion, and Society).

I’ve always had a rule that I don’t discuss politics and religion with friends and acquaintances.

I guess I thought it would be safe to do that on the internet.

ROFL smiley  <–  me, after reading the sentence I just wrote.

What was I thinking?

I mean, I want to stay informed and be good citizen and resident of the Earth, but, you know – people.  -.-

It’s nice to be forewarned that armadillos carry leprosy.

But I’m not sure I want to get into all the gory details of ‘Why GWB was the worst president in US history,’ or ‘Christie says teacher’s union deserves a punch in the face,‘ because articles like these tend to make me wish I lived on another planet.

After reading these posts, I spend a lot of time on internal debates, on researching related things on the internet, and then the next thing you know, it’s 5 hours later, my butt is asleep, and I realize I forgot to eat lunch. :/

SLU also has some real gems, though.

Like this one:  ‘Mark Hamill gets tired of the same old autographs,‘ which is completely hilarious.

Who knew Hamill had such a great sense of humor?

Plurk

The other biggest time social media time suck for me is Plurk.

I avoided joining Plurk for a long time, because people told me it was elitist and full of snarky SL people.

I haven’t found that to be true at all.

There is some seriously hilarious shizz going on in Plurk. 😛

I’ve seen pictures of crazy, cannibalistic land-crabs (yet another reason to never go to Florida), watched others install Windows10 (their results were sadly, sometimes not as good as mine), and learned that texture thrashing makes people want to strangle LL.

A lot of the people on Plurk have been in SL forever, so I’m constantly learning something new.

Plus, some of them are just plain hysterical.

It’s like all the cute cat videos and funny memes and friends all rolled into one place.

It probably took me twice as long as usual to write this post, because I kept going back to Plurk to check on things.

PhilKissPlus, everyone uses all these cute gifs, so I have become a gif collector.

Because who knows when you’ll need a good Phil Collins gif, amiright?

😀

If you are on any of these social networks, please add me – I promise not to stalk you. 😛

Glutton for Punishment

GluttonforPunishment
Image Source: http://www.zazzle.com

I’ve posted several times about how overwhelming managing multiple social media accounts can be.

Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.  -.-

I went and signed myself up for some new networks.

If you belong to any of these networks, look me up – I’m always happy to meet new friends. 🙂

KoinUp

KoinUp is a site I found after watching an episode of Designing Worlds on photography.

My first impression is that it’s sort of like Flickr (which you can apparently cross-post to from KoinUp).

I joined a few groups and I’m giving it a few days to see how I like it.

I added KoinUp to my Feedly reader a month or so ago, and I like being able to just scan through some of the art when I have a few free moments.

I tried adding Flickr to Feedly, but they refuse to play nice together. 😦

Reddit

On the recommendation of Ever Afterr (check out her blog here), I decided to check out Reddit.

After reading through the FAQs and their posting rules, I decided to go ahead and join.

It’s kind of overwhelming at first, but I removed a bunch of subreddits and pared it down to a usable amount.

I found a book subreddit, so I’m already having fun reading everyone’s comments.

(Just FYI – I hated Anna Karenina and my favorite book of all time is a tie – To Kill a Mockingbird/Jane Eyre.)

I couldn’t find a mobile app for Reddit that wasn’t 3rd party, so I’ll have to see how useful/engaging I find it if I’m only using it when on my PC. (If you have any suggestions that work well for you, let me know.)

Ello

I signed up for Ello when it first came out, because I hate Facebook.

I haven’t been on in months, and decided to go back a few days ago to check it out.

It doesn’t seem that active for SLers – or am I missing something?

If you’re on Ello, tell me – I would love to have some active people to follow!

I also read (I think) that they are working on a mobile app, which would let me be more active.

I spend most of my time on social networks via my phone, not my PC.

Other Projects

Becky recently wrote a blog post about SEO and blogging.

In it, she mentioned Google’s Webmaster Tools.

I had tried using them months ago, but got lost in all the technicalities and just abandoned it.

I went back and tried to get back into it.

I’m still floundering.  😦

I’m also debating whether it is worth the work to get a Google+ Page in addition to my profile.

I’m also investigating some other apps that would help me manage all the social media streams.

If you have a Google+ Page or use a service like HootSuite, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Networking Questions

social-networks
Image Source: http://www.lawolfe.com

In the last few of weeks, there have been a couple of posts over at New World Notes about various social media networks and the writer’s opinion on their usefulness for Second Life users.

As a blogger, I am always looking for ways to make connections – with other bloggers, readers, SLers, etc.

A great way to do that is social media.

However, there are sooo many platforms and only 24 hours in a day (and I reserve some of those hours for sleep and RL!), so how do you decide which ones to use?

Also, how can you get the most out of the time you do spend on each network?

Rather than covering all the networks mentioned in the NWN articles, I’m going to stick to the ones I use or have questions about (hey, this is about me, right?).

I would love to streamline my process, so I’m asking all you brilliant people for your tips and tricks on the various platforms.

WordPress

(Okay, this isn’t really a social network, but I still have questions. 😛 )

Obviously, I use WordPress to blog.

However, a TON of people use Blogger.

Is there an easy way (or any way) to ‘like’ a Blogger post?

On WordPress blogs, I can hit a ‘like’ button or leave a comment very easily.

I haven’t found a way to ‘like’ Blogger posts.

Also, with Blogger posts, I have to pick a ‘profile’ to use for a comment and 9 times out of 10, when I hit ‘publish,’ Blogger eats my comment.   -.-

Twitter

I use Twitter, but I’m not sure that it’s all that useful for networking in SL.

I follow quite a few people, but most tweets tend to be people tweeting their blog posts or pics.

Is there a way to streamline/pick SL content for my Twitter feed?

I have tried using TweetDeck, but I usually am on a mobile device when I’m on Twitter, so is there a way to use TweetDeck on mobile?

Are there ‘must-follow’ people on Twitter?

What hashtags do most SLers use when tweeting about SL?

Flickr

I finally caved several months ago and got a Flickr account, and I must say, I love it.

I love taking photos and playing around in Photoshop, and I’m having a ton of fun.

However, the Flickr UI (which apparently is constantly changing), is not user-friendly at all.

I have joined groups and followed others, but is there a way to easily view recent group photos besides clicking through to each group’s postings?

A group photostream, like the one I get for people I follow on Flickr?

I’ve tried adding an RSS feed to my feed reader (Feedly), but it doesn’t work. 😦

Are there tags I should be using (for my own photos and for searching) other than ‘Second Life’ or ‘SL’?

Avatar Social Network (ASN)

I signed up for ASN because I loathe Facebook.

I know I can have a Facebook Page as my avatar, but I don’t like the constantly changing privacy policies at Facebook.

Plus, a Page just doesn’t give you the tools that a profile does, so it doesn’t foster the same networking ability.

I like ASN.

It’s easy to use (it’s set up in many ways like Facebook with ‘likes,’ ‘groups,’ ‘pages,’ etc.) and there is a large friendly community.

ASN serves other virtual worlds besides SL, but there are plenty of active SLers on ASN.

However, I feel like I could be getting more out of ASN.

Are there people I should be following on ASN?

Any input about ASN is appreciated. 🙂

Google+

I am on Google because I have Gmail.

I do not have a Google+ page – should I?

People can follow my profile on Google – is it necessary to also have a page?

I like Google – I think the tools are more intuitive to use than most other platforms.

But like ASN, I often feel I could/should be getting more out of the time I spend there.

Other Platforms

I am on Ello, but when I first joined, it was not very populated.

I haven’t been back in a while – is the SL community there growing?

Or was it just the latest new shiny alternative to Facebook?

What about SLUniverse and the forums?

Are there other platforms that are helpful for networking with other SLers?

Enlighten me, people!!!

Syndication and Feeds

Image Source:  www.globesign.com
This diagram makes my head hurt. 😦 Image Source: http://www.globesign.com

As I work to increase the reach of my blog, I’ve found myself wondering how other bloggers do things.

One of the recommended ways to increase blog traffic is to be syndicated.

The definition of syndication, according to Dictionary.com, is “to publish simultaneously, or supply for simultaneous publication, in a number of newspapers or other periodicals in different places.”

As I have become more active in the blogging world, I’ve noticed that most vendors who are looking for bloggers want to know what ‘feeds’ your blog is on in the application.

Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are MILLION blogs about SL.

Probably 95% of them are fashion blogs.

My blog is not a fashion blog, although I do LOTD posts.

Following links on other blogs, I’ve found a couple of blogs that are ‘feeds.’

However, the process for getting a blog on a feed is a mystery to me.

I am clueless as to how you locate a ‘feed’ (especially if you are not a fashion blogger) and what the requirements are for getting on a feed.

I would love to get my blog on a ‘feed/s’ and be able to claim syndication, but alas, I am a (mostly) dance blog lost in a sea of clothing. 😦

In addition to syndication/feeds, I wonder how other bloggers manage to stay up to date with the overwhelming amount of info that is published each day on the interwebs.

I use the WordPress reader to follow blogs, but if the blog I want to follow is not also a WordPress blog (if, for example, it’s a Blogger blog or even a self-hosted blog), the updates on the Reader feed are hit and miss.

I might get the latest post from Tales of the Blue Moon, or I might not.

I never know.

I don’t want to have to visit every website to check for updates (that’s the whole point of a feed reader, right?), so I’ve been very frustrated.

I’ve tried to see if there is something I need to change in the settings for my WP Reader, but haven’t had any luck locating any information.

I will continue to use WP for my blog, because I love it, but I’m considering buying a domain and going self-hosted.

I’m also wondering if I should use a different feed reader (like Feedly) instead of relying on the built-in WP reader.

Are there options out there that would also help with cross-posting in the various social media platforms?

Trying to keep up every day with blogs, Twitter, Google+, emails, Flickr, and other social media is taking way more time than I’d like it to.

I don’t have a Google Page (is that worth doing?), I’m on Ello (does anyone use Ello?), and I’m wondering if I’m already on too many platforms, or if I’m not on enough.

So, fellow bloggers/readers/social media experts – help a girl out here!

What do you do or recommend in regards to feeds/readers/syndication/social media?

Any and all information is appreciated.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Plurking?

Image Source: github.com
Image Source: github.com

Yesterday I was out and about, exploring and trying new things.

I went to a talk show in SL, The Good Morning Maxine Show, and had a great time.

The other audience members were wonderful.

Maxine was asking questions of the audience about what subjects they would like to see covered on the show.

One of the questions was who would you interview if you could ask anyone?

One of the audience members said Strawberry Singh (a GREAT answer – I love her work!).

But if I could ask anyone – it would be Whiskey Monday.

I am fascinated with her art and would love to have the opportunity to ask her questions and try to find out what makes her tick.

Or tic.

Either is good. 🙂

After I mentioned her name, another audience member told me I should follow Whiskey Monday on Plurk.

Now, I already follow her blog and follow her on Twitter.

I blog, I tweet, I’m on Google+, and I am on ASN.  Do I need another social media account?

I’m torn.

It already gets overwhelming to keep up with all the content for the few platforms I’m on.

Is there a way to somehow centrally locate everything in one place?

An app that lets me tweet, plurk, blog, and post all at once?  Or at least look at all those networks from one place?

Is it worth joining Plurk?

What other apps/programs do you use to keep your sanity when using multiple social media networks?

Goodbye, Facebook

Clockwork Orange
Ok, Facebook probably isn’t this bad, but who knows?

Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (Romeo & Juliet, in case you’re interested.)  But not for me.  I made the decision to part ways with Facebook.

I’ve never really cared for Facebook – their vague privacy settings, their data mining, their sale of my information to anyone they chose.  But a few things lately have finally ‘gotten my goat,’ so to speak, and I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account.  (I say ‘deactivate’ because I’ve yet to find a way to actually ‘delete’ my information on Facebook.)

Now, everyone knows that it is against Facebook’s TOS to set up a profile using an ‘avatar’ name or some other pseudonym.  But millions of people have done it, and Facebook seems to be very lackadaisical about policing that particular aspect of their TOS.

Until recently.

About a month ago, many of my friends on Facebook starting changing the names on their SL/avatar profiles to match their ‘real life’ names because there was another ongoing round of account deletions and they were afraid that their account would be targeted next.  Which is fine, that’s their choice.  However, I don’t know some of these people outside of SL.  So if I know you as Meegan Foxhound and suddenly you show up as Jane Foster, I’m confused as hell.  😛

And then Facebook had the gall to delete the accounts of some drag queens.  *Cue dramatic music*  The drag queens have taken Facebook on, demanding that they be allowed to use their ‘chosen’ name.  Facebook has stood firm, telling the divas that they can either use their ‘legal’ name or they can change their profile to a ‘page.’  What’s the difference between a page and a profile?

Money.

If you are a ‘profile,’ people you know see your posts.  (Only about 16% of them see your post, but that’s a different story.)  If you are a ‘page,’ you can pay Facebook to ‘promote’ whatever you are posting, thereby guaranteeing that more than 16% of your friends see what you’ve posted.

The divas have threatened to keep on fighting.  Me, I don’t see the point.  Sometimes the smartest thing to do is walk away.

Facebook is NOT the only player in the social media game.  Google+ allows avatar/character names.  Move over there – that’s what many SLers have already done.  As more people move to Google+, the more robust and useful it will be.  And as more and more people abandon Facebook, it will be forced to change its TOS, or go the way of MySpace.  Or, you can sign up for ASN (Avatar Social Network) – a social network specifically designed for those who have a virtual/online identity and want to keep it separate (or not) from their ‘real life.’

The proverbial ‘last straw’ for me was reading a story about how Facebook was experimenting on its users without their knowledge.  You can read about it here.  The article quotes Kate Crawford, visiting professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and her response sums up my feelings:  “It’s completely unacceptable for the terms of service to force everybody on Facebook to participate in experiments.” Ms. Crawford said it points to broader problem in the data science industry. Ethics are not “a major part of the education of data scientists and it clearly needs to be,” she said.

Toodles, Facebook.

Sincerely,

No longer your data whore